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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2238

Mr SNEDDEN - My question is addressed to the Minister for Services and Property. Will the Minister bring in forthwith the legislation which for some mystical and unknown reason he feels is a threat to us? Will he have a debate today on the issues relating to it? We do not need to wait until the legislation is introduced; we could debate this issue now. We could debate it today and we can debate it when the legislation comes in later. I hear the Minister for Transport saying something about being exposed. Who is to be exposed? The Minister? He is the exposee. He cannot even run a tram, let alone a whole transport system. We support legislation which provides for the disclosure of political party funds. I ask the Minister: Will he ensure that the legislation is such that it will not work exclusively to Labor's favour? For instance, will he ensure that all contributions are tax deductible?

Mr Armitage - Why?

Mr SNEDDEN - The honourable gentleman asks why. The answer is because the trade unions make contributions to the Labor Party and not only are contributions to trade union funds tax deductible but trade union funds themselves are totally tax free. Will the Minister agree to another amendment which would restrict the application of the law to organisations and not to individuals, thus protecting the individual's privacy, which the Government claims to be so determined to do? Has an individual in Australia not the right to support us because he wants us in government and not the rabble opposite? Will the Minister also include in the legislation a requirement for disclosure by the contributor rather than by the recipient, thus minimising the bureaucratic and cost impact of disclosure instead of terrorising, as the honourable gentleman wants to do, every electorate in Australia by having some sort of a commission inquiring into the source of campaign funds for each election.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The right honourable gentleman will ask his question. He is debating an issue. I ask him to ask his question.

Mr SNEDDEN - I am asking a question, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister also include in the legislation a code to apply to political funding which would require the return or refusal of all contributions carrying any expressed or implied conditions? Will the honourable gentleman make sure that under this Bill there will not be a situation similar to that which occurred when the metal workers' union gave to the Labor Party the sum of $25,000 on the undertaking that the Labor Party would remove the penal provisions from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? Will the Minister bring in the legislation as soon as possible? Will he make it abundantly clear that he is on a false fishing expedition while he makes these spurious, unsupported and untruthful claims about multi-national cor.portations? Until he knows the facts--


Mr SNEDDEN - Will he keep quiet and-


Mr SNEDDEN - Will he act responsibly?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I called the Leader of the Opposition to order but he completely ignored me. I ask him to take notice of the

Chair when he is asked to resume his seat, which he did not do on this occasion. 1 asked the honourable gentleman to put his question. I call the Minister for Services and Property.

Mr DALY - For a gentleman who has nothing to hide, the Leader of the Opposition was very excited. Realising how disturbed he is at the revelations in regard to the funds behind his Party I excuse his protests. Even you, Mr Speaker, may forgive him for defying the Chair at a time of great stress. The honourable gentleman asked: 'Why do not we debate this matter?' I say to him: 'Why did you let the Country Party pip you in respect of this motion today? Why did not you put the matter on the business paper for today if you were so anxious to debate your milliondollar slush fund?

Mr McMahon- I rise to order. Mr Speaker, you have made very diligent efforts to try to ensure that question time is confined to questions as a result of which information can be conveyed by Ministers- (Honourable members interjecting) -

Mr SPEAKER - Order! There will be nobody called to make points of order, there will be nobody called to ask questions and there will be no Ministers called to answer questions until the House comes to order. That is putting it plain. I call the right honourable member for Lowe.

Mr McMahon - As I said, Mr Speaker, you have diligently attempted to ensure that the Standing Orders of this House are observed in the sense that question time is an occasion when information should be conveyed to the House for the benefit of honourable members and also for the benefit of the Australian people. It is obvious that these questions and answers have become political and are motivated by political actions. I ask you, Sir, to ask the Leader of the House to keep within the Standing Orders and to give a specific answer to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I think the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition covered very many points. I ask the Minister to keep to those points.

Mr DALY - Mr Speaker, like you I had difficulty sorting the question from the speech, so you will excuse me if I go on with my answer. I can assure the honourable member that trade unions do not pay taxation because they are friendly societies. If, of course, the honourable member wants to tax all friendly societies they will no doubt be included in the provisions of the legislation but other friendly societies might be affected. I would like to say to the honourable member too that he may be assured that the legislation that will be brought down will not exclude any Party or any organisation. We will not mind who contributes money other than multi-national and foreign-based companies without a base in Australia. But one provision will be - and there will be a very severe penalty for contravening it - that all their donations and contributions will be made public. There will be no escape from that. I am delighted to know that the right honourable member supports it. I only wish he could speak for his colleagues in another place. The right honourable member will get a full chance to debate the matter. If he wants to be brought up to date he can look first at the Canadian Act and he can look at other Acts in force in western Europe. If he makes a good study of them he will see many provisions that will meet his wishes expressed this morning. I can understand his concern, but the Labor Party is not running away from this issue. We have closed the pass for the Liberal Party. It need not reveal where it got what it has got, but from here on - from the date this decision was announced - all political parties will have to tell John Citizen and others where their funds came from. We do not want any Spiro Agnews on that side of the Parliament and we do not want any Watergates on that side of the Parliament.

Mr Turner - I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing order 145 states:

An answer shall be relevant to the question.

Let me quote from the 18th edition of May's Parliamentary Practice'. Under the heading Oral Answers' it says:

An answer should be confined to the points contained in the question, with such explanation only as renders the answer intelligible, though a certain latitude is permitted to Ministers of the Crown.

In his recent edition May gives an authority for that in a footnote. It refers to the ruling of a Speaker in the House of Commons as long ago as 1861. It shows that this has been the practice of the House of Commons for over a century. I have looked up that reference and I found that a Minister had taken 3i minutes to answer a question. The other day I asked Hansard how many words a minute an honourable member uses here and I was told about 180. I counted up the words, and when Lord John Russell in that case -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I quite appreciate the point regarding the relevance of an answer to a question. I quite understand that but I do not think there is any need to go into historical data.

Mr Turner - I am referring now to the latitude permitted to a Minister and I say that this is absolutely relevant to the answer being given by the Minister for Services and Property. Furthermore-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! It is quite obvious that this has been going on ever since I have been in Parliament, and that is nearly 19 years. I have often remarked that honourable members should have brought this matter to the notice of the previous Government. I appreciate the fact that answers to questions should be relevant but I think honourable members will appreciate that it would be impossible for any Speaker, irrespective of who he might be, to interpret what is relevant in many cases. For example, how could I be expected to know the relevance of answers to questions put to 21 Ministers, including those who represent the 6 Ministers in the other place. That would be an impossible position. All I can do is appeal to Ministers to be as relevant as they possibly can when answering questions put to them. The honourable gentleman has made his point, and I will appeal to the Minister to be relevant.

Mr Turner - With respect, I have not yet made my point.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.

Mr Turner - Very well, Mr Speaker, if you do not choose to carry out the Standing Orders as they have been carried out over many years-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The point made by the honourable member for Bradfield is noted. 1 ask the Minister for Services and Property-

Mr Turner - I will not stay in this place and watch the Standing Orders torn to ribbons.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There will be no answer to any question until the House comes to order.

Mr Anthony - Do you blame him when you have such an irresponsible Minister?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There will be no answer to any question until the House comes to order. I am President of the Redfern Lonely Hearts Club and I get more decorum there than I do here. I call the Minister for Services and Property.

Mr DALY - I will finish my answer by saying that trade unions do not pay tax any more than do the health funds which make contributions to Liberal Party funds. But I say on a very serious note that legislation requiring the disclosure of campaign funds donated to political parties will be a major change in policy for any government in this country. The legislation will be far reaching and extensive. It will be presented to this Parliament in due course. It will cover all political parties and individuals. Time will be given to members to discuss it fully. Therefore I hope I have answered the question satisfactorily.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I respect the fact that you do not know everything that happens on the Government side of the House, but you should know that health funds are not allowed to make contributions to political parties, and the Minister is telling lies again.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! That is not a valid point of order, and the honourable member knows it.

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