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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2665

Senator WOOD (Queensland) - I enter this debate as a result of having listened very intently to Senator Gietzelt and because I think that certain aspects need to be properly expanded to show that what appears to a Government senator to be the case may not so appear to an Opposition senator and also possibly to the people at large. Firstly, we continually get the statement that the Government has a mandate for this and for that. We know that when parties go before the people they put forward policies. Being one of those with probably a more simple mind I have taken the trouble to talk to the people about these matters. I have questioned people who have heard a policy speech whether they could tell me the points of the policy expounded and after they thought for a while- and some of them were quite intelligent people- they said: 'As a matter of fact, we cannot tell you one point of the policy'. I know that governments come to office and say: 'We put the matter before the people'. I have had discussions on this subject with members of the Labor Party. They admit that they cannot remember all the points in the policy which was put forward at the last election. I do not think anybody could remember all the things which were put forward. To me, it is a lot of moonshine when governments of various colours claim that they put forward a policy and have a mandate for everything which they put in their policy. It is quite factual that great notice is not taken by the people of many of the points in the policy and they are not in their minds when they go to vote. Therefore, when legislation comes before this chamber it comes before it for consideration by sensible people who should try to look at these things on the basis of what is best for the country. If Opposition senators or a section of the Senate Opposition feel that something is not right in regard to legislation, then it is their duty and right to say so. What is more, if legislation is not correct it is the right and duty of people within a party on the Government side to say so. That is the policy which I practised when I was on the Government side as a senator. Everybody knows that. I have taken my stand. Whenever I thought something was wrong I was prepared to vote against it.

I think it can be said to the credit of the Labor Party that, under its democratic system, when Ministers make a decision the Labor Caucus can actually change the decision of the Ministers. If the Labor Caucus can make this change in this democratic way, there is no reason why this Senate, which is duly elected by the people of this country- by the same people who vote for the other House- cannot, in the same democratic way as Caucus, change the decision of the Ministers. So we, as senators, have the right to make a change if we think it is in the best interests of the country. I am not one of those who believe that we should change a thing automatically because it comes from the other side. Legislation should be adjudicated on to decide whether it is the best available. If senators on one side of the Senate or even a mixture of all parties decide on a certain issue, and if that decision is made on an honest basis, I do not think the Senate should be castigated for making that decision.

I well recall that when we were in Government there were a number of occasions on which the then Opposition- now the Government- took steps in concert with one or two of the smaller parties represented in this chamber. The legislation relating to receipts duty tax is a case in point. I think the Australian Democratic Labor Party moved in connection with that. The Australian Labor Party, which is now in Government but which was then in Opposition, supported the DLP. The result was that the legislation was thrown out. It was an item of consequence. From memory, I think it involved something like $50m or $60m. If I recall correctly, it was part of the Budget proposals.

Senator Byrne - That was like the sales tax on motor cars where the honourable senator moved.

Senator WOOD -That is right. It was proposed to increase the sales tax on motor cars. As Senator Byrne mentioned I, as a Government senator, opposed that and I fought very strongly. There was another case when the then Opposition, which is now the ALP Government, offered strong opposition to increased postal charges. I think that in that case the DLP had moved and the ALP was supporting it. Because of some other influence that was at work in the ALP, a change was made. But at one time it seemed as though that legislation would be defeated. It was part of the then Government's Budget proposals. These are things which we take in our stride. We have to recognise that the people who are opposing are elected by voters just as honourable senators on the Government side are elected. These people elect the members of the other House. Therefore representatives here, believing that they are fighting for a certain cause, have a perfect right, as senators, to take this stand.

As has been stated, the Senate is a House of review. I believe that the Senate, as its members are elected to represent States, has a much wider sphere of activity and thinking because each State comprises so many aspects whereas individual electorates can have a very small area of interest. I think that as senators we have to take a much wider view of things because of the very basis on which we are elected, that is, by the States. Therefore, I believe it is wrong to castigate the Senate because it amends legislation and because, at times, it may throw out legislation. If the Opposition, in deferring certain legislation, does it correctly and for the purpose of investigating the legislation further, then that is in the interests of achieving good legislation.

I do not think anybody should want legislation rushed through a chamber and, possibly, later find that it should not have been rushed through. This has happened before. I have seen it happen in the Parliament of my own State of Queensland. It has happened here. Legislation has had to be repaired afterwards because it has been rushed through. I feel that some of the legislation which has been deferred probably will be all the better for its deferment. I am not suggesting that because some of the legislation has been deferred I am against it. I think that the Trade Practices Bill is of very great importance. Because of its far reaching effect it is a Bill which we should consider thoroughly. I have spoken to honourable senators on this side who are members of the legal profession. I have had discussions with them. I know them to be honest men. They have said that, because of the great amount of legislation which has come into this chamber and the great consequences which flow from this legislation, it has been impossible for them to study that Bill properly.

Let us look at the actual figures. If I remember rightly, this year the Senate has passed more legislation than in any other year since 1968. That indicates that the Senate has not been stopping and loafing on legislation. The fact that we have put through a record number of Bills this year, as compared with all years back to 1968 at least, indicates that all the talk about great frustration probably has been overstated and possibly is political. I know that the Press and the various other sections of the media have been trying to talk about the Senate frustrating the carrying out of a mandate and this and that. This has been building up in the minds of the people the suggestion that the Senate is acting wrongly and contrary to the interests of the people and of the present Government.

My own view, from what I can find, is that what our Leader, Senator Withers, said is correct. Wherever I go I find people saying: 'Thank goodness we have a Senate'. I believe that people are recognising the fact that the Senate should take hold of legislation, review it, amend it, throw it out or delay it. I cannot find in the mind of the average person any strong feeling against that. As one who stands for the Senate as a proper House of review and as a House representing the States, taking a broad view of things I believe that this year the Senate has done a remarkably good job. I think that most of the amendments that have been made or the delays that have taken place have had a worthwhile reason behind them. Under no circumstances can it be truly said that the Senate, as a House, has not functioned as it should. I believe that what the people are saying is correct, namely: Thank goodness there is a Senate'.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.

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