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Tuesday, 24 September 1974
Page: 1359

Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) - Mr President,I thought that I did not have the adjournment. I thought that the Government had not put down the reasons for this motion, but that does not matter.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Senator Murphymentioned it.

Senator WITHERS -I thought he made it that it be taken as an order of consideration for the next day of sitting. I do not think he actually spoke to the matter and I did not formally take the adjournment, but I do not think that matters much. The Senate is well aware that some 2 years ago as a result of certain discussions between the then Commonwealth Government and the various States a Constitutional Convention was called into being. At that stage the Commonwealth Parliament was entitled to 16 representatives to attend that convention, of whom 6 should come from the Senate and 10 from the House of Representatives. Those senators and members were duly appointed from both Houses and the Constitutional Convention met last year. As the Parliament was dissolved in April of this year one takes it that the representation of members appointed from this Parliament to that Convention lapsed.

I think it is worth recording that, under the previous resolution passed by both Houses last year, of the 6 members of the Senate 3 were from the Government and 3 were from the Opposition Parties. I put it in those terms. One was from the Liberal Party which at that stage had 2 1 senators; one was from the Australian Country Party which had 5 senators; and one was from the Democratic Labor Party which at that stage had 5 senators. Whilst we in the Liberal Party Opposition may have felt that, after all, we had 21 senators and the other two parties had only 10 yet we had one representative and they had two, we went along with that for a number of reasons, some of which are quite understandable to honourable senators opposite and most of which are quite well known to the honourable senators who sit behind me. It could be justified to some extent. After all, both the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party were represented by quite a number of senators in this place, in addition to which the Democratic Labor Party in its own right polled a significant number of votes at the previous Senate election. I do not claim to be absolutely accurate but as I recall it Senator Gair in Queensland polled upwards of 18 per cent to 20 per cent. I think that Senator McManus polled approximately the same sort of percentage in Victoria. They obtained a significant number of votes in their own States. Of course, Senator Kane came in here as a result of a gift from the Labor Party of New South Wales; not a conscious gift but as a result of an unconscious gift.

Senator Cavanagh - It is one of the mistakes you make only once in a lifetime.

Senator WITHERS -That is right. It is all good fun. I said that he came in here as a result of a gift. In those days the Government had 26 senators and there were 31 on this side. The representation was split with 3 each. Of course, there were 3 independent senators- Senator Negus, Senator Townley and Senator Turnbull. At present it is again proposed there be 6 representatives although the composition of the Parties in the chamber has altered somewhat. The Government's numbers have risen in this place from 26 to 29. At the same time, of course, the numbers of the Liberal-Country parties in this place have also risen from 26 to 29. 1 put the proposition to the Senate that if there are to be 6 members of the Senate to attend the Convention then representation ought to be equally divided between the Government and the Opposition parties. I hope that Senator Hall does not take this as a personal affront. I do not mean it in that way at all. Under the Government's proposal, 29 Australian Labor Party senators will be represented by 3 Labor Party senators at the Convention but 29 senators of the LiberalCountry parties will be represented by only 2 senators.

We in the Liberal-Country Parties believe that to be not a fair distribution between the parries in this chamber. After all, the Austraiian Labor Party received approximately the same number of first preference votes at the last general election after the double dissolution of the Parliament as the Liberal Party and the Country Party. I am not going to argue about a percentage or two each way. We received approximately the same number of votes as the Labor Party which is why we came back with the same number of senators as the Government. We have 29 senators each. If my mathematics are correct, Senator Hall received only 0.94 per cent of the national vote. Yet, he is expected to get one-third of the representation accorded to the Government. The Liberal-Country parties received 48 per cent of the vote as did the Government but the Government is proposing that we will be represented only by 2 senators. I do not think that is a reasonable mathematical division between the 2 parties in this chamber. If the Senate is to be properly represented I put it to the Senate that the numbers ought to be equal. The Government ought to have 3 representatives and the Opposition parties ought to have 3 representatives at the Convention.

If, however, the Government feels as it may now that Senator Hall ought to be represented I put it to the Government that what it ought to do is to have 2 representatives from the Australian Labor Party and Senator Hall could take the place of their third representative. I ask the Government not to be so charitable with our numbers. I ask the Government to be generous and let Senator Hall take the place of one of its representatives at the Convention. That would show true generosity. It would be part of the true spirit of the Labor Party which believes in helping the weak, the underprivileged and the poor. That is what the Government ought to do.

Senator McLaren - What makes you think Senator Hall is one of us?

Senator WITHERS -I did not say he was one of you. What I am saying is that the Labor Party has always believed it should help the underprivileged, the weak and the poor, and therefore it should help Senator Hall.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Or the Liberal Party.

Senator WITHERS - Oh no, you would not be helping us at all. After all, the Labor Party believes in equality. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in the other House has been making great speeches about equality in his terms. Therefore, I think I have put forward a reasonable argument as to why there ought to be a three-three operation. Of course, if the Government feels that that is not right, it could be generous and let us have 7 senators and 9 members of the House of Representatives attend the Convention. Let the Government surrender 1 member from the House of Representatives in order to let Senator Hall be a representative. The Government is being enormously generous at our expense. I do not believe that when the 2 major groups in the Senate are equally divided the numbers ought to be other than equal when representing the Senate at the Convention.

With respect to my friends opposite, the Government has accepted this proposition to some extent with other measures which have come before the Senate. Honourable senators will recall that recently we debated the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to examine the parliamentary committee system. I originally put forward the proposition that there should be 3 representatives from the Government and the Opposition in each House. The Government said that there ought to be 4

Government members and 3 Opposition members from the House of Representatives on the committee although there could be 3 senators from each side of this chamber. We came to that quite amicable, sensible and reasonable arrangement.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - You are dealing with a man of reason.

Senator WITHERS -That is right. I was dealing with Senator Douglas McClelland. I notice with some interest that message No. 69 from the House of Representatives came into this chamber today. It referred to the establishment of a joint committee to inquire into and report upon whether arrangements should be made relative to the declaration of the interests of members of Parliament. I am sure honourable senators are familiar with the message I am speaking about. Again, this is a Government resolution emanating from the other place. Part (2) of that message states:

That the committee consist of three members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Prime Minister, two members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, two senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, one senator nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate.

This committee is basically a committee of committees, if I can call it that. Again, this is an acceptance of the principle that as each of the 2 major groups in this place has 29 members, we share equality on that committee. Yet when we come to the Constitutional Convention the principle of equality is not carried through.

Senator Cavanagh - But if you take the Country Party as separate from the Liberal Party, are they not over-represented on the basis of numbers?

Senator WITHERS -Not necessarily. Apart from my own State of Western Australia, Liberal and Country Party senators come into this place as a result of being on a joint ticket. Therefore, it is very difficult in mathematical terms, to work out the proportion of votes received by each party in the other States.

Senator Cavanagh - Will you accept that it is one party?

Senator WITHERS -It has been an accepted convention in this place that we sit as a joint Opposition. We share a shadow ministry. When I speak on some matters I speak for both parties. When my friend and colleague Senator DrakeBrockman speaks on matters concerning customs and excise -

Senator Gietzelt - Do you agree with the Country Party on all matters?

Senator WITHERS - Yes, in the main. But that has been accepted by convention here. It is looked upon on that basis. After all -

Senator DouglasMcClelland- But Senator Drake-Brockman did not come in as a member of the Australian Country Party last election. He came in as a member of the National Party. So you have actually got to leave him. That is a fact.

Senator WITHERS -Senator, he may have been endorsed as a member of the National Party of Western Australia -

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - He was elected as one -

Senator WITHERS -But as I understand it, the National Party of Western Australia is affiliated with the Australian Country Party. So Senator Drake-Brockman sits in this place as a member of the Federal Australian Country Party. The some situation applies to my friend and colleague from South Australia who was endorsed as a member of the Liberal Country League, which is affiliated with the Liberal Party of Australia.

Senator Cavanagh - But not with the Country Party. They have got a very separate Country Party.

Senator WITHERS -The Opposition sits here in a Federal context and not a State context. But I ask honourable senators not to try to side-track me on this matter. After all, I suppose I must admit that Senator Drake-Brockman and I- even though we may belong to different parties in our States- perhaps have a far better relationship than senators on the Government side who, as yet, have not had the courage to declare whether they belong to the Whitlam Labor Party or to the Cairns Labor Party. Perhaps we might have a declaration as to which of those 2 men honourable senators opposite voted for as their leader after the last general election. It would also be interesting to hear a declaration as to whom senators opposite will vote for as Prime Minister shortly. That would be a far more interesting and fascinating subject for discussion tonight than the relations between my colleague Senator Drake-Brockman and myself. It is 10 o'clock at night and I suppose we are entitled to some light-heartedness which shows a good spirit around the chamber.

Even though these 2 motions are the subject of a cognate debate I take it we will have separate votes on each motion. The Opposition will vote against Senator Murphy's motion. If that is defeated we will just have to await the fate of the motion I have put forward. It is not put forward, I assure Senator Hall, as a personal reflection on him. I think both sides have suffered the lash of Senator Hall in the last month or two. This motion is not on a personal basis at all. 1 put it to the Government that if it really feels that the Liberal Movement, as represented by Senator Hall in this place, ought to be given national representation, it should take it out of the Government's representation either from this chamber or another place.

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