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Wednesday, 21 May 1980
Page: 3017

Mr YOUNG (Port Adelaide) -Mr Deputy Speaker,I second the amendment. Surely, we must be the only parliament of any democracy that has taken such a major step backwards in relation to electoral reform. It is quite unbelievable that, because of the threat of the Australian Democrats to take members of the Parliament to court if it is found that they did not fill out their electoral forms in relation to the Act as it already exists, this Government should bring into the House a Bill which not only abolishes altogether any ceilings- whether they are ignored or not- but in its place sets up an inquiry into nothing, absolutely nothing. It is an enormous step backwards and one which the Government ought to be ashamed of and on which it should be exposed.

Under the provisions of the inquiry, what are we asked to look at? We are asked to look at how much a person should spend and perhaps whether there should be any disclosure of who spends it. The crux of the matter is not who spends the money; the crux is who gives the money. The Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) who is at the table has made great play in previous debates, as have some of his colleagues, of the fact that over the years occasionally there has appeared in the newspapers a photograph of a trade union secretary passing over a cheque which is a donation to the Australian Labor Party. They say: 'Look at that; there is a trade union prepared to have its secretary 's photo taken with the Leader or a member or a representative of the Labor Party, passing over a cheque. That must mean that the Labor Party has certain responsibilities to that very major donor'. Of course, usually the photograph is taken of someone from the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union.

What we on this side of the House would like to see are the photographs of the donors to the Liberal Party and the National Country Party appearing in the national newspapers. We would like to see the people who control the great resources of this country with their photographs in the paper as they hand over cheques to the Liberal Party and the National Country Party.

As my colleague the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) has said we have passed the raffling of a chook stage in the raising of funds for political campaigns. When one talks about total expenditure on elections in Australia now, one is talking about $ 100,000 an electorate. That does not mean that each of the candidates in every electorate is spending $100,000. Obviously, in the safe electorates they are not. When one visits the various electorates which may be looked upon as marginal or semi-marginal there is talk of candidates spending $60,000, $70,000, or $80,000, and that is without the expenditure by their parties on radio and television. That is just the amount being spent by the candidate. No candidate can raise that amount of money. What is happening of course is, as proved to be the case in the inquiry in the United Kingdom, that the major conservative parties- this applies here as well- are now at the behest of the major companies that operate in this country.

As I said before, the essence of the debate is not who spends the money. What is the use of the major companies of this country buying the soul of the Liberal Party if all we can find out is that Tony Eggleton spent $ 10m? That does not tell us a thing. The Liberal Party does not take much notice of him. But it does take notice of the people who supply the millions of dollars that are now required in expenditure on campaigns.

Mr Armitage - It could come from drugs.

Mr YOUNG - It could come from anybody. My colleague the honourable member for Chifley mentioned people who are mixed up in drug running. That could be so. In answer to a question asked in this Parliament some time ago the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) told the Parliament that he could not be sure that the Central Intelligence Agency had not put money into political parties in Australia. He could not give the Parliament an undertaking that the CIA had not put money into political parties in Australia. That is the crux of the argument which my colleague the honourable member for Prospect has asked honourable members to take into account when we are talking about revising the Electoral Act.

What this Bill does is absolutely nothing at all. The real problem that has been attacked in other democracies, including the United Kingdom, has concerned donations, ceilings on expenditure and the media laws. As everybody in this House knows, because we have said it on many occasions, money is not supplied to political parties in a lot of those Western European countries not only for campaigning but also for educational purposes and for the running of their newspapers; and it is just not supplied to the social democratic parties but to all the political parties which receive over a certain percentage of votes. That is what we ought to be doing in this Parliament. The main reason why this Government has not given the Parliament the responsibility of setting up a committee to look into these questions, and why the Executive has not expanded the terms of reference to take in the question of public disclosure of donors is that every time a parliament, anywhere in the Western world has set up a committee to look at these questions, it has inevitably come down with the same type of recommendations. It has brought down the recommendation that anybody making donations should be put on a public register. If not, there should be State aid for political parties. Of course, we all know that and inevitably it will happen here. But how should it happen? Should it happen on the basis that it is the common sense of the Parliament which initiates the reform or do we wait for someone like Richard Nixon to appear in the Australian Parliament? Do we have to wait until some Minister in this Parliament is exposed as in the Lockheed scandal in Japan and other scandals which have appeared all round the other Western democracies? Should it be like in Western Australia where Mr Hancock said that he would buy the National Country Party for a certain amount of money; or should we let happen what happened with the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom? These things will inevitably happen in Australia unless we bring about reform. We are in a very lucky position because we are not trail-blazing. We will not be the first to do it. The exercise is well mailed overseas and every country which has looked at the question has found it necessary to bring in the reform that we are now talking about.

Look how ludicrous the present situation is. The honourable member for Prospect referred to an article in the Mercury of 7 February 1 978 concerning the electoral return filled in by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom). How much do honourable members think it cost him to be re-elected in 1977? He filled out his return and he said that it did not cost him anything. He did not spend any money on the election and nobody spent any money on his behalf either. He spent absolutely nil. That is the type of situation we are in. That is why we tried to reform the law during the period 1972-75. But things have moved so quickly that we cannot even cling to what we considered were the appropriate steps between 1972 and 1975. 1 am told that the costs of television and radio time between 1977 and early 1980 have jumped by 30 per cent. If one spent $ 1 m in 1 977 one will need at least $ 1 .4m in 1980. So we are not talking about now spending 5c per elector; we are talking about a total reform of the media laws and the electoral laws to cope with this very pressing problem.

We must avoid at all costs bringing the institution of Parliament into disrepute, as has happened to other parliaments overseas, because ultimately someone or a policy has been bought. Plenty of fingers could be pointed at this Government. Two days before we last debated this subject the Press reported that the representative of the Uranium Producers Forum had visited the headquarters of the Liberal Party. He would hardly have been talking about policy there. If he had wanted to talk about policy and the exploitation of uranium mines in Australia he would have come to this Parliament and have seen the Minister. We all have a suspicion, because the community is so deeply divided on the question of uranium mining. One party is opposed to it and, on the other side, the two Government parties support it. In those circumstances, where will the uranium companies make their donations, and to what extent? It would be possible, with the uranium wealth that they have to exploit, to underwrite completely the campaigns of the Liberal and National Country parties. A donation of $5m would be absolutely nothing to them. They could underwrite such a campaign completely.

Many major companies will do very well out of the Government's import parity pricing for oil. The Opposition is very critical of that policy and of the way in which it brings windfall profits to these major companies. In what way will those companies make their donations to the political parties at the end of this year? Many of them are not at all interested in ensuring that every party has an opportunity to present its policies. They are interested only in keeping in power the parties that will do them the most good. Everybody in the community believes- whether honourable members do or not- the unions have a major influence on the Australian Labor Party because of their donations, and the major companies of Australia run the Liberal and National Country parties. They are wrong in the case of the Labor Party because the majority of its donations no longer come from trade unions, and have not for 10 years; but they are right about the Liberal and National Country parties. Overwhelmingly, the money that flows to the coffers of those parties comes from the major companies of this country.

The Bill is an absolute farce. The reason is that this Government always runs away from giving responsibility for looking at some of these key questions to the Parliament. It keeps them out of the hands of the parliamentarians. Who would be better equipped to undertake such a task than a committee of parliamentarians, who have actually had to cost campaigns, to consider the problems involved? I refer especially to those honourable members who represent the larger electorates, with many provincial newspapers and a group of country radio and television stations. Who would know better the enormous problems to be confronted? Who would be better equipped than a parliamentary committee to look at these questions? The Government does not want the Parliament to look at them. Similarly, when the Opposition has asked the Government to allow the Parliament to examine the question of unemployment, it has always refused.

The Government of the United Kingdom did allow the Parliament to study the matter. What was the result? The decision was not unanimous, but overwhelmingly the Houghton committee recommended the type of reform that we are suggesting. As the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) has told the Parliament, in the United Kingdom the media problems that we encounter are not present. We have allowed to develop in the media the maddest possible scheme, one whereby we allow ourselves to be told by the advertising houses of Australia: 'The way to get the best image for your political party is to buy as many 30-second spots as you can'. So one spends an hour and a half in the dressing room while they put make-up on, spray one's hair and make one look really pretty. Then they throw one out in front of the camera and say: 'Do not say anything; just look nice. If we can present this enough times over the next month we will win the election'.

We are treating the public, the voting community of Australia, as absolute dummies. We have allowed that situation to develop. It is also the most costly method of doing anything. When one says that to Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch- about three families own all the television and radio stations in metropolitan Australia- they say: 'We want to keep this system going. In Sydney, 30 seconds costs $1,000. We do not want you to buy 5-minute spots because if we have a politician speaking for five minutes our consumers will turn off Love Boat and will not turn it back on tomorrow night'. So one is allowed not five minutes but 30 seconds only. The public sees this idiot representing a political party coming on like a cornflakes advertisement or an advertisement for Kiwi boot polish and saying: 'Vote for me; vote for me. Don 't I look nice?' That is the system that this Government is trying to consolidate. It wants to retain not only its favourable position in regard to filling its coffers with the donations of the major companies in Australia and of the multinational companies from overseas which pay in but also it does not want public debate on political issues. It has both going for it and refuses to face all the reform that has taken place throughout Australia.

The Australian people are concerned about the influence that donors have over the respective political parties. When a questionnaire was sent around the United Kingdom people said, almost without exception: 'Yes, we believe that major donors to political parties have an influence on the policy formulation of that party'. A thorough examination of that allegation has not been made in Australia. We have not been able to examine it to the extent that we should be able, but people outside make such allegations. Do not run away with the idea that they do not believe a lot of the Government's policies are aimed at getting the maximum donation from some of its friends before the 1980 election. The Government parties have to raise $3m or $4m and they will not run Warrnambool raffling chooks in order to get it. We must look at the question sensibly. The idea of the Parliament itself accepting the responsibility is one that we have put forward on no fewer than three occasions. We do so again tonight. If there must be an immediate measure to deal with the 1980 elections, we can do that also. We are not worried about the past. We are vitally concerned about the future. The charge may be made that the Labor Party is only screaming because it cannot raise as much money as can the LiberalNational Country parties. We cannot do so and would not be prepared to accept some of the money that those parties accept because they do so under very dubious circumstances. That is one of the major reasons why the Government refuses to adopt the standards that have been adopted overseas. Is it possible that the United

States, Canada, Sweden, West Germany, Austria, Holland, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy are all wrong? Is Australia the only nation that is right? Should we be telling them to revert to our system because it is better? The Minister and others before him, including the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), have said that taxpayers ' money should not be used to subsidise political parties.

President Carter said, when he introduced the latest set of measures to reform the electoral system of his country, that the American people believed it was a better system. The American people lived through a very bitter experience. Honourable members opposite may laugh, but I wish to read the names of some of the companies that were found guilty of breaching the electoral laws of the United States. They include responsible, respected, household names. All pleaded guilty, when the matter reached the court, of breaching the law by the way in which they made donations, or by the size of those donations, or by trying to avoid placing their names on the register as having made them. These cases all occurred after 1973. The companies are: The American Ship Building Co.; Ashland Petroleum Gabon Incorporated; Associated Milk Producers Incorporated; Braniff Airways; the Carnation Company; Diamond International Corporation; Ray Dubrowin. the Vice-President of the Greyhound Corporation; the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company; the LBC and W architectural firm; National Bi-Products Incorporated; and the Northrop Corporation. A long list of companies participated in that sort of thing. If it went on in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Germany and in Sweden, why is it not happening here? Honourable members know that of course it is.

We will not let this issue rest. We have told the Parliament over the past 10 years that it cannot rest. There must be reform in this area, but it must be serious reform, not the nonsense which has been introduced into the Parliament by the Government on this occasion. I suspect that when we get the names of those who will serve on the inquiry we will find that they are all financial members of the Liberal and National Country Parties. They will all be well briefed in the philosophy of how well off the Government parties are, receiving donations from multinational corporations and why the Government does not want to change the system. But, as I have said, if we do not change the system through common sense, it will be changed because some corrupt act will be exposed that will bring this institution and parliamentarians into disrepute and force reform upon us. Some sensible honourable members opposite have spoken to me privately and said that they see the need for reform.

We will not be able to effect a reform before the 1980 election, but at least we should be putting a ceiling on expenditure. After the 1980 election this Parliament will have a responsibility to start to look seriously at this question. Some of the members of the National Country Party who may not be in favour with their head office, who may not be getting as much out of the head office as they would like in order to run their campaigns, know the difficulties. My colleague the honourable member for Grey, Mr Laurie Wallis, has to travel from the New South Wales border to the Western Australian border and up to the Northern Territory border. His movements are covered by a multiplicity of provincial newspapers, radio stations and television stations and in addition he has to meet the cost of all the travelling that has to be done. How can honourable members opposite say in those circumstances that we should not be looking seriously at the ways in which to assist all the people who campaign in such electorates? What I am saying about the honourable member for Grey can also be said about some members of the Country Party and the Liberal Party. There is some movement amongst Government back benchers. We will insist that Parliament look at this question seriously after the next election.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (MrMillarOrder! The honourable member's time has expired.

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