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Tuesday, 26 August 1969

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) - I rise to take part in this debate because I think some parts of the record should be straightened and some matters spelt out. The matter with which I am most concerned has been referred to from various angles in the debate, but I am one who took part in criticising the Opposition after it had decided to take over Tuesday night for general business, or private members' business, altering it from Thursday to Tuesday. I was at that time critical of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and those who administer the

Opposition for the different political attitude that was being adopted. We were arriving here on a Tuesday with no indication of the subject to be debated that night. Of course, we expected that the Opposition, within its own closed ranks, had circulated or passed from wing to wing a message as to what its members would be debating; but the normal ethics of parliamentary behaviour and tradition were not being followed and honourable senators on this side of the chamber, and for all I know, in the Australian Democratic Labor Party, were not being told the subject for debate. In other words there was an attempt either to forget tradition or to try to have Government supporters caught unawares, unprepared for debate. In the art of gentle admonition I expressed my views and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was good enough to see the error of his ways.

We were told that in future the Senate would be informed before the House adjourned at the end of a week of the item of general business to be brought on when the Senate met on the following Tuesday. As far as I am aware, this practice has been followed. Until lunch time today, I understood that order of the day No. 1 under the heading of 'General Business' - that is Constitution Alteration (Democratic Election of State Parliaments) Bill 1968' - was to be debated. I am very interested in that question. But as soon as the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson), who is the Leader of our Parliamentary Party in the Senate, could do so, he told us that Senator Murphy would be moving that the Senate go on to order of the day No. 14, Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1968, and Senator Anderson thought Senator Murphy would have the numbers if we did not agree.

Senator Gair - How could he have the numbers? We were never consulted about it.

Senator MARRIOTT - You were not told, Senator Gair?

Senator Gair - We knew nothing about it.

Senator MARRIOTT - There you are. Even greater harm has been done. I suppose this is a reaction from the weekend when one of Senator Gair's colleagues was reported in the Press as saying that it took 15 years for the DLP to destroy the Australian Labor Party. By one rudeness to Senator Gair's Party today, the ALP is trying to bewilder the DLP, not to destroy it. It would never be able to bewilder the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.

Let us keep the record straight. We have moved from item 1 to item 14. I presume that when the members of the Labor Party saw that the subject for debate referred to a democratic election they thought: 'We cannot debate that. Look what happened at our Federal Conference. We refused to allow a democratically elected delegate of our Party, a paid servant of our Party, to come in the door'. Harradine's name rang through caucus on the other side of the chamber and they decided that they would avoid the Harradine case - 'We must not talk about democracy. We cannot discuss it at this touchy stage after we have been welded together for a short week-end of conferences and after we refused to allow that democratically elected delegate to come in the door. We sent him across the Strait two or three times but he came back knocking at the door of our expensive hotel lounge and asking 'Can I come in? Can I be heard?' and we replied 'Stay out, stay out' \

Then the Tasmanian people were rocked. Democracy had gone completely mad. The delegation to the conference from Tasmania was evenly divided. Two of them said: 'We do not take instructions from our democratically elected conference but we voted for our man to be kept out'. So it is obvious why the Labor Party does not want to debate Order of the Day No. 1, Constitution Alteration (Democratic Election of State Parliaments) Bill. I can understand why members of the Labor Party would not want to discuss Order of the Day No. 2 which relates to Antarctica because they can feel the cold winds of electoral change which are blowing against them. They know that they have been left out in the cold because of what is going on within their ranks and because of their attitude to the Parliament. Let us take the next item. Why did they not want to debate a subject dear to the heart of the Democratic Labor Party. Namely assistance to independent schools? The Federal body of the Labor Party has covered that.

So perhaps by chance, perhaps by mischance, government senators and members of the Democratic Labor Party have been misled about the subject for debate in the Senate chamber tonight, this at a most important time in the parliamentary session, this on the very day on which the Labor Party Opposition, showing some good sense and judgment, agreed that from now until the end of this parliamentary session we will, after this week, sit for longer hours and on more days in an endeavour to get the business of the nation through the Parliament before the Parliament is dissolved so that the other place can go to an election. The very fact that the Opposition agreed to do that on this very day indicates that somewhere within the ranks of the Opposition there is one person at least who said: There is important business of the nation to be carried on and we are the people who will face up to our responsibilities and carry it on. We will agree to the extra hours and days of sitting*. Yet come 8 o'clock on Tuesday night we are asked to debate a Bill which could alter the electoral situation and cause wild confusion electorally among the people of Australia if it became law.

The Labor Party, showing a complete lack of responsibility and parliamentary behaviour, is trying to get us to force this debate through in 2i hours when it has permitted the Bill to lie on the notice paper for over 12 months. That is parliamentary irresponsibility and lack of political judgment. I do not believe that members of the Labor Party realise that they are exhibiting that attitude to the people of Australia. Then we find that because he rose in his place some 18 months ago the Leader of the Opposition has the night off. He cannot speak. Perhaps that is why he wanted this matter debated. He cannot speak, so he would not have to listen to the debate.

Senator Cohen - Will you give us a vote on it?

Senator MARRIOTT - I have referred to the fact that the Democratic Labor Party has claimed that it has taken 15 years to destroy your Party. I have been in this Senate for 16 years and not one senator of any party has ever been able to silence me by interjection while I am on my feet, so I suggest that you save your voice. I will take no notice of your interjections because I have a prepared speech to make and I intend to make it, and the more it hurts you the better will your colleagues on each side of you enjoy it. In 2± hours we, as a House of review, are expected to initiate important legislation which has a constitutional flavour.

Senator Cohen - Will you give us a vote on it?

Senator MARRIOTT - The bass baritone who is interjecting can go on all night for all I care. He does not worry me. The Minister has pointed out the fallacy of putting this legislation through tonight. He has pointed out, I think it is fair to say, that there is no member on this side of the House who is adamantly opposed to 18- year-olds voting at Federal elections. I certainly hold the belief that this is a suggestion which merits consideration. But let us get tonight's record straight. After the Minister, clearly and with convincing repetition in some cases, had put the facts before the Senate on why the Government would not accept this Bill if it could defeat the Bill at this stage - he did not say that the Government was opposed to the vote in good time - Senator Keeffe from Queensland who, I presume, was speaking as a senator for Queensland, entered the debate. Of course, he has to wear two hats. He wears one as the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party. He chided the Minister about the Minister's speech and then went on to say, in effect: 'I want you to pull speakers down so that we can have a vote* - this in a House of review in a democracy, in a Parliament which surely has some pride in its attitudes. But the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party had the feeling that he was back in the conference room - 'Lock the doors. Keep Harradine out. Silence you and you. Take a vote while we have the numbers'. So Senator Keeffe, Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, said to us: 'Pull your speakers down'. He did not appeal to any one of us as individuals and ask: Would you please, as individuals, refrain from speaking tonight so that we can take a vote?' He, a backbencher on the Opposition side, was saying to a Minister in a democratically run Liberal-Country Party coalition Government: 'Pull your members down. Take their names off the list'. But he knows that we are not men or women of that calibre and that at any time when we are challenged by the Opposition we will be upstanding in our places and will give our views, knowing full well that they are being recorded for all time in Hansard. This Hansard report will make remarkably interesting reading. It is a pity that there could not be a separate edition recording the harangue of interjections that go past me like a breeze out on the snow.

So the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party has found that we are not controlled by a totalitarian dictator who says: 'Take your names off the list; sit down; do not talk'. The Minister does not do a Harradine on us. The Whip says to us: 'The list is there. If you want to speak, you speak'. That is a motto that we have in this place. What is more, if we vote against the Government we are not locked out of the room, let alone expelled. What then was the reason for the sudden change of attitude on the part of the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, Senator Keeffe? I suppose that the entertainment committee, or whatever body Opposition senators have which controls their comings and goings in this chamber, said to them: Thou shalt not speak. You live and visible Harradines are not to speak in this debate. We will leave it to the Government. We will show, first of all, that we are in control of our own people. We will stop them speaking*.

But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps die position is that when the call for speakers was made the names did not go on the list because members of the Opposition saidI can see why they should say this: 'Break it down; until midday today we thought we were to talk on the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Election of State Parliaments) Bill; but without a word to us you now tell us that we are to talk about 18-year-olds'. I can hear them saying: 'We are all preparing our speeches on the Budget. We all want to have a go on social services. We all want to talk about the education grants. We want to have a go on repatriation. We are studying the Auditor-General's Report to see what we should say in the Estimates debate. We are flat out because you bosses have agreed that we have to sit more days and longer hours in order to get the business of the country done'. Perhaps that is the reason why no Opposition speakers are getting up. Another one may be-

Senator Gair - Tell us a bit more about Harradine.

Senator MARRIOTT - It is very harrowing. I am prompted by my ministerial colleague from Tasmania to say that we may tell the Senate more about that matter on Hallowe'en. I am trying to get the record straight.

Senator Gair - -Was not Harradine elected by the State Conference of the ALP in Tasmania?

Senator MARRIOTT - I am not privy to its goings on. I must address you, Mr President. I am sure that the political historians will want to know why it is that 1 8 months ago the Leader of the Opposition moved the motion for the second reading of this Bill-

Senator Georges - Eighteen months ago?

Senator MARRIOTT - Well, 12 months ago or 10 months ago.

Senator Georges - lt was 8 months ago.

Senator MARRIOTT - Hisspeech was so weak that it seems about 18 months since I heard it. Anyway, 10 months ago he made his second reading speech. The Opposition backbenchers either have said that they will not speak because they have not had time to prepare their speeches, or they have been ordered by Senator Keeffe to be silent or they have taken umbrage at the tactics that are being adopted by those who control the Party.

It will be interesting to see whether any member of the back bench or the front bench - junior counsel or anyone else - will stand up tonight and put some sort of case, in answer to the arguments put by Senator Scott, as to why at this time the Opposition wants this Bill to be passed by this chamber and referred to another place. If I understand the law correctly, if another place passes it, it receives the royal assent and automatically becomes the law of the land within 14 days. Is there someone who can stand up and, on behalf of the Opposition, say whether it really and truly wants the vote to be given to 18-year-olds in the Federal election on the date that has been announced - 25th October. Here I would expect Senator Gair to come in with his usual interjections. Do members of the Opposition want the 18-year-olds to have a vote at that time? I had hoped that a member of the Opposition would have taken his turn in this debate before I had to follow two of my colleagues, except for a slight interposition by Senator Turnbull. If members of the Opposition do want this to become law before that time, they cannot possibly understand the implications-

Senator Branson - Mr President, I raise a point of order. Is it orderly to hold caucus meetings inside the Senate chamber or should they be carried on outside the chamber?

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - If the honourable senator is referring to the interjections, I do not think the speaker was embarrassed by them.

Senator MARRIOTT - I hope that I am not out of order, Mr President, in adding to your reply to Senator Branson's question about holding caucus meetings inside the chamber. I can tell you that Mr Brian Harradine would love to be allowed inside. After the members of the Executive sacked him, they had a meeting to try to support him and they split again - six to four. They told the Press that he had to apologise, and the Press rang him up and told him that. Then he had to have a caucus meeting on his own because he had been expelled. He had been let down. He was flying across Bass Strait like a yo-yo. When he left Tasmania he was promised that he would receive a telegram. But that would have been a waste of money. Of course, the Labor Party is short of funds. I can understand that, the way it spends money. He did not receive the letter. He is used to holding caucus meetings outside. But Opposition senators want to be different from Mr Harradine. They like holding caucus meetings in this chamber. I am glad that Senator Branson objects.

Let me refer to the dangers inherent in this Bill if the Senate was to be so unwise as to pass it tonight and if the Opposition expected and wanted it to become law for the election to be held on 25th October.

Senator Gair - That is the anniversary of the Russian revolution.

Senator MARRIOTT - The trout are biting beautifully. I have been given reliable information and I have been able to do some homework. The implication behind this Bill is that about 600,000 new electors could come on the electoral rolls of the four States in which there are joint FederalState rolls. Working it out quickly, that would mean an average of 5,000 new electors on each roll in the four States which use joint Federal-State rolls. This would result in a situation of utter confusion. Those 5,000 electors would not know whether they were on the roll for this election or that election. A time factor also is involved. If the Parliament was so unwise as to pass this Bill the people of Australia and the electoral authorities would think that the great fault of the Senate was that it did not think deeply about the legislation before it. They would accuse us, quite rightly, of being coerced into making judgment too quickly and of not allowing sufficient time for debate.

Surely the Senate should consider the work load before it. The Opposition is trying to pressure us into discussing matters at this time whereas it could easily have acted in a spirit of co-operation and have revealed some form of national parliamentary responsibility. There are twentyeight other matters which could come up for discussion but which have been laying idle now for many months. The Opposition could have said that it would withdraw its right to have those matters debated in order to allow the Senate to continue with the Budget debate or to deal with other Government legislation. It could have acted so that the time available to us could be usefully organised and employed. 1 hope that Opposition senators have learned a parliamentary lesson and I hope they will remember it. They should remember the ethics and traditions of the Parliament and that common courtesy should be shown at all times. Will Opposition senators be able to face the public of Australia tomorrow and say: 'Yes, we left our Bill on the notice paper for many months. Yes, we forced the Senate into debating it. Yes, this happened after we threatened Government supporters not to speak. They disobeyed our instructions and therefore, in order to try to embarrass them and to try to catch them unawares, we pulled out our speakers'? Or will they say that their speakers were not prepared to stand and support it in this chamber? That may be the situation. In reality the back bench Opposition members have said that they are going to sit down here and leave Harradine out in the cold.

If there is one thing about which the Senate has to be careful it is the initiation of legislation that has an important effect in and implication for the States we represent. I would be negligent in my duty as a Tasmanian senator if at this stage, before the Tasmanian Parliament made up its mind as to what should be the voting age in Tasmania, I supported a change. I would be recreant to my trust if I supported a change before I knew that the Tasmanian Government had made a decision and unless I knew that the Federal Government knew the wishes of the other States which have the same electoral roll. Surely the Senate must exercise some care and give due consideration when it is dealing with uniformity. In some spheres of activity we have done a good job so far as uniformity is concerned. 1 hope there will be more uniformity of legislation throughout Australia. But I am certain that it is not the role of the Senate - nor the role of the Senate Opposition - at this time, under these conditions and in this manner, to try to rush legislation through after a debate of 2± hours. 1 refer very briefly once again to Senator Keeffe. When we heard Senator Keeffe saying that he wished to be pulled down and not allowed to speak I thought to myself: Well, I know that this is not the LiberalCountry Party attitude about people wishing to speak'. The list of speakers is available and if we wish to speak we do so. No-one says to us: 'Sit down and get your name off the list'. I thought: 'If, by any chance, out of fright an Opposition supporter had risen to speak after Senator Keeffe had finished, he, Senator Keeffe, would have interjected and said we were too frightened to get up and talk'. He would have said: You are too frightened to speak because you are really on our side. You are too frightened to express your views because your Ministers would not like it'. I realised when Senator Keeffe was issuing the Labor Party instructions to the Senate tonight that he had a dollar each way, that if Government supporters wanted to speak he would criticise us for talking the matter out, and that if we remained seated he could then have gone round between now and the anniversary of the Russian revolution and have said: 'We have the Liberal and Country Party senators frightened. When I tell them they have to sit down they do so'. He would have had great joy in defaming our political characters in that way. Therefore I am very pleased that we have proved tonight, to the lasting good of members of the Opposition, I hope, that no matter where else they can do that they cannot do that here.

The Opposition is not going to tell us to sit down. The Opposition is not going to tell us to race legislation through the Parliament. We are not prepared, after 8 or 10 months delay, to rush headlong into accepting a proposition that has not been put clearly before us. By their silence members of the Opposition prove that they are either ignorant of the contents of the Bill or that they are opposed to it and are frightened to rise in this chamber and express their thoughts. I suppose honourable senators are frightened of expulsion.

Debate interrupted.

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