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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 1937

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is interesting to note the way in which the loss of office deepens and sharpens the democratic principles of honourable senators opposite. In a way this is an historic occasion in the Senate because we have heard enunciated a new democratic principle which seems to be that a government should not appoint commissions without making them directly representative, by nomination, of the various groups which will be affected by their decisions. If this is a new principle to which we have to become accustomed from the Opposition I think we are entitled to ask it why it has just discovered it. For instance, throughout its long term of office we had the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Did we see any rush from these people when they were in office to appoint trade unionists, or representatives of the consumers, or representatives of any particular groups to the Australian Broadcasting Commission? If we did I cannot recall it. Then, of course, in the various States we have Commissioners of Railways. I understand that Victoria has three. I do not know quite how many New South Wales has. Is it suggested that one of these commissioners should represent the shunters, another should represent the locomotive engine drivers and another should represent the porters?

Senator Young - What has that got to do with representation on the Commission?

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -What is the suggestion- that a commission cannot function or that a commission is not democratic unless the Government abrogates its authority to appoint members to such a commission but goes out and asks the various groups to nominate members who are fit to sit on it? Let me remind honourable senators opposite that the Government which does the appointing is not some tyranny imposed on the community. The government is a government which has been elected in a democratic election and it is entitled to make such decisions. It certainly ignores at its peril the interests of the various groups such as we are discussing here today. Honourable senators opposite can rest assured that we will not be so lacking in political astuteness as to ignore the interests of the various groups for which the Opposition claims to be the democratic spokesmen.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is another organisation which is similar in its constitution to a commission. Is it suggested that the governing body of the CSIRO should have as its managing directorate representatives of all of the scientific disciplines with which it is concerned? Of course, despite what honourable senators opposite have said, we have one outstanding example of the way in which they acted when they set up a commission in the sphere of education. I am referring to the Universities Commission. No matter what Senator Carrick may have said and no matter what Senator Rae may have said, there is a startling resemblance between the functions of the Universities Commission and the functions of this Commission. I appeal to no other authority in that regard than to the late Mr Harold Holt who, on 2 1 April, delivered the second reading speech in the absence of the then Prime Minister, Mr Robert Menzies, whose baby it was but who happened to be sick.

Senator McLaren - What year was that?

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I commend to all honourable senators the reading of the second reading speech delivered on 2 1 April 1959 by Mr Harold Holt. In many ways the words could be almost the words that were used by Mr Beazley in the other place in defining the functions of this Commission. This body of senators which has now discovered this new democratic principle that all commissions must be chosen from people nominated from various groups did not see fit to adopt that principle when it was setting up the body which is nearest in its functions to the one we are talking about today. So they are belated converts to this notion, and I suggest that their conversion has nothing to do with principle but everything to do with political expediency. There is just one other matter to which I would like to advert.

Senator Young - Do you call a request from several organisations to have direct representation or representation political expediency on their part?

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -That is a childish analogy, and I suggest that if the honourable senator wishes to take part in this debate he would assist us by being here throughout the debate so that he would spare himself such fatuous interjections. I want to advert now to the proposition advanced by Senator Rae both when he was on his feet and by way of interjection to Senator Milliner, namely, that somehow or other our argument is shot down in flames by the fact that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) has set up in the Australian Capital Territory a schools authority consisting of people nominated by groups. To quote Senator Rae- I think I took him down correctly- he said: 'If it is good enough for Canberra, it is good enough for Australia'. I remind him of a very similar utterance which was made by a very prominent member of President Eisenhower's Cabinet, a Mr Wilson, who had previously been president of the General Motors company. He had enunciated the startling principle that what is good for General Motors is good enough for the United States of America. The simple answer in both instances is that General Motors is not the United States of America and the Australian Capital Territory is not Australia.

We are not suggesting that under no circumstances should any body be constituted in the way in which the Opposition is suggesting a schools commission should be constituted. In a local area like the Australian Capital Territory that may be the appropriate method, but the very fact that at the grass roots there are organisations charged with administering local educational needs constitutes a very good reason why that sort of constitution of the overriding body- the Schools Commission- should not be done in the same way. If at the grass roots level we have direct representatives from the various interested groups, why do we need at the summit a body constituted in exactly the same way? I suggest that this sort of analogy is a very oversimple one, and that far from being illogical we are being completely consistent in accepting the fact that at that level the sort of body that Mr Beazley set up is appropriate but at the level of the summit it is not appropriate because there we want to take advantage of the best that is offering in the entire country. As I said before, we do not wish to have our hands tied by having dictated to us which representatives, which nominees, shall be on this Commission. For that reason, I find the amendment moved by Senator McManus even more inappropriate than the amendment moved by Senator Rae. It is subject to the same vice. That is that it represents an attempt to hamstring the Government. I repeat that there is nothing dogmatic, doctrinaire or authoritarian about a Government which has been elected by the people exercising its power by appointing a Commission as important as this. As it has showed by its record it does not ride roughshod over the groups and interests which the Opposition wants directly represented.

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