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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2191

Senator DURACK (Western Australia) - I move:

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 10.14 a.m. on Thursday, 29 November 1 973.

I do so for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:

The rapidly growing concentration of excessive and arbitrary power in Canberra by the Federal Labor Government.

I have moved this motion to enable discussion on this matter in the Senate today because I believe it raises the most fundamental problem that is facing the Australian people. Certainly it is one which is immediately and daily facing the Australian Parliament and this Senate. The problem as I see it is epitomised in the wording of the matter of urgency I have submitted which I shall read again:

The rapidly growing concentration of excessive and arbitrary power in Can berra by the Federal Labor Government.

I have chosen these words with, I hope, some care and certainly each one of them in my view has a great deal of substance. The concentration of power in Canberra is rapidly growing and has greatly increased since this Labor Government came into office nearly 12 months ago. We are familiar with the fact that probably over the last 30 or 40 years there has been a tendency for more power to be held by the Federal Government in Canberra. Of course the uniform taxation decisions are one of the notable features of that development. But whatever may have been the slow development which had been occurring over many years there cannot be any doubt at all that since this Labor Government- this socialist Government- came into power there has been a rapidly growing concentration of that power. That power is excessive because it is causing a fundamental change in the structure of federalism- the federal system- under which we have lived in this nation for 73 years. Indeed, it is the only system of government under which we have lived as an Australian nation.

That system has been rapidly eroded and torn down by this excessive concentration of power. It is excessive also in some of the extraordinary features that it has had. Again I instance what I spoke of yesterday in relation to the Seas and Submerged Land Bill which was then before the Senate. This Government seeks to apply a new province of control and power over the off-shore areas of Australia. To these areas it applies the laws of the Australian Capital Territory. As I said yesterday, is it thought that Western Australians or Queenslanders will accept for one minute that notion of absolute and excessive power? As I have indicated in my motion, the power which has been concentrated is, in my view, arbitrary power in many ways. It is ironical that the Australian Labor Party, which professed to want to see a return to Parliamentary Government, has been in Government accelerating the arbitrary nature of the powers which are held by the Federal Government and seeking to increase them. I mention in particular the Labor Party's whole mining policy and the activities of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who has acted as far as he possibly can in a completely arbitrary manner. I know that there has been some legislation as well in this field but a great deal of the activities of the Minister has been of a totally arbitrary and arrogant nature. I will deal with that in more detail later if I have time.

I mention also some of the activities of this Government in setting up councils, committees or commissions without any parliamentary discussion and without any parliamentary authority. Such activity involves the spending of money, presumably under Treasury Advances. There are two most notable examples of such arbitrary power, as I see it. The first concerns the present activities of the Council for the Arts which is proceeding to make grants to set up a whole new bureaucracy in this field. I think there are about 7 boards operating under the Council. They are proceeding to advertise for and to appoint staff. But there is no legislative authority as yet for a great many of these appointments. If one looks at the advertisements for these positions one sees it stated that persons are being appointed only temporarily until Parliament actually sets up the bodies. But everybody thinks that a parliamentary body has been established for this purpose. I mention just briefly another example of the arbitrary nature of this Government. This relates to the setting up of what has become known as the Aboriginal Parliament or the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. Again this is a most vital step to take, but the proposal has never been brought into the Houses of Parliament for debate. No legislative authority has been established by the national parliament for that body. It has been set up by ministerial discretion.

I moved this urgency motion, as I have said already, because of this rapid acceleration of the process of concentrating power in Canberra. This process is gaining momentum. As we approach the first birthday of the establishment of this Labor Government I think it important that we in this chamber should pause and dwell for a few hours today upon this rapid concentration of power and consider it as an urgent and fundamental problem facing not only us but also the Australian electorate, lt is not really surprising that we should have witnessed this process of concentrating power in Canberra under a Labor Government because fundamentally this is the aim of the Australian Labor Party. I was not surprised but I was very disturbed a few months ago when I listened to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) welcome a delegation from the New Zealand Parliament in Kings Hall. In welcoming them he said that he was delighted to greet the representatives of a Parliament and of a nation which to him represented the ideal form of constitutional government- the ideal being that it was a nation with one Parliament and with one House of Parliament. He stressed that that country had only one Parliament and only one House of Parliament governing it. That, of course, is what the Prime Minister wants to achieve in Australia, and by one means or another he is rapidly propelling Australia to that form of constitution. The Labor Party platform, with which I suppose we are all familiar, states quite explicitly that its policy is that the Commonwealth Parliament should have such plenary power as is necessary to carry out Labor's socialist objectives. It does not contain any words saying that those powers are to be carried out in conformity with a federal system. That system is accepted at the moment by the Labor Party only because it is the system of government under which it has to operate. It is quite clear that the Labor Party's policy is to obtain plenary power for the Commonwealth Government and ultimately to destroy State governments and State parliaments. At the Labor Party's recent conference at Surfers Paradise it sought to achieve that end by requiring that it be an obligation of any Labor member of a State Parliament to assist in the reference to this Commonwealth Parliament of such powers as may be necessary to carry out those policies.

I would like to quote further the views of the Prime Minister on the role of Labor members in State parliaments. When delivering the Chifley memorial lecture as long ago as 1957 the Prime Minister said:

Much can be achieved by Labor members of the State Parliaments in effectuating Labor's aim of more effective powers for the national Parliament. . . . Their role is to bring about their own dissolution.

So this clearly being the philosophy and policy of the Prime Minister, the Labor Party and Labor members in the Senate and in the other place, it is not surprising at all that this should have been the keynote and dominant feature portrayed by this Labor Government in its first 12 months of office. There has been a rapid acceleration of plenary power, which I think is Senator Murphy's favourite phrase, to Canberra and the creation in Canberra of new bureaucracies one after another. One should also recall the way in which this has been done. I think we should always emphasise and certainly never forget the spectacle of the 2-man Government which ruled this nation for 2 weeks after 2 December. This country was governed by 2 men- the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard). The 2-man Government acted in an arbitrary manner.

Senator Mulvihill - It did a lot of things.

Senator DURACK - It certainly did a lot of things, but it did them in a quite arbitrary manner. My complaint is that it did a lot of things in this arbitrary and arrogant manner. Then a constitutional government was established. The first thing which it did was to create 10 new departments of State. It increased the number from 27 to 37. It created 10 new bureaucratic structures, 10 new heads of departments and all the panoply that goes with them. Over this period the socialist Government has established no fewer than 77 new commissions, committees, inquiries, task forces or whatever one likes to call them. The details are worth reading. They can be seen in the House of Representatives Hansard of 1 5 October last in an answer given by the Prime Minister to a question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). No fewer than 77 commissions, committees or inquiries of one form or another have been established in Canberra. This is the pattern. There has been this rapidly growing concentration of power in bureaucracies of one sort or another, many of them without any legislative authority behind them. The finance for them is obtained, in the first place, from the Advance to the Treasurer and is then presented as part of the Budget. The Senate is put in the invidious position of having to reject the whole Budget if it wishes to refuse the money for the committees to carry on.

Senator Cotton - Have you any idea of the cost of all this?

Senator DURACK - We had some idea of the cost of these in the additional Appropriation Bills. It was between $6m and $10m immediately in the last financial year. The cost of all this can be seen quite clearly in the present Budget under which public expenditure has increased by 20 per cent. The Budget this year is 20 per cent higher than the Budget last year. It is $ 12,000m instead of $ 10,000m. It is 20 per cent higher. I believe that the vote for the Public Service is up 24 per cent. It is 24 per cent higher than it was the previous financial year.

These are some of the facts and figures which clearly establish the way in which this Government is rapidly increasing the concentration of power and the inflation of bureaucracy and bureaucratic forms in Canberra. One of the most vital and important aspects about this whole process in the fact that they are all being established in Canberra to exercise vast control over the lives of each and every Australian, many of whom live 2,000 or more miles away. That sort of bureaucracy was epitomised in the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, which applied the law of the Australian Capital Territory to areas 2,000 miles away. This is arrogance and ignorance of the type of nation that Australia is, its size, the diversities which it has and the interests which can be understood only by the areas closest to the people- the State parliaments and the local authorities.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.

Senator DURACK - Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I had established the rapidity with which and the extent to which this socialist Government has been concentrating powers on the old bureaucracy in Canberra and conferring new powers on a whole range of new bureaucratic structures that are being created by it in Canberra. No State of the Commonwealth has been more adversely or more seriously affected by this process than my own State of Western Australia. Although Western Australia covers one-third of the Australian continent it was not until the 1960s that its natural resources were developed to the extent that one would have expected. But in the 1960s Australia captured the imagination of the world by the extent of its mineral discoveries and mineral development in Western Australia. The mining export income which Western Australia, together with the State of Queensland, earned for Australia really saved the Australian nation from a serious economic crisis which would have occurred during the period of the rural recession. But because of the export income that was generated by the mining discoveries and mining developments largely in the States of Queensland and Western Australia, there is no doubt that such a serious crisis was averted. This has been one of the greatest achievements throughout the history of the Australian nation.

These mining discoveries and developments occurred in Western Australia during the 1960s, but since that time this flourishing and vital Australian industry has been virtually dealt a death blow. It has received a series of body blows but it has now been pretty well killed outright by the policies of the socialist Government and the concentration of power in the hands of a few Ministers and bureaucrats in Canberra. The policies that have been so damaging to the mining industry are the types of policies which I strongly criticise in the terms of this motion. These are the sorts of policies that the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, has implemented. One such policy is the requirement that Australian companies deposit thirty-three and one-third per cent of any, foreign borrowings. Together with the Minister's policy of banning farm-in arrangements, this has been successful if that is the right expression, in dealing this death blow to the mining industry. This blow was dealt in such a manner as to bring the industry to a standstill. Virtually no exploration is being undertaken, because what is the good of it? Why would people be bothered to risk capital, to risk time and to risk energy when they cannot enjoy in any way the fruits of this work, this enterprise and this initiative? They cannot get the capital to carry on mineral development. Apparently it is the policy of the Government to prevent them from doing so. I am not speaking now of the Government's energy policy or oil policy; I am speaking of minerals generally.

The Government's minerals policy apparently is inimical to any development, except where local capital is used. The Labor Premier of Western Australia, Mr Tonkin, said the other day that if Western Australia had had to wait until local capital was available for mineral development in Western Australia, that State would still be waiting. Mr Tonkin made some very interesting comments in expressing opposition to the policies being pursued by the Minister for Minerals and Energy. He indicated that it was vital that Western Australia have foreign capital to assist in its development.

However, the Government's policy on minerals is not the only factor that has been so damaging to the interests of Western Australia. The Budget announced the Government's policy of taking away concessions from the gold mining industry just at a time when that industry was starting to be revived and when world prices for gold had gone up to a level at which it became economical once again to search for gold and develop gold mining. Yet in one blow the Budget took away all concessions from the gold mining industry, and consequently any encouragement also was taken away. A week or two ago Caucus made a last desperate bid to prevent the electorate of Kalgoorlie from being lost by the Labor Party in the next election. In this desperate eleventh hour bid Caucus changed that decision to some extent by restoring the concessions to mining companies. But the concessions now applying are of only a partial nature. They are a hoax and they hoodwink as far as giving any real encouragement to the development of mining companies is concerned, because they do not give any encouragement to the small investor to risk his capital in gold exploration or development. This move will help only the larger mining companies to keep going for a while, but they probably will not be able to do so without further encouragement and they are not likely to get that encouragement from this Government.

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that there should be talk once again of secession in Western Australia. I hasten to say that I do not agree for one minute with those who express that opinion. I do not want it to be taken that I am advocating that in anything I am saying. But it is important that the Australian Parliament and even this socialist Government should realise the effects that these policies are having on the remoter parts of Australia, particularly the outlying areas of Western Australia and Queensland. As I have said, there is talk again of secession in Western Australia. This is something of which this Government really has to take notice because this talk is a direct result of the arbitrary and arrogant policies- this concentration of power in Canberra- being pursued by this socialist Government.

In addition to the acceleration of power concentration in Canberra, which I have been denouncing, to cap it all this socialist Government is asking the Australian electorate on 8 December to give it more powers- to give it the widest possible powers to legislate in relation to prices and incomes. The Government is saying that it wants these powers in order to deal with inflation. But how honest is the Government in that claim? It has many powers by which it can deal with inflation. It can do something about inflation by curbing its own extravagant expenditures. That is one of the major things that it could do to cope with inflation. The Government has been offered by the State governments a temporary referral of powers to cope with inflation. It already has many powers under the Constitution which it can use. The Prices Justification Tribunal was set up under powers that the Government already possessed. So, in my opinion, it is quite clear that the purpose of this referendum which is seeking more powers for this socialist Government in Canberra has nothing to do with any desire on the part of the Government to fight inflation. Actually it has been largely responsible for increasing inflation at the vast rate at which, it has been increasing and the Government could have done something about this long ago.

The reason it wants these powers is to allow it to implement its centralist, unificationist policies, and I have already quoted the Prime Minister and the Labor Party platform in that regard. The Government wants this referendum carried on 8 December so that it will have more powers to act arbitrarily and arrogantly. It wants plenary powers, as the Government calls them, to put into effect its socialist policies of having a unitary system of government and of abolishing State parliaments and State governments. It wants these powers because they are part and parcel of the ultimate socialist objective of destroying the federal system and establishing a unitary system. Not only does the Government want more powers in Canberra, but also it wants all these powers to be concentated in one House of Parliament in Canberra, because it is notoriously well known that the Government wishes to abolish this Senate which is probably the last real bastion of defence that the people and the States have for this federal system as we know it.

I strongly commend to the Senate the matter of urgency which I have raised, which states that the Senate should treat and discuss as a matter of urgency the rapidly growing concentration of arbitrary power by this socialist Government in Canberra.

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