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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2194

Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) - I do not think that anything that has been said so far is likely to inflame the passions of the Senate or anybody outside the Senate either one way or the other. The matter of urgency, which is before the Senate and which was raised by Senator Durack, is delightful in its generality but probably not in any other respect. We have heard today a rather tedious recitation of general grievances which the Liberal Party has about a Labor government. In fact, at the end of Senator Durack 's speech he digressed miles away from this question of the growing concentration of excessive power into a discussion of the rights and the wrongs of the goldmining industry. Senator Durack could not even restrain himself from reflecting on the honesty of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in proposing that a referendum should be held to give power over incomes to the Commonwealth Parliament. I take it that Senator McManus will later take up this matter and endeavour to refute the allegations which have been made against him and his Party by Senator Durack. I will leave that to Senator McManus who on behalf of his Party, I am sure, will not wish silently to accept the allegations and innuendoes which have been cast against him by Senator Durack on behalf of the Liberal Party.

What have we heard today? We have heard a tale of woe. I do not think Senator Durack was really very interested in this matter; he certainly did not sound very interested. I suppose that the legislation that is being considered by the Senate is becoming distressing to members of the Opposition. They found they had to debate concrete and substantial matters, so they decided to get back to some waffle in order to repair their breaths for when the substantial legislation which the Government is introducing comes back before the Senate.

What instances did Senator Durack cite for the shocking things which he says are going on- this rapidly growing concentration of excessive and arbitrary power in Canberra by the Federal Labor Government? One of the rather curious instances that he cited referred to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, which he seemed to regard as a cornerstone of the socialist policies of the Labor Government. I must say that I find that a rather curious argument. Senator Durack seems to me to be fulfilling a rather new role not only in his peroration when he denounced the DLP because of its incomes policy, but also in the body of his speech when he denounced the majority of his colleagues who voted for all the substantial provisions of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill when it was passed by the Senate yesterday. Senator Durack reflected very seriously not only on the DLP but also on Mr Gorton and many honourable senators from the Liberal Party who voted for the Government's proposal.

I do not wish to debate the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill again. I am sure that those Liberal senators and those Liberal members in another place whose integrity and strangely hitherto concealed socialist tendencies have been attacked by Senator Durack will be capable later of defending themselves as, I am sure, Senator McManus will be capable of defending himself from the slurs which have been cast on his Party's good name by Senator Durack in what he has said today.

Senator McManus - I will not have to defend myself; you are doing it for me.

Senator WHEELDON - I thought that I would give the honourable senator some assistance. I thought that he could use a good advocate. Another instance of the growing and excessive power of this socialist Government, which was quoted by Senator Durack and which I found a little difficult to follow, was the Government's decision to establish the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. For the first time in the history of Australia, the Aboriginal people of this country are to be consulted, through a committee elected by them, on what should be done in matters relating to Aborigines so that they, directly through this Committee, can advise the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament on what they, as the people best able to judge, believe to be the interests of the Aboriginal people. Senator Durack says that there is a growing concentration of arbitrary and excessive power in Canberra. But, as I have said, for the first time in the history of Australia, the Government is going to the Aboriginal people in order to seek their advice and to confer with them. We are giving them the right to elect their members to serve on this Committee. I do not follow the point made by Senator Durack but, apparently having raised the matter of urgency, he decided to include all those things which he does not like. I think that Senator Durack would have done much better if, instead of including all these rather tired phrases in the wording of this matter of urgency, had just said: 'The Senate does not like the Labor Government', or words to that effect. That is really all Senator Durack had to say. That would have been much more satisfactory than to weigh us down with this cumbersome matter of urgency that we have before us at present.

Senator Duracksays that there is a growing concentration of arbitrary and excessive power because various councils have been established to advise the Government on the arts- the visual arts, the graphic arts, music, theatre, films and so on. I do not set myself up as an authority on the manner in which these councils have been formed. I know that there has been some argument as to whether some people have too much influence on the councils and whether some people, who do not have influence, ought to have influence on the councils, but the fact is that again, for the first time in the history of Australia, bodies have been set up, which represent those people who actively practise the arts, to advise the Government on what ought to be done regarding its arts policy. Instead of just saying that a Minister or a permanent head of a department or a bureaucrat in some office shall determine what shall be done about literature, music and films and their development in Australia, we have actually established councils which comprise representatives of those people who practise these arts. It is a democratic process, a broadening of consultation in an important field. Senator Durack, again for mysterious reasons, says that the establishment of these consultative councils is a concentration of excessive and arbitrary powers.

Senator Durackduring his remarks repeatedly said that this Government is a socialist Government. I for one do not feel in any way insulted by being described as a socialist. I regard socialism as an admirable goal, but I take it that that is not what Senator Durack believes. I detected a rather unhappy note in his voice, a certain catching of the breath, when he used the word 'socialist'. I took it to mean that he was not approving of the Government being a socialist Government. Senator Durack had quite a long time in which to speak. He was able to talk about the goldmining industry, the incomes policy and various other things. One would have thought that if he wanted to say that the Government was a socialist Government he would have pointed to some instance of socialism- not of something that might happen in the future, but of socialism, of some proposed nationalisation or transfer to social ownership of some industry at present in private hands.

I listened with great attention, and I did not hear Senator Durack mention one instance of socialism. I heard words rolling out in a monotonous way about the socialist Government, but not one tiny little bit of evidence as to what it was that constituted socialism within this Government. I must confess that had Senator Durack been able to point to some such instance of socialism I personally would have welcomed it; I would not have deplored it. He has told us that many commissions have been set up. I think he said there are 77 of them. Again, in the case of the arts there is not a concentration of arbitrary power in the hands of ministers or permanent heads of departments, but an effort to bring broad sections of the Australian people from the fields in which they are interested and active into consultation with the Government. Is this a concentration of arbitrary power? I say that it is a spreading of power and consultation. It is a spreading throughout the community to those people who are involved in these activities of power to confer with the Government and to assist the Government in making its determinations.

I would have thought that as the honourable senator was moving the motion he could have been a little more precise. He said that it is very expensive to establish all these commissions, that it will cost between $6m to $ 10m. It seems to me to be a very wide and broad spectrum of price range to refer to something costing between $6m to $10m. I would have thought that to be really effective the honourable senator should have been able to work out the figure a little more closely. I must confess that when I am given such a wide range of figures- from $6m to $10m- I for one am inclined to discredit the figures altogether.

Now that I am dealing with the subject of arbitrary power, let me mention some of the changes that have been made to the uses of excessive and arbitrary power by this Government since it was elected. What could have been a more arbitrary and excessive use of power than the conscription of young men to go to Vietnam to be killed and to kill other people? What could be more arbitrary and excessive than that? Which government stopped doing that? It was the Australian Labor Party Government. Go to those people who would have been conscripted to fight in a war in which Australia had no business to be involved and say to them that there was not arbitrary and excessive power in the hands of the Government that wanted to send them to Vietnam and see what they say. Let honourable senators opposite tell them that they are labouring under a government whose power is so excessive and arbitrary that it will no longer send them to Vietnam because it has abolished the National Service Act. This Government has refused to conscript young men to serve in the armed forces. At the same time, it has improved the conditions of service in the armed forces so that we may attract men who will be prepared to volunteer for our armed Services, so that we will have a loyal and dedicated defence force within this country made up of people who joined it because they wished to join it, not because they were compelled to do so.

Is it arbitrary and excessive power when a Government says that for the first time public servants will be able to speak publicly on matters relating to their departments, something which they could not do under the previous Government? Is that arbitrary or excessive power? Of course that is not arbitrary or excessive power. That is an extension of democracy. Is it the action of a dictatorship to say to the employees of the Government- the civil servants- that they are allowed to speak in public without being reprimanded or disciplined for doing so? Is it arbitrary or excessive power to amend the Crimes Act and the Immigration Act so that no longer naturalised Australian citizens will be eligible for deportation from this country? That is another one of the many things which this Government has done in the very short time that it has been in office. Could honourable senators opposite go to a new Australian who has been naturalised and say to him: 'Is not it a terrible, arbitrary and excessive power being exercised by this Government which has now passed a law which says that you can no longer be deported?' Of course, it is not arbitrary or excessive power.

Is it an arbitrary or excessive power to introduce legislation such as the Trade Practices Bill in order to break down the power of economic monopolies and oligopolies which rule the economic life of the Australian people; to see that the people can participate in a private enterprise economy, which we still have, on a basis of some equality, or to remove a situation in which there is not government regulation but regulation by private monopolies about which the previous Government said it was going to do something but about which it did nothing? That is a limitation of the arbitrary and excessive power of those economic monopolies. Is it arbitrary and excessive power to introduce a Bill to outlaw racial discrimination in this country? Is that the action of a dictatorship? That is what this Government is doing. It will be interesting to see what the Opposition does about this. I assume that it would oppose any such Bill.

Is it arbitrary and excessive power to introduce a Bill to provide for a charter of human rights for the Australian people? Of course that is not arbitrary or excessive power. It is not the action of a government which wants to exercise arbitrary or excessive power. Whatever criticisms there may be of individual provisions within that Bill, could anyone honestly say that a government which is dedicated to extending arbitrary and excessive power in its own hands would introduce such a Bill which guarantees the rights of the ordinary citizen within Australia? I certainly do not want to go on with this point. I believe that sufficient has been said to snow that Senator Durack has merely given us a repetition of what appeared in last month's leading articles in the 'West Australian' newspaper. Those of us who have the misfortune to rely on that newspaper have already read those articles.

I do not believe that the time of the Senate should be wasted unduly on this matter. I think that the Australian Labor Party needs no debate and needs no argument because it has shown by its actions that it is extending power throughout all of the Australian community and is abolishing arbitrary and excessive power. It is not that Senator Durack and his friends are interested in opposing uses of arbitrary and excessive power; what they wish to do is to preserve the arbitrary and excessive power which, until now, has been in the hands of those people who control the economic wealth of this country. There has been no objection by them to the arbitrary and excessive power of the General Motors Corporation through its wholly owned subsidiary in Australia in increasing prices of automobiles. There has been no objection -

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

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