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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 2409

Senator WOOD (Queensland) -As one who has always stood for the independence of this chamber, I think that I should say a few words in connection with this Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill. The matter has been set out by the previous speaker, Senator Wright, in a very able manner. Senator McManus also brought a very good, practical, down to earth approach to the matter. Over the years this chamber has developed to a stage which, possibly, at one time people felt it would not reach. I think it can be truly said that today the Senate plays a much more important part than it did some few years ago. The way in which the committee system has developed and the approach of the Senate in certain ways and to various subjects have been outlined. I think that this has all been to the good so far as the legislatures of this Commonwealth are concerned. I feel that nothing should be done to detract from the passage which the Senate has been travelling for some years. It would be tragic if things were done to deflect the Senate from the approach which it has been making and from the development which has been achieved.

As has been pointed out, the need for the synchronisation of elections has not been brought about by the Senate. As has been clearly stated, it has been brought about by the people in the other place. I do not think it is a very good move at all to change the Constitution to enable this place to be taken to an election every time the House of Representatives decides to go to an election. It is quite possible that in the other place situations may develop from time to time which may bring about more elections than are being held now because of the elections for the Houses being out of tune with each other.

From the Senate's point of view, having a Senate election apart from the House of Representatives election focusses attention on the Senate much more than when the 2 Houses go to the polls together. In the past the tendency was always to cloud the issue of the Senate by featuring the House of Representatives to such a great extent. I know that people in the other place like to feel that they dominate and, as a consequence, they like to put the Senate in an inferior position. But it has been recognised by members in that other place that over recent years the Senate has made strides of which they are envious. I remember that about 18 months or a couple of years ago, when the Senate Estimates committee system had been established, on 2 occasions then Opposition members- now Government membersin the other place stood up and asked: Why cannot we do this? Why cannot we do that? The Senate does it. We are just so and so'. The honourable members meant that today the Senate is a House of very great importance. On another day members of the House of Representatives who are members of the Party of which I am a member stood up and said almost the same. It was an indication in their minds that the Senate was achieving things, was going places and was developing to a much higher status than it had attained before. I think that this is all to the good of the parliamentary system of this country. We do not want to let people in the other place do their best to destroy the Senate. I have no hesitation in saying that because I know what has been said to me by the person concerned. The present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - arrogant Gough- hates the Senate and would love to see the Senate reduced considerably in stature.

Senator Lillico Did you say that he was arrogant?

Senator WOOD (Queensland) I said he was arrogant. His wife says that he is arrogant. Of course he is arrogant. His wife says that he is entitled to be arrogant. No person is entitled to be arrogant because arrogant people treat the views of other people with contempt. No one should look at other people with contempt because we are all human beings. I know that the Prime Minister hates the Senate and that his views of senators are derogatory. It is a bad thing for a person occupying the position of Prime Minister to think of people in this chamber and to think of this chamber in that way.

This Bill will not be of advantage to the Senate. I want to say in fairness that, apart from any Party arguments that take place, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, is, I believe, honestly and sincerely keen to lift the Senate to the highest possibly partiamentary standard. In that respect I pay him the tribute of saying that I believe he is a true parliamentaria

Senator Lillico - He took the rise out of you this morning.

Senator WOOD (Queensland) H e did not take the rise out of me because what I said was the truth. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, as Attorney-General has to draw up this legislation.

Senator Lillico - He had too many guns for you this morning.

Senator WOOD (Queensland) No , he did not have too many guns because I told him the truth. He, as Attorney-General, has to respond to the demands of his Government. I know that at all times he tries to lift this Senate to the highest possible parliamentary standard. People who do that in this chamber play a very noble part in the parliament of this country. Throughout the years that I have been here Senator Wright, who spoke before me, has been one member who has done a great job in helping to build this Senate on an independent basis. I have heard some very fine contributions from him at times and I believe that future history will show that his efforts were fine attempts to raise this Senate to the standard at which it should be and which it is now achieving. Having been in this chamber for 24 years this month I can recognise that the Senate has made great progress and that big changes have taken place. I believe the Senate today is a chamber of which the people can be proud.

I have no hesitation in saying that it is necessary to retain the present Constitution and for senators to fight the battle before the people on their own polling day. This, I believe, brings more and more to the minds of the people of Australia the great value of the Senate. Despite what has been said about the Senate delaying legislation this year the Senate will have passed a record number of Bills. Because of the welter of legislation which has come forward it has no doubt been impossible for everybody to assimilate it. If some legislation has been delayed it has not been just for the purpose of delaying but to provide time in which to see things properly. I do not think anybody should expect a parliamentarian to vote for legislation unless he really knows what it is about. The Senate today is putting legislation through at a very fast rate but is giving, I hope, the necessary scrutiny that is required by parliamentarians.

I think that the Senate is doing a very good job. If we have to alter legislation at times or if we need more time in which to examine legislation, the Senate is doing its job as I believe it should. I think it can be said that today the Senate is valued more in the minds of the Australian people than it has ever been before. Irrespective of what might be said in a political way about the Senate being obstructive and so on I think that a lot of people today are also saying: 'Thank God there is a Senate'. During the last election campaign I travelled the lonely coastline of north Queensland and passed through various regions. The thing that please me very greatly was that in those places the people, even representatives of the Press and the radio, said that the Senate today was the House that was doing a great job. In fact they said that it was doing the better job of the 2 Houses of Parliament. That is a tribute not only to the Senate as a House of Parliament but to those comprising the Senate. I think it can be truly said that the great majority of senators here take a pride in their House—i n the Senate.

I wtil not support any referendum or anything else to alter the Constitution in a way that would weaken this House—thi s Senate—i n its great march to better things.

Senator Mulvihill - What about the cost of separate elections?

Senator WOOD (Queensland) Thi s may cost money but if democracy is really worth having the spending of $lm' or $2m on another election is of much greater value for the people of Australia than spending it on a few more 'Blue Poles'. If democracy is worth having it is worth paying for. The fact that the Senate has a separate election should not debar us from trying to preserve the Senate as it is. The Senate should not be an appendage of the House of Representatives. That is paramount as far as I am concerned. If that great hater of the Senate, that arrogant gentleman Mr Whidam, is so concerned about the cost of holding separate elections the remedy rests with him. He can bring House of Representatives elections on at the same time as Senate elections. He has the remedy in his own hands, as has been pointed out before. If it is a matter of saving money, let him have the House of Representatives elections at the same time as the Senate elections. I believe that senators should fight this Bill. I am not in favour of it. I hope that if this proposition to alter the Constitution goes to the people of Australia a case wtil be clearly put forward so that the Senate shall not be stopped in its great march for greater things for the people of Australia.

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