Politics – 23rd Parliament (1959)

I flew back to Canberra on the Monday (23 February 1959). In those earlier days of my political career we had to fly to Sydney or Melbourne and then catch another aircraft to Canberra. All a bit wearying. But that was part of the job. Later on there were times we were able to fly to Adelaide and then straight to Canberra. Not often. Most of the eastern states members were far better off. I was staying at the Canberra Hotel where it was very comfortable. One of the senior members suggested that I could find the Hotel Kurrajong more suitable to my needs. Members from all parties stayed there, and it was within walking distance from the House. On very wet days or late evenings transport was provided. It was quite normal to walk back to and from the hotel after breakfast and after the Parliament adjourned for the night. Often 11pm+. Many times it would be with members of the other parties. You would have a friendly chat on daily events rather than politics.

I worked on my maiden speech to the Parliament for Tuesday 24th. One day to go for a momentous occasion. Winning an election with the help of your family and friends, and thousands of electors, was one thing, and addressing the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament was another. All set now. Ready to go. The House met that day at 2.30pm. That was the usual time for Tuesday and Wednesday with sittings going as late as 11.30pm. On Thursdays it was not the same. Starting time was 10.30am. At 8pm it was the time for the resumption of the debate on the Governor General’s Speech to the Members of the Senate and the Members of the House of Representatives at the Joint Sitting on 17 February in the Senate Chamber. An Address-In-Reply to that Speech was to be agreed to by the Members.

The House of Representatives met at 2.30pm on Tuesday 24 February 1959. The Speaker (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair and read prayers. Next was Question Time. The Leader of the Opposition usually was the first member to be recognised by the Speaker. His question was usually to the Prime Minister or the Deputy PM or one of the other Ministers. Questions from other members seeking information on various matters are replied to by the appropriate Minister. The Speaker and the Clerk keep a list of the questions asked by the members. When a question is replied to by a Minister, the Speaker then looks at his list to see who to call next. It all depends on your “score” so far. You can call out, “Mr Speaker, Mr Speaker,” and wave your hand a bit without being called. A low score helps. The Member for North Sydney, Liberal Billy Jack, the Member from 1949 to 1966, had never asked a question for years. His record was well-known. The day finally came when he did rise with “Mr Speaker”. I understand that there was wide applause when he made his debut. Billy and I became great friends. He was very helpful to me in my career in Parliament. He had a blue-ribbon seat winning with a margin of around 9000 votes in my 1958 election year. Billy followed William (Billy) Morris Hughes who had held the seat of North Sydney from 1922-1949. He was Prime Minister 1915-1923.

It was after the dinner break when the new boys got their first chance to make their mark in Parliament with maiden speeches. First man on was Ron Davies of the ALP. He was the Member for Braddon (Tasmania). He was called by the Speaker at 8pm and spoke about his electorate and the mining towns he represented. At 8.25 Robert (Bob) King, holding the Country Party electorate of Wimmera, rose to his feet. He said that his rural electorate was fast becoming industrialized. The main industries were wheat and wool. Rural telephone services needed reorganising. He would be bringing to the Government’s notice the problems of the great area he represented in the Federal Parliament.

It was now 8.48pm and it was then another new ALP member who rose from his seat to address the House of Representatives. It was Lionel Clay who represented the electorate of St George (NSW). He congratulated the Speaker on being elected to his high office. He then made reference to St George and the Dragon and the famous St George Rugby Union (League?) team. He mentioned the World War I veterans and their needs. He wanted a humanitarian and Christian approach to our social problems. He wanted to see that children were properly educated in well-equipped schools.

At 9.08pm the Speaker looked to me and said, “The Member for Stirling”. I wore glasses and therefore needed my notes close at hand. As I rose I placed my notes on some volumes of “Hansard” and began my address to the House. It was 7.08pm in the West. The family and many friends were tuned in to the ABC broadcast. My first words expressed my support for the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, in the conveying a message of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. At the same time I congratulated His Excellency upon his speech to the Joint Sitting of the Senate and House of Representatives, 17 February.

I expressed my thanks to the Stirling electors for the confidence they placed in me as their representative in Parliament. I mentioned the coming visit of Princess Alexandra of Kent and suggested that in the future all important visitors to Australia could be invited to the Golden West with its wonderful climate and warmth of friendship. I referred to the Ord River Scheme and the North-West cattle industry. Our policy must be a job for all who want to work, a house for everyone that wants one. The needs of Australia, the fastest growing country in the world, must be met. Western Australia’s needs must be kept to the fore when any considerations for additional States grants are being discussed. We must look at future housing needs. We have read statements anticipating a population of 100,000,000. However, in 1958 it is reasonable to propose that we could contain up to 40,000,000, I suggested in my speech. (I was way out. Now 18,500,00, November 1998). At the time the threat of nuclear attack, or exposure to radioactivity was a possible danger to the UK and Europe generally (in April 1986, the Chernobyl disaster was the evidence of this). I spoke about democracy – the practice of self-government -, and the rights and liberties of men. I criticized the forced labour camps of the countries behind the “iron curtain”. I spoke about the upholding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the need to plan for a decent future for all in this world of ours. In the final minutes of my speech I stressed that Australia and the other free nations must try to anticipate the intentions of socialist countries that ignored the rights of their people.

My time was nearly up, I concluded by thanking all the Members for the courtesies which they extended to me on the occasion of my maiden speech. (ie, “There were no interjections”). My notes resting on the volumes of Hansard did attract the news reporters and one morning paper read: “The fourth new member speaking was Mr Cash who had little experience of public speaking until his election campaign, but he did not lack confidence. He was almost dwarfed by the three immense tomes on which he laid his notes.” At another time the same Hansard reports drew the attention of the fiery Laborite, Eddie Ward, the member for East Sydney. Eddie interjected at a later date while I was speaking, with “Why don’t you come out from behind those books so we can see you?”. Worth a smile. Eddie was seated at ground level. I was on the second.

Hansard, Doug Cash Maiden Speech, 24 Feb 1959. Source: APH and Doug Cash Collection

Article – Overnight In Parliament: Old Boy Gives A Warning – Maiden Speeches Including by Doug Cash, unknown paper. Source: Doug Cash Collection

Question Time gave members the opportunity to seek information from Ministers on matters that might interest their constituents and at the same time catch the ears of media representatives. An interesting reply to a question without notice could make news. Backbench members could not overdo it because the Speaker, or in his absence a Deputy Speaker, did not let members go too far. The Speaker kept a tally against each member’s name. It was wise to wait till a matter of special interest to your home State was the basis of your Question. A worthwhile question could attract the attention of both eastern states and WA media. I had some. My first question was on 19 February 1959. It was directed to Gordon Freeth, Minister for the Interior.

Mr CASH (STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) – Will the Minister for the Interior consider a suggestion that in all future federal election scrutinies, ballotpapers not marked by voters should, immediately they are sighted by the presiding officer or his assistant be indelibly stamped “unmarked ballot-paper”? 

Mr Freeth – “I think that the suggestion made by the honorable member has some merit and I certainly undertake to have it examined.”

Hansard – Question – From Doug Cash – Gordon Freeth, Minister for The Interior and Works) – Electoral Ballot Papers – and Reply – 19 Feb 1959. Source: APH

On 19 March I put a question to the Postmaster-General. I asked him to consider giving new schools a higher priority for telephones than is given to them at present? Mr Davidson replied:

The question of the supply of telephones to schools, particularly country schools, has engaged the attention of the Postal Department from time to time. Certain priorities are laid down for the installation of telephone services and top priority is given to such essentials users as doctors, hospitals, nurses, the Red Cross and ambulances. (”And members of Parliament” added Mr Menzies). Mr Davidson continued, “Yes, members of Parliament as well, because many members make application to me for the urgent installation of telephones and those requests are always met by the department ….. etc.

Hansard – Question – From: Doug Cash – To: Postmaster-General – Telephone Services, 19 Mar 1959. Source: Doug Cash Collection

I asked many questions and made many speeches in Parliament but time and space limit repetition of them here. The House of Reps volumes of Hansard recorded them word for word, volume by volume. The First Session of the 23rd Parliament (first period) was from 17 February 1959 to 14 May 1959. 8 ELIZ. II. Vols. H of R 22 and 23. – New Series. Parliament sat Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Occasionally pressures of business kept us there Friday. When the House rose it was a flight home on the Friday and then we would be driven to the Commonwealth Offices to look at our week-end schedule of community engagements. Paperwork to be read and answered. Fetes to attend. People with problems to be seen at my city office, or at their home (or ours) on the weekend. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, all working days when we were back in Perth. On Monday nights we would fly out again to Melbourne, arriving there around dawn and then flying up to Canberra. The Parliament did not meet till 2.30pm. Most of the members were able to travel up from their electorates on the Tuesday. Lucky!

The Parliament House of my days as a Member was opened in 1927. I had to share a small office with two other members, Bill Aston and Dudley Erwin(?). In 1927 there was probably only one occupant. No problems. We made sure we opted out for private phone calls. Bill Aston was from Sydney and was elected as Speaker 1967-1973. The WA MPs knew more about me than the eastern staters but it did not take long to make new friends not only from our Liberal and Country Party colleagues but on the Labor side as well. The Parliamentary staff were helpful in many ways. The Ministers kept their eye on you and some would have a chat about settling in as new members. You met them in the Government Party Room so you could be told about new legislation and other matters. New members had a lot to learn irrespective of their backgrounds. 

I well remember Sir Earle (Christmas Grafton) Page the Member for Cowper taking me aside and giving me some good advice. He was a Country Party man first elected in 1919, the year I was born. He was Acting Prime Minister from time to time in the 1920s/1930s. He was a well-known medical man – a retired surgeon. He took me aside one day, talked about my health which was O.K., and said to me, “Whatever you do here, never pass a lift or a lavatory”. He explained to me that there would be times when a “division” would be called. Usually the “ayes” (or the “noes”) would win the vote “on the voices”. Where there is dissension on this, a Division is called, the bells are rung, and in my day you had two minutes to be back in the House. The Speaker would call “Lock the doors” and the attendants would close the various doors of the chamber and stand firm beside them. The voters were then physically counted by ticking them on the members list. Following the count and a double check the list would be handed to the Clerk, then to the Speaker. He would state the result. In my time it would be something like Ayes … 55, Noes … 31. Members paired for any vote that day, or night, would be so listed. e.g Pairs: Menzies, R G with Evatt, Dr H V and so on. I was lucky that during my time in the Reps so many distinguished men were in the 23rd Parliament. A new chum could learn from both sides.

On 16 April I asked the Minister for Health if he had any information about an anti-cancer drug called Krebiozen, which was in fact a vaccine. Always something to learn. No evidence yet of successful cures. Some experiments encouraging  (NOTE: Krebiozen is not a vaccine and is now a disproved cancer treatment). 

On 30 April 1959, I again put a question to the same Minister (Donald Cameron). “Has the Minister been advised that doctors of the Boston University School of Medicine have developed an advanced method of testing the vision of new-born babies? In any event, will the Minister secure information on this new method which promises sight to many children who otherwise might remain blind?”. In effect his answer indicated that no light has been shown on this subject so far. The interesting thing is that now in 1998 we are hearing of a new experiment relating to helping babies born blind. It bypasses the eyes with an electrical system that could do the baby’s seeing.

Well, no more questions and answers, otherwise I might never get this story finished. I will be turning 80 next year (1999). So I must keep on. I am not chained to the computer all day. There is much to do – shopping – club meetings and outings – three Probus Clubs (mixed) involved here – Past President in two and current Bulletin editor in the other. Keep yourself busy, I say.

We were busy in Parliament on 14 May when it was moved by the Minister for Social Services, Hugh Roberton, on behalf of the Government, “That the House at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr Speaker to each member by telegram or letter”. When that motion was agreed to, Mr Roberton then moved, “That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Reps.. from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting. The House adjourned at 11pm. Back to WA. We returned to Canberra on 11 August 1959. Back in Perth there was no rest as a list of community engagements was ready for me when I returned. School committees, community groups, individuals.

Now you lived in two worlds. Your parliamentary life and your private life as it existed before heading for Parliament. Family responsibilities and business interests that gave you a normal pre-election income had to be maintained. No way of knowing how long one would last in the political world. Better be sure than sorry. I know that in recent times one or two who gave up their jobs to take part in politics bit the dust an election or two later. As ex-MPs they found the job doors difficult to reopen.

Ten days later on 16 August the Federal Parliament resumed for a new session. My Liberal colleagues, and others, were ready to continue easing new chaps into their world by passing on helpful hints about the parliamentary system. My business experience and accounting studies had sharpened me up but any advice was readily accepted. Some came from both sides of politics, I remember Danny Curtin, long-serving Labor member for Kingsford-Smith electorate, and a realist, giving me some advice. “Doug, you have a tough seat to win next time”. This was his advice. “Don’t go to the football or the races on Saturdays”. “Knock on doors and leave your card”.

Good advice and I followed it now and then. But on some Saturdays we did go to the football. I had played the game before and during the War, and umpired junior and senior teams after. Many league players were among our customers at the shop in its early days. We followed the West Perth Cardinals team and knew many of the players well. Dick Shanahan, secretary of the South Fremantle Football Club, was secretary of the Woolbuyers Association and a neighbour in Pastoral House next door to our shop. There were many of these people who put in a word or two for me prior to the election and helped me fall over the line at the finish. If I had a Saturday free from community function invitations it was footy.

Where possible both Joan and I had to be seen at these events. It was part of the job and private time was limited. Fetes and the like on weekends, meetings at night for naturalisation ceremonies and committee meetings for primary schools, high schools, kindies and progress associations. Invitation came from everywhere, mainly in the Stirling area, but not always. Several of the schools were situated outside my electoral boundaries but the pupils lived within them. I had to watch that, so I went to many such meetings. Aid to independent schools was the touchy subject in those days and I was tackled by some for treating all schools as equal. Lost some votes on the issue but that was my view. We were Protestant.

Parliamentary life was just one section of my life and it proved to be varied and interesting all along the way. My service in the Federal Parliament was from December 1958 to November 1961. Time flies as I recall my years in Canberra as the Federal Member for Stirling, the first Liberal to have that honour. I must not tarry too long. The questions I asked of the Ministers and the speeches I made are recorded in the Parliament Hansards word for word. I can, however, give some idea of their contents by listing dates and pages as shown in House of Reps Hansards Vols 22-23-24-25 First Session of the 23rd Parliament, 17 February to 3 December 1959. CASH, Mr. Earl Douglas, Stirling: 

Bulletin, Vol. 80 No. 4162, 18 November 1959 – Political Points, Doug Cash. Source Trove

Doug Cash – Hansard Records: 23rd Parliament

3 December 1959 was the final sitting day for the first year of my parliamentary experiences. Certain procedures were necessary. They are recorded in the Hansard for that date under the heading SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT. “Motion (by Mr Harold Holt) agreed to – That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.” Agreed.

Mr Holt then moved, “That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting. Agreed. Looking back on my earlier references regarding the Opening of the 23rd Parliament (17 February 1959) it can be seen that the parliament itself is a well-organised body run by the public servants and the members of parliament, each group knowing its place in the scheme of things. 4 December saw us all depart “theoretically” to our offices back in the various States and the NT. I headed west for Perth and my electoral office and Yokine.

Politics – 23rd Parliament (1961)

Federal Parliament was due to resume on 7 March 1961. I flew to Melbourne on 1 March 1961 and then on to Tasmania to be taken over the BHP works at Bell Bay. From there I went down to Hobart to see Senator Denham Henty who was the Minister for Customs. While in Hobart I visited Cadbury’s and other areas. I then flew back to Canberra to catch up on my mail there and prepare for the resumption of the Parliament. Later I would introduce into my talks to or with Liberal Party branches and other groups, references to Parliament and visits elsewhere. Extra knowledge was helpful in listening to the speeches and proposals put forward by Members from other States. 

Doug Cash Collection – Parliament – 1958-1961 23rd Federal Parliament

 

 

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