17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Business of the Session.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
.- This is the first intimation of this kind that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has given since assuming the high office which he now holds. Members of the Opposition were hoping that, having regard to the duration of the present sessional period, the Prime Minister would have been able to work out a programme which would not impose on members the same continuing burden that was found necessary in order to dispose of the major legislative proposals of the Government.
– The Opposition has been complaining about Parliament not sitting for sufficiently long periods. It is now getting what it was wanting.
– If the honorable member considers that the Parliament can function as effectively as it should under present conditions, I must hasten to disagree with him. These long sittings, however necessary they may have been to enable the Government to have its major legislative proposals passed, do not enable the Parliament to work as was intended.
– The Opposition has taken up a good deal of the time in the discussions.
– And usefully, too.
– I am glad to be reminded by my leader that the time has been usefully employed by honorable members on the Opposition side. The programme submitted to us made necessary close examination by the limited number of members on this side of the House of the important issues involved. Without adopting obstructive tactics the Opposition has sought to assist the House in the examination of the legislation that has been presented. It has had the satisfaction of knowing that many of the suggestions which it has raised in the course of the debates have been embodied in Government policy, as announced subsequently from the other side of the chamber. I do not raise this matter from a party point of view, and I regret that the Minister for the ‘Navy (Mr. Makin) has found it necessary to deal with it from that aspect. I am anxious, as are all other honorable members, to ensure that tha Parliament shall function as a democratic institution. A great deal of time of honorable members is taken up in dealing with their correspondence, in interviewing Ministers, and in disposing of other duties relating to their constituencies, and they will not be able to spend the whole of their time in the chamber if the sittings extend from 10.30 a.m. to about 11 p.m.
– This is really full employment.
– If that is the brand of full employment that the Prime Minister is offering for the post-war new era, he will need to recast his ideas about a 40-hour week.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite are showing a little more spirit than usual, and that is a welcome sign. The notice-paper contains only one major item of legislation, as far as we can see at present. I understand that there will be a discussion on the issues arising from the United1 Nations Conference on International Organization, and possibly the Treasurer intends to introduce his budget proposals in the course of the present sittings. If that is to be done, the Parliament is not being treated fairly. It should be possible to dispose of the legislation now on the notice-paper with Parliament working on a normal number of days, and for a normal number of hours on each day, thus enabling honorable members to have a reasonable recess in order to prepare material for the forthcoming budget debate. The Government has given no indication of its future legislative programme. We merely have the curt announcement in the terms of the motion of the Prime Minister that there is to be a continuance of the abnormal practice of meeting at 10.30 a.m. on three days of a four-day sitting week. The right honorable gentleman owes it to the House to give some indication of what the Government has in mind.
– in reply - I thought that I was doing a good turn to some honorable members by arranging for the House to meet at 10.30 a.m. to-morrow. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and other honorable members were kind enough earlier in the sessional period to agree to the postponement of private members’ business to a more appropriate occasion. Such an occasion will arise to-morrow. Apart from that, it is likely that, with the consent of Mr. Speaker, the suspension of the sitting at the luncheon hour to-morrow will be more lengthy than is usually the case. The proposal to meet at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow was designed specifically, not to hasten the passage of legislation but rather to give to honorable members an opportunity to discuss the private motions that appear on the notice-paper, a very important one being that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and, in addition, to afford an opportunity for the discussion of grievances tomorrow night. I hope that the passage of legislation will be sufficiently rapid to warrant a week’s adjournment at a later stage.
– Is it intended that the budget shall be brought down during the present sessional period?
– Yes. Other important legislation also is to ‘be introduced. When it reaches the second-reading stage, the House will be given time to consider it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The Wunderlich Tile Manufacturing Company in my electorate is the only company that has continued the manufacture of tiles during the war. Cherry clay is in plentiful supply. Earlier, I stressed that tiles were playing a big part in home construction in South Australia. Will the Minister for the Army guarantee that the necessary releases from the Army shall be made to permit the manufacture of tiles to be stepped up?
– Application for the release of man-power by the company in question should be made first to the Man Power Directorate. If they make a favorable recommendation, the matter will be sympathetically considered by the army authorities. I shall be pleased to investigate any cases which the honorable member may care to bring to my notice.
Australian Delegation : Position of MRs. Tenison- Woods.
– Some time ago, the Acting Minister for External Affairs indicated that when representatives to the pending conference of the International Labour1 Office were being appointed, consideration would be given to the inclusion’ in the Australian delegation of Mrs. Tenison- Woods, who was precluded from attending a similar conference in the United States of America recently owing to transport difficulties. Will the Minister now state whether consideration has been given to the matter, and what decision has been reached?
– The procedure in connexion with the appointment of representatives to the conference of the International Labour Office is very well known. The employers and the workers nominate representatives, and the Commonwealth Government also appoints delegates. On this occasion, the Government has gone further than usual, and has appointed advisers in each instance, something which was never done before, the reason being that the Government regards the International Labour Office as a very important organization. I am particularly anxious that it should survive, in spite of the existence of certain other bodies which are attempting to usurp its place. It has been suggested that Mrs. Tenison- Woods, because of her special qualifications in regard to child welfare, should be an Australian delegate to the conference. It is a little difficult to know how she can be fitted in. She cannot be fitted in on the employers’ side unless they chose her as their representa tive, and the same applies in the case of the trade unions. It has been suggested that the Government might add her name to the list of official appointees. The matter of choosing advisers outside those already selected will be decided by the Minister for Labour and National Service, and I shall ask him to consider the case of Mrs. Tenison-Woods;.
– ‘Can the Minister for Information say whether it is a fact that Colonel Eric Campbell, the one-time leader of a revolutionary body known as the New Guard, which flourished in New South Wales twelve years ago, is now a member of the Australian Country party? Is it also a fact that Mr. Gregory Forster, who is suspected of having been a member of the New Guard, is now a member of the Liberal party? If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, what action is being taken to ensure that the New Guard is not being re-organized under cover of established political parties in order to make another hid for the destruction of our system of parliamentary democracy? Will the Minister make inquiries into the activities of the former leader of the New Guard, and of such persons as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), who is well known to have been playing around with the New Guard, and advise the House how many of them are now leading lights in the parties led by the Leader of the Australian Country party and the Leader of the Opposition ?
– T understand that Colonel Eric Campbell, who once led the revolutionary movement to which the honorable member has referred, is now a member of the Australian Country party. I understand that the same Colonel Eric Campbell has advanced so far in the councils of the Opposition parties that hp has nominated for selection as the Australian ‘Country party candidate for the division of Hume at the next federal election. I also understand that Mr. Forster is a member of a branch of the Liberal party, andi may even be contemplating nominating for the Warringah seat. I do not know what action has yet been taken to keep a check on the activities of the New Guard, or ‘whether there is any reason for believing that former members are attempting to re-organize their revolutionary movement under cover of established political parties which constitute the Opposition in this Parliament. I shall make inquiries, because I believe that it is necessary, in these difficult days, to preserve our democracy not only against the enemies outside, but also against the enemies inside. At a later stage I shall inform the House of the result of my investigations. All that I can say now, in conclusion, is that so many queer people are joining the political parties which constitute the Opposition in this Parliament that many honorable gentlemen opposite will not have so much reason to feel so lonely in future.
– The secretary of the Private Hospitals Association in Brisbane, Mr. Trewen, stated this week that, the closing of the McDonald Private Hospital, because of staff shortage, was “ only the start,” and the Queensland Minister for Health, Mr. Foley, said that the State Government was helpless to remedy the situation, pending action by the manpower authorities. In view of the shortages of nursing and domestic staffs, not only in the McDonald Private Hospital, but also in hospitals throughout Australia, including the tubercular sanatorium ait Kenmore, will the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate what action the Government proposes to take in order to ensure that adequate staffs shall be provided for these essential institutions?
– Everybody knows that during the last two or three years, great difficulty has been experienced in obtaining nursing and domestic staffs for hospitals and asylums. The Department of Labour and National Service has been endeavouring to obtain the release from the Services of nurses and other women for this work, but volunteers do not come forward readily, because of the unsatisfactory conditions and inadequate salaries and wages. In an endeavour to make it a little easier to get staff, we have approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the hearing of the claim will commence next Monday. We hope that as the result of this case, better conditions will be provided for employees of hospitals and asylums, and that, consequently, more women will be prepared to join their staffs.
Call-up of Youths - Direction of Discharged Men to Employment - Release of Long-service PERSONNEl - TROPICAL Service.
– It is generally accepted that Army recruits must receive twelve months’ training before they can be used as reinforcements in operational areas, but youths are still being called up for military service on attaining the age of 18 years, and will not be utilized as front-line soldiers for at least twelve months. In view of the present satisfactory state of the war against Japan, will the Government consider the advisability of discontinuing the call-up of these youths for military service?
– This matter received consideration recently when the Government decided that between 58,000 and 64,000 persons, not including the normal discharges due to wastage, should be discharged from the fighting services by the end of the year. The matter raised by the honorable member will be reconsidered, but I cannot give any assurance that . the present procedure will be discontinued. However, all the circumstances will be taken into consideration before a decision is made by the Government.
– Will the Minister for the Army make arrangements for a large contingent of front-line war veterans to be returned to Australia by ship immediately? In order that due recognition shall be accorded to these battle-scarred warriors, will he ensure that, on their arrival, they shall march through the streets of the first capital city they reach ?
– I have nothing further to add to what I said yesterday, namely, that a substantial batch of war veterans, with at least five years’ .service, will be discharged’ and that the men will arrive in Australia within the next fortnight. Approximately 300 of them will come from the New Guinea area and about 200 from the Borneo area. The kind of welcome that will be extended to them on their return, is being considered, and suitable action will be taken.
– In view of the fact that the Government’s plan, as announced on the 1st June, for all members of the Army and Air Force, with operational service overseas, who have had five years’ war service to be given the option of discharge, will the Prime Minister submit to Cabinet a proposal to eliminate the stipulation subsequently imposed that, in order to qualify for release, servicemen must have had two years’ operational service overseas?
– All of these qualifications will be reviewed in the light of changing conditions. In dealing with this matter, the Cabinet and the Advisory War Council considered that the position had been fully covered for the time being by the decision announced on the 1st June. However, as I have said previously, I hope that further releases can be made. The circumstances which the honorable member has mentioned will be considered as conditions vary from time to time.
– During the absence abroad of the Minister for the Army, I placed before the Minister acting on his behalf the case of men who had seen service in tropical areas, and had returned to Tasmania. Some who were placed in B class are now under draft to leave Tasmania again, whereas there are in Tasmania A class men who have never left that State. I ask the Minister whether it is reasonable that B class men, who have seen service in the tropics, should be sent away again while A class men, who have never left Australia, should be allowed to remain here?
– If the honorable member will give me some further particulars
– I have already sent ‘ the names, numbers, &c, to the department.
– I shall call for the papers, and give the honorable member’s representations sympathetic consideration. It does seem to me that if men have been in forward areas, and are now B class, they should not be sent to forward areas again, but others should take their places. I shall have the matter examined.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Several ministerial announcements have been made recently controverting the allegation that discharged servicemen are being directed by man-power to certain positions. I hold in my hand, a paper indicating that two men discharged from the Air Force, who had previously held positions with private trading banks, have been asked to report to Compton Parkinsons, in Sydney, for employment. I ask whether this indicates a change of policy on the part of the authorities.
– No, there has been no change of policy, although policy is at present in a state of transition because of the decision to release large numbers from the Army and the Air Force. If there is any dispute, it is in relation to air force trainees. But the answer I gave last week to a question on this subject was correct, namely, that all men who have been released - except those released on occupational grounds, to go to special jobs in which cases they will be retained in the work for which they were released - will be permitted, if they choose, to return to their former occupations. If occupational releases refuse to do the work for which they were released they may be returned to the Army. All other persons discharged from the forces will have the right to be reinstated in their former occupations. In some instances their reinstatementwill be deferred because of the need for their engaging in more important work than what they were doing before their enlistment. They will be asked to do this more important work, and I understand that in many instances where men have been so requested they have agreed, recognizing that they will be allowed to go back to their own jobs later. As I have said, the only point not definitely settled, and it will be settled next week, is that relating to young Air Force trainees. They may be required to undertake essential work after discharge. It was suggested that if they did not engage in essential work they should be sent back to the Army, but decision on the point has been deferred. The War Commitments Committee will deal with it in a few days time, and in the meantime a definite instruction has been given that they shall not be handed over to the Army by the man-power authorities after discharge.
– In one case I have in mind, the man graduated in Canada and has taken a refresher course since his return to Australia.
– If he has been discharged, and was not a trainee at the time of his discharge, he has a right to go back to his old job. He may be asked to do more essential work, but if he refuses he will not, so far as I know now, be directed against his will.
Sufplier ofWheat forSouth Australia.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction received either directly or through the Prime Minister a telegram from the Premier of South Australia protesting against the decision of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to reduce by one half the quantity of wheat for stock and poultry feed in that State from the end of this month, although the supply of wheat for feed in Victoria will be doubled? Has the protest been considered, and will the Premier be given a reply before any other authority in South Australia is informed of the Government’s decision ? Also, will South Australian members of this House be advised of whether or not the Government has any views on this subject?
– I have not received, either direct or through the Prime Minister, any communication whatever from the Premier of South Australia. That being the case, answers to the other questions do not arise.
Surrender Terms for Japan - VP-Day Celebrations.
-What seem to be inspired comments are appearing in American and British newspapers to the effect that more lenient terms than unconditional surrender will be extended to Japan in the event of its Government suing for peace. Do these statements in any way reflect the policy of this Government, and, if not, can the Prime Minister say anything to the country in respect of this matter, which is of vital importance to our future ?
– There has been no change of the Commonwealth Government’s attitude on the general understanding that unconditional surrender terms would be imposed upon Japan. I have received no information on the matter, even of the most secret character, from those who are at present concerned with negotiations abroad, and I am not aware of any change of policy.
– In to-day’s Sydney newspapers it is suggested that peace feelers have been sent out by the United States of America to Japan. It is stated on good authority that the Republican Whip has asked President Truman to stop the Pacific slaughter. Can the Prime Minister say whether, if the war should come to an end suddenly, the Government has plans for the celebration of VP-Day?
– Certain proposals have been made in this regard, but I am unable to inform the honorable member what decisions have been reached. I understand that some of the States have suggestions to make, and I have no doubt that the matter will be discussed at the forthcoming Premiers Conference so that there may be uniformity throughout Australia in regard to whatever observance of victory is decided upon.
– In view of the urgent need to secure increased timber supplies from Australian sources for housing and other urgent projects, will the Minister forWorks and Housing ascertain the prospects of idle timber mills throughout the Commonwealth resuming operations?
– In reviewing the general housing situation and the supplies of materials for housing, the Government realizes, as does everybody else, that timber is vitally necessary for a construction programme. The timber position is being constantly examined with a view to making man-power available to expedite supplies from timber mills and other sources.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that there is a shortage of pea-seed in Western Australia and that merchants in that State attribute the shortage to the lack of activity by the Vegetable Seeds Committee? Is it a fact that New Zealand has ample supplies of pea-seed, and, if so, will the Minister take action to have supplies imported from that dominion?
– by leave - I understand that the honorable member has made inquiries from the department on this matter, and the department ha3 advised me in detail of the vegetable-seed position in Western Australia. The Vegetable Seeds Committee placed orders in New Zealand in June, 1944, for delivery from the 1944-45 crop. New Zealand experienced’ a disastrous year because’ of floods, one seed merchant advising that he had thrown out many thousands of sacks. He also advises that he can make only a 50 per cent, delivery of peas of the Greenfeast variety. The Vegetable Seeds Committee has an agent in New Zealand who is constantly making inquiries for seed, and any suitable lines are purchased and shipped as soon as shipping is available. The committee is prepared to purchase any satisfactory line that is offering. If West Australian firms will advise as to any source of supply the possibilities will be investigated immediately. Last year the committee arranged for a substantial production in Australia, and if this had not been done the position would have been hopeless. The committee has allocated the available ““fi to seed merchants on a pro rata basis, there being a small allocation for Western Australia which has been held in Sydney for some time on account of shipping difficulties. It is unlikely that there will be sufficient Greenfeast or Massey pea seed to meet all demands before the next harvest. There is, however, seed of special canning varieties which has been reserved for the services, but sufficient of this can be released to meet all civilian requirements. The seed produced in Australia has proved to be of excellent quality, and there is no doubt that in the future we can produce all pea seed required. To give the honorable member an idea of the increase of production^ I direct ‘attention to the following figures : -
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction state what restrictions, if any, are imposed on oneman businesses in the manufacture of goods for sale?
– Until recently if these manufacturers were engaged in production during a certain base period, they did not require permits ‘at all, unless, of course, they desired to produce certain non-essential goods, the production of which was prohibited during war-time. Recently, however, an amendment was made, whereby it is now unnecessary for these manufacturers to obtain a permit from my department, provided they have a clearance from the man-power authorities stating that they are not required for any other essential work.
– In view of the Government’s extensive housing programme, will the Prime Minister take steps to have an investigation made of the increased cost of building, notwithstanding that wages have been pegged ?
– That matter has caused much concern to the Government. As recently as this week I examined the cost of building houses in the various States. In New South Wales, the cost appears to me to be unusually high, having regard to war-time conditions. I can assure the honorable member that the costs are being examined from all aspects, in order to discover whether anything can be done to assist in having houses provided at lower prices than seem to be possible at present.
– Has not the output for each man employed diminished very much?
– I cannot say that that is true. It has to be remembered that many of the men engaged in industry at present are older than the majority of those formerly employed. In pre-war days there was a considerable proportion, if not a majority, of young men in industry. Where there is a considerable number of older men engaged in any work, or in any form of production, we naturally do not get as much work done as formerly.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the Government, through the Directorate of Machine Tools and Gauges, is demanding sales tax at the rate of 12$ per cent, on machines which, in some instances, have been in operation for more than three years? If so, it is not a fact that sales tax is not normally imposed in respect »f second-hand goods? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the reason for demanding sales tax from prospective purchasers many of whom, for years, have been rendering valuable service to the nation in its war effort? Why is the tax collected in these eases, and will the Government have the law amended ?
– I regret that I cannot supply offhand to the honorable member all of the details for which he asks. The Commissioner of Taxation is no doubt administering the law as passed by this Parliament. I shall have inquiries made into the points raised by the honorable member, and shall endeavour to furnish a complete answer.
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister a ‘question regarding votes for servicemen at the Fremantle by-election, and he said that he might be in a position to make a statement on the matter to-day. Is he now prepared to do so?
– A decision has been reached in the matter. The Minister for the Interior has given notice to-day of his intention to ask for leave to-morrow to introduce a bill dealing with the matter raised by the honorable member. 1 hope that it will be possible to let the House know the contents of the measure tomorrow.
– A statement has been published in the press that the Nuffield organization is unable to accept an invitation from the Government to establish its new works for the manufacture of motor cars at Orange, Bathurst, or any other country centre, owing to transport costs. With a view to effecting a decentralization of industry, will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has considered offsetting the disadvantages with regard to transport which country centres present, by providing a subsidy towards transport costs? Will the Government thoroughly examine the whole matter in order that in the post-war era some of the post-war industries may be established in country towns?
– The suggestion of the honorable member that there should be decentralization of industry away from the big cities, is a very important one, which has been adopted in greater or less degree as a matter of policy by different governments. The Secondary Industries Commission, which is under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, has had many discussions with various manufacturers, with the object of inducing them to engage in manufacturing operations in country munitions establishments at which production has declined, instead of confining their operations to the capital cities. Freight costs in relation to the transport of raw material to the works and the marketing of the manufactured article have been one of the greatest obstacles to the establishment of manufacturing industries in country districts. The Government, through the Secondary Industries Commission and other channels, has been endeavouring to negotiate some concessions, or a re-arrangement designed to assist the decentralization of industries by their establishment in country districts. I shall ask the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction to give to the honorable member further details of the difficulties that have been encountered and the discussions that have taken place.
– The. Minister for Post-war Reconstruction doubtless is aware that many blind workers engaged in war industries, who have performed splendid service in relation to the war effort, have been notified that their services are likely to be dispensed with on account of retrenchment in various war factories. In view of the Government’s policy of full employment, and as a measure of repayment to these unfortunate members of the community, will the, Minister give special consideration to their being placed in reproductive work? If the Commonwealth cannot do so, will he take the matter up with the State authorities?
– Disabled persons, including those who are blind, have rendered excellent service to the community during the war, by assisting to increase production in munitions establishments. It is regretted that, as retrenchment occurs in government factories, it is not possible to retain the services of all of those who are in that class. I have given very careful attention to this matter. In certain countries, all firms engaged in industries spread over a wide variety of production must employ a given percentage of disabled persons, the percentage being altered from time to time so as to ensure that the total number employed will be equal to the total number seeking employment. Unfortunately, constitutional limitations prevent the Commonwealth Government from passing a similar law. It could, of course, pass a law relating to the employment of persons who have been disabled in rendering service to the Commonwealth. Such a provision is embodied in the Reestablishment and Emplyment Act passed recently by this Parliament. It is intended to compile a register of disabled persons, and to make a regulation imposing upon all employers the obligation to employ a given percentage of such persons. I cannot see, at the moment, how that principle could be extended to include other than persons who have been disabled in the service of the Commonwealth. The remaining field must be covered by State action. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the States, with a view to determining whether they and the Commonwealth conjointly, can make provision for this very deserving section of the community.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the recent installation of wireless apparatus in this chamber indicates an early intention to broadcast the debates of this House? If so, is the broadcasting to be experimental or permanent? Has the Government received any information from New Zealand in response to the inquiries which it promised to make as to the experience of that Dominion in the broadcasting of parliamentary debates ?
– In consequence of complaints, particularly by members of the press, of inability to hear questions that were asked and answers that were given in this House, Mr. Speaker kindly consented to a small experiment being made to discover whether the acoustics of the chamber might be improved by the installation of amplifiers. So far, the matter has not proceeded beyond that point. I have been requested to agree to the broadcasting of important speeches, such as those delivered on the budget. I confess that my reaction has been that such speeches would be rather dry matter to try out on the public in a broadcast of parliamentary debates. Mr. Speaker has complete jurisdiction, and I am subject to his direction. I am in favour of giving the proposal a trial later, when speeches are being made on an interesting subject. A budget speech is not likely to stir very deeply the emotions of the people.
– I ask the Minister for Information whether Mr. Frank Packer managing director of Australian Consolidated Press, is contemplating a visit abroad. If so, will he make the visit as a lieutenant in the Australian Military Forces, or as an executive of Australian Consolidated Press? If the latter, has he been discharged from the Australian Military Forces? If so, on what date did the discharge take effect?
– It is rumoured that Mr. Frank Packer is contemplating a visit abroad. I am not in a position to say at the moment whether he will make the visit as a lieutenant in the Australian Military Forces, or as the managing director of Australian Consolidated Press. I shall consult the Minister for the Army, with a view to being enabled to supply answers to the honorable member’s two questions - (1) Whether Mr. Packer is going abroad as a lieutenant in the Australian Military Forces; and (2) whether he has been discharged from those forces.
– Better make it three and1 ask whether he is going as batman to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).
– I shall make it three and ask for the reason for his discharge from the Army, if he has been discharged. Any application by Mr. Packer or anybody else for a passport will come before me as Minister for Immigration, so that whether Mr. Packer goes abroad or not, I shall have the final say.
Visit to Canberra
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that we are to be favoured in Canberra to-morrow by a visit from a popular entertainer in the person of Miss Gracie Fields? Has the Government arranged to tender a luncheon to her? If so, will the Prime Minister explore the possibility of broadening the scope of the arrangements so that members of Parliament and others may have an opportunity to meet this lady?
– The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) is in charge of transport arrangements for Miss Gracie Fields, who, I understand, is able to spend only two or three hours in Canberra. It was felt that, in view of the work which Miss Fields has been doin. in entertaining the troops over a long period, it would be a gracious gesture on the part of the Government to entertain her at luncheon. It is not possible t< arrange a full parliamentary luncheon for that purpose; accordingly, she will lunch with members of the Government and. with the permission of Mr. Speaker, thi suspension of the sitting of the House will be extended so that honorable members may have an opportunity to metMiss Fields in the lounge.
Priority for Ex-servicemen.
– I have been informed that in the United States of America, certain principles have been laid down under which ex-servicemen ma obtain, by an overriding priority, surplus military equipment which they require for their rehabilitation. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping examine those principles with a view to giving to Australian exservicemen, particularly those with overseas service, an overriding priority to obtain surplus Army motor trucks and other items that they may require on their return to civilian life?
– So far, no plan of that character has been evolved in Australia. The procedure which we have followed is to make available surplus war materials to government and semigovernment instrumentalities. Usually motor trucks are allotted to primary producers and other persons engaged in high priority production. The honorable member’s suggestion is worthy of consideration, and I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping. I am disposed strongly to recommend it? adoption.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is a fact that the coal-mining industry is short of labour, principally because miners retire on a pension on attaining the age of 60 years? Have regulations been issued directing departmental officers not to permit the employment underground of any person who has not had mining experience? I point out that youths, principally, are required for work iri the mines, and at one particular pit, where stoppages have been frequent, 40 more employees are urgently needed. “Will the Minister see that these regulations are repealed, so that youths may be allowed to work in coal-mines?
– If, in the early stages of the war, the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation had insisted on miners retiring on attaining the age of 60 years, the problem of maintaining production would have been greatly accentuated. However, the federation did not compel them to retire, although some of them may have done so. Because of the nature of the work, the man-power authorities have not directed persons to employment in coalmines. The honorable member knows that it would be dangerous to direct unskilled or inexperienced men to work underground. If the honorable member has in mind some labour that could be safely employed in the pits, I shall be glad to discuss it with representatives of the federation and himself.
– Has the Government received from the Queensland United Council of Ex-servicemen’s Association representations that prisoners Qf war employed in Australia should be paid award rates, and that the difference between the rate payable to the prisoners, and the award ra’te, should be paid to the Crown and used to benefit members of the Australian fighting forces? Will the right honorable gentleman give favorable consideration to this proposal? Unless this suggestion is adopted, prisoners of war will be at an advantage on the labour market compared with Australians, including discharged service personnel.
– As has been stated previously in this House, prisoners of war are employed under the terms of an international agreement. They receive only a percentage of the money payable by the employer for their services.
Mr. Holloway__ About 7 1/2 d. a day.
– The difference between the amount that they receive, and the amount paid by the employer for the use of their labour, is paid, not to the Commonwealth Government, but. to the British Treasury. I do not remember having received representations from the Queensland United Council of ex-Servicemen’s Association, but strong representations had been made by the Australian Workers Union that prisoners of war should be paid award rates. Speaking from memory, I believe that the rate payable by the employer was formerly £1 a week, with keep, and was increased to £2 a week and keep. The House should clearly understand that the Commonwealth Treasury receives no benefit from these payments. I shall examine the honorable gentleman’s request, and, if possible, obtain for him a more detailed reply.
Debate resumed from the 24th July (vide page 4466), on motion by Mr. Lazzarini -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Last night, I dealt at some length, but not completely, with the position in which residents of the Northern Territory are placed by the various legal tangles contained in this short measure. I pointed out that section 29 of the Lands Acquisition Act will be suspended by clause 4 of the bill, and I referred to the lack of legal practitioners in the Northern Territory, and to the great distances that people must travel from outback places to Darwin. Many people, who are interested in this acquisition, are now dispersed throughout the Commonwealth, and if this bill is not amended, they will be obliged to take action in various courts throughout the country. Many of them have lived on their capital during the last three or four years, and are not financially in a position to institute legal proceedings at any time and in any place against the Commonwealth Government. Therefore, a tribunal should be established to deal with disagreements, if the Commonwealth Government and the freeholder are not able to arrive at a satisfactory settlement regarding the price of the land to be acquired. The position would not be so bad if it were not complicated by clause 2, which reads -
In this Act - “ the Act “ means the Lands Acquisition Ordinance 1906-1936, as applied by the Lands Acquisition Ordinance 1911- 1926 of the Territory, subject to any modifications of that Act in its application to the Territory made by that Ordinance or by any other Ordinance of the Territory, whether made before or after the commencement of this Act.
In no circumstances can the Government claim to have a moral right to alter the law in regard to acquisition after the passage of this legislation. This sort of thing cannot be tolerated. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) would probably say, even Ned Kelly would not do it. He, at least, would stand by the conditions which operated on the day of acquisition. This point is of great importance to everybody concerned in this unfortunate acquisition of land. In justification of what I said yesterday, I quote from section 6 of the Northern Territory Lands Acquisition Ordinance 1911 -
Any application under section thirty-eight of the Act may be made to the High Court, or to the Supreme Court of the Territory, or to any Court of the Territory in which an action for compensation may be instituted in pursuance of this Ordinance and the Act.
This indicates clearly that the Commonwealth Government, whilst taking away from the freeholder the safeguard which is contained in section 29 of the Lands Acquisition Act, still intends to impose upon him the obligation to appeal to the Supreme Court of the Territory or the High Court of Australia, as specified in the ordinance.
I have some observations to make about valuations in Darwin, because the statements made by the Minister in his second-reading speech do not make sense when considered in conjunction with statements contained in official documents supplied to the House. We know from the official documents that the rating in Darwin in 1939 was 9d. in the £1. There has not been any revaluation of any consequence since that time, if there has been any revaluation at all. The Minister said that the unimproved value of land in Darwin was £150,000, according to his estimate, and that the value of the improvements was £500,000, making a total of £650,000. The total rating on Darwin is shown by the -McInnes Report to be only £790. If the rate was levied on the basis of the unimproved value, the unimproved assessment on Darwin at that time must have been only £47,533. If the basis was the improved value, which was stated by the Minister to be £650,000, the assessment would be much less than £47,000. I do not know how the Minister can balance his figures with those contained in the McInnes Report. Either his figures are hopelessly wrong and the House has been misinformed - quite accidentally, no doubt - or this job should cost much less than the estimate given by the Minister. The honorable gentleman said, in his second-reading speech -
Against this sum the Commonwealth is already committed to an expenditure of about £200,000 for damage by enemy action, fire, demolitions, occupation, &c. Thus it would appear that the net cost to the Commonwealth of the acquisition may not exceed £500,000.
That is a very bad misstatement of the position. The cost of damage by enemy action, fire, demolition, occupation, &c, requires examination. I have tried to ascertain from the Minister for the Interior whether the Government proposes to use the War Damage Insurance Fund to pay for the damage in Darwin and in other places which was not caused by enemy action. The statement made by the Minister for Works and Housing in his second-reading speech clearly envisages that compensation for damage not caused by enemy action will be paid from that fund, and he estimates that the cost to the Commonwealth will be £200,000. If the money is to be drawn from the insurance fund, the cost to the Commonwealth will be nothing. The money will be paid out of funds contributed by every landholder in Australia. It is not Commonwealth revenue in the true- sense, but was specially subscribed by landholders for a specific purpose. The Government has no right, as far as I know, to use it for the acquisition of land. Parliament should have a voice in this matter before any firm decision is reached. Another interesting, statement by the Minister relating to the actual extent of damage in Darwin was as follows: -
In the town of Darwin proper 491 sections are held under freehold tenure, and 74 sections under leasehold tenure. Of these, 219 sections were unimproved at the 19th February, 1942, the date of the Japanese air raid on Darwin, and 214 sections had buildings standing on them at the 22nd April, 1944, indicating that 132 sections which were improved at the 19th February, 1942, carried no improvements at the 22nd April, 1944. [ do not believe that the Minister will’ claim that the disappearance of buildings from 132 sections was due entirely to Japanese action, although that is. what he stated, in effect, in the passage which 1 have just quoted. He went on to say -
In the area suburban to Darwin Go sections aru held under freehold tenure, and 121 sections under leasehold tenure. Of these, 97 sections were unimproved at the 19th February, 1942, and 59 sections had buildings standing on them at the 22nd April, 1944, indicating that 30 sections which were improved at the 19th February, 1942, carried no improvements nt the 22nd April, 1944.
One of the ‘figures stated in that paragraph must be wrong because the totals do not agree - 59 and 30 do not add up to 97. However, it seems that at least 162 buildings have disappeared from that area. The Minister spoke of compensation totalling about £200,000 for damage by enemy action, fire, demolitions, occupation, &c. The amount arrived at by dividing £200,000 by 162 represents a substantial average amount of compensation for. a building. I do not claim that this figure is wrong, but, if it was right, the amount of damage done per building in Darwin was much greater than Parliament has hitherto been led to believe.
– It is like the number of killed in Darwin. We were told that there were only 19 deaths.
– That is so. In any case, those figures do not add up correctly. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you would not permit a general discussion on the future town management of Darwin, because that issue does not arise under the bill. Therefore, I shall refer to other matters, including amendments which ought to be made to the bill. I have already given notice of my intention to move that the bill be postponed until after the visit to Darwin of the two ministers concerned. That is not an unreasonable request. If it be rejected, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) will, I understand, move that the hill be referred to the Public Works Committee. The Government, on its own showing, proposes to expend this large sum without authority, because the contemplated expenditure is eight times greater than the amount which may be expended on a public work without reference to the Public Works Committee. There is no point in the Government acquiring this freehold property in Darwin unless it intends to embark on a large programme of expenditure. If the cost of acquiring the land will be £650,000, that amount is 26 times greater than the sum specified in the Public Works Committee Act, and therefore the matter should be referred to the committee before the land-owners are dispossessed. I should like a definition in the bill as to the date of the proposed acquisition. The operation of section 29 of the Lands Acquisition Act is to be suspended, and the interests of the land-holders will not be safeguarded. After all, these men have certain property rights. I believe in the rights of private property, and I favour the freehold tenure of land. I do not believe in the leasehold system, except under limited conditions. A person who owns the freehold of his land will usually take a much greater interest in his property than if it is held under lease which gives him only tenant rights. Therefore, I oppose the leasehold system, particularly as applied to town areas. If the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) meant what he seems to have said about unearned increment in his second-reading speech, he must have contemplated the application to Darwin of the system of rating on unimproved land values. If he means that, why did he not say so? My fourth request is that a special committee should be set up so that persons dispossessed of their land might be compensated. The unfortunate’ land-owners may reside in any of the six States, and certainly the majority of them would be resident outside the Northern Territory. They should be given an opportunity to present their case to a special tribunal, without being obligated to appeal to the Supreme Court or some other legal body. [Extension of time granted.]
The general problem of the replanning of Darwin was referred to the predecessor of the Minister for the Interior by the Northern Territory Development League, in a two-page letter dated the 29th May. Every member of this Parliament has received a copy of that letter, and its contents should be considered before the Government embarks upon this lavish scheme. I have received a letter from a former Public Servant in the territory, who has lived there until recently and knows the territory from one end to the other. In the course of his letter he state -
The re-planning of Darwin - presumably a very expensive process, just as Canberra’s beginning was - is going to increase the already heavy burden being borne by the taxpayer, and it is not right that the’ development of the hinterland should automatically bring aboutthe development of ports and capital. But just at present the tax-payer’s voice is lost by the clamour of the tax-gatherers and the tax-eaters.
If the Minister proposes to expend £7,000,000 on a new township at Darwin, the tax-eater will certainly come into the “ show “. I am bound to have these apprehensions, because no Minister has clarified the position. If this vast expenditure is to be incurred, I am reminded of a man who builds for himself a lavish dining-room and allows native servants to cook his meals in a camp oven on the verandah. The usual practice in a newly developed area is to live under primitive conditions for a while, but in this instance it seems that the Government proposes to reverse the normal procedure. Apparently irrigation works, roads, railways and airways are to take second place to the development of Darwin.
I desire a reply to the following seven points : - (1) I submit that the bill should follow and not precede an investigation, by the Public Works Committee. (2) Why cannot the Minister postpone this measure until he and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction have visited the Territory ? (3) Why should not the date of acquisition of the land be clearly stated in the bill? (4) Why not appoint a special tribunal, so that peaceful settlement of claims by land-owners may be reached? (5) The Government should state whether all land is to be resumed, and not only the freehold property. I have already referred to the freehold land situated in the town of Darwin and the suburban areas, but no statement was made in the Minister’s second-reading speech as to whether other landholders will remain in possession of their properties or not. This bill deals only with freehold land. (6) The Government should offer freeholders the first chance of a lease under the new system in the event of the passage of this measure. (7) All reports regarding the future of Darwin should be tabled in this House.
Never has a bill been brought before us involving so much money and with so little information proffered to Parliament. This is a proposal of a very radical kind. I have before me the McInnes report of 1937, and the report of the Payne Commission which was presented in 1939. The latter report, read in conjunction with parts of the McInnes report, shows that the Administration had passed certain ordinances to deal with the management of Darwin, but had not appointed the officers for which the ordinances provided. An explanation with regard to this matter should be furnished by the present Minister for the Interior. In this bill the Government appears to be putting the cart before the horse. We should have a fairly clear idea of the proposals for the development of the Northern Territory before we consider this measure. I do not know what the Government’s intentions may be with regard to airways. In the Post-war period, certain naval, military, and air force installations will be required at Darwin, but, although these matters are of paramount importance, no indication is given in this bill of whether they have been considered. The Navy, the Army, and the Air Force should have as much of this land as may be required for the proper carrying out of the functions with which they will be entrusted in future. Has this matter been considered by the Government? Certain committees have met and considered a number of matters in connexion with the future of Darwin, but the Government has not paid the Parliament the courtesy of telling it what those committees are, when they sat, or what they reported. This is a most extraordinary way for the Government to act in depriving landholders in Darwin of their freehold rights, although they have been developing their properties over a long period of years. In many instances they have developed them despite many obstacles put in their way through the haphazard administration of the Northern Territory. This is referred to in rather cutting terms in both the Payne and the Mcinnes reports. I conclude by moving; -
That all words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in. lieu thereof the following words: - “Mie second reading of the bill bc deferred until the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction have accepted the invitation of the Northern Territory Development League to visit Darwin and hear the views of residents of the Northern Territory on this bil] “.
– I formally second the motion.
.- There are two approaches to the matter now before the House. It may be discussed from the point of view of a real estate ‘ agents’ conference, or in its national aspect. The Government has attempted to create a national atmosphere in connexion with the acquisition of land in Darwin, because this is a ‘Commonwealth responsibility. , Since the establishment of the National Capital in Canberra, land in the Australian Capital Territory has1 been held under the leasehold system. Various governments have been in office during that period, and not one of them has found any serious fault with the prevailing system of land tenure. Darwin is also in Commonwealth territory, and, by bringing the system of land tenure in the Northern Territory into line with that of Canberra, the Government has adopted a logical and sound policy. There are many other reasons why we should consider the future of Darwin from an Australian point of view. Prior to the war, persons travelling on the overseas air route noticed clean and well-kept cities in the Netherlands East Indies, but, when they arrived at Australia’s “ front door “, they were confronted with something which looked like the “ dry rot “ scene in White Cargo. Much work has been done with Commonwealth money in Darwin during the war, and the Government is well justified in carrying on where the soldier is likely to leave off. A great deal of money has been poured into the Northern Territory for the purpose of cleaningup Darwin and adjacent areas. When the troops first went there, malaria and dengue fever were prevalent. When I visited Darwin some time ago I was told by medical officers that splendid work had been done by the hygiene squads and the malaria control units of the Army. Only three cases of dengue fever had occurred in the preceding six months, and these had been flown there from operational areas. As soon as malaria broke out, the malaria squads cleaned up the breeding grounds. Planting operations in Darwin have helped to beautify th« town, which now presents an attractive appearance.
This bill is the first instalment of a plan to polish up and make tidy the front door of Australia, demonstrating to the world that towns need not have a decayed appearance merely because they are in the tropics. Mr. D. H. Lawrence, a very shrewd and wise observer, wrote a book in which he said that our seaside towns, particularly the northern ports, look like odd bits of furniture that had fallen off the pantechnicon of civilization. Darwin, unfortunately, deserves to the limit the strictures that he passed, on the ugliness of our towns-. Since this job has to be tackled, it can be made a great post-war project. Logically, the first task is to place land tenure on a satisfactory basis. By all acknowledgments, leasehold is the correct tenure for Darwin. [ disagree with the statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that this bill begins at the wrong end ; that we should first say what we are going to do. In all the classic acquisitions of history, the first step has been to obtain possession of the land, and then to do something with it.
– The formulation of » plan should precede the acquisition of the land.
– I disagree with the honorable member. Having obtained possession of the land, the planning will be quite easy ; in fact, it will follow almost automatically when the system of leasehold tenure has been applied. Darwin has been made more healthy by reason of its occupation by the troops, who have done a tremendous amount of cleaning up and have been the means of a much greater proportion of the war expenditure being diverted to the Northern Territory than would have been the case otherwise. It is logical for the Government to say now that, having progressed to such a stage, it intends to make of Darwin the city we have dreamt of making it, and a credit to the Commonwealth. Obviously, the development of air traffic after the war will make extremely important the consideration of the part that Darwin is likely to play in the future. This part will also be affected by possible future military operations. If considerable expenditure is to be incurred in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory, it would be absurd if steps were not taken to ensure the progress of Darwin. The first step to be taken is the acquisition of the land in the town area. The planning will follow. The story of two soldiers who have lived in Darwin for four years has been related in Salt, the education magazine of the services. These men have planned a post-war set-up for the town on the most modern lines, with cool buildings, treelined boulevardes, and all other amenities, including the rehabilitation of the whole area, as well as the development of waterways, particularly the beaches. Their scheme, which has been exhaustively discussed in Salt, contains much matter which honorable members who are interested would do well to read. There is a definite desire on the part of the residents of the southern portion of the continent that the Northern Territory shall progress. Any Australian who has been abroad and has returned to this country by air must be animated by the desire to have at Australia’s front door, as we are fond of describing Darwin, a greater spirit of progress and cleanliness than is evidenced by a staggered line of joss houses, with a tired dog leaning against a pub wall. Entering Australia after having seen the spick and span Dutch aerodromes and cities, an Australian who is proud of his country, finds that vision of Darwin like a “ slap on the face “. The Government is acting expeditiously, and is doing the right thing by making leasehold tenure in the Northern Territory a first requirement, proceeding therefrom to an organized plan, by means of which we shall have in the north the city we have dreamed about for so long hut have not previously bothered to implement. I am proud of the fact that the first task of the new Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) will be to do something for the Northern Territory, particularly Darwin. We could not leave the matter in any better Australian hands than his. He will ensure that the task will be performed well and truly.
.- This bill, and the second-reading speech of the Minister, are notable not for the information they have given to the House but for what has been withheld. The Minister could not have given less information, had he tried. The Parliament should not be treated in such a way. There are no details of future proposals, but merely a statement about the purchase of certain land. If land is to be purchased, the House should be given the reason. The Government should not purchase land merely for the sake of doing so. A clear’ indication should be given of what the Government intends to do with the land that is to be acquired. The Minister merely said -
This short measure is designed to authorise the acquisition by the Commonwealth of freehold land in the town of Darwin and its environs. A full description of the area affected is contained in the schedule to the bill. It is proposed to acquire the land by either agreement or compulsory process, . . .
The House should be fully informed of all the Government’s proposals, in order that it may satisfy itself that the Government is justified in purchasing this land. I protest at the manner in which the affairs of the Parliament are being conducted. Probably, the Government, will refuse to accept any amendments that may be submitted in committee. If the Parliament is to function democratically, it is imperative that Ministers should give the fullest information, without which there cannot be ‘proper deliberation. The Government will contribute to the failure of democracy if it does not furnish the information which the Parliament is entitled to have. The press has published the statement that the proposal is to expend £7,000,000 on the replanning of Darwin.
– Where did the honorable member get that figure?
– It was mentioned by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
– Forget it.
– The Minister heard the honorable member for Barker make the statement four or five times, yet only now repudiates it. Can he say how much it is proposed to expend on the redesigning of Darwin? He refuses to answer, thus withholding information that this House is entitled to have. What does the Government intend to do with the land?
– What does the honorable gentleman think is going to be done with the land ?
– I am not here to indulge in guess work. Guessing is futile. [ expect the Minister to supply the information.
– Does the honorable gentleman know what is necessary in Darwin ?
– I am asking for the information to be supplied. All that the Minister says is “forget it”. [ reject his invitation, and shall exercise whatever rights I may have in order to discover the purpose of this proposal. We are entitled to a frank statement, and should not have to extract it from the Minister as a tooth is extracted. Under clause 4, it is intended to deny to the community in Darwin information as to the date which will form the basis for calculating the value of the land. By that clause, the normal procedure is to be suspended, because it provides -
The value of any land acquired in pursuance of this Act by compulsory process shall, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 29 of the Act . . .
If the normal procedure is to be suspended, what alternative will be adopted, and what date will be fixed ? How are the owners of land in Darwin to know the basis on which the value of their land will be calculated? The circumstances in Darwin are most peculiar. In December, 1941, most of the residents left the town because of the threat of attack by the enemy. In February, 1942, the military authorities required the evacuation of all who had remained. Those persons are now scattered throughout Australia. Many of them are to-day living on their capital. Their houses have been destroyed, and their disadvantages are greater than are suffered by any other section of the community.
– Does the honorable member object to the re-building of Darwin ?
– I object to the treatment that is being meted out to those who own land in Darwin. I make this plea on their behalf. Special consideration should be shown to them when the Government is determining the amount of compensation they are to receive for the land that is to be acquired under this legislation. It is merely prescribed that if they are dissatisfied with the compensation they may take proceedings in the courts. Darwin is isolated, and has no lawyers in whose hands these person?! may place their case.
– There are lawyers in Darwin.
– Those who are there are engaged in other activities. A sympathetic committee should be appointed to deal with the matter apart from legal technicalities. It should adopt the most direct means to obtain for these people the compensation they should receive. I appeal to the Government to appoint such a tribunal. In 1913, this Parliament passed the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act. That act was amended in 1927, and again in 1936. Broadly speaking, this act authorizes Parliament to order an investigation of any proposed work involving an expenditure of more than £25,000. The committee reports, not to the Minister, but to Parliament itself, so that Parliament is made aware of the details of the proposals and the amount to be expended. When it prepares its report on a proposal, the committee makes recommendations and states its reasons in support of them. I ask that the expenditure proposed under this bill be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation so that Parliament, armed with the committee’s report, may be in a position to reach an intelligent decision. Unless the House is prepared to accept the earlier amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), I intend to move in the committee stages of the bill that the proposal be referred to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report.
I was in Darwin in 1937 as chairman of the Public Works Committee, which spent a considerable time there upon a series’ of inquiries. Much evidence was heard and members had an opportunity to meet local residents, to discuss their problems with them and learn something of their difficulties. At that time, no one could feel pleased with Darwin nor, I suppose, could any one feel particularly pleased with the town as it is to-day. At the time I visited Darwin it was rapidly becoming an important airport, and aeroplanes were arriving daily from overseas. ‘ I suggest that when Darwin is being redesigned provision should be made for development over a period of years. The Public Works Committee recommended that a town planner should be appointed to draw up proposals for development. We pointed out in our report some of the difficulties caused by the presence of certain important public buildings, but if those buildings have since been destroyed, our proposals for the development of Darwin should be reviewed. I hope that consideration will be given to the provision of suitable aerodromes at Darwin.
– They are there now.
– There are military aerodromes, but they are not suitable for civil requirements. That has been emphasized in many parts of Australia, and the recent tragedy at Mascot is a further reminder of the. need for modern aerodromes. Military aerodromes are not suitable for very heavy aircraft of the kind which will in future be used for transport purposes. Even to-day there are aeroplanes which can carry 100 people, and larger ones will be in use in the future. We must make up our minds to fit Darwin to become’ a city, an airport, a naval base and a tourist resort. I believe that Darwin has a big future, and that is why I want it to be developed as a naval base and airport. It will ibc increasingly a first port of call for visitors to Australia. In the past, accommodation for visitors was inadequate. People will be arriving at Darwin from all parts of the world, and their first impression of Australia will be based upon what they see at that port. Although the Public Works Committee had given three months’ notice of its intention to visit Darwin in 1937, when it arrived there five members had to share a very small room. Such conditions are impossible, especially in a place with a tropical climate. I trust that in future adequate hotel accommodation will be provided on suitable sites.
– These proposals represent the beginning of an effort to make the honorable member’s dreams come true.
– I am glad, to hear it. but I should like some more information about what part of the dreams are to be realized immediately. The people of Darwin have always had a sense of grievance because they have been denied local government. They feel that they have been pushed around from pillar to post, without having any say in their own affairs. I know of the difficulties arising out of the fact that there are so few people to pay rates, but whether the rates are paid entirely by the residents, or supplemented by the Government, the people living in Darwin should be given some say in the administration of their own affairs. The previous isolation of Darwin has largely been broken down by the construction of new roads and aerodromes, and by the installation of an up-to-date radio station. If ever Darwin is to develop, residents must feel that they are free from government domination. Previously, officials were everywhere, and there was no local civic life. I ask the Minister to inform honorable members what th, Government proposes to do with the land which is to be acquired under this scheme, and I also ask for an assurance that the people of Darwin, whose property was destroyed by enemy action, will not have to face lengthy court proceedings in order te obtain reasonable compensation. If satisfactory assurances could be given on these points the bill would have an easier passage through Parliament^
.- 1 commend the Government upon its prompt action in taking steps to acquire land in Darwin so that that place may be converted into a model town. I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) upon having launched a scheme which will usher in a new era of progress in the history of Darwin, which was the only Australian town to suffer destruction as the result of enemy action. We know that great damage was also done at Broome, but Darwin alone was completely devastated. Honorable members will recall the news of the first Japanese raid, and later information was given to them in private of the extent of the damage. I think it is time that the facts were released to the public. It would be a warning to us never again to allow ourselves to be caught in such a defenceless state. The only good thing arising out of the whole sorry episode is that, in the place of the old Darwin, a model city is to be built. In peace-time, there is often much squabbling as to whether slum areas in our cities could be reclaimed. So far as Darwin is concerned, that problem has been solved for us by the enemy. What used to be described as the back-door of Australia has now become the front door. As Winwood Reade said in his book, Martyrdom of Man, progress comes out of disaster. We should be thankful that we who lived in other parts of Australia did not have to go through the horrors of aerial bombing, and we should not begrudge the cost of building a new city at Darwin. No doubt mistakes will be made, but we shall have to proceed by trial and error.
I desire to pay tribute to the young servicemen who, while serving in the Darwin area, drew up plans for the reconstruction of the city. I hope that the Government will consider setting up a construction authority on the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority, in the United States of America. As the Northern Territory is administered directly by the Commonwealth, no constitutional difficulties would arise. In any case,
I can see no reason why such an authority should not act in other parts of Australia under the Commonwealth’s defence powers. The Tennessee Valley scheme was inaugurated under the federal government’s defence powers, and was part of the New Deal programme for the relief of unemployment. Actually, it has proved to be of great benefit during the present war in the supply of power and munitions. If we were to set up such an authority in Darwin it should be possible later, as we acquired administrative experience, to extend the idea to other settlements such as Jervis Bay, Port Stephens, Twofold Bay, and places on the coast of Western Australia. The Minister for the Interior should be particularly interested in such a proposal. We thought at one time that Western Australia was the Achilles heel of Australia, the place at which the enemy would strike, and for that reason large military forces were sent there. Yesterday the press published a report which admitted that, at one period, Perth expected to be bombed by the enemy. Therefore, the launching of this proposal may represent the dawn of a new era of progress in Australia. If the establishment of an authority charged with the administration of these reforms should create any constitutional difficulties, the Commonwealth and the States should resolve all doubt by undertaking the work as a joint effort. That scheme would also give effect to the Government’s policy of full employment. The development of Darwin as an airport and a seaport should proceed in conjunction with the development of the hinterland. One plan, which seems to be practicable, is the construction of a railway from Bourke to Darwin, connecting with the terminals of the railways in the hinterland of New South Wales and Queensland. That work would be a vital factor in the future development of those States, the Northern Territory and particularly the Barkly Tableland - the fertile area to which Mr. Nelson T. Johnson, former United States Minister to Australia referred so favorably. According to expert opinion, the cost of that railway would be more than offset by the saving of livestock during drought. I hope that the Government will launch this scheme and that its present plans will be the forerunner of similar enterprises in other parts of the country.
– The future of Darwin is bound up with the development of Northern Australia. In the past, the Northern Territory has made very slow progress. In 1901 the population was 4,096 and in 1936 it had increased to only 5,454. The whole of the Northern Territory must be developed in order to carry a substantially greater population and to yield much greater production. According to people with a thorough knowledge of conditions in the Territory, Darwin has one of the best ports in the north of this continent. Accepting their statements, I believe that the proposals for the planning of Darwin must be carefully examined. In his report for the year 1943-44, the Administrator of the Northern Territory estimated that, in the future, Darwin would carry a population of 6,000 persons. The Government should not be satisfied with resuming certain portions of Darwin, but should embark upon a comprehensive scheme to enable the planned development of the town in future. For that reason, I shall support the bill. Before this measure becomes law, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) should take the opportunity to visit Darwin for the purpose of seeing for himself the possible effects of the Government’s proposals. He brings to this matter a fresh mind, and we believe that he will conscientiously do his utmost for the Northern Territory.
The bill provides for the acquisition of certain freehold land in Darwin at its present value. So far, that is satisfactory. But since the outbreak of the war, the Commonwealth has acquired substantial areas in various places, and often the compensation which has been paid to the owners has been most unsatisfactory. From time to time, honorable members have produced evidence to support that statement. The compensation that will be paid to the owners of freehold land in Darwin should be just. They should not be “beaten down” until, in despair, they accept the Commonwealth’s offer.
The development of Darwin constitutes only a small part of the major plan that must be implemented in the future. Sir Harold Clapp, in his report on proposals for the standardization of railway gauges in Australia, suggested the construction of a 4-ft. 8i-in gauge railway from Townsville in Queensland, through Dajarra, across the Northern Territory, through the Barkly Tableland, to link with the existing railway system at Birdum, and passing through Newcastle “Waters and Daly Waters on to Darwin. This would involve the construction of 1,900’ miles of new railway track and the converting of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line in the Northern Territory to the standard gauge. In 1864, Sir George Bowen, Governor of Queensland, suggested to the Imperial Government that a new colony should be created in Australia, north of the twentieth parallel of latitude. In 1924, the then Premier of Queensland, Mr. Theodore, advocated detaching from Queensland, for the purposes of a new State in the north that portion of Queensland and. Western Australia north of the twentieth parallel. That advocacy has been taken up by the Hon. V. C. Thompson, in the issue of the Northern Daily Leader on the 23rd July last. He recommended that additional railway facilities should be provided in the Northern Territory, joining with Wyndham and running across to the northwest coast of Western Australia. In my opinion, the only way in which this country can be developed is by the provision of adequate transport facilities.
When I look at the map, it is perfectly clear to me that Darwin is the central point in the vast northern area of Australia and would be the hub upon which a new State would pivot in future. For that reason, I consider that the Administrator of the Northern Territory underestimated the potential number of people who will ultimately reside in Darwin. He stated that North Australia, particularly the Barkly Tablelands, contains excellent pastoral country, and could carry now 2,000,000 head of cattle and 3,000,000 head of sheep. He considered that with proper facilities the pastoral areas of the Northern Territory could carry up to 5,000,000 sheep. As the Army has discovered, certain areas of the Northern Territory are suitable for irrigation. Each of the three main rivers of the Territory is approximately 300 miles long, and baa a large catchment area. For example, the Roper River has a catchment area of approximately 19,000,000 acres, an area which is 2,000 square miles larger than Tasmania. Its basin receives an annual rainfall of more than 25 inches, and its tributaries, the Waterhouse and the Wilton, have an average rainfall of 40 inches. The Administrator pointed out that large areas of river flats in the Northern Territory could be irrigated. To the north of Australia lie rich potential markets in the Netherlands East Indies, and if the irrigable areas were developed, fruit and vegetables could be grown there and marketed in the East Indies. in the same way as fresh fruit is sent from .South Africa, via the east coast shipping route, and sold to the teeming millions of India, through the markets of Bombay and Karachi.
Tremendous development is possible in the northern areas of Australia, but it will not be achieved until local autonomy is given to that part of the country. Mr. V. O. Thompson advocated that the area to be known as Northern Australia should consist of all the territory north of a line drawn from a point just north of Bowen in Queensland, to Port Hedland in Western Australia. Having in mind the potentialities of the Northern Territory, I regret that the bill does not go a good deal further, and that a comprehensive plan has not been formulated along the lines that I have mentioned. The 130,000 residents of Northern Queensland should be given an opportunity to state whether they desire to be detached from the State of Queensland and absorbed in Northern Australia. If the proposed northern area were given local autonomy, I am confident that it would develop rapidly, just as Victoria and Queensland developed after they were detached from New South Wales and given local autonomy. Naturally, the Parliament of the Commonwealth would have to be prepared to face a big capital expenditure in developing Northern Australia. Progress has not been satisfactory to date because of the lack of communications.
Australia has four reasons for attempting in future to develop this Territory to the greatest possible extent! The first is to ensure our defence. This door to Australia must not be left wide open in future. Fifty or 100 years hence, Australia may again be threatened with invasion from the north, and it would be a great safeguard if the northern areas were fairly well populated so as to absorb the first impact of the attack. The second point is that the northern area is capable of great pastoral development and has vast mineral resources. In addition, people could make a good living on the irrigable areas. The third point is that it would bring wealth to the country by increasing production there. The fourth point is that it would be a great area for settling the people who, we hope, will migrate here from overseas. Justice must be done to the people of Darwin by compensating them adequately for the acquisition of their property. I shall support the bill in the hope that, in future, the Government will bring down legislation for the development of that area by establishing railway communication with the rest of Australia and by adopting a policy for exploiting the latent wealth of the Northern Territory.
.- It was refreshing to hear the speech of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), after listening to another honorable member opposite who spoke earlier. The honorable member for New England realizes that the bill has a definite purpose - the planning of Darwin for the future. Unfortunately, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was thinking of the pre-war Darwin. Darwin, to-day, is entirely different from the town we knew before it was occupied by the armed forces. Prewar Darwin was dirty. No other word could adequately describe it. It mus have been offensive to people who arrived in Australia by the Empire Air Service. I can imagine what they thought when their first view of Australia was Darwin, when I recall how Cavanagh-street and other dirty corners of that carelessly controlled town looked before the war. Realizing the great importance of this
Australian port, the Government desires to plan the development of Darwin on attractive modern lines. The Commonwealth now has a great interest in Darwin and the surrounding territory. It has expended more than £1,000,000 on the construction of a bitumen road between Alice Springs and Darwin. Before the war, few people ever considered travelling overland from Alice Springs to Darwin because they thought that the country was almost impassable by motor car. But to-day, convoys set out daily for Darwin from Alice Springs. During the war the Government has expended millions of pounds on the construction of aerodromes, bridges and other assets. The honorable member for Moreton said that he hoped that the Government would make provision for aerodromes to be constructed in and around Darwin in the post-war period. I was amazed, that any member of this Parliament should make such a statement. Aerodromes comparable with any in other parts of Australia have been built in the Northern Territory between Alice Springs and Darwin. The honorable member spoke of heavily loaded aeroplanes. The heaviest aircraft that have visited Australia have landed on the Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome at Darwin, which is one of the best in Australia. The Commonwealth Government has a very great interest in Darwin. Realizing how close we were to disaster through lack of properly organized defence when Japan struck at Darwin, we must appreciate the vital need to provide for the adequate defence of this front door to Australia and to encourage settlement in that area. The figures mentioned by the honorable member for New England were illuminating. They proved that, over many years, the population of the area scarcely increased because of the lack of development. It is the intention of this Government, as it should be the intention of every future government, to ensure that Darwin is developed according to’ a proper plan. In order to do this, it is necessary to acquire land, and it is important that the. land-owners should be adequately compensated for the improvements which they have made, [f that be done, I do not believe that anybody will complain about this bill. I am certain that most honorable members visualize a greater and more importantDarwin with a vastly increased population. Improvements which have already been made in that area by the Commonwealth Government should be maintained. I am sure that the future importance of Darwin will encourage closer settlement, thus obviating the recurrence of the danger that faced us when Japan struck in that area earlier in the war. 1 believe that this bill heralds the growth of a modern Darwin of which we shall be proud, when its harbour and aerodromes will be busy with traffic from the outside world. I am pleased that the recently appointed Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) understands Australia and Australian sentiment. I believe that he will be a great asset to the Government, and we are fortunate that he is in charge of this bill.
.- This bill to authorize the acquisition by the Commonwealth of approximately 90 square miles of land in the township area of Darwin is badly conceived. I congratulate the new Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) upon his recent elevation to the Ministry. “We are fortunate to have as Minister for the Interior a man who understands conditions in the Northern Territory and the problems of its residents. I am confident that he will be sympathetic to the claims of Darwin residents’, but he will be obliged to administer his department according to the policy of the Government, which, in this instance, is designed to destroy the rights of many people who have lived in Darwin for a long time. These people had’ sufficient vision to realize that some day Darwin would be a great town and that land values would rise. They took up land and many of them have spent a great part of their lives there under unsatisfactory conditions. Now the Government proposes to take over their land. The bill is drafted purely to protect the interests of the Government and to implement its policy without consideration for the welfare of the pioneers of tie area. Unfortunately, the Government has the numerical strength required to pass the bill through this House. Certain additional provisions should be included in it. The people whose land is to be acquired have practically no representation in this Parliament, and, as far as I know, the Government has not consulted them regarding the lines on which the town should be rebuilt. This action is being taken at an inconvenient time for these people, because their representative in this House is not able to push their claims, having unfortunately been a prisoner of war for three years. In these circumstances, the Government should have conferred with the people who are vitally concerned in the matter. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) said that the Government had a great interest in Darwin. I agree with him. But the people who were responsible for its development up to the present also have a great interest in the town. The Government has already resumed large areas of land in the Darwin district. From information in my possession, and from the reports of people who have visited the town, I believe that the Commonwealth has almost sufficient land for aerodromes, public buildings, and public utilities. The Government says that it is essential, in the interests of town-planning, to take over the land referred to in this bill, even if it does so without considering the interests of the land-owners. However, the Townplanning Association of New South Wales, which was consulted on this matter on a previous occasion and which reported to the Commonwealth Government, says that the acquisition of this land is not essential. It claims that, under the building regulations, the Government has ‘all the power that it requires to resume such properties as may be needed for the construction of roads and other utilities and the development of a properly planned town.
Although Mr. Mcinnes has made a good and comprehensive report, this matter should not be left in the hands of one man. The planning of our great national capital was the subject of a world-wide competition, which was open to all architects and town-planners. The successful competitor was an American. I believe that Darwin will be another great city. There is talk of expending £7,000,000 on its development. I imagine that the Government has no intention of expending this amount at the present time, because, obviously, it would be stupid even to consider doing so. One man should not be allowed to direct the planning of the future great city which will stand at the northern gateway to Australia. His plan may be reasonable, but it may not be the best. The Government should withdraw this bill, and consult the Northern Territory Developmental League, all organized bodies interested in Darwin, and the owners of the freehold of the land affected, who went there in the belief that they would eventually benefit from their own courage and foresight in pioneering the area. I do not expect the present Minister to be a pocket Mussolini, and I do not fear that he will do what the Department of the Interior did in connexion with the resumption of land required for the Essendon aerodrome. One resident in my district had bought four blocks of land, for which he had paid £252, and, although he had paid rates and taxes on the land for years, he was offered the magnificent sum of £18 for his property. He did not even receive from the department courteous replies to his letters. In another instance, Mrs. C. S. Paynter, of Echuca, had bought land at Black Rock on the 4th December, 1933, for £300, and had paid rates and taxes on it, but had derived no income from it.. On the 10th May last she entered into a contract for its sale to Anthony John Rix for £177. When application was made to the Treasury for consent to the transaction, the delegate of the Treasury advised that on the information available the contract price was regarded as excessive, but that further consideration would be given to the application “ should an intimation be received from both parties that they are prepared to proceed with the transaction at a price not in excess of £67.” The owner has held that land for eleven year.s, and a government official has decided that, although it cost £300 in 1933, the owner would be fairly treated by the payment of £67 !
– The honorable member may not cite instances of that kind extensively.
– I could cite twentysuch cases, but I have given two typical instances of the treatment received by land-owners from two separate government departments. This treatment does not encourage men to believe that they will get a fair deal from government departments, or from officials who apparently have no sympathy for those who believe that the fact that they have assisted in the pioneering of the Darwin area justifies them in expecting a reasonable reward.
The building regulations operating in Darwin are adequate, because no person may erect a building which is not approved by the Chief Medical Officer and the Administrator. I see no justification for the acquisition of this land by the Government and for the proposed alteration of the system of land tenure in the area. How would members of the Ministry like to build houses on leased land? T have a list before me of particulars of land, owned by the Government in and around Darwin. It shows the land held by the Department of the Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and the military authorities, and all government buildings, schools, post offices, &c. With the leave of the House I shall incorporate the details in Hansard. They are as follows : -
Within 5 chains of the Darwin Post Office. - Post office and quarters, police station and police barracks, government offices and Government House, also Law Courts.
Within 15 chains of the Post Office - Foreshore between Stokes Hill and Fort Hill, and reclaimed area between same points.
Within 20 chains of Post Office. - Railway station in Stokes Hill area on which oil tanks were built.
Within i mile of the Post Office. - Railway Hill on which railway houses and oil tanks were built. Cavandah Square alongside of public schools. A large area between Mitchellstreet and sea frontage, football ground, navy barracks, government servants’ quarters and government officer’s residence.
Within 1 mile from Darwin Post Office. - Old hospital area, Point Emery area, comprising approximately 50 acres, now known as Lakarah Barracks.
Within li miles of the Post Office.- -Myilly Point area, new hospital and research laboratories, government houses are built on the Wireless-road area, wireless station, sanitary depot, civil cemetery and botanical gardens, flic Two and a Half Mile-road and railway, within two miles - Rifle range, large naval stores, Chinese cemetery, area comprising approximately 40 acres.
Within 3 miles of the Post Office.- Civil aerodrome, Fanny Bay Gaol and race-course.
Within 2-J miles North-South-road. - Railway workshops, coal depot and railway employees’ houses, Two and Half Mile school, old cemetery, power houses.
Within 3i miles of Darwin Post Office. - Area known as Home’s Slaughter Yard, between railway and coast, ground acquired by the military and naval authorities, approximately 50 acres, on which was erected a magazine.
Within 5 miles of the Post Office. - Native compound, Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome, comprising 640 acres, special Royal Australian Air Force wireless station.
Within 7 miles of Darwin Post Office. - Along the North-South-road, 320 acres naval area.
Within 8 miles of Post Office. - Quarantineroad branches off North-South-road 1 mile along, on which a very large military hospital has been built.
Within 11 miles of the Post Office. - An area’ of 320 acres of government land acquired for use of services, on which a special wireless station has been erected.
All the above distances and areas are approximate.
I feel confident that when the Minister ascertains the area of land held by the Commonwealth in the Darwin area he will realize that only small areas of other land are required for national purposes. The Government owns practically the whole of the foreshore and large areas where aerodromes, military barracks and forts have been constructed. The Government has acquired sufficient land to meet probable needs for hundreds of years. The Government’s action in introducing this bill is most unfair. The bill provides for the adoption in Darwin of the policy of the Government with regard to land tenure.
– What policy does the honorable member consider that the Government should adopt?
– Perhaps the honorable member believes that the Government should also adopt the Communist policy. I have always favoured a national policy, and had the Labour party given proper consideration to the need for defence measures^-
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– The policy of the Government should be one of development of the Northern Territory. It should assist private enterprise to develop that area, and give to the people who have pioneered it the reward to which they are entitled for their courage and foresight. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the development of the whole of the Northern Territory is essential. If Darwin is to be anything more than a landing place for aircraft, it will be necessary to develop the hinterland which is now occupied mainly by pastoralists and miners. The Territory needs an increased population.
– Does the honorable member believe that the Territory has a promising future?
– I know that it has, and one of the first essentials is water conservation,, transport facilities and sympathetic administration. One of the first essentials is to curtail the great assets of the companies which hold land there but have not an Australian outlook and which have no interest in the development of the Territory. Unless there is increased settlement in the Territory there will be no firm foundation on which to develop the city of Darwin. I hope that the Minister for the Interior will visit the Territory and consult with the local representatives of the people. Many of them reside at Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. If the Minister visits the Territory and affords the people an opportunity to present their case, they will be willing to meet him at almost any centre. The local residents are not very enthusiastic about government control of local affairs. The Payne report states that, owing to the smallness of the revenue, the residents desired the Government to take control. The Government eventually acceded to their representations, and the administration of the town was taken over by the Commonwealth as from the 1st April, 1937. The people did not realize how slowly the Government would move, but they soon found out that they were in a worse position than previously. They had asked the Government to take over the control of local affairs because the municipality did not have good footpaths, drains, or proper public facilities.
But they found that although £1,000 was collected in rates and the Treasury had made £1,400 available only £150 was expended in the period to the 30th June, 1937. With the passing of the council municipal work came to an end, at least temporarily. No town clerk has yet been appointed, and no civic body has been established to conduct the affairs of the municipality.
– But a war has been in progress.
– I am referring to 1937.
– An anti-Labour Government was then in power.
– I am aware of that, but the residents are suspicious of government control as a result of their experience of it.
– The Labour party cannot be responsible for the mistakes of its opponents.
– The Government which I supported at least made some attempt to develop the Territory, but the policy of the present Government will tend to destroy it. The Town Planning Association of New South Wales was asked to make certain recommendations with .regard to Darwin, and it went to a good deal of trouble in doing so;, but it was not given the job of planning the city. I notice that the Government has adopted many of its suggestions, and I believe that its President, Mr. Ford, has been thanked for its recommendations. I hope that before the Government embarks on the scheme outlined in the bill, and decides to alter the system of land tenure, it will realize that its policy will tend to destroy the confidence of the people of Northern Australia in their own financial safety. The Minister should at least confer with the residents and hear their views, particularly in view of the fact that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is not able to present their case.
– I am sure that, if he were here, he would support this measure.
– I have no doubt that he would support the town planning of Darwin, but he would not agree to a change of the system of land tenure and i he filching of the reward to which landowners are entitled for years of pioneering work. They lived in the Territory at a time when they were almost forgotten by both the Administration and this Parliament. I urge the Minister - as well as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), if possible - ro visit the Northern Territory for the purpose of making a personal inspection -and obtaining the very best advice available. The report of one man, good and comprehensive though I believe it to be, is not sufficient. The Government should
Miot embark on this great project without having the best advice available in the world.
.- I cannot support the motion that the bill be withdrawn, because that would involve delay. We should expedite action as much as possible.
– We have not yet been told what action is proposed.
– The bill is a simple one. It provides for the acquisition of land and other property in Darwin, the compensation payable being the value at the d ate of acquisition. That is the fairest basis on which acquisition could be undertaken. We should face up to the condition in which Darwin has been placed. It is an evacuated town, which has been badly damaged by enemy action. The existing buildings have been in the occupation of the Army. Many of them have been demolished to meet Army requirements, and some that were there originally were destroyed by fire. The Government is faced with the cost of the replacement of those buildings on behalf of the owners. According to the report of the War Damage Commission, of December, 1944, the claims in the Darwin area on account of damage caused by enemy action total £109,924. I believe that a larger amount is due as compensation for occupation and damage by Army and Air Force authorities. We have to consider the position of the owners of the property, who were evacuated. Probably they are still on the mainland. They have suffered most cruelly from the incidence of the war, having had to leave their homes and businesses and make a livelihood as best they could in other parts of the continent. They expect to return to Darwin, and want to know definitely the position that will then confront them. The Government must make a decision now. Neither the bill nor the Minister’s second-reading speech will give very much comfort to them. I hope that the new Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) will make an early statement, outlining a definite policy in regard to the re-occupation by former owners of areas that are being resumed. The bill provides that owners of property shall not obtain any benefit by reason of the fact that the town is to be replanned, and that some areas on its outskirts or in low-value districts may become high-value centres. That is a just method of dealing with the problem. At the same time, it is essential that lie Minister should make an early statement as to the rights which former owners will have. They want to know whether they will be entitled to reconstruct their dwellings or business premises in .an area within the town, if, as the result of town-planning, the land that they own is devoted to the purposes of a community centre.
– There is no need to alter the title of the land in order to tell them that they may return and reconstruct.
– They need to know whether they will be entitled to occupy the blocks that they formerly owned, and expend the compensation money on rebuilding or on renovating damaged property, or whether they will have to take another site in what may be set aside as a shopping or residential area. They need to know quickly, in order that they may plan their future movements. Their lives have been upset for several years, and it is only fair that they should know what rights they possess in the existing circumstances.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked how payment would be made by the War Damage Commission, the Army and other government agencies. Under the War Damage to Property Regulations, practically all war damage up to the 31st December, 1944, has been assessed and recorded and the owners know the extent of the damage. Since 1944, the War Damage to Property Regulations have been extended and now make the commission liable for damage due to evacuation. The Army has been in occupation of many properties and will be liable to restore them to their former condition. The War Damage Commission will be responsible for the deterioration of any property that has not been occupied by the Army.
– Will the War Damage Commission restore the buildings to their original condition?
– No. It will assess the value of the building, as declared by the owner and agreed upon, and pay cash to him.
– The value undamaged ?
– The value for the purposes of the War Damage to Property Regulations is the value fixed at the 1st January, 1942.
– Surely the honorable member realizes that a building cannot be replaced at that cost to-day.
– That does not concern me. I am stating the existing regulations and the liability of the War Damage Commission.
– That is what the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) advocated last night.
– It is not; it is the direct opposite.
– The Army is responsible for restoring the buildings it has altered or occupied, to the condition in which they were at the commencement of occupation. Surely I have clarified the matter sufficiently! It is important that these people shall know when and by whom they are to be paid compensation. The War Damage Commission is making payment at the present time in respect of their personal belongings and chattels in the expectation that they will prepare to return to and resume domestic life in Darwin. Payment in respect of properties will be delayed unless this bill becomes law and the Minister decides whether his department will assume responsibility or the owners will be dealt with separately. I cannot agree to any delay, because it is very important that these people should have their minds set at rest.
I see some virtue in the bill by reason of the fact that it gives to Australia a chance to build a new town at Darwin. I recall that when I was in Coventry, not long after that city had been bombed, the mayor of the city said to me : “ It is not an unmixed blessing. We should long ago have destroyed and replaced many of these buildings.” Darwin was in much the same category as Coventry. Portion of the town - filthy Chinatownwas dilapidated, and not a good advertisement of Australia. My first visit to Darwin was by air, when I returned to Australia from London, via Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies. I was not at all uplifted by my first sight of Australia’s front door, which Darwin was then becoming. If, by virtue of replanning, and controlling the class of buildings that may be erected, the Government can give to the residents of Darwin some of the amenities and comforts that they require, much will be achieved. Proper amenities and comforts are more essential to the residents of a tropical area than they are to those who live in the more temperate zones. Australia seems always to have acted in reverse of that principle. The attitude has been : “ It was good enough for my father. Something else should be done first. Let us not do it to-day.” I say: “Let us do this now”. Let us plan Darwin, and make it a clean, sanitary town, with an attractive appearance, healthy for those who have to live there and act as Australia’s welcoming agents to visitors from all over the world. It should be at least as attractive as Rangoon, Bangkok and Batavia, which give some delight to those who enter them, because they, have broad, well-paved streets, and good lighting, are well policed, and appear to be prosperous. Darwin looked “ down at heel “ as though everybody there was living on » shoestring. The new town, erected under government auspices, should be one of which Australia can be proud. It might establish a new standard of living in all the northern ports.
I congratulate the Minister on his appointment to a very important office, and wish him success in carrying out this first assignment. I hope that, at some time in the future, I shall have an opportunity to visit Darwin in his company and see the fruits of his labours.
.- I. am glad to note the interest that is being displayed by the Government in the Northern Territory, and am pleased that the maiden effort of the new Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) should be connected with Australia’s outback, with which he is so familiar. I congratulate him on his appointment, and wish him luck in his administration. But I regret that this is only a piecemeal proposal. It is worth while noting that there are two issues in the bill. The first, with which everybody agrees, is the replanning of Darwin. The second is the conversion from freehold to leasehold tenure of land owned by persons who had lived there for 40 or 50 years. Surely persons who have spent that length of time in the Territory are entitled to some voice as to the conditions under which they are to live in the future! If the Minister were proposing to deal not only with Darwin but also with the Northern Territory as a whole, one might agree to leasehold tenure being a part of the general plan. But when the proposal does not embrace action in regard to the development of Darwin’s back country, the people should have a voice as to whether, after their evacuation, they shall return to freehold or leasehold tenure. That is particularly true because the residents of the Northern Territory are at present disfranchised, their representative being a prisoner of war. In default of Mr. Blain’s presence in this Parliament to put their point of view, this matter of leasehold tenure might well be left in abeyance. If that were done, I should not oppose the bill. I have seen many false starts made in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory. As Treasurer, I was responsible for finding the money for continuing the construction of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. We also introduced the legislation under which every ten years the big leases are reviewed with the idea of their being subdivided for the use of smaller holders. In the late twenties, we appointed a North Australia Commission which was to be an executive body to carry out proposals for the development of the area, but unfortunately it had just presented its proposals to Par liament, when the depression came, and nothing could he done. The population of the Northern Territory has grown very slowly. Indeed, at times, it has declined, as the following figures show: -
Thus, during a period of 35 years, the population of the Territory increased by only 1,350, despite the fact that considerable sums of money had been expended on developmental undertakings. I maintain that if the value of property in Darwin has increased, those men who held out there through all the years should be entitled to benefit. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) said that property-owners were entitled, to know under what conditions they would return to Darwin. I suggest that residents, who were disturbed by the war, are entitled to return under at least as good conditions as they enjoyed when they left. Indeed, the conditions laid down now may be a factor in deciding whether they return or not. Fifty years ago, when I first came to Sydney, land in the suburb of Neutral Bay was held under 99 years lease from the Ashley-Cooper family. Aa a result, the suburb stagnated for many years, while the contiguous suburb of Mosman, which was farther away from the city, developed by leaps and bounds because it was freehold. It was declared a municipality at least 24 years before Neutral Bay was, and Neutral Bay has never caught up with it, although freehold tenure was granted there many years ago.
I agree that the leasehold system is satisfactory for pastoral purposes, but a man likes to own the freehold of the land upon which he builds his home, so that he may leave it to his family. This is a strong instinct in the hearts of all British people. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will give heed to the suggestion of the honorable member for Barker that before action is taken to acquire land the residents of Darwin should be given a hearing. Surely that is not too much to ask on behalf of people who are virtually disfranchised, and who have suffered the ravages of war as have the people of no other part of Australia. Residents of other parts of Australia have benefited from the provision of amenities, in the form of roads, &c., constructed as a part of the nation’s war effort, but it has never been suggested that they should not be entitled to whatever increment accrues to their property as a result. The people of Darwin, alone of all people in Australia, are to have applied to them the doctrine that they shall not benefit from war expenditure. During the war, the Stuart Highway and the Barkly Highway have been constructed, giving access to Darwin. However, in his last report, the Administrator of the Norther u Territory sharply reminds us that the maintenance of these two great highways is, apparently, to be a responsibility of the Northern Territory. The taxes paid by residents of Darwin, and of the Northern Territory generally, will be devoted to this purpose. Surely, therefore, they should be entitled- to any benefit accruing from increased property values. The area of the Northern Territory is 523,000 square miles, but only in Darwin itself is there any freehold. Only 40 per cent, of the Territory, or 226,000 square miles, has been taken up. Of the balance, 67,000 square miles is an aborigines’ reserve, 77,000 square miles is unoccupied, and 150,000 square miles is desert land. In the circumstances, this rush to grab the 90 square miles of freehold land in the- town of Darwin savours somewhat of using a steam hammer to crack a walnut, especially in view of the report of Mr. Mcinnes that, for town-planning purposes, it would be necessary to acquire only five separate blocks. The Government should, bring down, a proposal for the development of the whole of the Northern Territory, a proposal in which the development of Darwin would find its proper place. When we started expending money in the 1920?s on the extension of the railway from Katherine to Birdum, and Oodnadatta to- Alice Springs, we believed that the Northern Territory was too big to be- administered from one place. We divided it into two- parts, one of which was administered from Darwin and the other from Alice Springs. I hope that, after the war, railways will be constructed to connect the pastoral lands of the Northern Territory with Queensland in the east and with Wyndham in the west. In this way, we may hope to create a seventh State in the north. This would have the advantage, among others, of allowing us to increase the number of members of this Parliament, and, perhaps, to reduce the size of the enormous area represented by the Minister for theInterior, whose electorate, I believe, is the largest in the world. With proper development, it should be possible to run sheep in parts- of the Northern Territory, instead of cattle only. Already, the isolation of the Territory is being broken down by the development of air services and the building of roads. If the Government proceeds with an effective scheme of development, and expends £10j000,000 or even £20,000,000, which will have the effect of increasing land values, I should not object to a proposal that the increment should go to the Crown, but I do not agree that the Government should seize what increment has already accrued, seeing that it ha.” done nothing to develop the area. The people who have lived in Darwin foi years are entitled to any benefits which might come to them as the result of their life’s work, there. It is wrong that the freehold should be taken from them at, this time, and in this way. I am entirely in favour of town planning for Darwin, which must eventually become a ‘ great i airport as well as a naval base. Th, town must be developed, so that people who arrive there on their way to visit other parts of Australia will gain a good impression. In the meantime, the residents of Darwin should be consulted in order to learn their wishes regarding land tenure. It may be that they would prefer leasehold tenure, and, if so, I am quite easy about the matter. All sort? of proposals for post-war reconstruction will be put forward for all sorts of places. I believe that charity should begin ar home, and I hope that some of the postwar expenditure will take place in developing the Australian Capital Territory, as well as in the development of Darwin and the Northern Territory, so that both Territories may be shining examples to the rest of Australia.
– I support the- amendment of thi1 honorable member for Barker (Mr.
Archie Cameron), mainly because the people who are most concerned, namely the residents of Darwin, have not been consulted regarding the Government’s proposal, although opinions have been obtained from high Army officers, members of the War Damage Commission, the Surveyor-General and all sorts of other people. I believe that had the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) been in office when this proposal was first mooted, a different scheme would have been drawn up, because he understands the people of the outback, having been associated with them for so many years. Regarding assets, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) explained that under the regulations the War Damage Commission may pay only the prescribed amount of compensation, and I agree with that statement. But if that payment is the total amount that these people will receive, a grave injustice will be done to them. This is h special case which calls for additional compensation. A considerable portion of the money collected by the War Damage Commission will never be required to compensate the owners of property damaged or destroyed by enemy action; and the Government should accord generous treatment to those who desire to return to the Northern Territory, and erect residences similar to those which were destroyed. During the war, building costs have increased by from 50 to 75 per cent., and the amounts for which these people insured their homes will not defray the cost of rebuilding or replacing them. Many country people of a careful disposition have, during the last five years, increased their insurances on houses and buildings. They know that the cost of replacing those structures would substantially exceed the amount for which they were previously insured.
The properties to be acquired in Darwin will be valued ; and many owners of land and buildings throughout Australia have complained, with good cause, regarding valuations made by the Central Hirings Committee. Probably every honorable member can recall instances in his own electorate where he considered that an owner had been most unjustly treated. In one case, several acres of a property -the best portion - were acquired, and a dehydrating factory was erected on the land. Onions have been treated there - an almost noxious trade - and the value of the remainder of the property has been affected. Although the factory has been in operation for two or three years, the owner of the land has not received any compensation for the area which was compulsorily acquired. He was entirely dissatisfied with the price that the Central Hirings Committee offered to pay for it. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has experienced in his own electorate dissatisfaction caused by the valuations placed on acquired property. All honorable members consider that those valuations were unfair. In Victoria at. present protests are being voiced because land belonging to servicemen has been compulsorily acquired by a Housing Commission. If this bill be passed in its present form, the Government will meet endless trouble. Before proceeding with this legislation, the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) should personally view the whole situation in Darwin. Possibly, the Minister for the Interior had no part in preparing this bill, and in his own interests, and because of the magnitude of the task which he has undertaken, he should agree to postpone the passing of this legislation, until he obtains first-hand information about the situation. I am satisfied that the information which he would glean would be worthwhile, and every honorable member would be prepared to listen to his opinion of the .position, and probably agree with it. For that reason, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker should be accepted.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
. “ - I am justified in saying that this bill, which provides for the acquisition of certain lands at Darwin, has had a fairly good reception. The criticisms that have been levelled at it relate more to what has happened under war-time regulations than to what is likely to happen under the bill. It has been suggested that, if the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) could be present, he would oppose the bill. In my opinion, the honorable gentleman would give his support to the bill. I do not say that lightly, when I first came into this Parliament I associated a great deal with the honorable member owing to the fact that he also represents an outback electorate. I should not make that statement if I did not believe, from conversations that I had with the honorable member, that he was just as anxious as anybody else to see that part of the Commonwealth developed. The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). To do so would delay considerably the implementation of the proposals contained in the bill, which are necessary for the development of Darwin. I am particularly anxious to avoid delay, because I am eager to stimulate the exploitation of our northern areas. This bill represents the first step in that direction. Because of my long association with the northern areas, I claim to have some knowledge of what is necessary to foster their development. I also claim to understand and sympathize with the people who, for many years, have carried on under the most difficult conditions, notwithstanding the neglect of previous governments to reduce the disabilities which they have suffered. In many instances, only sheer determination has enabled these people to keep going. I see in this bill an opportunity to make available to them some of the amenities that are enjoyed by the residents of more closely settled areas. ‘ Consequently, I am happy to be closely associated with the measure in my capacity as Minister for the Interior. Most of the criticism levelled at it has been, to express it mildly, not well founded. The honorable member for Barker, for instance, was most suspicious of the Government’s intentions, but, in spite of his criticism of its proposals, he offered not one practical alternative to them. Surely the honorable member, like most Australians, is anxious to see the Northern Territory and adjacent areas developed and populated. This development is of urgent national importance. The people who have been courageous enough to tackle the problems associated with the development of the area should not be allowed to continue any longer without the assistance and encouragement that have been withheld from them in the past. The bill seeks authority to acquire certain lands for the purposes, as stated in clause 3, of replanning and developing the town of Darwin and its surroundings, and of instituting a system of leasehold tenure for the Crown in respect of such land. This will ensure that proper supervision will be given to the replanning and development of the area so tha; a town worthy of the beautiful and strategically valuable port of Darwin will be established.
This move will have the most beneficial results to the whole of Australia. Its influence will be felt not only in the Darwin area but also across the borders of the Territory in the rich Kimberley district of Western Australia and in the rich Barkly Tablelands of Queensland. I know a great deal about the country on the Western Australian side of the Territory, and I have also travelled through the Barkly Tablelands. I am sure that these areas have great potentialities awaiting development. The honorable member for Barker is disturbed over the provision made for owners of land to appeal against the terms of acquisition. I remand him that, under the Lands Acquisition Act, appeals may go to a court, and that there is nothing to prevent the Minister from referring them to an independent tribunal.
– There i.= nothing’ to compel him to do so.
– I repeat that there is nothing to prevent the Minister from referring appeals to a special, independent tribunal. In cases where the circumstances can justify it, that procedure will receive my earnest consideration.
– The honorable gentleman may not always be in his present office.
– I shall be Minister for the Interior when this bill comes into operation, and I may be still in office when the honorable member for Bendigo ceases to be a member of this Parliament. However, that is by the way. Irrespective of whether the honorable member and 1 remain in this House, the development of our northern areas must not be retarded. For this reason, I am most enthusiastic about this bill and I hope that it will have a speedy passage, so that it oan be put into effect at an early date. I realize that difficulties will have to be overcome. We cannot carry out our plans, either in the Northern Territory or elsewhere, with the 100 per cent, support of the people. However, most obstacles can be overcome, no matter how great they may be.
On the subject of prices, I point out that these can be fixed by collaboration between the Department of the Interior, the War Damage Commission, and the Central Hirings Committee, always keeping in mind the fact that owners may appeal against decisions to the Supreme Court of the Territory and that I have already undertaken to consider appointing an independent tribunal where circumstances justify such action. I remind the honorable member for Barker and others who have criticized the bill that they are not alone in their sympathy for the pioneers of the outback country. I lived amongst those people for many years, and therefore I am conversant with their problem® and the disabilities from which they suffer. The development of this northern area will be a great advertisement for Australia. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles ) has told us that, when he entered Australia through Darwin, all he saw was a little old tin “ Chinatown “. That was a bad advertisement for this country. Under the bill, with properly supervised town-planning we can make a garden city of this town in its setting of a beautiful harbour and attractive surroundings, so that it will be a great advertisement for Australia. Criticism has been levelled at clause 4, which provides that the values of the land acquired will be assessed according to the values prevailing at the date of acquisition. The calculated cost of acquisition is, as was stated in the second-reading speech, merely an estimate made by the Central Hirings Committee which may be varied according to circumstances. Action will be taken as soon as possible after the enactment of this bill to acquire the land under the Lands Acquisition Act. It has been stated that the cost of acquisition may involve the Commonwealth Government in expenditure amounting to £7,000,000. That statement did Dot originate from any Government source, as far as I have been able to ascertain. Naturally, a great deal of expenditure will be involved in the development of Darwin, but it is not possible at this juncture to forecast the amount of that expenditure.
I have been asked when I will visit Darwin in company with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). I ami unable to speak for my colleague, but I shall take the first opportunity available to visit the area accompanied by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, in order to discuss problems and disabilities with the people on the spot. During the short time in which I have been Minister for the Interior I have received a number of inquiries from persons who are anxious to return to the Territory. Neither the Government nor the Opposition should suggest any delay in implementing this measure. I urge that the bill be passed, and I give an assurance that even at this late period a genuine effort will be made further to develop the Northern Territory and increase its population, as a result of the expenditure proposed to be undertaken in Darwin and adjacent areas.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Archie Cameron’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority 18 . .
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the acquisition by the Commonwealth, for certain purposes, of land in the Northern Territory of Australia comprised in the town of Darwin and its environs, and for other purposes.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [8.24J. - Before the committee is asked to vote money, it is usual for a Minister to state what amount is proposed to be expended, and for what purpose it is required, but we have not been told how much of the total expenditure is to be incurred at Darwin. I compliment the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) upon his maiden speech as a Minister, but, like most of his colleagues, he is singularly uncommunicative on matters on which members of the Opposition desire to be informed. Only this afternoon I submitted seven points, and I asked that information on them be supplied in the Minister’s reply to the debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill, but no attempt has been made to answer my questions. The nearest approach to dealing with any of them was the Minister’s statement that at some time convenient to him he proposes to visit the Territory. The committee is at least entitled to some enlightenment as to the amount which the Government expects to expend in the reconstruction of Darwin, and for what purposes the money to be provided by this bill is to be used. We have not been informed what the total expenditure will be. I have never known the members of this chamber to be so inadequately informed regarding financial matters as during the last few weeks.
).- T deeply regret that my former colleague on the War Expenditure Committee has so early been corrupted by bad practice. As chairman of that committee he would have looked askance at any government proposal which afforded so little information as has been furnished in connexion with this proposed large expenditure of public money. Will the Minister give an indication of the amount which it is estimated will be required under this bill ?
– Neither the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) nor the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) appears to have studied clause 5 of the bill. The Minister who introduced the measure estimated that the cost to the Government would be about £500,000, and in referring to the matter to-night I stated that that sum could be regarded as only an estimate. Clause 5 sets out the purposes for which the money is to he voted. It is seldom possible to give a precise estimate of the cost of undertakings of this kind, particularly a proposal such as the acquisition of lands in and around Darwin. Therefore, I claim that the case in support of the bill has been properly presented to honorable members.
– I claim that the proposal has not been presented to us as it should have been. In the course of his second-reading speech, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) said -
It is not possible at this stage to give a firm estimate of the cost of the proposed acquisition, but the following tentative figures, prepared by the Central Hirings Committee,, will give some indication of the cost involved: - Un improved value of ‘and, £.150.000; value of improvements, £500.000: total, £650,000. Against this sum the Com mon wealth is already committed to an expenditure of about £200,000 for damage by enemy action, fire, demolitions, occupation, &c. Thus it would appear that the net cost to the Commonwealth of the acquisition may not exceed £500,000.
This is only the first step on a very long journey. The Government desires to acquire lands for a certain purpose, but honorable members have not been told what that purpose is. Nor do we know what the ultimate cost will be. We have been treated with scant consideration. Take the point just made by the Minister, which is only a repetition of the statement of his colleague when introducing the measure - that the amount mentioned is only an estimate of the Central Hirings Committee. That body is not responsible to this Parliament. We do not know -who composes the committee, or what it does. All that honorable members know is that, in consequence of its operations, there is one great “ shindy “ from one end of the Commonwealth to the other in regard to the purchase and hiring of land and. buildings. Every honorable member has received complaints in regard to its operations. Therefore, the statement that the Central Hirings Committee has prepared the figures makes us more suspicious. The Minister, in replying to the second-reading debate, said that there was no ministerial authority for the statement that the expenditure ar. Darwin would total £7,000,000. I am glad to hear that. But he did not say whether the expenditure might be £5,000,000 or £10,000,000, nor did he give the slightest hint as to the probable amount. I have a strong suspicion that the present Ministry is entangled in a great chain of committees in connexion with matters affecting the Northern Territory, and has not the foggiest notion as to what is their cost, either singly or combined. Therefore, the committee ought to have more information on this matter than so far has been given to it. I have already said that so much money is involved that the proper course would be for the Government to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee, in order that it might be properly investigated. Supposedly under the pressure of necessity, the Government has entered into too many commitments of this description. There is no urgency for the acquisition of this land. That will not accelerate by one second the return of any resident to the Darwin area. All that is required to achieve that object 13 to remove the military control which prevents residents from returning at the present time.
.- Whilst the new Minister is to be congratulated on his maiden speech in his present capacity, it is rather unfortunate that the first measure of which he has had charge should contain provisions that are quite at variance with those that we are accustomed to consider. Only yesterday, we discussed a measure providing for drought relief, which contained an upper limit to the amount which the Government can allocate to that purpose. This bill, as its title states, is to authorize the acquisition by the Commonwealth, for certain purposes, of land, &c, in the Darwin area. No indication has been given of how far the Government can or will go, and no control by the Parliament of the expenditure to be incurred will be possible.
– That is rubbish. Any amount proposed to be expended will have to be appropriated.
– An indication of the amount should be given in this bill. The Minister who has just interjected said, in his second-reading speech, that the cost would be about £650,000, oi which £200,000 would be met by the War Damage Commission. He went on to say -
Thus it would appear that the net cost to the Commonwealth of the acquisition may not exceed £500,000.
If the Minister is confident of that, let him fix £600,000, or any other sum he likes to name, as an upper limit. It is the prerogative of the Parliament to vote sums for specified purposes. In fact, it is one of the duties of the Parliament to control the public purse. Any money voted for the acquisition of land in the Northern Territory, for drought relief, or for any other purpose, ought to be named in the legislation governing the matter. I cannot- recall an instance of a maximum sum not being specified. Foi all we know, the cost in this instance could be £10.000,000, without the Parliament being able to exercise any control at the present juncture. The committee is not being treated with the courtesy and respect that are due to it, when it is asked to discuss a bill that is presented in this form.
.- It is somewhat surprising - although, perhaps, it should not be - to note the attitude adopted from time to time by the Opposition to measures that are placed before this chamber.
– Stone-walling tactics.
– They might be so described. At all events, they are delaying tactics. The point has been taken in respect of this appropriation, that the Minister has not given sufficient details. It has become quite common for Ministers to be accused of not giving sufficient information. That technique seems to have been developed in the ranks of the Opposition since the present Government has been in charge of the treasury bench. In a case of this kind, the upper limit - as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has described it - of the amount to be appropriated under this legislation for the purchase of land, could hardly be stated. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said that the Minister has not given particulars of the amounts that are to be expended. He then proceeded to read, in almost minute detail, estimates of the cost of certain aspects of the proposed acquisition, relating to the compensation that would be payable upon the Government acquiring land and so on. It is customary for the Parliament to appropriate money for certain purposes. In respect of pensions and the like, the amount estimated to be necessary within a certain period, is appropriated. An over-estimate is quite easy, but does not matter, because any balance remains in the trust fund and is ultimately used for the purpose for which it was voted. This case is entirely different. The amount involved cannot be stated with any degree of accuracy. There is some motive in the minds of members of the Opposition who have raised this point, other than their desire to obtain information.
– The same point was raised last night on another bill, and for the same reason.
– That does not explain the attitude of the honorable member for Barker and other Opposition members who have spoken on this point. The honorable member for Barker is opposed to what the Government contemplates doing. He is quite frank about i: - as he usually is - and I have no quarrel with him on that score.
– Usually, he is wrong.
– Usually, he may not be right. The attitude of honorable members opposite is rather childish, if 1 may so describe it. It has neither point nor merit. Two Ministers have gone to great pains to state the costs that will be involved in acquiring land and fulfilling the other purposes for which the bill is designed. I fail to see how any further information can be given at the present stage. It may be that the money allocated will not meet requirements; that sometimes occurs in. connexion with drought relief and other measures. A bill passed by this chamber only this week was introduced to meet a deficiency of that sort. The estimates of the Government may not be equal to the ultimate cost. Both Ministers have been quite frank in stating that only estimates have been given.. What more can the committee expect? The estimates may be an overstatement or an understatement, but at least the details have been frankly given.
.- Like the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), I am at a loss to understand the motive for the stonewalling tactics of Opposition members. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that he is suspicious of the measure. I am becoming somewhat suspicious of the tactics of the Opposition. Perhaps if they continue on their present course the “nigger in the woodpile “ may be revealed to us, and we may learn something about the activities of the alleged committee of irate citizens from the Northern Territory. These gentlemen have not been sighted in the precincts, but doubtless messages have been passing between them and honorable members who suddenly have become active on their behalf. What ground is there for asking for further information? The two Ministers who have been associated with this matter have been as explicit as they could be in the circumstances, by stating that it is estimated that the cost of acquisition may not exceed £500,000. Obviously, they cannot give an exact figure. Clause 3 provides that the lands in question may be acquired by agreement or compulsory process. How would it be possible to name specifically the amount that may be fixed by an agreement that has not yet been made? No doubt the Government will approach the property owners, many of whom will agree to the compensation to be paid. But protracted negotiations may be involved, and until they have been completed the Government will not know the total amount of compensation. Clause 4 provides -
The value of any land acquired in pursuance of this Act by compulsory process shall, notwithstanding the provisions of section twenty-nine of the Act, be assessed according to the value of the land on the date of acquisition, without reference to any increase in value arising from the proposal to carry out any purpose specified in section three of this Act.
That is the usual provision -in connexion with resumptions of land. It is obvious that a property-owner should not derive benefit from public works that have enhanced the value of his land. The Government itself should reap the benefit arising from its own expenditure. How, I ask, can the Minister say just how much will have to be paid out in compensation? In the first instance, values are fixed by a local valuator, but if the owner is not satisfied he may take the matter to court. The case might even go as far as the High Court, so that the issue would not be settled for a year, or perhaps two. Honorable members opposite are obdurate in their determination to prevent the passage of the bill. Their reason is not apparent now, but it may become apparent later. They need have no fear that the money will not be expended wisely. The administration of the scheme will be in the hands of the Minister for the Interior, who was formerly Chairman of the War Expenditure ‘Committee. We know how, in that capacity, he was always anxious to ensure the wise expenditure of public moneys. When it became known that he had embarked upon a particular inquiry, some, of those engaged in war industries hastened to disgorge their ill-gotten gains.
.- Mr. Chairman-
– .Who is doing the stonewalling now ?
– It is strange to hear the charge that honorable members on this side of the House’ are stonewalling a bill. This afternoon, it seemed as if the bill would pass its third reading quite soon, but for some unexplained reason honorable members opposite then began to display an extraordinary interest in the measure, with the result that the debate was dragged on beyond the dinner suspension. The honorable member .for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and others complained that the Minister did not state how much money it was proposed to appropriate. On this point, the Minister who introduced the bill said -
It is not possible at this stage to give a firm estimate of the cost of the proposed acquisition, but the following tentative figures-
– That statement has already been read three times.
– Apparently, it will be necessary to read it a dozen times before honorable members opposite will be able to understand it.
-I ask the honorable member not to read the statement again.
– Then, perhaps you will allow me to read the figures only. The Minister said that the unimproved value of the land to be acquired was £150,000, and the value of the improvements £500,000, making a total of £650,000. The Minister then said-
Against this sum the Con.monwealth in already committed to an expenditure in the vicinity of £200,000 for damage by enemy action, fire, demolitions, occupation, &c. Thus it would appear that the net cost to the Commonwealth of the acquisition may not exceed £500,000.
Honorable members opposite have repeatedly told us that they are interested in the proper planning of Darwin. So, too, are honorable members on this side of the House. Frequent references have been made to the Northern Territory Development League. About six months ago, the chairman of that league waited on me in Adelaide, and was emphatic in stating that the members of his league were in favour of the planned development of Darwin after the war. Therefore, it is wrong to say that the league is opposed to the Government’s proposals. We all are agreed that a comprehensive scheme of development is necessary, so that Darwin may be made a credit to Australia, but at this stage it is impossible to tie the Government down to a definite appropriation. I have heard it said that it is proposed to expend £7,000,000, but no mention of any specific amount was made by the Minister who introduced the bill. The Minister for the Interior has replied to the seven points raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and honorable members on this side fully understood him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.-I move -
That the clause be postponed.
I do so as an instruction to the Government to submit to the Public Works Committee its proposal to acquire land in Darwin, and so that the committee may examine the Government’s proposals for the reconstruction of Darwin. The proposals set forth in the bill are in the nature of a blank cheque. Honorable members on this side of the House have some responsibility for ensuring that public money shall be wisely expended. In 1913, 1927, and again in 1936 the Public Works Act was amended by Parliament. The purpose of the act is to ensure that Parliament shall have full control over expenditure on public works, and it was provided that works proposals should be fully investigated and reported upon by the committee, which was to report, not to the Minister,but to Parliament. The committee was to submit recommendations, together with its reasons, so that members of Parliament might have their minds informed, and thus be able to arrive at an intelligent decision.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
In this Act - “ the Act “ means the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936, as applied by the Laud? Acquisition Ordinance 1911-1926 of the Territory, subject to any modi fications of that Act in its application to the Territory made by that Ordi nance or by any other Ordinanceof the Territory, whether made before or after the commencement of this Act;
– I again draw the attention of the committee to the remarkable language of this clause. Parliament is asked to give to the Executive authority to make ordinances after the commencement of the act, bearing upon the acquisition of land. I do not suppose that anything I can say or do will be successful in improving the position, but I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (2.) The date at which land is to be valued means the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two.”.
The landholders have some rights,but those rights are not protected by the bill in its present form.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
The value of any land acquired in pursu ance of this Act by compulsory process shall notwithstanding the provisions of section twenty-nine of the Act, be assessed according to the value of the land on the date of acquisition, without reference to any increase in value arising from the proposal to carry out any purpose specified in section three of this Act.
– I move-
That the following proviso be added: - “Provided that, in the event of the Commonwealth and the freeholder being unable to agree upon compensation, thereshall be an appeal to a committee competent to make a valuation of Darwin lands.”.
I have no confidence that the Government will accept the amendment, but ] feel that it is my duty to move it.
– I remind the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that I have given a certain undertaking to this chamber. If my pledge is not acceptable to him, it is acceptable to me, and always has been.
.- The value of the land which will be acquired under this legislation will be assessed according to its value on the date of acquisition. A great deal will depend on the words, “ date of acquisition “. What will be the value of the land if it is resumed next month? Darwin has been without civilian life for several years, and the present-day value of land there may he substantially less than it was in 1941. In fairness to the property owners, the value of the land acquired should be’ assessed according to its value at a prescribed date, in the same way as the Capital Issues Advisory Board, for its purposes adopts values ruling in February, 1942. I shall not move an amendment along those lines, but urge the Minister to consider this matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; . report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
Debate resumed from the 18th July (vide page 4189), on motion by Mr. Drakeford -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The speech of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) in moving the second reading was not very convincing, because at the outset the Minister put himself into a posture of defence, and throughout his speech, seemed to be much more concerned to defend his legislation against postulated attacks than to make some positive case in favour of it. He might well have done that, because the bill, on examination has at least four characteristics which condemn it. First, it is a gross violation of the pledges of the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, at the last election. Secondly, it is contrary to the whole spirit of the decision of the people at the recent referendum. Thirdly, it is not justified by anything in the previous history of civil flying in Australia. And fourthly, it is likely to retard development and the giving of an effective service to the public of Australia. Having said those four things about the bill, I propose noW, with the forbearance of the House, to justify each of them in turn.
I stated that this bill is a gross violation of the election pledges given by the late Prime Minister. In August, 1943, he made a broadcast in Perth in the course of the election campaign - an election campaign which led up to an overwhelming vote in favour of the Curtin Government. In the course of that- broadcast, he said -
They talk about socialization. 1 have this to say: That the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to socialize any industry. 1 say that my Government has not socialized any industry. I say further, that my Government will not during the war socialize any industry. The reason is that all the physical things requisite for war can, under the National Security Act, be directed for the purpose of war.
It would .be offensive to the memory of the late Prime Minister to suppose that he would deliberately choose ambiguous language, or that he had some mental reservation at the back of his mind about some subtle distinction between socialization and nationalization. He was a responsible and trusted leader asking for a popular mandate, not from dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the Labour party, who believed in nationalization, but from non-Labour voters who did not believe in nationalization, and many of whom, as the vote showed, did believe that the Curtin Government could give to them concerted action for the winning of the war. The promise which was made on that occasion, went home. It was accepted. It must have been- responsible for securing to Government candidates many thousands of votes, which were not the votes of socialists. The present bill is a complete violation of that promise. It is a bill to nationalize the inter-State civil aviation industry. No more, no less ! If it is said by somebody that that is only a Dart of an industry and not the whole, and that, consequently, the precise words of the late Prime Minister’s promise are not violated, it becomes necessary to point out that the Minister, in his own speech on the second reading, said very candidly, and I find him always candid on these matters -
Had the referendum been successful, this legislation would, in all probability, have covered intra-state as well as interstate airlines. “ So it appears that if there is a limitation in this bill upon the industry which is nationalized, that limitation is brought about not by some desire to pay even lip service to the promise of the late Prime Minister - a solemn personal, and political pledge - but simply as the result of the subsequent unsuccessful attempt to alter the Constitution by referendum.
I stated that this bill is contrary to the whole spirit of the people’s verdict at the referendum. I have just read a significant observation made by the Minister himself in reference to it. At the referendum the Government asked the people of Australia to vote for a series of proposals to alter the Constitution, one of which sought to obtain power over air transport. True, it was one of a number, but the Government must accept responsibility for the fact that it decided for its own purposes, and thinking to score a point thereby, to put to the people fourteen points instead of one point, and one of them was to give to the Commonwealth full power over air transport. I remind honorable members that in the course of the debates in this House on the bill to alter the Constitution, not one word was said by the Minister or the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to the effect that the air transport power was being sought so that air transport might be nationalized. Not one hint of it was given in the debates in this chamber, and so far as I know from following the campaign and closely participating in it, not one word was said by any responsible Minister during the campaign to the effect that the airlines were to be nationalized. All that was kept behind the scenes. It is notorious that the rejection of the referendum was based substantially on a widespread public desire to get back to a more free economy after the war than that under which we have lived during the war. The Government, of course, is really in a dilemma on this matter. Either it did tell the voters of Australia at the referendum that it wanted to nationalize the airways or it did not. I believe that it did not. Somebody may have said (that it did. Either it did or it did not. If, contrary to my belief, it did tell the electors of that intention, then the referendum vote represents a rejection of the mandate that was being sought. If, on the other hand, I am right in my belief that the Government said not one word so recently as last year about its desire to use this new power to nationalize an important and far-reaching industry, its conduct of the whole matter represents a real fraud upon the electors of Australia.
My third point is that this bill is not justified by anything in the previous history of civil flying in Australia. That proposition, which is a broad and comprehensive one, requires some analysis of the history of civil flying in Australia, because most people will prefer to judge proposals of this kind, not in the light of some abstract principle, but as a concrete issue to be determined according to the simple test of what will be best for the people of Australia. Therefore, I ask: Is there, in the history of flying in Australia, a real case to be made out for taking civil aviation out of the hands of private citizens and putting it into the hands of a government department? I undertake to demonstrate that there is no such case. But before I do so, I point out once more to the House that no attempt has been made by the Minister to set up affirmatively that there is such a case. Special reference has been made in the Minister’s speech to two companies which have been named separately, though one subsequently absorbed or became associated with the other. They are Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Airlines of Australia Limited. I asked the appropriate people whether I could have some records to show what had been done by these companies in association in the conduct of civil flying. As a result, I obtained a very interesting table, the gist of which may be gathered at once by comparing the figures for the opening period from July to December, 1936 - because it was in July, 1936, that this, the largest of Australian flying companies, began its operations - with the total figures for 1944. In the six month? of 1936, the number of miles flown by the services of this company was 801,000. In 1944 the total was 9,873,000. In the first period, 7,265 passengers were carried, and in 1944, 189,000 passengers. In the first period, 97,000 lb. of freight was carried, and in the last period 2,670,000 lb. In the first period, no mail was carried, but, in 1944, the total weight of mail carried was 7,293,000 lb. Those figures at least demonstrate that,* in the few years from the middle of 1936 until the end of 1944, the progress made in civil aviation by that one enterprise alone was nothing short of phenomenal. Any government which had established civil airlines and could produce a record like that over the same period would be publishing it from every hoarding as a demonstration of the enormous skill with which it had conducted its affairs. The complete table is as follows: -
The Minister’s speech on this aspect of the case was full of statements which were completely inaccurate. I can deal with only two or three of them in the limited time at my disposal, but I have no doubt that other honorable members will deal with the others. The Minister submitted a very ingenious argument designed to show that there is a subsidy hidden in the air mail contracts. Honorable members may recall that somebody - I trust not the Minister himself - discovered the name of some writer Lissitzynin, and quoted him.
– He is well known in aviation circles.
– I wonder how long he has been known to the Minister?
– For some years.
– The Minister relied very heavily on him for the doctrines he put forward. The centre of the Minister’s argument was -
The truth is that air mail payments are fixed at a rate which bears no relation to the service rendered.
There is the whole essence of his case. If he is wrong on that, all of his argument, Lissitzynin thrown in, disappears. He is bound to establish to us that air mail charges are fixed at a rate which bears no relation to the service rendered. I shall deal with the facts of that matter. In 1940, when the air-mail rates were being fixed, there was correspondence between the company which I am discussing at the moment - Australian National Airways Limited - and the Department of Civil Aviation. It was conducted by the Director-general of Civil Aviation at that time, Mr. A. B. Corbett, and the representatives of the company. On the 9th March, 1940, Mr. Corbett wrote to the company -
In general terms your Company would be paid for services rendered in carrying mails on an agreed basis . . .
On the 30th March the company wrote back to Mr. Corbett -
My board feels that it cannot but reiterate that in its opinion the only logical and equitable basis upon which computations can be made is value for services rendered.
The company was putting the very principle upon which the Minister now seeks to rely in order to refute its claims. On the 2nd April, Mr. Corbett wrote to the company -
When the proposed basis for computation was submitted to your company for consideration it was also submitted to the post office.
In reply the post office expresses the similar view that the basis for computation should be on the cost of services rendered. The view of the post office is that the revenue earned by airmails cannot logically determine the payment for carriage of airmails.
It will be noted that they used the word “ cost but the context shows that they mean “ value “. On the 10th April, the company wrote to Mr. Corbett -
My board is pleased to note that the department now apparently accepts the basis of value for services rendered as being the correct basis for computation for the lb. mile rate.
There we had the three relevant parties - the Department of Civil Aviation, the Post Office, and the company - agreeing that the basis should be the one which the Minister now contends for, and it was upon the basis so fixed that the poundage rates were worked out. Not only were they worked out then with the concurrence of the Government, but also they have ever since remained under the control of the Government. All I need to add to that is that, with growing business, that rate has been twice voluntarily reduced by the company itself.
Airmails are now being carried at the rate of 4s. 3d. per lb. On the average there are 42 air-mail letters to 1 lb. The Government charges the ordinary stampage of 2£d., plus a surcharge of 3d. That 2£d. covers the whole of the normal costs of the Post Office. All the other costs of collection, carriage by air, and delivery at the other end are borne by the air-mail contractor. If I put the 2£d. on one side, honorable members will see that 42 letters to the lb. will mean 10s. 6d. revenue to the lb. What becomes of the 10s. 6d.? The Government says now, apparently, that the air-mail companies get too much. But, of the 10s. 6d., the Post Office retains ls. - largely, I should think, for luck - the air-mail contractor receives 4s. 3d., and the Department of Civil Aviation receives 5s. 3d. for administration purposes of its own. The rate3 charged by Australian airline operators are, in fact, the lowest rates charged by any air-mail contractors in the world. They are certainly lower than the rates charged in the United States of America. That is a very remarkable thing when we recall that, in the United States of America, which is, I suppose, as advanced in civil aviation as any country in the world, the cost of petrol and oil per mile for a Douglas DC3, to take an ordinary standard type of aircraft, is 6.86d. Australian, whereas the cost to Australian National Airways Limited in Australia is 21.9d. Notwithstanding that the outlay on that very important item in Australia is three times as great as in the United States, the air-mail rate in Australia is lower than the rate in America. On top of that, the Australian companies pay in taxation, petrol duty, sales tax, primage, &c, substantially more than £1,000,000 a year to the Treasury. So that honorable members may see how that works out, I point out that, in the last three completed years, the airlines received £1,723,000 and the Government received £3,103,000, the Government thus making a profit on the air-mail1 transaction of £1,380,000 over the period. The Minister felt the pressure of that because he knew these facts, and so he produced- in his speech, much to my astonishment, and. indeed’, to my disappointment, the quibbling statement that the Government has not received anything back from the airline companies because the Government revenue is received from the Post Office, not from the airlines. With great respect to the honorable gentleman, that is just twaddle.
What is the position? The ordinary stampage of 2 1/2 d. pays the handling costs of the Posit Office, whilst the 3d. surcharge not only pays for the cost of the air-mail transport and handling but also provides a handsome subvention tq the Department of Civil Aviation. In 1943, that department, expended on revenue purposes the sum of £940,000, and it received from the air-mail surcharge a total of £1,058,000. In 1944 it expended a little more than £1,250,000, and received £1,680,000 from the air-mail surcharge. In other words, at present the budget of the Department of Civil Aviation is paid for by the air-mail surcharge, with a profit over and above that of the better part of £500,000. Is there any other way in which it can be said that there is a subsidy to the airlines in Australia? If honorable members will look at the records which are available, they will see that, in the last two years, the direct subsidy to airlines of all sorts in Australia has fallen to £37,000 in each year. The ingenious officer who worked out this part of the case for the Minister argues that, if the Government reduces the air-mail surcharge from 3d. per lb. to lcl. per lb., with the mail loading remaining constant, the result will be a deficit of £2,000,000, which would clearly represent a subsidy to the companies. He says, rather in an adventurous spirit than displaying a sense of logic, that that is conclusive evidence of a subsidy to the civil aviation companies. He says, “Reduce your surcharge to one penny, and “we would be £2,000,000 out, whilst you would still be getting your .poundage rate from us “. That seems to be a marvellous, non sequitur. If payment for air mail is based on the value of services rendered, then whatever the financial result to the Government the airlines are entitled to receive that amount, and they are no more subsidized when they receive it than an ingenious officer is when he gets his salary for preparing this argument. There is no question of subsidy when somebody performs services at a charge which has relation to the value of the > services rendered. If on the other hand the payment for air mail is not based on the value of the services rendered, and, therefore, ought to be substantially less, how is the Government to explain to the people of Australia that for years it has been collecting from them a surcharge on air mail, which not only is what it now suggests by innuendo, an extortionate charge, but also yields ls. into the Post Office “kitty” in addition to the 5s. 3d. received by the Department of Civil Aviation from the Post Office? Either the Government has been, putting a secret tax on the community, or the amount paid to the civil aviation companies is not out of proportion to the value of the service rendered.
Another point made by the Minister was one that he presented when warming up to his work. I think that he felt, being, as we know him, one of the mildest of men, that he had better put ginger into Iris speech, and make an attack on the companies carrying on the job. Of course, the right way to attack a company in Australia is to say that it is a big one. That puts it “in bad” at once. So the Minister selected the largest company - Australian National Airways Limited. His words should be quoted and requoted. The Minister said this -
When it became apparent that public o. penditure has made the field of civil aviation profitable for the investment of private capital, the shipping interests- one of thimost powerful monopoly groups in tincountry - decided to kill two birds with the traditional one stone. They decided to es tend their profit-making holdings, and at th,same time prevent the new form of transport from endangering their vested interests l> competition.
If words mean anything - and even from a Minister in this Government they must occasionally mean something - what is the suggestion in that paragraph? Th, suggestion plainly is that the shipping company said, “Here is a good thing. “We must force our way into this.” The second suggestion is that they did it so that they could put a stranglehold on the development of aviation in Australia, and so that people would still have to proceed from State to State in ships. The figures I have cited give the lie direct to the theory that there has been a stranglehold on civil aviation in Australia.
The Minister then read a list of the shareholders in Australian National Airways Limited. That is not without precedent from this Government. 3 remember that it foisted upon me a list of shareholders in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited containing the name of some woman alleged to be my wife, but I had never heard of her. The Minister read out the list, of shareholders, which contains the names of shipping companies. That was very sinister. I shall quote his ipsissimo verba-
This company, so constituted, has set about monopolizing the air transport business.
And with a note of pensive melancholy coming into his voice, which I shall not try to reproduce, he went on to say -
And so wo discover that one by one the small pioneer enterprises are disappearing from the register.
It sounded like the voice of the man we hear at the “ movies “ at the end of a travelogue, when he says, “And so we say farewell to beautiful Venezuela “. The Minister further stated -
It is the inevitable process of absorption by a monopoly. This strongly entrenched combine lias behind it such resources that the struggling companies have little option but to accept merger or outright sale. Doubtless some, at least, of them were glad to do so, but the fact remains that they are swallowed by a monopoly. The official story of Australian National Airways, Wings of To-morrow, quite a prophetic title, honorable members will admit, reveals the names of eight such enterprises which became merged - perhaps, I should say submerged - in this monopoly.
Then he gives the names of eight “ small pioneer enterprises “. I know it is always disagreeable to take rhetoric of this kind and bring it down to sober facts, but it must be done. Inquiries show - and I submit this matter to the consideration of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) and even the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), who threatened at one time to be the spokesman for the Government on this bill - that first of all the formation of this so-called monopoly was brought about at the request of the Commonwealth Government in 1936, the then Postmaster-General having in his mind the putting of local mails into the air in Australia for the first time. He had said to a group of the small pioneering enterprises, “ What about you people getting together, so that you can offer to us an all- Australia service? The Government may offer you an all- Australia service and give you a contract “.
– Who was that Minister ?
– I think he wa, Senator A. J. McLachlan. So far from the matter having been instigated by the shipping companies’, it is well-known that at least one or two of the companies had almost to be dragooned into it, because they at least lacked enough imagination to see what was coming. So far from preventing the new form of transport from competing with the shipping interests, the facts indicate - and I take the small, striking example of the Tasmanian trade - that Australian National Airways Limited, which has as ite shareholders some of the shipping people, is now carrying to and from Tasmania by air, and therefore not in ships, a heavy proportion of the total number of passengers that were carried before the war. Consequently such companies as Huddart Parker Limited and Union Steamships Limited, which are the joint owners of Tasmanian Steamships Limited, and are shareholders in Australian National Airways Limited, have, by joining in the flying business, either contributed to a reduction of their shipping traffic, or have been responsible for a marked increase of the total value of the traffic. Again the Government must- make its choice between those two positions. On that matter I have had prepared a table which is illuminating, and, with the consent of honorable members, I shall incorporate it in Mansard. It states -
I again start at July, 1936. I have selected Tasmania, because there we have the most direct competition with shipping. There, if anywhere, we should find this stranglehold by the two shipping companies vitally interested in the Tasmanian trade manifesting itself. There, if anywhere, we should find them damping down their business, because, I understand, that was their sinister design in becoming shareholders in Australian National Airways Limited. Yet in the first twelve months the total number of Bass Strait passengers was 6,650, and in the last period of twelve months 63,906. If there has been any strangling in that regard, I hope all of us will have as mild a form of strangling applied to us when our time comes.
-ISpeak for yourself.
– I am speaking for myself and all sensible Australians. The point, in any event, is a fantastic one. If any shipping company in the world failed to get into the field of aviation when it could, it would deserve to be driven out of business. All people who are concerned with transport must have a fairly flexible mind in adopting modern methods of transport if they are ultimately to survive in a competitive world.
Let me now turn to the ether aspect of the matter, which was presented for the creation of sympathy towards the “ small pioneering enterprises “. I remind honorable members that they were named by the Minister. Here we have, on his authority, the names of the small pioneering enterprises mopped up by Australian National Airways Limited -
Tasmanian Aerial Services Proprietary Limited.
Holyman Airways Proprietary Limited.
Adelaide Airways Proprietary Limited.
Airlines of Australia Limited.
New England Airways Limited.
Rockhampton Aerial Services Limited.
Northern Queensland Airways Proprietary Limited.
Tasmanian Aerial Services Proprietary Limited had become Holyman Airways Proprietary Limited and was operating under that name, so there were not two of them, but only one of them. I am referring back to 1936.West Australian Airways Limited had been purchased by Adelaide Airways Limited. New England Airways Limited had become Air lines of Australia Limited, and the latter company had purchasedRockhampton Aerial Services Limited, and subsequently, after the formation of Australian National Airways Limited, but before becoming a member of it, had purchased Northern Queensland Airways Proprietary Limited. So the eightpioneering enterprises mopped up by this great monopoly turn out to be only three enterprises at the time Australian National Airways Limited was brought into existence. These enterprises between them were operating in various areas in Australia. One group was operating from Sydney northwards, one in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, and another on the South Australia- Western Australia route. If we were to have a proper link-up, particularly for air-mail services, the need sticks out a mile for the companies to get together and pool their resources, reduce overlapping, and be able to offer a first-class service to the people.
As one little final fact I should like to mention that a suggestion has been made at various times that we should beware of the insidious influence of foreign capital in this industry. So the Minister will he relieved to be told by me that Airlines of Australia Limited, one of the small enterprises to which he referred, had as its majority shareholders in 1936 an American corporation, which held 70 per cent. of the stock. And one of the minor offences - I trust - of Australian National Airways Limited, was that it bought out the American holder, and so converted the 70 per cent. from an American to an Australian holding. I say no more about that, but leave the Minister and his supporters to ponder over it.
I turn now to another point which the Minister made in the course of his attempted justification of this legislation ; that is the point based on the defence of the country. It is very easy nowadays to say of any proposal of the Government that it has some vital relation to defence. The more honorable members think about this proposal, the less will they be able to discover in what way it is related to defence. The service of the small airline companies during the war has, in fact, been freely acknowledged by the Minister in the course of his speech, l t was civil aeroplanes, owned by these private companies, which proved to be of supreme value when the Pacific war broke out. If it can be believed that government ownership of the main-trunk services, and private ownership of the feeder, subsidiary and developmental lines of Australia, ultimately will produce a greater volume of civil aircraft than would be the case if private ownership were left to do the whole work of development, then to that extent there will lie so many more aircraft and we shall be so ‘much better furnished than we otherwise would be. But it is impossible for anY sensible person to believe that a hotch-potch system such as is. envisaged in this hill, with the Government owning the profitable trunk routes and private enterprise being left - no doubt in some subsidized fashion - to carry on the developmental work, will ever produce any such result as that to which I have referred.
A little while ago, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser; whom I venture to describe with infinite submission as the rising hope of the stern, unbending socialists - was put up, quite obviously, to do a broadcast; and he did one. I am sure that it was excellently expressed. I am equally sure that it was hopelessly inaccurate. Obviously, he was speaking to the Government brief that the defence issue was most important. I quote his words -
For national . survival, we must develop the countryside,, the inland, the isolated areas. That can only be done by publicly operated airways. A system operating for private profit concentrates on the already thickly populated routes.
The bouquet of that is not to be missed. For the first time, I suspect the honorable member of humour; because, under this very bill with which we are now dealing, the development of the countryside, the inland, the isolated areas, is to be left to privately operated airways, whilst the publicly operated airways are. to concentrate on the already thickly populated routes ! I do not know whether I. may take it, after that complete bouleversement, that national survival has been temporarily forgotten. The Minis ter, in his speech, got on to slightly different ground, as well he might, by suggesting that public ownership of interstate airlines will facilitate the Australian aircraft manufacturing programme. There is a good deal of nonsense talked on that subject, and it is about time the nature of the nonsense was pointed out. The total number of aircraft of all types, for all routes, required in Australia for the volume of traffic in sight and within measurable distance, probably would not exceed about 66, of which not more than 30 would be on the main trunk routes. The annual replacements of a fleet of that size, naturally, would be quite small. If civil aviation in Australia is to develop as we want it to develop, then we should not exclude ourselves from obtaining the latest and best aircraft used elsewhere in the world. All of these considerations show that the defence argument is a myth. Confirmation of that can be obtained, of course, from the fact that in the United States of America, for example - which has some interest in defence and security - there has been a complete plumping for privately operated airlines. Great Britain has indicated the same policy, in its recent White Paper. To sum up, the truth is that there can be no defence advantage to any country like Australia, except from the most efficient civil aviation system that can be devised.
In another part of his speech, my friend the Minister - after admitting, as I have mentioned, that the civil aviation industry in Australia had performed a magnificent service during ‘the war; those are his words - went on to emphasize that, especially during the war, the Government has been compelled to provide, at great cost, facilities of all kinds all over the continent, in the form of airfields, hangars, workshops, radio equipment, meteorological services, and so on. Let me assume that that expenditure has some substantial relation to civil aviation. We all know that it has not, because probably 85 per cent, of it has a primary, if not a sole, relationship to military aviation. But assuming that it has some substantial relation- to civil aviation, what ground does that afford for nationalization? Everybody knows that in Australia for many decades, governments, through appropriate instrumentalities - boards and the like - have provided wharfs, port accommodation, navigational aids, and so on, which private enterprise uses, paying appropriate dues for their use. I have not the slightest doubt that that is exactly what ought to be done in connexion with airfields. If flying companies are to use such airfields, they must pay proper dues for their use, as shipping companies do for the wharfage facilities- that they enjoy. In the same way, all governments in Australia, either themselves or through local-governing bodies or special boards, provide the roads on which motor transport runs. So far, that has not been used as an argument for the nationalization of all road traffic; because common sense has indicated that the Government which provides such facilities may charge people for their use - by registration fees in respect of motor cars, which in my own State of Victoria, go to the Country Roads Board and are used for the express purpose of roads development. The petrol tax, of course, pursues the same line. I heard something this morning for the first time. I shall mention it, and if it be wrong, I shall be very happy to hear it denied. I have been told that quite recently, the States said to the Commonwealth that they did not consider that they were receiving enough of the revenue derived from the petrol tax, and that the Commonwealth’s reply was: “ We cannot give you any more, because we need so much of it for our expenditure on aerodromes and air facilities “.
I say next that there can be no real question of some defective control, in the public interest, of the flying that is done ; because Again I point out to honorable members that the ‘Commonwealth Government already controls all existing airline operations, air routes and stopping places, fares and freights, timetables and frequency of services, the rates paid for the carriage’ of mails, the safety of aircraft, the training of crews, methods of flying operations, air navigation, discipline and control. All of those matters are to-day, and have been for a long time, controlled wholly by the Government.
There are two other comments that [ want to make in connexion with the
Government’s provision of aerodromes and services. The first is that, on the aerodromes which are used for the services that are now being taken over by the Government - that is, the interstate airlines - practically the whole of the hangars, workshops, passenger accommodation and the like, have been provided by private companies, to say nothing of the fact that the installation and testing of radio aids was, as many honorable members will recall, really pioneered by the airline companies, in co-operation with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
The second comment that I make - and I stressed it earlier in this speech - is that the air mail surcharges earned through the airline companies more than provide for the whole of the expenditure from revenue, for all purposes, by the ‘Civil aviation Department. I may say, by way of interpolation, that I certainly had no realization until recently of the magnitude of the operations which underlie the flying services of one of these great airline companies. Take, for example, the biggest of those companies - Australian National Airways Limited. I am informed that it has a total staff, not on special war work, but, on the normal operations of the company, of 2,000 persons, who are given constant employment with superannuation schemes on a liberal scale, and so on. They include, for ordinary routine replacement, refitting, and the maintenance of aircraft, no fewer than 1,200 persons. All that, of course, has involved an immense volume of building, hangar and workshop provision, the whole of the cost of which has been met by the airways company.
The last point that I make - the fourth that I mentioned at the outset of my remarks - is that the bill is likely to retard development and the giving of an effective service to the public. I make that statement with complete deliberation, and for reasons that I shall mention. Of all means of transport, flying is the one which requires in the highest degree enterprise, a. willingness to take risks, a willingness to adventure capital, flexibility of mind, and constant contact with scientific development and commercial practice. Very few people would look for those things in a government department, handicapped, as government departments frequently are, by amateur political interference, and circumscribed as they are by civil service rules which, however useful they may be in a department devoted to normal administration, are utterly unsuited to the business now under discussion. The effect of the Government’s proposals - and this is my second major reason for saying that they will stifle development - is that the Government will run the inter-capital trunk lines which are now payable lines, while all the feeder or subsidiary services are to be left in private hands. That set-up is not only not favorable to development, it, is definitely hostile to development. The main routes of traffic must be looked to in a balanced organization to provide profits to ‘ counteract the losses on developmental routes. Every transport enterprise, whether a railway system or any other, accepts losses on the swings in the hope that they wi 111 be made up on the roundabout, or the paying lines. Here, however, the Government is taking over the main routes, leaving the unprofitable business to the private companies. The effect of this will be that the unprofitable lines will cease to be operated, or Parliament will be asked to vote money to subsidize developmental work.
Some analogy has been sought to be established with the railways, but nothing could be more ridiculous than to seek to justify the Government’s proposals by reference to the history of government railways in Australia. At least, it can be said of the railways that they pioneered an immense amount of back country development. The whole essence of government railway policy was that railways were pushed out into unsettled or sparsely settled country, which was thus opened up for population, so that the lines, from being non-paying, were eventually able to earn their proper share of revenue. In the present case, however, the whole process is to be reversed. The pioneering has not been done by the Government, but by private enterprise, and the Government is coming in only when the pioneering is finished, and the enterprise is profitable. It proposes to seize only that portion of the enterprise which i» profitable, namely, the main trunk routes, leaving the other routes to be carried on by private enterprise as best it may.
No one can consider these facts without coming to the conclusion that the Government, without analysis, without reasoning, without any true technical support, has introduced a bill simply to give effect to its party constitution. This is essentially a bill inspired by academic motives. Nationalization is the Government’s policy; therefore, let the airlines be nationalized. Has there been any examination of the facts? No. Has technical advice been received supporting the conclusion reached by the Government?’ No. Nationalization is in the party constitution ; therefore, it is to be proceeded with. The most authoritative “committee ever established in Australia to consider the future of civil aviation was the interdepartmental committee set up under the chairmanship of the then Director of Civil Aviation. [Extension of time granted.] It made a report which has been in the hands of the Government for a long time. It is quite true that, in the first instance, a report of such a kind is treated as a confidential document between the advisers of the Government and the Government itself ; but in this instance, the Government has introduced legislation on this important matter, and I believe that Parliament is entitled to know what the experts, whose salaries the public pays, have to say on the subject. Although the Government has had the report in its hands for many months, it has persistently refused to table it for the guidance of honorable members or interested persons outside Parliament. It is true that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde),, with his usual dash, proceeded one afternoon to quote in this House from the report. When my alert colleague, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) drew attention to the Standing Orders, and said that the document, having been quoted from by a Minister, should be tabled, the Deputy Prime Minister had to be given four separate hints in a hoarse whisper as to what answer he should give, namely, that he was to refuse to table the report on the grounds that it was a confidental document. It was the first time in my parliamentary experience that a senior Minister had quoted freely from a document, and then claimed that the document was confidential. However, the report has not .been tabled, and honorable members have to act without it, but there is a very widespread and reasonable belief that it has not been tabled because it gives no support to the proposals which the Government has put before us in this bill. Therefore, the choice is either a dull adherence to academic socialist theory for its own sake or a realistic approach to the actual and rapidly changing needs of the people in the world of modern transport and communication.
– For some months the interests behind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and his colleagues have been lending themselves to the most astounding campaign of misrepresentation that this country has witnessed in recent years.
– The Minister said that on the Banking Bill.
– I said no such thing on the Banking Bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition was listened to in complete silence and I insist that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction shall be given the same courtesy.
– There has been practically no limit to the variety and extent of misrepresentation that the shipping and other interests behind the growing airways monopoly have perpetrated. They have misrepresented the airways issue as affected by the recent referendum. They have misrepresented the degree of competition remaining in the interstate airways business. They have misrepresented the extent of government assistance being received by private airline operators. They have misrepresented overseas experience in the conduct of airways activities by public enterprise. They have misrepresented the degree of success attained in at least one country in the operation of air services by public enterprise. By their failure to draw attention to it, they have misrepresented the true position regarding the growth of monopoly in this industry. They have done all this deliberately in order to spread unwarranted and unreasoning fear regarding Commonwealth conduct of the interstate airlines. They have expended tens of thousands of pounds derived, be it remembered, from the travelling public and from subsidies paid by the Government, in this campaign of misrepresentation. I regret to say that, in the speech just delivered, the Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to bolster up some of these misrepresentations. Take the first one, that relating to the referendum campaign, about which the Leader of the Opposition had much to say. It has been suggested that because the Government did not obtain the approval of the public for its referendum proposals it is doing something in connexion with the airways proposals which it is not entitled to do. However, it is perfectly plain from an examination of this bill that all the proposals are related to powers which the Commonwealth has enjoyed ever since federation. It is set out in the preamble to the bill that the reason for bringing in the measure is, among other things, to ensure that -
Trade and commerce with other countries and among the Status are fostered and encouraged to the greatest possible extent.
That is related to one of the powers enjoyed by the Commonwealth ever since federation, and the same applies to the other purposes of the bill as set out in the preamble. Is it suggested that the Government was so foolish as to ask the people to give it powers which it already enjoyed? That is too silly to believe for a moment. It is perfectly clear that this bill cannot be related to any of the powers sought by the Government in the referendum campaign. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition tried to raise this issue to-night.
I now return to the first point made by the right honorable gentleman, namely, that the late Prime Minister, at the last election, had given a pledge that he would not introduce socialization of industry. It is true that my leader did make that statement at the last election, but the Leader of the Opposition well knows that this measure does not propose socialization. There is a world of difference between socialization and nationalization.
– The Minister is making a damaging attack on the late Prime Minister when he suggests that Mr. Curtin had in mind that distinction between socialization and nationalization.
– The memory of the late Prime Minister does not require any defence by me.
– The breach of his promise will require some defence.
– The memory of the late Prime Minister will take care of itself. I would be the last to cast any aspersions upon my late leader. The Leader of the Opposition knows that t1 ere is a world of difference between socialization and nationalization. At times he has accused me of being a socialist; but he would be the first to admit that I can define socialism, and really know what it means. Why, an anti-Labour government in Victoria established the State Electricity Commission in 1919. Later, the Leader of the Opposition became first a supporter of, and then a Minister in, an anti-Labour government in Victoria. % Did that Government admit that, when it set up the State Electricity Commission to supply electricity throughout Victoria, it was socialization? It was not socialization; it was nationalization - an entirely different matter. The Leader of the Opposition said also that nothing had happened in the history of civil aviation in Australia to justify the nationalization of interstate airlines.
– If the Government nationalized all industries, would that be socialization?
– No, it would not. The Leader of the Opposition proceeded to describe the expansion of air transport in Australia as if it were something unique. In point of fact, because of the development of aircraft production, there has been a huge expansion of air traffic in every country. In Canada, where airlines are nationalized, the expansion of revenue miles flown is comparable with the expansion in Australia. So that, in itself, does not provide any justification for not nationalizing the interstate airlines here. This campaign of misrepresentation has been supported almost everywhere by the metropolitan press. We expected that, because the press itself constitutes a near-monopoly in this country. In fact, the tactics of the press are exactly in line with the tactics of the private airline operators. The press is endeavouring to obtain complete control of all the channels of news, including control of the ether itself, by buying up broadcasting stations throughout the country.
– Does the Government propose to nationalize them, too?
– As the honorable gentleman will not be a member of the next Parliament, he will not be interested in what the Government does. It was notsurprising that the press of this country should support the misrepresentations that are being made by private airline operators. The Leader of the Opposition is displaying boundless energy these days in persuading the party which he leads to adopt a new name, and to turn from its unfortunate and less successful ways of the past into paths of seeming righteousness. I am surprised that that political party, renamed Liberal, should lend itself to the support of a monopoly such as that which is growing up in the conduct of airline enterprises in Australia. I suspect that his zeal in organizing this new party, and in taking up this matter in this House, is not unconnected with his awareness of the fact, that an election will be held next year.
I am surprised that the right honorable gentleman has seen fit to associate himself with the misrepresentations that E have mentioned. His support of private airline operators in Australia comes very strangely after the clear statement made by the Minister for Air that it is on record that, in 1943, the right honorable gentleman stated in his policy speech that he had little fault to find with government control of great public utilities. In other words, he believes in government control of great public utilities like the railways and the supply of electricity in Victoria. But when it comes to the control of the airlines- services of this country, which are undoubtedly a great public utility, he immediately condemns the Government’s proposals as socialization. I cannot understand the distinction that the right honorable gentleman draws between public enterprises such as the railways and the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, and the interstate airline enterprises.
– Will the Minister define socialization and nationalization ?
– The honorable member makes such infrequent appearances in this chamber that I cannot waste time in trying to educate him. Undoubtedly, airline services are one of the greatest public utilities. In my opinion, they are almost as important a public utility as electricity, or the supply of water for irrigation purposes. I suppose that, at a later stage in this debate, members of the Australian Country party will oppose this measure. But when it tomes to water, the lifeblood of primary production, they insist that the headworks of the irrigation schemes shall be nationalized. Logically, they should support this bill.
The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) completely fail to understand that the Government is entirely opposed to private monopolies. I desire to place on record that in my opinion, the present airline operators in Australia have a monopoly of that industry. I do not need lo go very deeply into that matter, because the Minister for Air explained the facts very clearly. Personally, I go so far as to say - and I am quite prepared to use strong language in this regard - that the conduct of a monopoly by private enterprise is, in effect, immoral.
-. - Does not the Minister mean unmoral?
– I mean immoral and unmoral. If it is necessary to have a monopoly, I believe most emphatically that it should be controlled by the Government. I have no absolute objection to monopolies as such, because in- some industries a monopoly is essential.
– Did not the Minister -ay a moment ago that he was opposed tn all monopolies?
– I said that I was opposed to all private monopolies. If a monopoly is the only means of providing an efficient service, I am prepared to support a government monopoly. But T am entirely opposed to a private monopoly of any kind - a monopoly operating for private profit.
– Would the Minister advocate that such a monopoly should be taken over by the Government?
– Yes, it should be taken over by the Government. Under this legislation, the Government proposes to take over what is, in effect, a private monopoly. That is one of the main reasons why this bill has my complete support. The Minister for Air made it plain that the taxpayers of Australia had contributed a large amount of the capital required for the conduct of these airline enterprises. He showed that in the air fields and their installations, the taxpayers had invested about £11,000,000. He pointed out also, that the operators of these airlines could not operate their business at all if they were not provided by the Commonwealth Government at the taxpayers’ expense with meteorological and other services. I direct attention to one of the services provided by the taxpayers, because the Minister for Air did not have time to mention it. Recently the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research set up a Division of Aeronautics. The building cost £95,000, and the equipment £125,000.
– That was done when Mr. R. G. Casey was Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– That is not so. This is a very recent development. The Leader of the Opposition, in his concluding remarks, stated that one reason why the airlines of Australia should not be nationalized was that private enterprise could provide research facilities. The plain fact is that research facilities are provided by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a public utilityI shall mention some of the activities of the Division of Aeronautics. The Physical Metallurgy Section was started as an adjunct to the Structure Section, and has done a very great deal of valuable work in the investigation and development of manufacturing processes, failure of service, &c. One of the important fields covered by the two sections in combination is that of aircraft accidents due to structural failure. Several Royal Australian Air Force accidents have been investigated, and, in particular, the causes of the crash of the Stimson air liner were determined by a combination of structural and metallurgical work. This focussed attention on the need for intensive investigation into the fatigue strength and consequent life of aircraft structures. Private enterprise cannot conduct their services unless they have at their disposal all the technical information and advice that is available from this important research organization. Its activities also include work on the life of cylinder materials, in order to facilitate the manufacture and reclamation of cylinders by chromium plating.
– I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the fact that a lady in the public gallery is taking notes. Is that permissible?
-Any person taking shorthand notes in this chamber, except the press gallery, would be indulging in a practice which has been regarded in the past as discourteous. If the person indicated by the honorable member is taking notes, I ask her to cease doing so.
– I have pointed out that the airlines of this country constitute a monopoly. Monopolies arise in various ways. Sometimes they are brought about by the amalgamation or absorption of small independent undertakings, and I cannot follow the argument of the Leader of the Opposition when he said that, instead of there being seven independent airline operators, there are, in fact, only three. Then he proceeded to describe the very process by which the small independent companies were amalgamated and finally became one monopolistic concern. Another method by which monopolies arise is by the interlocking of directorates and the setting up of dummy companies between the original shareholders and the final monopolistic undertaking. That has happened in the setting up of the airlines monopoly which is operating in Australia at present. The Minister for Air, in his statement to the House, showed that the majority of the shares in Australian National Airways Limited are held in fact by shipping companies. To discover the shareholders who finally draw the dividends, we have to go back to the shareholders in the companies themselves. To say that a monopoly concern of this kind can be conducted more efficiently than a government enterprise is to ignore all the experience of other countries with regard to such enterprises. It has been pointed out by many students of industrial organization that there is very little difference between a large modern industrial company and a public enterprise itself. Of the thousands of shareholders of these shipping companies who are the ultimate beneficiaries, as far as the profits of the monopoly are concerned1, how many of them know who are the directors of Australian National Airways Limited, or how many of them take any interest in the operation or management of the company? They leave that to experts, and that is exactly what the Government proposes in setting up the Australian Airlines Commission to undertake this task
– “Who are they?
– The commission will consist of experts who will be capable of operating the interstate airlines with the utmost efficiency. They will manage this public enterprise as efficiently as those who are operating the present monopoly. I am quite certain that much of the opposition to this measure arises because the Government is determined that, wherever a monoply is necessary from the point of view of efficiency, it will be a government monopoly rather than one conducted by private enterprise for the profit of private individuals.. On all occasions, when the Government takes a progressive step, as it has done by this bill, and makes an attack on vested interests, we are sure to hear objection from members of the Opposition, who have an entirely different political philosophy from that of members of the Labour party. They believe in private enterprise monopolists, and, of course, they will always oppose measures of this kind.
The Leader of the Opposition said that a public enterprise of the kind proposed to be established under this bill could not be conducted so efficiently as the airline services are conducted to-day. In Canada, where these services are provided by public enterprise as opposed to private enterprise, they are conducted just as efficiently as- in Australia at present under private control. An act of Parliament creating the transCanadian airline service was passed in 1937. and during the six years in which it has operated the service has proved a valuable and dependable public utility. Handicapped as it has been, and still is, by the demands of war on personnel and equipment, it has endeavoured to maintain the high standard of essential industry, and Jay a sound foundation for the future development, of aviation in Canada. Honorable members opposite always contend that a government is unable to run such enterprises at a profit. The results of operations in Canada show quite clearly that national airlines are run at a profit. In 1942, the operating revenues amounted to $7,337,000 whilst operating expenses amounted to $6,000,000, and, after allowing $214,000 for income charges and interest on capital invested, the operations showed a net surplus of approximately $500,000.
– Are the fares any cheaper?
– I am not comparing the fares charged iri one country with those charged in another country, but the results of the operations of a public enterprise in Canada with those obtained by private enterprise in the same field in Australia. As I said earlier, the increase of revenue-miles flown in Canada iB comparable with the increase of revenue miles flown in Australia. Honorable members opposite contend that the Government’s proposals amount to confiscation. In exercising its powers under the Constitution, this Government will acquire whatever property it needs in order to carry on this enterprise, and it will pay fair compensation to the owners of such property. Therefore, the issue of confiscation does not arise at all. Those who oppose the Government’s proposals have misrepresented the position in this respect, in order to lead the people to believe that the Government is acting unfairly towards those who already own property in the industry.
The Minister for Air pointed out that this measure is related to the defence of the Commonwealth. That purpose is set out in the preamble to the measure. The Government wishes to provide for the maintenance and development of the defence forces of the Commonwealth in relation to the development of Australia by air; and the establishment of plant and equipment necessary for that purpose is assured^ The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to show that that argument was groundless. Tie said that the total number of aircraft which would be needed in this country for some years to come would be only 66, and that the number of replacement machines which would be required annually would be very small indeed. That may be true. I do not know whether the figure cited by the Leader of the Opposition is correct; but it is obvious that a position might arise whereby the production of that number of aircraft, however small, plus the production of aircraft required for military purposes might be sufficient to build up in this country a very efficient aircraft production industry. The Government has that objective in mind. I believe that the Government, by taking over control of interstate airlines, will provide a substantial inducement for the production of aircraft which, together with production required for defence purposes, will provide the nucleus of an aircraft production industry. In that way it will keep the industry going in the years following the war. The maintenance of such a nucleus will enable us to expand the industry in years to come should such expansion be necessary to the future defence of Australia. Criticism has been levelled against the Government’s proposals on the ground that efficiency of management and service to the public suffers because public enterprises are too careless, and in this respect do not compare with private enterprise. My experience of the running of airlines by private enterprise in Australia has not been happy. The service rendered by existing companies, and the attention they pay to the needs of clients, could be very greatly improved. Time and time again, although the operating company knew that I could easily be contacted by telephone, I have gone to the aerodrome at Essendon only to be obliged to wait up to two hours before being allowed to take my seat. On those occasions the company could quite easily have advised me that the plane was running behind schedule or, for some other reason, would not take off at the appointed time. A very great improvement could be effected in that respect, and I believe that such an improvement will be effected when the airlines are taken over by the Government. That is another reason why I wholeheartedly support the bill.
The measure is directly related to the Government’s policy of providing full employment. Honorable members will recall that the White Paper on full employment sets out that employment depends upon expenditure of various forms on capital goods and consumption goods by the public at large and by governments. The paper pointed out that one of the strategic forms of expenditure is that undertaken by governments, and that should other forms of expenditure fall off at any time, with a consequent threat of unemployment, expenditure by governments could arrest that tendency and obviate unemployment. Civil aviation is one avenue in which public expenditure could be incurred in such a contingency in our economy. Expenditure on the development of more airlines and up-to-date aerodromes could be undertaken in relation to a policy of providing full employment. That is another reason why I believe that the control of airlines in this country should be transferred to the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition, as I have said, supported some of the misrepresentations that have been made in the press during recent months with regard to the Government’s proposals. The press has misrepresented the degree of competition in interstate airlines. That is amply borne out by the actual development of this industry in recent years, as revealed by the Minister for Air. The main reason for the introduction of this bill can be stated briefly, and it will be approved by the people. It is that when an industry develops to the stage at which naturally a monopoly can give a more efficient service than can be given by a number of independent companies it should pass from private ownership to control by the Government. That i* when it should be nationalized’.
– For that reason alone?
– That is a sufficient reason. Anyway, it is the main reason why this bill finds in me a strong supporter. The Leader of the Opposition tried to belittle the arguments of the Minister for Civil Aviation. In advancing his own arguments, he indulged in what I regard as misrepresentation of at least two matters. If the case in opposition to this bill cannot be better put and is not stronger than that presented by the right honorable gentleman, I have no fear about the outcome. In any case, there is no fear, because the Government and its supporters are unanimous in their desire that this measure be passed and implemented as soon as possible. They believe that it will help in the development of this country, help to bring about decentralization, and help to establish the nucleus of an industry that will assist in our defence should a need ever arise. For those reasons this bill should ‘be strongly supported by many honorable members opposing it now merely for political purposes. It is too much to ask them to set aside political prejudice and do what is best for the country; but I appeal to them to reconsider their attitude. The honorable member for Gippsland wants water supply scheme? nationalized, but, when it comes to the airlines utility, equally important in the development of Australia, he, for some reason beyond my comprehension, is opposed to its being nationalized. He is not consistent, and I am afraid that it is useless to appeal to him for support. Fortunately, we do not need it. We have the numbers and the stronger arguments. When the measure becomes law I am sure that it will have the overwhelming support of the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Spender) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate,- with amendments.
The following papers were presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes - Rocklea, Queensland.
Postal purposes - Sydney, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Taking possession of land, &c. (8).
Use of land.
National Security (War-time Banking Control ) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the total revenue received by the Division of Import Procurement for each of the financial years 1941-42 to 1944-45 inclusive as payment of administrative costs incurred in procuring goods for (a) government instrumentalities, and (b) private industry?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
The revenue received by the Division of Import Procurement in reimbursement of administrative costs for the financial years 1941-42 to 1944-45 was as follows: -
This revenue was obtained by includinga small percentage charge in the selling price of goods invoiced by the division of State government departments, other State government instrumentalities and private firms to cover the administrative costs of procurement and distribution. The division does not include any administrative charges in the selling price of goods invoiced to Commonwealth departments. The records of revenues received in reimbursement of administrative costs do not provide for any segregation of the amounts charged to State government agencies from those charged to private firms.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. The United Kingdom authorities indicated about May, 1944, the possibility of 8,000 utility vehicles and 10,000 passengercar chassis becoming available. Subsequently, the United Kingdom authorities advised that the man-power and materials position in the United Kingdom precluded the production of cars at that stage and also that only 2,500 utility type vehicles were available for export to Australia. The Commonwealth Government negotiated for these 2,500 utility type vehicles, of which 1,200 were fully assembled vehicles, including the cabs and bodies, and 1,300 were unassembled chassis only. The 1,200 fully assembled utility vehicles comprise - Austin, 10 h.p., 200; Morris, 10 h.p., 350; Hillman, 10 h.p., 250; and Standard, 12 h.p., 400. The majority of these have already arrived in Australia and the remainder are expected shortly. The unassembled vehicle chassis consist of 12-h.p. models and 1,300 were originally allocated to Australia. Of these, approximately 120 units have either already arrived in Australia or are due very shortly. As regards the remaining 1,180 unassembled chassis, the Commonwealth Government has indicated to the overseas authorities that it has no objection to importation proceeding through normal commercial channels.
Petrol: Synthetic Production.
e. - On the 4th July, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked whether the Government would interest itself in the method of producing synthetic petrol, utilizing information which might be gained from Germany for this purpose.
The Commonwealth Government is maintaining close contact with investigations now being carried out into German processes for the production of oil from coal, and future policy in connexion with the production of synthetic petrol in Australia will be determined in the light of the results of these investigations, and of all other factors involved.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 July 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450725_reps_17_184/>.