17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. 7. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m.) and read prayers.
Reduction op Indebtedness - Restoration.
– Can the Prime Minister state’ the respective totals of the indebtedness of Australian primary producers to banks and other financial institutions, and. to Commonwealth and State Governments, at June, 1941, and June, 1945 ? Is he also able to give separately the respective totals in relation to wheatgrowers, dairy-farmers and other primary producers?
– I do not know that I can dissect the figures, in order to show separately the reduction of the indebtedness of the various classes of primary. industry. I have stated previously that the total indebtedness of primary’ producers to the principal lending institutions, such as banks, trustee companies and pastoral companies, was about £300,000,000 in 1939, and that it had been reduced to about £240,000,000 in 1945.’ There are other’ small amounts, such as individual loans to primary producers, which are not tabulated. From 1941 to 1945, about £65,000,000 was paid in subsidies to primary industries, and in addition payments aggregating about £12,000,000 were made in respect of the production of potatoes and whole milk. I shall try to obtain a detailed statement for the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister have prepared a return showing the cost to dairymen,’ graziers, orchardists and other land-holders of the restoration of their dairies, pastoral properties, orchards, &c, to the state of productivity that existed at the 30th June, 1941, in the terms’ of the present-day costs of materials, wages, live- stock and other necessaries?
– Even assuming that there has been deterioration of some properties, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to prepare a return of the kind mentioned by the honorable member.
– No more difficult than the other return which the right honorable gentleman has promised to have prepared.
– It would be much more difficult, because the basis of it . would be the deterioration of individual properties, whereas the position in regard to loans made by banks, trustee companies and pastoral companies can be readily ascertained by an examination of their books. I know that deterioration has occurred on some properties because of the inability of the holders of them to obtain fertilizers. I remind the honorable member that the fertilizers available have been supplied to primary producers at a considerable reduction on market costs; in other words, they have received a substantial subsidy in that regard.
Records in Western Australia.
– I have been in correspondence with the Minister for the Army on behalf of the “Western Australian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League’ of Australia regarding the suggested removal of Army personnel records from Perth to the central office in Melbourne. If such a move is ‘ contemplated, will the Minister undertake, before anything is. done, to obtain the opinion of the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Western Australia, and the secretary of the State branch of the league, as well as of representatives of other recognized service organizations?
– I am pleased to give the assurance that the opinions of the Deputy Commissioner for Repatriation and other, local persons who will be affected by the removal of the records, will be obtained before the removal takes place.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Commerce say whether it is a fact that the Association for Better Hearing was promised by the Prices Commission that there would be a substantial reduction of the price of hearing aids? Has this promise been honoured, and if so what reduction has been made? Is it a fact that the Customs Department promised to remit duty on hearing aid appliances, and that the duty, although remitted for a time, has been recently imposed?
– I shall have to confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs. I assure the honorable member that his request will receive prompt and sympathetic consideration.
– Will the Government announce its intention regarding the future use of the very costly and extensive aero-engine factory at Lidcombe, near Sydney, which is now manned by skeleton staff only?
– A small staff is being maintained at Lidcombe for a nucleus aircraft production. This is a matter which really concerns the Minister for Aircraft Production to whom the question should be addressed.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a press statement made by Mr. A. K. Gardiner, who was selected by the New South Wales Agricultural Bureau last March as a typical Australian farmer and sent on a tour of the United States of America ? Mr. Gardiner is reported to have said that American farmers had fought to get all possible comforts for their wives, that people on farms were as well off as those in towns, that cheap electricity was available even in remote areas ‘ and that most American farms had refrigeration and washing machines ? County councils, local-governing bodies and other authorities throughout Australia are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining the requisite materials to extend electricity supply in rural areas. They are also having some difficulty in securing the consent of the Loan Council for loan raising or the allocation of moneys to carry out such projects. An application for consent to undertake such a pro- ‘ject has been made by the Clarence
County Council. When it comes before the Loan Council ‘will the Prime Minister give it his support?
– It will be generally admitted that not nearly as much was done as might have been done in earlier years in providing amenities, including the extension of electricity supply, in rural areas. Past governments must accept responsibility for that state of affairs, although it has been claimed that when labour and materials were available difficulty was experienced in obtaining the requisite finance. During and since the war, despite the great demand for materials and man-power, a move has been made in the extension of electricity in. country areas, which I wholeheartedly support. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, all applications of local-governing bodies, county councils and other semi - government authorities for approval of loans or the provision of funds to carry out such works are examined in the first instance by the State ‘Co-ordinator of Works. That practice will be continued this year. When a project has been reported upon by the State Co-ordinator of Works it is referred to the Commonwealth Co-ordinator-General of Works and’, subject to his endorsement, is brought before the National Works Council. The consent of the State Premiers and Treasurers must be obtained before approval is given. I assume that the project put forward by the Clarence County Council has already been examined by the New South- Wales Co-ordinator of Works. I shall inquire as to the position of the proposal.
- by leave- In reply to a question on the 6th August by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) I am now able to say that approximately 10,000 serving members of the Royal Australian Air Force have volunteered to continue their service in the Interim Force. Additionally 1,889 ex-members of the. Air Force have volunteered for re-enlistment in the Air Force for Interim Force purposes. Many of them have already been enlisted and action is well in hand for the examina- tion of the remainder. The receipt of an average of 300 applications per week from ex-members is regarded as quite satisfactory.
– What is the proportion of ground staff?
– I have no dissection .of the figures, but perhaps I shall be able to obtain them for the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that before the war Tasmanian potatoes commanded a premium of about £2 a ton on account of their quality, and that a meeting of the Tasmanian Potato Growers Union unanimously resolved in favour of a restoration of the premium? Will he consider restoration of the premium in the 1946-47 potato contracts, which are now being prepared?
– The high quality of Tasmanian potatoes would not be disputed, but under the present plan the Tasmanian growers receive a very satisfactory price, and I consider that if thai price can be maintained, it will be to their ultimate satisfaction and benefit. However, I shall have the suggestion investigated.
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been carrying out extensive experiments in the establishment of two-way wireless communication in the outback in lieu of telephone services. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General have’ immediate steps taken to have the equipment installed in country areas? I understand that the equipment has reached the stage of efficiency that would warrant its installation in the near future.
– I know nothing of the details of the proposal that two-way wireless services be provided to enable people in the outback areas of Australia to share in the amenity of modern telephony, but I am certain that the PostmasterGeneral is doing all he can and that only the shortage of materials and labour is delaying the completion of the plan. I shall ask him to complete it as soon as possible.
– I have received several telegrams from persons living in remote areas in my electorate asking me to investigate the shortage of lighting kerosene. According to my information, some country dwellers are without’ light. Will the Minister representing the Minister for .Supply and Shipping ascertain why this shortage prevails, and take immediate action to meet the urgent need of country people for kerosene? .
– I was not aware that there is a shortage of kerosene in Tasmania, but I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping to the honorable member’s question, and ask him to take action to improve supplies.
– I have received from an architect who is an ex-serviceman a letter stating that he understands that large quantities of building materials are being acquired, by the Defence Department and resold below cost to various organizations such as the Victorian Housing Commission. . There are allegations of similar happenings in other States. Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether the Defence Department has been acquiring building materials, including paint and sawn timber, and selling them to organizations, including the Victorian Housing Commission, at below cost ? Did the right honorable gentleman also authorize the sale of a quantity of sawn timber for export to New Guinea? in so, is this timber still lying on the wharfs at Cairns, while difficulty is being experienced generally by ex-servicemen and others in obtaining materials for homes ?
– I am not aware that any of the service departments is at present acquiring building materials and selling them below cost. Definitely, that is not true. I remind the honorable member for Balaclava that the service departments do not themselves sell surplus materials. All their surplus equipment is handed over to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, which, at duly advertised sales held periodically, sells to the highest bidder. There is not a scintilla of truth in the “furphy” that I approved the sale of certain timber in north Queensland for shipment to New Guinea. I did not know of its existence. This allegation was brought to my notice in another way. The Minister for Supply and Shipping inquired into the. matter, and furnished a very adequate reply to a question by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) on the subject. That timber was declared surplus by the Army authorities in the ordinary routine way, and was handed over to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission for sale. That sale was duly advertised. The timber had been used on three previous occasions in the construction, of Army huts and was full of holes. I was informed that it was unsuitable for use in the erection of homes in Australia.
– Will that timber be shipped to New Guinea?
– I do not know its ultimate destination. Ministers do not follow every successful bidder to see what he does with his purchases. The successful bidder for material . is at liberty to use his purchases for any purpose that he desires. I understand that the buyer of this timber intends to use it for the construction of huts somewhere in New Guinea for the conduct of mission work, but that is not a matter that I have anything to do with.
– On the 17th July I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health what action the Government could take to assist maternity hospitals in South Australia to provide additional accommodation. The Minister said that he would consult his colleague. Has he yet obtained any information for me on this vital subject?
– The Minister for Health promised to get me some details about what had been done and what would bp done in this matter. I have not yet received them, but I shall endeavour to have the information made available to the honorable member before the end of the session.
Excise Rebate Price of Tobacco Leaf
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether an excise rebate of about £600,000 a year is granted to the British Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited? Is that a subsidy under another name? In view of the considerable profits made by the firm is the rebate justified?
– I think the amount mentioned is substantially, correct. The rebate is made under the Excise Tariff Rebate Act 1944:. ‘It is made to. all Australian tobacco manufacturing companies to offset the increased price of importing tobacco in order to obviate an increase of the retail price of tobacco and cigarettes. The British Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited produces a very large part of the tobacco and cigarettes manufactured in Australia and distributes them according to plans approved by the Tobacco Manufacturers Distribution Committee which took over the distribution when the Government revoked the National Security (Tobacco Rationing Regulations.
– Seeing that the tobacco companies of Australia have been subsidized to an amount of £650,000 annually, on the average, during the last three years, which has enabled their profits to remain at about £1,000,0.00 per annum, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs indicate why the Government persists in refusing to guarantee, tobacco-growers a price which will cover their cost of production and insure them a return from their industry?
– In order to prevent the cost of living from rising in Australia this Government has provided subsidies so that prices may be kept at a stable level. That policy has also been applied by the Government of Canada, and other governments. The result has been beneficial to the Commonwealth. Any one who has travelled overseas, as Mr. Frank Richardson deputy chairman of the Board of Business Administration, has done, knows this. Mr. Richardson said on his return to Australia that the control of prices in Australia .stand.out in bold relief to the wild inflation that has occurred in other countries. 1’ was under this subsidy scheme that a rebate was paid to tobacco manufacturing companies in order to offset the increased cost of imported tobacco and prevent an increase of the retail ‘price of tobacco and cigarettes in this country. The Government did not pay a bounty to wealthy tobacco companies; it provided subsidies to enable the Australian public to purchase smoking tobacco and cigarettes at lower prices than would otherwise have been possible. In the last two years a subsidy has been paid to the tobaccogrowers. I am the last in this House who should be challenged in respect of his efforts to assist the tobacco-growers, because when I was Minister foi Trade and Customs I introduced measures to provide adequate and effective protection for them, but with the advent of. a government backed by the Australian Country party, with which the honorable member for Maranoa is associated, the duties on tobacco were slashed, with the result that hundreds, if not thousands of growers, were forced out of the industry.
Classifications - Key PERSONNEL.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army certain anomalies in the administration of the Defence Act which are adversely affecting men who have been on active service. I point out that men who served on Thursday Island are classified as having returned from active service, whereas men who were disembarked at Thursday Island for transhipment to the northernmost point of Australia when the Japanese were moving towards that area are not so classified. Officers who took a “ Cook’s tour “ to New Guinea after the capitulation of the Japanese are also classified as having returned from active service. Will steps be taken to rectify these anomalies ?
– This matter was determined by Cabinet after the fullest investigation. Before the rising of the House, C shall have prepared for the honorable member a considered reply dealing seriatim with the points that he has raised.
– Will the Minister for’ the Army have an inquiry made quickly, with a view to determining whether young men in the armed forces who desire to be discharged are being held as key personnel, despite sworn statements that they are doing absolutely no work, merely in order to provide cushy “ jobs for “ brass hats “ who still love the Army?
– A special committee of review is “ screening “ all military establishments, in order to ensure that personnel shall not be held unnecessarily in the Army. Very effective work is being done in this connexion. Attention was drawn to the matter of key personnel at the last meeting of the committee, which was presided* over by Mr. Sinclair, Secretary, Department of the Army, and . was attended by the Adjutant-General, Mr. Norman Watt, Assistant Secretary, Commonwealth Treasury, and the chief executive officer. An instruction was issued to the Adjutant-General to have the matter completely reviewed. . I am impressed by the strong case that has been presented by the honorable member.
– Will the. Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give the assurance that ample supplies of nicotine sulphate will be made available to orchardists, who have been informed by the Department of Agriculture of Victoria that, owing to weather conditions, it is probable that the coming peach crop will lie seriously menaced by’ aphis ?
– The Department of Commerce and Agriculture, recognizing the effectiveness of nicotine sulphate in the control of the pest referred to by the honorable member, ‘is doing all that it can to augment supplies. Permission has been given for imports to be made. Furthermore, the Government is taking every step to induce the production of tobacco leaf suitable for the manufacture of nicotine sulphate.
– On the 31st July, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), asked me whether the Government would make available the report of Mr. Conde on the Salvage Commission. I now lay on the table the following paper : -
Salvage Commission - -Report on allegations made in the House of Representatives, regarding the disposal of certain Service Stores and Equipment.
Debate resumed from the 7th August, (vide page. 3953), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I rise to support the bill, because it gives power to devote to specified purposes money which, but for its passage, would pass into Consolidated Revenue and consequently would be lost to the wool industry of Australia. In the early hours of this morning, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) expressed concern as to the present location of the large amount involved. Clause 4 of the bill reveals that it is in the possession of the Wool Realization Commission, a body constituted under the Wool Realization Act 1945 to assume the functions of and deal with the funds held by the Central Wool Committee. If the act be wisely administered, it will do more for the wool industry of Australia than probably has been done by any legislation introduced by any other government. The honorable member for Deakin . (Mr. Hutchinson) definitely stated at the outset of his remarks that this money was hot connected in any way with the wool agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom. Then the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) took an entirely opposite view. He said, that the transactions were affected by the agreement entered into by the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government in the. early part of the war. The next speaker was the Leader of the Australian Country party, who did not offer an opinion as to whether or not the transactions were connected with the agreement, but said that the Commonwealth Government was trustee “of the fund.
– The Prime Minister himself said that the matter was not connected with the agreement.
– The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) said the same thing, but the honorable member for New England declared that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had said the exact opposite. All this shows that the matter is fairly technical and, as three honorable members on the opposite side entertain three separate opinions, it also indicates that the subject is controversial. The honorable member for New England said that the Prime Minister had declared that although the money in question was derived from the sale of wool tops, and from the export of manufactured goods, the Government of the “United Kingdom had agreed that it should be put to the account of the Commonwealth Government. This, he said, was proof that the Government of the United Kingdom must have had an interest in the money; and as, under the agreement, profits were to be divided equally between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government, and the Government of the United Kingdom had waived its claim, the money should be given to the Australian wool-growers, according to the promise of the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, which was repeated by the present Prime Minister in a statement made late last night by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). Let me refer to the agreement itself which states-
The Australian Government acquired and sold to the United Kingdom Government, and the United Kingdom Government purchased from the Australian Government at the price ‘ decided upon, all stocks of nun] situated in Australia on the 2nd clay of September. 1039, and al! wool produced in Australia after that date, except so much- nf the stocks and of the wool produced as in the opinion of the Australian Government was required from time to time liv top-makers and manufacturers in the Commonwealth.
Therefore, wool which was treated and processed here was not to be included.
– But the wool was processed in Australia for export.
– That is the point .1 am trying to make. The’ wool from which this profit was made was export wool, but. not export wool within the terms of the agreement. The wool tops exported and the blankets sold to India, did not come under the agreement. However, because the wool was going out of Australia, the Government of the Commonwealth ‘believed that it ought to consult the other party to the agreement, the Government of the United Kingdom, which declared that the wool did not, in fact, come within the terms of the agreement. In effect, the Government of the United Kingdom declined ownership or interest in the wool, and that is why it was excluded from the agreement. Therefore, there wai excluded from the scheme money received from flat-rate adjustments on skins, export of tops, and export of manufactured goods, and the fund now under discus-, sion was established from those three sources. The honorable member for Deakin argued that the money should be distributed among the” growers. He sai’d that bad the fell-mongers known that they would be. able to get the appraised price., plus a fiat-rate adjustment- in spite of the fact that the Menzies Government had declared that they would receive only the appraised price - they would in fact have paid more for the sheep skins. Assuming that to be true, then the money should be divided, not only among those who sold the sheep skins, but also among those who sold sheep which ‘ were eventually slaughtered, because from those slaughtered sheep came the. skins in question. I maintain that, in the first place., there is no legal ground for the claim of honorable members opposite. It would be morally wrong to divide money received from one section of the trade amongst those engaged in another, section. It might be argued that some of the money should be paid to the fell-mongers. Because of the fixing, of profits and margins, the fell-mongers were denied the right to trade freely. The same argument, could be applied to the distribution of profits under the other two categories which I listed. It has been said that the fund was accumulated from profits derived from the sale of wool. That is true, but the profits were made after ‘the , growers had received the full flat-rate . price guaranteed to them under the agreement between the Commonweath Government and the Government of the United Kingdom. The wool-growers receive a flat-rate price for all wools which come within the wool purchase agreement with the United Kingdom. This fund has been built up as the result of the war-time economic policy of the Government, and its proceeds would normally be paid into Consolidated Revenue. Certain profits were derived by the Ships Chartering Committee during the war. Do honorable members opposite suggest that those profits should be paid to the ship-owners? They were rightly paid into Consolidated Revenue. The proceeds of the wool industry fund will be wisely expended by the Government to the great benefit of the wool-growers of Australia. Under the Wool Use Promotion Act a fund was established by the Government for research in tho production and use of wool. Prior to the passing of that legislation a levy of 6d. a bale had been imposed but the amount raised in that way proved entirely inadequate for the purpose. The honorable member for Deakin complained that the fund established as the result of that levy was insufficient to achieve much in the promotion of what is our major primary industry. He drew attention to the fact that one soap company in Australia had expended £130,000 in advertising in one. year alone, and ‘that the advertising account of one furniture company in Australia amounted to .100,000 per annum. I point out that in 1937 the British Rayon Company expended £2,000,000 in advertising and research, and that in the United States of .America over £6,000,000 a year was expended in pre-war years on research and publicity in respect of the production and use of synthetic fibres. T cite these figures to demonstrate the necessity for research in the production of wool and the promotion of the use of wool in order that this great Australian industry, which is worth approximately £70,000,000 per annum to the nation, may successfully meet the challenge of the manufacturers of wool . substitutes. On the 20th October, 1944. Mr. Hitchins, president of the. Western Australian Wool Producers Federation, said -
We have tin* greatest quantity nf host quality material designed by nature to clothe mankind. We have excelled in its production. We have failed lamentably in its distribution. We have reached a point where artificial products are being produced in volume, and weight, slightly in excess of the total world production of wool. It is going into consumption while wool surplus stocks are mounting up. It is cheap, while wool fabrics are relatively dear. Wool fabrics are always relatively dear, no mutter how cheap the ra w wool.
The assertion that artificial fibre publicity is merely competition within the industry, is as false as it is ‘dangerous. Fortunately, few people would be so ill-informed as to l;elim-e this. The propaganda is directed definitely, specifically and directly against wool. It ia an industry almost entirely controlled by a few industrial enterprises, with definite international alliances. Its capital resources are as boundless as ite future ambitions. It employs to the full, and will continue to employ, all the scientific knowledge which brains can produce and money can buy. Its policy is further expansion, and in order to maintain even ite present output, it - must retain all present markets and find new- markets . . . Its sales promotion is skilful, subtle, thoroughly efficient, entirely unscrupulous, and openly aimed at wool. Their products are claimed to be “like wool”, “equal to wool” and even “ better than wool “.
Positive evidence of all this comes to me regularly from the United States nf America, where there is an organization created by the wool men that has demonstrated their ability to fight, the battle for wool equally efficiently, and with marked success, but they do nut underrate their enemy. They know that the synthetic fibre interests have allocated between 50.000.000 dollars and fiO.000,000 dollars for publicity and sale promotion, in the United States of America alone, for this current year. Against such an organization the money expended and the efforts made on behalf of wool may be likened to a force armed with bows and arrows against a modern army.
A month earlier, in pointing out the inadequacy of the funds provided for wool publicity and research, Mr. G. Herbert, a prominent wool producer at Nungarin, said - -
Our lines of attack are still further improvement of our commodity on the one hand and adequate advertising on the other.
Synthetic substitutes for wool have come to stay. There is room in the world for them, but those financially behind them are hungry.
Wool will have to fight for its place in the world’s markets and the total amount of ‘4*. per bale is probably all too little to pit against the purse of the makers of competitive substitutes.
The inherent quality nf our product is not enough. We must employ science to enable us to improve it. Imt.li in its raw and manufactured state, and again science to market it. render both these headings there is unlimited’ scope.
We must avail ourselves of every advance science can make or lose our position in the world of to-morrow.
I quote these statements to show that even at that time there was great concern among wool-growers as to the future of their industry. Uncertainty as to the future still exists and will increase as long as the huge stock-pile of wool remains unsold. We know the economic effects of the recent inflationary trend in the United States of America, and we have an understandable fear that it will be followed by a period of deflation and depression. The dangers of these trends are very real and may jeopardize the successful continuance of the wool industry. The bill- provides scope” for the effective use of the money in the fund, and I hope that most of it will be used for publicity, because I believe that a high pressure publicity campaign would make possible disposal of our wool pile at a profit, which, according to promises, would ultimately be distributed to the growers who supplied the wool during the years of low prices. I consider that the allocation of the money in the fund in the manner provided for will be of great benefit not only to the Australian wool industry, hut also, of course, to the Aus-‘ tralian economy. This legislation is in harmony with all other acts of policy in relation to the wool industry put into operation by the Government. In 1941 it negotiated with the Government of the United Kingdom an increase of about 15 per cent, in the price paid by that Government for the Australian wool clip under the wool agreement. That, in normal years, meant £9,000,000 more a year to the Australian growers. It followed that by the establishment of the Australian Wool Realization Commission in 1945 and it joined with the Governments of Great Britain, South Africa and New Zealand in the setting up of a joint authority for the disposal of their wool clips. It also recognized the rights of the small wool-growers’ organizations by giving them equal representation on the Australian Wool Realization Commission. Under the former agreement 1-Hd. per lb. was paid by the United Kingdom for Australian wool. Under the new arrangement the guaranteed return to the Australian growers will be 18d. per lb., less the contributory charge of 0.91d. per lb., making the minimum return 17d. per lb. So our minimum to-day is -lj-d. per lb. above the former maximum. Moreover, whilst we have levied only a 5 per cent, contribution. New Zealand and South Australia have levied 7^ per cent., and, although I consider that probably next year there will be room for a reduction of that 5 per cent, levy, the fact is that our levy is 50 per cent, below that of the other two countries. Moreover, we have waived a charge of 2s. a bale upon growers, which will be taken out of the fund created by the 5 per cent. levy. The money covered by this bill was made by the Government’s application of sound policy and it is to be applied for the benefit of Australia and its wool industry.
– This is a bill for an act to provide for the application of certain funds vested in the Australian Wool Realization Commission. You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that only passing reference may be made to the source of the funds. It is right that you should rule in that way, because it takes little time to discover that the source was the sale of wool grown by Australian growers. It has often been said in this chamber that the price of wool was about 15Jd. per lb., but a certain amount was paid to the Australian Wool Realization Commission in excess of that, as the result of which more than £7,000,000 has accumulated. Now the Government has introduced a bill to provide for the distribution of that money. The bill “would be all right if it provided a proper distribution, -namely, to the wool-growers, but clause 6 provides for- distribution in other ways. It is significant that the clause claims that the money is to be applied for purposes associated with the wool industry, implying benefit to the wool-growers. The money is to be expended on scientific, economic and .cost research in connexion with wool and for other purposes. Therefore the Government realizes, as all honorable gentlemen must realize, although it has not admitted it, that the money belongs to the wool-growers. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) spoke about the fog-horn used by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). The honorable member for New England tried tq penetrate the fog placed over this matter by the Government. I hope that I shall be more successful than he was. The truth is that if the money is to be used in the best interests of the wool industry it ought to be given to the growers. One honorable member said that if it were distributed to them in proportion to the quantities of wool put by them into the pool certain growers would not get their just dues; but that difficulty could be easily overcome by distributing the money to all the wool-growers.
– How can the honorable member logically argue that if the money belongs to some wool-growers it b equitable to distribute it to all woolgrowers ?
– The point has been made that if the money in the fund were paid to all wool-growers, certain men not entitled to it would receive a share, but that objection applies equally to the methods of distribution proposed in the bill, because it proposes the application of the money for the benefit of all wool-growers regardless of what quantities of wool they put into the pool. Paragraph a of clause 6 provides that the ‘money may be applied for scientific, economic and cost research in connexion with the production and use of wool and goods made wholly or partly from wool. The present set-up must be considered. After six years of war and an unparalleled shortage of labour, the woolgrowers’ properties and equipment are in probably a worse condition than ever before. Wool is our greatest asset, and we cannot afford to let the industry further decline. In order to preserve its economy we must ensure that it shall have all the best possible ingredients of its prosperity. Pastures, fences and equipment must be restored to their former good condition. Instead of distributing the money in the fund to people without close touch with the economics of the industry to carry out research, the Government should pay it to the growers in order that they may apply it to purposes more immediately necessary to their ‘welfare. Drought is raging in parts of New South
Wales and Queensland and other areas of Australia have, only recently passed out of a devastating drought. In. the western district of Victoria floods worse than ever before experienced swept into the sea some of the best fine-wool sheep in Australia. Woolgrowers who have lost 75 per cent, of their sheep in droughts, floods and other disasters have -to re-stock at high prices farther afield. To-day, the rates are at least one-third higher than those which prevailed three or four years ago. The wool-growers require all the available money in order to. enable them to restock their properties, so that the industry may continue to be the great national asset that it has been in the past. One honorable member opposite stated that the Government is making this money available. I wonder what the woolgrowers will think of that statement. Of course, the wool-growers have provided the money. It is in the fund; but it should be distributed to the growers. Last week, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) a question relating to the conference which the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and he had with the representatives of. woolgrowers regarding the distribution of this money. 1 asked the right honorable gentleman whether the wool-growers were satisfied with the Government’s proposals. He replied cautiously that the wool-growers did not appear to be wholly satisfied. Of course, wool-growers throughout Australia are incensed at the decision. More than ever before, they require money to enable them to restock their properties and purchase new equipment, but the Government proposes to devote the fund to wool research. The time is not opportune to expend this money for that purpose. We must meet the needs, of the moment, but the Minister’s lack of practical knowledge of primary industries prevents the application of these moneys to the best advantage. When in committee, I propose to move an amendment to clause 6, for the purpose of providing that the money shall be paid to the growers to the value of the wool sold on their account, instead of being placed in this fund. The object of the amendment has the approval of wool-growers generally.
About 1.35 a.m. to-day, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) apologized to the House for resuming the debate on this bill at that hour. He used the phrase, “but the show must go on “. I believed that the honorable member meant that the wool-growing industry must go on, and that he would emphasize that this money in the fund should be distributed amongthe woolgrowers for the purposes which I have already mentioned. However, I discover that the honorable member was referring, not to the wool-growing industry, but to the debate. So far as the wool-growers are concerned, the show must go on. Let us consider whether this money will be used to better advantage if paid to the woolgrowers now, or if used for research purposes. The equipment of the woolgrowers has fallen into disrepair. In addition,we must build up our merino and other wools. Would not a greater advantage be derivedif we were to pay this money immediately to such men as John Taylor, of “ Winton,” Campbelltown, in Tasmania, and “ Valley Field,” who took the first three prizes at the Melbourne Sheep Show last week? Men of that type have established a reputation for possessing a thorough knowledge of the wool business. They have built up the great studs which provide the rams. Would not this money be expended to greater advantage by men like Mr. Laird, the manager of Murray Downs station, instead of allocating it for research at this stage? Would not those men have a more practical use for. the money to foster the interests of the wool industry that languished in war-time ? Surely, that is a practical argument. Every day, Ministers raise technicalities in an endeavour to cloud the issue. Now, they pretend that the Government is making a wonderful gift to the wool industry. What a wonderful gift it is! The money is provided by the wool-growers themselves, andI contend that it should be returned to them. Australia must not miss any opportunity to foster its principal national asset. One had only to visit the sheep show at Albury, where His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester attended earlier this week, or the Melbourne sheep showto find out who are the men responsible for the progress of the industry. This money should be paid to them, not only because it belongs to them but also because they can make the best use of it. That fact is undeniable. But the Governmenthas other plans for the expenditure of the money. As on other occasions, it has assumed a dictatorial attitude by announcingits intentions before it sought parliamentary approval for them. We had evidence of the same dictatorial attitude a few weeks ago. Before the Parliament had passed the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill, microphones were placed in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The determined refusal of the Government to accept any amendments submitted by the Opposition reveals that decisions of policy are made by caucus long before the legislationis introduced. Even if the greatest expert in the world were to formulate proposals for the improvement of a bill, the Government would not accept them. All practical proposals put forward by the Opposition are totally disregarded. Before I became a member of this Parliament, I was under the impression that bills were amended in the light of constructive proposals submitted in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I protest strongly against this bill, which deprives the individual woolgrower of the money which rightly belongs to him. The best interests of the industry and of Australia would be served if that money were paid to him instead of being devoted at present to wool research. One suggestion which has been made is that a portion of the money should be paid to the fellmongers. The next absurdity will be a proposal for a percentage of the money to be paid to the coal-miners. What have the fellmongers to do with wool-growing?
Mr.FULLER. - Are all auctioneers like the honorable member?
– No, I am an outstanding example of a good one. Summarizing my objections to this bill, I point out that the wool-growers haveexpressed their strong disapproval of the proposal of the Prime Minister to allocate these funds in the manner which the bill provides. This money belongs to the wool-growers, and, as individuals, they should receive it.
– They will get the benefit of it.
– The wool industry will derive a greater benefit if the money is paid direct to the growers to enable them to renew their machinery and equipment, produce more wool) and stabilize the industry generally.
.- I disagree with the contentions of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) who said that the wool belongs to the growers. Undoubtedly, some of it does; but the grower who sells his sheep does not continue to own the wool. Sheep might pass through the hands of from half a dozen to twenty dealers. The honorable member claimed also that the distribution of the money i» the manner which he suggested would be a simple matter. From the stand-point of the dealers and the butchers, it would be impossible. The values for skins might vary from ls. to 12s. or even £1. Probably more dealing is done in the ?heep and wool industry in Australia than’ in any other class of stock. In the past years the dealers had practically a monopoly of the business. I take no credit for the very high .standard of wool production in Australia : those who have developed this industry deserve praise for their- work. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. “Lemmon) “has explained clearly how money is to be used for publicity purposes.
– Could not the woolgrowers use the money to better advantage?
– Indirectly, the wool-growers will receive benefit from ^expenditure on publicity. It would be robbery, in my opinion, if the sellers of sheep off-shears and the skin buyers were in the same position. A considerable amount of this money has been realized from the sale of skins by men who bought sheep in quarter, half or three-quarter wool. It would be impossible, in these circumstances, to distribute the money -equitably among all who may be entitled -to ^participate in a distribution. 1 do not agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that it would be easy to make an equitable distribution. I am satisfied that under the proposals of tho Government the whole industry will benefit indirectly.
– I was Minister for Commerce for some months in 1940, and, therefore, may be presumed to know something about the arrangements made in regard to wool at that time, although the matter was dealt with mainly by my colleague at that time, Senator P. A. McBride. It was in able hands, for he knew much more about the wool industry than I did’. I understand, however, the principles upon which the Commonwealth Government acted. It acquired the wool clip, not exactly for the purpose of selling it to the United Kingdom Government, but in order to ensure, in collaboration with that Government, that the great bulk of the wool clip would remain under the control of Great Britain and its allies throughout the war. In principle and in fact, the clip was acquired by the Commonwealth under the National Security Regulations. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government is legally and morally obliged to pay to the owners of the wool the full realization from it. If this measure, be legally sound and morally justifiable, there is no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not say to the dairymen, the meat producers, the wheat-growers, the applegrowers, the wine makers, and, in fact to any other primary producers whose property has been acquired, that the money resulting from subsequent sales must be paid into a trust fund.
In connexion with trust funds, I bring to the notice of honorable members a letter which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has received from the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. ‘Chifley). It is dated the 2nd August, and reads -
During question time on Thursday, you naked me without notice whether the am:um” luted funds. which had accrued from activities of the Central Wool Committee in skin wools. wool-tops and noils, and the export nf manufactured woollen .goods, .had been appropriated to a tr.u t account within- the meaning of section 62a of the Audit Act
You also sought information as to whether the balance in such a trust fund had been used by the Government for general purposes.
I desire to advise you that these moneys have not been used for governmental purposes nor have they yet been appropriated to a trust account.
Clause 4 of the Wool Industry Fund Bill now before Parliament provides for the establishing of a trust account within the meaning of section62a of the Audit Act and for the appropriation from Consolidated Revenueof the moneys in question. When this bill is approved and becomes operative, the necessary action will be taken to give effect to the provisions which it contains.
In view of the information contained in the letter, I should like to know where the money is at present. Has the Government put it under a mattress, or in a jam tin on the mantelpiece, or behind veterinary medicines at the back of a stable?
Mr.Ward. - We dare not tell you.
– I can quite understand that.
– There are some suspicious characters about the House.
– It would be of interest to the wool-growers, who are legally and morally the owners of the money, to know where it is and to what purpose the Government has put it. The principles under which this wool was acquired were clear. It was arranged that there should be an appraisement by Commonwealth appraisers of all the wool handled for the Wool Realization Committee. The appraisements took place. At the end of the year the growers were to be paid 90 per cent, of the appraised value. This arrangement was made in case the wool had been over-appraised. The actual fact was that in every year the appraisements were under the correct value. Therefore the growers received the 10 per cent, that had been held back, and also a dividend on account, to bring the total value of the clip up to the appraisement value that had been agreed upon between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government. There was also an interesting provision in regard to profits that might arise, chiefly from the re-sale of wool by the United Kingdom Government to other countries. I make it clear that there was no formal agreement between the two governments on this matter.
Certain cablegrams passed between the governments which dealt with the various points at issue. It was laid down in regard to re-sales by the United Kingdom Government that half of the profits should go to the United Kingdom Government and half to the Commonwealth Government, but by no stretch of the imagination could it be argued that the Commonwealth Government could use the money it received for Commonwealth purposes. It was to act as trustee for the Australian wool-growers. It had compelled the Australian wool-growers to hand over their wool. There can be no such thing as sale and purchase unless there is a free buyer and a free seller. In. this case there was neither. The Commonwealth Government acquired the wool by compulsion, for the simple reason that there was no other way to handle it, and it had had experience of such acquisitions during World War I. In short, a Commonwealth instrumentality was established to administer the scheme. In connexion with the dealings with wool during World War I. the half of the profits which accrued to the Common - wealth Government was paid to the Australian wool-growers in dividends.
In regard to skins I may not be in agreement with some of my colleagues. The skins were acquired by the Commonwealth under National Security Regulations, just as the wool was acquired, and the owners are entitled to the full realization. I do not know what amount is available for distribution in respect of dealings in skins.
– About £2,500,000.
– That is due to the fact that skins are in a very different position from wool. As the honorable member for Forrest knows, when the collapse of France occurred the whole position in regard to skins changed immediately, for 80 per cent, of Australia’s sheepskins were then being purchased by France. The Minister for the Army will know something about this subject for when he was Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin Government, he perpetrated the dreadful sheepskin embargo. He well knows, to his cost, what happened as the result of his attempt to interfere with the normal course of trade. The right honorable gentleman took this action in order to compel the manufacturers to deal with the sheepskins within Australia. He failed dismally, as every sheep man in Australia knows. On this occasion, with the collapse of France, other means had to be devised to dispose of the skins. Had the Commonwealth said : “ On account of the situation that confronts us as a result of the downfall of France, we shall not interest ourselves in sheepskins “, the value of sheepskins and the price obtainable for them in Australia would have crashed, tremendously; but that did not occur. The Commonwealth rightly continued to exercise control. Now, however, we are asked to agree that a sum said to be £7,000,000 - other authorities say it is much more than that - shall be placed in a trust fund, ostensibly for the purposes of the woolgrower. “Whether the amount be £7,000,000 or. £7,000, the legal and moral ownership of it resides in the woolgrowers of .Australia, and nobody else. When I first saw the bill, I was reminded of the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, which I read away back in my school-days. Then, glancing round me, I. came to the conclusion that the number should be about 48. That, however, is by the way. This is merely an indication of the lax, loose method which the Commonwealth Government employs in its handling of what, after all, are trust moneys. A trust account under government control is no more than a polite fiction. If, in private life, any person attempted tq deal with .a trust account as the Commonwealth Treasury deals, with this one, he would be given seven years hard labour. I have been associated with trust accounts. The first requirement is that a trust account shall not be used for any purpose other than that for which it is established.
– In other words, the honorable gentleman admits that had he done in civil life what he did as a Minister, he would have received seven years hard labour?
– I have not said that of the Minister. I am talking of the system of government that we now have. If a person in civil life did with trust funds what governments do, he would be given seven years hard labour. Any lawyer, accountant or other person handling trust- moneys will agree that such moneys must be used only for the purposes for which they have been provided. The Commonwealth places all such moneys in a common pool, and uses them to bolster up loans, or for any other purpose it deems necessary for the time being. There is no greater fraud or fiction than that, of a trust fund under Commonwealth administration to-day, and it is time the matter was cleaned up.
The opening remarks of the Minister who introduced the bill (Mr. Chifley) were interesting. He said that its purpose is “ to provide for the application of certain moneys which had accumulated in the hands of the Central W ool Committee during the war in respect of activities outside the provisions of the Wool Purchase Agreement with the United Kingdom “. That, of itself, shows that the Commonwealth Government recognizes that it has a responsibility outside the Wool Purchase Agreement with the United Kingdom. The question naturally arises, to whom does it owe that responsibility? I claim that the Government is responsible to the growers who produced the wool, and to nobody else, and that those growers are entitled to no less than the full realization value of what the Commonwealth compelled them, under the Constitution, to surrender to it. All the arguing in the world will not enable the Government to get away from that salient fact. I know that we are “approaching the end of the session ; therefore, I do’ not want to prolong the debate, and shall say briefly what I think in regard to this matter. The wool-growers of Australia will not accept the Government’s contention. They were taxed under Commonwealth law in 1944, at a special rate of 2s. a bale, for the establishment of a research fund, for advertising and for other purposes. Unless tho Government proposes to be as extravagant in this matter as with most other matters, it will not be able to use this £7,000,000 for advertising and research. Furthermore, it will be hard put to use, in addition to the 2s. a bale, the interest it would receive if it took the £7.000,000 f rom the trust fund, as doubtless it will, and invested it in Commonwealth bonds or treasury-bills.
– It has not collected the 2s. a bale.
– Am I to understand that the Wool Tax Act is not to operate?
– Only that part of it which provides for a contribution by the Commonwealth. The other provision has seen suspended. .
Mr.- ARCHIE CAMERON. - That la* is on the statute-book. What right has the Ministry to say that a tax imposed by this Parliament shall not be COl.lected?
– The collection of 2s. :a bale was suspended by a subsequent act.
– The whole matter needs much more complete, careful and detailed examination than is likely to be given to it to-day. The bill should not .pass. This money belongs to the wool-growers of Australia, and the passage of any legislation which takes it from them and places it in a fund, trust or other, is, in my opinion, an unlawful arid immoral act on the part of the Commonwealth Government.
– The money with which the bill deals is quite distinct .from that dealt with in the statement qf the Minister for Commerce and .Agriculture (Mr. Scully) last night, namely, the £20,000,000 from the realization of the Wool which accumulated during the war. The definite understanding of all wool-growers is that the whole of the profits from the sales of their wool were to revert to them. 1 appreciate that the £20,000,000 with which the statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture dealt’ does not represent true profit, because it is a portion only of the realization, and the finalization has yet to be effected. When the final distribution is made, the amount may be £20,000,000, or more or less than that sum. But in regard to the £7,000,000 with which this bill deals, I submit that the contention of the honorable member, for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), that it should go to fell-mongers who may have made the sales, is entirely erroneous.
– I said that it could not go to them.
– The honorable gentleman said that difficulty would be experienced in the distribution of it, but if regard were had to legal rights, those were the persons to whom the payments should . be made. That is entirely erroneous, because’ the whole of the’ wool was acquired by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has correctly stated the position. I submit that the sales of wool that- are represented by the ‘money dealt with by this bill are, in a sense, miscellaneous sales, and were included in the total quantity embraced by the wool acquisition scheme, which is now being handled by the Joint Organization. That organization is in the same category a? a company which sells to a subsidiary the by-products of the commodity with which it deals. Ultimately, all the profits qf both the main and the subsidiary company revert to the producers of the commodity. Undoubtedly, the reasons for distribution stated in the bill are commendable, but in the right connexion. We are dealing with a commodity that has been required- to make a contribution, which rightly should be made by the Government, to the uplift of the industry. I do not suggest that the great wool industry should not make a contribution to such matters as publicity and scientific research ; because I defy anyone except an expert to distinguish between clothes made from whole-fibre and those made from whole wool. The . competition of the former cannot be regarded lightly. The Minister has stated by way of -interjection that the payment of 2s. a bale has been suspended. I point out, however, that the contribution that has to be made in connexion with the marketing of wool by the Joint Organization is greater than the tax which it was intended should be placed on the industry, because it amounts to 5 per cent. If this £7,000,000 were diverted to the payment of the contribution to the Joint Organization, it would be sufficient for two years, because 5 per cent, on the average income of the industry, which is £70,000,000 a year, would be £3,500,000.’ In that way, the wool-growers could be assisted directly. However. the Government has cho,cen to adopt another method, which corresponds with that which it has adopted in connexion with the wheat and other industries. I shall support any proposal, for the payment of this money to the growers, because it rightly belongs to them. Acquisition involves rights. In this matter, the rights have been correctly stated by the honorable member for Barker.
It has been stated on behalf of the Government that- there has not yet been any trade in the terms of paragraph e of clause 6, which reads -
Regulating or assisting the marketing, or stabilizing the price, of wool by the purchase of wool or by other means.
That, obviously, gives to the Government the right to use this money for trade purposes if it so desires. The Government would have shown itself to be sincere had it not embodied that provision in the bill, because it covers trading in the fullest sense.
The drought conditions that have prevailed throughout the industry, particularly in Queensland, merit more sympathetic consideration than has been given by the Government, which should endeavour to make whatever payments it can to the wool-growers in order that they may be relieved of some of the heavy losses they have incurred. In respect of cotton and wheat, the Government without prior intimation withheld moneys belonging to the industry. In this instance, it is filching money from the grow- . ers- of wool, and diverting it to a purpose that is suited to its own designs, at a time when the growers badly need help. I shall support any amendment designed to secure the distribution of this money among the growers.
.- There is nothing novel in this measure.- It represents merely a further “ steal “ from another section of primary producers.
– The honorable gentleman is an expert in that connexion.
– The Government has established quite clearly the principle, if it can properly be so described, that has been applied in connexion with this matter. It has completely abandoned the old-fashioned idea that when a man invests his capital and labour. ‘ takes risks, and produces something, that something is his. That idea has ‘stood the test of time. Yet in the few years during which the Labour party has occupied the treasury bench, it has substituted for that principle this new idea, that when a free Australian produces a commodity, and the circumstances of war require that the Government shall arbitrarily take possession of it, the owner is to be regarded ‘as having :no real equity in it, but is to be given only what the Government, in accordance with its political idealogies or idiosyncrasies, considers is good enough for him. The Government may or may not throw a tit-bit to him later on. It. is time the primary producers understood the fate which awaits them if Australia is to be afflicted much longer with a Labour government.
Many arguments have been advanced about the ownership of -money derived from the sale of this wool. I do not propose to go over again what. has been expounded with such undeniable logic by my colleagues. The price for skin wool from fellmongers was arbitrarily fixed, and the question is, who is to be regarded as the person entitled to any subsequent profit. The butcher or the fellmonger bought the skins on a clear understanding of the value of the wool as declared by the Government. Then certain profit accrued, but no one has said that the fellmonger is entitled to this fortuitous profit.
– It has been suggested.
– It is true that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), without being named, immediately accepts responsibility for the suggestion. However, there can be no question of the fellmonger being entitled to the .profit, lt must belong either to the Government or to those who grew the wool.
– The original owners of the sheep from which the skins caine.
– I would have thought that such persons could be described as wool-growers.
– But they are a particular kind of wool-growers.
– They are woolgrowers. I did not think that I would, have to make such an elementary explanation, but I remind the Minister that sheep skins are taken off sheep which are raised by wool-growers. We do not get sheep skins- off trees, but off sheep, and sheep are raised by wool-growers.
– How would the honorable member work it out if the man who raised the sheep sold a flock to someone else, who then sold it to another person who finally sold the sheep to a butcher? Who would get the skin money?
– We are not here to put riddles to . each other, but to do justice to the producers, and I am not going to be deflected from my purpose by questions of that sort. Let the Minister put them to the “ Quiz Kids “. This is a serious matter.’ If the Minister believes that he can establish a case by tricky parliamentary practices, which will’ justify the Government in refusing to pay the original sheep owners what they are entitled to, he may succeed here, with the help of his majority, but he will not convince the wider audience outside’ this Parliament. Just as the logic of the case which we have advanced in regard to skin wool is unequivocally clear, so it is in regard to wool from noils, and the wool content of manufactured goods. Of course, I do not expect that argument from this side of the chamber will make any impression on the Government, which is notorious for never having accepted any amendment or suggestion from the Opposition. I know that I am merely beating the air so far as anything I may say can affect this bill, but I know also that the woolgrowers will formulate an opinion on the subject which they will translate into action at the forthcoming elections.
The Government will crash this bill through Parliament as it has done with other measures, but in spite of that, it will feel that there is a cold breeze blowing when its. representatives face the electors in a short while. The wool-growers have a claim to this money -on grounds of simple equity, and on what used to pass for justice in this country, but at this time they have special need of the money because they have suffered the effects of a devastating drought. It is calculated that, in Victoria, sheep flocks have declined from 20,000,000 to 14,000,000 in the last year. In New South Wales and Queensland, one of the most disastrous droughts ever known is raging now. The wool-growers are at their wits’ end to carry on under such conditions, and they confidently expected that, sooner or later, they would be paid for the wool they grew. . It will be poor consolation for them to learn that their £7,000,000 will be used at the discretion of the Government for research or publicity purposes, or for stabilizing prices, or for almost any reason that the Minister thinks fit. I warn the Government that the policy implicit in this proposal cannot be sustained when the Australian people have an opportunity to express their will. If Australia is not to degenerate into a socialist state we must get back to the simple principle that what a man produces by the sweat of his brow, or by the investment of his own savings, is his, and shall not be seized by any government and disposed of by caucus behind closed doors in the manner deemed to be best in the interests of the party.
– No amount of debate on this subject will, presumably, make it clear to the Opposition that the Government is doing a fair and just thing with the money under discussion. The mere fact that honorable members opposite, one after the other, have said that the money belongs to the wool-growers, does not make the statement true. Mere repetition does not make any statement true. .If one considers the origin of this. fund it becomes evident that the wool-growers have no claim to the money at all. The point was discussed very fully by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon). The money in the fund was derived from three different sources,’ the first being skin wool. The honorable member for Forrest pointed out that if anyone had a claim to the profit which accrued from the sale of this wool it would be the person who had owned the sheep whose skins were sold to the skin buyers. However, honorable members opposite suggest that the money should be distributed to all wool-growers, throughout Australia. It might have been possible in the early stages, if the -Government led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had evolved a plan whereby the ownership of the skins could be traced, to pay the profit to individual owners of the sheep from which the skins were taken. However^ the right honorable gentleman knew perfectly well that such a scheme would be extremely difficult to put into effect. Therefore, he made a clear statement in which he said that the price paid for wool from skins would be the final price, and that no addition to that price would be made at any later stage. The P-rime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in the course of a statement on the subject, also made the position clear. He said that when the wool purchase arrangement was commenced in 1939, it was announced by the then Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) that wool from sheep skins would not participate in any subsequent division of profit, and that the price paid at the time would be’ the final and only price. That statement was not qualified in any way. If anyone is to blame for the nonpayment of this £7,000,000 to the persons who raised the sheep from which the skins came, it is the Leader of the Opposition for failing to put into effect a suitable plan at the beginning. There are two other sources from which the £7,000,000 is derived. Certain profits were made in respect- of wool-tops exported from Australia, and certain sums accumulated from the export of manufactured woollen goods on which manufacturers had to pay to the Central Wool Committee a. sum equivalent to the difference between the appraised price for wool and the export price fixed by the British Government. In respect of wool used for the manufacture of cloth and exported from this country, the growers were paid the appraised price, plus a supplementary amount which is paid at the end of every year.
– That is incorrect, and the Minister knows it.
– It is not. The growers who owned the wool which was used for the manufacture of wool-tops, converted into cloth and finally exported from Australia, were paid the full price for their wool.* How then can anything more be due to them? Honorable members opposite refuse to be convinced on this matter because they are determined to use the proposal to further their own political purposes. There is absolutely no logic in their opposition to the bill; the reasons they have submitted as to why the money should be returned to the woolgrowers will not bear examination. At least two Australian Country party members pictured a very depressing scene, claiming that thousands of wool-growers are suffering badly from the effects of drought and that if only this money were paid to the growers they would be able to buy new equipment and re-stock their properties. What are the facts? If this money were distributed among the growers at least one-half of them would get the large amount of £2 10s. each. How could they equip their farms and buy new stock with that? It is true that a small- number of growers would get a large sum of money, but, even if they did, a considerable portion of it would go back to the Treasury by way of taxes. If the Government desired to derive financial benefit from the existence of this fund, the best thing it could do would be to pay the money to the growers and collect the greater part of it in taxes.
– How’ does the Minis:ter arrive at the figure of £2 10s.?
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has made his speech ; I am now making mine. The accuracy of any statement I have made in this chamber has never been challenged. The honorable member may rest assured that when I make a statement it is true, as this one is. Honorable members opposite concentrated on the question of research in the use of wool, saying that it would not be possible to expend purely on research in a short space of time the large sum of money lying to the credit of the fund. There are six avenues through which this money’ is proposed to be expended. The proceeds of the fund are, however, to be invested, and it is expected that the income will amount to between £200,000 and £250,000 per annum. The amount standing to the credit of the wool fund will be supplemented by moneys collected under the Wool Use Promotion Act, which amount to approximately £325,000 per annum, and will be used for research, publicity and other purposes as set out in clause 6 of the bill. I propose to deal specifically with the subject of research. The estimates of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the current financial year include an amount of £453,000 for research in wool production and textiles. It is obvious, therefore, that research may absorb quite a large amount ,of money. Expenditure by the council for that purpose will be undertaken whencomplete investigations ‘ of the benefits which may or may not be derived from such research have been estimated. Theresearch programme pf the council in respect of wool has been discussed by the Wool Consultative Council on which have been appointed two members of the Wool Board. When the wool-growers met representatives of the Government in conference on this matter and contended that they had no say in the expenditure of this money, it was pointed out to them that the two members of the Wool Board on the Wool Consultative Council would assist in ‘ advising the Government as to what research should be undertaken. The growers, however, still maintained that they did not have sufficient representation, whereupon the Government agreed to co-opt two additional growers to serve on the Wool Consultative Council when matters relating to the research programme were under consideration. It is, therefore, not true to say that the wool-growers have not been consulted about the research programme. Tt is a fact that the growers claimed that if they could exert sufficient pressure upon the Government they might be able to secure for themselves the money now in the fund. That, after all is but human nature. ‘ Mr. Abbott. - And honesty.
– My sense of honesty is just as highly developed as that of the honorable member. It is understandable that when the growers saw so much money accumulated in a fund they should desire to secure it for their own use. I point out, however, that a largeportion of the money has accrued from the trading enterprise of the Government and rightfully belongs to the Government, but the Treasurer has been generous ; realizing, that the wool industry is of the greatest importance to Australia, he has decided to use the money for research and the promotion of the use of wool. The view held by the Government on this subject is shared by at least one leadingmember of the Wool Board. The expenditure of this money as proposed in the bill will benefit the wool industry generally and will confer’ benefits on in: dividual growers .greater than could be obtained by them if it, were handed over to them.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. -Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear).
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Sitting suspended from1.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the application of certain funds vested in the Australian Wool Realization Commission.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) Moneys standing to the credit of the fund may be invested by the Treasurer in securities of the Commonwealth or of a State.
– I move - .
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “may be invested by the Treasurer in securities of the Commonwealth or of a State “be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ shall be invested by the Treasurer in Australian Consolidated Stock “.
I do so because the clause empowers the Treasurer to invest the money standing to the credit of the Wool Industry Fund in securities of the Commonwealth or of a State. The securities of the Commonwealth include treasury-bills, but, as has already been amply demonstrated in the second-reading debate, the money in the fund ought to be invested to the greatest possible advantage and on the most solid basis. Money in various trust funds of the Commonwealth is invested in consolidated stock, but the money in the National Welfare Fund is invested in treasury-bills, which are nothing but IOU’s carrying an interest rate of £1 per cent, and renewable annually, whereas the interest on Commonwealth bonds varies from 31/2 to 4 per cent. We on this side of the chamber have not been candidly told where the money referred to in this bill is. About £7,000,000 is involved. The Treasurer told me that the money had not been used for the purposes of the Commonwealth Government, that is, placed in the Consolidated Revenue or a trust fund. Where is it then? If it is in the hands of the Australian Wool Realization Commission established under the Wool Realization Act 1945 what has been done with it? I understand, however, that it has been paid to the Commonwealth Government, and, if so, it must have gone into Consolidated Revenue and is consequently not available; but, if it is to be unwisely invested in treasury-bills, the money will be placed temporarily in a trust fund and then withdrawn and replaced by treasurybills, carrying interest of only £1 per cent., which must be renewed every twelve months. If the money is not to be given back to the growers, to whom it legally and morally belongs, it should be invested in consolidated stock.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The right honorable gentlema n asks where the money is. It is still in the hands of the Australian Wool Realization Commission. That fact could be gathered from the bill by any one who took the trouble to read it. Sub-clause 1 of clause 4 reads -
The Australian Wool Realization Commission . . . may pay to the Treasurerof the Commonwealth any moneys . . .
Obviously, it cannot pay money to the Treasurer unless it has it. The right honorable gentleman ought to know that sub-clause 1 of clause 5, which he wishes to amend in order to direct the Treasurer to invest the money in Commonwealth consolidated stock, contains the stereotyped provision for investing trust funds.He gave as his reason for moving the amendment that hp wanted to be certain that the money invested by the Treasurer would’ earn the highest possible rate of interest, f think it ridiculous, and I think the people will agree, that he should try to rell a Treasurer with the record that the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has earned by his careful husbandry of public f unds how he should invest money. The Leader of the Australian Country party is trying to teach his grandmother to suck eggs. The Government will not accept the amendment, and the committee may rest assured that the Treasurer will invest the money in the best possible way
– The refusal of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to accept the amendment is inexplicable. He described the amendment as ridiculous, and said that the Treasurer would invest the money in the best possible way; but, if.it is to be invested- in securities of the Commonwealth, surely consolidated stock would be a more profitable investment than treasury-bills: because of the much higher return. The only reason why the Minister refuses to accept the amendment is his obstinacy. He said that the money was not in the hands of the Treasury, but in the hands of the Australian Wool Realization Commission. If that is so, I should like to know whether it has been invested by the commission, and, if so, how. In moving the second reading of this bill, the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) gave a table of amounts totalling £6,650,000, which he said were held by the commission. I regret that the right honorable gentleman is not here to consider this matter himself.
– I can give the committee all the information.
– The Prime Minister and Treasurer has-the bad habit of coming into this chamber and reading statements prepared for him’ by public servants. Then this great Treasurer, conveniently for himself, scuttles out of the chamber because he has not the stamina to stand up to criticism. That has been his record ever since he has been Treasurer. We want to know whether the’ money is invested, and, if so, where it is invested. The Treasurer mentioned £7,000,000 as being the probable total of excess funds that are to be applied in accordance with the provisions of this bill. Unfortunately, all the second-reading debate revolved around that amount, but I think £8,000,000 would be nearer the mark. Last April the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction gave us to understand that the difference between £6,500,000 and £7,000,000 was represented by interest, thus indicating that the money is invested; but where is it invested ? If we knew that we should know whether the Treasurer, without the instruction to him contained in the amendment, is likely to invest the money wisely. We should also have an indication of whether the Australian Wool Realization Commission is a wise’ investor. The purpose of the amendment is to instruct the Government to invest these moneys to the best possible advantage. If the Minister refuses to- accept the amendment, the people will come to the sorry conclusion that. the Government is obdurate and will -not agree- to any reasonable “ proposal put forward by the Opposition.
.- The ability and integrity of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) require no defence against the imputations of the honorable member for’ Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). The honorable member did a grave injustice to my leader when he cast’ an unwarranted reflection upon him, and he deserves to be reproved for it. In ability, he is not able to hold a candle to this great and outstanding Australian.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) used a method of financial reasoning which he has from time to time adopted. His- contentions revealed a lack of elementary knowledge of financial procedure, or an unwillingness honestly to propound the views in which he believes. He said that” this money should be invested in consolidated stock, and not in what he disparagingly referred to as I O U’s, namely, treasury-bills. Of course, the right honorable gentleman knows that the reason for the low rate of interest on treasury-bills is that these balances are virtually cash. The factors that decide interest rates are, first, the security behind the promise to pay, and secondly, the knowledge that if the money is required from time to time, the full amount of the investment may be obtained ‘ without loss or brokerage fees in cashing the security. Based on those two procedures the interest rate of 1 per cent, on treasury-bills compares very favorably, as evidenced by the willingness of the Commonwealth Bank and the private trading banks to accept this security, with Commonwealth ordi- nary loans for periods of five, ten, or fifteen years, and even longer. The security behind both classes of’ stock is the same. The reason why the’ interest rate on treasury-bills is comparatively low is that the owner of funds loses control of the money for a purely limited period. The rate of interest is higher, on other Government securities, because the owner of the money or the holder and controller of a fund loses control of it for’ a much longer period.’ For these reasons, the rate of 1 per cent, on treasurybills is as valuable a return as a slightly higher rate paid for a long-term security. Certain other considerations arise. One person may invest in consolidated stock because he ‘wants the interest. Another person may- desire to use the principal as and when the need arises. If the investor wants to use the interest only, the original investment should be made for a long term at the higher rate of interest. If the investor is uncertain as to when and how the principal will be required, he naturally will invest in a security which, does not tie up his money for a long period, or involve any ‘sacrifice of principal in the cashing of the security. Therefore, the argument of the right honorable gentle- man is completely hollow, displaying, not perhaps a lack of knowledge, but, more reprehensibly, an unwillingness to support openly a principle in which he believes. He has attempted to deceive the. people about what he knows to be the actual facts. From time to time, the right honorable gentleman has said that the National Welfare Fund, the balances of which are invested in treasury-bills, is bankrupt. Presumably, if the funds provided for in that measure are invested in treasury-bills) the right honorable gentleman will once again say that the fund is bankrupt. It is true that he interjected on one occasion when I was speaking, that he referred to the fund being bankrupt of ready cash. That con tention is no more justifiable or valid, because if investment in treasury-bills, the evidence of which . holding are the treasury-bills themselves, is proof of bankruptcy either of cash or assets, by the same reasoning, the person who holds a. deposit in a bank, the only evidence of which is a hank pass-book and the entry therein; is also bankrupt of ready cash and principal. If the holding of treasury-bills is evidence of bankruptcy or even of an immediate lack of cash, ] would be content to be bankrupt to the extent of an unlimited volume of treasurybills. ‘
– The amendment which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mt. Fadden) submitted relates to the amount which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated in his second-reading speech to be £7,000,000, but which it now admitted to be £8,000,000. The- Government refuses to pay that money to the legitimate owners, the wool-growers of Australia. Its attitude is contrary to all logic and reason-.
– The honorable mem-‘ ber’s remarks are not related to the clause.
– My remarks are very pertinent to the clause. If this Government is defeated a few weeks hence, honesty will prevail, and the growers will receive the amount of £8,000,000 which belongs to them, but which is being filched from them under this proposal. The amendment is designed to provide that the money, while in the fund, shall be invested at the most advantageous rates pending the time that the Government is dismissed, so that honesty may prevail and the money be returned to its legitimate owners. The purpose of the Leader of the Australian Country party is to ensure that these funds shall be invested in consolidated stock, and the interest payable on them shall be at the highest rate possible for this class of investment. I remind the legitimate owners of these funds, the Australian wool-growers, that if the money is invested in treasurybills, the interest rate will be 1 per cent, as compared with the ‘ rate of 4 per cent, which it could earn in consolidated stock. An amount of £53,000,000, which belongs to the rational Welfare Fund, has been invested in Commonwealth treasUry-bills at 1 per cent., the interest amounting to £530,000 a year. If it had been invested in consolidated stock at 4 per cent. - the rate at which, we contend, the woolgrowers’ money should be invested - the return would exceed £2,000,000. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) drew a distinction between the rate of interest payable on treasury-bills and that payable on investments for long terms. This amount of £7,000,000 cannot possibly be expended in the directions which the* Minister (Mr. Dedman) indicated., for a considerable time, even though the most rapacious, wasteful .and dishonest Government that Australia has ever experienced has its hands on the money. This is a story which shows the stark dishonesty of this Government. The point regarding the value of the- investment of this money in consolidated stock, which the honorable member for Perth so skilfully evaded, is that this slock is selling at par rates, and can be maintained at a par rate of value through the open market operations of the Commonwealth Bank. That institution is controlled by the Government, from which i*. receives its instructions. Therefore, the bank may contract or expand credit, and by its actions, can affect the interest rate on all Government stocks. There is not the slightest danger of the interest rates on long term Commonwealth securities falling so long as the central bank is prepared to maintain them. The honorable member for Perth told a very poor story indeed to the wool-growers, in his endeavour to convince them that they will receive the proper rate of interest on their funds. I contend that the interest rate should be 4 per cent. Then, if the wool-growers neve2- receive the capital amount in the fund, they will at least get considerably more benefit from the higher interest rate than they will from the mean return of 1 per cent.
– Who said that the funds will be invested at 1 per cent.?
– I ask the Minister not to interrupt me. He is endeavouring to prevent me from telling, the truth to the people. The whole of the arrangement contemplated in this bill creates a feeling of deep suspicion in the minds, not only of wool-growers, but of all primary producers. What has happened to one primary industry can happen ‘ to others. The wool-growers’ funds have been filched from them. We do not know where this policy of the Government will end. When the bill to take over the accumulated stocks of wool was introduced, we were assured that the woolgrowers would pay only a very small contributory charge. But in the first year of operation, the amount of the contributory charge was fixed at 5 per cent., or five times greater than the woolgrowers expected. Goodness knows what charge the Government will fix in the second year ! The progression of charges in respect of this fund reminds me of the progress of Ned Kelly, during last century, when he took the funds of private individuals and applied them to his own purposes. That is exactly what the Government is doing .to-day. I strongly support the amendment, first, because it will ensure the. better investment of the fund; and secondly, because it will keep the money out of the hands of the Government. I fear that if this’ considerable sum be not invested in Commonwealth, or State consolidated stock, the Government may divert it .from the use to which, even within the terms of this bill, it should be applied.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) referred to treasurybills. These ‘ are a fluid security. In fact, they remind me bf Micawber. Honorable gentlemen will recollect that, when Micawber signed a promissory note in settlement of a debt he remarked, ‘( Thank God, that’s settled “. The Commonwealth Government is in much the same position. A return which was made available to me only yesterday indicated that treasury-bills valued at £344,000,000 were in circulation in Australia at .the 30th June, 1946.
– There is nothing about treasury-bills in this clause.
– The clause . provides that the fund may be invested by the Treasurer in Commonwealth or State securities. Does the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say that treasury-hills do not fall within that, category ?
– They may; nevertheless, treasury-bills are not mentioned in the clause .
– They were referred to by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke). Do honorable gentlemen opposite not consider that the wool-growers would be much more satisfied with the proposal that we have made, and with adherence to the arrangement of February, 1940, than with the proposal of the Government? At present this fund can be invested in any way the Government desires, but the income from the investment should be paid into the fund. There is a big difference, I point out, between the returns from investments in treasury-bills, which are short-dated securities, and the returns from longdated securities. The Robin Hood methods being adopted by the Government are totally unsatisfactory to us, and we are tired of the high and mighty attitude adopted by Ministers whenever we suggest a variation of the financial procedure they desire to follow and of which they give neither explanation nor justification. However, this trouble will be overcome before long.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Fadden’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. j. F. RIORDAN.)
Majority … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
The moneys standing to the credit of the Fund may be applied in any manner approved by the Treasurer, after consulatation with the Ministers, for purposes associated with the wool industry and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, may be applied for any of the following purposes: -
.- I desire to move an amendment.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! This afternoon there have been far too many interjections from honorable gentlemen on both sides of the chamber. The Chair will be forced to deal with honorable gentlemen who continue to contravene the Standing Orders in this way.
– I move-
That all the words after “Fund” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ shall be distributed within six months of the passing of this Act amongst wool-growers who submitted wool for appraisement during the period of the operations of the Central Wool Committee so that each such wool-grower shall be entitled to an amount which bears the same proportion to the total credit of the fund as his payments from the Central Wool Committee bore to the total sum so distributed by the committee”.
The object of the amendment is to ensure that the £7,000,000 odd standing to the credit of the fund, which really belongs to the wool-growers, shall be distributed among them in the manner set out. There is precedent for dealing with a surplus of this description in this way, for .the surplus in the sheep-skin account in connexion with the wool . disposal scheme of 1916-20 was distributed by this method, and the wool-growers offered no objection to it. There is no reason to suppose that they would object to the distribution that I am ‘now proposing. . Honorable gentlemen opposite, including the Minister in charge of the bill, have said that it would be impracticable to distribute this money equitably among all growers entitled to participate in such a distribution. I disagree. I believe, . that if the money were distributed according to the proposal I have made the growers would be satisfied.
– Order ! The Chair has had the opportunity to consider the proposed amendment of the honorable gentleman, and finds that it would alter the purpose of the appropriation approved by the House. The amendment is therefore out of order.
.- T move -
That the clause be postponed, as an instruction to the Government - that steps be taken to distribute the money in this fund in the form of refunds to the woolgrowers of Australia to whom it properly belongs.
It is noteworthy that during the five years of its existence this Government has displayed from time to time a flagrant disregard of the financial rights of certain sections of the primary producers. We have heard during the last few weeks of the disbursement of certain money which belonged to the wheatgrowers. I have also been informed that millions of pounds belonging to the butter producers has been wrongly diverted from them. Now, we have this blatant withholding of £7,000,000 from the wool-growers of Australia. Ry no conceivable argument can it be shown that that money belongs to anybody except those who grew the wool.
– The honorable mem ber is interested only in the brokers and dealers.
– The purpose of my amendment is to have this money distributed, not among brokers and dealers, but among all the wool-growers of Australia, small and big.
– What about the widows and orphans?
– Interjections of that character are the stock-in-trade of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson)1 and his colleagues. . The woolgrowers of Australia deserve more consideration than does any other section of the community! They have neither asked for nor received anything from the Government. No subsidy has ever been paid to. the wool industry, as has been paid to many other industries. It has not the benefit of any tariff protection. By means of the export of wool, funds, are established overseas which enable us to import petrol, rubber, and other commodities which the civil population of Australia needs so badly. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in reply to a question that I asked recently, said that a lessening of the restrictions imposed in respect of petrol depended on the dollar position. Both the dollar and the sterling position depend upon the export of our wool. No bounty is sought by the wool-grower. All that he asks is that he shall receive the money which has come into the possession of the Government, acting .as his agent, as the result of the sale of his wool. Certain payments have been made to the woolgrowers under the contract that was made with the United Kingdom Government. Out of the realization of certain wool, an average price of 15 ½d. per lb. has been paid. That average price has not been received by every grower. Naturally, some growers have received more, and others less. Adjustments have been made from time to time, and these have been reflected in, the funds of the Central Wool Committee. -But this other fund has been . established as the result of the sales of skins, wool-tops, and the wool exported in the form of manufactured goods. It cannot be claimed that the Government has invested any funds, or established any machinery, for the promotion of the sales which have resulted in the accumulation of this excess profit of £7,000,000. The money has come into its possession under the terms of the wool purchase arrangement with Great. Britain. It is a huge sum. Had it been collected from the earnings of the members of various trade unions, the Government would not have ha’d the courage to propose that it should be. diverted to Consolidated Revenue. The wool-grower should not be treated differently from any other working man in Australia. Perhaps the hardest worked man in this country, particularly in times of drought and shearing, is the wool-grower. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) represents the big woolgrowing division of Gwydir.
– The number of sheep that I represent exceeds the number of bananas in the electorate of the honorable member.
– Exactly. On the northern tablelands of New South Wales in my electorate, in the districts of Glen Innis, Tenterfield and Deepwater, the number of wool-growers is fairly considerable. The northern part of the electorate represented by the Minister is passing through a disastrous drought. In the last week or so, the press has published pictures showing the losses of sheep and other stock that have been sustained.
– What has that matter to do with the committee?
– The committee is interested in the fact that an amount of £7,000,000, which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be claimed to belong to the Government, is indirectly to become its property by means of this legislation. On top of what happened to money belonging to the wheat-grower, and that which should have gone to the butter producer, this treatment of the wool-grower is a scandal of first .magnitude. It is easy for the Government to say lightly, “We will take ‘ £7,000,000 belonging to somebody else”, but it is difficult for an Opposition so small in number as we are to prevent that action. We can merely raise our voices in protest, in the hope that, when another government assumes office, this legislation will be repealed. The Labour party has held the reins of office for five years. In the first year, or two years, it was most solicitous for the welfare of the”* primary producers. Everything that it said and did was designed to establish its intense sympathy for those men. But that sympathy has languished more and more with every day that has passed. The stage has now been reached at which the Government is so arrogant as to believe that it can ‘ dispense ‘ with the support of the primary producers, and revert to its real policy. It believes that it can take £7,000,000, which properly belongs to men and women in the droughtstricken areas of Australia, “who have to resort to financial institutions to obtain feed for their . stock, upon which their industry depends. I am not acquainted with their circumstances individually, ner is the Government, but I do know that very many of them are financing operations through banking institutions. Every honorable member who represents a wool-growing district knows that the 30-called “big man” is frequently “ up to his neck “ in debt. That applies not only to the big man but also to the small man. I have knowledge of the circumstances of many of these individuals. Over the years, they have not had uniformly prosperous times. I expected a ministerial supporter to interject, “ What did your Government do ? “ or something of the kind. Whatever criticism may bo levelled at preceding “governments, at least it can be said that they did not take money belonging to the wool-grower, and place it in Consolidated Revenue.
.- The mournful dirge of members of the Australian Country party indicates that they are suffering pre-election jitters. Bytheir characteristic gross, misrepresentation of facts they are trying to mislead the wool-growers and other primary producers of this country. They are not doing that innocently. Let us analyse dispassionately the wool realization agreement. We .must remember that, at the outbreak of the last war, an arrangement was made whereby Great Britain under- took to take over, the whole of Australia’s - wool production for the period of the war and one season thereafter. The Minister for Commerce who signed that agreement was the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir. Earle Page), a prominent member of the Australian Country party, which was then an appendage of the Government. Members of the Opposition fully realize that the- agreement definitely provides that any profits on the sale of unprocessed wool were to become a part of the . profits of- the scheme and be divisible among the various wool-growers. But the arrangement . also provided that any profits from the sale of processed or partly-processed wool were not to be regarded as profits that should be divided under the scheme. The . substantial profits that were made during the war from the sales of wool tops and other partially-treated wool did not come into the scheme. The profits made in Great Britain were regarded as the property of the Government of the United Kingdom, and, I assume, were paid into the British treasury: The profits on the sale of wool processed and partly-processed in Australia were not regarded as profits under the scheme. Therefore, the statement that any funds derived in that way should be divided among the producers is gross misrepresentation of the facts. As a matter of fact, skin wools were specially excluded from the scheme, and the growers were not entitled to share in the profits that were made when -they were sold. It is quite definite that they cannot claim a share of the profits from the sale of processed articles. The Government,’ but for its magnanimity, -could have paid the whole of this amount into Consolidated Revenue. It would have been quite -justified in’ doing so, because the fund was not associated in any way with the profits that were made under the arrangement. But the Government has set the money aside for the assistance of the wool-growers. Paragraph a of clause 6 provides that the money may be used for -
Scientific, economic and cost research in connexion with the production and use of wool, and goods made wholly or partly from wool.
Research on those lines must be helpful to the wool industry. Before the war, we heard much about the danger of synthetic fibres to our wool industry, so that the -Government cannot be blamed for expending money on research to enable wool to compete effectively with synthetic fibres. The clause- also provides for the expenditure of money on the promotion by publicity and other means of the use of wool in Australia and throughout the world. I have recently had an opportunity to see what is being done in the way of such publicity in London, and I am sure that the wool industry will benefit by the expenditure of money on these lines. We have been told that those interested in the manufacture of synthetic fibres are prepared to spend millions of pounds on publicity. Therefore, we must be prepared to meet this competition. Paragraph e of the clause provides for regulating or assisting the marketing or stabilizing of. the price of wool. Paragraph 6 (/) is in these terms -
The provision of temporary relief for the wool industry in such circumstances and under such conditions as the Treasurer, after consultation with the Ministers, thinks just;
That is a very wide provision. If it is thought fit, the Government may use some of this money to assist wool-growers. It is evident, therefore, that the money will be expended to the great advantage of the whole industry. It is misrepresentation to say that the amount of £7,000,000 is the property of the woolgrowers. It never was their property, because it was placed outside the provisions of the arrangement entered into by the Australian Country party with the Government of Great Britain.
– I was not a member of the Government which made the arrangement, nor was. any member of the Australian Country party.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), claims that he was a member of the Government at that time. As I have said, the agreement specifically excluded skin wool, and honorable members opposite are endeavouring, by gross misrepresentation, to. mislead the people.
– If the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) chooses to -enter this debate he should at least stick to the facts. I am not at present a member of the Australian Country party, and it is inaccurate to say that the Australian Country party entered into the agreement under discussion. No member of the Australian Country party was in the Government at that time. In fact, it was not an agreement in the ordinary sense of the word, but simply an arrangement based upon an exchange of cablegrams between the two governments. I am prepared, if necessary, to second the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). No .wider powers could be given to any government for the disposal of money than this Government assumes in regard to the fund of £7,000,000. For instance, in paragraph a it seeks power to use the money for -
Scientific, economic and cost research in connexion with the production and use of wool and goods made wholly or partly from wool;
Thus, the money may be expended upon promoting the use, not only of goods, made wholly of wool, but also of goods made partly of wool. There is nothing to prevent the Government from using this money for research into rayon, or other synthetic fibres, or for research into the use of cotton, because it is much used for mixing with wool. Indeed, under the terms of this provision, the Government could set up a factory for the production of rayon. Paragraph b says that the money, may be used for the provision of ‘ all things necessary for, or essential to, the carrying out of such research, and paragraph c states -
The co-ordination and application of the results of any such research;
Just what that means we might find out by calling a meeting of all the professors in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and asking them for an opinion. [ know of no other way. Paragraph d is as follows: -
The promotion by publicity and other means of the use of wool in Australia and. throughout the world;
– There is nothing wrong with that.
– The vote for the Department of Information lias grown from £22,000 a few years ago to £320,000 for this year. The taxpayers can only view with horror the prospect of handing £7,000,000 over to any Government department for publicity purposes. The department might even publish books telling prospective migrants ro Australia that they can buy suits of clothes here for 6M. It is a wonder that some of the publicity issued by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) does not make him blush. It is typical of the kind of bombast delivered by Faust in . his address to the Almighty. The next paragraph is as follows : -
Regulating or assisting the marketing, or stabilizing the price, of wool by the purchaseof wool or by other means.
This bill proposes to take £7,000,000, Robin Hood fashion, from the growers, and to hand it over to other persons who1 are to be charged, apparently, with assisting in the marketing of. wool, or in the stabilization of the price of wool. Only last year, the Government introduced certain legislation, and explained that it was necessary because stocks of wool wereheld which it would take fourteen years to dispose of. Of what use is it now to establish a fund for the purchase of wool when we already have so much that it will take us fourteen years to dispose of it?’ Paragraph / states -
The provision -of temporary relief for the wool industry in such circumstances and under such .conditions as the Treasurer, after consultation with the Ministers, thinks just;
Elsewhere, the “Ministers.” are defined as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research. . Thiscommittee of the House of Representatives is supposed to exercise full control over .the nation’s finances ; yet it is proposed to hand over to a committee of three Ministers the right to dispose of £7,000,000 which does not morally or legally belong to them. They may apply the money in many directions, including the temporary relief of the wool industry in such circumstances as they think just. The honorable member’ for Darling must surely have problems in his electorate, particularly in regard to re-stocking. In. the first place, it is practically impossible to buy stock, and those which are obtainable fetch a very high price. Why does not the Minister explain how it is proposed to. expend this money? Relief measures have been brought down in regard to other industries, notably the wheat industry, and their provisions have always been carefully explained. Here, however, we are asked to authorize a committee of Ministers to expend money from a fund of £7,000,000 for the relief of thewool industry,, under such conditions and in such circumstances as the Ministers- think just. However, the richest part of the whole proposal is in paragraphj, which reads as follows : -
In meeting, in whole or in part, any ultimate loss to which the Commonwealth may be subjected by reason of its participation in the disposals plan set forth in the Schedule to the Wool Realization Act 1945.
The Wool Realization Act is the one under which the Government hopes to dispose, within a period of fourteen years, of the present accumulation of wool. In effect, the Government now says that if it bungles the disposal of this wool, it will recoup itself out of the fund of £7,000,000 that rightly belongs to the wool-growers. This paragraph is the finest piece of political impertinence that I have ever seen. If the Minister for Information can convince the growers of the justice of the Government’s proposal, he deserves a crown of gold adorned with platinum. However, I doubt that even he would try to explain to the woolgrowers that they should feel satisfied in having £7,000,000 filched from them, and used for the purposes set forth in clause 6.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F.
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed. (Mr. Anthony’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J. F. RIORDAN.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- It was not my intention to speak on this clause because I thought the purposes to which the fund was to he devoted had been explained very lucidly by honorable members on this side of the chamber. T would have been prepared to leave the matter to the good sense of the primary producers, and the wool-growers in particular, but’ for an urgent telegram which [ have just received from a grower whose property is situated in a very rich grazing area in which some of the best Western Australian wool is grown. The telegram reads -
Farmers here listen to Parliament on the wireless. We now know who tries to stop the bills going through. Stick to your guns re .seven million. Declare war on foxes, dingoes and blowflies. …. 1 am not clear whether, in mentioning foxes, dingoes and blowflies, the sender was referring to members of the Opposition or to the pests that cause so much havoc in grazing areas. However that may be, we all know that those pests constitute a real menace to the wool industry. I suggest that some portion of the-money available in the fund should be allocated to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and utilized for their eradication. Every year Australian wool-growers lose lambs and ewes worth millions of pounds through the depredations of foxes and dingoes alone. I commend the suggestion of this practical farmer to the consideration of the Government.
– Honorable members opposite seem to be using that characteristic Nazi trick of making extravagant claims and continually repeating them in the hope that reason may be drowned by noise. They realize, however, that skin wool constitutes the Achilles heel of their arguments, because from the very outset of the negotiations with the British Government for the disposal of the Australian wool clip it was made clear that skin w.ool would be excluded from the agreement. Skin wools have been discussed in debates in this House in the ‘last few years. On one occasion the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) correctly declared that wool derived from the skins of butchered animals was worth about 3d. per lb. less than shorn wool. As the result the farmers refused to send their sheep to market when they were approaching the shearing stage in order to get the benefit of the extra value of shorn wool. The graziers had to be given the inducement of increased prices for the unshorn sheep to off-set that loss. I made representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) on behalf of several meat processors and exporters that they be allowed access to the table of limits and be granted packing house licences in order that they might be able to submit their wool skins for appraisement. They claimed that their ineligibility to submit skins for appraisement involved them in the loss of more than 2s. a skin through their having to sell on the glutted open market, in comparison with the other meat processors and meat exporters who, having packing house licences, could submit skins for appraisement, the reason being that a fair part of the skin that was not submitted for appraisement was a dead loss. It has been argued that the farmer who breeds sheep mainly for shearing will lose because .the Government proposes that the money derived from the handling of the skins by the Central Wool Committee shall be paid into the proposed. Wool Industry Fund, but the argument is false. The loss will be incurred by the meat exporters and processors who had to pay more for stock in order to encourage the graziers not to withhold sheep from the market until after shearing. I failed to induce the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to grant them packing house licenses in order that they might remove the anomaly in the wool scheme that was involving them in heavy losses. There are many of them, but only about half a dozen had packing house licences and accordingly access to appraisement centres for their wool skins. The others appealed to the Government to allow them to use a part of the unused quotas of those with packing house licences, but they were not given access to the table of limits because their wool skins were excluded from appraisement. In order to reduce their losses several of them went to the expense of establishing their own shearing plants at their slaughter houses. Roger Brothers, of
Orange. is one firm that did that. The cost to have the sheep shorn was 6d. a head, hut that was better than losing -2s. a skin. ,So, on the question of who suffered loss in the handling of the skins, I can affirm that the wool-growers were not the only losers. ft ha? been frequently claimed tha t . the wool-growers have never been subsidized and that they have got only what their own efforts have entitled them to. Yet the Australian Country party members said recently, in debating another measure, that they had no objection to subsidizing primary producers who wanted cheap wheat to fatten or keep their stock . alive so long as the subsidy .was not at the expense of the wheat-growers. There is an admission that wool-growers are to a degree subsidized.
– Subsidized by the wheat-growers, yes.
– The fact remains that they are subsidized by some one, which is a contradiction of the claim of the Australian Country party that they are not. Honorable members opposite condemn themselves out of their own mouths. They claim that the £7,000,000 involved in this legislation is entirely the property of the wool-growers.. That raises the question of how much has been paid to wool-growers. If honorable members will cast their minds back only a little while, they will remember a dispute between primary producers, who grow wheat as well as wool, and the Government on the No. 7 wheat pool, which the Government finally subvented to the amount of £7,000,000. Therefore, wool-growers who grew wheat, fat lamb raisers who bought wheat as stock feed, and wool-growers who .bought wheat in order- to keep’ their sheep alive until shearing time, collected about £9,000,000 by way of subsidy, which came out of the consolidated revenue. There is no dispute between the wheat-growers and the Government about the other wheat pools, prior to the last; all difficulties and differences have been ironed out. So honorable members can use whatever argu ments they like about wheat-farmers subsidizing the wool-growers-
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, this bill dealswith wool,- but the honorable member is debating wheat.
– The honorable member for Calare is quite in order. H*is making only a passing reference towheat.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite introduce so many irrelevanciesthat I am to be pardoned for replying to them in these passing references. The Government will be empowered by thu legislation to use the £7,000,000 that will be placed in the Wool Industry Fund to benefit the wool-growing industry. It would not be wise to restrict the means of disbursement of that money in achieving that purpose. The Government should have carte blanche to expend the money in whatever way it likes so long as the expenditure is directed to ensuring that the wool-growers shall derive benefit therefrom. The sympathy of the Government for the wool-growing industry is proved by the fact that although it might well have paid the money into consolidated revenue, without logical argument against that, it has earmarked the profit for the benefit of the wool-growers.
.- If ever there was a lecturer’ in frenzied finance, he is the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen). First he said that the money referred to in this bill that is to be paid into the Wool Industry Fund did not belong to the wool-growers, because realizations from the sale of wool skins and wool tops and manufactured woollen goods exported had nothing to do’ with the wool, realization scheme, and that therefore profits gained from the sales of those commodities could not be considered to be the property of the woolgrowers. But the Government, even by the adoption of the snide practice proposed in this bill, has recognized that the money does belong to the wool industry, and we say that it belongs to the individual wool-growers. I hope that discussion of this clause will not be gagged, as the discussion of the previous clause was gagged, without one Minister rising to defend the Government against th« charges that I made when discussing the. proposed amendment of that clause.
– No one pays any attention to the honorable gentleman.
– The wool-growers will probably pay some attention to what C have to say. The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), is vociferous when he thinks he has a good case, but he is silent, except for his irrelevant interjections, when he knows that he has no case. I commend the honorable gentleman for his discretion. However, the peo pie. want to know the truth, and they will not1 regard his silence with favour. We claim that, the £7,000,000 that is to be paid -into ‘the fund for the purposes set out in the bill belongs to the wool-growerS. It was realized from the sale of Australian wool. ‘ The Commonwealth Government did not pay one shilling towards setting up the organization that during the war handled the sale of that wool. It did not set up a huge business organization like General Motors-Holdens Proprietary Limited or the Colonial Sugar Company Limited or other large companies that do not earn the huge profits that the Government’s organization made, despite their employment of men, machinery and money on a large scale, in the manufacture and sale of their products. The only thing that the Government did towards the realization pf this £7,000,000 of excess revenue was to create a small board consisting of three growers’ representatives, three brokers’ representatives, one wool-buyers’ representative and one union representative, with an independent chairman. The first chairman was Mr. A. F. Bell, who was succeeded by Mr. Justice Owen Dixon, who in turn was succeeded by Mr. Justice Owen. Supporters of the Government claim that it is generous in saying that it will .expend the £7,000,000 in certain ways. But the honorable member for Swan read a telegram to him from an unnamed con- stituent in an unnamed district. I Its contents smacked of the communist literature that I find from time to time in my mail bag. The sender advocated that the money to be placed in the fund be ex- pended on the eradication of foxes, dingoes and blowflies. If it were used in the eradication, of many honorable mem- bers opposite on the 2Sth September, the wool-growers would not begrudge . one penny of the cost. As justification for taking this money instead of returning it. to the wool-growers who own it, the Government says that it proposes to expend it on research of all kinds and publicity in connexion- with the wool industry. The Government is very generous with somebody else’s hard-earned money. Let me make a comparison. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction receives from the Commonwealth a parliamentary and ministerial allowance exceeding £2,000 a year. The amount of £7,000,000, . if distributed among wool-growers, will increase their last year’s cheques by 14 per cent: Ministers would not receive with enthusiasm a proposal to reduce their allowances by 14 per cent, for the purpose of establishing with the proceeds a fund for research into political science.
Honorable members opposite have not been able to show any .just and moral reason for withholding from the woolgrowers this amount of £7,000,000. Numerically, the wool-growers are not strong. Perhaps that is their handicap. Their representation in this chamber is not large. Every h’onorable member opposite who represents a wool-growing district, considers that, he does not receivemany votes from wool-growers. But that should not restrain him from ensuring that they shall receive their just dues. Judged by the arrogant manner in which honorable members opposite defend the seizure of this money, they do not care’ whether or not they receive the political support of the wool-growers. I understand’ that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is preparing a further amendment in order to test their, views. Members of the Opposition realize that they are fighting a losing battle, because they have not sufficient numbers to compel the Government to render justice to this most deserving section of the community. Wool-growers labour in remote areas, endure adverse climatic conditions, and by their energy and industry, establish an overseas trade balance which enables Australia to import goods such as petrol, rubber, machinery and perfumery. Australias’ economy is based on the returns from the sale of our wool. Without a successful -wool industry, no section of our community can be prosperous. This bill does not give justice to the wool-growers.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has misrepresented my remarks, and abused the gentleman who sent a telegram to me. What honorable members opposite say about me personally dices not perturb me. I leave it to the electors of Swan to pass judgment on my parliamentary service on the 2Sth September next, but 1’ object to the honorable member’s implication that Mr. Frank Walker, of Mollerin, in Western Australia, a sheep and wheat-farmer who probably has more sheep than the honorable member has bananas, is a Communist. If the Opposition or the newspapers say anything good about me, I shall immediately re-examine my political views; but I do not desire them to refer disparagingly to an honorable and valuable member of the community.
.- I remind the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) that neither he nor the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) mentioned the name of any particular person. I invite the Minister (Mr. Dedman) to tell me the exact amount in this fund. I believe that the sum is nearer £8,000,000 than £7,000,000. When the Minister made a statement to the’ House in April, he gave the figures which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley)’ subsequently used in his second-reading speech, but the honorable gentleman said also that he believed that those figures would be substantially increased by the end ‘of June. To-day is the 8th August. The Central. Wool Committee has been wound up, and the Joint Organization and Australian Wool Realization Commission is now operating. Therefore, honorable members are entitled to a statement from the Minister of the exact amount in the fund. If an amount of £8,000,000 were distributed among woolgrowers it would increase their last year’s return by 14 per cent.
The honorable member for Forrest . (Mr. Lemmon) agreed with the Minister that it would be impossible equitably to distribute this amount of money among -wool-growers. The argument has centred ^principally on skin wools, although the wool content of materials exported from Australia and wool tops are also involved. I shall confine my remarks to skin wools. Any honorable’ member who possesses a practical knowledge of the pastoral industry will admit that the value, of skins does have an appreciable effect, or the value of the flocks. If skin values decline,, we expect, speaking generally, a reduction of the price of sheep. If skin values rise, as they are rising now. the effect is considerably to appreciate the value of the flocks. My contention is that, if we decrease, by some method, the value of the wool on the skin, we shall decrease the value of the wool on the flocks. Therefore, the producer of the wool will lose money.- If we increase tinvalue of the wool on the skin, the effect will be to increase the value of the flock* in the hands of the individual woolgrowers. Therefore, from that standpoint, the moneys derived from the wool on skins should be paid to the individual producers. The fellmonger has no claim to any portion of them. The Treasurer made that point clear in his secondreading speech. If further evidence be needed, it will he found in the White Paper containing an extract of the negotiations which led to the United Kingdom-Australian wool arrangement.’ The Prime Minister .said -
Growers have been paid the contract price in respect of wool bought by the United Kingdom Government, and a similar price -in respect of wool sold to Australian manufacturers. Each grower received initially the appraised price according to a “ Table of Limits “, which recognized a price differential as between various qualities, and at the end of each season he also received a supplementary payment to bring the average appraised price’ up to .the flat-rate contract price.
Every purchaser of skins bought them according to the “ Table of Limits “, and, therefore, their skins were bought at a price considerably below what would have been the figure if the price had been subject to the supplementary payment, to bring the average appraised price up to the flat-rate contract price. The effect was spread over the flocks. On that ground alone, the growers are entitled to the money represented by that wool. The . fellmonger has no claim to’ it.
Some honorable members opposite contended that the distribution of this money could not be made equitably among all wool-growers. When the scheme was introduced, the intention was- to divide among- the wool-growers the Australian share of the profits from the sale of wool to foreign countries. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, made that position clear on the 17th November, 1942. He declared that the Australian share of the profits would be distributed among the growers in proportion to their contributions to the whole scheme during the period of its operation. I agree that the profits could not be divided equitably among individual growers. The reason is that certain wools ultimately determine the greater percentage of the profit derived from the scheme. The grower- of fine merino, comeback or free wools would receive considerably more money tor them than would the grower who produced low grade and hurry wools in the Mallee of Victoria. Suppose that the stockpile was in the hands of the United Kingdom and was to be sold, the producers, whose wool would ultimately determine the profit, would be those who grew the finer and freer wools. . That will be shown clearly at the wool sales which, we hope, will open in Australia before long. But the only way in which 4o divide the profits successfully would be in accordance with the original intention, namely, to distribute them to the individual growers in proportion to the quantity of wool each put into . the scheme: I challenge honorable members opposite successfully to combat that contention.
Last night, I dealt thoroughly with the subject of wool research, and pointed out that this Government already possesses, for the purposes of research, funds which cannot be advantageously expended at present. The honorable member for Forrest stated that the Government had waived the tax which was imposed under the Wool Use Promotion Act for the purpose of providing money for wool publicity. What actually happened was that the grower did not escape the obligation to pay that contribution. The tax normally levied under the act is now included in the contributory charge. Therefore, the grower is not escaping the tax for wool research. Last October, when this House was considering the wool agreement, I stated that the producers desired to know what percentages of the contributory charge represented the amount available for publicity and administrative costs respectively. My point is that the wool-grower is still being taxed for publicity purposes, but the tax is now coming out of the contributory charge, and is not being applied under the terms of the Wool Use Promotion Act. That is quite clear tq any honorable member who cares to study the _ agreement that was before us last October.
The honorable member for Barker pointed out that under this measure^ the Wool Industry Fund could be used, in whole or in part, to meet any ultimate loss which might be incurred through our endorsement of the wool agreement. That is made clear in the agreement itself, which provides -
Ultimate Profit or Loss. - The ultimate balance of profit or loss arising from the transactions of the Joint Organization in the wool of any Dominion will thus be shared equally between the United Kingdom and the Government of the Dominion.
When the Wool Realization Bill was before the House last October, the Government gave an assurance that its terms would be honoured, but, in practical effect, it is now scrapping article 5 Part “III. by providing that moneys which it is holding in trust for the wool-growers may be applied wholly or in part for the many purposes specified in this clause. Whatever credit may have accrued to the Government for having introduced legislation to ratify the agreement - which, after all, was an agreement arranged, not by the Government, but by the representatives of the woolgrowers of Australia with the Government of the United Kingdom - has now been lost through the introduction of this clause. The Government is saying, in effect, “ We will apply these funds to meet losses as well as other things “. It must be recognized that the money rightly belongs to the woolgrowers, and if it be applied to the uses now proposed by the Government, it will in fact be confiscated in the most highhanded and disgraceful fashion that could be imagined.
.- I have no diffidence in participating in this debate, although I might be diffident about discussing wool in its technical and production aspects with wool-growers of experience. I rise chiefly to make the point that the Australian Labour party is deeply interested in the wool industry as one of -the greatest of Australia’s primary producing activities, and I make the point that honorable members opposite should disabuse their minds of any idea that, because some of us represent consumer constituencies, we and our constituents must necessarily be opposed to the .best interests of the wool industry. Such a view, of course, is a patent absurdity. My family was associated’ with wool-growing as farmers in this country for 86 years, and probably I would still have been on the land if the good farming practice of my .forebears had not been matched by the bad banking practice of years gone by. It is a most invidious and unsubstantial argument that because the members of this Government, and honorable gentlemen sitting on this side of the chamber, represent what might roughly be called consumer constituencies we must necessarily be antagonistic to the wool industry and to the man on the land in general. That is not so, because the members of this party represent all sections of the community. It has occurred to me to put the point that the whole Australian community is involved in the problems of this industry, because I have had to listen to a tirade of bad logic in the speeches of honorable members of the Australian Country party in connexion with the allocation of the money in the fund now under consideration. A strong case has been put for the attitude of the Government. I have listened with interest to the speeches made from both sides of the chamber on this subject, and I have formed the conclusion that the £7,000,000 or more in the Wool Industry Fund could rightly be applied in the . manner the’ Government has proposed. As an observer and a representative of consumers who provide a considerable market for wool in this country, I have spoken to many of my constituents who have retired from the land by reason of old age, or by some lucky chance that enabled them to make enough money to leave it. These people are convinced that we shall have to spend large sums of money if we are to enable our great wool industry to hold the proud position it holds to-day. Important avenues of expenditure in this regard are publicity and research. One of the most praiseworthy proposals in this measure is that, some of this money should be spent on publicity. Surely no one is foolish enough to think that the present boom conditions will last forever. It must be realized that stable prices and stable economic conditions must ultimately affect the prices which are now being paid foi primary products. I do not suggest that prices will again collapse, and that another depression will occur; but prices will certainly revert to a .lower level in consonance with the style of living to which ultimately we shall have to adapt ourselves.
Some reference has been made in the course of the debate to the menace of synthetic textiles, to the- wool industry. Surely honorable members do not forget that some years ago the pages of our newspapers were filled with reports regarding the menace of synthetics to our wool. Surely they do not believe that that menace.no longer exists or that the press had invented a bogy to frighten the wool-growers. Surely they do’ not believe that chemists and scientists who have created atom bombs and synthetic? in many forms, will not ultimately develop a synthetic’ fibre with a tensile strength equal to that of wool which will probably’ be put on the market at a much’ cheaper price than woollen textiles. Synthetic producers in America who were able to expend £2,000,000 in publicity through one series of newspapers offer a serious challenge to the wool industry, and I suggest that we could well spend £8,000,000 to make a publicity counter-blast in the interests of the wool-growers of Australia.
We are tremendously fortunate in that, hitherto, our climate and production methods have enabled us to produce the finest wool in the world ; but are we to be so complacent as ..not to recognize that this market might be whisked away from us almost overnight by reason of the discoveries of scientists and chemists? Recently when I was travelling through America and Europe, I found that Austalian wool was almost unknown as an Australian product. Textiles were sold as wool, but the labels did not disclose that it was Australian wool. Publicity “in this regard, from our point of view, was seriously at fault. We have a tremendous fight before us to let the world know that we exist. This criticism of publicity in respect of primary products may also be applied to Government and national publicity. It is broadly true to say that “we have ‘ not been able to “ break through “ in regard to publicity. Our publicity has not been slick enough, nor has its tempo been adequate,’ to let the consumers overseas know the facts about our great wool industry. In my view it is merely a quibble to say that the woolgrower is being robbed because the Government has made a proposal that this money should be applied in part for publicity and experimental purposes. If the money were distributed among the growers, as honorable gentlemen opposite have suggested, a good- deal of it would be repaid to the Government in additional taxation, and I do not believe that the wool-growers themselves would regard that as a satisfactory proposition. We need an incisive and strong overall campaign to develop markets for Australian wool in overseas countries. At the moment our wool is at a premium owing to special circumstances that exist in the post-war world; but as conditions become more stable and competition becomes keener, the wool-growers will undoubtedly be crying out for increased publicity in order to expand the market for their product. I consider that one of the best ways in which this money could be expended would be to apply it to publicity purposes and to placing our wool industry on a sound economic basis.
The allegation that there is a conspiracy on the part of the Government to take this money away from the wool-growers is ridiculous. That aspect has already been dealt with effectively by honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber. The arguments of the members of the Australian
Country party have been entirely sectional. 1 utterly repudiate and resent their assertions that members on this side of the chamber have no appreciation of the problems of the wool industry. The expenditure of this relatively paltry sum of about £8,000,000 to attempt to change, by a publicity campaign, the outlook of the “unwoolminded people “ of Europe is highly commendable.
– Why not take the lOtt
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is a specious-minded individual who sees horror and murder and disgraceful occurrences in every simple legal enactment. He would have us believe that he is a rebel, but he is without the courage, of a rebel. He is a jackal rather than a lion. The honorable gentleman is rattling a can and using the microphone to lead the people to believe that the Labour party is not interested in the wool industry, but I am sure that the people will dismiss his views as unworthy of consideration. He is more interested in banana oil than “ dinkum “ oil. The proposal of the Government that a part of this fund should be used for publicity purposes is indisputably sound and there is no logic in the case that has been made out against it. After all, this is not actually the wool-growers’ money. It has been accumulated because of the good business management of a Labour Government, and I am sure that the wool-growers would be glad to benefit by a continuation of this good business in the shape of a world-wide publicity campaign which will do them a greater service than an inequitable distribution of the fund.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [4.29’j. - After listening to the speeches of honorable gentlemen opposite on this subject I am bound to say that I have never heard, and I never expected to hear, in an Australian legislature, such a violent attack as has been made this afternoon on the natural wool fibre in comparison with synthetic fibre, nor did I ever expect to witness .such a craven attitude as’ that of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who has been followed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The former said that it was impossible to distinguish, the synthetic fibre from real wool. Anybody who is conversant with the matter knows that a simple and effective test is ‘ to unweave a portion of the fabric and apply a match to it. If it burns, it is synthetic fibre, and if it does not burn it is pure wool. The wearing of wool has saved many lives. Persons clothed in synthetic fabrics will catch alight, whereas those clothed in wool fabrics will not. The honorable member for Parkes has argued about the menace of synthetics. This menace existed a few years ago, hut it has been removed by the work that was done during the war by the Australian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat. Only last week, the Australian Wool Board displayed in Sydney probably the most attractive fabrics supplied by British manufacturers, which have ever been seen in this country. Those fabrics, woven by means of the alginate process are so sheer that they compare favorably with pure silk and, I am told, almost with nylon. The alginate process derives from three processes that were discovered as the result of the work of the Austraiian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat. Alginate is a product of seaweed. When washed in soapy water it dissolves and disappears. Professor Speakman, of the University of Leeds, discovered that by making a composite yarn of very fine wool and alginate, he could weave -a fabric, after dissolving the alginate, as fine at the sheerest silk stockings. The woollen fibre is treated by what’ is known as the enzyme papain process, which removes the “ tickle “ and also gives it a lustrous appearance comparable with that of silk. Prior to that, the fibre is treated to make it non-shrinkable. By the use. of a combination of the three processes, the fabric is made non-shrinkable, is given a lustrous sheen like that of silk, and is as fine as. the finest silk fibre, with which it is able to compete. I intensely dislike listening to persons who, whilst styling themselves Australians, are the greatest calamity howler’s one could imagine.
I come now to the statement of the honorable member for Parkes that £2,000,000 a year is being expended on advertising by the manufacturers of synthetic fabrics in the United States of America.
– And only in the magazine press, which is read by women.
– Listening to these gentlemen, including the Minister at the table (Mr. Dedman), one would think that wool is not advertised at all anywhere in the world. One has only to read the journals in the Parliamentary Library to convince oneself that wool is advertised by every manufacturer of woollen goods, and by the whole of the retail . houses throughout the world. A journal called the Ambassador, which is published in Spanish and English, is being sent out from the United Kingdom at the present time. It is an ambassador for the woollen and textile industries of Great Britain, in their great drive throughout the world to-day for export trade. This journal contains probably the most beautiful colour-plat* advertising that, is being done anywhere in the world, and with one small exception the advertising is carried by the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailer? of the United Kingdom.
– Who reads it? Mr. ABBOTT.- All the wholesale houses throughout the world.
– Wool has to be brought to the notice of the people.
– Does the honorable gentleman consider that the wholesalers do not realize that as well as he ? Of course they do ! They know the effect and the value of advertising. These calamity howlers are terrified that wool will not go into consumption. They can disabuse their minds, by reading extracts from the monthly report of the Australian Trade Commissioner, in the Australian Trade Commissioner Service journal, New York, for June, 1946. The prospects in relation to wool consumption in the United States of America are excellent. This report states -
Unsold stocks of 1943 wools were reduced in March from flO.873,000 to 84,870.000 pounds and those of 1944 wools from 117,210,000 to 115.2(17,000 pounds, indicating - sales of 7,952,000 pounds …. Unsold stocks, as shown above, were reduced 12,000,000 pounds net. That would indicate sales for the month of about 22,000,000 pounds, but it is reliably reported that gales have been at the rate of 4.000,000 weekly ….
As at March 1st, British-owned stockpile wool in this country was 108,291,957 pounds, chose being figures issued by the RFC. The total was 208,170,497 on January 1st and 232,732,070 on February 1st, indicating that the wool is moving out of the country at the rate of about 55,000,000 pounds monthly. At the game rate the stockpile would disappear in another 6 months.
Therefore, the fear that we had drummed “ into us that the enormous stockpile of wool accumulated under the wool purchase scheme would not disappear quickly, is unfounded. Wool is passing into consumption far more quickly than new wools are being produced. Consequently, the new incoming wools are being consumed, and simultaneously the stock-pile is decreasing. What is the position in Australia? During the last few years, the flocks of sheep in this country have dropped from 125,000,000 to about 100,000,000. If the drought which exists over a large part of the great wool-producing districts of New South Wales and Queensland continues, there will be a further curtailment of wool production, and in consequence the clothing wools of the world will be in short supply for many years. Eastern countries will have an impact on this problem. India is determined to raise its living standards. Of its population at least 190,000,000 aTe capable of wearing and desire to wear wool for those six months of the year during which the climate is suitable. India has ‘ a credit balance with the United Kingdom of over £1,200,000,000 sterling. That is a vast purchasing power. If India’s standards of living be raised, wool will havea secure future. I am not one of those who cry and cringe because of the fear that wool has no future.
I claim that everything that has been said in this chamber to-day, and all that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) ‘ said in his second-reading speech, go to show that the wools from which profits were derived were included in the arrangement that was made with the Government of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister said that, although the matter involved exports, the United Kingdom Government had intimated that any moneys derived from the operations were on account of the Commonwealth Government. In common justice and ^onesty, and in the light of the statement of the Prim6 Minister, the wool-growers of Australia should receive the money to which they are entitled.
The bill provides -
The moneys standing to the credit of the fund may be applied in any manner approved by the Treasurer, after consultation with tha Ministers.
According to the definitions clause, “ the Ministers “ are the Minister of State for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister of State for Post-war Reconstruction and the Minister of State administering the Science and Industrial Research Act 1926-1945. I assume the last named Minister to be identical with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. Thus, he will be one of the two Ministers who will have the disbursement of this enormous sum that has been filched from the wool-growers. To-day, he made the extraordinary statement that, if this £8,00.0,000 were distributed, ‘ one-half of the wool-growers would probably get about £2 10s. each. There would need to be 1,700,000 woolgrowers in Australia in order to make that calculation accurate. As a matter of fact, the number -of wool-growers in the Commonwealth is approximately 86,000. Is it right and proper that a man who is so ignorant of the wool industry, including its needs and the number of persons engaged in it, should be allowed to disburse this vast amount, which has been taken quite unjustly from the woolgrowers ? *
The provision with which I shall finally deal is that which states that the moneys standing to the credit of the fund may be applied in meeting, in whole or in part, any ultimate loss to which the Commonwealth may be subjected by reason of its participation in the disposals plan set forth in the schedule to the Wool Realization Act 1945. I believe that there will not be any loss. But, if there were, it would be most unjust and inequitable to break the undertaking given to the wool-growers of Australia in the Wool
Realization Act 1945, without their hav- ing been told anything about the intention to do so. That agreement will be broken by the Government retaining this £7,000,000, and applying a portion of it against any loss that may be made in the future. “When the Wool Realization Act 1945 was passed, the Commonwealth Government undertook to share with the Government of the United Kingdom any loss on the realization. This money is being niched from the growers. The Government intends to use, a portion of it in a way that was never intended.
.- The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and the honorable member for New England ‘(Mr. Abbott) have submitted that the Minister should disburse the £7,000,000 in the fund on the basis of the. contributions by wool producers, in the form of wool, to the scheme for the year 1945. On that basis, those growers would receive an additional 14 per cent, on their wool cheque for that year. The money in this fund accumulated over a period of about six years, and it would not be fair that those who were contributors for one year only should receive the maximum benefit, whilst those who had been in the, scheme for four years, but had dropped out of wool production, for one reason or another, should not benefit at all.
– That can he applied to the wheat stabilization scheme, too.
– It is poetic justice that I should now be able to borrow that argument from honorable members opposite. They used it to damn the Government’s wheat pooling proposal. If their argument was logical then, it cannot be illogical now.
– The difference is that this is politics, not logic.
– In the Labour party there is no conflict between politics and logic. When honorable members opposite were using this argument against the wheat pool proposals, they caressed it as a “hill billy” might caress the stock of his rifle when he saw his enemy coming within range. They do not like it so well now that some one else has possession of the weapon, and is using it against them.
The main point to be considered is that an authority to be set up is to be empowered to use this money for the benefit, of wool-growers generally, and certainly the- growers would benefit if money were advanced to those who have suffered as the result of drought. It has been said that, in the past, the wheat industry subsidized the wool industry. Here is a sum of money derived from the wool industry as a whole, and it is appropriate that it should be expended for the benefit of the industry as a whole. Th* honorable member for New England pointed out that parts of Australia wensuffering from one of the worst drought* on record. Assistance will have to be given to the sheep-owners, and where is the money to come from? If it is. taken out of Consolidated Revenue somebody must find it. “This is a practical age. The starving sheep must be fed or they will die. If they die the farmers will receive no income, and meat will be lost. We cannot live by taking in’ each other’s washing, as will be admitted even by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who said that there was no logic in politics. The Government is to be commended for establishing a fund for the benefit of wool-growers, and I suggest that the money could not be put to a better purpose than in buying feed for starving stock in droughtstricken areas.
. -The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made a quiet and fairly reason- . able speech, but all the time he tried to make the point that the Government wa’s governing in the interests of all the people, and that even the representatives Qf city electorates were favorably disposed towards wool-growers and other primary producers. However, it is hard t»> believe that, when one hears the speeches of some honorable members opposite. It seems to me that the honorable member for Parkes was put .up to make out an argument that his party was concerned over the interests of primary producers. They may be, when it suits them ! However, when- the honorable member for New England was putting the case for the wool-growers, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) interjected, “Don’t forget the droughts and the floods”. Then he laughed, and other government supporters joined in the laugh. Let me tell honorable members opposite that the droughts and the floods have been very real to the woolgrowers -and to primary producers generally, and I object to fun being made of them in this House.
– It is not true that fun was made of them.
– It is undoubtedly true that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) read a telegram in an endeavour to show that listeners had gained the impression that the Government was strongly in favour of the primary producers. I propose to read an extract from a letter which shows something very different. The letter was written by Mr. Hector J. McDonald, a man of high integrity, intelligence and wide experience, who lives in my electorate. I quote the following: -
I do not intend to write this in an Itoldyouso vein, but feel constrained to say that anybody who had any hopes of getting good for the growers out of this plan and this Government had them all coming from wishful thinking and are now directly disillusioned.
The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has asked more than once, “ What has the drought to do with the bill?”
– I did not say that.
– I took the words down as they were spoken. The drought is of paramount importance. We believe, that in order to enable the wool-growers to recoup their losses, and to equip themselves for the production of wool - which is Australia’s No. 1 asset - they should be allowed to receive as much money as possible. Government supporters said that it would be very hard to trace every one who had contributed wool from the sale of which profit had accrued, and for that reason the Government was justified in withholding all the profits. Such an attitude does not indicate that the Government is anxious to ensure the welfare of the wool industry. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) said that the expenditure of money from this fund would be of great benefit to- the wool industry. Judging by the expression of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), I think I am justified in believing that .some of the money will be devoted to his pet project, the National University of Canberra, where, no doubt, research on wool will be conducted. I am in favour of the founding of a national university, but I do not think that the wool-grower’s should be called upon to finance it.
– Who said they would be!
– I am making that statement in anticipation of events. We shall wait and see. Time will show whether or not I am right. ‘ The honorable member for Darling has claimed that the expenditure of the money lying in the fund will be of the greatest benefit to the wool industry. If it were handed over to the growers themselves they would derive the greatest benefit from its expenditure.
– The wool-growers will receive full benefit for every £1 expended.
– There is no guarantee that they will ever do so. The wool-growers have a right to expect something definite from the Government, but that right will never be acknowledged as long as the present Government remains in office. The Government should distribute the money to the growers who have developed the Australian wool industry until it has become our greatest asset. These experts, because of their specialized knowledge, were able so to grade their ewes and rams and cull their flocks as to make our fine wools the envy of every other nation in the world. The money should be given to them ar the time when they need it most and not six or seven years hence. The history ‘ of the growth of the fund has’ been traversed by honorable members’ at length, from the time the wool was taken from the sheep’s back until the proceeds of it? sale aggregated a total sum of £7,000,000, hut we have been unable to move the’ Government from its predetermined course. It is of paramount national importance that all possible aid should be given to woolgrowers at a time when, through lack of man-power and the deterioration of their equipment brought about by the war, they have lost a large proportion of their flocks. If the Government remains adamant on this question, it should at least ensure that the money will be expended in the best interests, not only of individual wool-growers, but also of the nation as a whole.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J.F.
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Calwell) read a first time.
– by leave -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will recall that, following a comprehensive review of all phases of broadcasting in the Commonwealth by a joint parliamentary committee under the chairmanship of Senator Gibson, the Australian Broadcasting Act was passed in June, 1942. The committee had recommended a number of innovations in respect of both the national and commercial services and these, together with such of the previous legislation and regulations relating to the Australian broadcasting system as it was desired to retain, were incorporated for the first time in a single measure. Since the passing of the act, notwithstanding the severe restrictions imposed on the manufacture of wireless sets for civilian use during the war, broadcasting has continued to attract many additional listeners. The number of listeners’ licences has increased from 1,132,000 in June, 1939, to 1,436,000 at the present time. Eighty-four per cent of all Australian homes have a wireless receiver and it is, therefore, obvious that broadcasting is firmly established as a powerful instrumentality, profoundly affecting the social life of the entire community. The broadcasting services have a potential audience of about 6,000,000 persons, and, as additional transmitters are installed in country areas and new receivers become available for the public to purchase, it can he confidently anticipated that eventually practically every family in the Commonwealth will be availing itself of the entertainment and information which are being broadcast for many hours daily from one or other of the national and commercial stations.
The bill contemplates amendments to the principal act that may be divided into two categories - those required to give effect to certain recommendations of the
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting that have been accepted by the Government, and those considered advisable in the light of experience since the passing of the act in 1942. For the information of honorable members, I shall now briefly explain the more important provisions.
The purpose of clause 4 is to insert a new division in the principal act relating to the staff, of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Government considers it most desirable that there should, as far as practicable, be uniformity between the various Commonwealth Government instrumentalities, and it is, therefore, proposed to apply to the service of the commission conditions conforming generally with the comparable provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act, the Overseas Telecommunications Act, and the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
Under clause 5, it is proposed to repeal section 25 of the principal act and tosubstitute a new section requiring the Australian Broadcasting Commission to establish its own news-gathering organization as soon as circumstances permit. The matter of the news services of the
Australian Broadcasting Commission has recently been the subject of investigation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and, in a report submitted to Parliament by the committee on the 4th July, 1946, the majority of the members recommended that the act should be amended to provide that the commission shall : - (a) establish its own independent service in- respect of Australian news’; and (b) procure its overseas news direct, through its staff abroad, from such overseas agencies as the commission deems fit, as well as from such independent sources as the commission deems it desirable to use. The majority of the committee felt that, as the commission has a special charter in the Broadcasting Act to establish group? of musicians for the rendition of orchestral, choral and band music of high quality, it should also have a special charter^ in the act to establish groups of journalists for the attainment of its objective of independence in the sphere of Australian news, and. as far as possible, overseas news. The Government agrees, and accordingly it is proposed to insert in the act the provisions of clause 5 of the bill. In reaching this conclusion, the Government has been influenced by’ the fact that, by the very nature of things, the commission will always be hampered in ite efforts to secure independence in connexion with its news services while it has to rely almost entirely on other parties for the provision of the information on which its news sessions are based.
As honorable members are aware, sections 89 and 90 of the act prescribe the conditions to be observed by both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial broadcasting stations in the treatment of political broadcasts.. Under section 90, it is necessary for a broadcasting station to announce the true name of every speaker delivering an address or making a statement on a political subject or current affairs, both before- and after such address or statement. If the address or statement is made on behalf of a political party, the name of the party concerned must also be . disclosed.. No provision is, however, made in the- relevant section requiring the identity of the actual author of any such address or statement to be disclosed. It i3, therefore, proposed, in clause 11 of the bill, to amend section 90 of the act to remedy this weakness and to stipulate that the name of the speaker may be announced only at the end of statements containing fewer than 100 words.
The effect of the alteration proposed in clause 15 is to liberalize the conditions under which broadcast listeners’ licences at half of the ordinary fee may be granted. Section 98 of the Australian Broadcasting Act authorizes the grant of half-fee licences only to a person who is in receipt of an invalid and. old-age pension, who lives alone or with another such person. These restrictive provisions deny the concession to many pensioners whose physical condition requires the presence in their residences of a person other than a pensioner, even though the person attending to the needs of the pensioner may have little or no income. The amendment proposed would overcome this difficulty by permitting a half-fee licence to be granted in cases where the invalid or old-age pensioner resides with a person whose income does not exceed the maximum amount of income and pension allowed under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Provision is also being made for the grant of the concession, on the same conditions, to “ service “ pensioners under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and to persons in receipt of a pension under the Widows’ Pension Act. The other amendments provided for in the bill are unimportant.
– Will the Minister say whether clause 18 is unimportant? What is its purpose?
– I do not wish to delay my distinguished colleague, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who wishes to go ahead with the Railway Standardization Agreement Bill; but, in committee, I shall be pleased to enlighten honorable members’ on the purposes of that’ and other clauses.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Francis) adjourned.
Silling suspended from 5.22 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 2nd August (vide page 3630), on motion by Mr. Ward -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill, authorizes the execution of ‘an agreement substantially in the terms contained in the schedule and relating to the standardization of railway gauges in Australia. It is quite safe to say that this is the biggest single public works project that has ever come before this Parliament. It is a vast scheme, full of potentialities in .each direction ; but unfortunately, the bill has been presented to the Parliament in the dying moments of the session. I protest against the introduction of a bill of this kind so recently as last Friday with the idea that, it shall be fully discussed by the Parliament this week. It is no answer to my protest to say that the Parliament may meet next week, because all honorable members know that it will not. The date of the election having been stated, this Parliament will finish some time , to-morrow. During this week, we have sat morning, afternoon, night and early morning, and, speaking for myself, I have found itcompletely impossible, having regard to the great pressure of . the programme before us, to devote any proper consideration to this scheme.
The problem of standardizing railway gauges is one about which no mere layman will speak too dogmatically. It has been the subject of investigation by Sir Harold Clapp. . As- one who, for two or three years had the pleasure of being Minister for Railways when Sir Harold Clapp was chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners, I say at once, that I regard him as being without any superior among railway men in Australia. Any report which Sir Harold makes on a railways matter is one which must command profound respect. He is - arid I desire to make my view abundantly clear on this matter - a very competent and entirely honest servant of the people of Australia. After his report had been produced last year, . negotiations began between the Commonwealth and the States. Those of us who sit in the Parliament have merely read from time to time that the standardization of railway gauges has been discussed at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, that the Minister for Transport in this Parliament (Mr. Ward) was in conference with. Ministers in various States, and ultimately, that an agreement had been reached. That agreement was presented to this Parliament a few days ago. It is an agreement which requires for the satisfaction of the people of Australia very close examination. In the first place, Western Australia and Queensland are omitted from it. That, in itself, calls for some consideration, because the case for the standardization of railway gauges,. insofar as it rests upon -the defence of Australia, is one which ought to speak most elo.quently in Queensland and Western Australia. In other words,- the nearer you get to the extremities of Australia, the more important does it become to have a most rapid and safe means of military transport and disposition. And yet, when the agreement reaches us, Western Australia and Queensland are- omitted from it! Iri effect, it is an Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The second feature of the agreement is that it involves the expenditure of a very large sum of money. When Sir Harold Clapp’s report was produced originally, it was seen. that if the complete scheme that he had in mind was to be undertaken, it would involve an expenditure of nearly £200,000,000. This particular scheme for which the bill provides, is expressed in terms of about £50,000,000 for. the three States. Members of the Opposition are fully conscious of the advantages that would flow from a uniform system of railway transport in Australia. In particular, we are fully conscious of the fact that, one of the vital elements of this scheme, and the Minister himself made it clear that he so believed, is that we should have a .standardization of rolling-stock and equipment so that we may effect real economies. We are conscious of all those things; but we are also conscious that at this time, as we look to the future development and growth of Australia, all proposals for the expenditure of loan moneys must be judged by one simple test, namely, will the expenditure of the money contribute, in an immediate and powerful sense, to the development of Australia? Will it mean that we shall produce more goods and more wealth in Australia ? It is not sufficient merely to say that standardization of railway gauges will facilitate the transport of the goods which- we now produce. The vital thing is that we shall produce more. I offer no view as to where, in any proper table of priorities, this scheme should find a place. I can very well imagine -that we may be confronted with problems of water conservation, the development of the coal industry, the generation and distribution of electric power and light to the country areas, the standardization of railway gauges and the development of the fishing and shipbuilding industries. “Whatever they are,, we believe that that we must judge them all according to what they will produce for the Australian people. Therefore, the whole problem becomes a problem of priorities- to use a word with which we have become almost deplorably familiar during the war. I should have liked to be able to ponder this problem, analyse it with care, and work out where the standardization of railway gauges comes into that picture ; but I confess that, being one human being, I am not able, when we have this crush of work at the end of the session, to devote the time that is needed for a thorough examination of the bill and the agreement, and a complete exposition of the good and bad points, if it has any bad points. The truth is that the Government; - and I am not telling it something of. which it is not conscious - has the numbers. It knows that when the House rises to-morrow, the bill will be well on the way to the statute-book.
– Hear,- hear !
– Therefore, as my genial friend from Forrest will at once agree, what is the use of arguing about it? All I can say is that while I view with unfeigned respect the material that. was presented to us some time ago in the form of thereport on the standardization of railway gauges, I for one desire to reserve my liberty of action in the future to determine at any moment how the moneys of this country shall be spent to the best advantage; because unless the expenditure produces development for Australia, we shall have no progress, and, without progress, all the talk in the world about other things’ will not matter a great deal. Therefore, I do not propose’1 to discuss this bill. I do lot feel qualified to examine the financial implications of this agreement. I do not know that any other honorable member will consider that he has had a reasonable opportunity to discover its financial implications.
– We have not been able to obtain a copy of the Minister’s secondreading speech.
– I was more for- tunate than the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), because, as the leader of a party, I am graciously accorded the privilege of having what are called the “ flats “. The only handicap about that is that whilst I am able to read the Minister’s speech when he introduced the bill. T am warned, in rather threatening language, that this is a confidential document and not to be quoted from.
I read Sir Harold Clapp’s report when it was produced, and. yesterday I read the Minister’s second-reading, speech in the “ flats “. This session has been a very busy one, and to-night the bill is before us. .We have coped with other measures during the day, and we have to cope with a dozen other measures before breakfasttime. Guilty of many crimes, as I understand I am supposed to be, the crime of flogging a dead horse will not be numbered among them.. Therefore, speaking on behalf of the incoming government, I say that we reserve our judgment.
– Those honorable members who had the opportunity to hear or read the second-reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) must consider that they should congratulate him ,on having achieved an agreement for the standardization of railway gauges which preceding governments either failed to achieve or were not interested to achieve. As one who has been associated with rail transport over a long period, I offer to him my hearty congratulations upon having succeeded in bringing at least the Commonwealth and three States into line on one of the most important matters with which this Parliament has had to deal for many, years.
– How does the honorable ‘ member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) view the omission of Tasmania?
– Tasmania is in a different position from that of the other States. I do not share the fears of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the Government may experience difficulty in inducing Western Australia and Queensland to agree to the scheme. The Government would have been foolish to adopt the attitude that because those two States were not yet prepared to be parties to the agreement, it should abandon, temporarily, the whole proposal. I hoped that the Leader of the Opposition would agree to the bill, but apparently he examined it in a judicial manner and had more regard for not prolonging the debate unduly than for the merits of the bill.
– I do not understand why the Government is in such a hurry to pass the bill. Does it feel uneasy about the result of the forthcoming elections?
– Not at all. The incoming government will continue the good work - work which previous governments failed to do, although they had the opportunity at a period when the standardization of railway gauges would have provided employment for many people. This Government had the foresight to realize the importance of this great national work and obtain authority to begin the work which previous governments should have undertaken in ‘ the interests of the country. I agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition about Sir Harold Clapp. Having worked under his authority, and with him, I believe that he is one of the greatest railway authorities that Australia has ever had. We all know that what Sir Harold Clapp says can be relied upon as being a thorough and efficiently prepared statement of the facts. I read his report with great interest. Of course it did not settle the matter. It remained for the Minister for Transport, to secure some kind of agreement among the governments concerned. He has achieved an agreement, and it is largely due to hi? patience that this bill is before us. The honorable gentleman has not always beer credited with patience.
– Or tact !
– Both tact and patience were required,- and also courage to attack the problem which had been brushed to one side on so many occasions.
Mi-. Archie Cameron. - If the Minister continues in this strain for another five minutes his colleague will not know himself.
– The honorable . gentleman who has interjected never knows from minute to minute what he will say next, and to his colleagues he is equally unpredictable. The Leader of the Opposition said that one simple test that should be applied to this proposal is whether it will- bring about the production of more goods and more wealth. I know of no other project which will help so much as this will to bring about better conditions throughout Australia. I shall show that production is largely dependent on transport. Without doubt the standardization of our railway gauge’s will help to develop industry in this country. The honorable gentleman referred to priorities. I wish to make it clear that, although this bill will go on the statute-book, the work will not necessarily have No. 1 priority. The right honorable gentleman spoke about priorities in certain matters. Housing, of course, must be given a high priority though he did not mention it.
– It is one of the things that I had in my mind, naturally.
– I should cer- tainly have thought so. The right honorable gentleman mentioned water storage, electric power, the fishing industry and certain other matters. These all are of great importance, but the first thing we should do is to ensure that our transport system, is elastic enough to ensure the rapid transport of goods, the production of which has increased so greatly as the result of five years of Labour administration.
The Minister for Transport ably stated the Government’s case for the standardization of railway gauges, and he also praised the comprehensive and informative report of the DirectorGeneral of Land Transport. Honorable members have had copies of that, report and have had ample time in which to study it. I need scarcely take up the time of the House in a recapitulation of the history of this subject. It is one with which I and. those of my colleagues who have been most closely concerned, have spoken in this House on numerous occasions. Both profit and conviction will be found in a close examination of the case as it has been consistently submitted by us. to the House for many years.
In 1938 I charged the Government then in office with the serious offence of failure to give effect to the promise of its Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, four years earlier, to undertake this work as one of its major’ schemes for the relief of unemployment. In 1921 a royal commission presented a report which recommended the construction of a trunk railway line of 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge from Brisbane to Perth and the conversion of the Victorian and South
Australian railway gauges of 5 ft. 3 in. to the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. That report was made after an exhaustive investigation, the value of which has never been in doubt.
I recall also that in 1938 honorable members opposite, who were then sitting behind the Government gave considerable lip. service to this proposal but refrained from championing it to the point of action. I emphasize that point. Thai was a long time ago, but it is appropriate to remember it now.
Basic to consideration of this question, as honorable members have been so frequently reminded, is the problem of defence. To-day, when we look back after six years of war, we must be shocked by the abundant evidence of the need for this great national project, and we must, also be disturbed by the refusal of governments opposed to Labour to heed repeated warnings of the danger that could flow from our hopelessly unco-ordinated system. In 1921 the then InspectorGeneral of Military forces said -
The linking up of our capital cities by railways, beyond striking distance from the coast and the establishment of a uniform’ gauge throughout the Commonwealth, are matters of paramount importance.
Two years later the same officer said -
It is beyond question that a uniform gauge will avoid many of the disadvantages of possible troop movements caused by breaks of gauge with the necessary transfer from one system to another. Apart from the delay, inconvenience and the wastage of man-power at transfer stations; the disorganization of units due to the varying capacity of trains of different gauge is serious and may mean considerable delay at a critical time.
I had a great deal to do with rail transport years ago in the break-of -gauge area, particularly between Albury and Benalla, and am aware of the dreadful condition? that sometimes prevailed there. In one period it was necessary to transport fodder for starving stock in the Riverina, and the railways were so congested that train loads of fodder were held up at every station between Albury and Broadmeadows. Trains ‘had to wait at these stations until those at Albury were unloaded to’ cope with . the situation. Although that was many years ago it demonstrated to me then how necessary was’ the standardization of our railway gauges as soon as possible.
How bitter are these recollections ! What a price Australia has paid ‘ for neglect to accomplish this ‘essential project! I could go on for a long time emphasizing the tragic result of the failure to appreciate how vital this work was to Australia, but honorable members will not require me to do so. It is true that by the grace of God and the aid of our Allies we overcame our enemies, despite the critical weakness of our ral transport systems, but who can say what price we have paid for this staggering neglect? On the aspect to which I refer as exclusively economic, it is worth noting that in November, 1938, Sir Ragnar Colvin, then First Naval Member, was reported as having said that for every ton of produce carried on the railways 16 tons was carried on ships between Australian ports. That figure may not be exact in re,lation to the present day, but it should give food for thought to the people of this country. Doubtless some honorable members opposite will find satisfaction in the fact that huge profits have been reaped by wealthy private shipping companies to the very marked disadvantage of the Government-owned railway systems, and to the pockets’ of the people of Australia as a whole. No honest advocate of the interests of the Australian community can be ignorant of the dangers resulting from such a situation, and no honorable member in this House who is honestly facing the problem can fail, therefore, to support the measure now before us, though we must remain in doubt about the views of the Leader of the Opposition on this subject. We do not know whether he declared himself for or against it, but there was no sign of enthusiasm in his remarks.
During the period of the economic depression years ago, many millions of pounds were spent by governments in so-called relief of unemployment, at a time when it could have been used for the highly profitable employment of 15,000 men. Had we countered the depression with an active programme of railway construction, involving the standardizing of our .gauges, a consequential effect would have been to relieve the people of Australia’ ‘of a large part of the burden of the unemployment tax. . The enormous social and eco- nomic benefit of such relief while the country was preparing for and actually engaged in war, cannot be fully estimated.
In relation to the economic phases of this problem, I direct the attention of honorable members to a highly important conclusion reached recently by the Tariff Board. The board reported, in May, on the efficiency and costs of production in Australian industries. Whilst it did not find justification for a public inquiry, because the response to its invitations by all interested parties to make representations was so poor, it examined some significant correspondence on the subject, in which emphasis was laid- on the fact that the general level of costs in Australia was affected by many conditions other than efficiency and costs of production in individual factories. The board reported in part, as follows: -
Transport Costs. - Of such conditions, one of the most far-reaching is transport. Many industries, though by no means all, depend for minimum costs on centralized, large-scale production, with consequent costs of transporting finished products to consumers, distributed mainly around our long ‘ coastline. Before the war, the Tariff Board found that costs of interstate transp’ort were sometimes almost, if not quite, as high as costs of transporting competing goods to Australia from the United Kingdom or North America. The main obstacle in the way of decentralization of industry in Australia is the cost of transporting raw material to; and finished product? from decentralized factories.
It also stated -
During a recent inquiry by the Tariff Board into the plastics industry it was emphasized that, in many cases, naturally occurring raw materials for that industry, and for other branches of the chemical industry, are so distributed in relation to each other and to the markets for finished products, that heavy transport costs are imposed upon the industry.
I add this important conclusion -
In the matter of transport, Australia if obviously at a disadvantage with a compact country like the United Kingdom, or one like the United States of America in which a much larger home market is distributed over a much ‘ greater proportion of the country’s area. Efforts, which the Tariff Board does not doubt are continually being made, to improve the efficiency and reduce the , costs of Australia’s inter- and intrastate transport, could have most beneficial effects upon the national level of costs.
I now invite the attention of honorable members to the obvious relevance of those quotations to this debate. Imagine the effect of the standardization of gauges throughout the Commonwealth on production costs in industry! Consider closely the board’s finding that costs of interstate transport are sometimes almost, if not quite, as high as costs of transporting competing goods to Australia from the United Kingdom or North America. That i3 a staggering assertion; yet, there can be no doubt of the board’s justification for making it. What a commentary on our transport system! Imagine the relief that will be afforded when the transfer of goods from one gauge to a line of a different gauge can be eliminated ! The economic benefit must be immense.
Honorable members will understand that I do not claim that the conception of the whole project .of standardizing the railway gauges originated with a few people, but the fact remains that, despite resolutions affirming its urgent need, mostly from Labour sources, years passed without any active attempt having been made to achieve the objective. Honorable members opposite may remind me that the Labour party was in power in 1931. It is true that Labour held a majority in this House but it did not have a majority in the Senate, and in that chamber every attempt to apply a sound financial policy was resisted. This project, which was so ‘vital to every aspect of. national welfare, had to be neglected at a time when it could have been accomplished at a cost very i much lower than is now possible. I remind honorable . members that, in the first report made on this matter, the estimate of the cost was £21,000,000. The works then envisaged will now cost £50,000,000 or more.
As the Minister in charge of the bill has already done with considerable emphasis, I have referred to the defence aspects, and have placed the burden of blame. on honorable members opposite, for theirs is the immense responsibility, for the crippling effect of the failure to standardize our railway gauges.
Let me turn for a few moments to the experience of other countries. In the early days of rail transport in both Great Britain and the United- States of America, there were many different gauges. About 80 years have elapsed since America mastered the problem of standardization, and more than 50 years have elapsed since similar action was taken in Great Britain. To-day, breaks in railway gauges are unthought of in practically every other important country in the world. The people of those countries take it for granted that their rail transport is fluid ; that it operates freely from frontier to frontier, and often across frontiers. To them, the transfer of passengers and goods from train to train, because of a change of gauge, would be ludicrous. Indeed, that is how the matter is viewed, by those persons in Australia who- havebeen conscious of all that it means. Whilewe have been enduring this truly farcical situation, the railways of other countries, having been standardized, are operated cheaply and efficiently. On the contrary, the railways in Australia, comparatively speaking, are operated inefficiently and very expensively. All who have paid attention to the achievements of- Great Britain and the United States of America during the war will appreciate the almost incredible feats accomplished by their railway systems. At the same time, Australia struggled along with a crippled transport system - or, should I say, lack of system- praying that it would not have to face the terrifying prospect of fighting enemy invasion forces under such an enormous disability. We were spared that. Yet some sections of the community, notably those whose horizon is limited to isolated projects, who have never been able to learn the lessons of the past, or to appreciate the truly national picture, obstruct the essential purpose for which this bill is designed. No one could regret more deeply than I do the fact that this legislation does not embrace the whole of the Commonwealth. 1 share enthusiastically with the Minister for Transport the hope that Queensland and Western Australia will very soon recognize the urgent need for their participation in its unquestionable benefits. As the Minister has declared, “ the door is still open “. The Commonwealth cannot do more, and the people of those two States must realize the weight of the responsibility that rests on them.
Before concluding, I point to the fact that, under the authority of the Labour party, works of this character can be brought to fruition within one’s political lifetime. I .remember when this matter was first brought forward in union circles. The union of which I was then the secretary was the instigator of it, by having it included in the agenda for the conference of the Victorian Labour party. That body referred it to the Federal Conference, at which I had the honour of being present as a delegate from Victoria, and it then became a plank in the platform of the Australian Labour party.
– In what year was that ?
– It would be approximately sixteen or seventeen years ago.
– There was not so much civil aviation then.
– Whether or not the advancement subsequently made in civil aviation could then be visualized, the honorable member and his colleagues, who occupied the Government benches, failed to take action for the standardization ‘of the railways, despite the fact that the number of men seeking employment was extremely large. I believe that I have shown that the Labour party is capable of achievements that prove beneficial to the country but are beyond the capacity of the parties that sit opposite, for the reason, I believe, that their policies are largely propounded for them by big outside interests. They may now be attempting to copy the successful accomplishments of the Labour party. If they are, I congratulate them upon having learned their lesson after so many years. The limitation to which T have referred makes me conscious of a feeling of regret that the measure that we now have before us, which I commend with all the emphasis I possess, does not cover entirely a most desirable project. As honorable members well know, and as I have just stated, this project has been a plank in the platform of the Labour party for many years. The seed was sown in the soil- of unionism. From that seed has sprung, and in that soil has flourished, a tree of sturdy growth. This plank in the platform of the Australian Labour party represents a pledge which the party has always been determined to carry out. At last, it is able to give effect to it.
I hope that from honorable members opposite, to whatever party they belong, there will be no opposition to the bill. This project will advance the welfare of Australia. It will make our transport system much more fluid than it now is, and will help to reduce the costs of production. Thus the national wealth will be increased, because unessential expenditure on transport will be avoided.
The honorable member for- Balaclava (Mr. White) referred by interjection to civil aviation as a more modern means . of transport. I believe that both those transport systems can grow side by side. That has been proved in the’ United States of America and Canada, where the number of passengers and the quantity ‘of goods carried on the railways have not diminished in consequence of the very rapid growth of civil aviation. I prophesy, as the Minister for Civil Aviation, that when the railways of the three States that have entered’ into this agreement have been standardized, they will not be operated at a loss as they were previously, but that, on the contrary, both passenger and goods traffic will grow, and civil aviation will flourish side by side with the rail transport system. We can be thankful that a commencement is being made with this project, which ought to have been undertaken long ago. The result must be to make more secure our future prosperity.
– I have listened with interest to the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), who has come’ to the assistance of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). We would have listened to him with greater interest had he submitted a proposal for the expenditure of some of the millions involved in this project, on the development of air transport along lines which would have assisted our primary producers and enabled them to market their output with greater expedition and at a lower cost. The honorable gentleman has expressed the hope that members of the Opposition will not oppose the bill’. I oppose it very strongly. He accused us of not having done” very much in the way of railway construction when we were entrusted with the administration of the affairs of this country. My reply to that charge is that the parties which now sit on this side of the House were responsible for the construction of Commonwealth railways of a value of £17,500,000, which are to-day a monument to them. The governments of the States also have constructed railways, at a cost of approximately £400,000,000 and over a distance of 33,000 miles. These have done a marvellous job, and can claim a large share of the credit for our wonderful war effort. The Minister for Air further claimed that this work will obviate unemployment. “We suspect that that is one of the principal reasons for the introduction of the measure. There is to be an expenditure estimated at over £200,000,000 on what will be largely labouring work. There are many other much more worthwhile undertakings on which that expenditure could be incurred with far greater advantages in’ increasing the productivity of Australia and enlarging its population. For instance, water conservation and cheap hydro-electric power schemes, would be more valuable to the defence of . this country than the elimination of breaks of gauge at. State borders, and would make our development comparable with that of other countries. The Minister also said that production costs in industry should be considered by Opposition members. We know that for many years the expenditure on railway construction has greatly exceeded the estimates. I am positive that this £200,000,000, that is so lightly spoken of, will not be the total expenditure on the fulfilment of this desire of the Minister for Transport! “That honorable gentleman claimed that opposition to the proposal would cripple an effort that was being made in defence of this country, t do not agree with that. Nor do I think that the departmental experts are in agreement with the Government. They have refused to say that this work is essential, or to give to it the value placed on it by the Minister from the standpoint of defence. We admit that a standardized. railway gauge has advantages. But steps to secure those advantages should be taken only when the time is opportune. There are many other important matters demanding attention in this young coun try, and they ought to be given preference over this project. Even if all the . gauges were standardized, one bomb accurately placed on a bridge would cause the transport system to be interrupted more effectively than by breaks of gauge. I am not denying the advantages of standardization, nor do I want to underrate them, from the point of view of defence and the comfort of our people. But standardization of the gauges will not be the means of providing one additional line of railway, or of bringing one railway station nearer to the undeveloped parts of Australia, which will still bie undeveloped when the railways already constructed have been uprooted. The railways of Australia, after having been written down in Victoria and Queensland, are valued at £320,000,000, ‘ on which interest is being paid. If we exclude the New South Wales railways, valued at £152,000,000, and the Commonwealth railways, valued at £17,500,000. there still remain lines valued at £101,000,000. Therefore the debt that we shall have to face will be £361,000,000, not £200,000,000. Had the Queensland Government foolishly allowed itself to be swayed by the appeals of the Minister and his staff, every line of railway in that State would have had. to be discarded. Every sleeper, every railway station, every tunnel, every bridge and every engine and piece of rolling-stock would have to be discarded. The money with which they were bought would still be owed by the people of the State concerned, and to it would be added the State’s proportion of the debt incurred for the work of standardization. We are one people, and if the Commonwealth incurs financial liabilities they must ultimately be borne by the people of the States. This proposal, which envisages the ripping up of thousands of miles of railway, should have received further consideration. The House itself should have more time in which to consider it, and certainly the proposal should have been considered by the Public ‘ Works Committee. This committee is authorized to examine projects costing over £20,000 which are referred to it; but here is a project that is to cost over £200,000,000, and it has not been referred to the committee. It has, however, been submitted to a committee of experts, and agreements have been made with three State governments. When I proposed some time ago that similar agreements should be made with the Stales for water conservation and hydro-electric projects,- I was told by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that it was a problem for the States; but the Minister for Transport has made just that kind of arrangement with the State governments, in relation to railways. In all the capital cities and the principal towns, meetings have been held where the scheme was explained to prominent citizens in an endeavour to popularize it. Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the following question : -
In view of the fact1 that much has appeared in the press recently regarding proposals for the standardization of railway gauges in Australia at a to.tal cost of £200,000,000, will the Acting Leader of the House see that an, opportunity is provided to enable honorable <members to discuss the project thoroughly before an agreement is made with the States, so that the proposals may be considered side by side with water conservation, hydro-electric and other schemes? Will the Minister’ give an assurance that honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss the proposals in this chamber before any agreement binding the Government to the proposal is reached with the States?
To this question I received the following reply :-
– I assume, in the first place, that no agreement can be made by the States without ratification by this Parliament. The Minister for Transport, with the consent of the Government, arranged for Sir Harold Clapp to present a report on the standardization of the railway gauges, and the report has only recently come to hand. It is a lengthy document, and I have not yet had an opportunity to’ read it carefully. The Government is arranging for the report to be printed, so that honorable members may have an opportunity to study it. The report will be printed and circulated as soon as possible. I cannot say that that will be done at an early date, but the Government will provide honorable members with an opportunity to discuss the proposals.
No opportunity was afforded Parliament to discuss. the proposal before agreements were made with the State governments. I was not satisfied with the reply I hadreceived, and .on the 23rd November, 1944, I asked the Acting Prime Ministerthe following question : -
I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, before any decision or agreement is arrived at regarding the standardization of railway gauges, Parliament will have the opportunity to consider the project side by side with national works of urgent and great public importance, such as water conservation and hydro-electric schemes?
To this his reply was “ Yes “. In view of that reply, I expected that a proposal, estimated to cost so much money would, have received much more careful consideration. I certainly expected that thepromise of the Acting Prime Minister, would have been honoured,” but that hasnot been done. Agreements have been made with three States, and now Government supporters are prepared to-night topass this bill which will inflict the schemeon the people of the Commonwealth. TheMinister cannot give any assurance that the standardization plan will be completed at a cost of even £200,000,000.
Like most other Australians, I realize the great importance of our railways, and the great task that they performed during the war. No 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railways anywhere in the world could have given better service than did the Queensland railways, nor could better service have been obtained from the staff, from’ shunters to office workers. If the Commonwealth really wishes- to assist the State railway departments, it should advance money for the duplication’ of . certain lines. If there was a defect in our railway system .during the war, it was the lack of double tracks over certain stretches, which led to delay in’ the transport of goods. We should remember, that even under the present proposal, although standard gauge railways will be carried across State borders, they will not be carried the length and breadth of the States..
In his second:reading speech, the Minister said that, during the war, Germany had converted’ 12,000 miles of railway from 5-ft. gauge to 4 ft. 8£ in., and that Russia, some time later, had converted them once more to 5-ft. gauge, in addition to altering another 18,000 miles of railway to 5 feet. I suggest that Russia’s purpose was not to standardize gauges, but to create a, break of gauge between its territory and that of Germany. Should an enemy invade Queensland, the best way to help him to get into New South Wales would be to provide a railway of standard gauge from one State to the other. While there existed a break of gauge it would be impossible for an enemy to follow the railway system down from Queensland to New South Wales. This argument was, as a matter of fact, used by the Commissioner of Railways in Queensland in opposition to the proposal for standardization. There are advantages in a break of gauge, as Russia discovered. To-day, thu standard gauge in Russia is 5 feet, but the authorities -are contemplating broadening it to 6 feet -so as to permit the carriage of bigger loads. In view of -this trend, there seems to be no reason why the Victorian gauge should be reduced. The State Railways Commissioners will want to know why changes of the kind proposed are to be forced upon them. The first proposal was to construct certain lines in such a way as to drain all the wealth from western Queensland into Sydney. The Minister made it clear that a tremendous amount of material would be required for this proposed undertaking. He added that if members of the Opposition opposed this scheme .’ they would show that they were working for big commercial interests. It seems to me that the greatest beneficiary under the Minister’s proposal will be the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which will supply the iron and . steel .required for bridges and rails. The proposal has found its way into literature, and, in an article published in Australian Bachground, it is referred to in the following terms : -
It will bring back a picturesque era of railroad con’ruction that will provide enough material for a dozen Hollywood films. Australian forests and plains, mountains and rivers, desert and lush sub-tropical country will provide fitting settings.
I do not know what the taxpayers willthink about it, but the scheme envisages the provision of 411 locomotives, 26,000 items of rolling-stock, 850,000 tons of steel for metal sleepers and rolling-stock, 12,000,000 superficial ‘feet of timber for sleepers, and 26,000.000 superficial feet of sawn timber. This work will occupy the equivalent of 103 man-years. To-day the man on the land is in urgent need of galvanized and plain wire, wire netting, timber, galvanized iron and many other materials, without which he cannot continue in operation, yet when we ask what is being done to speed up the production of these commodities we are invariably faced with the reply that nothing can be done because of the shortage of ma:: lower. If there be such a shortage of man-power for the production of essential commodities, why should we undertake a scheme such as this, which will utilize sonic <>: the very material? which are so urgently needed by our primary producers and our homeless people? Timber is one of the commodities in respect of which there are the greatest shortages, yet we find tha1 this scheme will , utilize approximately 26,000,000 superficial feet. While the timber industry to-day is groaning under the weight of the ‘ load it is carrying, the Government proposes to place upon it this tremendous additional burden. Scarcely a city, town or village in Australia is not waiting from day to day for a small “hand-out” of commodities in short supply, yet, in order to give effect to the standardization proposals, we propose to expend millions of pounds of money and impose still’ further strains on industries already depleted of man-power. The far-reaching proposals in this bill should be given much more mature consideration than time permits at this late hour in the final session of the Parliament. The problem of ll standardization of railway gauge should bfconsidered in conjunction with other means for the development of transport, not only to meet peace-time requirements, but also for our defence. 1 trust that the Government will be reasonable and defer further consideration of this matter until a more appropriate time. 1 appeal to other honorable members to express their disapproval of the action of their State governments in becoming parties to a proposal of such magnitude while our industries are still recovering from the effects of the war. South Australia and Victoria are the only States which have fully subscribed to the proposal. New South Wales has come into the scheme merely for the purpose of having a small railway built, and in order to bring about the standardization of s(,me relatively unimportant tram tracks. The South Australian Government endorsed the proposal in order that standardization of the railway lines in that
State might be brought about at a comparatively .cheap cost to the State. The cost to the people of Australia generally, however, will be. very high. By linking r.he existing rail-head at Orbost, Victoria, with the terminus at Bombala, in New South Wales, a second rail connexion would be provided between Melbourne and Sydney, which would improve the rail connexion with Canberra, and open up new and rich country. I trust that the Government will not use its numbers to-night to secure the passage of a measure which has proved to be unpopular in most of the States. We would render a greater service to Australia if we utilized the money proposed to be expended under this proposal on the conservation of water and the development of hydro-electric power.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Br. Bernard Corser) never -ceases to amaze m.e. He spoke about the standardization of railway gauges from the viewpoint of a Queenslander, rather than that of an Australian. One wonders why he is in this Parliament at all ; he views all national matters from a purely parochial angle. He. spoke about the development of air transport as though the railways had served their useful purpose and were no longer required. We have only to look at other modern countries, such as the United States of America, to find that the railway companies are spending vast sums of money on keeping their railway systems up to date. That is a clear indi- ‘ cation that railway executives abroad do not believe that the day of the railway, as the most efficient method of transport, is past. But if railways are to hold their own against the competition of road and air transportation, they must be brought up to date, and standardization is the first step towards that end. All methods of transport should he developed side by side. If anything were needed to demonstrate the value of the railways, the splendid record of rail transportation over the difficult years of the war, despite the handicap of the breaks of gauge, should bc sufficient to convince the most sceptical. I do not know how this country could have successfully waged the war if it had had to depend upon road and air transport. Railways have played an important part in the development of this country; the building of new lines has opened up agricultural and pastoral areas and assisted greatly in their rapid development, particularly in Western Australia. It is true that some of .the lines operate at a loss, but their usefulness must not be considered solely from that angle. Many unprofitable lines contribute very greatly to the rural wealth of this country. This proposal to bring our railway systems up to date has everything to commend it. Road transportation can never operate as cheaply as the railways. Would members of the Australian Country party like to pay road freight charge? for the transport of superphosphates, wheat and other rural commodities fRecently in Western Australia the railways were in such a deplorable condition that they were unable to carry the wheat harvest to the seaboard, and road transport had to be resorted to. The cost for road transport was ls.’ 3d. a bushel as against 5d. a bushel over the railways. The honorable member for Wide Bay spoke as though we all had dual personalities, with loyalties to the States on one hand and loyalty to the Commonwealth on the’ other. We should regard ourselves not as members of the community of a State but as members of the community of Australia, and consider proposals such as that now before us with a broad national outlook. .The honorable member argued that the standardization of ‘ railway gauges should have been the subject of examination and report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The Government referred the matter to an expert committee which was best fitted to advise it on such a technical problem. If the proposal h’ad been referred to the Works Committee, that body would have had to summon before it as witnesses the very persons who constituted the expert committee. It is the task of experts to determine matters of this kind ; honorable members have not the requisite technical knowledge to do so. I do not accept the view that if we pass this bill to-night the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) will proceed to Albury to-morrow and drive the first dogspike in the conversion work.
– When is it expected that >he work will begin?
– I do not believe there is such tremendous urgency about it that it will be begun to-morrow morning. I leave that question to be answered by the Minister for Transport. [ am not an authority on the condition of the railways in States other than my own. In Western Australia we are facing a transport breakdown because our railways are worn out. Because of the bad condition into which railways there have fallen, ‘it is impossible to maintain schedules and time-tables; locomotives and rolling-stock are in an appalling state. If the railways in that State are not converted to the standard gauge in the near future the Western Australian Government will- be forced to face up to the expenditure of large sums of money to put its railways in working order. In 1929, Western Australia had a record harvest of 52,000,000 bushels, all of which was handled by the railways in addition to. the normal haulage to country centres of superphosphates, agricultural machinery and all the needs of the farming and pastoral community. To-day we find that the Western Australian railways have fallen to such a low level of efficiency that they are unable to handle a 13,000,000 bushel crop. The system has deteriorated so rapidly that the Government of that State will shortly be faced with the necessity to expend millions of pounds’ in order to enable them to transport the ordinary goods required by the community.
The honorable member for Wide Bay also suggested double-tracking as a means of overcoming some aspects of the difficulty caused by the break of gauge. Undoubtedly, double-tracking would increase the capacity of individual lines, and would enable them to carry more r-han twice their present loading, but that would only add to the problem of standardization which eventually must be faced.
– The Government of Western Australia is not a participant in this agreement.
– I am well aware of that. I approach this bill with mixed feelings. On the one hand I am pleased that a start is to be made on this important project; on the other I am bitterly disappointed that the Western Australian Government has not agreed to participate in the scheme. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Transport said -
It is to’ be regretted that Queensland and Western Australia are not included in thu ‘ plan, and it should be made clear that that if not the fault of the Commonwealth. The door ‘ is still open for further negotiations with both States.
– Is there any door open for Tasmania?-
– It is a shame that Tasmania is not connected with the mainland, because, if it were, we should not have continual complaints about its isola- tion and neglect. I understand that it baf 300 miles of railways with the appropriate number of locomotives and rollingstock. The modernization of Tasmanian railways will be given consideration. It ought not to be taken for granted that the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is useless. Plenty of countries operate on the 3-ft. 6.-in. gauge, and if the rails are heavy and the bed well laid and kept in order, big loads can bp hauled by powerful engines at high speeds, and it should be possible for the Tasmanian railways to he brought uptodate without alteration of the gauge. On the mainland, however, the advantages of the standard gauge are manifold. A paramount reason for standardizing the gauges is that of defence. During the war, when Western- Australia appeared to be in imminent danger of invasion by the Japanese, it was defenceless. We did have the Voluntary Defence Corps armed with shot-guns and broomsticks. In spite, of the- severe handicaps presented by the breaks of gauge, however, the railways did a very good job in transporting an armoured division across the continent. The job would have been immeasurably easier, but for the fact that between Sydney and Perth we have breaks of gauge at Albury, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie, where the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge begins. I do not claim, however, that defence needs are immediately pressing, because we are not likely to be at war again in the next two or three years. Japan has been vanquished, and I cannot conceive of any other nation, in the near future at any rate, attacking us. As a Western Australian, I see immense advantages in the standardization of the gauges. For instance, it would make possible the development of a greater market for our agricultural products in the eastern States. The State is preponderantly a primary producing State. I believe that Sydney and Melbourne are potentially great markets for our garden produce. The tomato crop at Geraldton, in the electorate of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) ripens early in the season. It is picked and carried on the line of the Midland Railway Company to Midland Junction, where it is transferred to the line to Kalgoorlie, where it has to be transferred once more to the East- West train, and eventually, it arrives in Melbourne after having been unloaded and reloaded at Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Adelaide. Even then the tomatoes are sold at a good profit. The Western Australian climate and soil are eminently suitable for the production of certain fruits that do not do so well in eastern Australia. Of course, other fruits that we grow can be grown equally well on this side of the continent; but, with a standard line, fruits and vegetables that the starved markets in the eastern States would readily absorb, could be transported across the continent in a couple of days and sold at a good profit to the producers more cheaply than they can be sold under present conditions. Therefore, from the agricultural viewpoint alone, Western Australia would greatly benefit from standardization. I hoped that the first lines converted to the standard gauge would be from Kalgoorlie to Perth and from Port Augusta to Broken Hill. That would provide Western Australia with a one-gauge link with Sydney. One of the main bottle-necks in the transport Of troops during the war was the Commonwealth’s own line from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie. It was a bottle-neck because the rolling-stock was only sufficient to meet peace-time needs. The line is absolutely isolated from other 4-ft.81/2-in. lines, with a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge commencing at the Port Pirie terminal and the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge at the Kalgoorlie terminal. Many complaints were voiced in this Parliament during the war about troopshaving toundergo the ordeal of crossing the Nullarbor Plain in cattle trucks. Any one who has made thejourney, either in the cold of winter or the heat of summer, knows how trying it is, even in comfortable carriages. However,, as rolling-stock was lacking, willy-nilly, owing to the imminent danger in which Western Australia stood, the troops had to undergo the ordeal. Had there been a link with the New South Wales railways system, the reservoir of rolling-stock in that State could have been drawn upon and. the troops saved discomfort. The agreement would, in my opinion, be improved if the Railways Standardization Board had on it not only those persons whose membership is provided for in the bill, but also a member of the wages staff. It is proposed that the board shall consist of a director-general, who shall be chairman, and the following other members: -
I advocate the appointment to the board of a representative of the workers, a trade unionist, because, although I recognize the need for men qualified in the the foregoing callings, I think a man with practical knowledge gained through years of active operation of railways, could bring to bear on problems that will confront the board a wealth of experience. I base that contention on personal experience. The yard of the railway depot at Northam was so hopelessly congested that the Western Australian Railways Department decided to re-organize it. There was a natural fall in the yard so that when the shunters took the rollingstock out of the sheds all they needed to do would be to give it a heave and it would run to where required. The engineers constructed the new yard in such a way that when the job was completed, the shunters found that they had to push the trucks uphill. Surveyors and engineers, at the cost of many thousands ofpounds to the railway department, built the yard the wrong way round! Had they had the advice of a shunter, who knows only two well that trucks run downhill but have to be pushed uphill, they would not have perpetrated that error. Therefore, the wages staff, who are most concerned in the success of the conversion, ought to be represented on the board.
In Part IV. of the agreement it is provided that the Commonwealth shall bear the whole cost of its own conversion operations. The States and the Commonwealth are to share on a fifty-fifty and per capita basis the other conversion costs. That would have been of great advantage to Western Australia and Queensland if they had agreed to enter the agreement. I believe that the populous State of New South Wales, since it already has the standard gauge, would have helped to pay the cost of the conversion of the 3-ft. 6-in. ‘ gauges in the thinly populated States of Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, and that the Commonwealth would have contributed more in contributions to the sinking fund on the State debts. What a glorious opportunity has been missed by Western Australia and Queensland ! The thickly populated States should, of course, assist in the development of the less fortunately placedStates like Western Australia. One of the reasons for the secession referendum taken in Western Australia a few years ago was the conviction -in that State that it did not receive from the eastern States the assistance to which it was entitled. Now, when we find the wealthy States and the wealthier Commonwealth coming forward with a gift to the less populous States, particularly Western Australia and Queensland, the gift is refused. That reasoning is hard to follow.
In considering the matter of modernizing and standardizing the railway gauges we should also- give consideration to the provision of amenities to the railway workers. Any one who has travelled
Across the continent to Western Australia could not fail to be depressed by the conditions in which the workers on the trans-Australian railway live. At Cook the houses are commodious and neat enough, but they are of weatherboard, and I do not think that any one who has to live on the Nullarbor Plain should be expected to live in a weatherboard house, even of a good type. I have lived in hot and cold conditions all over Western Australia, and I know that if one has to sleep in the day-time, as railway men have to, the only type of house that is suitable is one constructed of brick, concrete or stone. The railway workers should be provided with stone houses,’ which ought to be equipped with refrigeration and other amenities. The dwellings of the permanent-way workers are of a lower standard still. We are apt not to think of the man who keeps the permanent way in order as a railway man. We think that because he appears to have a job that any one can do, he can. be fobbed off with any sort of conditions. Bad as the conditions of the permanent-way men are on the transAustralian line, they are infinitely worse on the railways of Western Australia, where at the little sidings in the midst of the mulga, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, one sees workmen in huts built by themselves with sleepers and with only earth floors. Men should not be expected to live under such’ deplorable conditions. So, not only mus’t the rolling-stock be improved, but also the conditions of the workers must be made considerably better. At the railway workshops the hands ought to be provided with better dining rooms.
There is an opportunity for us in the development of the railway standardization project to insist- upon cutting out the outmoded two-class system. I do not say that the existing first-class standards are good enough to meet modern requirements. On the “ Spirit of Progress “, which is the only modern train in Australia, not a great deal of difference exists ‘between the first and second class, and I do not think the Victorian Railways Commissioners would have incurred loss if they had constructed it as a one-class train. I am sure that the two-class system is uneconomic. I bolstered my opinion when I took out the figures relating to first and second-class traffic on the Perth suburban lines. There the trains consist of three second-class and two first-class carriages. Apart altogether from the fact that more secondclass than first-class tickets are sold, if only holders of first-class tickets travel in the first-class carriages, the first-class carriages would be only three-quarter filled and the second-class would be overcrowded. Whether the motive power be electricity of steam, the train carries an unnecessary dead- weight in providing first-class travel. The marshalling of the two different classes of carriages itself is au unnecessary extra burden on a railways system.
I commend the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) for having brought this bill down. No one can blame him for its late arrival, because no one worked harder than he to get all the States to agree to standardization of the gauges. He has not finally abandoned hope that Western Australia and Queensland “will eventually see the wisdom of the project,- and come into the agreement. He was however, driven by desperation, when they hedged so long, and finally, but I hope temporarily, withdrew to say, “Well, let us get the job started. Let us have an agreement between the Commonwealth and the other three -States “.
.- I have no desire to detain the House in debating a forlorn hope, because I realize that whatever is said the bill will be passed. I rise, however, because two peculiarities have developed in the debate that are worth recording. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) as a representative of Western Australia, one of the two States that refused to enter the agreement, spoke lengthily on a bill’ providing for the standardization of railway gauges in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, which, with the Commonwealth, will incur the whole cost-of the project. The second peculiarity was the rather painful experience of listening to the Minister for Air labour-; ing valiantly, to justify the expenditure of £200,000,000, for a purpose which no longer exists except in the imagination of certain dreamers. I refer to the so-called defence value of the standardization of railway gauges. In my opinion, it has no place in the logic of realism. I am not the least concerned about the Clapp report. That document is the “how to do “ rather than the “ reason why it should be done “. The “ reason why “ is for the Government to determine. I do not say anything . derogatory of Sir Harold Clapp. I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in paying this tribute to him, that as an organizer and administrator of a railwayssystem, he is one of the best. He wa* chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners for years, and there is no reason to doubt his ability in that capacity. However, I would not accept a report drawn up even by Sir Harold Clapp as a reason why we should incur this tremendous expenditure at this stag* of our national development. If this scheme had been submitted to the Parliament before the outbreak of World War II. and before we had discovered the effects of aerial bombing and the possibilities of atomic bombs, there would have been some merit in it. But what was the experience of Germany, which has a uniform railways system ? The factor which more than any other defeated Germany was British bombing from bases 600 miles away from the Nazi railway system. That bombing enabled the Russians to advance, because British bombs falling on the uniform railway system prevented the Nazi trains from supplying front-line German troops. The statement that the defence of Australia justifies the standardization of our railway gauges ‘ is farcical at present.
– Would aerial bombs be ineffective on the railway system of a country which had a variety of gauges?
– The bombing would not be any more effective, as the honorable member must know. The only excuse for the introduction of this bill if to provide a safeguard against unemployment. If the Minister had admitted that. I would defend and support the bill. But his statement that the standardization of gauges is required in the interests of national defence is altogether wrong. We have just emerged from the most devastating war of all time, and there is no prospect of our enemies raising their heads in the next 25, 30, 40 or 50 years.
– The only threat to Australia is that Tasmania may attack the mainland. With the victorious allied armies astride our enemies, there is no possibility of them raising their heads for a long time. Yet the Minister described this project as a defence measure. I .agree that there are advantages in a uniform railway gauge, even for peace-time purposes. But. I shall be surprised if, within the nest ten years, a complete aerial transport system with road-feeder services is not operating in Australia. A few days ago, I read that the United States of America has a transport plane which carries 10 tons of produce - as much as a 10-ton railway truck. The produce. is brought to the airport by road transport. One aeroplane could do the same work as many railway trucks could do on a journey of 100 miles.
Despite the rapid development of air transport, the Government proposes to. expend’ £220,000,000 on the standardization of railway gauges. It is futile for the Minister to say that the expenditure contemplated is £70,000,000. That is merely the first instalment, and the total cost will be in the vicinity of £220,000,000. How can the Minister claim that this bill is a measure to standardize railway gauges when Queensland and Western Australia, the two vital States from the standpoint of defence, refuse to be parties to the scheme? What assurance has the honorable gentleman that those States will come into the scheme, even after the railway gauges of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are standardized? I remind the Minister that there is already a uniform, gauge between Melbourne and Adelaide. The amount of £70,000,000. will be expended on the standardization of the gauges of the middle States,- but there is no guarantee that Queensland and Western Australia will become parties to the scheme’ later. Without that guarantee, the contention that defence demands that this project shall be undertaken has no basis. In my opinion, this expenditure, will be wasteful. The money could be more readily and usefully employed on hydro-electric and water conservation schemes and for the encouragement of migrants in order to increase .the population and development of Australia. Those projects will mean more in our national defence than the standardization of railway gauges. In my opinion, the Government and the Minister regard this scheme as a safeguard against an economic de pression. If people are thrown out of employment, this scheme will provide work for them. It may be of advantage to have such a project in readiness, but we should be honest and regard it from, that standpoint. As a. defence measure, it is completely useless, and the Minister knows it. In any war in the future, railways will be too slow. The conflict will be over before they can stoke up an engine. If the Government desires to provide a safeguard against unemployment, it can achieve that purpose by co-operation with the States in the development of hydro-electric power and water conservation schemes for the irrigation of inland districts. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) hopes to induce large numbers of migrants to settle in Australia. Unless water conservation and hydro-electric projects are undertaken, the Minister’s efforts will be a waste of time. The reconstruction and rehabilitation of Australia require far more useful works than “the’ standardization of railway gauges. During the last 70 or 80 years, our railway systems have done the job, perhaps somewhat ineffectively, and, in my opinion, they will not be used to a greater degree in the future than they have in the past. As I have shown, the taxpayers’ money can be spent to considerably better advantage than in the manner that the bill proposes.
.- I do’ not propose to allow this bill, which provides for the expenditure of £70,000,000 for the standardization of railway gauges in New South Wales. Victoria and . South Australia, to pass without some comment! The money for this project must be obtained from taxation, and the people are already heavily taxed. I shall review the proposals contained in this bill critically, but constructively. One has only to experience the confusion which prevails at times at Albury - the horder station . between the two most populous States - to realize that a modified scheme for the standardization of gauges at reasonable cost would be of advantage. However, the time is not opportune, in the last few hours of the session, to commit the country to such a vast expenditure as this bill contemplates. The responsibility should be left to the incoming government. The
Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) pointed out that the first railway was constructed in Australia in 1854.. At that time Great .Britain was engaged in the Crimean War. This session began on the 18th .Tune, the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. That date, in my opinion, has a bearing on the fate of this Government. After the forthcoming elections, a different government will be in office.
– Order! What relation has the Battle of Waterloo to this bill?
– I propose to show that the Government should not use its large majority to force this bill through the Parliament towards the close of the session. The proposal should be, and will be, properly considered by a more democratic government in the near future. One of .the railway lines which will be standardized is the link between Ferntree Gully and Emerald. I do not know how many honorable members have travelled on that picturesque little scenic railway, which runs along Mount Dandenong, but there has been no public demand for the standardization of that line. The money required for that work could be spent to greater advantage on more urgent national works. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) knows of the immense possibilities of the Snowy River catchment area. Hydro-electric power could be generated to supply many of our factories. At present, parts of northern New South Wales are being ravaged by drought. Water conservation -means a great deal to many of our primary producers. - Surely water conservation and hydro-electric schemes should have priority in the list of public works ! Enthusiastic as the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) may be for his pet scheme, I am -convinced that the people -consider that water conservation and hydro-electric schemes should be undertaken before the standardization of railway gauges at a total cost of over £200.000,000. I am most impressed “by the number of ex-railwav employees among the honorable members -opposite, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Swan (Mt. Mountjoy).
– They have kept this country “ on the rails “. “Mr. WHITE.- The aim of those honorable members should be to retain pas- sengers and freight for the railways, instead of losing them to air transport. Those honorable gentlemen are naturally influenced by their earlier employment, in the same way as. I am interested in air transport. In Australia, flying is possible at all times and one of our urgent needs is improved airports. At present, the .standard of our airports does not compare with that of other countries. Essendon, the principal airfield of Melbourne, has been closed for over a month, causing great congestion at Laverton. The airport of Sydney, Mascot, is inadequate. Casualties have occurred and will continue to occur there because the airfield is unsuitable. Money which is expended on the- construction of modern airports is a sound investment. Perth, which ie further from the eastern States than- is New Zealand, requires a better airport. In addition, the east-west railway is inadequate. Honorable members who represent Western Australia electorate would not think of returning to Perth .by rail. They travel by air. Indeed all honorable members use the railways infrequently. Enthusiastic as the Minister for
Transport may be for this scheme he uses a ministerial car to travel from Sydney to Adelaide.
– I travel by air.
– Recently, the honorable gentleman travelled to Adelaide by car with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) and has done so before. However, I will not rub that in. Why should the country be committed to this expenditure? The’ railways began operating in Australia in 1854 ; but stage coaches were still running in the ‘eighties. I do not suppose there are any former stage-coach drivers among honorable gentlemen opposite; otherwise they might tell us that they are keeping the country running on stage-coach wheels, and they would be arguing for more and better and bigger stage coaches. The Minister and his caucus colleagues are living in the past. They are enthusiastic about the railways’. I am not suggesting that rail transport should be abandoned; but, just a3 the sailing ship was replaced by the steam ship, so rail transport is being replaced by air transport and road transport. Air transport is outstripping rail transport in these days, and it will continue to do so if the aviation companies are properly controlled, and if monopoly is rendered impossible. Continuous improvement would be assured ‘ in air transport if it were not for the creation of excrescences such as the National Airlines Commission. Nationalization is a fetish of this Government, as is shown by the fact that we are being asked to endorse an expenditure of £70,000,000 ‘on the standardization of railway gauges as a first’ instalment.
Does the Minister for Transport realize that of all the money invested* in transport in Australia only 3 per cent, is invested in sea transport, 6 per cent, in tram transport and 25 per cent., in rail transport, and 63 per cent. , in r-./ad transport? Does the honorable gentleman know that there were more t.ruckdrivers in Australia than there are i ail way employees? In the United States >if America airlines have been developed ti< a high point of efficiency. Their machines and technical equipment are no better than those of Australia, but their airports are infinitely better than ours.. Motor transport also runs right across the continent, from seaboard to seaboard. Vet motor transport on that scale is forbidden in this country. In order to indicate the difficulties that face the people of Australia in regard to road transport, I direct attention to the following extract from the April issue of Tie. Australian Motorist: -
Business people needing to travel interstate are still suffering the gravest inconveniences.
The nationalized railway system continues to fail to- meet public requirements. It is quite uusual for a business man on a visit to another State to be held up for many day’s before he can make his return journey. An example of the problem is the experience of one business man from a northern State visiting Victoria.
The only way he could get back was ‘to travel by rail to a terminus in Eastern Gipps land and hitch-hike where there were no local service cars and obtain transport where hirecars existed. By this means, he gradually worked his way back, because he could no longer remain idle in Melbourne.
If there was any one connected with politic* who cares for public needs some steps would have been taken to arrange for interstate motorbus services, even for a short period of three tosix mont lis, or a lesser period, to get stranded people back to their home State.
We have some excellent passenger train* in Victoria, but a great deal more should bc. done to encourage road transport. Even in this regard, Victoria is in a better position than some of the States, for road trains have been introduced in the districts abutting on Port PhillipBay. Some of the buses operating in that’ area carry 80 passengers.’ Still larger vehicles of trans-continental type are fitted with sleeping-berths, refrigerators and other amenities which may be enjoyed on good railway trains. The point I. am making is that we have not done what we ought to have done to encourage road transport. We have attempted, to too great a degree, to- concentrate transport on the’ railways which are a Government monopoly. I have in mind at the moment an omnibus service’ which runs from the suburbs towardsMelbourne, the proprietors of which are not permitted to bring the passengers right into the city. The travellers are dumped at a suburban station and must, complete their journey to the city on overcrowded suburban trains.
I cannot understand why the Government should be so insistent on the investment of another £70,000,000 in the railways. The motor industry of Australia has been very heavily taxed during the last six years. The Australian States have collectively received £38,500,000 in motor registration and drivers licence-fees. They have also received £15,300,000 as their share of the petrol tax. The total, amount of tax paid by the Australian motorists for the privilege of . driving: their mo’.or vehicles during the last year has been nearly £54,000,000. I appreciate the fact that a proportion of the petrol tax must be expended upon road construction and maintenance, and we havesome excellent roads in this country, but the taxes on motorists are altogether too ‘ high. The expenditure which the-
Government is proposing on the standardization of railway gauges is unjustifiable in my opinion.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
From a defence angle, railway transport has the advantage of operating entirely on fuels locally produced.
He meant coal, but he did not say so. As a matter of fact that particular fuel is becoming more difficult to obtain every day. The position i3 so serious that the Victorian Railways Commissioners have converted a number of their locomotives to oil fuel. The Minister also said -
Any interruption of fuel supplies from overseas would completely cripple other forms of transport.
– I do not intend to discuss that subject; but the honorable gentleman’s statement in regard to locally produced fuel was ludicrous. The fact that Victorian railway locomotives have bad to be converted to oil fuel is known to all of us. Honorable gentlemen know very well, also, that many people have been discouraged from visiting this salubrious capital city, with its wonderful environment, because of its hopelessly inadequate railway service. Ministers use their cars to travel from place to place; honorable gentlemen who repre- sent Sydney constituencies go to and fro by the diesel-driven trains, which do not use locally produced fuel, and Victorian representatives, because they are not willing to sit up all night in trains which do not provide sleeping berths, are glad to fly backwards and forwards by aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force. So much for the Minister’s remark that transport can be conducted on locally produced fuel. We must remember, also, that it takes seventeen and a half hours to travel from Melbourne to Canberra by train, which is longer than some aircraft take to fly from the United Kingdom to America. The trains available for us this side of Albury remind me of Turkish trains. I remember seeing one Turkish railway where the contractor, in order to avoid taking, a. railway track over a mountain, wriggled it across the plain and around the mountain, and so caused heavy extra mileage to be run on every journey by that route as he laid it on a mileage basis. The Canberra train has something in common, because one comes within 30 miles of Canberra at Yass, yet the capital is not reached until some four hours later.
It is high time that more attention was given to the provision of proper motor transport in this country. Overseas visitors to Australia are sharply critical of our archaic transport system. I was looking at some railway locomotives a few days ago on this line, and was surprised to find that they were more than 50 years old. In view of the great saving of time by the use of air transport it is not surprising that the railways are becoming less an.d less popular, even when they are available under reasonable conditions, which is certainly not the case at present. In the circumstances that I have outlined, the proposed expenditure of £70,000,000 on the standardization of gauges should he very carefully examined. I realize that there will be a change of Government before this scheme can be put into operation; but honorable mem: bers should not” rush precipitately into a scheme of this kind, merely because the Minister is enthusiastic about it. Steps should be taken to free motor transport from many of the restrictions to which it is being subjected to-day. Petrol duties and heavy sales tax on spare parts are keeping motor ‘ transport costs up to a high level. The whole situation should bc reviewed. We should not continue to spend large sums of money on our outmoded rail transport system. This scheme for the standardization of railway gauges has been hawked round for years, and I am astonished that it should be submitted to Parliament on the very eve of a general election. We all know that. Sir Harold Clapp, who was Chairman of the Railways Commission in Victoria, is a man with high engineering qualifications. It can be said that he managed the Victorian railways system better than the railway system of any other State was managed. I do not make that statement critically’; it is a factual statement. . Sir Harold has been touring the States lecturing on rail transport. He divided his lecture into two parts: First, he told his audiences what a great statesman the Honorable Edward “Ward was for having pressed on this scheme for the standardization of railway gauges; and, secondly, he told them what ari excellent scheme the Government had evolved. This scheme is, in effect, a gold brick; or perhaps I should say that it is like the curate’s egg, good in parts. It cannot be denied that air transport is leaving rail transport behind. Our Lancaster and Halifax aircraft are carrying 10-ton loads; and in America aircraft are being developed to transport loads of 60 tons.
– What about the price difficulty ?
– No doubt the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is very ready to assist the Minister for Transport with this scheme,~for probably the Minister has been helpful to him in connexion with his travels overseas.. I concede, however, that air transport is more expensive than rail transport. But as our air services improve and our landing grounds and airports are modernized air transport costs will undoubtedly fall.
– Will aircraft ever transport wheat from the farm to the seaboard ?
– I do not suggest that that is likely to happen. There will still be some useful transport service which the railways can render’; but just as the sailing ships have been superseded by steamships, so the railways will be superseded by air transport. There is room for freight of both types. The point that I stress is that not sufficient consideration has been given to this alternative means of transport. It has been assumed that because the railways run here and there, prosperity must be increased by their multiplication. That is not the. case. The time factor is important. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) made the important observation that the railways, being easily accessible to an enemy, could be readily destroyed. That is particularly true of marshalling yards. The principal objects to which bombers directed their attention in Europe, and especially in Germany, were marshalling yards. Who knows what form the next war will take? Meteor aircraft, of which there is only one in Australia, can fly from Melbourne to D(arwin in. eight hours, and from Melbourne to Adelaide in 90 minutes. Does any honorable member consider ‘that a future war would be comparable with World War I. or World War II. ? The atomic bomb has completely revolutionized warfare. The bomb of that type dropped on Hiroshima killed 80,000 persons .over a level expanse of 10 square miles. What damage would be done by 100 bombs of that type, dropped by a light aircraft? I am not conjuring up a Jules Verne dream of what is likely to happen 100 years hence but which is possible to-day. There is talk of transporting troops by rail to Darwin. A light bomber or a fighter aircraft could take off from another continent, fly in the “stratosphere, reach Australia, hit its target, and practically obliterate a city “before defensive preparations could be made. The defence factor stressed a decade ago -by military and political leaders is very much out-dated to-day. In the last stages of World War II., did railways save Germany? . They were a handicap. Nor did they help Montgomery and’ Eisenhower to move their armies across Europe. They had a continuous stream of motor transport, which passed through French and Dutch territory into western Germany, carrying supplies to their armies. Railways are too static for the transport of armies, except in regard to Some supplies. What I am trying to prove is that there are more modern alternatives. The Government will be, not unprogressive, but actually retrogressive if it persists with this project. I exhort the Minister to consider an amendment or qualification of it. If he travels extensively by alternative transport, he will agree that it has greater prospects of development than have the railways. Many of the invasion troops taken into Holland and France were carried in gliders towed by aircraft. The transport of squadrons was not undertaken in the United Kingdom by the stupid means that were followed in Australia. Halifaxes, with gliders attached to them, . shuttled forward and back in a manner that was bewildering to those who thought only in terms of railways or the stage coach. The Government is going too far in attempting to obtain approval of the expenditure of £70,000,000, which will be only a fraction of the larger amount of £200,000,000, which eventually will be expended. . When authority is given to a government to expend money, it feels obliged to go ahead with the expenditure. If to-night authority is given for the expenditure of £70,000,000, after -the next general elections we shall be attacked by the Labour party, the members of which will say, “.Here was a great labour-providing, progressive scheme which these men have jettisoned, thus throwing men into unemployment.” The Government has not the slightest imagination. It could provide considerably more employment in the motor and aircraft industries, in water conservation and irrigation, and in many other ways. It could even reduce taxes, and thu3 make for greater prosperity than will be gained by this railway outlook which I am afraid dominates theminds of so many of its members.
– I have known Sir Harold Clapp for many years, and join with the Leader of the Opposition .(Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in paying tribute to his great skill and ability as a railway engineer and a planner of railways. The feature of this proposal which strikes me is that his plan for the . standardization of the railway gauges of Australia is to be completely emasculated under the agreement that has been made with three of the States. The failure of the Queensland Government to become a partner in the proposal will have the result that the’ whole of the western .system envisaged in the report of Sir Harold Clapp, running from Bourke through Barringun and the western part of Queensland, and joining a line running across to Mr Isa, thence to Birdum and Darwin. and on the cross of the “ T “ back to Townsville, will be scrapped. One of the great merits which primary producers at least saw in that proposal was that it would be of tremendous assistance to New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland in times of drought. Its construction would have enabled cattle to be taken from the western slopes of Queensland, and the
Northern Territory, into the fattening country in New South Wales and Victoria, af ter which they could be taken to the great metropolitan markets of Sydney and Melbourne. Sir Harold Clapp has laid particular stress in his report on the evidence given by Mr. Tancred,. of Tancred Brothers, who treat a large number of stock at their Bourke meatworks, frequently sending motor lorries with trailers attached 200 miles from the works to collect sheep. Sir Harold said in’ his report -
I have also had discussions with leading individual pastoralists with interests in central and western Queensland who favour the proposal for the reasons indicated. Mr. 0. E. Tancred, part proprietor of the Bourke meatworks, considers that the line, if constructed, would he a commercial proposition. He stated that if the facility were available to move stock by rail from central and western Queensland to New South Wales, he would truck to Bourke approximately 400,000 sheep and 40,000 head of cattle each year from areas north of Cunnamulla.
Mr. Tancred said that last year he trane ported 150 000 sheep by motor truck from the Cunnamulla, area of Queensland to Bourke, New South Wales, and the total road motor mileage run in that year by his fleet of ten live-stock trucks (each carrying 300 sheep) was 185,000 miles.
Under the agreement with New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, the railway will come to a dead-end at Barringun, oh the . border . of New South Wales and Queensland. It will be utterly useless unless it is continued farther to the north. That is one feature of Sir Harold Clapp’s plan which has been emasculated. On to another portion of his scheme has been tacked a completely new proposal which he did not recommend. The Minister for Transport, in his second-reading speech, built up a great case for the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia in the interest of the defence of the Commonwealth. The honorable gentleman said: -
It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that the Minister for the Army, in response to a request for an opinion by Sir Harold Clapp, stated in regard to the proposal to standardize the railway gauges that the defence aspect of this problem is of vital importance, if, indeed, it does not of itself present real justification’ for an undertaking of such magnitude in thefield of post-war construction.
Apparently, Sir Harold Clapp’s plans were drawn in the interest of the defence of this country in collaboration with the defence chiefs, yet they did not envisage the proposal embodied in the Schedule, Part III., clause 10, paragraph e, which reads -
Conversion to standard gauge of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge lines of the Commonwealth Railways from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, the conversion to standard gauge of existing locomotives and rolling stock suitable for conversion …”
What Sir Harold Clapp said in regard to that proposal will be found at page 10 of his report. It .is in these terms-: -
That the conversion to standard gauge (4-ft.’ 8i4n.) of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge Central Australia railway (Port Augusta- Alice Springs) and the extension thereof beyond the -existing terminal at Alice Springs be deferred indefinitely.
Under the proposal of the Government, that railway is to be built. ‘It is to go beyond Alice Springs, because the agreement provides for the construction of a new standard gauge railway from Alice Springs to Birdum, and the construction of the standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock necessary to operate this line. The line from Birdum to Darwin is to be converted to the standard gauge. But apparently the connecting line from the Queensland system, which was regarded as of supreme importance from the defence point of view, has been abandoned. Therefore, in future, troops being moved from Sydney to Darwin will have to be taken through Melbourne, Adelaide and the centre of Australia, unless they are flown there. It is strange that the Minister did not, in his second-reading speech, mention one word about this vital alteration of Sir Harold Clapp’s plans, and the large additional expense that will be entailed, as well as the curtailment of the defence requirements of Australia. [ imagine that there must have been very difficult bargaining even with the three States whose representatives- the Minister managed to assemble at the conference, in order to secure approval of this railway from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, ;and the construction of a new line of standard gauge from Alice Springs to Birdum and thence to the north of Australia - a line that was not reported upon favorably by Sir Harold Clapp, or, so far as I can learn’, by any of the other railway authorities in the. Common. wealth. This is a sop to South Australia, in order to gratify the Minister’s vanity. It is a great pity that these lines were em, bodied in the scheme when Sir Harold Clapp was so strongly opposed to them, and, according to military .authorities, they have no defence value.
I want to make some comments on the cost of .these proposals, though not in terms of finance. As I view the matter, Australia has not sufficient manpower to undertake this enormous conversion of railway gauges and the building of the necessary new stock, without sacrificing the requirements of the people in a hundred and one other ways that are more vitally, important at the present time. The cost of the scheme is estimated to be £70,000,000. On the basis of the basic wage, it would appear that for the next six years there will be from 33,000 to 34,000 men engaged on these- vast projects. But I do not propose to state the matter in that way, because many of the men employed in the scheme in a skilled capacity will receive higher than the basic wage. At page 83 pf his report, Sir Harold Clapp has estimated the additional man-power” that will be required each year by the railway departments in carrying out proposals “A”, “B” and “ C “, including the associated works referred to in Part III. Additional to those are the proposed railway from Alice Springs to Birdum and the conversion of the line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, which Sir Harold Clapp did not envisage. It appears that the times which, it is estimated, will be required to complete the different items are, six and a quarter years for item 2, seven years for item 3, and six and a quarter years for item 4. No estimate is given in respect of the railway through Central Australia. It further appears that at least 10,130 men will be required from the beginning to the completion of the works in the next six years. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) recently cited figures showing that about four weeks ago there were 11,000 persons unemployed in the Commonwealth. Since then, -the number has decreased to 4,000. The Government’s house-building programme has completely broken down, owing to the lack of man-power generally and of skilled tradesmen particularly. There is a failure to supply to the primary producers galvanized iron, wire and the farm implements that they need in order, to raise their properties to a high degree of productivity, and generally to place them in order after the neglect of the war years, when maintenance and improvements had to be deferred. There is an enormous shortage of man-power in Australia at the present time, even for the production of the consumer goods that are required by the people. There is a tremendous demand for- man-power in the building trades, and in all the ancillary trades which provide the requirements of housebuilders. The position will be accentuated by the demands that will be made on the available man-power resources by the scheme that has been brought forward by the Minister for Transport to-night. Let me enumerate some of the requirements in the way of steel, materials and skilled labour which- the plan envisages for Victoria alone. They are as follows-: - (</) Construction of 255 locomotives.
Construction of 250 cars and vans and 3,770 wagons, &c, 1,304 bogies, 24 car under.frames, 42 rail motors, trailers, &c.
All this work must necessarily effect bousing. Hundreds of thousands of persons will not be able to get houses if this vast railway reconstruction scheme is proceeded with in the near future. We are faced with the need to provide for hydro-electric development in various parts of the country. Owing to the foresight of the ‘Stevens-Bruxner Government, arrangements have been made for the construction of -five large dams in New England. The present Labour Premier, Mr. McKell, is about to turn the first sod of the Glentown dam on the upper Hunter, and the full scheme is expected, when completed, to irrigate 60,000 acres of land. On this land will be grown fodder that can be used to prevent the appalling losses among stock which occur when there are droughts in New South
Wales and western Queensland. How-, ever, those water schemes cannot be developed if the railway reconstruction scheme makes such a tremendous demand on materials and labour. Another irrigation proposal has been mapped out in the Namoi Valley, and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) envisages the construction of a hydroelectric scheme on the Clarence’ River. This hydro-electric scheme would eventually be linked up with the main coa and power resources of the eastern seaboard, including those at Brisbane and Newcastle, and at Bunnerong in Sydney. We have all heard of the Snowy River scheme, under which it is proposed to divert the Snowy River through a tunnel 15 miles long, into the Murrumbidgee River.
I believe that it is necessary to standardize our railway gauges, but the work should not be undertaken at the . cost of depriving the community of houses and consumer goods. We have been told that Australia is short of 250,000 houses. Even before the war, it was necessary to construct 40,000 houses a year to meet requirements, and at the present time, in order to overtake the demand, between 60,000 and 70,000 houses a year should be built. However, it will be impossible to carry out such a housing programme, and to develop water conservation and hydro-electric schemes, if the Governments’ proposed railway standardization scheme is proceeded with immediately. I hope that the Minister will assure the House that there is no prospect that the scheme will be undertaken while people are without houses, and while rural areas lack hydro-electric services.
– The amount of money which it is proposed to expend on this railway standardization scheme varies in the estimate of every speaker from the Government side. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) mentioned £50,000,000, hut others have mentioned other amounts. This is one of the most important works proposals placed before Parliament for a long time, but I was unable ti> obtain a copy of the Minister’s second-reading speech, although the practice is to make such copies available. Without a copy it is impossible for honorable members to follow, by merely listening to a speech, complicated details and involved groups of figures. Apparently, the proposal is to spend £50,000,000, although the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) mentioned £70,000,000. The standardization of the gauge of interstate railways has much to recommend it. The proposal has been considered by. various authorities for many years. Long before the recent war, i’; was considered essential for the defence of Australia that there should be a standardgauge railway between Brisbane andPerth, but the war came before anything was done about it. The only real progress towards achieving this end was the construction of a standard-gauge line between Kyogle and South Brisbane. At that time, Mr. S. M. Bruce was Prime Minister, and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was his deputy. The existence of this link was of great value during, the war in the movement of troops and supplies. Without it, much greater difficulty would have been experienced in sending our forces into northern areas.
However, since the termination of the recent war, there has been a shift of opinion on the subject of defence measures, due largely to the advent of the atomic bomb. Nations do not now think in terms of huge masses of infantry pitted against one another, but rather in terms of small, well-trained and well-equipped mechanical units, technical units, and chemical units which could wreak untold havoc on an enemy before he had time to bring masses of troops into position. Any one who has studied the recommendations of the American general staff to the Committee on Military Affairs must realize that, in a future war, it will he a case of a lightning assault by a power using “atomic bombs and other devastating weapons which will bo able to destroy whole cities overnight. They will destroy the war potential of their enemy in a short space of time, before his infantry, artillery and other arms can be brought into action. We must accordingly re-orient our thinking in respect of defence. I do not believe that any one in Australia, or for that matter, in the world, can predict what new methods of warfare will be adopted in the next decade. In pro claiming to the world that the proposal to standardize our railway gauges is primarily a defence measure, the Minister is giving expression to outmoded thinking. Our previously .accepted conceptions of defence have been relegated to the limbo pf forgotten things; they are as outofdate as is the common rifle as a weapon of offence and defence. Although I praise the Minister’s energy and aggressiveness in endeavouring to give. effect to this proposal,. I cannot pay tribute to his farsightedness. A few years ago a proposal such as this might have had very much to commend it. I have no doubt that in his reply the Minister will say that nothing was done about this important matter by earlier governments supported by honorable members on this side of the House. That is a form of argument to which we have long become accustomed, but it gets us nowhere. I have examined the excellent report made on this subject by Sir Harold Clapp; it is so technical, however, that criticism by a layman is impossible. If we are to standardize our railway gauges, I have no doubt that the method by which that object is to be attained will be as easily reached by adopting the recommendations of Sir Harold Clapp as by any other means. . I do not, therefore, intend to criticize that aspect of the proposal. I do, however, criticize the proposal in general as having in some respects been made years too late and in others years too soon. As an effective defence measure it is completely outdated, because the war from which we have just emerged has altered our whole conception of defence. For years we had to fight for our very existence against an implacable enemy. Japan, which had been a constant menace to our safety from the” time -when I was a small boy, has now been laid so low that only by a miracle can it become a powerful nation again within the next 50 years. We certainly have nothing to fear from Japan for a considerable period of time. Thus we have breathing space to consider what shall be our future defence. I do not suggest that this country is secure against attack merely because it has emerged successfully from a war. Undoubtedly we shall be challenged again in the future, possibly by some new nation rising in the east, possibly by a resurgent Indonesia or by another nation which I shall not name. Accordingly we have to lay the foundations for our future defence carefully, completely and with the full knowledge of developments in modern warfare. I question whether the standardization of our railway gauges, a task that will extend over many years, and will cost more than £200,000,000, can be regarded as an effective defence measure by comparison with others which we might adopt. In order to defend this country adequately we must have an increased population. And we can sustain an increased population only by increasing facilities for its accommodation, enhancing the fertility of our soils, providing irrigation, electricity, and other amenities in country centres.
– And improving our railway systems. The honorable member does not suggest that we should scrap the railways
– No. I agree that t lie improvement of our railways is also very important. In his report, Sir Harold Clapp lays stress not so much on the standardization as on the modernization of our railways, to make them capable of providing speedy transport and effective service. In several places in his report, he mentions that it would be useless for the Government to carry out a standardization policy unless it were accompanied by a very strong modernization policy. The Minister believes that this proposal will be beneficial to the nation, and contribute to its effective defence. I join issue with him on that point. World conceptions of defence measures have changed immeasurably since the first atomic bomb was dropped, on Hiroshima. It is to be noted that the Clapp report was made in March, 1945, five months before the first atomic bomb was released upon the world. The. advent’ of atomic warfare has brought about a revolution in world thinking on matters relating to defence. I have no doubt that when Sir Harold and his officers, and the military advisers of the Government, reported upon the standardization of railway gauges they had in mind a system of warfare to which .we had up to that time been accustomed. As I have said, the most effective way to defend this country is so to- increase its population as to make possible the raising of adequate forces to defend it. At present we have a population of 7,000,000 to defend 3,000,000 square miles of territory. We are incapable of meeting a serious challenge by a powerful enemy unless we have the full aid and strength of co-operative allies such as the United States of America and Great Britain. The effectiveness of the aid which Great Britain could render us diminished very much as the war progressed. All the wealth which the Mother Country had hoarded during the past two or three centuries was liquidated in the short space of four cr five vears. Accordingly, we must combat any future challenge with our own strong right hand. The Government has a responsibility, therefore, to take such measures as will improve the living standards and amenities of this country and create continuity of productive employment, so that migrants may be attracted to our shores. I agree that the expenditure of £50,000,000 on the standardization of railway gauges will create employment for a large number of people for from eight to fifteen years. But what then? This project will not of itself bring us one new settler, or produce an extra bale of wool or a bushel of wheat. If the same amount of money and man-power, the same quantity of steel, iron, cement and timber, and all the other requisites which will be absorbed in the rebuilding of. our railways, were put into water conservation and irrigation .projects, Australia would be able to sustain an additional 1,000,000 people.
– With obsolete railway systems to cater for their needs.
– I am not suggesting that the railways should not be given the attention they require; I agree that railway rolling-stock in many States requires renewal. This vast project will involve the expenditure of colossal sums of money. After the first £50,000,000 has been expended another £50,000,000 will be required, until we finally reach the staggering total of £209,000,000 Tor a complete scheme. Experience of government projects of this kind leads us to believe that even that tremendous amount of money will not be sufficient to meet the final cost of the scheme. I object to the
Government bringing this measure before us in the dying hours of this Parliament.. Since Tuesday we have been sitting in this chamber from. 10.30 a.m. until well into the following morning. Could we, in that way, secure calm and constructive criticism of any measure calling for the. validation of an act authorizing the expenditure of £50,000,000 ? Such pressure is not fair to the Parliament or the taxpayers. The Minister said, in his second-reading speech, that this is. not an urgent proposal, and that if other matters are more urgent they should receive priority. It must be admitted that the most urgent work in Australia to-day is the provision of housing for the people. The steel and timber that would be required for the standardization of railway gauges would be sufficient for the construction of many thousands of homes. An urgent matter which is second in order of priority is that of attracting large numbers of people away from the urban areas. When we speak of defence measures, we should have regard to the recent investigation by the Military Affairs Committee in the United States of America. The report of General Arnold, chief of the United States air force, states that in the next war it will be imperative for that country to distribute its industries so that they will not be concentrated in areas where they can be destroyed by atomic bombs.
– Does the honorable member know that the United States of America is now implementing a policy of expansion and modernization of its railways? -
– I have said more than once that I favour the modernization of the railway systems of Australia, but that is a totally different matter from the expenditure of £50,000,000 for the standardization of gauges. Sir Harold Clapp pointed out that unless a vast sum of, money were expended in modernizing the railways, standardization of gauges would not be of much value. Therefore, I do not favour the proposal now submitted to the House.
It would be too much to. ask the ambitious Minister in charge of the bill to withdraw it. He has been working like a tiger upon it for a considerable time. He has not wheeled Western Australia into line although that State has a Labour government. He has not succeeded in bringing Queensland into the scheme, so the only parties to the agreement are the governments of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. In the latter State, not one mile of railway requires standardization. The money required for the scheme is to be raised, not from Consolidated Revenue, or by taxation, but from loan money, the .Commonwealth carrying the main part of the burden. Half of the expenditure will- be incurred by the Commonwealth and the balance by the States on a per capita basis. I am sorry that a measure showing so little imagination as this bill displays has been introduced at this juncture, in view of changing world conditions.. I sincerely hope that, if a new government conies into office after the 28t.h September, it will review this proposal. The most urgent requirement is hones for the people, and, next to them in- importance, we need irrigation schemes and the provision of electrical power for the people on the land.
– in reply - Members of the Opposition are as confused in their attitude to this measure as to every other- bill presented to the House. They differ in their opposition to the proposal. Some of them oppose it entirely, and others only in. part. Some merely raise the objection that the bill has been introduced in the dying days of the Parliament, and that, therefore, they have not had sufficient time to consider it. It is true that the measure has been introduced in what may be termed the dying days of the Parliament, but certainly not in the dying days of ihe Government, because the present, Ministry will be returned at the -forthcoming general elections to carry out the great programme envisaged by the bill. To show how insincere members of the Opposition are in protesting that they have not had sufficient time or opportunity to consider this proposal, one need only mention the fact that, despite their protests, only six of them sit on the Opposition benches at the present moment, when a great national work is being discussed. A great deal of the delay in- introducing the bill was due to the fact that members of the Opposition deliberately attempted to hold’- up the business of the country for party political advantage. I hope that this scheme -will he proceeded with at an early date. [Quorum formed.]
The Leader of the Opposition’ (Mr. Menzies), after speaking of the excellent qualifications of Sir Harold -Clapp as a railway authority, pointed out that two of the States are excluded from the scheme. I remind him that what the Government now proposes is almost identical with the original recommendation, of Sir Harold Clapp for standardizing and modernizing the whole of the railway systems of Australia. The standardization and modernization of the systems of Queensland and Western Australia, with the exception of the line through the western part of Queensland and the standard railway connexion between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle, are included in the second phase of the plan, which would have been undertaken after the work in- the three States referred to in the .agreement had been completed. Whilst it is to be regretted that two of the States have not yet entered into the scheme, their non-participation has not, to any great . degree, thrown out of focus what was laid down ‘ in the original scheme of Sir Harold Clapp. The Government believes that within a measurable time both Queensland and Western Australia will come into the scheme to standardize and modernize their railway systems. As an illustration of the good faith of the Commonwealth Government, which has done everything possible to secure agreement with regard to this great work, it has advanced £S 2,000 to carry out the survey of a standard-gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. Although Western Australia has not seen fit to come into the scheme, that survey is being proceeded with, because eventually the whole of the railway systems must be brought into the general plan.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) contended that it is too late for this project to be undertaken, having regard to what is now considered necessary for adequate defence. Those who have had the benefit of hearing the views of the Opposition regarding this great national project, must have been so depressed by the opinions advanced that when they get the opportunity on the 28th September, they will vote to return the present Government to power, because they .will recognize the dreadful alternative which is offered to them. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) advocated the scrapping of the present railway system. What greater tragedy could befall the country than to have in charge of its affaire honorable members who believe that the railway systems are so out-moded that’ they should be scrapped? The honorable member for Balaclava admitted that £320,000,000 has been invested in the State railway systems. He contended that air transport is now. rapidly transplanting rail transport, and that, therefore, the railways should be scrapped. The Government is not opposed to the development of air transport. The measures passed by this Parliament recently .’proved that it regards air transport as a vitally important factor in the economy of the country. The honorable members to whom I have referred would scrap the government railway systems and leave this country saddled with an enormous debt in respect of which a large sum would have to be paid annually in interest. Their action would on the one hand leave the people burdened with a huge debt in respect of railway expenditure, and by the development of air transport by private enterprise would bring about a financial collapse in all States of the Commonwealth. Let us consider whether railways as a means of transportation are out-moded. Nobody can tell with certainty what will be required in the way of defence measures twenty, 30 or 40 years ahead. Should we stand still and do nothing in the matter of defence? That is the mentality which produced “ the Brisbane line “ strategy, for which members of the Opposition were responsible. The Opposition’s policy of “stand still and do nothing” is not accepted by the defence authorities here or .in any other country. Let us examine what happened in other countries during the war. In the United States of America, 97 per cent, of all troops, 93 per cent, of all Army equipment, and 90 per cent, of Navy equipment and supplies were transported by rail. The actual figures are astronomical, and include 39,200,000 passenger journeys on special troop trains, and 737,600,000,000 ton miles of defence freight traffic. In Britain, the figures furnished show that in 1944 there were over 32,000 freight trains used exclusively for war purposes, and in addition 160,000 freight trains to meet other requirements. On special occasions, such as D-Day, 17,500 special troop and freight trains were run. In all, 3,200 steam and diesel locomotives and 50,000 freight cars were landed in Europe. Evidently the defence authorities of those nations do not consider that railways have outlived their usefulness, ft is rather interesting on this point to note the following report -in the *Christian Science Monitor of the 18th December, 1945:-
Europe remains the world’s leading railway continent. Despite a dense network of highways, admirably suited for mo.tor traffic, automobile transportation is likely to be curtailed as much as, if not more, than before the” war. . . . Rebuilding of railroads as they existed in 1039 has been made one of the principal budget items of national reconstruction, estimated at more than $15,000,000,000, for all the continental allies, not including. Russia.
That shows that those nations, with their vast experience and development of other forms of transport, are not regarding the railways as obsolete and scrapping them. The important thing to keep in mind in considering the great work of standardizing the Australian railways is that during the war no maintenance work of any consequence was carried out and that, whether the lines be standardized or not, the State authorities will be obliged’ to spend millions’ of pounds on resleepering and re-railing the tracks, and in the provision of new rolling-stock. So if is only plain common-sense in my opinion to propose that when thatwork is being done we should standardize the gauges and thereby place ourselves in the position of being able to effect greater efficiency as well as great economies by having standard rollingstock. In considering the additional ‘cost of standardizing the gauges one must realize the enormous savings in operating the railway systems that will be effected by elimination of the multiplicity of locomotives, passenger cars, and trucks. The interchangibility of rolling-stock will make the railway systems -more flexible, making for better service and economy. From what some honorable members opposite have said about the cost of the project, any one would imagine that this country was bankrupt and could not afford to proceed with a developmental programme. The honorable member for Richmond, after telling us how things had changed, said that, with the development of the atomic bomb, all ideas about defence should be altered. Then the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. “White) said that the atomic bomb dropped at Hiroshima had devastated 10 square miles, but he failed to say that within 48 hours of the explosion the railways were operating in the devastated areas.
– What does that prove?
– That the dropping of atomic bombs does not necessarily mean the elimination of rail travel. The experience of Great Britain, which suffered concentrated and continual bombing during the war does not bear out what the honorable member says. This is what I said about that, in my second-reading speech -
It should be pointed out in this connexion that all transport facilities are similarly subject to ‘ this danger, but it is interesting to note that the British railways - despite 13,800 bombing attacks and the destruction or damage of 4S2 locomotives, 13,000 passenger cars, and 10,000 freight wagons - continued to function throughout the war. There were of course many delays to traffic, but they were mostly of short duration and usually did not extend beyond n. few hours.
– That is true.
– That proves conclusively that the railways of those countries, despite the persistent* and concentrated bombing, were able to operate very effectively. Some honorable gentlemen opposite seem to be alarmed when mention is made of the cost of this great national work. It is quite true that under the modified proposal, due to the withdrawal of Queensland and Western Australia, the cost of the work will be reduced to about £50,000,000, with the. expenditure of another £20,000,000 by the ‘ States on associated works. When considering whether the nation can afford the work, I prefer to consider it, not merely in terms of money, but also in terms “of men and materials. Honorable members opposite continue to argue that work on the conversion of the railway gauges would make it difficult to undertake other urgent national works, but that is not so. Failure to proceed with the work would not mean a saving of all the timber and steel required to carry it out, because- tremendous quantities of materials will have to be used in any case to restore the railways, to a safe condition. Had we been able to proceed with the whole scheme involving the standardization of the gauges in the five mainland States, in the peak year of construction 17,000 men would have been employed directly,’ and another 17,000 indirectly in the steelworks, in sleepercutting, and so on, making a total of 34,000 men. When demobilization has been completed, about 750,000 able-bodied people will have been released from the forces and munitions industry. The contention that the subtraction of 34,000 men from that number to carry’ out this great national work would tie lin other activities is too ridiculous for words and will not be accepted by the public. If would be of no lue to have a great’ modern railways system operating on a standard gauge unless we also provided for greater settlement in the areas to be served. This would necessitate extensive” development of water conservation and irrigation, action to arrest soil erosion, and accelerated activity in afforestation. We required those great national undertakings when the anti-Labour forces ruled this country, but what did we get? Nothing’ Why, during the great depression thousands and thousands of skilled and unskilled men were workless. All that the Government could offer then was a job chipping weeds from the footpaths in suburban areas in return for sustenance. The anti-Labour forces have never shown any realization of Australia’s . potentialities, and the people know that it would be a tragic mistake to place them in charge of Australia’s affairs again. I regret the failure of Queensland and Western Australia to join with the Commonwealth and the, other mainland States in this agreement. There are in the two States mentioned men whose parochialism is so great thai they cannot see an inch beyond the boundaries of ‘their States, but I am hopeful that when discussions are resumed they will adopt an entirely different attitude and co-operate..
Regarding the query as to where we are to’ obtain the money for this work, I would remind those who advance thi? argument that in the closing phases of the war Australia was spending £1,500,000 a day on defence. I remind the House that we could have made it £3,000,000 a day had that been necessary, but there would have been no purpose in doing so. The point is that by the expenditure of £1,500,000 a day we were using all the physical and material resources of this country. Honorable members opposite seem to think that money is the all-important factor in great national projects, but would any one of them argue that the war would have ended at some particular date because we had run out of money ? None of them would have dared .to suggest that we should sue for peace because we had not enough money to continue the fight. Had we had insufficient men to man our defences and had our munitions factories been razed to the ground or. our people become physically exhausted, those factors could have brought about the cessation of the war effort, but not lack of money. My colleagues in the Ministry need no reminding of the many occasions when we. had to consider proposals related to the prosecution of the war. Do. the honorable member foi Balaclava- and his colleagues imagine that after receiving a request for Cabinet authority to build a strategic road or lay down an airstrip, the Prime Minister would have pressed a button and called for the bankers to ask them .whether they could provide the money? No! What we asked was whether we had available the men, the materials and the equipment. Money was . a secondary consideration. Money can be made available for national projects in peace as it was made available for national defence in war to the limit fixed by the physical and . material resources of the nation. This Government, which has a new national outlook, is determined that this country shall be developed in order to provide employment and improved living standards for the people. One honorable gentleman opposite said that the sole purpose of this proposal was the creation of an avenue for the employment of men. If we were seeking to find work just for the sake of providing it, we could set men to work digging holes and filling them in again, but that is not our policy. Our policy is. the carrying out of great national works for the development of the country. The fact that those works will provide employment is not the only consideration. The useful employment provided a welcome concomitant. I direct the attention of members of the Opposition to the provisions of paragraph 15 of the agreement when they say that the standardized railway gauges might interfere with the carrying out of the States’ own developmental projects. It provides that the consent of the State authorities must be given before any section of the standardization of the railway gauges can be undertaken, because, when a proposal for the carrying out of any section of the work goes before the council, comprising representatives of the States, it must be unanimously approved before the work can be put in hand. So it is obvious that the States will determine when the work shall be undertaken, the order in which it shall be proceeded with, and what physical and material resources shall be used. Therefore, there is nothing in the contention of honorable members opposite that this project will interfere with State projects. The honorable member for Richmond, in one of his customary speeches filled with inconsistencies, after telling honorable members that the atomic bomb would wipe out everything overnight, said that our great protection would be a greater population. If everything is to be wiped out overnight by an atomic bomb, obviously a greater population will not save the country. Neither will a standard railway gauge. I believe, with the honorable member, that it is imperative that we increase our numbers, but we must not bring people, from overseas to Australia to put them on the dole. We must provide them with work that will make them useful citizens. We can do that only by strengthening the national economy, and one of the pillars of the national economy is efficient transport services. In that connexion, much has been said about road and air services. The honorable member for Balaclava referred to an extraneous matter - interference with a bus service that he was interested in in Victoria during the war. The honorable member should have pointed out that the ban on that omnibus service took place during the war years, when there was a shortage of rubber and petrol. It- was in order to conserve those essential commodities that the Government adopted the sensible attitude of using railway services to the maximum, with omnibus services as feeders. The honorable member put’ forward the ridiculous proposal that all the transport needs of this country could be met by air transport. That is the logical result of his reasoning against modernizing our railways and maintaining them in safe condition, and urging, instead, the expenditure of the money involved upon the development of air transport. lie said also that this measure had been introduced because on this side of the chamber are several former railwaymen who have a railways complex. I do not say that the honorable member for Balaclava is an. efficient airman ; he may be. I am not expressing an opinion on the subject, but he certainly has an air complex, as the result of being an airman. The Commonwealth Government does not object to the development of road or air transport. It believes that the four methods of transport - sea, road, rail and air - can be developed and coordinated^ and thus serve most economically primary producers and others to whom, an efficient transport system is essential.
The reaching of agreement between all the interests concerned in the railways plan has not been an easy matter. I regret that there was some delay in bringing the agreement before the Parliament, but that was not my fault, or the fault of the Government. Many protracted conferences were held with representatives of the States, at which efforts were made to reach agreement. When agreement was reached with three States, the Commonwealth Government brought the matter to this Parliament as speedily as possible. That is one reason why some honorable members were not supplied with copies of my second-reading speech; there was not time to have sufficient copies prepared. ‘ The Government believes that this agreement represents a great step forward. The Leader of the Opposition said that it was the greatest national work ever proposed in this country. I am proud to have been associated with the project, and to have helped to put into action what members of the parties now in Opposition have merely talked about for many years, but never intended to implement. The people of Australia will discover in connexion with the standardization of railway gauges and also in regard to other matters that the promises made by the Government will be kept. They will learn that this Labour Government can act as well as talk.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) referred to the North-South line. It is true that a railway through the centre’ of Australia was not in the original, agreement, or in the report submitted by Sir Harold Clapp, but after hearing the unanimous views of the Government and the Opposition in. the South Australian Parliament, the Commonwealth Government decided that it was under an obligation to proceed with the construction of that line in fulfilment of the terms of an agreement’ embodied in an act of this Parliament passed many years ago. Obviously, from his remarks, the honorable member for New England knows very little about the subject. Had he taken the trouble to make inquiries, he would have, discovered that, from a defence point of view, the NorthSouth line has a number of advantages. Compared with the line proposed to be constructed through the western part of Queensland, the distance between Perth and Darwin is 1,339 miles shorter by the North-South route; between Adelaide and Darwin, 1,232 miles shorter; and between’ Melbourne and Darwin 442 miles shorter. Between Sydney and Darwin the North-South route is 33 miles longer. The North-South line has much to commend it from a defence point of view, and therefore, the Government decided to include it in the agreement. The Government does not propose, however, to construct that railway immediately, because . the order in which the work will be undertaken will be decided by the Standardization Board and the Standardization Council, on which the States have direct representation. I repeat that the Commonwealth Government does not desire to interfere with other national undertakings, but it believes that it is- within the capacity of the nation to provide manpower, materials, and equipment for the standardization and modernizing of our railways and at the same time to carry out the other’ great national works that have been mentioned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or. debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I present the ninth progress report of the War Expenditure Committee. I do not propose to move that the. report be printed,” because the Senate has already ordered that that be done. Copies of the report will be made available to honorable members.
Debate resumed from the 18th July (vide page 2745), on motion by Mr. Forde-
That the hill be now read a second time.
– This is a bill to continue a guaranteed payment that has been made for a number of years to the cotton industry. It seeks to amend section 9 of the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1940-41. Before the war the Tariff Board investigated the cotton industry on five occasions - 1922, 1926, 192S, 1933 and 1938. Another investigation was concluded in October, 1945. There seems to be no justification -for the procrastination on the part of the Government in announcing its decision, following the receipt of the latest report. Australia needs more industries, both primary and secondary; it certainly cannot afford to lose any of its existing primary industries. Consequently, there is need to give a sufficient guarantee to the cotton industry to enable* it to survive and expand. Some primary industries are faced with the problem of finding markets at good prices, because exportprices for primary products are not always satisfactory. That problem doesnot confront the cotton-growing industry because there is an unlimited market for cotton in Australia. The manager of the Queensland Cotton Board has said that cotton-growing is the only Australian industry with considerable, potentialities waiting to be developed in. order to meet the requirements of the Australian people. The Australian textile industry now uses 32,000,000 lb. of raw cotton each year. In addition, there is a local market for 5,000 hales of lowgrade cotton suitable for the manufacture of bedding, upholstery, padding, wadding, &c. An additional 15,000 bales of raw cotton would produce valuable byproducts, namely, 820 tons of edible cotton seed oil, and 3,000 tons of high protein cotton seed meal. If textile factories were . fully manned, and worked two shifts, the local market would be capable of using 60,000,000 lb. of cotton a year. Evidence tendered on behalf of the textile industry before the Tariff Board showed that it is possible to expand the local production of cotton piece-goods to provide 40 per cent. of. this country’s requirements. In other words, about 112,500,000 lb. of raw cotton would be needed for that section of ‘ the textile industry alone. It will be seen, therefore, that the pre-war production of about 5,000,000 lb. of cotton annually represented only a small percentage of Australia’s potential needs in this sphere of primary production. The record Australian production of cotton was in 1934-35, when the yield was 8,769,510 lb. Production was fairly well maintained until last year, when there was a great decline. Very little cotton was grown in Australia last year. For the ten years from 1935 to 1944 the average yield was 10,127 hales of cotton, but in 1945 the production amounted to only 1,305 bales. The reasons for the fluctuations are set out by the Tariff. Board as follows: - (1) The method of Government assistance; (2) the net return per lb. of raw cotton and per acre planted; (3) the stage of development of rural industry in cotton-growing districts ; (4) climatic fluctuations; (5) competition of other crops; and (6) government encouragement and discouragement. The assistance which is guaranteed under the present act will expire on the 31st December next, and therefore further assistance is necessary to enable the cotton-growing industry to continue and expand. The Government should have announced its decision earlier. I contend that the decision should have been made much earlier, because if the growers are to prepare their land they should have- known long before this of the Government’s proposal. The granting of assistance to the industry is necessary because of the absence of sufficient protection to ensure that those engaged in it shall secure a price equivalent to the Australian standard. Indeed such action is required in most of our industries which are not receiving tariff protection. Consequently the Cotton Board, which is the growers’ own marketing board, has sought a guarantee of stability and has asked for a. fixed price of 7d. per lb. over a period of ten years. I emphasize particularly that this action was endorsed by the Queensland Department of Agriculture. In other words, the Growers Marketing Board and the department considered that guaranteed returns should be provided for a period of ten years. In its original application to the Tariff Board, the Cotton Board did not suggest the level at which rates should be fixed, but at a later hearing it amplified the original application so that growers could be guaranteed a price at a stated level by a parity-price system. Whilst the Cotton Board preferred protection by Customs duties, it did not request a change; it did not desire to upset the conditions in the industry. It is notable also that .secondary industry supported this primary industry’s application for assistance, on the understanding that the method of assistance would not hamper the rapidly expanding cotton textile industry of Australia. We would be in agreement on that matter because no primary industry should be supported in a way which would be detrimental to any secondary industry. In the same way, no secondary industry should have any benefits that would detract from the advancement of a primary industry, because both of them are inter-dependent. The assistance . granted before the outbreak of World War II. was based on Liverpool middling spot prices. The Minister stated that those sales have not been held in recent years, and are not likely to take place again under present conditions. Therefore the government of the day accepts the same basis - a. straightout guaranteed price - as that provided under the act introduced by a previous government. In my opinion, that basis is satisfactory, provided the price is acceptable to the growers and the industry generally. The Minister made, much ado of the fact that the proposed price was considerably in excess of the amount recommended by the Tariff Board, but I point out that that prevailed under previous governments. The Minister’s self-bestowed praise will give no consolation to the cotton-growers.
Let me analyse the position. The Tariff Board’s recommendation, made in 1933 and confirmed on subsequent occasions, has never been accepted by the Parliament. This time, the board made the ridiculous recommendation that a guaranteed price of 3¼d. per lb. should be paid on the basis of 6d. Liverpool middling spot, for a period of only two years. How can we secure stability on that basis ? When I study the hoard’s recommendation, I am convinced that it has not, a full appreciation of the costs and needs of primary industries. Its recommendations more than justify the attitude of the Australian Country party in recommending the establishment of a board to determine the actual marketing costs of primary industries. On the figures submitted by the Tariff Board, the. results per acre received by producers would not encourage anyone to grow cotton. For the period 1936-40, the average production was 97 lb. an acre. During 1941-44 the average was 9S lb. an acre. But, instead of taking the average in its calculation the board stated -
If scrub burn were eliminated, then 120 lb. would be the yield.’
The board considered that the method of development recommended, namely, dry farming, depended upon achieving average yields of 163 lb. an acre. It is all very well to have that aim - we agree that farmers should improve their methods in order to get better results - but the Tariff Board based its calculations on an assumption that farmers should get a return of 163 lb. an acre under certain conditions, and 120 lb. an acre under other conditions. If the board’s objective were achieved, the returns would produce, at Hid. on a yield of 120 lb. an acre, an amount of £5 12s. 6d., and at 10½d. on 163 lb. an acre, a return of £7 2s. 7d. an acre. Those are gross prices and cannot in any circumstances be considered satisfactory. The Tariff Board proceeded -
The development plan on which the board’s recommendations are based demanded considerable reductions- in production costs so that the net .incomes to farmers from cottongrowing should be materially higher than, before the war.
I direct attention to the fact that this notable board suggests ‘that farmers should reduce their costs. Does the board consider that primary producers are serfs? How can growers reduce costs when ‘ their gross income is £7 2s. 7£d. an acre, and one-half of that amount is absorbed in picking costs under the award? That justifies my earlier contention that the Government should appoint a board, with status, equal to that of the Tariff Board, to determine a proper method of computing the actual costs of primary industries. The Tariff Board’s whole theory is utterly stupid. Its attitude, as revealed in its report, shows that it has no appreciation of the value of primary industries to Australia. The board considered that -
It is, not proved that cotton-growing, i* essential to land settlement.
And added -
Farmers should be convinced to grow cotton.
Farmers will require a great deal of convincing when they do not receive any return for their labour. Let us examine the position on the basis of the guaranteed price as submitted by the Minister. I take for the 1941-44 period the average of 98 lb. an acre. . That, yield, at 15d. per lb., gives £6 2s. 6d. an acre. The cost of picking 98 lb. at 4s. 7d., which is the award rate, is £1 18s. 4d. The net return, after deducting picking costs, is £4 4s. 2d. Out of that money tie farmer must provide for preparing his land and maintaining his family. “Now we begin to understand why cotton production is declining. This can be confirmed by figures relating to a period of 24 years. The average yield is 109 lb. On the basis of the guaranteed return of 15d., the gross income is £6 16s. 3d. an acre. The cost of picking is £2 2s. 8d. an acre, leaving a net amount of £4 13s. 7d. I take the average which, it is assumed, should be the result of the use of good farming methods as suggested by the Tariff Board. The assumed average of 163 lb. an acre at 15d. per lb. gives a net yield, after the deduction of picking costs,-of £6 19s. lid. an acre. Who would attempt to grow raw cotton, maize or peanuts for a net return of £6 19s. lid. an acre, out of which harvesting costs and living expenses must be met?
– What is the size of a
– The area is not nearly so large as a farm producing wheat or maize. That is another reason why the grower should have a guaranteed price; without it he will not be able to make a livelihood.
So much for the Tariff Board’s recommendations. It will be difficult to convince primary producers . that they should grow cotton just because the Tariff Board suggested that they should. The Minister praised the Government’s proposal because it exceeded the Tariff Board’s recommendation. Whilst the price is in excess of the board’s recommendation, it is not equal to the amount requested by the growers’ representatives on the Cotton Board, namely, 17d. per lb. for raw cotton, or the equivalent of 6d. per lb. for seed cotton. The price of 15d. per lb., which the Government proposes is not sufficient to cover the cost of production and ensure to the producer a reasonable livelihood. The price makes no allowance for the increase of costs since 1940, when the act came into operation. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, costs have increased by 25 per cent. What provision has the Government made to meet them? On many occasions, the Government has referred to the decisions of previous Governments for assisting primary industries. Why does not the Government give assistance equal to that given to the industry by previous Governments, ‘ and thus enable production to equal the output in 1940?
Sitting suspended from 11.J/-5 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 9 August 19J/6.
– The proposed guaranteed price is less than the price of 17d. per lb. which the growers’ representative on’ the Cotton Board requested on behalf of the industry. That price is equivalent to 6d. per lb. for seed cotton on the farm. The price of 15d. per lb. which the Government proposes to guarantee will not enable growers to recoup costs of production and earn a reasonable livelihood. The price of 15d. per lb. was fixed by a previous government, in 1940 with the object of increasing production. In the meantime costs under all headings have increased. Therefore, a price of 15d. per lb. will not encourage growers to increase production under present, conditions. Obviously, if cotton-growers have better prospects in other industries they will turn their attention to such industries. They, certainly, will not attempt to grow cotton when the guaranteed price is not sufficient to cover increased costs. ‘ Therefore, the Government’s proposal will not encourage the expansion of the industry, and, consequently, will fail to meet employment requirements in rural industries. Cotton- f rowing is a seasonal industry, and itits in with the sugar industry, because cotton-picking is done just prior to the commencement of cane-cutting. Seasonal workers are thus able to go from one industry to the other, with great advantage to both. If the cotton industry Ls permitted to remain in the doldrums, the effect will be very detrimental to other rural industries al.=o. Another point is that the Australian price of imported raw cotton is somewhat higher than- the price at which the Prices Commissioner has authorized the purchase of the Queensland crop. We must remember also that raw cotton is imported free of duty. Dealing with the overseas price, the Minister stated that with a home price of 15d. per lb. it was not necessary to pay a bounty to the industry. The Government is keeping down the price to lod. per lb. instead of granting the price of 17d. per lb. requested by the industry, and, at the same time, is refusing to subsidize it. If the Government believes in protection, it must be prepared to pay a bounty to the industry, because, as I have already said, raw cotton is imported free of duty. In this instance the Government wants to have free trade, ‘and, at the same time, avoid payment of bounty to an industry which it professes to encourage. I understand that when the Tariff Board took evidence the Cotton Board stated that the parity price was 18. 8d.” per lb. ; and from information I have received, the price has since risen. Evidence given to the Tariff Board showed that at that time world parity of lS.Sd. per lb. was worth more than the’ price then requested by the industry. A price of 18.4d. per lb. c.i.f. spinners’ ports, would return to the growers 17d. per lb., whereas the price at that time was lS.Sd. per lb. Thus, the industry is suffering loss, because it is not allowed to reap the benefit of world parity prices. Cotton enters largely into the clothing regimen used in the compilation o’f the basic wage index. The raising of funds by means of a sales tax upon cotton goods would have far more beneficial effects upon our economy than the payment of a bounty from Consolidated’ Revenue. This is a matter of financial policy rather than one of assistance to the cotton industry; but in this instance the level of Australian economy is determined by the price the Prices Commissioner has ruled the growers, are to receive. Because growers are’ unable to take advantage of world parity, the cotton industry, like other industries which we have discussed recently in this chamber, will have no chance of returning a payable price having regard to the increase of costs during the war when cotton growers, unlike wage-earners, in this country, did not receive any war loading; yet no allowance is now being made to enable growers to meet increased costs. At the same time, the industry is not to be allowed to benefit from world parity. I reiterate that point. Therefore, it would appear that the industry is to be ground down to a level which experience has shown will offer no encouragement to growers to expand the industry. The outlook of the Tariff Board has not been favorable to the industry. All governments have refused to accept the prices recommended by the board. The guaranteed price of lod. per lb. in 1940 encouraged growers to increase production to a certain degree, but, to-day, production is declining. Yet, the Government refuses to meet the present position, with the result that growers will not be able to maintain present production let alone increase it. One must conclude, therefore, that the Government is no more concerned about the prosperity of the cotton-growing industry than it if about the tobacco-growing industry which has been allowed to decline until to-day practically no tobacco is grown in this country. The Minister admits that there is only a remote possibility of a considerable decrease of the price of imported cotton during the next three or foul years at least, yet even with the prospect * of not having to pay a bounty to the industry the Government is not willing to grant stability to it by means of a longer term than five years, as has been requested by the Cotton Board, with the endorsement of the Queensland Department of Agriculture. It has to be admitted that the Cotton Board has attacked production in a practical, way, and has co-operated with the State Department of Agriculture. It has made arrangements for- irrigation plots, and has improved dry-farming methods, both of which have proved worthwhile in aiding production. How can the growers be expected- to provide additional finance in order to meet the costs of irrigation and dry-farming methods when they are notassured of a commensurate return? The Minister has drawn attention to the effect of the abandonment of the industry, which would mean the closing of ginneries and a cotton seed oil mill, in which £160,575 has been invested. In 1940, the employment in the industry consisted of 2.700 growers. 1,000 field workers, 2.000 pickers and 170 ginnery employees. The failure to increase the guarantee to 17d. per lb., as requested by the Cotton Board, will mean the loss of another industry, because the cotton industry will then be in the same category as the tobacco industry, to which I have previously referred. An increased crop is the only means, apart from the additional production brought about by irrigation and improved methods, of reducing the costs of handling. It is obvious that when production declines, costs must increase. If the Government will guarantee a satis-“ factory price, there will he confidence in the industry and the resultant stability will lead to expansion of production, which in turn will increase the employment that will be available at a satisfactory wage. A much-desired product will then become available to the home market, which is unlimited in its demands. The textile industry has stated that it could provide up to 40 per cent, of Australia’s requirements. Our greatest production has been 8,000,000 lb. a year. That 40 per cent, would involve a production of 112,000,000 lb., consequently we are far short of the mark. In addition, security of supply would be given to the textile secondary industry. I repeat, that I cannot understand the Government’s refusal to increase the price, and thus enable the additional costs to be met, when, on its own admission, there is small likelihood of a bounty having to be paid for at least the next three or four years. I hope that it will raise the price from 15d. to 17d. per lb. Another request that I emphasize is for an extension of the term from five years to ten years.
The Government has decided to allot £170,000 for the encouragement of this industry, which can be of great value to Australia. We have just passed a bill authorizing the immediate expenditure of £50,000,000, and an eventual expenditure of £250,000,000, for the standardization of railway gauges. In the present measure a meagre £170,000 is offered as a sop to an industry that could be worth millions of pounds to Australia if it were properly encouraged. I ask the Government to increase the amount to £250,000. This represents only another £S0,000, and surely a primary industry of such consequence is worth that. If the growing of cotton is encouraged in Australia, the position of our textile industries will be made secure. I ask the Minister to give an assurance that he will accept my suggestions; otherwise I shall move- amendments to have them incorporated in the bill.
. -This is a small measure, the purpose of which is to guarantee the price of raw cotton until 1951. I object to the delay in making available to the industry the information which the bill contains. Farmers have not been able to prepare the land for sowing because they did not know the policy of the Government in regard to subsidizing the industry. This information should have been provided months ago. An investigation was conducted over thirteen months ago, at the instance of the Queensland Cotton Board, and some months later I asked the Government to announce its decision, but without result. All this time the growers did not know what their future position would be. The cottongrowing industry offers very bright prospects for small crop-raisers. Australia’s average annual imports of cotton’ are valued at £15,000,000, which conveys an idea of the prospects for development which lie ahead. This is one of the few industries in which there is real scope for development. There is scope for the production of raw cotton, and of textiles containing cotton, and for the use of byproducts which are of great value. The tariff schedule should be revised so as to promote expansion along these lines. Before the war, 12,000 bales of cotton were produced each year in Australia, but production declined during the -war. Our requirements in raw cotton amount to 120,000 bales a year.
Throughout the world there is a shortage of raw cotton. There is also a worldwide shortage of textiles, and the position is made worse because of the shortage of cotton. The production of raw cotton in the United States of America during this season will be the lowest on record. Over a period of 25 years production rose from 8,900,000 bales to an average of 12,000,000 bales, but production declined sharply during the war. In India the position is even worse. India is the second-largest producer of cotton, and the Indian Government has placed an embargo on the export of raw cotton which is expected to continue in force for a considerable time. Practically nowhere in the world to-day is cotton being produced at the normal rate. It is in great demand, but almost everywhere production has declined. One of the reasons for the decline of the production of raw cotton in Australia is our failure to put into effect the recommendation of the Tariff Board that cotton should be grown by irrigation. If the cotton plant receives a check during the growing period it produces very few cotton bolls. Therefore, irrigation- is necessary. The Government proposes to pay a .guaranteed price of lod. per lb., which is the same as was paid by the Menzies’ Government in 1941, at the beginning of the war. Since then, costs have increased tremendously, and the Queensland Cotton Board has asked for a guaranteed price of 17d.- per lb. The board submitted a case to show that production costs have increased by more than 25 per cent. We know that lad. in 1941 was worth much more than one of 15d. to-day. Moreover, we must remember that the proposed price of 15d. is to be paid, not for this year only, but for every year up to 1951.
During the last twenty years the production of raw cotton in Australia has declined from about 12,000 bales to 1,000 bales. I submit that those engaged in any primary industry are entitled to receive a return which will defray the cost of production, and leave a small margin of profit. This is not possible in the case of the cotton-growers under the proposal submitted by the Government. The guaranteed price of 15d. per lb. includes the rates for raw cotton, for lentils, seed cotton and cotton meal. The Government’s offer is hopelessly inadequate, and if the industry is to be saved a higher price should be paid.
In addition, a more progressive agricultural policy must be developed. There should be co-operation between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government to ensure scientific investigation into plant breeding, the control of pests and p’Ant diseases. Production is falling and accordingly the fixation of a guaranteed price related to the cost of production plus a margin of . profit is essential if the industry is to survive. A minimum production of 20,000 bales should be aimed at by the Government as the target for next year. By co-operation between- the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland irrigation can be increased in the areas where cotton is produced, improved cultural methods can h« undertaken and an adequate price can be determined. This important industry has been developed in Australia over the last twenty years. It has had to contend * with the effects of drought, unsatisfactory prices, and shortages of plant, equipment and man-power, during and sincethe war. An unlimited market is available for raw cotton and this Government should be prepared to take advantage of it by giving to the industry all the assistance it needs. The price of raw cotton must be stabilized over a period of years in order that growers may know where they stand. I protest at the delay in bringing down these proposals, at their inadequacy and at the general approach “ of the Government to. this important industry, which is one of the few primary industries which have a ready market for their products. The Australian textile manufacturing industry is well developed, and if we do not take steps to provide its requirements of raw cotton, we may find that as the result of the falling off ‘ of cotton production in overseas countries, our textile industry will languish. I urge the Government to review it? policy and give the cotton-growers a guaranteed price which will meet their costs of production and allow them a reasonable margin of profit.
. The authorized basic price is 19. 5d. per lb for the 1947 Queensland crop of raw cotton, which will average approximately 1.9, 8d. per lb. for raw cotton - equivalent to 6.93d. per lb. of seed cotton - over the whole crop, including very low grade cotton which, is unsuitable for spinning. The basic price should average at least 20. 2d. per lb. of raw cotton - equivalent to approximately 7.07d. per lb. of seed cotton - suitable for spinning purposes, which represents the highest price ever received for Australian raw cotton. The 15d. per lb. net return guaranteed to growers for highgrade raw cotton under this bill for a period of five years, represents an insurance against any large decrease of the overseas price, should ensure stability in the industry, promote its further development under irrigation, and improve cultural practices, thus increasing the quality and yield of cotton crops in Australia. The general manager and the members of the Queensland. Cotton Boa’rd, and cotton-growers generally, are delighted at this proposal. With the co-operation of the- Queensland Government substantial sums of money are being provided in the national works programme to cover water conservation and irrigation schemes. These schemes will increase the yield of cotton to from 450 to 500 lb. an acre. The gross return at these yields would be from £22 2s. 6d. to £31 5s. an acre. Hand picking costs are now about 4.9d. per lb. of raw cotton. On these yields picking costs would amount to from £9 3s. 9d. to £10 4s. 2d. an acre, giving a net return of from £18 18s. 3d. to £21 0s. lOd. an acre. No authoritative figures .are available with respect to production costs. On the basis of the Commonwealth “ C “ series weighted average retail price index figure costs have risen since 1939 by 23.79 per cent. The net return received by growers for the 1939 crop, including bounty, was 11.241d. per lb. of raw cotton. The net return guaranteed for five years under this bill is 15d. per lb., or an increase over the 1939 return of 3.759d. per lb. ] assure honorable members that what is proposed is more generous than was expected by the Queensland Cotton Board. Indeed, the board has, as it were, written its own ticket, because everything it has asked for has been granted. Cottongrowers generally arc grateful, and I am sure that they will show their appreciation at the appropriate time.-
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is the new price to be made applicable to the last crop harvested?
– I did not say that that price was to be given for last year. I stated that the beat price the growers had ever received would be given for the next crop to be harvested, namely, the 1947 crop. They have been given everything they have asked for.
– Can the Minister given an assurance that that price will be guaranteed for five years?
– The basic price has been paid, for the years 1943-46 inclusive, and we can reasonably expectthat the Prices Stabilization Committee will take- all the factors into consideration in respect of the crops for 1948, 1949 and 1950. I shall use all the influence I can bring to bear in that direction.
Mr. ADERMANN. I hope that the Government will give a guarantee that the price of 19.5d. per lb. will be paid for five years.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
- by leave - I present a petition from Mrs. Nora Solly, wife of George Reginald Solly, soldier, Maroochy River, Queensland, complaining of hardship suffered by her as the result of moratorium legislation, and praying that the House amend the legislation in order to give her relief.
Petition received and read.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Coal Industry Bill 1946.
Meat Export Control Bill 1946.
Meat Industry Control Bill 1946.
Patents Bill 1946.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 45 (Certain proceeding under Re-establishment and Employment Act).
Senate’s amendment No. 1 - Add the follow in sub-clause : - “ (3.) Where an application is made under sub-section (2.) of section fifty-tone of this Act, for a declaration that the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State has contravened section forty-three of this Act, the declaration shall not be made if it is proved that the act or omission which is alleged to constitute the contravention was duly directed, approved or consented to by a Local Committee or, on review or appeal, by the Central Committee or a court, and that the decision of the Local Committee or Central Committee, as the case may be, does not stand reversed as the result of review or appeal.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment is necessary to give effect to the promise I made that, with regard to contraventions of the act, the Crown would be placed on the same footing as private employers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
A recognized tradesman or added tradesman or an apprentice to any of the trades to which this Part applies shall not be appointed to or enlisted in the Defence Force unless it is intended that his trade skill is to be fully utilized in that Force, and any such recognized tradesman, added tradesman or apprentice appointed to or enlisted in that Force whose trade skill is not being fully utilized therein shall be released from that Force.
Senate’s Amendment No. 2. - Leave out “ or added tradesman “.
Senate’s Amendment No. 3. - Leave out “ added tradesman “, second occurring.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to-
That the amendments be agreed to.
Clause 51 (Offences).
Senate’s Amendment No. 4. - Leave out clause 51, insert the following clause: -
Mr.HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Labour and National Service) [10 a.m.]. -I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment stipulates the kind of penalty to be imposed, and. places the Crown on the same footing as a private employer.
– On whom will the penalty fall if the Crown contravenes the act?
– The manager of a factory belonging to the Crown will be prosecuted the same as a. private employer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s Amendment No. 5. - Fourth Schedule, after “ Refrigeration mechanic or servicemen “, insert “ Shift electrician “.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 1Sth July (vide page 2746), on motion by Mr. Frost -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure relates to service pensions, which were formerly referred to as pensions for “ burnt out “ exservicemen. They are pensions other than war pensions. A war pension is not subject to the means- test, but this service pension, because of its peculiar nature,- has’ been made subject to that test. It is, in effect, the invalid and old-age pension of ex-servicemen. The recipients claim that, after having served their country, they should be placed in a category entirely differ ent.fr om that of civilian pensioners. The Government has modified the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act by making alterations with regard to the meants test, and it is only proper to extend a similar modification to these service pensioners. As the measure is a corollary to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, it has the approval of the Opposition.
.The object of the bill is to bring the service pensioner into line with a civilian pensioner. I should be glad to know whether the bill covers the dependent parents of deceased ex-servicemen, to whom a similar means test is applied.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill- by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd July (vide page 2871), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Leader of the Opposition . [1.7 a.m.]. - The bill contains, in substance, two proposals. The first is to render lawful the expenditure in the case of a candidate at a Senate election the sum of £500, instead of £250 as at present, and in the case of candidates for the House of Representatives £250, instead of £100 as at present. There is no doubt in the minds of honorable members that this brings the position nearer to reality. I say no more and no less than that. The second proposal has to do with posters. The Government proposes as a matter of law on the statutebook, as opposed to regulations, that no candidate shall post up a poster with- a greater area than 60 square inches. So, in future, the virtues of candidates will be disclosed to the electors in an area of 6 inches by 10 inches instead of 6 feet by 10 feet. This undoubtedly is due to the unexpected modesty of the Government, and as modesty on the part of the Government is rare, I am not at all sure that I should not welcome it. I dare say that in the long run our names will become sufficiently known to the electors, whether the posters be 6 inches by 10 inches or 6 feet by 10 feet, and, in any event, I have the surety that the bill has been approved by the willing supporters of the Government, that there will be a majority for it, and after 1 a.m. I am not going to argue about it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third .time.
Debate resumed from the 25th July (vide page 3093), on motion by Mr “ Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is a very good bill in that it authorizes procedural amendments of the Bankrupcty Act that have become necessary because of certain anomalies disclosed and decisions given. I have had a careful look at it and all I desire to say is that I think all the amendments contained in it are well warranted by events, and I therefore support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported, from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th August (vide page 3858), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a small bill in contents, but not in its effect on the people whose interests it is designed to serve. It will provoke very little controversy, because concern for the sick and the needy is not the monopoly of any section of this House. It has been introduced, as the Minister in charge of it (Mr. Holloway) has explained, not as a new proposal, but to overcome a lack of constitutionality in the Tuberculosis Act of 1945. I am one of those who can never understand why the framers of the Constitution left the matter of public health to the States to administer, but I am glad that the Government is not prepared to shelter behind the Constitution insofar as the purge of tuberculosis is concerned. I speak for the Opposition when I express the hope that this isnot the maximum that Commonwealth governments, of whatever political complexion, shall be prepared to do in order to overcome the white plague. When Minister for Health, I was assured by my professional advisers that, given reasonable financial aid and the right to discipline and segregate those affected by the disease, it would almost be possible to eradicate it in Australia within a generation, but that one of the principal difficulties in the way of exercising such discipline and segregation of those affected was the economic situation of the victims and their dependants. The principal act and this complementary legislation are designed to overcome the economic difficulty. I am glad that the Government has taken this step. It is fitting that it should take it, because, since federation, about 100,000; deaths have occurred from tuberculosis in Australia. In a country needing population and seeking immigrants it is fitting that the Commonwealth Government should take an active interest in preserving native lives, because our own people are the best that we can have. I am pleased, too, that the bill proposes to exclude financial assistance to the victims of the disease from income for the purpose of determining eligibility for invalid and old-age pensions. Without that provision, this legislation would be an empty gesture. I welcome the bill and hope that it will have a speedy passage.
.Despite the hour, I must say a word or two about this bill. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) that it is a most welcome measure. For some years now I have been chairman of the Social Security Committee, which has taken a keen interest in medical and health services for the people. The battle against the tuberculosis scourge is one aspect of those services. Positive recommendations were made by the committee for the treatment and care of tuberculosis sufferers. The objective of the recommendations was their ultimate cure. The medical profession showed the unanimity on the matter of tuberculosis that was absent from their attitude towards other aspects of medical and health services that could be brought about in this country. While I was overseas a year or two ago, I came in contact with men who were able to speak with authority about the treatment of tuberculosis in the United States of America and Canada. In both countries I found that the approach to the subject was similar to that in Australia, and was in agreement with the recommendations of the Social Security Committee. The treatment of tuberculosis is largely a combination of economics, and education. If we can educate the- people to have tuberculosis treated in its early stages, and if we also provide for the economic needs of the patient and his or her dependants, there are bright prospects of a cure being effected. That means, as the honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out, a great saving of lives and a reduction of suffering.. It also means the restoration, as economic units in the community, of the persons whose lives would otherwise be shortened by this dread disease. It may appear that a considerable sum is to be expended on the treatment of tuberculosis, but the result of that expenditure will ultimately be to the advantage of the community. Moreover, the Government will be re- _ lieved of financial commitments in respect of invalid pensions because it will bring back into the community life of the nation people who otherwise would remain pensioners. Their families will be happier, and there will be advantages all round. This bill is only the first step in the treatment of this disease, but 1 am glad that the Government has decided to take it. When the Social Security Committee submitted its recommendations to the Government it knew that many difficulties, including certain constitutional difficulties, lay ahead. The committee had to decide on some equitable basis on which a distinction could be made between tuberculosis patients and other sufferers. Finally, a decision was made, and the Government has accepted the recommendation of the committee, which is embodied in this legislation. I regard this bill as one of the most important pieces of social legislation that has been introduced during the life of this Parliament. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that the conquest of this dread disease will make for a healthier and happier community, and therefore I give my blessing to the bill.
– I take this opportunity to make a few remarks which may not’ be strictly relevant to the bill. The handling of this measure on behalf of the Opposition has been entrusted to the honorable member for
Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) who, as honorable members know, does not propose to contest his seat at the forthcoming elections. I should like to say - and I am sure that I speak for every honorable member-how much his work in this Parliament has been appreciated.
HONORABLE Members. - Hear, hear!
– It is most appropriate that a bill designed to extend the scope of humane legislation should have, been in his hands on behalf of the Opposition. Both privately and publicly the honorable member for Parramatta ha.c been most generous in his assistance to proposals for the betterment of human beings. That, I believe, was the object with which he entered the Parliament; and that is the satisfaction that he wilL have as he leaves it. I should like to say, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, how much his splendid work has been appreciated, that we shall remember what he has done, and that he carries our good wishes into his retirement from the Commonwealth Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 31st July (vide page 3370), on motion by Mr. Calwell -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) secured the adjournment of the debate on this bill, but as she is unable to attend this morning she has asked me to speak on her behalf. We share the same opinion regarding the bill in that we believe that it lacks a provision for the adoption of children bv private families. Some time ago” Mr. Darby, the member for Manly in the New South Wales Parliament. <=pt. up in Australia an .organization known as the British Orphans Adoption Society, an institution which had the blessing of the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, and of many members on. both sides of the Parliament. On one occasion I introduced a deputation to the right honorable gentlemanon behalf of the organization and we were encouraged by the reception given to us. A branch of the organization was subsequently established in Victoria; I was its chairman. The branch has the names of the occupants of over 100 homes in Melbourne alone into which orphan children would be welcomed and adopted as members of the families. Those homes would have been very comfortable for the children. In Tasmania, the honorable member for Darwin did excellent work. We consider that, throughout Australia, approximately 5,000 children could have been quickly taken into homes. They were to undergo a probationary period and be supervised by the Child Welfare Departments of the States. In every way, that scheme would have been for the betterment of the children, who would have grown up in a splendid environment. Unfortunately, the Government’s policy for child immigration does not provide for the adoption of children by private families.
– Is the honorable member aware that the British Government was not in favour of war orphans leaving the United Kingdom ?
– Yes, the Commonwealth Government so informed us in reply to our representations.
– The British Orphans Association has been disbanded in New South Wales.
– The organization has also been disbanded in Victoria ; but some children were available for adoption by private families. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, was very sympathetic to this cause, and actually approved of a family of four children, whose parents had been killed in air raids, coming to. Australia. Whilst I. congratulate the Government for proceeding with a policy for child immigration, I regret that no provision is made for the adoption of children in private homes. Welfare workers and sociologists, who have been in close touch with this work, agree that the principal need of children is human affection, which is found more in the home than in any institution. The present scheme will “ institutalize “ the children. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to these representations. The organization to which I referred had to be disbanded because the Government’s declaration of its policy regarding the child immigration made no provision for the proper adoption of children by private families. The honorable member for Darwin has no objection to the bill, and hopes that it will be speedily passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Custody of immigrant children).
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) directed his remarks to this clause, which relates to the custody of immigrant children. The arrangement which we have made with the State governments is that the Commonwealth Minister shall bethe legal guardian of the children, and shall delegate his authority to the State departments. There is nothing to prevent any secular organization or religious body being given the custody of children. I do not see any reason why the State departments in certain instances could not agree to the children being adopted by an approved person ; but we do desire to protect children brought from overseas, and we certainly require more safeguards in respect of them than we do for our own children. This is the first step towards the establishment of a child migration scheme. I hope that if this legislation contains any defects, the new Parliament will have an opportunity to consider the representations of the honorable member.
– The Minister is not sure whether a child migrant may be taken into a private home?
– The arrangement which we made with the officers of the Statedepartments was simply that the Commonwealth Minister was to be the legal guardian and could delegate his powers to the States, as was done with the .British evacuee children. That system worked admirably. The State departments, in each instance, found homes for those children, and I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to those splendid citizens who took those children into their homes, cared for them for five years and then sent them back to their parents as fine young citizens.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of hill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 31st July (vide page 3368), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That ‘the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative. ‘
Bill read a second time, and .reported from committee without amendment or 1 eba te ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th August (vide page 3730), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the bill he now read a- second time.
– This validation bill awakened in the minds of honorable members an echo which was not very pleasant. It Became the practice for the Government to introduce validation bills year after year without allowing the Parliament an opportunity to debate the tariff schedules. I realize that, at this juncture, it is almost impossible for us adequately to consider the schedules, although 1 believe that the Minister (Mr. Forde) should have asked the’ Parliament to pass them this session. They are not contentious, and had he done so, this validating bill would not have been necessary. The Opposition does not object to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from . committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th August (vide page 3730), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.-
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 4048).
– I regret that after .the House has sat for the last four weeks in the forenoon, afternoon, evening a’nd early morning hours, we should now be obliged to consider so important a measure at this very late hour. Broadcasting plays a very important part in the -life of the community, and it will play a still greater part in the future. The world generally is topsyturvey, and Australians as a whole are anxious to keep abreast of the latest trends in international and local . affairs. Under the principal act, the Broadcasting Commission was made absolutely free of political control and interference. The object of this measure is to bring the commission under political control and direction. I object strongly to that policy. The people have a high regard for the work performed by the commission. Under difficult war conditions, it did a wonderful job for which I commend it. However, in recent years, the commission has been, subject to all sorts of annoyances from the political powers that be. In those circumstances, the introduction of this measure is most disturbing, because under it the commission is to be shorn of more of its powers. The importance of broadcasting can he gauged from the fact that 84 per cent, of i Lie population hold listeners’ licences.
Had it not been for the war, that number would now be even greater. The war impeded the production of receiving sets, because manufacturers transferred their activities to Avar production. [ welcome the provision for the issuance of listeners’ licences at half the normal fee to service pensioners and invalid and old-age pensioners. For a long time I have urged the Government to make that concession. Although the hour is late, I am impelled to emphasize certain aspects of the measure. Clause 5 of the bill proposes to repeal section 25 of the principal act which provided -
The Commission may collect in such manner as it thinks fit views and information relating to current events iii any part of the world and may subscribe to news agencies.
That power was sufficient to enable the commission to provide an efficient news service. That is proved by the high standard of the news services which the commission provided during the war. Unfortunately, the Government- does not share that view. It now proposes that the commission shall provide what the Government calls an independent news service. Sub-section 1 of proposed new section 25 reads -
The Commission shall broadcast daily from all national broadcasting stations regular sessions of news and information relating to current events within the Commonwealth and other parts of the world.
The commission already possesses that power under the principal act. Subsection 2 reads -
The Commission shall employ an adequate staff, both in the Commonwealth and in overseas countries, for the purpose of collecting the news and information to be broadcast in pursuance of this section.
The commission now possesses that power also under the principal act. Subsection 3 is as follows -
The Commission may also procure hews mid information relating to current events in other parts of the world for such overseas news agencies and other overseas sources as it thinks fit.
Under this provision the commission is to be enabled to set up what the Govern ment calls an independent news service; yet this so-called independent news is still to be collected- through world new agencies, although the Government professes to be opposed to the commission collecting its news through existing agencies, such as, Reuters and the British Broadcasting Corporation, through which the commission now receives much of its overseas news. The first broadcasting committee, which is known as the Gibson Committee, was established by a previous Government.
- lt was a very good committee.-
– -The Government i.not prepared to carry out the recommendations made by that committee. The Gibson Committee urged the Australian Broadcasting Commission, without delay, to enter into an agreement with the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association for the supply of basic news. The Government has seen fit to repudiate the unanimous recommendation made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that, it be permitted to enter into an agreement with the newspaper organizations of this country for the supply of basic news. The Gibson Committee originally recommended that the commission make such an agreement. I shall 1101V refer briefly to some of the evidence given by Mr. Boyer, the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, before the Broadcasting Committee. He said -
In this case we are making a short-term agreement with a currency of only one year terminable on either side at the end of that period. This short-term agreement allows the commission a period within which both to test the satisfactory nature of the agreement itself and to see its way more clearly both as tofinances and personnel of ‘its news gathering staff.
That is all that the Australian Broadcasting Commission asked the Government to do; but the Government refused to have the agreement executed for one year, and. thus afford an opportunity for an examination of the proposal and the making of any variations that were considered necessary.. One would imagine it to be aheinous crime for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to obtain news from the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. There is not a broadcasting organization in any English-speaking country - Great Britain, Canada, .South Africa, or the United States of America - which, does not take its news from press agencies. I quote the evidence of the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the subject -
The British, Canadian and. ‘South African national news services each draw the greater .part of their news from press sources under agreements much more comprehensive than that now before the committee. Canada, for example, follows the practice of leaving all news gathering, with the exception of special events, to the news agencies, even including Parliamentary news. South .Africa has no machinery for. the collection of news as such, ft has, however, a contract with the South African Press Association for the supply of all its basic .news. The British Broadcasting Corporation also has a firm agreement with British home news service for the supply of basic home news. It will be seen, therefore, that in general a news agreement for basic home news is current practice throughout the British Commonwealth. [ add, that that is the position in the United States of America also. The whole of the English-speaking people get their basic news from news agencies. Thousands of journalists throughout the British Empire are gathering news which is put over the air. Yet the Government repudiates the recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
In the matter of costs, I point out that the Australian Broadcasting Commission budgeted for an expenditure of £53,000 on the news service it is now conducting. The agreement would have cost it £20,000. -Mr. Henderson, the representative of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, said that an independent Australian news service would cost at least £110,000. The arbitrator - Professor Copland, who at the time was Prices Commissioner - to whom the terms of the new agreement were referred, said that the cost of an independent overseas service would be at least £20,000. Therefore, in round figures, the cost of this socalled independent news service would probably be £150,000. I have no objection to an independent news service, and I am sure that my party has not. But talk of an independent news service is all *’ hooey “, when the Government has not the vaguest idea of what the overseas news service is likely to cost. No evidence was given to the Broadcasting Committee in regard to the cost of an overseas news service. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will be dependent on Reuters and a like organization in the United States of America for its overseas news. No matter how many journalists were sent abroad, they could not cover the field that is covered by the men employed by Reuters, and if that service be not .used, there will be a lack of overseas news.
– Does the honorable member argue that we should accept the tainted Henderson service?
– Under the agreement, there could be no taint in the news service. If the Minister does not agree with that, he is not acquainted with the proposal which he has submitted to the Parliament. The agreement was acceptable to a minority of the members of the Broadcasting Committee. Its terms make it abundantly clear that there could be.no taint in the news ‘ supplied to the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. The statement that there would be one is a reflection on the Australian Journalists Association or on Australian journalists in that association.
– No; only on the proprietors.
– The Minister does not know what he is talking about.
– The proprietors do not write the news provided by the service.
– The Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association agreed that the original report obtained by members of the Australian Journalists Association and handed to the editor or the sub-editor of any newspaper would be made available - to the Australian Broadcasting Commission without being edited or sub-edited. The suggestion that that original copy would have a “ slant “ is a reflection on the journalists responsible for its preparation. On behalf of the journalists and the Australian Journalists Association, I say that that is an improper and a base innuendo. I shall read that portion of the agreement which makes provision for the supply of the news. These are its terms -
What more does the Government want?
– Why are the newspaper proprietors so anxious -to make this agreement?
– If there were any taint in the news offered under this agreement, the responsibility for it would rest on the journalists who prepared the copy and handed it in to the newspaper office.
– Does the Australian Broadcasting Commission favour the making of the agreement?
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission was unanimous in favouring it. Not one member of it did not recommend its adoption.
– That is not true. Mr. Hanlon, the vice-chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, did not agree to the adoption of it.
- Mr. Hanlon did agree to it. He said, “I support this agreement “.
– He did not.
– Assuming honorable gentlemen opposite to be right, Mr. Hanlon has overruled the other members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Mr. Hanlon was right, and the others were wrong.
- Mr. Hanlon said definitely, “ I support this agreement, and recommend its adoption “. I am having the evidence turned up, and shall read it to the House. Regarding the feasibility of having this alleged independent .news service I propose to quote the evidence given by Sir Walter Layton, the leader of the British press delegation which came to this country some time ago. The Broadcasting Committee discussed with him a whole series of matters, including the possibility of establishing an independent news service. This is what he said, and his opinion was- based on his extensive experience -
It would be fantastic for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to set up a complete world-wide .system of news gathering and duplicate all that is being done.
I remind the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) that Mr. Hanlon said this -
I do support the agreement. I do so as democrat.
– He was referring to the acceptance of the price recommended by an arbitrator.
-I can only give the honorable member the information. 1 cannot give him the intelligence to understand it. The former director-general of the British Broadcasting Corporation gave the following evidence before the Broadcasting Committee : -
The British Broadcasting Corporation had access to the same news as was available to the newspapers. In addition, it had its own observers and news gatherers of a sort. The practice was not so much to send a man to gather news as to send a microphone to broadcast news events as they occurred - for instance, a running account of a football match. But eye-witness accounts were also given from the studio of interesting events earlier” in the day - and that if a form of news gathering
The British Broadcasting Corporation thought that it should not set up an independent news agency, partly because it would have been too expensive.
This Government has no regard for expense, or’ for the needs of industry. According to the Broadcasting Act, the Australian Broadcasting Commission must refer to the Minister, for approval, all proposed expenditure of more than £5,000.
– A most salutory provision.
– I agree, provided the Minister exercises common sense and fair play, and has regard to the proper functions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but the Government is using this provision to force the commission, into doing what it wishes. Under the Broadcasting Act, the commission was allotted lis. out of every listener’* licence-fee of £1, to enable it to perform its function. The commission found the amount insufficient, and was granted another ls. and later a further 3s. was granted. However, the act still provides that it shall receive only Ils., and this amendment does not provide for payment to the commission of 15s. from each licence. The extra 4s. is being paid on sufferance, and the Government is using this fact as a stick with which to flog the commission into submission. I submit that the act should be amended now to provide for the payment of 15s.
I object to clause 13 of the bill which prohibits the broadcasting in Australia of programmes from other countries, except with the approval of the Minister. All during the war, the Australian Broadcasting Commission picked up British Broadcasting Corporation programmes which, when re-broadcast, formed an important part of local programmes. “Now it is proposed to whittle down the power of the commission, which has done such good work. It is also proposed to set up a promotions and appeals tribunal, which will take away from the commission control over its own staff. The Broadcasting Committee, of which I am a member and deputy chairman, is becoming more and more political, despite the restraining influence of myself and my colleagues. The commission was set up with the idea that it would be independent” of political control, but its work has been handicapped more and more by Government restrictions.
– Did the Broadcasting Committee make any estimate of the cost of establishing a news service
– A suggestion was made by Mr. Henderson that £110,000 a year would be the least that would be needed to collect news in Australia. No other evidence was submitted, yet in the absence of evidence the Government is prepared to institute a so-called independent news service. Nevertheless, it proposes to use news supplied by overseas agencies, and how the service can then be called independent, I fail to understand. The agreement with the newspapers was unanimously approved by the Broadcasting Committee.
– And unamimously turned down by Cabinet.
- Mr. Henderson was . in favour of it. The only evidence given against the agreement came from Mr. Dixon, employed by the* Australian Broadcasting Commission as news editor. The commission considered his evidence and rejected it, and unanimously recommended that the agreement should be accepted for one year. I propose now to deal with the. Broadcasting Committee’s report. Section 85 of the Australian Broadcasting Act provides - (1.) The Committee shall, subject to the provisions of this act, consider and report to the Parliament upon every matter affecting’ broadcasting in Australia or the territories of the Commonwealth which either House of the Parliament, by resolution, refers to the Committee and upon every other such matter referred to the Committee by the Minister. (2.) The Minister shall refer to the Committee any such matter which the Commission or the body known, at the commencement of this act, as the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, requests him to refer to the Committee.
Under that section there was referred to the committee the question of whether or not the draft agreement with the newspaper proprietors should be accepted. That was the only subject referred to the committee . and accordingly should have been the only matter upon which the committee reported to the Parliament under its terms of reference. The majority of the members, of the committee, however, consisting of supporters of the Government, entirely ignored the terms of reference and included, in the report a recommendation for the establishment of this, so-called independent news service. The whole of. the evidence heard by the committee, with the exception of that given by Mr. Dixon, an employee of the Commission, favoured the acceptance of the draft agreement. The Commission and the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association were in favour of the acceptance of the agreement and its continuance for one year. After hearing Mr. Dixon’s views on the agreement the commission rejected them, and its representative gave evidence before the Broadcasting Committee that it was prepared to accept the draft agreement. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is a statutory body, yet its recommendations were rejected by the Government which is now seeking still further to hamstring it. During the debate on this bill in the Senate it was alleged that -there was a definite “slant” in news items - broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Such an allegation is unwarranted. The agreement contains a special clause authorizing officers and servants of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to go into the offices of any of the newspapers and to sight “ copy “ before it is sub-edited by the editorial staff. The national broadcastingservice in every English-speaking country obtains its basic news items from newspaper sources.
Clause 18 of the bill empowers the Governor-General to make regulations -
for varying or adding to the conditions governing the erection or operation of commercial broadcasting stations or an appliance for which a broadcast listener’s licence is re- quiried to be held; and
I regard that as the thin edge of the wedge of nationalization of broadcasting. It is nationalization by stealth. Under this clause the B class stations could be gradually eliminated. Many of the provisions of this bill are opposed to the interests of broadcasting and of listeners generally. The Government has steadily and persistently reduced the power and authority of the commission. It has destroyed the responsibility of the commission, and is gradually increasing political control of the commission’s activities. I trust that the Government will yet withdraw many of the proposals contained in the bill.
.I. support the bill. I, too, am a member of the Broadcasting -Committee, and I have been surprised at some of the statements made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). Apparently the honorable gentleman was incapable of understanding the evidence -tendered to the committee. He has the effrontery to say that Mr. Hanlon, of the commission’s staff, supported the acceptance of the draft agreement. He is well aware that the whole of Mr. Hanlon’s evidence indicated that he was strongly opposed to it. Not only did he express his opposition to it ; he also made alternative suggestions as to how the Australian Broadcasting Commission might obtain its news. Among the amendments of the principal act proposed by this bill are many that were recommended by the Broadcasting Committee, including those relating to the establishment of appeal boards to deal with promotions and disciplinary offences. The Broadcasting Committee was under the impression that provisions governing such matters could be made by regulations issued by the commission. It was found, however, that section 17 of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act precluded the commission from making regulations governing those matters. I do not believe that those proposed amendments of the principal act will be opposed, because similar provisions have been embodied in other legislation recently dealt with by this Parliament, including the overseas Telecommunications Bill and the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Like provision is incorporated in the Commonwealth Public Service Act also. The principle governing these amendments having been accepted by the Parliament”, there is no necessity to discuss them at this juncture. One matter that I must deal with is the supply of news and the proposal that the commission shall set up its own independent news service. To that the honorable member for Moreton devoted most of his attention. I do not want to traverse all the history of the collection of news by the commission. Several reports on the subject have been presented to the Parliament, and I know that the commission has been in difficulty on a number of occasions in regard to the collection of news. I know too that, on the recommendations,-first, of the Gibson Committee and afterwards of the Broadcasting Committee, the commission has endeavoured to make an agreement with the newspaper proprietors for the supply of news to be- broadcast over the national service. A report was presented to the Parliament in 1944 .on a proposed agreement between the commission and the newspaper proprietors and ; that agreement was not accepted by the majority of the committee. I refer to that now because it has a bearing on the present position, particularly in regard to the supply of news, which, J;he honorable member tells us, under the proposed agreement was to be factual, notslanted in any way, and perfectly objective. The agreement proposed in 1944 provided for the removal of the commission’s federal news service from Canberra, and for placing in the pres3 gallery a newsagency to supply factual news of the Parliament. . We were told then that it would be a great service that would supply almost a .verbatim report, factual, objective and not “ slanted “. Chat newsagency was set up, and it is a remarkable fact that although it has operated for two years, most newspapers still depend on their own reporters in the Press Gallery, and this newsagency, which was to have served the commission, is reporting for only four metropolitan newspapers, two- in Sydney, one in Melbourne, and one in Adelaide. So the much vaunted newsagency of 1944 has not developed as the committee was told it would. But a new agreement was negotiated. On a first reading, it seemed really good, but, when it was investigated by the committee, we found a number of pitfalls, particularly that it was a very expensive proposition. Whereas in 1944 the commission had been offered both overseas and local news for a total cost of £7,500, the total cost of the new agreement had been jumped to £20,000. The carrying out of the agreement, we were informed by the commission’s director of news, Mr. Dixon, would necessitate the employment of nineteen more journalists in the newspaper offices of Australia. He said that the additional cost of the news, service to the commission would increase its expenditure on” news from £53,000 a year to £87,000, which was a very, big rise, but if the news service was to be perfect the expenditure would not be excessive. Mr. Dixon has been an official of the commission for about ten years and has been in journalism all -his life. Before joining the commission’s staff he had been editor of a country newspaper and earlier sub-editor of a Sydney newspaper, experience that should make him an expert in the presentation of news for broadcasting purposes. He told us that for the cost of £S3,000 or £87,000- - I am not quite sure of the amount - he could provide an. independent news service for the commission. The matter of an independent service was also discussed by Mr. R. A.. Henderson, who represented the Australian Newspaper ProprietorsAssociation and the Australian Associated Press Proprietary Limited before the committee. He is an expert on the .collection of news for a daily newspaper, which differs greatly from the broadcasting of news, and he made an estimate of about £110,000 as the cost of an independent service. There we have two conflicting opinions, one from ah. expert on the broadcasting of news and one an expert on newspapers. -When we want an opinion in regard to broadcasting of news, I am prepared to take that of the broadcasting expert rather than that Of the newspaper expert. Mr. Henderson, said that in discussions with the chair- man of the commission it was made clear that the newspapers preferred to have nodealings with the commission, that they preferred that the commission should establish its own service. In another part of his evidence he said that the present attitude of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association to the idea of the commission having an independent news-gathering service was. one of supreme indifference. In effect, he informed us that the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association and the Australian Associated Tress Proprietary Limited were not interested in negotiating an agreement. He said, “We prefer the Australian Broadcasting Commission to collect its own news. We prefer to be out of it, because if we supplied news there would always be complaints about what we provide, and we prefer you to collect your own; but if you want our service, here is an agreement, and you will make a token payment for what you take “. What he called a token payment was £20,000. To the newspaper proprietors such an amount is as a drop. in .the ocean. It is remarkable that, after telling us that, he made a violent attack on Mr. Hanlon, a member of the commission, who gave evidence in opposition to the proposed news agreement, and in support of the independent service, and on. Mr. Dixon, the commission’s news director, who recommended an independent service. Although he said, “ We do not want your money or the agreement, and we do not want to supply news to you “ when the two recommended that the commission should set up its own news-gathering service, he adopted a hostile attitude to them. I how refer briefly to the news service and what can be obtained. The honorable member, for Moreton has endeavoured to make it appear that under the agreement the commission could get all the factual news it requires. Mr. Henderson, on the last occasion, and Sir Keith Murdoch, on a previous occasion when the agreement was before the committee, laid great stress on the necessity for factual and objective reporting. They stressed that news should be factual and objective and entirely separated from views. I agree with them, but I shall show how far the newspaper with which Mr. Henderson is associated observes that principle. On a Tuesday afternoon in March, 1944, the Broadcasting Committee submitted to the Parliament a report on a proposed news agreement. The next morning the Sydney Morning Herald devoted more space to that report than did any other Australian newspaper; it gave three columns to the report. Apart from the headings, which the newspaper supplied, those three columns contained . reprints from the report. Any one unacquainted with the facts would say that if the actual words of the report were reprinted, the newspaper had complied with Mr. Henderson’s dictum that a newspaper should . supply factual and objective reports, but a person who compared the committee’s report with the statement in the Sydney Morning Herald would immediately have been disillusioned, because that newspaper reported the majority decision of the. committee and devoted the rest of the space allotted to the -subject to extracts from the report. Those extracts were entirely in support of the agreement; no extract in opposition to the agreement was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It was one of the most biased reports that I have seenin any newspaper. On the Thursday morning the Sydney Morning Herald devoted a column to a leading article on the committee’s report. It had the effrontery to say that the decision of the majority of the committee was not in accordance with the weight of evidence. I emphasize’ that that leading article wa? written six months before the evidence was published. It was, therefore, a deliberate misstatement. Later, the committee’s report was published, and the Sydney Morning Herald obtained a copy of it. Extracts from the evidence were published in three separate editions of the newspaper, which altogether devoted eight columns to the subject. All the evidence that was published was in support of the agreement; not one word of evidence against the agreement was published, notwithstanding that such evidence was given by some important gentleman, including members of the British press delegation, Sir Walter Layton and Mr. Storey, a member of the House of Commons. Because the Sydney Morning Herald adopted such a one-sided attitude the Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee challenged that newspaper to publish a statement which he forwarded with his letter. The statement, which was based on evidence given before the committee, would have filled three columns but so fair and factual is the Sydney Morning Herald that it gave les? than a column to it. That is an example of the way in which some sections of the press treat a subject of importance. Newspapers may give objective reports on matters that do not directly concern them, but when their own interests are at stake they do not hesitate to twist the truth, or to misrepresent the position, or to exclude statements opposed to their own views. Other examples could be given to show to what degree the press is sometimes prepared to go in departing from the high standards it professes to uphold-. We must ensure that any , national new* service provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall be absolutely free from suspicion. The Broadcasting Committee was told by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Director of News that practically all the overseas news which is broadcast over national stations in Australia is obtained without huy assistance from Australian Associated Press. -The commission does pay for Reuters’ news, which it may or may not get through the British Broadcasting Commission, but all its cable news is obtained from supplies which are independent of newspapers’. Evidence was given to the committee that 99 per cent, of the Australian news which is broadcast over national stations is obtained by the commission’s own staff of journalists, and that -40 per cent, of the State news is collected, by them. The recommendation that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should establish its own news-gathering service does not involve a big expansion of its activities. There is evidence that in both Sydney and Melbourne the Aus.tralian Broadcasting Commission’s staff is obtaining practically the whole of the State news which is being broadcast in New South. Wales and Victoria. In order to give full effect to the agreement it would be necessary to employ at least nineteen additional journalists. They would be placed in newspaper offices to scan the news as it was received. According to Mr. Henderson, they would be given first sight of news items on some occasions, but at other times they would not see news items until after the sub-editor had dealt with them. But he could not guarantee that the news items which would be obtained were the actual reports written by the journalists. According to the News Director of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. the nineteen journalists who, under this arrangement would spend the whole of their time in the newspaper offices of the capital cities, could be utilized to gather news. He informed us also that those journalists could collect the additional news required - the State news, not the national or overseas news. If the agreement be not implemented, the cost according to Mr. Dixon, will he £83,000, and, according to Mr. Henderson, it may be further increased to £110,000. Compared with the cost of other activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that expenditure would not .be excessive for a really factual and objective news service. Honorable members will recall- that the Broadcasting Committee, in its thirteenth report, recommended, to- the Par- ri4G] liament that an additional 3s. a licence should be given to the commission for the forthcoming year. If additional expenditure is to be incurred, the committee’s recommendation will enable the Australian Broadcasting. Commission to find the money.
It is most important that the commission shall give to listeners a thoroughly reliable news service. The Broadcasting Committee heard evidence from members of the Australian Journalists Association and other sources that newspapers iii Australia to-day are putting a “ slant “ on news, according to the views and interests of their proprietors. Reporters are expected, on occasions, to gather the type of news -that the newspaper requires, and to write it in the manner in which the newspaper desires to present it. If the correct “ slant “ is not given to the news, the reporter has to find another job. Such instances have occurred in recent months, involving some fine reporters. I am not putting up “ Aunt Sallys “ for the purpose of knocking them over, but I recall that lately several men in the forefront of journalism have severed their connexion with certain newspapers.
– Eight of them left the Argus recently.
– Ohe newspaper, since certain reporters left it, places a different slant upon its reports - a slant which is in accordance with the policy of the proprietors. That newspaper is not endeavouring to give to the public factual or objective news. We must break away from .that, and I believe that in recommending to this Parliament that the news agreement be abolished and an independent news service be established by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Broadcasting Committee is ensuring that the commission shall present to the people a factual and objective report of happenings. The local and overseas news will be more reliable.
Australian Associated Press offered, under this agreement, to supply to the Australian Broadcasting Commission copies of every cable, received, so that its staff of journalists might make, a selection of the news for broadcasting. The point about- that- and this is where the first slant is given to the cable news of Australian Associated Press- is that the news is selected by the association’s representatives in London and New York, and we do not know whether the news which reaches Australia is factuaand objective. The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s employees will make the selection of” the news in London rather than in Sydney’. That will be a big improvement, because those employees will have access to more news, and factual news. Even the cable news will be more reliable than that which is being received to-day. It will not be “ slanted “ and selected to- suit the interests of various newspaper proprietors. The journalists employed by the commission will select it for its news value only. I believe that the Broadcasting Committee’s recommendation will . improve the national news service, and make listeners throughout the Commonwealth satisfied that they are receiving factual news, and that the national news service will be one service upon which they may depend.’
– This bill, which is most important and farreaching, is being literally shuffled through the Parliament in the small hours of the morning on the last day of the session. 1 propose to address my remarks to- twomatters. I listened with great interest to- the speeches of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for’ Bourke (Mr. Bryson). Both speeches have confirmed my own impression, which I have had for some time, that the Broadcasting Committee threatens to become a menace to good administration. In a democracy,’ theproblem of administration is always one of great importance. Many years ago we established the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I understood that the function of the commission was to determine -.latters of policy and that under it, the general manager and the staff would attend to matters of administrative detail. The Parliament established the Broadcasting Committee, which apparently has a general charter enabling it to discuss all kinds of matters- of policy and sometimesmatters of administration. In this particular case, we have the most remarkable illustration. The commission apparently considered the matter of the news service.?, and decided to- adopt an agreement with the newspapers. The Broadcasting Committee was then invoked, and asked to decide whether this agreement should be approved. If there is to be a universal appeal of that kind from the commission to the Broadcasting Committee, 1 begin to wonder why there- is an Australian Broadcasting Commission. But the matter went before the Broadcasting Committee; and we had the amazing spectacle of the members of the commission, who are charged with responsibility on this matter, offering their views, and a subordinate officer of the commission, ite news editor, or whatever he may be called, being produced to disagree with the decision of his own commission, to put his own views on the matter. I marvel that they did not call the assistant news editor, or. the junior clerks from the. commission, and ask- them, “ Do you agree with the commision?”. How can we have any real administrative authority if that. kind of thing goes on? The whole thing becomes capable- of being resolved into a: dilemma. Is the commission in charge of policy, or is it not? If it is not in charge of policy - and that is a matter for the Parliament - then one can only conclude that the commission is merely in charge of administration. And if it ia merely in charge of administration,. I want, to know why we have so large a commission, why we have gone to such pains to appoint to the commission people who represent various aspects of Australian life. The whole idea of the commission wa.that w.e would, have a body, part-time, representing interests in the community, representing a cross-section of experience in the community, and- that, that commission would lay down policy;’ and through ils general manager and officers working under him that policy would be put into effect. The Broadcasting Committee has. in my opinion, proved to be nothing but a menace to- broadcasting, and the- sooner it is abolished the better for broadcasting in Australia. If there is to be a matter of broad policy, requiring administrative action, let Parliament attend to it. as Parliament. But, at present, we have two bodies which, have, in fact-,, become- competing bodies. I remember,. not very, long ago, hearing colleagues of mine discuss ing their sittings- in Tasmania, or somewhere else, to bea.r evidence as- to whether a licence ought to, be. given to- this or t© that person. They are not matters for the committee; they are matters for the commission. If they are not matters for the commission, then I say to the Government to abolish the commission.
– The commission has never granted a licence.
– I do not know whether it has or not. AH I know is that the members of the commission .must be constantly embarrassed in their functions to know exactly where they stand in the presence of this competing -body.
My second observation -deals with the proposal, which is the central proposal of the bill, that the commission should establish an independent news service. This proposal is apparently supported by the commission’s news editor, which is. cot surprising - and there .seems to be some controversy about it - because it is supported by one of the members of the commission. Any one looking at the proposal from -outside will have no difficulty in concluding that it is a fantastic proposal. Is it seriously, suggested that the journalists who serve in London, or New York. on behalf of newspaper bodies are incompetent, or dishonest? Is that the suggestion? Is it seriously suggested that the news gathered in London from the newsagencies and put on the cables to Australia is dishonestly gathered .? Could any one in the Government pretend for one moment ‘that the news coming over the cables from London, for instance, is coloured against- this Government? Suchan implication is a serious allegation, against the competency and honesty of the men doing this job on the other side of the world.
– - It is nothing of the sort.
– Why, then, is the proposal put forward? Quite obviously it is because the Government believes that through a government instrumentality it can ‘establish a news service of its own. The news collected will not be objective, but in ways and means suitable to the government of the day. This is not a case :being put up for objective news gathering. It is quite the contrary. If it does not mean that, it merely means the Government is prepared to launch out on competitive news gathering for no purpose made clear to this Parliament ; because I repeat that unless it can be shown that news gathering in London and New York is incompetent, dishonest or unfair, there is no case for establishing another set of news collectors who will give to us exactly the same news, and read exactly the same newspaper articles., and, probably, send exactly the same cablegrams. We do mat know how much this will cost. Various figures have been floating around; but it is easy to see that if the commission, in order to provide its fifteen minutes news service now and again, is to set about establishing, agencies in London and New York comparable with those of the newspaper proprietors, and a news-gathering agency in Australia comparable with the one maintained by the newspapers, it will be surprising if the cost to the commission will be less than £250,000 year after year. So, this is a bill to throw away for no known reason, quite possibly, .£250,000 a year of the public money. What is the case for it? Is there any evidence of dishonesty or incompetence? . None whatever. A slanting allusion has been made to the chairman of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. He may be regarded as not one of my ardent supporters;- but a slanting reference to the chairman of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association is no evidence, or case. There is not an honorable member who has not, from time to time, smarted under what he -thought were injustices from the press, and, at other times, basked momentarily in the applause of the press. But is there one honorable member who will seriously pretend that the -world news service which conies into this country from abroad is a dishonest service, an incompetent service, or a ‘biased service ? So far as I am concerned, having seen it from both ends of the line, I have never ceased to marvel at the skill and restraint with which trained journalists all over the world can sift out of a vast mountain of news innumerable items -which keep us, on the whole,- amazingly abreast of what is happening in the world. The commission had the advantage of securing the benefit of all that, for a certain sum. An agreement was -prepared. The majority’ of the commission, at least, were prepared to sign that agreement; but the Government says, “No. We ignore the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We ignore themerits of the agreement. We prefer to take the view of somebody who, very naturally, would like to see his own jurisdiction extended. Therefore, we are going to put on one side all the sources of world news, and go out and collect for ourselves”. -The result of this is not going to be a better hews service over the air. It is going to be a worse service. As I stand here I look at two honorable gentlemen opposite who are politically opposed to me, perhaps, on . occasions, violently opposed to me-
– And never more violently than, we- are now.
– I should like to hear either of them say that he thinks so badly of his brother craftsmen in London as to believe that they colour their news.
– Even the right honorable gentleman does not believe that that is the issue here.
– I do not indulge in the subtleties of mind of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) ; but merely ask myself why is. the overseas news service to be abandoned? What * is the reason for it ? So far, we have had no reason at all, except, of course, that it is in line with the policy of the Government to get rid of all these things, and to establish government services even at the expense of duplication and of throwing away £250,000 of public money. If the Australian Broadcasting Commission were to say after the next general elections, “Send the honorable member for Parkes to London”, would we have any assurance that when the honorable gentleman went to London the news service would he any different? May I re-frame my question: Would we have any assurance that the news service would be better than it is now? None whatever. Those are the only two points that I desire to make. In the first place, what will become of the Australian Broadcasting Commission if this present queer system of duplicating its functions goes on? In the second place, what real case is made, at a time’ when people talk about economy in public expenditure, and we are told that taxation cannot be really reduced, for expending £200,000 or £300,000 in order to obtain something which, by common consent, could be equally well obtained for a mere fraction of that sum?
I have listened with keen interest to the subtle phraseology and clever terminology of the ‘Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I- suppose that the flight of the bumble bee over the beautiful landscape’ would be comparable . to the oratorical flights . of the right honorable gentleman in relation to thi* bill. He did not come down to earth, as is his usual practice. With great skill, he made certain points regarding journalists and what they should do in regard- to the overseas news service. This is a simple proposition. Why in the name of goodness, cannot the wireless listeners of Australia have an independent news service? Is there any reason why a man starting a newspaper tomorrow” should not say, “I do not want the combine. I want to see whether 1 can get independent news”. .There are sources of news, as there are source* of other things that are gathered. Naturally, a man of enterprise and skill can get some additional news. Because the Broadcasting Committee, in its- wisdom, has recommended that there shall be an independent news .service, it is ‘ attacked. As is its duty, it has considered the future of the wireless-listening public. This controversy has raged for a very long time, and a lot of sinister implications have grown’ up round the matter. If the question were simply whether there was to be a news service from London, I do not believe that that would create any deep problems. But other features have been injected into the proposition of the news service, and these require some investigation. My reply to the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition, who said, ,in effect, “ Do you suggest that the news coming from overseas is coloured ? “ is that, in the main, because of the pressure of the job and not because of the ethics of the journalists, it is not coloured; but in some instances it is sufficiently coloured to be highly dangerous to the’ people of Australia, because often 4he ‘‘account -is loaded against the Australian Labour party and the Commonwealth Labour Government.
– I should like the. honorsable gentleman to give an illustration of that. I thought that most of the accounts were in favour of his party !
– When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), now on his way to America, was the first chairman of the United Nations organization, the reporting of his activities was disgraceful. It was coloured and biased, and made me feel ashamed of the journalists responsible for it. Insinuations were made in regard to his competency as a chairman. The accusations were so small as to have been .insignificant had they not been disseminated by a news agency serving millions of people and commanding the attention of the world. The cables sent to this country cleverly made it appear that they expressed the views of a Canadian correspondent at the conference of the United Nations. In my experience, I have found both Australian and overseas journalists to have a code of ethics which does not permit them to do such things. Only a small group has those instructions.
– That is a very queer code of ethics. Does the honorable gentleman mean that they would not voluntarily invent the story, but would invent it if they were told to do so?
– I have said that they represent a. very small section. The same features have been associated with the reporting of the statements and actions of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). He has been the victim of coloured misreporting.
– That is to-day’s funny story. He has been boosted. He is “ the world “.
– Because this great Australian is making the head-lines overseas members of the Opposition seem to be disturbed. I maintain that he has been grievously misreported. I shall exert a quietening influence on the Opposition by referring to an incident that occurred quite recently - the misreporting of the Gibraltar incident. I am not to be silenced by the Leader of the Opposition asking, “Will you say in front of your fellow . pressmen that ^ there are any coloured stories from overseas?” I should say that, there are coloured stories from overseas. These professional exservicemen of the old school, who think in terms of the Battle of Omdurman, did not voice any protests when I mentioned in this House that the affray at Gibraltar had been the subject of a bad piece of misreporting.
– Where did the honorable member learn that?
– What I then said has been justified by a report published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a newspaper for which I have no great affection, regarding the experiences of a man who went to Gibraltar to investigate the case. I repeat that there was then no attempt on the part of ex-servicemen who are members of the Opposition to come to the defence of the Victory Contingent, because they were thinking of the kind of press they would get at the general elections.
To return to the draft agreement: I listened with considerable interest to the declaration of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that he was speaking for the Australian Journalists Association on some matter relative to the draft news agreement: So far as any knowledge of news or of that agreement is concerned, he is completely at a loss. I would say, in regard to some of his statements, that if, as a journalist, I were asked to write his political epitaph, it would be, “ Here lies the honorable member for Moreton - as usual “. The honorable member made one statement concerning the attitude of Mr. Hanlon to the draft agreement. It is perfectly obvious, from the evidence, that Mr. Hanlon, having protested against that agreement as a journalist, decided eventually that he would democratically go with the majority when he had been out-voted. At no time did he withdraw from the position that he was violently opposed to it. In support of the attitude of Mr. Hanlon I read the following extracts from an article written by Kim in the Australian Worker of the 9 th May, 1945, a few weeks before he became a member of the commission : -
The right that is now being- waged so bitterly by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association for a monopoly of the news broadcasting services of this country is just another aspect of the fight that the chairman and hia fellow conspirators waged, more or less successfully, for the monopoly of the news which is now being published in the newspapers controlled by them in nearly every capital city .in Australia. . . . The plot of the members of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association to secure a monopoly of Australia’s -news broadcasting services is obvious. Having by various and devious means secured control of the overseas :and .most of the interstate news services for publication in their newspapers, they now by hook or ‘by crook are desperately anxious to secure control of the air for the same sinister purpose. . Herein then lies the reason that the newspaper monopolists in Australia - the members of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association - are manoeuvring so cunningly and so brazenly for the monopoly of the air.
A man who would write in that fashion just before” being appointed to the commission indicated fairly clearly his attitude to the agreement. It seems fair and reasonable that there should be an independent news service. It is the desire of every one who starts a newspaper to get such a service, rather than to use the existing services with all their, disadvantages. At this point, there enters the sinister figure of Mr, Henderson, chairman of the Australian ‘Newspaper Proprietors Association. First, he did not want to have anything to do with the matter. Tie became derisive of the suggestion, and said that the service would be “ political “. That phrase might be taken from the style-book of the- Sydney Morning Herald, where the belief is held that any thing which differs from the opinion of the Sydney Morning Herald must be political. Mr. Henderson said that he did not care whether or not there was an agreement with his organization, and that even if there was it would not mean anything. In the meantime, he had increased the price of the proposed service by 250 per cent. ! At one time Mr. Cleary, a former chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, was a rabid advocate of an independent news service. Then be suffered a change of heart, probably after he had a talk with representatives of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. He became a violent opponent of an independent news service”, and was all for getting news in the nice, easy way from the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. His change of heart may not have been
Ifr. Haylen. ‘ unassociated with the appointment of Mr. Deamer as editor of the A.B.G. Weekly. The Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association was moving in the background. Look how its hand has crept out to .get control of the B-class broadcasting stations. The almost childish innocence of the honorable member foi Moreton (Mr. Francis) is pathetic. After having sat as a member of such an intelligent committee for so long, he emerges with a minority report, which, I believe., must have been written for’ him, because ite inanities would be -beyond even him.
The present allegedly independent broadcast ,news service is of the sausagemachine type. This is what it boils dowD to - “ This is by courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald “. There is a story about some one who broke his leg, and the leg is always broken in exactly the same way and at exactly the same time. News gathering of that sort destroys all initiative in journalism. Evidence was given before the Broadcasting Committee by Mr. Dixon, news editor of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who is an expert in his line. The technique in handling news for broadcasting, is different from that in handling news for publication in a newspaper. News for broadcasting must be compressed within a specified time, yet honorable members opposite say that it is absurd to go anywhere else for news than to the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. The institution of an independent service was advocated by Mr. Dixon, by Mr. Hanlon, with 40 years’ experience behind him, and finally by the Austraiian Journalists. Association, which believed that the sausage-machine kind of journalism’ was dangerous and harmful to journalists. The Australian Journalists Association is always pleased to see another newspaper begin publication. Under the present .system, .a sensitive journalist starts out with enthusiasm, but be gets into the hands of an unsympathetic management or board of control, where he quickly loses that “first, fine careless rapture” that makes a good journalist. It is evident that Mr. Dixon wanted to handle an independent news service, and he was supported by Mr. Hanlon. The proposal was opposed by Mr. Boyer, whose principal claim to speak on the subject appears to be that he w.as a grazier. He might he qualified on some grounds to serve on the commission, but- not oh the ground that, he knew anything about news-getting. The proposal was also opposed by Mr. Moses, general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Coinmission, who was a good cricket broadcaster at one time, but of whom nothing has been, heard as a news man since he used to speak of the lengthening shadows on the lawn at the cricket ground. The other opponent was Mr. Dawes, a Labour man,, who might he described as a weak sister. ‘ An independent news service was sought by those associated with broadcasting who knew what they were talking about. There was nothing political in their attitude, but they wanted’ to break the newspaper combine,, just as the broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament have in some measure broken the power of the combine to disseminate parliamentary news in a fashion to suit itself. Somebody moved quickly, and induced the honorable member for Moreton to act for nam. This is too important a matter ti rest upon the reports of a minority and a majority in the Broadcasting Committee. We are now dealing with the most powerful medium of news dissemination in the world - .radio broadcasting. Let us examine some of the witnesses who ‘ gave evidence before the committee. First there was the journalist Dixon and the old ‘editor Hanlon, who could be easily led into the trap by the suggestion that it would be nice to get a staff ready made a:nd wrapped up in cellophane. No journalist would say that that would not be a very interesting job. Then we had the president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, Mr. Henderson, who cut a very sorry and pathetic figure before the committee. He made such amazing statements that when I first read the report I could hardly believe them. He said that the committee was political, that broadcasting w.as political, and that the commission itself was political in its news broadcasts. He even referred to the fact that on seven Sundays out of nine, I had made broadcasts over -the national station in New South Wales-. He characterized those broadcasts as- inconsequential and said they .should, not have gone over the air. I have’ very limited facilities for reaching my electors through the newspapers, because of “ the Haylen case “ which honorable members will perhaps remember, and naturally I used the air to. convey messages to . my electors. As for inconsequentiality, after a check I found that the matter contained in six of my broadcasts, w.as used by the Sydney Morning Herald on the following Monday morning. As a matter of’ fact, the only item not reprinted’ in that journal related to additions to Mr. Henderson’s luxurious residence which were made during the darkest days of the war and about which ‘ there was some comment in this House. If there was anything political in that, the polities’ were certainly not in favour of Mr. Henderson. Every word of his evidence before the committee was full of spleen and Mas. He lashed this way and that; he did not want parliamentarians to examine him because he regarded himself as a little dictator. How dare they bring him before them and question him ? That was his attitude despite the fact that his activities have caused the Fairfaxes to pull the blind down early in the mornings. It is obvious that the Fairfaxes are worried about the future of their newspaper and we can assume what they will do before very long. Mr. Henderson also made other serious statements about this agreement. He referred to a conversation which had taken place between himself and our late revered Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, in which Mr. Curtin is alleged to have said in effect, “ Had I given a line to the politicians they would have been boosting themselves over the air.” That statement shocked the committee,, and when it was subsequently published it was characterized as views, not news. That, of course, was sufficient to condemn it. Mr. Henderson led the committee to believe that it did not matter to the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association what kind of news service’ the commission got; he was not concerned about it. If it .did not matter anything to Mr. Henderson, why did -he become so mad about it; why did he lash himself into a veritable fury over- it? I. understand that after he had completed, his evidence he wrote a. series-, of letters to other witnesses -who had given evidence before the committee asking why they had attacked him. He has the fuehrer complex and fights the people about him, which makes us think he believed there, was more behind the proposal for an independent news service than he would have us know. It is obvious that he feared an independent news service because something might be brought out into the light of day which he would rather should remain hidden. He would prefer to have over-all coverage of news by one organization in which he would act as a kind of commercial entrepreneur, the very thing that has brought journalism down to the level that it has reached to-day. City newspapers are “ smarming “ the whole thing over with misrepresentation, and the advance guard is led by the. president of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association who has condemned the independent news service. Either news is to be reported faithfully or it is to be “cooked up “ to suit this one or that. In the main, journalists do the job for which they are paid and present the news fairly; there are others, however, who are prepared to do what they are told. The average reporter is sick and tired as is also the public of sausage-machine journals with their comic strips and sexy cartoons. If an independent news service will give a fresher approach to the news whether from overseas or local sources, we shall have achieved a highly desirable objective. The question of price is a matter of pure speculation. It has been said that this service, may cost £200,000. A sensible news editor who had been accustomed to handling news in his own way said that he could supply such a service for £80,000. If an independent news service will bring freshness, warmth and clean reporting into the air and into the 3,000,000 homes throughout Australia in which radio receivers are installed its cost will be fully justified.
There are many aspects of the bill that I should like to discuss, but owing to the lateness of the hour, I conclude by saying that the minority report of the Broadcasting Committee is entirely- lacking in judgment and knowledge of the subject. Generally, minority reports are courageous; they are brought forward by men who believe that the majority may be brutally wrong. But the minority report of the Broadcasting Committee is the most arrant piece of “stoogery” that I have ever read. The evidence shows in parts that the chairman or his deputy cross-examined witnesses in the tersest terms, but it was obvious that such terseness in examination was only in fun. The minority report was written in the twinkling of an eye. and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis and his colleagues, who signed it, sought to sabotage the independent news service. I exclude the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) who misunderstands rather than seeks to mislead. If we have this independent news service, who cares if it costs £50,000 or £60,000 more than- the present service, provided the people of Australia get the kind of news they want presented in the way they like it presented !
– I was one of the signatories of the minority report, and I had some share in its compilation. I challenge the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to compare the minority and majority reports with the evidence sub,mitted to the committee, and then say whether he can justify some of the statements he has. just made.
It was amusing to hear the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson), who is a member of the Broadcasting. Committee, talking of biased press reports. In all my experience, nothing more biased than the majority report of the committee has ever come to my notice. It completely violates every principle which should be observed in assessing the value of evidence. The one redeeming feature of the majority report is that one of the four members who signed it actually blushed when they had to do so, because they knew they were, violating their own conscience and offering a gratuitous insult to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, whose responsibility it is to advise the committee. The commission was established to take charge of broadcasting, and a manager was appointed. That body has been divested of all power and authority, but it is expected to do its job in the interests .of broadcasting and of the people.’ The Broadcasting Committee .has deliberately ignored 95 per cent, of the evidence submitted in favour of the agreement. I do not support the agreement at all. The committee had to consider the agreement which had already been determined between the commission, the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association ‘ and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, covering a trial period of twelve months. The Broadcasting . Committee asked members of the commission to give evidence regarding it, and it also invited the news editor of the commission to express his views. One of the employees, Mr. Dixon, is the infallible gentleman about whom we have heard a great deal.
The members of the commission gave their evidence in a painstaking way. Neither1 the chairman nor the manager was adverse to a direct news-gathering service, but, as they had to ask for more revenue to enable ‘the service to be instituted, they were not willing to commit themselves to a known expenditure up to £200,000. They asked for a year in which to examine the position. A desperate effort has been made by supporters of the Government to justify the unjustifiable, by casting aspersions on persons such as the chairman of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. Mr. Henderson’ did not give evidence before the committee as the representative of the Sydney Morning Herald, but on behalf of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. It is not playing cricket to besmirch the characters of witnesses because they give evidence fearlessly. I sat back and enjoyed Mr. Henderson’s evidence. I like to hear a man speak as fearlessly as he did. Some members of the committee felt uncomfortable in his presence. A characteristic pastime of honorable members oposite is to besmirch the reputations of newspaper proprietors in order to excuse what they cannot justify by reason or logic. What relation had the speech of the honorable member for Parkes to the report of the Broadcasting Committee ?
The ramifications of the bill, which has been brought down in the dying hours of a dying parliament, are so wide that at least a week should be allowed for investigation of the matters under discussion, before we shall be competent to express an opinion on them. The Government is rushing the measure through the House because it is afraid to act decently by postponing consideration of the bill until after the general elections. The reputation of witnesses has been sullied, because they hold opinions contrary to those of the shamefaced majority of the Broadcasting Committee, who are still conscious-stricken over their action. I have great respect for Mr. Dixon, whom I regard as a capable officer. The chairman and general manager of the commission, I think, will both agree on that. The committee assessed the value of his evidence before leaving Sydney, and decided that the evidence with regard to news services should be put on one side for a year. Despite what the honorable member for Bourke has said, Mr. Hanlon did agree with the rest of the commission. He had a contrary opinion which he expressed to the commission, but he said that as the majority had reached an agreement, he as a democrat would not oppose the opinion of the others.
– A journalist of 40 years’ experience would not make a statement of that kind and then repudiate what he had said. The honorable member has put him in a false light.
– He said that he had expressed a contrary view, but as the majority of the commission was against him he concurred in their decision.
– He was not in’ favour of the agreement.
- Mr. Dixon’s evidence was incomplete. When the committee questioned him, he and every other witness admitted that it was impracticable for the commission to establish a worldwide news gathering organization, as it was quite beyond its capacity to foot the bill, but he said that the commission would also get news from agencies. I asked him deliberately whether those agency sources would be available, and he replied, “ I do not know “. When he was asked the’ cost of providing the service, he said that he did not know.
– Would npt the Australian Broadcasting Commission have its London office? Would, not the newstapes running there be available to tap the news which the commission wanted, and would it not have a chance to change agencies ?
– The honorable member may be a journalist, but he is not a member of the Broadcasting Committee. Mr. Dixon said that Reuters’ newsagency, from which he hoped to get news, would probably not be available to him, but he stated that American agencies were likely to be available. Whether he was right or wrong, a majority of the committee gave a verdict in his favour, and completely ignored the whole of the commission’s evidence. The people who are to be responsible for carrying out the provision for the establishment of this service were completely ignored by the majority of the committee. That is condoned by the Government in thisbill. How does it expect to hold the commission together? In commissions, as in the Army, when politics interferes with management, chaos results. The provisions relating to the news are based on recommendations made by the majority of the committee that were based on the evidence of people who did not know the facts, because the only authenticevidence about cost came from the very much despised Mr. Henderson. Because he controls a leading daily newspaper, he has a knowledge of thecost of gathering news, and he said that it would cost the commission to gather news not so much as it cost a daily newspaper, but that he estimated that the cost would be anything from £100,000 to £110,000 a year. That will be the outlay on a news service of a commission’ that has just asked us for more money to enable it to meet its commitments. Iinvite the honorable member for Parkes to note the irony of the following recommendation of the majority of the members of the Broadcasting Committee, on which clause 5 is based -
The act should be amended to provide that the Commission shall -
establish its own independent service in respect of Australian news;
The humour of that, after everything that the commission had to say in evidence before the committee has been utterly ignored ! The recommendation continues -
Deems fit ! What does it matter what the commission deems fit when its evidence is ignored ? It disgusts me that the Government should enforce its will on the Parliament; to condone such shabby treatment of one of its instrumentalities. I am sorry to be associated with such a deplorable action. I am one of the minority, but I will back our view before any tribunal as a truer indication of the position than the biased majority report on which the Government excuses bringing down this monstrosityfor our consideration in the dying hours of the Parliament. The recommendation proceeds - as well as from such independent sources as the Commission deems it desirable to use;
We have no objection to that part.I come now to clause 18 the piece de resistance. I have asked for an explanationof that clause, and two or three have told me that it means something about network control, whereas not one syllable of it refers to that subject. I do not blame the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) for suggesting that it is one of those sneaky little clauses that give the Government control over something that, when the bill is brought down, the public is not aware of. I know of several acts that contain sections that are undesirable from the point of view of every one except the Government. Clause 18 which applies to commercial broadcasting stations, reads -
Section one hundred and seven of the Principal Act is amended by omitting all the words after the words “ and in particular “ and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs: - “ - (a) for varying or adding to the conditions governing the erectionor operation of commercial broadcasting stations or an appliance for which a broadcast listener’s licence is required to be held; and
Paragraph a is understandable, because the Parliament al ready wields powers of that kind. But listen to what follows: -
Not one syllable of that could be recognized as having any relation to the explanation that I have been given as to the meaning of the paragraph. I submitted it to a prominent King’s Counsel who- said, “ It is wide open. A3 far as the law is concerned, they can do anything “. In substance, he said, “ The Government can control every activity of the commercial broadcasting stations “. That . may not be the intention of the proposed new provision, but that is the interpretation placed upon it. The Minister has to explain it. That is all I have to say, except that the bill should not have been brought down in these circumstances. We should at least have time to consider it. I deplore the desperate excuses offered for it by not only .members of the Broadcasting Committee but also other supporters of the Government, who feel guilty about such a bill having been introduced in spite of the advice of members of an instrumentality created by the Commonwealth Parliament.
.. - The case against the establishment of . an independent Australian Broadcasting Commission news service must be weak indeed when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has to rely on such absurd contentions as he advanced. His main contention was that the establishment of an independent news service could not be justified unless it could first be proved that the journalists employed by the daily newspapers were dishonest in the performance of their duties. The right honorable gentleman is not so inexperienced as to be unaware that there are from time to time such things as newspaper campaigns directed by the proprietors of the newspapers or that from time to time there are editorial directions that prominence be given to certain aspects of the news and that other aspects be played down. He cannot be ignorant tha.t some newspaper proprietors choose to play up statements of one man and play down statements of another. It is, in fact, unnecessary to make any accusation of dishonesty even against the newspaper proprietors to maintain the correctness of the assertion that they do from time to time indulge in campaigns and give instructions that result in playing up and playing down.
– Would that not apply in any agency?
– I will deal with that. It is, in fact, very difficult with every desire to be objective, to be fair and impartial in a news report. Let us, for example, take the debate in which we are now engaged. In whatever newspaper it is re’ported, unless a verbatim account of the proceedings is given, the report will commence somewhat as follows : - “ In the House of Representatives to-day the Australian Broadcasting Bill was considered “. It will be necessary for the person preparing the report to pick and choose the portions which he considers are’ of sufficient news value to be included in the newspaper report, and what shall be left out. It will also he necessary to decide what statements shall be given prominence. An editor who believes that the case against the establishment of an independent news service by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is overwhelmingly strong, will almost inevitably regard as most important and worthy of public attention the statements made during the debate against the establishment of such a service. Similarly, the editor of a newspaper who is convinced that it is essential to establish such a service, will give prominence to those arguments which, in his opinion, were the most important because they put the case for the establishment of the service. Again, a newspaper proprietor who is a believer in the theories of Douglas credit will regard statements, speeches and articles espousing that cause as ha ving great news value: Accordingly, by. his direction, those statements will be given most prominence in his newspaper. Another newspaper proprietor who is bitterly opposed to the taxing of land according to its unimproved value will naturally, and not necessarily wrongly, give prominence to. denunciations of the principles advocated by Henry George. As I have said, it is most difficult to be impartial in the presentation of news, particularly when thousands of items have to be sifted and summarized, and a selection from them presented in the daily press. But it is particularly difficult for working journalists to be completely objective and impartial, and to follow what in their own minds is the correct course, when they are the paid employees of proprietors who hold entirely different views. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) chose to rest his case on the assertion that either journalists must .be proved to be dishonest or the case for the establishment of an independent news service must fall to the ground. The right honorable gentleman would be the first person to assert the right of the newspaper proprietor to hire and “ fire and particularly to “fire”, those journalists on the staff of his newspaper who did not fall in with his views as to what was the most important aspect or angle of news, and did not play it up in accordance with editorial directions. The fact that the right honorable gentleman so bitterly opposed the establishment of an independent news, service by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a good reason’ why such a service should be established. Monopoly control of the supply of news’ to the Australian public is a bad thing. It is a good thing when the public has the choice of a number of independent news services. It is all to the advantage of the Australian public that they should have an additional news service, independently conducted by men who have no other end to serve than the presentation, fairly and honestly, of the news of theday through the great instrumentality of radio. I believe that it would be. a good thing if further competitive independent news services were established. I should like to see more healthy competition in the presentation :of news over the air; I should like to see the “ B class stations given every facility to provide their own independent ‘news services in competition with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We cannot have too many independent news .. services in Australia.
– This bill is too important to be .rushed through in this way. Although the hour is late, I express my disapproval of such action. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that an expenditure of probably £250,000 is involved in the proposal before us. That expenditure would be a colossal waste at a time when there should be a pruning of government expenditure. The Government has said that it will reduce taxes, and already it has made some reductions.
– Order 1 The honorable member may not proceed along those lines.
– This is avoidable expenditure, and, in any case, a decision could wait until after the forthcoming elections. Should the Government be returned to power, it could then go ahead with its proposal; but if not, the incoming government could give the mattei further consideration. When I was in Great Britain some time ago, I listened carefully to broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Corporation. In my opinion, the programmes from the Australian Broadcasting Commission compare more than favorably with those from the British Broadcasting Corporation. The establishment of the committee which this bill proposes to set up will, as the Leader of the Opposition, said, be a menace to the stability of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I was opposed to the establishment of the Broadcasting Committee. A lot of time of members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is wasted . through having to attend sittings of the committee.- I’ have heard a rumour that, if the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) loses his seat at the forthcoming election, he is likely to be appointed general manager . of this organization.
– The answer to that rumour is that the honorable member for Parkes will not lose his seat.
– Apparently the honorable member’s qualification for the position is the loss of his seat. More than one member of this Parliament has heard that rumour.
– If the honorable member has not some contribution to make to the discussion of the bill before the Chair, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– That is an extraordinary statement to come from the Chair. I am entitled-
– The honorable member is entitled to discuss the bill.
– A Labour man never fights with a funk-hole behind him as a Liberal does. . ‘ ‘ ‘’.’*
– That interjection is not’ to be answered. The honorable member for Balaclava must address the Chair.
– Every honorable member is entitled to his opinion. The honorable member for Parkes was offensive to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis).
– Order ! That is a reflection on the Chair. The honorable member for Moretori can protect himself.
– The Chair did not protect him.
– The Chair will not again draw the attention of the honorable member for Balaclava to his conduct. He must discuss the bill.
– I do not intend to say any more. I can see the way the discussion is tending.
– This is one. of the most extraordinary bills ever introduced during the dying . hours of a Parliament. I listened attentively to the debate in an endeavour to obtain a clarification of the reason for the measure. It is surprising that, at a time when the Government should effect economies, this venture should be undertaken without any apparent regard for the cost. Clause 5 makes it compulsory for the’ Australian Broadcasting Commission, regardless of the expense, to set up an Australian and overseas newsgathering organization of its own. From what I have been able to learn, the commission does not desire to do so. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, on the occasion of the appointment of the present chairman of’ the commission, gave to the nation a guarantee that the commission would be free from political interference in its own proper sphere. Therefore, operating in that sphere many months ago, the- commission entered into draft agreements with the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association and the Australian Associated Press. The agreements were to continue and expand the right that the commission has had for a long period to use news gathered by those two organizations. I understand that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had the right to select the news before it- was sub-edited by the employees of those two organizations. The alternative was for the commission to set up its own news-gathering organizations. The commission rejected as being hopelessly expensive the course which this bill will force it to take. In- ‘ deed, the commission was of the opinion that its interests would best be served by entering into agreements rather than by embarking on the- expensive business of establishing its own news-gathering organizations. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) has power to veto expenditures by the commission exceeding £5,000, and that power, together with the Government’s majority on the Broadcasting Committee, was used to prevent the execution of those draft agreements. The Government’s majority on the Broadcasting Committee was unwise enough to indicate various alleged reasons for its action. Believing’ that the’ reasons were to be taken seriously, the commission went’ out of its way to meet them. Further agreements, were drawn up which, as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) pointed out, provided a complete safeguard against sub-editorial or editorial slanting of the news on which the commission desired to draw. That is an important aspect of the agreements. The Australian Broadcasting Commission had the right to sub-edit or edit the basic news -at its disposal in order that no slant need be given to the items which it used. But the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) and the Government’s majority on the Broadcasting Committee objected to those agreements. Disregarding the evidence of experts in the field of journalism on the huge costs involved, the Government’s majority on the committee recommended the proposal now contained in .the bill. I was impressed by the statement of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) that the committee should be guided by experts on the cost of the establishment of the independent service rather than by those with a knowledge of news-gathering.
If that he so, why has not the Government been guided by the expert knowledge of the Australian Broadcasting Commission ?
What will be the cost of the independent news service? Various estimates have been given during this debate. An amount of £250,000 was mentioned as the sum required to give an efficient service. Honorable members should be given a frank statement of the cost. Then we shall be able to set that cost against the value of the service, because now more than ever before, we are entitled to value for money expended. The people are tired of paying heavy taxes, and substantial relief cannot be given until the Government reduces escapable expenditure. This is not the time to enter into .such a costly and obscure undertaking as th’at proposed in the bill. Clause 18 causes me concern, because I believe that it is designed to implement in no uncertain way the Government’s fundamental policy of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. This bill is in accordance with the Government’s policy to socialize the means of the communication of news. It is disgraceful that this bill, which con-‘ tains such an important principle and which will entail the expenditure of such large sums, should be presented to the Parliament at this . late stage of the session. I protest emphatically not only against its introduction now, but also against its contents.
– Having been engaged in the perusal of another measure, I have not had an opportunity to study the bill in detail. However, as a listener, I am interested in this proposal, and I have no doubt the majority of listeners throughout Australia also are interested in it. As an ordinary listener I am anxious to know about anything that happens pertaining- to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The speech made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) struck me as the speech of a suspicious individual. He is a journalist, and, undeniably, during his career he has lent some colour to news. As he spoke I wondered how one could expect him to give the clear, factual interpretation of news . which people desire. He seemed to have & grudge against Mr. Henderson. The Sydney Morning Herald means nothing to me. Probably the majority of my constituents know little about that newspaper. But I have travelled around the world, and from my experiences I can say that the Sydney Morning Herald is so much better than the worst, and so little worse than the best, as to make it one of the finest papers in the world. The honorable member for Parkes seems to approach this debate from the point of - view of self interest.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has made an implication which is offensive to me. He is attempting to build up on the libellous allegation made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that a certain position is waiting for me should I lose my seat in this House.-
– The honorable member has not raised a point or order.
– The’ honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) declared that the newspapers carry on campaigns. That is so; but an independent Australian Broadcasting Commission news service could do the same. Recently, suspicions have arisen because -it has been alleged that the commission’s news has been coloured in favour of the Government. A government news service, like some ‘high public servants, would tend to lean towards the Government in power. But that practice cuts both ways. The allegation made against the commission in this respect may not be correct; but I have seen something of the working of this Parliament, and I believe that the allegation contains a grain of truth.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I rise to order. Is not an honorable member entitled to discuss what newspapers may, or may not report, or what news the commission may collect?
– The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– I thought that we were discussing what could take place under a government-controlled news service.
– The bill is. to amend the Australian Broadcasting Act, and not with the newspapers.
– It can be inferred from the bill that the commission will.. set up .an independent news service. It has been said that the newspapers play up certain news. I submit that the commission’s service also -could play up certain news. I understand that, under the proposed agreement between the commission and the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, the commission was to be allowed to place men in newspaper -offices where they would be’ enabled, to collect factual news. Under that arrangement, the commission’s representatives could place their own interpretation upon the news which would subsequently be broadcast. I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to say whether that was the proposal made to -the commission by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. As ‘an ordinary listener I do not want to hear -news which is coloured in the interests of any political party. I want to hear factual news. The newspapers’ representatives throughout the world- to-day collect news which at base is factual. I do not believe, for instance, that the news which Mr. Massey Stanley sends from Japan is coloured- to serve the interests of Sir Keith Murdoch. I refuse to believe that were - that .gentleman employed by the commission to send news from Tokyo he would .send news which was not basic news. The expenditure involved in this proposal cannot be justified.
– The commission’s representatives obtaining news from newspaper offices would only be able to read proofs.
– They would be given the factual news coming in from all parts of the world, and ‘they could then interpret the news in their own way. I believe that the offer made by the newspaper proprietors to the commission was that they would supply factual news to “the commission’s representatives who were to be placed in certain newspaper -offices. In effect, the newspapers would say to such officers, “-If you like to colour that news, you can do so; but we will not colour it “.
– It would’ be a case of the commission representatives being given news after the newspapers had coloured it.
– That is nonsense. I have no need to worry myself about the press. However, I know some of the leading newspaper men in this country, and I know that they are as genuine and decent as is any honorable member. The next point I wish to make is this: How much of the bill is party political, and how much of it .is based on business principles? Of course, honorable members opposite are pledged to a policy of socialization. They are out to take control of everything. But ‘this proposal means that the commission will simply duplicate existing news services throughout the world, and waste public money in doing so. Is .that political philosophy, or good business? If the commission can place its own men in the newspaper offices, and thus obtain factual news and interpret it for themselves, the expenditure df £250,000 on this proposal cannot be justified. The cost may not be so high, but it is significant that the Minister has not given any estimate of the cost. The -members of this Parliament can be likened to the directors of the nation, the firm of Australia; and, in this instance, it may be .said that our manager asks .us to do certain things, but does not place before us the cost involved in his proposal: .Such ,a procedure would not be tolerated for a moment by a strong and efficient board of directors. Apparently, that is what is. placed before the House by the Government, with . a complete absence of any business instinct. The Government is asking the people to sign a blank cheque. I, representing 70,000 people, the.great bulk of whom are wireless .listeners, am not prepared to sign a blank cheque. That may be the Government’s way of doing .business. It is not mine. If it.be the Government’s way, sooner or later it will push this country over .the precipice. It is heading in that direction. The sooner the people realize that .madmen are at the helm so far as the finances of this country are concerned, the better will it be. Probably, they will then elect a new board of directors to govern this country. If this independent news service- cost? £250,000, that sum must come out of the revenue contributed by listeners. It stands to reason that if the standard of programmes is to be maintained, the listeners must pay a higher charge. If they do not, the standard must drop, unless the Australian Broadcasting Commission enters the commercial field, and thus becomes other than a .completely independent body, financed by the people and giving to them the class of entertainment it considers will elevate their minds. I have studied the operations of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the American Broadcasting Corporation. The - Australian system, under which an entirely independent service, run by the people through the agency of a commission, operates side by side with commercial stations’, is a good one. I am not inclined to have duplication which will depreciate the value of the service that listeners have the right to expect from the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Apparently, tho newspaper proprietors have offered to supply a news service for £20,000 a year. That is not a very big amount, and the difference between it and the £250,000 is considerable. In many respects the newspaper proprietors have acted foolishly. The Sydney journals did so when they declined to make space available free of charge for the printing’ of the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That service would have a news value. Newspaper proprietors would be foolish were they to demand a high price for their news. I do not say that £20,000 a year is not a fair amount to ask the Australian Broadcasting Commission to pay for the right to select in the newspaper offices the news that it shall broadcast, and to interpret it according to its own ideas. I do not regard myself as competent to determine the amount that should be paid. All that I can. say is that I do not think that those controlling the newspapers would be put to greater expense in the collection of the news supplied to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On the other hand, it is only right that they should make some charge for that news. I do not believe that the broadcasting of news has a detrimental effect on the circulation of newspapers. On the contrary, I believe that most people like to hear the news broadcast, and then to read it in the press. I do, and I regard myself as typical of the majority. If I hear over the air any news that excites my interest, I like to read the details in a newspaper. Therefore, I believe that the broadcasting of news reacts to the interests of the newspapers. In my view, the step that the Government i3 now taking savours more of political philosophy than of anything else. It is bad business to spend £250,000 on what can be obtained for about £20,000, especially to-day, when the people are overtaxed and badly need to have their taxes reduced in order that they may have a- greater incentive to increase production.
– I had not intended to speak on this bill. But I am impelled to discuss some provisions of it that have been freely dealt with, because I believe that important principles are involved. Section 25 of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942 provides that the Australian Broadcasting Commission may collect, in such manner as it thinks fit, news and information relating to current events in any part of the world, ‘’ and may subscribe to news agencies. That gives freedom to the commission to collect news, and place it before the people of the Commonwealth in the fairest light. A majority of the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission have been associated in the past with Labour politics. Therefore, nobody can say that the Labour party in Australia, and the Government, are not adequately represented on the commission, and that it is unlikely that a fair account of their views will not be placed before the people. The commission also has ‘the power to set ap its own news-gathering service if it so desires, conditional .upon the PostmasterGeneral agreeing to an expenditure exceeding £5,000. Apparently the commission has not at any time requested the Government to amend the act in the way now proposed,, nor has it so far seen fit to set up . its own -news-gathering service and to discard the service it has been using. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made a long contribution to the debate.
– And a very good one.
– It was good from his point of view. I always listen to him with keen interest, because I know “that he holds a high place in journalism of a certain type. He is noted for those delightful feminine romances which are so beloved of adolescents. He is in some respects similar to the person described in the following lines from one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas:-
Conceive me if you can ‘ A matter -tff-fact young man, An utter poetical, super aesthetical Out-of-the-way young man.
No one could deny, when- looking at his broad, handsome forehead, that he qualifies in some respects for a comparison with Gilbert’s aesthetical young man. In his speech, he made it quite clear that he did not favour giving the public a fair cover of the news of the world and of the Commonwealth. What he wanted was to give them a service tainted with the views of the political party to which, he belongs. This is borne out by the fact that, in referring to Mr. Dawes, a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and a former Labour member of the Parliament of South Australia, he described him as a “ weak sister “. This was because he had not fallen for the attempt to foist upon the public a tainted news service. The honorable member said that the news service provided by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association was not suitable, and failed to put the Labour point of view before the people as it should be put. Probably the honorable member would like only the Labour point of view to be put before the people. The bill provides that section 25 of the Australian Broadcasting Act shall be repealed and in its place the following new section be inserted : - “25. - (1.) The Commission shall ‘broadcast daily from all national broadcasting stations regular sessions of news and information relating to current events within the Commonwealth and in other parts of the world. “ (2.) The Commission shall employ an adequate staff, both in the Commonwealth and in overseas countries, for the purpose of collecting the news and information to be broadcast in pursuance of this section “(3.) The Commission may also procure news and- information relating - to current events in other parts of the world from such overseas news agencies and other ‘oversea* sources as it thinks fit.’’.
It is a matter not of whether the newsagency is suitable or hot, but of whether it is favoured by the Minister of the day. Clause 21 of the principal act provides that no expenditure shall be entered into by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of more than £5,000 or for more , than five years without the prior consent of the Minister. Thus, if the commission seeks to take its news service from an agency overseas of which the Minister does not approve and the cost amounts to more than £5,000 the Minister will have the right to veto its proposal. In effect, the Minister will have the right of selection because he will have the right of rejection. He can reject any’ news service the colour of which he does not like. He could cut out all news services until only the Tass agency of Russia was left, if he were a Minister with leanings towards the Communist party.
– The honorable member would like the people to get their news from a fascist agency.
– The Minister is an authority on fascism. Never before have we had such a fascist-minded Minister. Honorable members will not quickly forget the time when, without due authority, he seized the newspapers and newspaper offices in Sydney. . The purpose of this bill appears to be to place in the hands of a fascist-minded Minister power to determine the kind of news which shall be broadcast to the people. Clause 25 is typical of what was done in all dictator countries in Europe. In the fascist countries of Germany, Italy and Spain the - first act of the fascists when coming into power was to obtain a monopoly of the radio services, which they compelled to broadcast such news as suited the government in power. I am sorry that I have to expose this plot which has been hatched in caucus to destroy the freedom of action of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to bind it to the Government. Of course the’ present bill is only a . beginning. Later, the act will be further amended to provide for the giving of instructions to the commission that it must broadcast -exactly what the Government dictates.
– Evidently the honorable member believes that the Labour Government will be returned.
– I do not fear that at all, but I am fearful that the rights of the people of Australia may be interfered with by a government, irrespective of its political ‘ complexion, if the clause is retained. The commission holds the -scales of -justice evenly and ‘ presents factual news. It should be kept untrammelled and politically unbiased. Ever juice this Government took office, it has interfered in the commission’s affairs. 5£r. Calwell. - That is not true.
– It has deliberately tried - to interfere with the commission, -and exercise political influence upon’ the commission’s decisions. In this bill, the nigger who has been hiding in the wood pile is revealed. This is the most iniquitous clause that has ever been incorporated in any bill submitted to the Parliament. By a proposal worthy of a Hitler, ;a .Franco or a Stalin, !this Government seeks to filch from the people their rights, and from the commission its authority to ensure that the .people’s rights shall be preserved. If the Government does hot agree to delete the clause, the people will rise up in their wrath against it -on the 28th September and return to office a new government which will immediately bring down an amending bill to remove the offending section from the act.
Mir. CALWELL (Melbourne- Minister for Immigration and Minister for infor- ma.tion) [4,43 a:m.]. - in reply - Proposed new section 25, which the irrational’ and erratic .member for New England (Mt. Abbott) has just quoted, appears in exactly the same language as section 22 of the act of 1932. Whilst the commission administered that provision in the spirit of the legislation, no trouble arose. Difficulties developed only- when1 the commission began «> tie itself up with the newspaper interests, whose cause has been so vociferously championed by honorable members opposite, from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) down to- the imbecile ‘member for New England. Honorable members opposite have bitterly opposed two provisions; one is proposed new section 25 which will allow the commission to conduct an independent .news service, and the other is clause 18, which proposes to regulate the activities of the networks which have grown up under the control of broadcasting in this country. Proposed new section-;26 does not take away any powers from the commission ; as a matter of fact, it proposes to endow the commission with even greater power and responsibility. The story which we have heard unfolded this morning is not a spontaneous effort on the part of honorable members opposite. They have had their briefs from the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. What has been said here this morning was said, in the Senate only two nights ago. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in ‘the Senate (Senator Leckie) said in respect of clause 5 -
This is the vital clause of the bill and the Opposition proposes to vote against it.
Honorable members opposite have had plenty -of time to study their briefs. The honorable- member for New England never comes into Ah is House without a brief, amd on this .occasion he has ‘been briefed by the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. The story of broadcasting in this country is a very simple one-. Those who passed the original Australian Broadcasting Act through this Parliament .belonged to the same political party as do honorable members opposite. Early in the history of broadcasting in this, country, attempts were made to secure monopoly control -over the commercial station licences, and the position became- so desperate that the then Minister for Defence, Mr. - now Sir Archdale - Parkhill, who later lost -his seat to the honorable member for Warringah ‘(Mr-. Spender),, said <on the 3rd December. 1935-
We have ‘growing- up ‘in this country a monopoly of newspapers and broadcasting which,, in combination, constitute a danger that thi*. Parliament cannot ‘view with equanimity, and. steps should be ‘taken to deal’ with it. Let us consider what has happened recently. Thepress has decided that information cabled toAustrafia shall come only from one source. The people of this nation get only what the press cares to give them. That is’ wrong in principle, and is a powerful’ argument in favour of such a public utility as broadcasting being in the hands of the Government.
Those remarks were made by a- gentleman who has no sympathy with the political philosophy of honorable, members on this side of the House, but who was at least honest enough to face the danger which confronted this country and to attempt to do something to meet the situation. The. degeneracy of the political party to which he belonged at that time has gone so far that all we have heard in this morning’s debate is a series of apologias from people who- are but the “stooges-“ of the very people- whom he condemned. He was then fighting the newspaper interests, who were trying to get control of the broadcasting stations. The then Leader of the Labour party in this House, the late Mr. Curtin, supported his1 contentions, and the present honorable- member for Barker (Mr, Archie Cameron) had this to say -
I support the case” submitted by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) on this question of broadcasting. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) agreeing with the policy and the attitude of the Government on this question:, so far as it goes and T am in* full agreement with the sentiment expressed by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that broadcasting should he under national control, because I contend that broadcasting is on all fours with such public utilities as the post office, the telegraph and the telephones, which this Parliament has seen fit to place under the control of the PostmasterGeneral, and I do not know of a.ny authority in the Commonwealth more .competent to deal with thi* further public utility than the PostmasterGeneral.
The Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, set up the Gibson Committee, and gave it power to compol representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and anybody else it wished” to summon, to. obtain the facts about broadcasting. It was the Curtin Government which carried out the recommendations of the Gibson Committee,, including the setting. up of a parliamentary committee on- broadcasting. TheLeader of the Opposition supported that, yet he now says that the BroadcastingCommittee is interfering with” the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Whether there is. a committee or not, nobody can deny the right of theParliament to tell the commission toestablish an independent news-gathering * service. There is good reason why the commission’s news should not be tainted, but should be free of influence from the press. The Leader of the Opposition asked, “Is it suggested that a journalist, would tamper with the news? Would a working journalist in London or Australia, colour the news?” That there is a tampering with the news is confirmed by people much more eminent than the Leader of the Opposition will be, and more eminent than any spokesman in this debate is ever likely to be. I shall quote an opinion expressed by -the Right Honorable Stanley Baldwin, in Hamilton Fyfe’s, Press Parade - Behind the Scenes of the .Newspaper Backet and the
Millionaires’ Attempt at Dictatorship. T find that Earl Baldwin, as he later became, stated in 1931 -
What are the methods of the press? Their methods are. direct falsehood, misrepresentation, half-truths, alteration of the speakers’ meaning by putting sentences apart from their context, suppression.
Earl Baldwin was never a Labour man. He did not represent Labour thought’, but his experience with the press taught him to employ those words. We on this side have a healthy suspicion that everything he said was right, and that public utilities should not be debauched at the hands of the Hendersons and the Murdochs, who, from 1944 onwards, have sought to get control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service so that they could do their work for capitalism, and send representatives into Parliament like the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and his colleagues on the Opposition side.
The point has been raised that the sum of £200,000 is too much for the commission to bear, or for the country to have to pay for an independent, news service. The concession which the Postal Department makes to-day to the press in various ways amounts to £900,000 a year. If concessional rates were not given, the PostmasterGeneral would have £900,000 more in his revenues, and from that sum the amount of £206,000 can be used to maintain a really independent news service - as independent as Sir Archdale Parkhill, the honorable member for Barker, and all decent Australians want it to be.
– Is there not sufficient power now?
– Under the existing section 25, which is to be repealed by the bill, a discretionary power is given to the commission. The clause in this bill, which the House will undoubtedly accept, makes it mandatory on the commission to do what it has had power to do since 1932. Now I come to the honorable member* for Moreton (Mr. Francis) who has made the extraordinary’ statement that from time to time he has pleaded for better treatment of invalid, old-age and service pensioners, in respect of broadcasting rights. I have been a mem ber of this chamber for six years, but I have never heard him ask a question on that matter, or make a speech concerning it. I can only attribute his claim to one of those hallucinations for which he has long been notorious.
Referring again to the matter of an independent news service, I quote the following from the evidence given. on the 10th July, 1941, by Mr. W. J. Cleary before the Broadcasting Committee presided over by Senator Gibson -
On the 10th December, Mr. Parkhill wrote .to me, enclosing a copy of the schedule, and stating that the commission would confer a tremendous benefit on the public if it were to arrange its own cable service and collect its own news. By doing so, it would place the commission and the Australian people outside the grasp of any monopoly.
Tb at is the case, and I ask honorable members to vote on it.
Question put -
That the bill he now read a second time. .
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy SPEAKER - Mb. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave-read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of External Affairs - H. D. Anderson, B. D. Beddie, A. H. Body, A. H. Borthwick. F. B. Hall, R. N. Hancock, B. C. Hill, D. M. Hodgkinson, G. A. Jockel,K. I. Jones, W. A. G. Landale, J. D. Petherbridge, A. P. Renouf, G. A. Richardson, J.R. Rowland, R. P. Throssell, L. D. Tilbury, H. N. Truscott.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Eagle Farm, Queensland.
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1944-45.
House adjourned at 5.6 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In reply to the honorable gentleman’s questions 1 to 5, see my reply to the. honorable member who asked a similar question on the 19th July, 1946.
In amplification of this reply, I, wish to state that I travelled not only to Rockhampton and Bundaberg in my own electorate, but also on a number of occasions I travelled to other States, in service transport aircraft similar to the type in which the honorable. , gentleman himself frequently travels between Canberra and Melbourne. In addition, I made many trips in commercial aircraft. I made these visits sometimes when Acting Prime Minister and at other times as Acting Minister for Defence and Minister for the Army. Id doing so, I availed myself of the quickest means of transport to which I am entitled as a busy Commonwealth Minister; it is my intention to do so again, whenever it is necessary for me to travel on public business and a suitable plane is available. Not only didI visit the two centres in my electorate where there are suitable aerodromes on which a Douglas aircraft can land, but also on a number of other occasions I visited Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane on public business. I flew to Darwin, Morotai, Borneo and New Guinea in a service Liberator to visit troops. On other occasions 1 visited military camps’ in various States. As Acting Prime Minister, I visited South Australia and Western Australia and received many deputations, conferred with military officers on defence and Army matters, granted interviews to a large number of returned soldiers and met thousands of people in a minimum of time. This would have been quite impossible without availing myself of the facilities of air transport. On each trip I took with me sufficient stuff to cope with the work. Whatever expenditure was incurred on such trips in the course of my duties as a Commonwealth Minister was amply justified. No ministerial car was taken from the Government Transport Department at Canberra to Queensland, but on one occasion last year I took to Queensland an Army car which I am entitled to use as Minister for the Army.
By the use of service aircraft I have been able to pay more frequent visits to my electorate and to other centres in distant States while at the same time attending to my ministerial work, Cabinet meetings and the sittings of Parliament. In the old days, by train, it took a week’s travelling time alone to visit central Queensland, with resultant waste of valuable time. Without modern travel my electors would not have an opportunity to see me for months at a time. In availing myself of a service transport, aircraft to make official visits I was following the precedent laid down by Ministers in the MenziesFadden Government. We all remember, with very great sorrow and regret, that on one occasion three Ministers of a Government led by Mr. Menzies were travelling in a Hudson transport plane which unfortunately crashed and they lost their lives. They were fully entitled to this means of transport, . and no member on the Labour side of the House uttered one -word of criticism. At this time it will be recalled that there was some public discussion of the dangers attendant on several Ministers of the Government travelling in the. same aircraft, lt was. suggested that several Ministers should not be permitted to travel in one plane. The honorable gentleman evidently considers that Commonwealth Ministers in this flying age should use a “ horse-and-buggy “ means of transport with consequent waste of time,’ while he himself, as a private member, has on ‘numerous occasions flown in Douglas service transport aircraft from Canberra to Melbourne and back; therefore, his criticism of the rightful use by a Commonwealth Minister of a Government-owned aircraft comes with very bad grace, and shows that he is vainly endeavouring to make party political capital out of the rightful use of air transport by a busy Commonwealth Minister. In this age of air travel it is a common occurrence for business executives to fly from one State to another in the course of their work, in order to save time. The present Federal Government ia composed of hard-working Ministers who desire to know Australia and its industries and who are determined to travel at regular intervals by the quickest possible means of transport, not only to their own electorates, but also to far-flung States, in order to become thoroughly acquainted with the people’s problems and the industries of the country.
Community Centre at Bulimba.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– My department exercises no control over the hostel referred to by the honorable member. I have requested the Minister for Works and Housing to prepare replies to the other parts of the honorable member’s questions.
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
In view of the disquieting information given to the House by the Minister regarding the decline in the number of dairy cows and dairy calves, and, in view of the early approach of spring, when practically all the new calves will be born and the farmer must make a decision cither to rear new calves or sell themto the butcher, will he take the following steps in those directions that will materially assist to save these dairy calves.: - (a) To induce th* Federal and State Governments to acceleratethe provision of electrical equipment for farmsto those electrical undertakings, like the Clarence and Oxley County Councils, thevarious shires and the Brisbane City ElectricLight Company, which specially cater for rural reticulation, in order to permit of irrigation during the present drought; (6) to implement immediately the finding of the Dairy Advisory Committee that ls. 1. lid. per lb. for butter is necessary to cover present costs of butter production; and (c) to make available to members of this Parliament and to dairymen generally the report of that committee, which was submitted to the Government several months ago?
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The’ answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
L Yes. The report was incorrect 2.. (a) None. (7)1 and: (c) No eeg powd’er was stored in the promises referred to. as al] eg<; powder manufactured in Australia had already been shipped to the United Kingdom.
The Wak1: Expenditure and Credits.
y. - On the 23rd July, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) asked the following questions : -
The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Proceeds from disposals in 1944-45 were £2,600,000 excluding credits to trust accounts. To ascertain the small amount of such credits in 1044-45 would entail a considerable degree of research which is not considered warranted. Proceeds from disposals in 1045-46 were £24.fiS0,000, including credits to trust accounts. The value of disposals effected by the. Commonwealth Disposal’s Commission during 1045-46 was considerably higher than the proceeds actually received by 30th June, 1946. since amounts are still outstanding in. respect of disposals to Commonwealth anc State departments, goods not actually delivered at 30th June, 1:946, and sales in course of settlement with other administrations overseas, (ft) l’944-4o - small, but not readily, available: 1945-4fi - £9,0.”)0.00n. (c) Munitions Trust Accounts, £.6.300.000: Department of Aircraft Production Trust Account, £500.000: Department of Works and Housing Trust Account, £1.500,000; Reciprocal lendlease vote, .£750.000 ; total, £0,030,000.
Recoveries totalling £42,900,000 were in respect of expenditure items as set out above or expenditure of a similar type incurred in earlier years. To analyse these recoveries would impose considerable additional work on the Treasury and the departments concerned, and. in certain instances, would require the obtaining of particulars from overseas. Having regard to the many other duties facing the accounting staffs, the work involved in research is not considered warranted.
Public Service.: Retirement of Overage Officers-.
y:. - Yesterday, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following questions : -
Is the “Prime Minister’ aware that a circular has been issued to government departments with instructions that the services of retired - officials .at present employed temporarily shall be dispensed with by the 3 1 st August? Is he also aware that, owing to the difficulty of accommodating staff in Canberra, a number of experienced retired officials doing valuable work w’ill be discharged without the possibility of their replacement by younger mcn? Is it a fart that the work of some of the departments will be seriously affected if these instructions are strictly enforced’? If so. will the_ Prime Minister take steps to alleviate the position, by retaining retired officers in positions where ex-servicemen or younger officers cannot be obtained to carry on the work?
I am now able to supply the following information: -
The long standing policy of terminating the services of officers at ‘05 years of age was departed from to meet the abnormal conditions operating during the war period and. normal conditions have not .yet been reached, in some departments. Where the continued employment of the “over-ace officers “ is sought ‘ each case is considered on its merits and extensions aire approved where the .circumstances are considered to so warrant. In semp cases in Canberra, extensions have been approved lm to the end’ of August, giving that further time to the departments to arrange necessary relief. It has to be remembered that the employment of an “ over-age officer “, although in perhaps a temporary position, may prevent younger officers from securing experience and possible higher duty payments. This can affect a number of younger officers in the chain of transfers that can follow from the elevation of an officer in one of the higher grades.The matter is being carefully watched by the Public Service Commissioner.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information required by the honorable member is set out in the following tables : -
Rationing: Household Linen.
Mr.Forde. - On the 31st July, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked a question concerning the ration scale for household linen. The
Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
The policy of the Rationing Commission has always been to ease the ration scale whenever supplies actually available or in immediate prospect have improved sufficiently to enable any relief to be granted. The commission is conscious of the fact that the scale for sheets, tablecloths and other items of household linen has been severe for some considerable time, and has been anxious to give some relief in this direction as soon as possible. However, despite efforts to increase the imports of household linen, the supply position is still very unsatisfactory.
With regard to sheetings and calicoes, a considerable proportion has been imported in the past from India. Present indications are that supplies from this source are unlikely to improve in the near future - =in fact, supplies now coming forward from India are less than in previous years. The only other source ofsupply for sheetings and calicoes is the United Kingdom, and supplies programmed from that source have been severely reduced by the United Kingdom authorities.
Other items of household drapery are still in short supply, and the review of the position after the last half yearly census of stocks on 31st January, 1948, revealed that supplies, in general, of all types of household linen which would be available to 31st March, 1947, would be insufficient to meet even the ration demands. ,
With reference to the honorable member’s statement that “ the average housewife has not sufficient coupons with which to purchase these urgently required materials, because of the demands that are made upon the total issue by her purchases of clothing”, I point out that, even under the present system whereby clothing coupons- and ‘ household drapery coupons are not separate, purchases of household drapery are as high as stocks and anticipated future supplies can stand. However, in individual cases where it has been established that there is real hardship arising from shortage of coupons to purchase essential requirements, assistance has been given in the past and will continue to be given.
The commission will again he reviewing the general clothing and household linen position in September, after the completion of the census of stocks held by traders at 31st July this year, and consideration will then be given to easing the scale if possible, though present indications are that the supplies at present held and the supplies anticipated from overseas in the near future will be insufficient to enable any easing, to be made.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - :
With reference to a communication dated the 11 th April, 1945, from Mr, W. T. Hughes, of Brisbane,, to the late Prime Minister, con cerning members of the censorship ‘staff in Brisbane, and which, matters the Prime Minister has stated were earlier fully investigated by the Department of the Army, will he (a) detail the nature of. the investigation* made regarding each allegation made by Mr. Hughes, and (6) indicate in detail what was the appropriate action taken in each case?
– The answer to the right honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Employment of former taxi-cab drivers on the censorship staff. - This referred to a person who had ceased employment in August, 1942. Mr. Hughes advised the investigator that he had nothing to say against taxi-drivers as a class, but thought that men with better qualifications for censorship’ should have .been employed.
Employment of barbers on the censorship staff. - This refers to a person who was employed at the time of the investigation as a supervisor. Mr. Hughes quoted the Commonwealth electoral roll as his authority for this person’s previous employment, because th«occupation stated in the roll was given al “ hairdresser “. Later this person was selling motor cars, and Mr. Hughes alleged that he sold one to Professor Stable “ and was then appointed to the censorship staff and soon became a supervisor “. The investigator re* ported that both Professor Stable and the person concerned deny the allegation regarding the motor car, and Professor Stable proved that he had bought a different make of car than that which the person was selling.
Employment of a cabinet-maker on th« censorship staff. - The investigator found that the allegations made by Mr. Hughes in regard to this person were correct, and, in consequence, he ceased employment on the censorship staff -
Employment of a collector of. bad timepayment debts on the censorship staff. - The investigator found that the allegations in thi case referred to a person who had ceased employment in May, 1942.
Employment of a retired publican and saddler on the censorship staff. - Mr. Hughes, in conveying information to the investigator, expressed doubt as to - the suitability of this man for employment on censorship work. Tha investigator reported, however, that in his view the person- was performing his duty satisfactorily.
Employment of driver of a pastrycook’s cart on the censorship staff. - The investigator reported that the person referred to had ceased employment on the censorship staff in September, 1943. He. advised, however, that the information available in regard to the person concerned showed evidence of a good school career and contained excellent references.
Employment of insolvent storekeeper and reputed starting-price bookmaker on censorship staff. - Mr. Hughes advised the investigatorthat this employee was an uncertified insolvent, which was denied by the person concerned, who stated that he had made a deed of arrangement with his creditors following losses resulting from a fire at Somerset Dam. Mr. Hughes alleged also that this person was associated with the Reliance Turf Agency, which allegation was investigatedby the Commonwealth Investigation Branch in Brisbane, but no evidence was found of the existence of the agency in Brisbane. The investigator considered that the person concerned was performing his duties competently.
Dishonesty of pay officer. - This refers to Mr. T. M. Smith, who was a permanent officer of the Commonwealth Public Service employed at the Censor’s office. He was dismissed from the service on the 20th April, 1943, for misappropriation of funds while so employed. At the time of his appointment as a permanent officer on the censorship staff, there was nothing against him, and the embezzlements which led to his conviction and imprisonment took place after his appointment to the Censor’s staff as a Commonwealth public servant in the normal way. for which the Chief Censor had no responsibility.
Employment of an “ international crook “ on the censorship staff. - This refers, to a Mr. Raymond, who, however, had ceased employment on the censorship staff in December, 1939. Mr. Hughes also referred to a Mr. Coombes, who had ceased employment in March, 1940, and whose “troubles “ with the police occurred subsequent to his employment in the censorship branch. Mr. Hughes made certain allegations against a professional man employed on the censorship staff in relation to his separation from his wife. This he described as not creditable to censorship, but. the investigator reported that the matter of this man’s divorce should not concern his employment in the Censor’s office unless his conduct was such as to bring the Censor’s office into disrepute. The person concerned had an appointment on the Brisbane University staff and the investigator reported that he wished to resign from the censorship office to return to his position at the university.
Investigation of applicants for employment in the Censors’ office. - The investigator reported that certain of the allegations made by Mr. Hughes had been proven, but in the main the allegations had not been supported by direct evidence, and in certain of the cases vhere the allegations were proven action had already been taken to terminate the appointments of the persons concerned before the allegations had been made by Mr. Hushes. The investigator stated that it was hardly to be expected that, on the outbreak of war, when so many persons had to be employed in varying capacities in the departmental organiza- tion, certain persons would be appointed who would later be found to be unsuitable, either because of incapacity to perform their duties, or because of unsatisfactory records. He indicated that this applied not only to the censorship officers, but to all branches of the department, and advised that at the outbreak of the war there was no organized Security Service, so that a full investigation into the records of applicants for special duty - such as censorship and other like staffs - was not possible. As the Security Service became stabilized, so investigations became more intensive and as thorough a check as possible was made of applicants for employment, while information became available in regard to those already in employment, which, in certain instances, resulted in the termination of their services.
Australian Army : Discharges.
t asked the Minister for the
Army, upon notice -
– The following are the latest figures : -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable* member’s questions are’ as follows;:- 1 to 5. The Government has been concerned (or some considerable time at’ the difficulty in’ providing- sheet steel necessary for housing and secondary- and primary industries. At the termination of hostilities, considerable maintenance work had accumulated’ and since then, because of the housing programmes and the Increased usage in secondary and primary industries, the., demand for - sheet steel has shown a sharp increase. The. chief difficulty In meeting requirements to date has arisen from the difficulty of arranging sufficient labour for the sheet rolling- industry, and the Government’s endeavours in this direction are being pressed to the utmost. The position is improving. At the same time inquiries have been made overseas, and the Government has been in constant touch with United Kingdom and- United States suppliers since 194S. As indicated hy the honorable member, however, prospects < of obtaining supplies from these sources are not good. The steel sheet shortage is world wide- and’ whilst licences were freely issued* to motor body builders they were unable to arrange through their principals for supplies to be forwarded from America to Australia. For some time the Commonwealth control has been in touch with the sheet producers and as a result additional plant capacity has been created, and will be brought into operation early in 194T providing tb-vt the necessary mim -power can be made available, -This additional plant ‘capacity has been provided despite the fact that as- yet the companies have not obtained the manpower to enable them to work the existing plant capacity to the full extent. My Government, at title request of the Premiers, is exeroising control to enable secondary and primary Industries to continue whilst, at the same time, it has endeavoured’ to* supply sufficient for housing -purposes to prevent an- interruption of that most important project. It will be appreciated from the. above’ that action lias been taken to increase plant capacity. Moreover the ‘Government is taking all possible steps to* provide the man-power necessary, to wonk that plant and it is felt that if, as is expected, the additional man-power becomes available early in 1947, the essential requirements for secondary and primary industries and* bousing will be mct providing the usage of sheet steel, is strictly controlled to ensure that it is used only for essential purposes. At the same time suggestions are being made that steel sheet should be substituted for other materials in many directions as a means of building up Australia’s secondary industry and the Government, because of these new demands, is now making a survey to determine bow far. this new usage can be met. without interfering with established’ essential requirements. The Government will continue to collaborate wilh the sheet rolling companies and is keeping in touch with the overseas markets in au endeavour to improve, the position.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 August 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460808_reps_17_188/>.