18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The Sydney Morning
Herald of the 19th April last reported that the Prime Minister had said that neither more severe rationing not greater production in Australia would necessarily mean that the United Kingdom would obtain from this country greater supplies of food, because the International Emer gency Food Council determinesthe dis- tribution of food throughout the world. Onview of this statement, Iask the Ministerfor Commerce and Agriculture. tostate -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are-
Food Board after the war ended. Those nations which had representation on the commodity boards which functioned under the Combined Food Board were offered and accepted seats on the council. Australia was one of them. The decisions of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in May, 1946, were the subject of a report to the Australian Government, and those relative to the International Emergency Food Council have been repeatedly referred to in public statements.
If the honorable member desires more complete information. I shall be glad to obtain it for him.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the services of several men have been dispensed with by the Lake’s Creek Meat Works, Queensland, as the result of the withholding of stock by graziers in order to make larger profits after the end of June? Will the Minister ensure the marketing of sufficient stock so that Britain shall not he deprived of meat?
– I do not know of the services of any men having been dispensed with at that meatworks,but I have noticed in the press that men at some meat works have undertaken to work on Sundays in order that meat available for export to Britain may be processed.
Formation of Trading Company
– I ask the Attorney- General to state whether or not three delegates from Australia are at present in Jogjakarta for the alleged purpose of discussing arrangements for the projected formation this year of a Far Eastern Trade and Trade Union Council. Are these delegates three well-known
Australian Communists? Is the true object of the meetings that they are attending the preparation of plans for the formation of a trading company to exploit Australian-Indonesian trade? Will the directors of the proposed trading company be Mr. H. C. Campbell, formerly Indonesian trade representative in Australia; Mr. N. Healy of the Waterside Workers Federation, Brisbane; Mr. E. Thornton, of the Ironworkers Federation, and Mr. J. J. Brown of the Melbourne Branch of the Australian Railways Union? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that individuals in the republican government and the Australian trade union movement are conniving to further their private interests to the detriment of Australian, Dutch and Indonesian national interests, by the formation of such a trading company, and that it is proposed to use the official powers of the republic and the nuisance value of certain Australian trade unions to force private interests to fall into line with the proposed plan? Has a report on this subject been received, and if so what does it contain? Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to give any information on the subject to the House?
– Last night a number of pressmen asked the Prime Minister and myself questions about the proposed trading company to which the honorable member has referred. That was the first I had heard of it. It was then stated that the proposal was referred to in what the press representatives described as a security report. This morning I ascertained that there had been a security report containing references to the matter raised by the honorable member - not as a report of facts, but as a statement made to the security branch of the Investigation Department. It was not read by me until this morning. How the contents of that document became public knowledgeI do not know. That aspect of the matter is in itself serious. I also have ascertained that the substance of the honorable member’s questions appeared in a weekly newspaper which was available in Canberra this morning. I consider that it is only right that the House should know these facts. I heard of this proposal only this morning.
– I thought that the night honorable gentleman said he first heard of it last night.
– The report reached me only this morning but, apparently, it reached representatives of the press yesterday. As to the substance of the honorable member’s questions, it is true that of the three persons mentioned, namely, Mr. Roach, Mr. Healy and Mr. Campbell, two are prominent members of the Communist party. I believe that Mr. Campbell also is a member of that party. Yesterday I answered a question relating to him. These men are attending a conference in a portion of Indonesia, but they have received no sponsorship from the Commonwealth Government, either directly or indirectly. As they have visited Dutch controlled Indonesia they may have received visas from the Dutch authorities.
– Will they visit all parts of Java?
– Not necessarily, but they will be free to visit those parts of Java which are under the control of the Dutch authorities. I understand that they have been in several portions of Java., including Batavia. For that, Dutch visas would have been necessary. I make no comment on that aspect, because it is a matter for the Dutch authorities. I have not yet had time to study the report carefully, but from what I have seen of it the proposal appears to be utterly fantastic. It may be in the minds of certain persons to form a trading company of the kind mentioned, but before it could be formed the Commonwealth Government would have to be consulted. I do not think that there can be any doubt about its attitude to such a proposal.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that Australia has not been receiving its full quota of linseed oil from India? In view of the unemployment resulting in Australia from the shortage of paint, and the delay to the housing programme, will the Prime Minister see that the full quota i? obtained ?
– It is true that we have not yet received our full quota of linseed oil from India. Yesterday, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and I conferred with the representatives of the Indian Government in Australia. We were promised that the full quantity allocated to Australia would be made available, and, in addition, an undertaking was given that 2,000 tons of oil, and 1,637 tons of seed, which should have been supplied last year, but were not, would be made available forthwith. We are now trying to effect this purchase on a government to government basis, and we hope that supplies will reach Australia soon.
Case of Mb. BANDMANN - Jewish Organizations.
-,Is it a fact that the terms of the arrangement between the Immigration Department and the Australian Council of Jewry for the admission of Jewish refugees to Australia are that the persons sponsored must be of Jewish faith, and must be persons who were persecuted by the Nazis because of their Jewish faith or membership of the Jewish race? Is it a fact that the Australian Council of Jewry recommended a person named Bandmann and his wife and two children for admission to Australia, when such persons are not Jewish in faith or race, but are German nationals? Is it a fact that Bandmann was a German soldier, and served in the German army during the war? Is it a fact that the application for the admission of Bandmann was made, with the sponsorship of the Australian Council of Jewry, by a man named Fabian, of St. Kilda, and did the Bandmanns land in Melbourne some time early in March of this year from Johann De Witt - the same ship as Lerch arrived on? If these are facts, have the Minister and his officers been grossly misled by the sponsors, and what action has been taken, or does he propose to take, concerning the continued presence in Australia of any enemy aliens whose admission has been achieved by subterfuge ?
– The honorable member has asked me seven questions, to the first six of which the answer is “.Yes “.
He asks me what action I propose to take. In answering the questions in the affirmative, I have really stated the position in regard to this man. Bandmann was a German soldier who fought on the Russian front. He was captured by the Russians, and was released in November, 1945, to return to Berlin. An application was lodged by a man named Fabian, a member of the Jewish faith, who had married Bandmann’s sister in Melbourne in 1940. So far as I have been able to learn, Fabian did not state that Bandmann had fought against the Allies, but he did state that the mother of Bandmann and Bandmann’s sister, who is the wife of Fabian, had been tortured by the Germans because the sister had married a Jew, and that Bandmann’.9 mother had died in a concentration camp. Bandmann was interviewed by representatives of the Allied Control Commission in Berlin, and in spite of our strict instructions to the contrary he was given a visa, although be had fought against us. The Allied Control Commission which gave a certificate that he had not been a Nazi said that he would not have been released by the Russians had he been a Nazi. Therefore, he was, in the view of the Allied Control authorities, acceptable to us. Fabian represented the position to the Australian Executive Council of Jewry, and an executive officer of that body. in spite of the terms under which we admitted refugee people to this country, gave approval for the admission of Bandmann who had never been persecuted, and, therefore, was not eligible for admission. He landed from Johann De Witt on the 14th March. We received information that he was not the person he had purported to be, that is, a person who had been persecuted by the Nazis because of racial, religious or political convictions. When Major Weale sought an interview with Bandmann he found that the day after Bandmann arrived he had contracted typhoid and was taken to an. infectious diseases hospital in Victoria. He remained there for eight weeks and could not be interviewed. Fabian was interviewed and the interview was not entirely satisfactory. When Bandmann was discharged from the infectious dis eases hospital he, too, was interviewed. He could not speak English and a member of the Jewish Council acted as interpreter. He was then placed under a certificate of exemption for a limited period. That certificate expires to-day. He has been told that he must remove himself from Australia. If he does not remove himself from this country, or if the Jewish Council which brought him in does not get him out very quickly, we shall deport him. Bandmann is no more entitled to be in thi= country than is Lerch or any other prisoner of war taken by the British or ourselves. All prisoners of war have been repatriated except 90 odd who having broken camp are still at large in Australia. When apprehended they too will be deported to their country of origin. It is true that my departmental officers and I were misled by this one member of the Jewish Council and by Fabian, who is a brother-in-law of Bandmann The worst enemies the Jewish people have are in their own ranks. Neither Bandmann nor Lerch, nor any other person who fought against us as a soldier during the recent war, will be permitted to come to Australia or remain in this country. Whatever the Government does in this matter in the future will be determined by the Government itself; but after World War I, no German was allowed to come into Australia for a period of nine years after the end of that war, that is, until 1927.
– In Hobart a branch of the Air Training Corps is urgently in need of a twin-engined Avro Anson aeroplane. I believe that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission has some planes of that type for sale, and this club, through the State Government, is seeking one of them. In order to further the interests of the Air Training Corps, which is approved by the Department of Air, will the Prime Minister grant one of these planes to the Air Training Corps in Hobart, provided the State Government accepts part of the responsibility for its maintenance and airworthiness?
– Negotiations have been proceeding in respect of a number of requests similar to that mentioned by the honorable member. I do not know the precise details of the request to which he has referred. I shall arrange, to have the matter examined with a view to ascertaining whether it is possible to come to some arrangement satisfactory to the Hobart branch of the Air Training Corps.
Coalcliff Colliery - Joint Coal Board - Cessnock Dispute
– Is it a fact that thu Coalcliff Colliery which during the wai was taken over with a good deal of publicity and conducted under government control was quietly handed back to the owners last month? Is it true that this experiment in government control cost the taxpayers of this country £85,000? Will the Government keep this fact in mind before embarking on further ventures of that kind?
– It is true that the Coalcliff Colliery was taken over during the war and controlled by the Government. It was one of the typical mines on the south coast of New South Wales in which the dust nuisance was very acute and in which experiments were made in water fusion for the elimination of dust. Valuable experiments were carried out in the mine which will probably be one of considerable value in the campaign against dust in other mines. It is true that the mine has been handed back to its owners, and it is also true that during the period of government control it was operated at a loss. I am unable to state the exact amount of the loss.
– It was £85,000.
– There is no need for the honorable member to ask the question if he already knows the answer. In case his information is incorrect, I shall obtain the exact figures. Consideration will be given to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question.
– Has the full personnel of the Joint Coal Board been appointed? Did the appointees include any ex-servicemen? If not, was there any special reason why ex-servicemen were overlooked?
– The Joint Coal Board has been appointed, as has the chairman of the Coal Industry Tribunal. The appointment of personnel under the board is a matter for the board itself. The Government has not been dealing with this matter.
– I am interested- only in the appointment of members of the board.
– I shall make the names of the three appointees available to the honorable member. I am unable to say whether or not they are exservicemen. The Commonwealth and State Governments were interested only in getting the most capable men that were available for this work. The appointments were made after a consultation between the Premier of New South Wales and myself. The positions were rejected by several individuals, some of whom I know were returned soldiers, because of the very difficult nature of the work, but finally we selected three men who, on their qualifications, were the best available for the job.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether engine drivers on the Cessnock coal-field refused to return to duty last night, although the State president of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, Mr. Hugh Sutherland, recommended that they do so ? Can he say whether they will return to duty to-night? Is Mr. F. J. Gallagher, chairman of the Coal Industry Tribunal, to inquire into the grievances of these men about marginal rates of pay?
– I have no official information, but I understand that despite the advice of the State president of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association to the engine drivers to return to work on the shift that began at 11 p.m. last night they did not return. I understand that six craft unions and four more organizations that might be called sub-divisions of unions have made representations to have their claims heard. The Attorney-General has been in consultation with the Acting Chief Judge of the .Arbitration Court .under whose authority Mr. Gallagher operates on the question of the availability of his services to hear the claims. I understand that the Attorney-General will be able to make an announcement on the matter to-day.
– Has the Minister for Defence seen the correspondence in the Adelaide Advertiser of Monday, the 19th May, in connexion with the proposed guided weapons testing range in Central Australia, such correspondence being in reply to the reported statements of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction published two days earlier? Can the Minister explain why copies of the statements made by Dr. Charles Duguid and Dr. Donald Thompson at the committee meeting held in Melbourne early this year, which were taken down in shorthand, have been refused to them? Will the Minister release to these gentlemen and to the press verbatim transcripts of these statements, as no military secrets are entailed?
– I have not seen the correspondence to which the honorable member has referred. As to whether copies of the transcript of the shorthand notes taken at the meeting attended by Dr. Duguid and Dr. Thompson should be made available to them and to the press, I point out that shorthand notes are taken for the purpose of preparing a general statement of the position as indicated by the evidence tendered to the committee. Such a general statement has already been prepared. It is not usual to make available verbatim transcripts of the shorthand notes taken at such meetings. If Dr. Duguid and Dr. Thompson feel that the report issued by the committee in any way misrepresents the statements they made, and they appeal to me, I shall see that whatever misrepresentation they allege is inquired into, and, if necessary, corrected.
– One of my constituents who is a qualified accountant and a graduate of the Sydney University, found* it necessary recently to apply for payment under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. Upon registration, he was directed to a labourer’s position in a factory. Will the Minister for Labour and National .Service confer with the Minister for Social Services to ascertain whether it is possible to amend the act to provide for payments in cases where suitable employment cannot be provided?
– The scope of the act is, I believe, wide enough to cover the case . referred to by the honorable member. The policy of the Commonwealth Employment Service is to provide employment, if not exactly the same as that to which an applicant has been accustomed, at least as near as possible to it. An applicant is not forced to do any particular kind of work. The employment offered must be suitable, having regard to health, mental capacity and so on. So far, there have been few complaints. However, the honorable memtier’s question will be noted and I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Social Services.
– In view of the disclosures by officials of the Prices Branch and by other citizens of the extent of black marketing in Sydney, particularly in regard to meat, building materials, and certain other goods, will the Pime Minister investigate methods of encouraging the one remedy for this state of affairs, namely, increased production? In carrying out such an investigation, will the right honorable gentleman pay particular attention to the most important incentives to production, namely, lower taxes and profit sharing?
– There are dishonest people in every community. In this country to-day, certain individuals are prepared to break the laws for their own personal gain, not only by indulging in black marketing activities, but also in other ways. This characteristic of human nature is ages old. In regard to increasing production, particularly of meat, the honorable member will appreciate that if we had to provide meat only for the Australian population, there would be no difficulty in maintaining adequate supplies. We have an obligation, however, to send as much meat and other foods as possible abroad, so that, no matter how much the production may be increased, it is inevitable that whilst rationing remains in this country, practices such as that mentioned by the honorable member will continue. The question of taxation I: as already been fully discussed in this chamber.
Proposed Commonwealth Line - Tasmania^ Service
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping supply up-to-date information on the Government’s proposal to establish a Commonwealth shipping line? Does the Commonwealth already own twenty ships? If the Government is going on with that splendid scheme, will it include the Mainland-Tasmania route?
– The honorable gentleman’s question relates largely to Government policy, but I will ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping what information he can supply to the honorable member.
– I remind the .Prime Minister that Order of the Day No. 23 on the notice-paper relates to a ministerial statement on international trade negotiations upon which the Leader of the Opposition has secured the adjournment of the debate. In view of the fact that Dr. Coombs has returned to Australian following developments at the Geneva conference which have very grave significance for Australia and the British Commonwealth of Nations generally, will the Prime Minister provide an opportunity before the end of the present parliamentary sittings for the Parliament to discuss this subject?
– I have given a great deal of consideration to this matter. The item appears on the notice-paper and in due course it will be discussed. However, I am not sure that a public debate on the subject at present would serve any good purpose. With the approval of the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, I arranged for Dr. Coombs to address members of the Opposition last night and to address members of the Government party this morning. Very little can be added to what has already been conveyed to honorable members in previous discussions on this subject. It is very complex and difficult. Honorable members might talk on it for hours but express only their opinions. I shall discuss the matter with the leaders of the two Opposition parties, but my opinion at present is that a debate would not serve any good purpose.
– There has been a great deal of discussion in the American Congress.
– There are so many discussions that it is very difficult to sift the real truth from the mass of opinions.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health immediately undertake effective plans for the prevention, treatment, and elimination of venereal diseases by recognizing the social and moral, as well as the medical aspects of the problem? Will the bad results of the system of compulsory notification, with its application in general to the less privileged persons in the community, and the failure to control these diseases from the medical aspect be examined ? Will the advantage of a voluntary system of a free and confidential nature, involving the establishment of more clinics, in connexion with existing hospitals where possible, together with almoners to help with the follow-up and to ensure a steady attendance at the clinics until cures are completed, be considered as part of the scheme ?
– The Minister for Health has recently held conferences to deal with this and other problems which come under his jurisdiction. On Monday of this week a conference of Ministers for Health was held in Melbourne, and I am certain that that subject was on the list of business. A great deal of thought has been given to this subject by the Minister, the Acting Director-General of Health and others associated with the medical profession. I do not know whether their plans are on the lines suggested by the honorable member. However, I shall certainly refer the question to the Minister and obtain accurate information for the honorable member.
– On the 23rd April, I addressed a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture with reference to a reported application by the Government of Western Australia for flood relief. The Minister then said that no such application had been made. However, when I drew his attention on the 2nd May - nineteen days ago - to a letter which he had signed, and pointed out the conflict between his previous statement and the statements in the letter, he promised to make further investigations. Is he yet in a position to inform me of the result of those investigations?
– I have not yet received any further information, but I shall pursue the matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to the New Zealand official publication, Primary Production in, New Zealand, which deals on page 26 with the use of a new type of superphosphate developed in that dominion during the war as the result of war-time necessities, which is known as “ serpentine superphosphate “ ? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of the existence of deposits of serpentine rock in- Australia, and ascertain whether this fertilizer can be used under Australian conditions with the same beneficial advantages as primary producers in Now Zealand obtained during the war?
– My attention has not been drawn to the particular commodity which the honorable member mentioned, but I shall be glad to refer his question to those who are interested in the supply of superphosphate to Australian agriculturists, and ascertain whether it is practicable to adopt the use of this fertilizer in Australia.
– Last Friday, the Courier-Mail reported that the “cutover” from manual controlled telephone exchanges to automatic exchanges in Brisbane had released an additional 1,700 to 1,800 telephones to householders in the metropolitan area. I assume that the press report refers to the automatic type of telephone which is manufactured in Australia and which has been of great advantage in the cities. I also assume that the introduction of automatic exchanges has released magnetic telephones. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ensure that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department shall give priority to urgent cases in country districts, where many people have been unable to get telephones for two years?
– I am sure that the Postmaster-General will give very sympathetic consideration to the needs of primary producers in Queensland, if it is possible for the telephones now released from service in Brisbane to be supplied to persons living in rural areas. I shall ask him to make a statement in reply to the honorable member’s suggestions, and I hope to obtain from him the fullest information at the earliest possible moment.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read the report of statements made at the conference of dairy factory managers and secretaries in Melbourne yesterday that the lifting of the ban on the sale of cream ‘ for the table would mean the loss of thousands of tons of butter which would be otherwise exported to the United Kingdom ? According to the report, SO cans of table cream, which are sent each week to Melbourne, would yield 2 tons of butter. The president, of the organization said that table cream was not the only line which should be considered, as his own factory had been directed by the Government to send cream to factories which produced luxury foods. Will the Minister investigate these statements with a view to re-imposing the ban on the .’ale of cream, so that increased, quantities of butter may be exported to Great Britain ?
– I have read the statement attributed to some person associated with the organization of butter factory managers and secretaries. One would hardly expect butter factory managers, before, during, or after the war, to be over-pleased with any action which diverted butter fat from butter manufacture. To that degree, one has probably to assume, rightly or wrongly, that butter factory managers have an unconscious bias in the direction of their own interests. That is quite natural.
– Why assume it wrongly?
– I shall deal with that aspect. Under the conditions which existed before the outbreak of World War II. the production of cream and milk for metropolitan markets was comparatively stabilized. During the war, the Government saw fit to divert the milk from which the cream was made to the manufacture of processed milk for Great Britain, condensed milk and butter milk. Sometime after the cessation of hostilities, the United Kingdom Government indicated that it was willing for the processed milk trade to be resumed on a trader-to-trader basis, instead of being continued on a government-to-government basis, and that the Australian Government would be quite at liberty to supply processed milk to customers in any part of the world. The diversion of cream from table consumption was made for the specific purpose of enabling more processed milk to be exported to Great Britain. As that purpose had been fulfilled, it was not considered just that there should be any further diversion of cream to butter. I shall be glad to inquire into the suggestion made by the honorable member, and if it is possible again to divert cream for the manufacture of butter I shall be glad to do so.
– I have received from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The necessity for a joint parliamentary committee to investigate governmental administration, with particular reference to land sales control, prices, import procurement and disposals.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– In submitting this motion to the House I point out that its purpose is not to make any charges but to provide machinery for the investigation of charges that have already been made. Such machinery does not exist to-day. Under the present system of semitotalitarian government there are unprecedented opportunities for graft and corruption. Practically every phase of our daily life is controlled by Government officials, who are given unlimited discretion. These officials act on behalf of the Government, but not in the interests of the people. While it is inconceivable that any Minister can be responsible for every decision made by officials of his department, the Minister concerned should be responsible for ensuring that adequate precautions are taken against maladministration. If one sets up a petty official and endows him with the powers of a dictator one expects abuses in his administration. During the war many thousands of temporary employees were employed in the Commonwealth Public Service. Most of these temporary employees have proved themselves to be reliable officials, but in many cases the temptations offered them have been too great. Never before in the history of this country has such a situation existed. Therefore it is inescapable that there should be some abuse of their functions by many of these officials. Under prewar governments the Commonwealth Auditor-General exercised sufficient check on maladministration and other undesirable aspects of departmental procedure. His duty was primarily to check government expenditure. If he found that there were no defalcations in a particular department it was assumed that the administration of that department was sound. But under the new system of government, public .servants do not to-day confine their activities to the control of government departments. They have assumed a virtual control over private business, and their “ say-so “ can either make or wreck a private business. The Government makes a regulation, but the administration of it is in most instances in the hands of underpaid public servants. Big businesses in Australia quickly realized that there was a new science of government, and that they had to learn it. The government employee had to .be cultivated, and to this end close contacts had. to be made. Men were specially assigned to the task of cultivating certain public servants. Those men spent their time no longer in the lobbies of Parliament House but, instead, in the precincts of government departments. Some public servants who had held posts which, though important, were comparatively poorly paid, were offered positions outside the service, at greatly increased salaries, by private enterprise. Their offices were bought, not because of their “knowledge of the business they were asked to join, but because of the contacts which they had with their old departments. “Those who had the right kind of contacts believed that they could bring the necessary influence to bear to obtain decisions in their favour which were most important to thom. Lacking such contacts, some of them resorted to many other means, and many of them to much older practices. It is not, at present, a function of the Auditor-General to supervise this form of administration. On his own admission, the Auditor-General found it almost impossible to carry out his statutory duties, without having added to them duties associated with all these new government departments. Mr. Joyce said in his recent report -
My predecessor on several occasions stressed the serious problems with which he was confronted during the war, the number of trained and experienced audit staff being quite inadequate effectually to cope with the tremendous expansion of government activities.
At the peak of war expansion, the audit staff comprised approximately 33 per cent. permanent personnel and C7 per cent, temporary staff. While this was unavoidable in the circumstances, the position did not make for 100 per cent, efficiency. Audit programmes had to be curtailed rigidly and a considerable number of the less important audits temporarily abandoned.
Mr. Joyce has asked the Parliament to provide him with more audit officers, and with better payment for those who are engaged on these important duties. So it is out of the question to delegate the supervision of this new form of administration to the already overworked audit office.
What happens when charges are made in this House? During recent weeks, very serious allegations have been made affecting the administration of Land Sales Control, the Prices Branch, the Division of Import Procurement, and the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, all of which are war-time organizations which wield most extraordinary powers. In all of them, opportunities for maladministration and even worse are bound to occur, because of the very nature of (heir activities.” In each instance when charges have been made, the Government has said that it would institute an investigation. That investigation has been carried out by officials of the very department that has been under fire! In prewar days, any charges were met by the appointment of a royal commission, the Government regarding them as a challenge to its existence. But that is not the position to-day; everything is kept quiet, and is hushed up. We are then told that there has been a change in the administration, and we sit back in our places to await the next disclosure. This procedure is unfair to the Government, the public and the .department concerned. A secret inquiry always invites public suspicion. A public inquiry must, and does, act as a corrective. Immediately an inquiry has been brought into the open, everybody, from the highest to the lowest, realizes that no protection can be given to any interested party; there can be no “ scapegoats “, no “ whitewashing “. A public inquiry acts not only as a means of unveiling what has occurred in the past, but also - what -is more valuable - as a deterrent against such practices recurring in the future. The most appropriate form of inquiry would be one by a joint parliamentary committee, modelled on the lines of the Truman committee which performed a similar function in the Government of the United States of America during World War II. Such a committee would investigate all matters relating to government administration. It would have its own staff of trained investigators, who would be responsible to nobody except the committee. The committee should have authority to call for all necessary papers and to make its own independent inquiries in respect of all matters referred to it by the Parliament. So that it may be completely independent 1 suggest that, the committee should be presided over by a justice of the High Court. That would give to it a measure of independence similar to that now enjoyed by the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral.
When charges have been ventilated in this House recently, attempts have been made to throw the onus of proof on the member bringing the matter forward. Ou one occasion an honorable member was asked to vouch for the accuracy of statements made .by him. If in the administration of justice generally that procedure were adopted, the odds would he overwhelmingly in favour of the wrong-doer. The Government’s sole concern should be to remove every ground for the suspicion of maladministration. It should be prepared to turn the machinery of administration into a goldfish bowl when necessary. The machinery that I propose would clear the air of all suspicion and should therefore be welcomed by the departments and the Government. All charges should be investigated openly by a competent body. Serious charges ought either to be disproved immediately or they should lead to action to prevent recurrences in the future.
.- The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has been most temperate in his remarks. The only question that arises is as to the type of inquiry which should be made into allegations made in this House - whether such matters can best be handled by a select committee or by expert inves tigators. I desire to correct the honorable gentleman as to the inquiry into charges made against the administration of prices control. The charges made in this House by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) are being investigated by officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The charges against the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs have reached the stage of court proceedings and in the circumstances it is not thought proper to take any action in the Parliament until the court’s decision has been made known. The Government has found that most of the charges against officers associated with the control of land sales have been proved groundless. Foi’ instance, last, week an honorable member asked a question relating to a letter signed “ A. R. Gray “ which appeared in a Sydney newspaper. Investigations by the police and others show that there is no such person. That instance justifies the demand that honorable members should vouch for the accuracy of statements made in this chamber. Before laying charges honorable members should take some steps to ascertain whether there is a case to be investigated.
– Was the Real Estate Institute, or the corresponding body in New South Wales, asked if it knew of such a person?
– The letter to which I have referred appeared in the Daily Telegraph. Inquiries at the office of that newspaper and in other places reveal that, although there is a Mr. R. A. Gray in Sydney, he was not responsible for the letter.
– Does he deal in real estate ?
– I understand so. Inquiries were made in order to ascertain whether any such person as the one who purported to sign the letter really exists. The time of valuable officers has been lost in an endeavour to ascertain the truth.
– Do the departmental files bear out the charges ?
– I have already answered a number of questions on the subject and I shall not now deal with it at length,’ as I do not wish to detain the
House. In one ease in which a definite charge was made and in which names were mentioned, the matter was immediately investigated, not by an officer associated with the branch concerned, but by an officer whom honorable members on both sides of the House will accept as a completely impartial and capable investigator. I refer to the Commonwealth Actuary, Mr. Balmford, whose honesty and integrity are known to all honorable members. I have not yet received a full report of that investigation, but I have convinced myself that the procedure which ought to have been adopted was not adopted in the first place. I have not received any proof of corrupt practice, but I am convinced that favoritism was shown to certain persons. “When that fact became known administrative changes were made immediately. I shall not comment at this stage on other charges that have been made, because I have not yet received reports concerning them. It is possible that more serious charges may be laid as the outcome of these invesigations, but at this .stage I cannot say that that will be so.
The honorable member for Reid suggests that a select committee of this House be appointed-
– A joint committee.
– I understand that his proposal is that a committee should be set up to investigate almost every charge that is made by honorable members in this chamber. In my opinion that would be almost impossible. The honorable member for Reid, who has had experience as the head of a government, will appreciate the difficulties associated with such inquiries at a time when departments are busy and short of staff. In order to give evidence before committees, valuable officers, who are already overworked, may have to spend days preparing and giving evidence. They are required to attend before such committees at times which suit the convenience of members of the committees. As honorable members know, it is most difficult, especially when members of a committee are drawn from places widely separated, to arrange committee meetings. The result is that investigations drag on for weeks and sometimes months. I remind the House that the War Expenditure Committee undertook a number of investigations over a long period. My experience was that valuable officers spentmuch time preparing data, and were at limes away from their departments for days in order to give evidence before that body. They could be ill-spared from their departments. Whatever the merits of that committee’s inquiries, I say frankly that I found that, they interfered with departmental administration.
– That applies to every committee of the Parliament.
– Not necessarily. Committees such as the Broadcasting Committee and the Public Works Committee do most of their work during the parliamentary recess.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that a committee would ever bc justified?
– The War Expenditure Committee had two officers of the Parliament as its staff.
– That may be, but many people gave evidence, and the officers had to make investigations for days beforehand. The honorable member for Reid touched on an important point. During the war, the demand for man-power to fill positions was so great that the Government had to call in people who were not proved public servants. In the circumstances, it was not always possible to establish their complete honesty and integrity, or, indeed, their capacity. Even yet, we have not got past the stage of having to call in persons from outside the Service, and that is a weakness. For the most part, those who have entered the Service from outside occupations have done magnificent work for the country - some of them in a voluntary capacity. They took up the work, not for the sake of the financial reward, but because the Government wanted their help. I do not know how we can avoid bringing people in from outside the Service until we are able to establish a body of public servants sufficiently large to cope with the increased volume of work. This, of course, is no reflection on those now in the Service. The honorable member for Reid suggested that those who had left the
Public Service and joined private firms did so, not because those firms were impressed by their ability, but because they wanted to use them as contact men and lobbyists. However, I do not believe that such men as Mr. McVey and Mr. Smith, who left the Public Service to join private firms, did so for the purpose suggested by the honorable member. They are men of very great ability. The honorable member said that salaries paid to the higher public servants were not equal to those paid by private firms to top-grade men, and that the Service, consequently, lost a number of good men. That has been a source of concern to the Government. We have tried to deal with the lower salaried officers through the Public Service Board, and already increases have been made involving the payment of. an additional £1,SOO,000 a year. I hope that the salaries of higher paid heads of departments will shortly be reviewed. Heads of departments are appointed by the Cabinet, not by the Public Service Board, and salaries for them are fixed. As a result, the Government sometimes loses the services of good men, as was pointed out in the recent report of the Auditor-General.
However, when we review the record of the last seven or eight years, it must bc admitted that very few charges of corruption, or even of maladministration, have been proved. A case in Sydney is being investigated at the present time, and I make no comment upon it. In tha’, instance the ordinary procedure was departed from. The honorable member for Wentworth made some charges about the disposal of goods by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. The Government appointed an independent outside man to investigate the charges, but I do not think the honorable member for Wentworth was completely satisfied.
– I never saw the man.
– I never expect the honorable member to be satisfied. The man who was put in charge of the investigation is held in the highest respect in New South Wales. Certain charges have been made against the Disposals Commission in regard to auction sales. We were told that the fairest way to dispose of surplus goods was to sell them by auction - that there should be no more private sales. It should be remembered that the commission has disposed of hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of goods, yet very few irregularities are alleged against it, and no charges of corruption, except in regard to one minor case. The position is the same in regard to the control of land sales. A couple of cases have cropped up in New South Wales, but I have received several letters from leading land agents in Sydney commending the Treasury delegate there for the capable way in which he has done his work. It is possible to magnify unduly any irregularities that may be alleged, instead of seeing them in their true proportion of the great volume of transactions which have taken place.
In the old days the Public Accounts Commit’tee was sometimes asked to conduct inquiries, such as the claim of the Dominion Broadcasting Company, against the Government. However, I find that once a committee is appointed it is always looking for work. As soon as Parliament goes into recess members of committees want to know what work there is for them to do. It is not a matter of referring subjects to the committees. They ask for something to do during the recess. I do not believe that public servants, having regard to the great demands upon their time, should be asked to investigate records, and to prepare evidence for parliamentary committees. I have received complaints that men in very important positions have had to .leave their own work and hang about for two or three days to give evidence before a parliamentary committee. Having regard to the minor nature of the charges-
– If an inquiry were held, it might reveal grounds for major charges.
– If there is ground for such charges the matter should go before the courts. I am not going to use this House in order to defame persons or to make implications against them. All departments have been instructed to. send forward to the Attorney-General’s Department full particulars of any case in which there is a suspicion of dishonesty or corruption. They are not to cover the matter up, hut are to send it on to the legal department, and the AttorneyGeneral has given instructions that every such case must be investigated by his department. His officers are not to take the word of some one who might himself be associated with the matter. I can see no better way of dealing with such cases. No one can be more deeply concerned than I am at any suggestion of dishonesty or maladministration. I know the position. I have sufficient political sense to know that whatever allegations might be made with respect to inefficiency of administration, allegations of dishonesty against any Minister or departmental officer are matters of the gravest import. So far as I am concerned, there will be no shielding of any body involved in charges of dishonesty. Apart altogether from the moral aspect, it would be politically bad, not only for the Government but also for the Parliament itself, should any public official be charged with corruption, or be brought under the shadow of suspicion. Whenever such circumstances arise they will be cleared up; but no (rood purpose can be served by allowing the characters of certain people to be defamed. Proper inquiries must be made. The Government cannot agree to the appointment of a select committee for the purpose requested by the honorable member for Reid. Where corruption is alleged and the evidence is sufficient to warrant such a course, a judicial or special tribunal should investigate the matter.
– All honorable members should be indebted to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) for giving to them the opportunity to discuss a matter of this importance. The honorable member is endeavouring to find ways and means of bringing about impartial investigations into charges made in this House. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber must be well aware of the charges that are being made in a surreptitious manner in almost every part of Australia with regard to matters of maladministration. Indeed, it is only by seeking a full and public inquiry that such matters can be revealed in the spotlight of public opinion. I believe that ail honorable members who take notice of statements made to them from time to time by people outside the Parliament, and reveal such disclosures in the Parliament, would be unwise to fail to protect themselves againt possible repercussions of such charges. I, myself, for example, never bring a charge in this House unless I am sure that the person, or persons, who supply me with information relative to a charge, are prepared to stand up to a public investigation. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, every allegation made by me in this House will be backed by the name of the person who gives the information ; and whenever the Parliament is prepared to institute an inquiry with regard to such matters I shall be prepared to divulge the name of my informant, as I have already done with respect to the charges I made concerning rationing. Then, should my informant make untruthful statements on oath he could be prosecuted for perjury. But what does the Government do in matters of this kind? I am more than heartened to hear a Labour member in this House ask the Government to give the persons involved the right to clear themselves in public.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said that he appointed an officer to inquire into certain charges made by me and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) in connexion with the Commonwealth Salvage Commission and the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, and that he was completely satisfied with the report of that officer. I shall briefly recall the facts associated with that matter in order to give some indication of the methods employed by the Government. I had said in this House, following disclosures by the Auditor-General adverse to the Commonwealth Salvage Commission, that the Minister’s own advisory panel had asked for the right to go before a royal commission to give evidence with respect to that matter, and that certain reputable firms involved had also asked that they be given the opportunity to give evidence before a committee of inquiry. In that case the Minister’s own advisory officers and a body of men in the same industry in Sydney and Melbourne asked for the right to go before a committee of inquiry to give evidence with respect to the charges made. What happened? The Government appointed Mr. Conde to investigate those charges. He might be a reputable gentleman; but he did not approach me to find out where I obtained my information, and so far as I know he did not approach the Leader of the Australian Country party or the members of the Minister’s advisory panel on the matter. He did not call for evidence from the firms who had asked for the right to give evidence on the matter. Ultimately, Mr. Conde produced a whitewashing report declaring that there was uo substance in the charges. How could he know whether the charges were wellfounded unless he called evidence from the people who were prepared to give evidence upon them before a committee of inquiry ‘. The Prime Minister says that he is satisfied with Mr. Conde’s report. That method of dealing with charges of this kind warrants the honorable member for Reid asking that a more satisfactory investigation should be made into such charges, and that public men and private individuals outside the Parliament should be given the opportunity to come forward and testify in public with respect to such matters. I repeat that the charges in respect of the Commonwealth Salvage Commission were made by members of the Minister’s advisory panel who were men of substance and rank in the department. Those names were mentioned ; and the Minister had the right to take action. But the Prime Minister says that he is satisfied with Mr. Conde’s report. How could any one be satisfied with such an inquiry?
Prosecutions have resulted from my disclosures in this House with regard to certain customs irregularities; but I believe the matter goes deeper than prosecutions of the kind that have been launched. A royal commission should be appointed to inquire into those charges. If that were done I believe the matter would not resolve itself into a prosecution of a minor character. In my allegations with respect to the dismissals of certain officers of the Prices Branch T pointed out that ‘whilst four men were dismissed two of them were given credentials as to character and the other two were not given such credentials.
The first two officials appeared to be implicated in the offence of the other two by reason of the fact that a.ll four were dismissed at the same time.” Thus the first two were victimized. I am still awaiting a reply on that matter. I submitted to the Security Service my information with regard to the charges I made with respect to rationing irregularities. I also handed to those officers the letter which I received on the subject. I have not heard anything further about that matter, but I understand that that investigation is still proceeding. With respect, to my allegations concerning the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, I made the charge that a ring was operating and was preventing the Government from obtaining the maximum return from goods sold by the commission. That charge can be substantiated. Any person who attends sales by the commission knows that there is collusion between certain auctioneers and buyers, and that persons who bid for certain commodities are warned off by those buyers. I made particular disclosures with respect to sales of Willard batteries and the sale of spare parts to the International Harvester Company, involving thousands of pounds. Those charges call for full and open inquiry. I have also disclosed that some” officers of the Trade and Customs Department have brought from overseas tons of luggage although they left this country with only a few suitcases. I have given full information on that matter to the appropriate Minister; but I am still waiting for a reply. I understand that the goods are removed from the wharf to the company offices and that later a private carrier removes that luggage to the homes of certain departmental officers. Those charges call aloud for inquiry. I do not agree with the honorable member for Reid that the right method is to appoint a joint committee, because such an inquiry would never be accepted by the general public, as it would look upon such a body as a “ whitewashing “ committee. After certain facts are disclosed at. an inquiry, but not an inquiry of the Conde sort, the Government should appoint a royal commission to investigate such matters. That is the way in which these things should be bandied. If the Government proposes to repeat the procedure adopted in connexion with the Conde inquiry, and ignore the Minister’s own advisory panels, and members of firms who have asked to give evidence, and refuses to ask me where I obtained my information, the inquiry will be of no avail. By that procedure there can be no substantiation or otherwise of allegations or charges made in this House. Honorable members have a duty to expose all maladministration of public departments and all acts of racketeering or dishonesty. They must, however, .be sure of the accuracy of their information so that they may be able to substantiate such charges. I have not levelled one charge in this House in respect of which I have not been prepared to supply the name of my informant immediately an inquiry has been instituted. I have a batch of pending charges on my hands at the present time, and I trust the at the Government will be prepared to investigate them. I support the honorable member for Reid, and I thank him for having given the House an opportunity to discuss this matter. I do not believe that ii joint committee is a suitable body to conduct such an investigation as he has in mind. Only the fullest investigation should be made, and that may ultimately lead to the necessity for the appointment of a royal commission.
.-I have but a few words to say with regard to the attitude taken by some honorable members in relation to the matters raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). The honorable member referred to rackets ; I believe we were listening to an expert. I am not saying that in an offensive way. I have listened carefully to the honorable member’s speeches ever since he has been a member of this House, and my rough notes show that he lias referred to refugees, petty officials, dictatorships, the gestapo, and the need for investigations into all kinds of things. What is all this tremendous anxiety about? Why is this story blown up in the House as though this country were riven with racketeering and government departments were administered by corrupt people? Measured against what is happening in other parts of the world, is our position in this respect any worse than that of other countries which are cleaning up after the war? It seems to me that the Australian people and the Australian Government have been successful in keeping racketeering and malpractices within very confined limits. Charges which have been brought to the light of day have been investigated, and these investigations have frequently resulted in the officials concerned being exonerated. There has been much unfair criticism of petty officials and public servants. It has been said that many undesirable people have been running this country, and demands have been made that a royal commission or a select committee be appointed to investigate their activities. . All the assaults made by the honorable member for Reid and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) have always been on civil servants who control departments which have for their purpose the pinning down of big business for the time being until our readjustment to peace-time conditions has been completed. Temporary organizations created during the war, such as the Division of Import Procurement, and other departments which have for their sole purpose the protection of the public, are constantly subjected to attacks by those honorable members. Their charges are usually based on ex parte statements made in the House. The gravest aspect is that the charges having been made, and the honorable members having asked for an inquiry, when the report is presented nothing more i3 done about it. We should be more careful in this House of what we say about people outside the House, and when the report of an investigation is brought before us exonerating the people whose honesty is impugned by the charges we might well have something to say about the honorable members who made the charges. Quite recently the honorable member for Wentworth made certain allegations about four ex-servicemen who had been employed in the Prices Branch. To-day he tries to “ bale out “ from these allegations by saying that of the four ex-servicemen only two were given references by the branch, the other two being refused. More recently, the honorable member made allegations concerning certain men employed by the Rationing Commission. An inquiry is now being held into those charges. I trust that the report will not be long delayed, “because I fear that the men concerned are being unjustly prejudged. The honorable member for Wentworth makes ex parte statements in this House, and upon them he frames charges which, all too frequently, are unsubstantiated. In too many cases the accuracy of his utterances is not checkable.
– The Government can always check the accuracy of my statements. All the honorable member does is to apologize for other people.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Wentworth to cease interjecting.
– What is needed is not a censorship of civil servants but a censorship of what honorable members say in this House. Day after day, ad nauseam, charges against people are tossed across the table and eventually become the subject of reports which may or may not be read. A person may be guilty of some minor offence but in this louse it becomes blown up out of all proportion. It becomes a national question for a few days, and in that way irreparable damage is frequently done to people whom we are here to protect. I do not say that there was no necessity for an inquiry into the numerous rackets that followed the termination of the war, but I do not regard it as necessary to go through the tortuous process of appointing a select committee to investigate these matters. The honorable member for Wentworth has been rightly termed “ the Minister for Mares’ Nests “. One half of the charges he has made in this House will not bear the light of day. Charges are made and published in the press and when they are examined the report of the investigation usually results in the absolvement of the persons or persons concerned, and the people whose names have been besmirched have no redress.
– The Government has still to prove that the charges I have made are ill-founded.
– Order ! If the honorable member persists in interjecting I shall name him.
– A most reasonable and balanced statement was made by the Prime Minister in connexion with this matter. The right honorable gentleman admitted frankly that the things complained of by the honorable member for Reid could happen. He realizes that there may be dishonest men in the civil service, but he says that their number among the ranks of the Public Service may be not greater than in the ranks of bishops and people engaged in other walks of life. I object to the manner in which these charges relating to government departments are levelled. First there is an attack on civil servants as such, then follows an attack on a specified civil servant, or civil servants, and lastly there is a demand for a court of inquiry. Nothing good can result from the creation of a gestapo, snooping around corners, looking through key holes and peering under doors. All too frequently these matters are magnified for the sake of a little brief publicity. Murder will out and rackets will out. The Prime Minister wa.s right, as he so often is, when he said that this matter must be considered f mm a balanced viewpoint, that if there are malpractices they will certainly be investigated and that the proper authority to investigate them is the department administered by the Attorney-General. I am looking forward to the presentation of two or three reports concerning allegations made by the honorable member for Wentworth, particularly those made against officers of the Rationing Commission. As a contribution to the elimination of black marketing, corruption or maladministration, the appointment of a committee would be worse than useless. We must get back to the one essential thing in this country, and that is our own personal morality both inside and outside of the Parliament. Of course, if we wish to go completely fascist, we should heed the utterances of the honorable member for Reid, who wants people to snoop on each other so that he may find a little more information to print in his newspaper and so keep his name before the public. The honorable member’s motion is completely insincere. The facts prove that the Government has done a reasonably good job in keeping dishonesty of officials within limits. Our record in that regard compares favorably with that of any other administration in the world. The appointment of a committee is quite unnecessary. Australian taxpayers are being fully protected by the measures that the Government has already in train.
– This motion gives to honorable members an opportunity to bring to the notice of the Government the discontent that is rife in regard to the investigation of allegations made in this House and elsewhere concerning malpractices and maladministration in the activities of such instrumentalities as the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I wish to refer again to the sale of refrigerators by the commission. Whilst I agree with the general principles that have been enunciated by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), I” cannot admire his motives in seeking the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee to investigate certain matters. The investigation of maladministration, corruption, or malpractices can best be carried out by a royal commission, and it was a royal commission that the honorable member Tor Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and I sought when we made allegations in this House eighteen months ago in regard to disposals “ rackets “ and maladministration that had been reported to us. At that time I guarded my own position by saying that certain information had been given to me and that certain statements had been made. I asked this House to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the truth or otherwise of those statements. However, the Government would not accede to our request although in due course, as the result of continued pressure, it appointed what it was pleased to designate an “ independent and competent investigator “ to examine the charges that I had made. Strangely enough, the specific charges that I made were not investigated by Mr. Conde, who was appointed by the Government for this purpose. That gentleman made only a cursory survey of the position, and obtained certain superficial information upon which he made his white-washing report to the Government. Honorable members will recall that I asked for the production of the documentary evidence that I knew must have been in existence in connexion with the disposal of refrigerators in Brisbane. After a good deal of delay I was supplied with information that I sought. I obtained a certified copy of the stock-sheet, which showed the receipts issued, and the balances of the various items for disposals. I had alleged that refrigerators had been sold for as little as £7 or £10, although their value was estimated at approximately £100. The stock-sheet proved beyond any doubt the truth of my allegations. I asked then for copies of the receipts, and the authorities that are given to purchasers to leave the disposals depot with the articles that they have bought. I have copies of the receipts before me now, and I shall read one or two of them. The first shows that on the 15th May, 1945, four refrigerators, including two cases of parts, were sold for £40. The next shows that two kerosene refrigerators brought £10 each, and two electric refrigerators £10 each. Next, a cabinet refrigerator was sold for £10 and another two refrigerators for £5 each. Another cabinet refrigerator brought £10, and a Frigidaire kerosene refrigerator a similar sum. I also have copies of receipts showing the sale of two refrigerators for £10 each, an incomplete refrigerator for £7, a refrigerator cabinet for £9 10s., and a kerosene refrigerator for £12 10s.
– How long has the right honorable gentleman had these documents ?
– I h I have had them for some time while trying to get some satisfaction in regard, to this matter. I have been waiting for Mr. Conde to investigate my allegations competently; but he has never communicated with me. I said previously that copies of these documents were given to me by the department. They are still in my possession, and may be examined by any one who cares to take some interest, in having these “ rackets “ cleaned up. I draw attention also to the fact that a sixholed demonstration refrigerator was sold for £4.
– Were these machines sold by auction’ or by tender?
– They were sold by the Disposals Commission to officers and their friends.
– Were they sold ‘by auction or by private treaty?
– By private treaty. Certified copies of the certified receipts are in my possession. I also have a stock-sheet that any one can see. I not been able to get any satisfaction in regard to these matters. As I have said, the Government received a “ white-washing “ report from the man who was appointed to make an investigation. There is no need for me to further emphasize how unsatisfactory are the steps taken by the Government to investigate allegations made by responsible members of this Parliament. The charges that I have made can be substantiated up to the hilt, but nothing has been done about them, except to white-wash those who were responsible. The Government’s apathy and unwarranted tolerance towards practices of this kind is further evidenced by the neglect of the various criticisms and recommendations made by the Auditor-General from time to time. On one occasion in this House, one Minister, whose department had been severely criticized in the Auditor-General’s report, admitted that he had not even read the report. The time is long overdue for action to eliminate the maladministration that has been reported consistently by the AuditorGeneral. These allegations should be investigated thoroughly. Men do not make allegations in this House merely for the sake of making them. We have a responsibility, as trustees for the people, when we receive information that ought to be brought to light, to bring it to light. We are not obliged to guarantee the truth of what we have heard; our obligation is liquidated once we have ventilated it and asked the Government to conduct an impartial and competent investigation to prove its truth or otherwise. Allegations about disposal happenings on the Atherton tableland I asked to have investigated expeditiously, but not till months after I made them in this House was an investigation made, and then it was only cursorv. When the investigator went to the tableland the stuff that I had alleged had been wasted had been ploughed into the ground. So the evidence needed to sub stantiate what I had been told about had disappeared. The Government has the responsibility to take serious notice of matters like that. It must not bury its head in the sand like an ostrich and ignore complaints or connive at “ whitewashing “ reports.
-Order ! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to detain the House more than a few minutes, because I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) indicated clearly that if matters that affect any department are brought forward by any honorable member or citizen machinery exists for them to be thoroughly investigated. The Commonwealth Investigation Service was not established by this Government, but has existed for many years. Its officers are, for the most part, men of long standing and faithful, and they have the independent duty to examine all alleged breaches of or suspected breaches of Commonwealth law.
As to the procedure that is .sometimes followed when honorable members hear of something or other, I say, with all respect to one or two honorable members,’ that there is a proper course to follow. I have no complaint to make about this motion, because it is in general terms ; but the House will remember that, on the eve of the recent general elections in New South Wales and Queensland, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), on two separate occasions, made sensational imputations in the House, one affecting four officers of the Prices Branch and the other the administration of rationing. The honorable member referred to those matters again to-day. I shall deal with them separately. I indicate to the House the possibilities and probabilities of some situations, because I do not think it could be said that slurs can be cast generally on the administration of the Commonwealth Public Service, “which has been hardly touched even by the most reckless of accusers. The facts in the first matter are that the Prices Branch recently commenced inquiries, in cooperation with the “Commonwealth Investigation Service, in relation to four officers of the Prices Branch. Those four officers subsequently tendered their resignations to the Prices Branch or were dismissed. This happened before the honorable member for Wentworth intervened. The Commonwealth Investigation Service officers had been investigating their association with certain wholesale meat operators. Those investigations are not complete. The first time the honorable member for Wentworth referred to the matter in the House he said that four former officers of the Prices Branch were involved. Today he suggested that two were involved and two were not, or that two were innocent and two not. It was a most delicate and difficult situation.
– The right honorable gentleman does me an injustice. I said that two had been given credentials.
– I am referring to this morning.
– That is what I said this morning.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement. What I say is nevertheless correct. If the honorable member says that something has to , be added, I accept it, but it does not affect the main point, which is that at the very time when the investigators were unearthing things of great moment affecting, not the four men, but certain wholesale butchers, the matter was raised in the House. The honorable member was not the person who put the Commonwealth on the trail. He entered into the matter at the very moment when it was approaching finality. Then, of course, it became increasingly difficult to detect offences at one of the main points at which they had probably been committed. What happened? The afternoon press of Australia was full of glaring headlines like, “ Sensational charges by Harrison “, but it was not he who made the charges’. He heard of the investigation and, instead of allowing the unimpeded application of the criminal law, which will still probably be applied, he made the task of applying the law much more difficult. I do not suggest that that was his object. His object was sensationalism. He heard of the investigation from some person in or out of the department and mentioned it in the House, and thereby impeded the course of justice. In the second case, he referred to the rationing administration in connexion with certain matters that I shall not repeat, and he again made no independent investigation. He did not consult the Commonwealth Investigation Service. ITo ! He came into the House and read a letter, which he handed to me, at my suggestion. I said, “ It will be investigated by the Commonwealth Investigation Service “. Again, in the press and over the air, sensational allegations against rationing officers were bruited from one end of Australia to the other. Suggestions were made of impropriety on the part of rationing officers. I am not claiming that the honorable member did not act in good faith, but I think he is inclined to act hastily and recklessly. The proper course if any imputation is made is to go to the Commonwealth Investigation Service. Opposition members have independent access to it and do not need to go through Ministers. The honorable member did not state the name of the person who wrote the letter and I shall not, but the writer had his charge printed in Hansard and the press and broadcast throughout Australia. A preliminary report has been made about the matter.
– In fairness to the writer, the right .honorable gentleman must admit that he was prepared to come forward and give evidence.
– -I think he did say that. That would be relevant if the honorable gentleman had first taken the letter to the Commonwealth Investigation Service. The man who made the charges and whose charges got publicity through the honorable member is himself, according to the preliminary report, probably breaking the very law that he says some rival is breaking. I do not indicate, even indirectly, who the person is, but I am prepared to show the report to any honorable member who wishes to see it. In the last fifteen years he has been convicted of the following charges: - Embezzlement; embezzlement and larceny; larceny; stealing; stealing; and embezzlement. That does not prove that on this occasion he is not giving reliable information, and I do not want to preclude that information, but it is proper, when persons give information of the character given by him, that their reliability be cheeked before their charges are publicized. Otherwise a slur is cast upon public servants or other persons who may be perfectly innocent. In the case of the prices officials, names were mentioned. I submit that the proper course when such charges are contemplated is for honorable members to give their information directly to investigation officers so that it may be investigated and, should there be any breach of Commonwealth law, the offenders may be prosecuted. If there has been a breach of the law, that is the appropriate procedure to adopt if the evidence is adequate. The making of general statements, and particularly mentioning these things in the House at too early a stage, is, I submit, not only unfair but also likely to obstruct the carrying out of the law. I shall not deal with the other charges that have been mentioned. They are very general in character. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred to an inquiry, but I understand from his remarks that an inquiry was undertaken.
– That is so. Will the Minister make available a copy of the investigators’ report on the Athertorn Tablelands case?
-I think so. I consider that these reports should not be made available generally, but if any honorable member is interested in a particular case, it should be possible for him to have access to the relevant report, if there has been a full inquiry. I have no objection to that. The investigators are trained men. Their duty is to detect breaches of the law and follow them up with a view to ultimate prosecution. In this matter, I am prepared to do as the right honorable gentleman asks. I am prepared to do likewise for the honorable member for Wentworth. However, it is not satisfactory for this to take place after charges have been made.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
.- Will the Prime Minister be good enough to say whether the effect of this motion will be confined to to-morrow or whether it will apply until the end of the present sittings ? I am interested because, in the latter event, it would prevent discussion of a motion which stands in my name on the notice-paper. I realize that the Government has control of the business of the House and, if it has decided that so much time would be taken up to-morrow in debating private members’ motions as to prevent it from completing urgent business, the course which it proposes is fair. Nobody could have any reasonable objection in those circumstances. I want to be assured that the Prime Minister’s motion is not specifically aimed at the motion which stands in my name on the notice-paper.
– in reply - The intention is that to-morrow shall be devoted entirely to Government business. The motion for the tabling of papers relating to alien immigration from the Middle East, which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) placed on the notice-paper, arose during his absence in the period provided for private members’ business ; but, so that he should not be unfairly treated, I arranged with his Whip, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. BernardCorser), to secure the adjournment of the debate. The motion which I have submitted is not directed in any way at the honorable member’s motion. Approximately sixteen bills, some of them certainly of a minor character, have yet to be considered; but the honorable member’s motion will not be removed from the notice-paper. At the same time, its chances of being further considered during this sessional period are remote.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - The erection of a building in Perth for Repatriation Administrattive Offices.
This is a proposal for the erection of a building on a site, which is the property of the Commonwealth, situated at the corner of William-street and Bazaarterrace, Perth, to accommodate the adminis trative offices of the Department of Repatriation. The building is required for the reason that the present accommodation, in wood and iron premises, on land owned by the State Government, cannot be extended, as the site is already fully occupied. The Department of Repatriation occupies temporary premises for war pensions staff, the artificial limb factory, and the outpatients’ clinic, all of which will be housed in the new building. Accommodation on the fourth floor will be provided for the Customs Department laboratory. The projected building will be constructed of reinforced concrete throughout, and faced with brickwork. The building will consist of a ground floor and six upper floors. Of these, four will be of the same area as the ground floor. The fifth floor, on which the kitchen, dining and cafeteria facilities will be situated, will cover only the front main section of the building, whilst the sixth floor will provide space for store, plant and machinery rooms. The estimated cost of the building and engineering services is £222,750. I lay on the table the plans for the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Barnard) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1946, as amended by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1947, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 20th May (vide page 2603), on motion by Mr. Ward -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have been asked by some of my constituents to mention certain matters connected with this measure. I do not criticize the bill, but I should like to know whether the amount proposed to be allocated to the States from the proceeds of the petrol tax could be increased.- I believe that the intention of the bill is very good, but that it does not go far enough. One matter about which I am particularly concerned is the tremendous accident toll of our roads, and I hope that something will be done to lessen the tragic accident rate. If there were a larger allocation from the petrol tax fund improvements could be made in lighting and the provision of safety devices on our roads. If the allocation to roads were doubled as recommended by the Australian Automobile Association in its statement of the case, and 75 per cent, of the proceeds allocated to the States, that is to say, 4½d. out of every 6d. collected, and 25 per cent., or 1½d. allocated by the Commonwealth for the purpose of educating the community in road safety, and the erection of standardized road signs, such a plan would, in my opinion, be most commendable. I do not know how the money is proposed to be spent by the States when it is paid to them, but if the sum allocated to Victoria is to be £180,000 a year, from which every shire and municipal council is to claim some part, no great improvements can be made to the roads. No major works could be undertaken because the money would inevitably have to be distributed over a large area. We know that there are large roads projects awaiting implementation, particularly in Melbourne, where there are bottlenecks in many of the city streets. I should imagine that the expenditure of the entire allocation to the State to rectify matters of that description would benefit the whole State, and in the following year the country districts could, perhaps, receive the entire amount. I do not know whether it is proposed that the States should decide whether the money is to be spread over the whole State, or whether it is to be ear-marked for one particular purpose in one year and for another in the following year. I think that it would be better to allocate the entire sum for one major work each year. In that way safety measures, particularly the lighting of city and suburban areas, would be substantially improved. One honorable member mentioned the lighting in Brunswick, which is in my constituency, and claimed that Sydney-road, Brunswick, was the best lighted road in Melbourne. But all motorists realize that when they drive from such a road into other suburban streets great danger is caused by inefficient lighting. Therefore, I emphasize the need for a greater amount to be spent for the benefit of the community, by safeguarding pedestrians, and particularly children, as well as the drivers of horse-drawn vehicles and motorists.
.- Supporters of the Government have stated that Opposition members are opposed to this measure, but that is not so. We realize its value, particularly to country people who require good roads to carry on their normal activities. However, we do criticize certain aspects of the measure, including clause 4, which sets out the monetary payments to be made to the States and the period during which those payments are to be made. Nor do we approve of the provision in the bill that the States shall submit to the Advisory Transport Council their plans for any works which they propose to carry out. At the moment it is proposed to pay to the States for a period of only three years, 3d. a gallon, the proceeds of the petrol tax, for use by them in constructing and maintaining roads. In addition, £1,000,000 a year will be allocated by the Commonwealth for developmental roads in sparsely populated areas, whilst the sum of £500,000 is to be allocated for national roads. When the Federal Aid Roads scheme was introduced by the Bruce-Page Government in 1926, the term of the agreement with the States was to be for ten years. On that occasion an impost was placed on petrol, and the whole of the proceeds was paid over to the States to assist them in road construction and maintenance. Provision was also made for an excess duty of l£d. a gallon on certain brands of petrol, and id. a gallon on certain other brands. The proceeds to he paid from the petrol tax is estimated at £4,500,000 a year. We find that in 1946 the petrol tax benefited the Commonwealth to the extent of £11,500,000, out of which it paid to. the States only £3,500,000. I do not know the figures for this year, but from normal receipts and expenditure I estimate that the Government should make a profit of over £8,000,000 from the petrol tax this year.
Many of the motorists contributing this money are primary producers who seldom use the main roads. They are compelled to use secondary roads and tracks to transport their produce to railheads. The most satisfactory feature of this bill is that the Government is to pay £1,000,000 to the States for a period of three years and t.. set aside the sum of £500,000 for the construction and maintenance of national roads. The Government should be given credit for raising the money by means of the petrol tax instead of from other sources of revenue. Even allowing for that, the Government is proposing to pay out only 4.02d. of the total of 10½d. which it collects from petrol users, and to make an annual profit of approximately £9,000,000 during the next three years. One Government supporter has said that it is necessary that the Government shall ha.ve that money in order that it may meet its commitments in respect of social services. Doubtless, he now considers that that was an unguarded statement. It cannot be disputed that the proceeds of the petrol tax are passing into Consolidated Revenue; from which source some of the cost of social services is defrayed. Therefore, the petrol user, who may be an ex-serviceman who is just embarking on a career in the fishing industry, is being penalized under sectional legislation, in order that the Government may be assisted to defray the cost of the social services which it has introduced. I do not want the House to have the idea that I am opposed to social services. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Premiers of the States agreed that at least 5d. a gallon of the petrol tax should be devoted to the construction of roads under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. Unfortunately, only 3d. a gallon is to be applied to that purpose. I am completely in accord with the continuance of the petrol tax at the present rate on the condition that the bulk of it is applied to the construction, maintenance and reconstruction of roads, for which purpose it was originally imposed. But failing an increased payment to the States for this work, it is incumbent on the Government to reduce the tax. However, I should not like that to happen for the next few years, because if the rate be kept high and a larger proportion of it be returned to the States there will be a better chance of placing the roads in the state that is desired. There is not the slightest doubt that costs have increased since the end of the war. One honorable member has pointed out that labour costs have risen by 40 per cent., and new construction by 30 per cent. The cost of maintenance also is now greater than it was, whilst the price of road-making machinery is higher. Recently, the Prices Commissioner authorized an increase, by a minimum of 20 per cent., of the price of power graders. I know that the cost of one machine increased by 39 per cent., from £3,062 to £4,250, through no fault of the local-governing authority which was purchasing it, but solely in consequence of stoppages of work on the waterfront. That local-governing authority is only one of a number on whose behalf I am now conducting negotiations with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice). Having brought down their estimates and made arrangements for loans, they have found that their costs have been increased at the last moment through no fault of their own. Provision has to be made to meet such increases as they occur. In common with many other honorable members on both sides of the House, I consider that a larger payment should be made to the States. During the war period, when this legisla’tion was more or less inoperative because of the necessity to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion, the roads of this country suffered great deterioration, not only because of lack of maintenance due to a shortage of labour, but also as the result of their having to carry much, heavier traffic than they were designed to withstand. The excuse has been offered that the shortage of labour which made it impossible to carry out maintenance operations was due to a declining birth-rate in the early depression years. I believe that that idea was subsequently exploded, when it was pointed out that children born at that time would now be only sixteen or seventeen years of age. I do not think that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) would favour the reintroduction of child labour. Local-governing authorities have done their utmost to overcome their difficulties, and to-day are faced with the position that not only are their roads in a deplorable condition but in addition they have to plan future road works. The granting of the proposed assistance for the short period of three years will not enable them to launch a long-range programme. The period should be, at the very least, ten years. I am astonished that the Minister should have made provision for only three years, having had experience of the previous legislation, which, as we know, was introduced in 1926 to cover a period of ten years, and was extended for a further period of ten years in 1936. It is because that tenyear period has now expired that we have this bill before us. I understand that the Premier of Western Australia has written to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in regard to the limited period proposed. I, too, have received a communication on the subject, from the Minister for Transport in that State, in which he has said this -
In the past, the term of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement has been for ten years, whereas the proposal in the bill is to make it three years. This willbe of very definite detriment to Western Australia because the condition of our roads, owing to the inability to keep up maintenance during the war years, coupled with two particularly wet winters, has put usback many years.
Honorable members probably know that in 1945 and 1946 rainfall records which had stood for 40 years were broken in Western Australia. Perth registered in excess of 50 inches. The letter went on to say-
The result of this is that it will more than likely be necessary for many road boards to incur financial obligations that will extend far beyond the three years.
The letter from the Premier to the Prime Minister stated -
The proposed term of three years is considered too short to enable any long-range planning. Hitherto the period has been ten years and while it is not doubted that the Commonwealth Government three years hence will favorably contemplate the renewal of the allocations, it is considered that a renewal for a period of ten years is highly desirable and likely to result in more satisfactory road conditions. My Government has under consideration, in the case of such local authorities as can be regarded as adequately equipped for road construction work, a proposal for enabling them to work in conjunction with the main road authority a ten-year plan of road construction which will in all probability involve the seeking of approval by those local authorities for the raising of loan moneys which, if the construction were such as might be regarded as of a permanent nature, might reasonably be amortized over a period of ten years but no shorter. Practically the whole of the State Main Roads Department’s finances are from Federal Aid Road funds and unless there is reasonable assurance that funds will be available over a long period, it is most difficult to develop staff and equipment in a satisfactory manner.
If the Minister can extend by any means the period of the proposed grant, it should be extended considerably.
The other point that I want to raise is that the governments of the States will have to submit their road works proposals to the Transport Advisory Council. That practice was instituted when the original legislation was introduced and it was found to be not conducive to the conduct of road construction and maintenance in the various States in the best possible manner, with the result that it was abandoned. Now, twenty years later, it is proposed to reinstitute that system. Although I admit that it may be necessary for the Commonwealth to exercise some control, I claim that the States understand their own requirements best, and that, therefore, they should not have to submit their plans in detail to the proposed advisory council. The States have their own departments which control main roads and highways within their boundaries, and they and the local-governing authorities, which know local geographical and geological conditions, are best able to administer a sound roads policy. The letter from which I have quoted continues -
Regarding the proposals in the bill for the road-making policy of the States to be under the control of the Federal Minister for Transport, acting on the advice of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, I would point out that Commonwealth control of policy of road development proved unsuccessful in the early days of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, and was eliminated. It can be safely contended that State road authorities under State government control have given satisfaction throughout the whole of Australia, and, in all cases, gave outstanding services to the Commonwealth on defence construction works of various kinds. The road funds are contributed to by the motor-travelling public, and it is difficult to see how many advantages can be derived by taking, in whole or in part, control of policy from the States. It is felt. therefore, that any control of policy by the Commonwealth should be confined to the expenditure of the £500,000 for strategic roads and approaches to Commonwealth property.
I notice with, pleasure that some money is to be set aside for the construction of boat havens for fishermen, particularly as many returned ex-servicemen are interesting themselves in the fishing industry. Along the coast of Western Australia there are many places where safe anchorages for small vessels could be provided with the expenditure of small sums of money.
Of the Australian States, Western Australia and Queensland are of greater strategic importance than the others. They are also the two largest States. Western Australia has an area of approximately 900,000 square miles, .but, unfortunately, its population is slightly below 500,000. Obviously, Western Australia does not contribute to the petrol tax as much as is contributed by Victoria and New South Wales, which have larger populations. Nevertheless Western Australia has the same kind of settlement as in the other States, although its population is more scattered. The provision of transport facilities to the people of that State is a much bigger job than in the more densely populated and smaller States.
I appreciate that Western Australia gains under the present arrangement in respect of petrol tax, but in my opinion the time has come to alter the basis of payment. Instead of the States drawing from the fund on the basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area, I suggest that the basis be two-fifths population and three-fifths area. I expect that such a proposal will not be favoured by honorable members from Victoria, but I remind them that, compared with Western Australia and Queensland, Victoria is only a pocket-handkerchief State.
One of the problems confronting settlers in the outback is the provision of educational facilities for their children.
– What has that to do with the bill?
– T - The modern tendency is to construct area schools and to convey children from outlying districts to them. They have to travel over roads to get to school.
– A Labour government in Western Australia was responsible for that.
– That is not so. The establishment of area schools and the conveyance of children to and from the schools by omnibus was inaugurated by the Mitchell Government. A Labour government continued that practice. Good roads are essential if children have to travel long distances to school. That is so, particularly during the winter months.
Unfortunately, many local-governing authorities have not sufficient funds to maintain their roads in good condition. Last night the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) said that if £1,500,000 were divided by the total length of district roads in the Commonwealth it would represent only about £29 a mile. For that sum it would be impossible to form and grade a mile of road in Western Australia. I say that as the result of my experience with localgoverning bodies bef ore the war, when the cost of grading a road 22 feet wide cost £30 a mile. In addition, there was the cost of clearing, gravelling and so on. Dirt roads soon become corrugated, and they are always liable to washaways in winter. Although local-governing authorities do their best to maintain them, the application of small quantities of gravel here and there is of little permanent value. Gravel roads require constant maintenance, and until sufficient money is made available to enable a definite distance to be gravelled and sealed each year they will be a drain on the public purse. Sealed roads may be more costly to construct, but their maintenance costs are much lighter. As it may be said that some local-governing authorities are not doing sufficient for themselves in the matter of road construction and maintenance, I shall quote from a letter which I have received from the Bruce Rock Road Board in Western Australia. This board controls an area of 1,100 square miles in which there are 1,000 miles of surveyed road, of which 600 miles have been partly constructed. Prior to the war, that body bought some costly road-making plant, but some of it was impressed during the war. The board did not object to that, as it was in the interests of Australia, but it now finds that men who before the war. were prepared to work with picks and shovels are no longer willing to do so. The board believes that modern earth-moving machines should be employed to do much of the work associated with road construction. This is one of the boards whose machinery was left lying on the Sydney wharf. I hope that it will be shifted now, seeing that more ships are being made available. The letter continues -
To provide the revenue to carry out the urgent construction and maintenance which has accumulated over six years the Board requires additional finances. We have raised rates 25 per cent, for 1945 and 20 per cent, for 1946, and propose to raise by 20 per cent, each year to 1951. £3,500 is being borrowed each year for construction works. This is still totally inadequate, but we cannot make further local taxation whilst the Federal Government so completely occupies the taxing field.
No records are kept in any District, but it can be esimated that £9,000 is paid in Petrol Tax each year by resident owners of motor vehicles. It is improbable that 20 per cent, of the total mileage covered by this tax payment would be on any but our district roads. We would be very considerably assisted and feel justified in asking that £3.000 per annum be allotted for road construction within our boundaries.
Right now we are using approximately 1,G00 gallons of motor spirit per month on gravel carting. At this, rate the annual tax at lOd. per gallon is £833. It is absurd that a public body working under difficulties to make roads should have an alleged road-making tax imposed on its efforts by another public body.
Local authorities, whose members are all honorary in this State, act in many capacities as agents for both State and Federal Governments. We receive no remuneration for these services. On the other hand we are taxed in every respect as are profit-taking business concerns. But it should be noted that these governments pay no local authority taxes on their premises or land or for government vehicles which use our roads. . . .
The State government agencies use the roads provided by local-governing bodies, but pay nothing towards their upkeep. In addition, local-governing bodies are asked to perform duties at various times on behalf of governments, yet when they ask for additional grants they are refused. Out of a total tax of 10$d. a gallon of petrol, the States are to receive only 3d. a gallon.
– What was done about it by the Government which the honorable member supported?
– When the petrol tax was first imposed in 1926, all the money raised by it was handed over to the States for road construction and maintenance. At that time, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was a member of the Australian Country party.
– That ‘ is another untruth.
– Was the Minister never associated with that party?
– The honorable member said I was associated with it in 1926. That is not true.
– This communication continues -
We believe you would be making a very reasonable request in advocating the Federal Government to exempt local authorities from all taxes on labour and materials used in public works and that 33 per cent, of petrol tax should be made available for local roadmaking.
The same applies to all parts of Western Australia and, I believe, to the eastern States also. Since 1926, the Commonwealth Government has collected £140,000,000 in petrol tax, and has handed back to the States only £50,000,000. It is criminal to ask the people to accept an arrangement of this kind without allocating a greater proportion of the tax to local-governing bodies to enable them to build and maintain roads and construct bridges.
Last night, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) expressed the hope that Araluen would become a monument to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). I hope he was not referring to the Araluen in my electorate. Unless the Minister deals more generously with State governments and local authorities, the only monument that he will deserve will be one of a different kind. In my opinion, the period of the agreement is too short and the money proposed to be allocated is too little.
– The volume of criticism of this bill has been very small indeed, and the reason is obvious. It carries on a policy which for years has proved to be sound and productive of very good results. The proposed new agreement will differ somewhat from the earlier ones, and will, in some respects, be better. Criticismhas been of two kinds. First, some honorable members have said that the periodof the agreement should be longer and, secondly, that the amount of money made available should be greater. Without going over the arguments advanced by other honorable members, I should say that a tenyear period would have been better, and I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s reason for departing from the original period. As for the amount of money to be made available, we are used to hearing, in connexion with almost every measure of the kind brought before the House, that more money should be provided. I am sure that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) would be glad to distribute more money. In my opinion, there are sound reasons why the entire proceeds of the petrol tax might be expended upon the upkeep of roads, but, in general, although this is a most important measure, there are other things upon which I should prefer that more money be expended, if a choice has to be made.
There is substantial agreement among honorable members regarding the general policy of road development for Australia. However, I put to the Minister for Transport one point which, I believe, is well worth considering. In a statement prepared by the Australian Automobile Association, the following recommendation is made: -
That the Commonwealth and State Governments invite a recognized world authority to report on Australian roadway system - say -
Thomas H. MacDonald, Commissioner of the Public Roads Administration, Federal Works Agency, United States of America, or
Sir Charles Brassey, C.B., D.Sc, former Chief Engineer ofthe Roads Department of the British Ministry of Transport and past president of the Chartered Surveyors Institution.
Quite obviously, both of these gentlemen are concerned with road systems on a much greater scale than our own, and they might have very valuable advice to offer. The cost of bringing them here would be small in comparison with the total amount of money which it is proposed to expend on other branches of the work. For my part, I am much more interested in the extension of country roads, and, therefore, in the use to be made of the amount of £1,000,000 which is to be provided over and above the grant of £4,500,000 to the States. I am particularly interested in that provision because I happen to know of one district to which it will be of tremendous benefit. Most honorable members perhaps do not realize that the area of first-class land in Tasmania is very limited, and that the only area of first-class land remaining undeveloped is in the Circular Head district. That district is at present partially cut off from other parts of Tasmania because its road system is not as good as it should be, and also because it has not a sufficiently good aerodrome to enable its development by means of an expansion of its trade with Melbourne. If portion of the provision could be expended on this area - the necessary funds cannot be provided by the local-governing authorities because of the sparsely populated nature of the district - a large area of country of tremendous value, not only to Tasmania but also to the Commonwealth, could be opened up. For that reason I believe this provision in the bill to be an extremely good one. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) suggested that under this heading a certain amount of money might be set aside for tourist roads. The honorable member had particularly in mind the CanberraTumut road, which is estimated to cost £300,000. The expenditure of such a large amount of money on one road would interfere with the legitimate claims of the rest of Australia. There is something to be said for the proposal, however, as one for consideration in the years to come. Tourist traffic in any district or State brings with it certain prosperity, as it results in the opening up of districts which otherwise would remain undeveloped.
Many honorable members have referred to the damage done to existing roads by heavy haulage vehicles. Every one who knows anything about country districts, particularly timber districts, realizes the extent of the damage done by heavy haulage vehicles, particularly in areas of heavy rainfall such as Tasmania. One way of dealing with this difficulty is by imposing a tax upon tyres, or by regulating the size and weight of vehicles permitted to travel over certain roads. If some such controls be not imposed many of our back country roads which cannot withstand the weights of the vehicles now driven over them will be ruined. The whole of the burden of the repair and maintenance of such roads must eventually fall on the Commonwealth or State governments, because the municipal councils have not the requisite finance to undertake the work.
Another point of excellence in the bill is the provision that up to one-sixth of the amount given to each State may be expended on the development of country aerodromes, boat havens, jetties and the like. Here again the district of Circular Head, which is cut off from other parts of Tasmania, should benefit. An aerodrome is established there but it is incapable of carrying aeroplanes of the large type plying for traffic between the mainland and Tasmania. For the time being no hope is held out by the Department of Civil Aviation that the aerodrome at Circular Head will be developed.
– Its development will undoubtedly take place.
– The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) recently visited the aerodrome and very frankly informed the members of a deputation which waited on him that a considerable time must elapse before the aerodrome could be developed. The honorable gentleman advised the members of the deputation to endeavour to do something about it themselves. Under the provisions of this bill centres such as that will benefit. The people in the Circular Head district do not ask for development work to be carried out on the aerodrome merely as an extension of the existing facilities; they regard the improvement of the aerodrome as a necessary and integral part of the development of the whole of that area. At present it is possible to travel by air from Circular Head to Melbourne in approximately the same time as it takes to travel by road from Circular Head to Burnie, 80 miles distant. This is because intervening ranges and hills have to be traversed and the roads are not all they should be. I hope that in future measures of this kind some further provision will be made for the development of such places. Air travel and the transport of goods by air will grow enormously as the years go by. We may confidently expect as great a development in that field as there has been in recent years in the field of motor transport. I trust that, whereever possible, the Minister will promote with the State governments concerned the idea that places such as Circular Head - and there must be many others in Australia similarly situated - be given prior consideration when money is being provided for expenditure on aerodromes.
In all of these matters Tasmania offers a problem different from that of any other State. It must be apparent that an island will have problems different from those of States which form the mainland. If I appear to be pleading a special case for Tasmania, I hope it will be recognized that there is a special case to be put for that State, and that honorable members will receive these representations in the spirit in which they are advanced.
A little while ago I referred to the advisability of reducing the weight of motor vehicles travelling over certain roads. While I regard that as important, such a move does not entirely commend itself to me if other means can be found of overcoming the difficulty caused by the rapid wear and tear on roads resulting from the use of heavy haulage vehicles. As far as I can discover, no other means of overcoming that difficulty are yet available and the Government will no doubt have to consider the problem very closely indeed. That brings me to the possibility of regulating another type of vehicle which is associated with the provision of safety measures proposed in the bill. Whatever we may do to make our roads safer for traffic, we cannot be entirely successful while we continue to permit -veritable engines of death to be put upon them. That is what we are doing at the present time, when we allow modern motor cycles to remain on our roads without adequate restriction. I say this with considerable regret, because I believe the motor cycle to be a very greatly prized possession of the youth of this country. Motor cycle engines are being made more and more powerful. I was talking recently to a distributor of motor cycles, who told me that machines of the latest type are guaranteed by the manufacturer to be capable of being driven at 100 miles an hour, which means that at that speed at least 30 horse-power is generated merely to carry one person. Very often, however, a motor cycle rider carries a pillion-rider behind him, thus upsetting the balance of his machine. Many motor cyclists go on to the roads without sufficient experience of the management of their motor cycles. While I hate to impose unnecessary controls on youthful enterprise and the spirit of adventure, we have to consider the menace of vehicles of this type on the roads today. The greater the speed of motor vehicles, and the better the surfaces of the roads, the more danger we shall encounter. The excessive speeds of motor cycles is,. I believe, something that must not be overlooked in any proposal to make our roads safe. Unless we can arrive at a method of educating youths in the danger that fast motor cycling is to the lives of not only themselves but also other people, we shall have to adopt some device to regulate the pace of their machines.
Other honorable members have referred to the desirability of a uniform price of petrol in the Commonwealth. Even a uniform price in each State would be preferable to the present system, but a uniform price through the Commonwealth would be ideal. Some honorable members have cited sugar and iron and steel industries as precedent for the introduction of a uniform price that should be applied to petrol, but it must be remembered that petrol is not comparable with those products, because sugar and iron and steel products are produced locally under certain protection, whereas petrol is imported. However, although the major oil companies of Australia cannot be said to be a monopoly, there are features of the industry that make it similar to a monopoly, with consequent disadvantage to the public and detrimental to the policy to which this bill seeks to give effect. This is. the appropriate time to deal with the price of petrol under the prices regulations without any great disorganization of the financial interests involved and certainly without any great interference with our general economy. IE a uniform price of petrol for the Commonwealth cannot be fixed, a price could be fixed at least for each State. Under the present differential price system dwellers in the outback have to use inferior roads and pay higher prices for petrol. There is no encouragement for men to go far into the country, where costs are greater and more numerous discomforts exist. In the interests of decentralization the price of petrol will need to be closely considered. Decentralization is not merely a government policy ; it is a national policy to which all political parties subscribe. We all believe that the disequilibrium of Australia’s domestic economy is evidenced in the tremendous growth of the cities against the sparse population of rural areas. Anything that we can do to encourage a better balance ought to be done. The argument on which differential petrol prices is based will not always permit examination. In Tasmania three prices avail. . In Hobart and district the price is 2s. 4d. a gallon, in Launceston and district it is 2s. 5d. a gallon, and in the north-west division, the price is 2s. 6d. a gallon. That differentiation is based on the original position, when all petrol was landed in Hobart and distribution costs were met by higher charges to the consumers in other localities, but, about five years ago, a storage tank was erected at Devonport and, since then petrol for the north-west division has been landed at Devonport at a. lesser cost than petrol is landed at Hobart, because of the much shorter sea carriage. Yet people in the north-west still have to pay 2d. a gallon more than do people at Hobart. When representations were made to the Prices Commissioner, the reply was that as now that the petrol pool was about to end the two companies which had not any interest in the Devonport tank, would still have to land their petrol at Hobart, and they would be penalized to the extent of the cost of transport of the petrol from Hobart to the north-west if the price in the north-west were reduced to that ruling at Hobart. Then came this extraordinary expression, “ The company which has put in the tank must be reimbursed for the cost and, as this is a distinct advantage to the residents of that part of Tasmania, this should create no difficulty “, or words to that effect. What is the advantage in having such a storage tank if it is not a financial advantage? There is a small financial advantage in the payment of harbour dues at Devonport, but meanwhile we pay 2d. more a gallon for our petrol and have to put up with the sight of an oil tank raised in our midst. The Minister could well look into that. It is necessary for him to explore every means of bringing about a uniform price so that the policy which we all support shall be applied without the hindrance of differential prices.
Finally, I come to Tasmania’s share of the money to be made available under this measure which is 5 per cent, of the whole amount to be made available. I recognize that in theory that is a generous provision, for, on a population basis or on the area basis, we could not possibly hope to receive as much. I realize that that provision was made in the original Federal Aid Roads Agreement because of special conditions in Tasmania. When the agreement came into operation, Tasmania had a progressive policy of road development in most areas and had an extensive roads system, apart from main roads, to maintain, but, as has been stated by the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), the Commonwealth Government owes a special duty to Tasmania in relation to the proportion of Commonwealth money expended in the various States in the last seven years. I do not wish to labour the point, but very little Commonwealth money was expended in Tasmania during the war. We in Tasmania were extremely fortunate that we were not in the direct path of a possible invasion. It was not necessary to expend large sums of money in that State upon strategic roads. But it is true, that the expenditure undertaken during the war in other States benefits those States. They have been provided with developmental roads, and their difficulties in future will be considerably less than they would otherwise have been.
In one other matter, Tasmania may claim special consideration beyond that given in the first instalment of the policy which the bill provides. That is in regard to the proposal for the stan- dardization of railway gauges. Under that scheme, Tasmania cannot possibly receive an equitable return for its share of the cost. Perhaps the Minister has something special in mind in the way of an “ Easter egg “ for the Tasmanian people. I hope that it is so. However, I suggest that a subsidy similar to the grant for the construction and maintenance of roads would best meet the situation. For my own part, and probably this is a very courageous kind of suggestion, I believe that the railway problem of Tasmania would best be solved by pulling up all the permanent ways and converting them into concrete highways for use by all heavy traffic. The Premier of Tasmania should seriously consider it, but I have ho doubt that many electors will not agree with me. I seriously suggest to the Minister that, regarding his plan for the standardization of railway gauges, he should consider an extension of the “ road aid plan “ as being probably the best means of meeting the obligation which the Commonwealth owes to Tasmania.
– This debate has been most valuable, because it must have revealed to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) that many factors are associated with this bill other than those which appear on the surface, or are contained in his secondreading speech. Two important principles present themselves immediately to my mind. The first is whether the petrol tax should be imposed upon the people as a revenue-producer, or whether it should be used for the purposes for which it was originally intended, namely to finance the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. Obviously, honorable members with their knowledge of how the Treasury chests are glutted with money, can advance many reasons why the petrol tax should not be considered purely as a revenue producer. That aspect might well be developed at great length in this House, with benefit to the unfortunate taxpayers. Let us examine briefly the way in which this tax has been imposed by the Government. It has a dual capacity, first, as a part of a revenue producing scheme, and, secondly, to carry out the purposes for which it was originally’ intended. The tendency of the Government, once it has introduced a tax for a special purpose, is to develop it gradually into a revenue producer. For example, the increase of postage rates swells the revenues of the Postal Department to a marked degree, and makes that department another taxing machine. We find a parallel in the petrol tax. The rate of increase over the years may be shown by an ascending curve. In September, 1939, the retail price of petrol was ls. 10d. a gallon, and, of that amount, customs and primage duty represented 7id. a gallon. The Opposition has emphasized that, with the cessation of hostilities, the Government should revert to the status quo of September, 1939, but it has shown no intention of doing so. On the 1st November, 1946, customs and primage duty had increased from 7½d. to 11½d. a gallon, and the retail price of petrol in capital cities was 2s. 5£d. a gallon. On the 14th November, 1946, the Government magnanimously reduced the customs duty by Id. a gallon, and the retail price was reduced to 2s. 4£d. a gallon. From those figures honorable members will see that we have not nearly reverted to the status quo of September, 1939, when customs duty and primage was 7id. a gallon. Those figures indicate bow the Government increased the petrol tax under the plea of the exigencies of war. Whilst that may have been a valid reason during the war, it cannot be sustained to-day. The Government does not show, any inclination to return to the status quo of September, 1939.
For the financial year 1947-48, the petrol tax will produce approximately £15,750,000. That is not an inconsiderable sum. Indeed, it is a most handsome contribution to Consolidated Revenue. For the period 1926-1946, the petrol tax yielded £140,000,000. I use those figures as a preparatory step towards emphasizing the need to reduce the tax in order to help, not only those who pay it, but also those who need the proceeds of the tax for the construction of roads and bridges. Of the amount of £140,000,000, approximately £50,000,000 was expended on the construction of roads, and £90,000,000 was paid into Consolidated Revenue. That in itself is an indication of how the Government has used the petrol tax. For the current financial year, the esti mated yield from the tax- is £15,750,000. Of this sum, the States will be granted £4,500,000 ; £1,000,000 will be ear-marked for the construction of roads in sparselypopulated areas; £500,000 will be expended on roads of access to Commonwealth properties, and £100,000 will be used for road safety organization. The remaining £9,650,000 will be paid into Consolidated Revenue. The Government is abstracting from motorists almost double the amount which it is earmarking for road work.
We should also consider whether the proposed distribution of the amount so extracted will be equitable. In my opinion, it will not be, taking into account various factors that should be considered. Looking at the subject from the point of view of the motorist who provides the money, it must be admitted that, by reason of the total tax burden which he has to cany, he may easily become completely overburdened, and may find himself unable to meet his commitments. To correct this position, to the extent to which the petrol tax is responsible for it, he might find it necessary to discontinue using a motor vehicle, in which case, of course, he would cease to be a direct contributor to the petrol tax fund. Motorists, in common with other citizens, are already highly taxed as individuals, but they are also heavily “ slugged “ by the State authorities in respect of motor registration, drivers’ licence-fees, and the like. As a matter of fact, the motorists seem to be “ fair game “ for every taxing authority. Once a person who could spend several hundreds of pounds in the purchase of a motor car was considered to be a fairly rich man, but that time has long since passed, for to-day motor vehicles are as much a necessity to middle class people as are radios, refrigerators and the like. Motor vehicles are of course as essential to people resident in the country as any machinery used by them. Nevertheless, these motorists, like all others, are required to suffer the very heavy “ slug “ which we know as the petrol tax. That is the third way in which motorists, in particular, are heavily taxed. The severity of the petrol tax is out of proportion to any other form of taxation that could be named. Motorists at present, however, have to suffer a fourth form of special taxation. I refer to the cost of spare parts for the repair and maintenance of motor vehicles. It has been reliably stated in motor trade circles that approximately 38 per cent, of the motor vehicles in use in Australia at present have seen sixteen years or more of service. Obviously a motor vehicle which has been on the roads for sixteen years must require a very great deal of service and maintenance. More than 75 per cent, of Australia’s primary and secondary production is transported over the roads at some stage of its production or marketing. The heavy cost of maintaining the 38 per cent, of our motor vehicles which have, been on the roads for sixteen years or more is a factor which should not be overlooked. It must be remembered also that replacement parts are obtainable to-day in the majority of cases only at exorbitant black market prices. There is, in fact, a famine, in spare parts for motor vehicles, and unless something can be done to ease the position thousands of commercial motor vehicles may have to cease running. I have stated in the House on other occasions that certain garage proprietors have had to pay extraordinarily high prices for replacemtnt parts. Ball-races, for instance, which formerly cost £1 10s. a pair, now cost from £32 to £52 a pair. Yet the Government, in these circumstances, is proposing to tax motorists at such a rate as will allow it to add £9,000,000 in the next year to Consolidated Revenue from the proceeds of the petrol tax. Seeing that so many motorists find the possession of a motor vehicle absolutely essential to the carrying on of their normal duties they deserve more consideration than they are getting.
When we are considering this subject we read in the press that the Government is considering a proposal for an increase of the price of petrol. I understand that approaches have already been made to the Prices Commissioner with this object. Any increase of price would be a heavy blow to the motoring public, yet I have no doubt that, at this moment, the Prices Commissioner is considering this subject. Sir John Butters, the president of the Royal Automobile Club of
Australia and one of New South Wales’s constituent members of the Australian Automobile Association, in a press statement published on the 18th May, urged that the Government should reduce the excise duty on petrol rather than permit any increase of price. He said that with petrol at 2s. 4½d. a gallon a duty of 10d. a gallon was out of all proportion and added that although the price of petrol had fallen 5£d. since the end of the European war,, only Id. of the reduction was due to relief in respect of duty. He also said that the removal of the war-time duty alone would liquidate up to 3d. a gallon of the increased cost without “slugging” the motorists. This would still leave the price of petrol at 2s. l$d. a gallon, which would represent an increase of 16 per cent, on the price in .September 1939. That statement is worthy of the closest consideration, particularly, as motorists are at present being obliged to pay black-market prices not only for spare parts, but also for the servicing of their cars. In these circumstances a strong case can be made out for a reduction of the price of petrol.
I shall leave to my friends of the Australian Country party the claims of country motorists. I believe that they will be able to make an unanswerable submission to the Government. I am speaking for the general motorists and the businessmen, including carriers and carters of all kinds, who have to. use motor vehicles in connexion with their ordinary callings. A case may also be stated on behalf of this section of the community for a reduction of both the petrol tax and the price of petrol. I also advance the proposition in their name that very much more than the amount which the Government is proposing to provide from the petrol tax for road maintenance should be ear-marked for that purpose.
I turn now to another aspect of the problem. The amount to be paid to State governments from the proceeds of the tax is to be £4,500,000, and an amount of £1,000,000 is also to be made available to local government authorities for expenditure in sparsely populated areas. The amounts that will be allocated to New South Wales from those two totals are £1,260,000 to the Government and £276,000 to local government authorities. I understand that both of those sums are being paid to the States. The earmarking of that £276,000 should be accompanied by a proviso which will ensure that it will reach the destination intended, and will not be diverted to the main roads boards for main roads purposes, because I believe that localgoverning bodies in sparsely-settled areas have a policy of road development which must be proceeded with, and unless they are assured of at least this sum they will be unable to carry on either maintenance or developmental road works. There is a vast difference between the mileage of roads maintained and serviced by the States through main roads boards, to which the bulk of this moneywill be devoted, and that which passes through looal-govemment areas. The main roads boards control approximately 25,000 miles of roads, whereas those controlled by local-governing bodies have a mileage of approximately 100,000, or four times as great. The State of New South Wales will have £1,260,000 to expend on its roads projects, whilst only £276,000 will be available for expenditure on by-roads, and developmental roads in the sparselysettled areas. The local-governing bodies claim that, if the Government intends to continue the petrol tax at the present high rate- which cannot be justified on any ground - the proceeds should be used for the purpose for which the tax was imposed, and that in their allocation they should share equally with the main roads boards, because the huge mileage with which they have to deal offsets the lower cost of maintenance compared with the cost which has to be incurred by the main roads boards. They base their case on the need for the development of their districts. So far, they have been financing their developmental projects out of the revenue they have been able to raise by means of local rates But evidence has been adduced to show that their revenue has been declining rather rapidly. In the statement of their case for financial aid, they have made these points -
Local government resources are decreasing due mainly to -
Excessive and increasing statutory exemptions from rating and contri butions to new State Instrumentalities, and
Commonwealth financial policy.
Statutory Exemptions from Rating and Increasing contributions to new State Instrumentalities.
The cost of statutory exemptions from rating in New South Wales, approximates £500,000 per annum, contributions to State Instrumentalities about £700,000,or a total with other “losses” of not less than £1,250,000 per annum.
One of their disabilities is caused by the fact that they are now denied a portion of the returns which they formerly had from the land in their areas, because the Government of New South Wales has acquired large tracts for residential purposes and this has immediately become unrateable. Yet they have to render increasing services to the community. For example, they state -
In the towns, in addition to good water supply and sewerage systems and electricity and gas services, they want libraries, cultural centres, baby health centres, better heath protection and improved recreation facilities in the form of golf links, bowling greens, gymnasia, children’s playgrounds, swimming baths, &c. Demands for more effective control over food supplies and the development of country killing are also arising.
The cost of developing those additional cultural, educational and health facilities has to be defrayed out of a gradually diminishing income. How, then, will it be possible for them to maintain existing roads on the small pittance that they are to receive? They can establish an excellent case for greater consideration from the Government in regard to funds for general developmental projects, including roads.
A comparison of the Australian and American methods of allocating the proceeds from the petrol tax is interesting. Australia has fewer than 500,000 miles of roads, whereas the mileage in the United States of America is 3,500,000. The petrol tax is 4d. a gallon in the United States of America, and 10½d. a gallon in Australia. The allocation in the United States of America is 2½d. a gallon to roads and l½d. a gallon to revenue, whereas in Australia it is 3d. a gallon and 7½d. a gallon respectively. That comparison gives a true indication of the value of the measure we are now considering. The basis of allocating the proceeds from the petrol tax is much the same in the two countries ; but America endeavours to achieve equality in the allocation, whereas in Australia the proceeds arc devoted almost exclusively to revenue purposes, and, purely as an afterthought, a miserable 3d. a gallon, which is equivalent to £4,500,000 annually, is farmed out to roads, and about £9,000,000 is retained in Consolidated Revenue. The Government must either lighten the burden of the tax on the motorist at a time when he, who pays it, should be given more consideration, or, if it is not prepared to do that, at least apportion more equitably between main roads boards and local-governing bodies the revenue that i3 extracted from petrol users. Such a policy would lead to greater decentralization.
The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) made out a very strong case for a uniform price of petrol throughout Australia, primarily for developmental purposes. That, in conjunction with the development of roads in sparsely settled areas, would encourage the greater use of petrol, and would be a most helpful policy, for the Government to adopt.
– At this juncture, it is difficult to break new ground on this subject. Nevertheless, there are one or two points that I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister in charge of this important measure (Mr. Ward). With its principles one cannot disagree; they are identical with those that have been embodied in the Federal Aid Roads Agreement since it was first made as far back as 1926. That agreement has been proved to he one of the finest pieces of Commonwealth and State co-operative legislation that has ever been introduced. One has only to travel through the countryside to realize and appreciate the good work that has been done under it. That work was of inestimable value during the grave period of the war. But for the agreement, perhaps Queensland in particular, and Western Australia to a less degree, would have been in a very sorry plight. I remind the House and the country that that legislation was introduced by the Bruce-Page Government. No small portion of the credit for it should be extended to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). During the debate, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) rather took the right honorable member for Cowper to task, when he said that the financial provision is much greater in this measure than it had been under the administration of the right honorable gentleman. Of course it is. But comparisons on that basis are odious in the extreme. One cannot compare the present receipts from taxation generally, and the petrol tax in particular, with the quantum received under peace conditions. Nor can one compare governmental expenditure to-day with what it was in 1939, and in earlier years dating back to the inauguration of the Federal Aid Roads system in 1926. One has only to look at the statistics to learn that, for the ten years up to 1937, the dutiable petrol consumption in Australia was 1,914,000,000 gallons, and the revenue obtained from the petrol tax and paid into Consolidated Revenue was £30,000,000, whereas, for the ten years ended 1947, the dutiable petrol consumption notwithstanding rationing was 2,510,000,000 and the proceed* from the petrol tax paid into Consolidated Revenue amounted to £70,000,000. In conjunction with that, one has to consider the number of motor vehicles registered in Australia in the two periods. For the ten years 1927-37, the_ yearly average of motor vehicles registered was 625,000, whereas for the ten years 1937-47 the average number was 855,000, whilst the estimate for the period 1947-52 is more than 1,000,000. I have drawn attention to these figures in order to counter the comparison by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro of the revenue that was made available by the right honorable member for Cowper with that which is now proposed. However, we have to deal with the position in 1947 from other angles. First, there is the necessity to keep the state of the roads in Australia abreast with the evolution of motor transport. We have also to bear in mind that the methods of construction that are popular to-day are different from those that were followed five or ten years ago. Then we must consider the amount of revenue available, and the responsibilities of the Government in regard to post-war reconstruction, and the general development of rural areas. Therefore, it is only proper that more money should be provided now than was provided in any year during the period up to 1937. The provision of roads in rural areas has opened up valuable land, so that the money expended has proved to be a wise investment. It has paid good dividends, and will continue to do so if a wise and progressive policy be applied. However, it must be recognized that while we are agitating for more population, one of the most urgent problems facing us is the better distribution of the population we already have. There are about 7,000,000 people in Australia, and more than 4,000,000 of them live in capital cities and large towns. The evil was aggravated by the war, because people were encouraged to leave the country and go into the cities to engage in war work. Improved amenities must be provided in the country to induce people to return, and one of the most important of these is good roads.
During the war, vast numbers of men and large quantities of materials were shifted rapidly and easily over good roads, even in sparsely populated areas in Queensland and “Western Australia. The heavy traffic which the roads then carried damaged the surfaces, which are now in urgent need of repair. I have previously advocated the making of a special Commonwealth grant to local governing bodies so that they may be able to put into repair roads damaged by military traffic. Such expenditure should be regarded properly as part of our war expenditure.
Twenty years ago, transport requirements in country areas were different from what they are to-day. The men who framed the first Federal Aid Roads Agreement were far-sighted enough to see that motoring was then only in its infancy. The Minister for Transport pointed out that even in 1937 civil aviation was an insignificant factor compared with what it is to-day, and what it will become in the future. Indeed, it has come to be regarded as an indispensable method of transport, particularly in remote areas which are not served by railways or good roads. “Were it not for air services, many parts of Australia would be neglected, if not totally isolated. It is now possible to supply people in such areas with fresh fruit and vegetables, something which they previously had to do without. One has only to sit in the lounge of J;he Kingsford-Smith aerodrome and look at the time-table in order to be impressed by the great number of air services which leave from Sydney every day for places in western New South Wales and southern Queensland. Such services should be encouraged as much as possible by helping local governing bodies to provide aerodromes in country districts. Therefore, I am surprised that the Government has abolished the provision under which the tax collected on aviation spirit was ear-marked for the construction and maintenance of country aerodromes. Revenue so derived should continue to be used for this purpose, and when the bill is in committee I intend to move an amendment to that effect.
The bill provides for the allocation of £4,500,000 a year to the States, this amount being based on 3d. a gallon out of the petrol tax on an assumed consumption of 360,000,000 gallons a year. The prospects are that the consumption of petrol will be even greater, and I hope that the amount of money to be made available to the States will be allowed to expand in accordance with the increased revenue obtained. It is provided than only onesixth or £750,000, of the money to be distributed among the States, may be expended on transport facilities other than roads. This works out at £125,000 for each State which may be used for the development of boat havens and jetties for fishermen, and for the provision of country aerodromes. The excuse of the Government for withholding from the general fund under this bill, receipts from the petrol tax on aviation spirit is that the Government is now committed to large expenditure on civil aviation, and, therefore, considers that it is justified in retaining the revenue for its own purposes. I do not believe that the argument is sound. Localgoverning bodies are particularly well qualified to construct, maintain and supervise aerodromes, and it is preferable that the money should be handed over to them for this purpose. In Victoria, there is a Country Roads Board which has done excellent work in that State, and has also trained many splendid engineers who have given valuable service in other parts of the Commonwealth. I recall the names of Mr. John Kemp, Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Patterson, who have done fine work in Queensland on road construction. Others who were trained in Victoria did valuable work during the war in South Australia and the Northern Territory. The roads boards in Western Australia are well-qualified to undertake construction and maintenance of country aerodromes, and it is much better that they should be allowed to do the work than that everything should be controlled from Canberra. There is an inter-departmental committee which concerns itself with aerodrome construction and maintenance, but the work is proceeding more slowly and less satisfactorily than if it were under the control of State authorities. For some years, I have been trying to induce the Commonwealth Government to take an interest in the provision of an uptodate aerodrome at Warick, on the Darling Downs. This is an important town, and if the aerodrome were developed it would become a centre for air services from Brisbane and other capital cities, and to places in the middle and far west of Queensland. At the present time, however, it is isolated because the local authority is unable to undertake the task of establishing an aerodrome, and cannot be expected to do so. It would be too costly to build and maintain. I have no doubt that in other States there are important centres which are faced with similar problems. If we are to develop our air services, and bring the people of the remote areas closer to civilization, we must provide more money for the construction and maintenance of aerodromes.
I urge the Government to withdraw the bill, and to redraft it in order to increase the period of the agreement from three years to ten years. In the past, the agreement has operated for periods of ten years, and nothing less will permit the States to embark upon long-range planning. There should be full co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth in regard to transport development, and in order to achieve this the agreement should extend for a longer period than three years. I desire that provision be made of £5,000,000 to recoup shire councils and local-governing authorities for damage caused to the roads within their areas during the war period. Rectification of such damage should be undertaken immediately. These local-governing authorities should not be asked, to go to the enormous delayed expense of repairing roads which were heavily damaged by military vehicles which misused them during the war period. In present circumstances such roads can be maintained only at the cost of the ratepayers concerned. It is not fair to ask them to bear such a heavy responsibility. The destruction of these roads may have been a necessary concomitant of the war effort, but to expect the ratepayers of the localities to hear the whole cost of their restoration is inequitable and unjust. I also desire that there be allocated to country shires and municipalities an additional amount equivalent to 3d. a gallon of the petrol tax in order to encourage and assist them in the construction and maintenance of roads within their areas. Whilst in the past much has been done to preserve our main roads, little has been done to improve our secondary roads which act as feeders to the main roads system. The unsatisfactory state of our roads adds greatly to the cost of transport which, in turn, increases the cost of production. As our production pays for everything in this country, it must be stimulated. Production must be efficient, and not wasteful, and, accordingly, everything should be done to minimize the cost of transport, both in vehicle operation costs and in the cost of time occupied in the transport of products. For the reasons I have mentioned the provision of money in this direction would pay continuous dividends. The total amount of customs and excise duties received from petrol used for civil aviation purposes should be devoted to the development of country aerodromes. I have given ample reasons why that should be done.
For the reasons I have given I move the following amendment: -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for -
a period of ten years instead of three, during which the schedule shall operate;
the sum of £5,000,000 to recoup shire councils and provincial and local authorities for damage caused to roads during the war;
an allocation of an amount of 3d. a gallon from the petrol tax for roads in shires and country municipalities;
the total amount of customs duties and excise received from petrol used for the purpose of civil aviation to be devoted to the establishment and development of country aerodromes.”.
– Is the amendment seconded ?
– I second the amendment. I assume, Mr. Speaker, that I do not surrender my right to speak to the amendment if I do not address the House at this stage.
– No, the honorable member may make his speech at a later stage if he so desires.
. - The House is discussing a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purpose of financial assistance to the States, to be applied in the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads and works connected with transport, and for other purposes. The bill has a wide scope. However admirable it may be in providing money for the construction of additional roads, we are, to a great degree, committing ourselves to a retrograde step. This regression has been proceeding ever since the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) introduced his famous bill in 1926, making it possible for arterial and main roads to be constructed throughout the Commonwealth, which is an admirable idea. Most honorable members who have discussed the bill have advocated the construction of additional roads in areas already well supplied with them. Under this measure we shall be subsidizing large chain store concerns such as Woolworths Limited and G. J. Coles and Company Limited, which utilize these roads in their attempts to undermine the small shopkeepers in country towns. This will destroy all our attempts to bring about decentralization. Whilst some honorable members have paid lip service to the need for decentralization, many of them have strongly advocated the needless expenditure of increased sums of money on arterial roads, thus making it possible for the owners of chain store establishments to undermine the tradespeople in inland towns. The inroads of these big organizations into the legitimate business of small shopkeepers in country centres has become serious, but not one member of the Australian Country party has protested against it.
A few days ago the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) advocated the construction of great arterial roads leading into the city of Melbourne. He said that such roads should be made bigger and bigger. The honorable member apparently does not realize that planning for roads is a scientific task. Road-planners who have been at work for the last fifteen years recommend, not the construction of bigger arterial roads having a central focus in the capital cities, but the making of roads to by-pass the capital cities and feed large provincial towns. I am pleased to note that that great journal, the Sydney Morning Herald, has in recent weeks published articles on this matter. This morning’s issue of that newspaper contains an outstanding article on road planning. Next Friday, the road-planners in Sydney will be given an opportunity to come into their own. They will be recognized as an asset to this country, whose technical advice cannot be ignored. A census of traffic will be taken in Sydney for the purpose of demonstrating the feasibility of constructing roads which, instead of centring on a focal point within the city area, will direct streams to diverse points throughout the outer suburban area and so circumnavigate the central point. I am pleased to know that at last the value of town-planners has come to be recognized. The Government should do everything possible to extend the activities of those who have undertaken this valuable work in the interests of the country. A Commonwealth town-planner should be appointed at a high salary, and should be made responsible for ensuring that the money which will be provided to the States under this legislation shall be expended in accordance with accepted townplanning principles. Such an authority - a “National Planning Authority” - could also act as an adviser to the Government and to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Our first task should be the national planning of roads, before we give to the States carte blanche to expend money under this bill.
More than one honorable member has claimed that this bill should operate for a period of ten years, because the proposed three-year period does not give to the States an opportunity to make long-range plans. I do not agree with that submission. The Government is wise in limiting the duration of the agreement to three years. This is one occasion on which I find myself in agreement with the Russian system. Stalin has said that people must keep proving themselves all the time. The Commonwealth should make the States demonstrate their ability to expend wisely and well the money which will be appropriated under this bill. In other words, the States should be given the “ once over “ every three years to ascertain how this money is being expended. .
– It would be much better to allow the States to look after their own .business.
– I do not agree with the right honorable gentleman. I suggest that Mr. Kemp, an outstanding authority on roads, should be appointed chairman of a national town-planning authority, whose1 first function would be to supervise the expenditure of this money by the States. I do not for one moment decry the ability of the engineers of the local-governing bodies. Most of them already hold the engineer’s certificate, required by the local-governing bodies. The road engineers are capable and experienced men. . However, some of them do not hold the necessary engineer’s certificate, and, consequently, may not be capable of ensuring that money granted to them under this legislation is expended wisely.
Clause 3 of the bill proposes the establishment of a trust account, to which certain of the proceeds of the petrol tax will be credited. I am always suspicious of trust accounts. Some years ago, I was associated with a railway construction job in Western Australia. By railway standards it was not a big job. It covered the construction of 30 miles of railway at a cost of approximately £100,000. The engineer in charge of the work refused point-blank to have anything to do with keeping accounts relating to the work. He had made his estimate of the cost, and he rightly said that the accounting was properly a matter for the office. He knew that he had made a proper computation of what was required. He sent in his reports every week. As one of the junior officers, I had the task of ascertaining the cost of taking gravel out of a pit and putting it onto railway trucks. In those days the cost of placing it on the track ready for the lifting gang was ls. 4d. a cubic yard; to-day the figure would be 7s. 4d. In my opinion, trust accounts are dangerous things to meddle with. ‘ I have found that in my experience in the Northern Territory. If an engineer or some one working under him makes a mistake, he might easily say, “ charge it to the trust account”, thereby making it impossible to impose a check.
In South Australia, in a certain instrumentality, an effective system of accountancy is in operation. The engineers employed by that instrumentality have nothing whatever to do with the accounts, because, unconciously or otherwise, they might be tempted to make them fit the estimates. They insist that the costing or audit department shall be solely responsible for the whole of the accounting. They send in fortnightly reports. If the costing department finds that a certain proportion of the work costs 10s. instead of only 3s., the engineer in charge is asked the reason for the increased cost. He immediately gets to the root of the matter, and furnishes his report to the costing department. It is with the manner in which the money voted under this bill may be expended that I am most concerned. I ask the Government to be gravely suspicious of this trust account, and keep a watchful eye on it, so that any engineer or technical officer who is responsible for the expenditure of money from the trust account shall not be able to shield his incompetence by an improper manipulation of the account. I have seen such things done in constructional works on many occasions.
I also ask the Government not to trust the States too much. An auditor or a cost accountant should keep a watchful eye on all of the works undertaken under this bill. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) say that this was, in effect, a subsidy in reverse, because the grants to the States were calculated on a basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area. The Commonwealth should be cognizant of the fact that three types of roads come within the scope of this measure, namely, first-class, second-class and third-class roads. Then there are tracks and bridle paths. We have progressed considerably from the bridle paths that were so numerous in the southern. .States in pioneering days. While I agree that money should be expended on the repair and maintenance of roads, and on arterial and strategic roads, I believe that a great deal more money could be provided for the development of second and third-class roads. It is in connexion with them that much faulty construction takes place. A first-class road is constructed with good camber, and adequate side drainage. Much of the work done on first-class roads lasts a lifetime. That is not true of second-class roads, many of which can become thirdclass roads within two seasons if they are not properly constructed. All roads must be given sufficient camber, and be provided with adequate side drains to carry off water in the wet season. Unless the Commonwealth stipulates that all roads constructed under this measure shall be made in accordance with scientific road construction principles, much of this money will be “ poured down the sink “. Honorable members who travel about the countryside must have seen many second and third class roads which have been so badly constructed that the money expended on them was virtually wasted. The Commonwealth should appoint supervisors to examine the expenditure of this money. It should not be content merely to grant the money to the States, and make them wholly responsible for its expenditure. The whole of the money appropriated by this bill should be expended in accordance with correct road construction principles. These remarks apply particularly to shires, which, perhaps, cannot afford to employ engineers holding the recognized engineer’s certificate. Highly qualified engineers are at present in great demand, and many of them are earning salaries of nearly £1,000 a year, and rightly so. Many of the more impoverished localgoverning authorities are compelled to rely on a foreman in charge of a gang in carrying out their road construction works. All of these works should be inspected by a Commonwealth supervisor.
In my view, too much money will be expended in areas which are already oversupplied with roads. What is proposed for people living in the outback areas of west Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, most of whom have to rely on bridle paths? 1 direct the attention of the Government, and particularly of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), to the bitumen road constructed during World War II. from Alice Springs to Darwin, a distance of 1,000 miles. When I travelled over that road recently I found it to be in excellent condition. That is a tribute to the works director in that area. Darwin residents have complained bitterly about the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) wanting to know upon what works his huge staff in Darwin is employed. A great deal of the money voted by that department in the Northern Territory is expended on, and a great many of its employees are engaged on, the bitumen road from Alice Springs to Darwin. Notwithstanding the excellent work that is being done on it, I fear that it will deteriorate during the next wet ‘season, unless .action is taken to limit the size of the motor vehicles which are using it. In that connexion, .1 support the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) who suggested the imposition of a wheel base tax. The Commonwealth should limit the weight of trucks permitted to use certain arterial roads. The heavy vehicles used by chain-store firms such as Woolworths Limited and G. J. Coles and Company Limited are causing irreparable damage to the arterial highways connecting our capital cities, aud are destroying our second-class roads. If I had my way, I would hunt them off the road. They are ruining our small storekeepers in country towns .by carrying cheap Japanese toys to the workers who have a few shillings to spend on them for their children. These heavy trucks should te taxed at a high rate in order to provide money for the upkeep of the roads over which they are driven. I have seen these vehicles carrying loads of from 10 to 15 tons.
The people in the Northern Territory have complained bitterly about the state of the road from Mount Isa to Tennant Creek. It shows disgraceful confusion owing to the fact that on a military road built for the Government the bores should he out of commission, more or less blown to pieces by the wind. The Minister for Transport ought, after conferring with the Minister for the Interior, who is unfortunately ill, to go to that territory to see conditions there. The road from Mount Isa to Tennant Creek ought not to be allowed to be ruined, as is happening according to my information. I do not know whether I am in order, Mr. Speaker, in taking advantage of the citation to. this bill which refers to “works connected with transport, and for other purposes “, to ask the Minister to tell me, when he replies, when the railway north from Alice Springs will be built. I hope that he will accede to my repeated requests that the first section be built to Tennant Creek, that the second section he from Tennant Creek through the Barkly Tablelands to Birdum, with a spur to a gulf port either Borroloola or Point Parker in Queensland.
– Order ! The honorable member is departing from the subject of the bill, which relates to roads, not railways.
– I congratulate the Government on the provision for policing the grant contained in paragraph c of sub-clause 3 of clause 6, which reads -
That the State will, prior to the thirtieth day oi June in each year, submit to the Minister, in such form as is agreed to by the Minister, a statement of proposed allocations _ of expenditure in respect of road construction works for the next succeeding financial year.
That is a wise provision. I go farther, and say that the Commonwealth should appoint an engineer to supervise the work done by the States under the agree ment. I am suspicious of trust accounts, because they can be used by incompetent people to hide their incompetency from auditors and cost accountants.
– People can raid trust accounts, too.
– They can do all sorts of things. Clause 7 provides for the expenditure of £500,000 a year by the Commonwealth in the construction and maintenance of strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property. I know that the Minister for Transport is serious in his intentions to give access to the far north, but I shall not be satisfied until a road is built from Cairns to Wyndham, which I recommended ten years ago. That road would be not only strategic, but also developmental, because the area that it would traverse is happily in the high rainfall belt and has an assured annual rainfall of from 40 to 60 inches. Wonderful opportunities for development exist along that route if people can get there. For strategical reasons, the Government must keep in good repair the road north from Alice Springs to Darwin, and that from Mount Isa to Tennant Creek and construct a new road from Cairns to Wyndham, about 80 to 100 miles inland through Arnhem Land and skirting the Gulf of Carpenteria.
I cannot conclude without saying something about the unfortunate people in the Northern Territory off the bitumen road. Their praises are unsung. They battle through life on holdings such as peanut farms. They are ready to build their own roads. One cleared a road and then the Commonwealth Works Director in the Northern Territory, Brigadier-General Lucas, sent out a tractor at a cost of £80. That road is out from Pine Creek. “Billy” Burns, who has the cattle station “ Tipperary “, decided to build his own road. No doubt, if he applied to Brigadier-General Lucas, road-building equipment would be sent to him, but he would have to pay. Pick-and-shovel days are over in road work. Once a man has had the grit to clear the route by chopping down the trees and other work, earth-moving equipment should be sent from Darwin or Alice Springs, whichever is the nearer, to help the pioneers to build roads east and west to connect with the bitumen road. A man named Schultz, whose property is 23 miles from Victoria River Downs Station constructed his own road. He operates in a small way, having only 7,000 head of cattle. He is married with two children. The Government’s road-grader went from Alice Springs 500 miles to Newcastle W aters and then graded another 300 miles to Victoria River Downs Station and turned back, leaving Mr. Schultz to construct the remaining 23 miles himself. He is just a “ bagman “, as the men with small herds are disparaged by the men whose herds are composed of 120,000 head or so of cattle. Road-making equipment and carting that costs 3d. a mile on the Government road-train is not for them! This Government should understand and sympathetically represent the small man’s outlook. Let expenditure be curtailed in districts which are already served with roads, and developmental roads constructed in outlying and sparsely populated areas! They require not only developmental roads, but also strategic roads for the defence of Australia against possible invasion from the north.
.- So much has been said on this bill that I can scarcely fail to repeat some of the remarks which have been eloquently made by previous speakers. This bill is designed to provide more and better roads in Australia, and, certainly, no other nation is more dependent upon roads than is Australia. No occupied land in the world comparable in size with Australia, is less served by railways or transport waterways. Those two circumstances immediately establish that Australia is more dependent on roads than is any other country. Therefore, it is appropriate that the National Parliament should devote serious consideration to this subject. The bill, in principle, re-enacts the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), more than twenty years ago, formulated in agreement with the States to provide for the imposition of a tax on petrol to finance the construction of roads. The right honorable gentleman will always be remembered as the originator of the proposal, which has been of inestimable value in the development of this country.
As the right honorable member for Cowper stated earlier, the Government in this bill is continuing the best features of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, but, unfortunately, has incorporated in it some less admirable ones. Great importance may be attached to the principle of long-term planning, whether it be for roads or any other project. Those who are charged with the responsibility of planning the expenditure of large sums of money should be able to see a long way ahead, so that their plans for the building up of organizations and purchases of equipment shall be secure. Unfortunately, for the first time, the duration of the plan will be reduced from ten to three years, and, to that degree the- bill diminishes the original advantage of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. I emphasize the importance nationally of road construction. Australian industries situated outside the metropolitan area of a’ capital city will be increasingly dependent on road transport.
Those who have spent most of their lives in the larger centres of population have riot the faintest conception of the importance of various methods of transport to those who choose to live in the country. Those people are well worthy of the greatest possible consideration. They are the original producers of wealth. If a resident of a large city needs a loaf of bread, he walks along the street to a nearby shop and purchases his requirements. In the country, however, the housewife who wants a loaf of bread must either bake it, or make a journey of 4. 5 or 10 miles to the town to secure this commodity, which has the value of only a few pence. An ice chest is a simple amenity which should be available to every person who lives in rural areas. A block of ice, which costs approximately ls. in the city, costs the housewife in a country district about 5s. by the time she travels a few miles to town, purchases the ice, and returns to her home. The cost of transport is closely related to the construction :,nd maintenance of roads, and the imposition of a tax upon petrol. It has a tremendous impact upon industries in country districts and the conditions of life of those who live in rural areas. I am not doing more than I should do when I direct the attention of this Parliament to the cost of transport in the country.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has described the load that the petrol tax imposes upon the cost of transport, and has urged that that burden should be abated. The petrol tax should not be regarded as a revenue producer. The proceeds from’ the tax should be devoted to the purpose for which the levy was originally made, namely, the construction of roads. I support the contentions of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) who made out a powerful case on behalf of those who dwell in remote areas. He described how many of his constituents are absolutely dependent upon road services.
– He mentioned also how few roads they have.
– He referred to the substantial cost of travelling vast distances over roads in the Northern Territory, and cost of petrol. He revealed that, in addition, some of these struggling settlers are obliged to construct their own roads. That information should cause honorable members to bow their heads in shame. Long ago, Victoria made provision for special grants for those who are described as “ isolated settlers “. Where special circumstances exist, the Country Roads Board is authorized to depart from all the ordinary formulae of costs in the provision of roads and expend a considerable sum of money in providing a road for even one settler. If a State can render that service, the Commonwealth should be able to do so. I .-join with the honorable member for the Northern Territory in making a plea on behalf of isolated settlers in the Northern Territory, some of whom have been obliged to pay £S0 or £100 for the construction of their own road of access to their properties. The Commonwealth should assume responsibility for that work. I ask the Minister for Transport or the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) to consider the adoption of a proposal which I formulated when I was Minister for the Interior some years ago. This proposal was designed to overcome the extraordinarily high cost of petrol in the Northern Territory. At the time of which I am speaking, the price of petrol was approximately ls. 9d. a gallon at Darwin, 2is. 6d. at Alice Springs, and 5s. 6d. at Wave Hill.
– The price of petrol is now 5s. 6d. a gallon at Rankin River.
– And probably 4s. a gallon at Tennant Creek. I do not claim any credit for this proposal ; I refer to it now only in the hope that the Government will adopt it. I suggested that the whole of the proceeds from the petrol tax in the Northern Territory should be allotted to that territory and used to subsidize the freight cost on petrol to remote parts of the Northern Territory. The Lyons Government approved the proposal,, but after the death of the then Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, the scheme was not introduced. I urge the Minister for Transport to consult with the Minister for the Interior regarding the possibility of adopting this plan. On the figures compiled, the cost of petrol at Darwin would have remained at ls. 9d. a gallon, and the revenue derived from the petrol tax of 7£d. a gallon could have been used as a freight subsidy to reduce by shillings a gallon the cost of petrol in the interior of the Northern Territory. That would have been a most valuable concession, not only to industry, but also to the settlers.
The Government should recognize the fact that people in the interior will become increasingly dependent upon air services. To date the Government has not announced any policy for the construction of airfields in the interior. The Minister for Transport should consider the advisability of discussing with the Advisory Transport Council the policy for assisting local authorities, or expenditure by the Department of Civil Aviation to provide airfields in the more remote centres of Australia. To-day, they are deprived of air services because of the lack of aerodromes. As the representative of an electorate a long distance from the boundary of which is also the boundary of a State, I urge the Minister to discuss with the Transport Advisory Council the conditions under which transport licences are granted to road hauliers who operate commercial vehicles in border areas. It is incongruous and indefensible that the national
Government should raise money for the building of roads to be used, in part, by commercial vehicles, and that conditions should be applied to road hauliers which prevent them from freely using the roads in their area which may cross a State boundary. The conditions should be such that road hauliers should be entitled to use the roads on either side of a State boundary, within a defined radius, without the payment of extra fees.
– The honorable gentleman is stating a good case for an increase of Commonwealth power.
– Tha That may be the point of view of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), and perhaps a case could be argued on those grounds for an extension of Commonwealth power, but my point at the moment is that as the Minister for Transport has introduced a measure which proposes to set up a Transport Advisory Council, he should discuss with that body the making of reciprocal arrangements by which road hauliers holding commercial transport licences should be authorized, without extra fees, to use the roads, within a given radius, on either side of a State boundary. The importance of road transport has been fully acknowledged in the course of this debate. I hold the view that roads constructed from the proceeds of the petrol tax should be available for use by road hauliers living in border areas without the payment of the additional substantial licence-fees which they are now required to pay. At present road hauliers are inhibited from the free use of roads in border areas by reason of the operation of State transport regulations, which, in some instances, are of the most restrictive character. These commercial road users operating from border towns may use roads in an adjacent State only if they possess a licence for the purpose, and they must pay a fee for special trips over the border if they do not hold a licence. The fees for the licences and special trips vary greatly. In some cases border road hauliers are required to pay a special fee that may be £2 or £5 or more, for the right to make even one trip into another State. During the recent rail transport strike in Victoria, the Premier of Victoria made a special appeal to road hauliers to operate their vehicles at full capacity in order to supply Victoria with much-needed commodities. Yet these hauliers found that if they wished to take a load of groceries across the border they had to pay a special fee, which was sometimes as high as £5, for one trip. I discussed this subject with a number of these hauliers, and I found that in every instance, notwithstanding that a state of emergency existed, they had to pay these extra fees. Moreover, they were unable to predict how much the special fee would be for particular trips. I asked numbers of them, “How do you charge your client for goods carried on these trips for which you have to obtain special permission ? “ I was told that they had to make their charges subject to an additional unspecified amount which they would have to pay for the right to make a special trip. They could not state the amount because they could not ascertain how much it would be.
I am opposed to the Commonwealth Parliament taking all power to itself, because I do not believe that a vast country like Australia can be best administered by a completely centralized authority, but an endeavour should be made to secure uniformity, as-far as possible, in such matters as these. .There is no justification for the application of divergent policies in regard to transport in different parts of the country. I had hoped that the proposed Transport Advisory Council would be made a statutory body, and that its constitution would be clearly defined by statute, but the Minister’s remarks on this subject were not sufficiently explanatory. I trust, however, that the honorable gentleman will give an assurance that he will discuss with the council the matter to which I have referred in relation to commercial hauliers operating in border areas.
The bill provides that the moneys to be raised must be spent on the construction of roads in accordance with a policy to be submitted annually to the Commonwealth Minister for Transport for his approval. That is a new condition in relation to Federal Aid Roads administration. I am in favour of uniformity, but I consider that it would be a better arrangement if the conditions were subject to approval by the Transport Advisory
Council rather than by the Commonwealth Minister for Transport. The Commonwealth Department of Transport is a new organization, which so far has not available within itself the skilled and experienced staff which State Departments of Transport have been able to assemble to undertake road construction and .formulate road policies. It is for that reason that I object to the principle that the availability of moneys from the proposed tax shall be dependent, ultimately, upon the single approval of the Commonwealth Minister for Transport. I suggest, as an alternative, that final approval should be required from the Transport Advisory Council. I ask the Minister, in particular, to outline, in his speech in reply, the origin of the proposal for the establishment of the Transport Advisory Council. How did the present organization come into existence? How is its finance provided? What is the scope of its operations? I should also like to know how all these matters are likely to be affected by the passage of this measure.
Other views that I hold in regard to Commonwealth aid in road construction and maintenance are substantially those which have been stated by my colleagues of the Australian Country party, and I shall not repeat them.. I regret that the new arrangement is not to be for a tenyear period, for I attach great importance to long planning as against short planning. I support the request of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) for certain exceptions, in special cases, of shires and municipalities where the roads have been destroyed or heavily damaged by Commonwealth and military transport during the war. I urge that consideration be given to the advisability of uniformity in respect of the matters to which I have referred, and also that the policy that I have outlined in regard to the treatment of the Northern Territory shall be seriously considered by the Government.
.- So much has already been said during this debate that little new ground remains to be covered. Almost without exception honorable members on both sides of the House who represent country constituen cies have considered it necessary to state the difficulties associated with road maintenance and construction in country areas and to submit proposals for the amendment of the bill. Unfortunately, honorable members on the Government side of the chamber who have referred in strong terms to certain deficiencies in this measure, and who have urged a more generous allocation of the petrol tax for country road purposes, are unlikely to support their views by their votes. Country municipalities and shire councils cannot therefore expect any relief by reason of the advocacy of the view held by those honorable gentlemen. The fact is, of course, that under a Labour Administration, Labour members must frequently vote against their convictions and against the interests of their constituents because they are under an obligation to support the bills which the Government introduces.
– That would apply to the honorable member if he were supporting a Government.
– Oh no, our position is quite different.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I wish, briefly, to review the history of the petrol tax in order to reveal the inequities of the method of allocation of the proceeds proposed in this measure. A petrol tax of 3d. a gallon was first imposed in 1926. The entire proceeds, which amounted to approximately £3,500,000, were allocated for the maintenance of roads throughout Australia, and the money was made available to State authorities for , that purpose. That policy was instituted by the Bruce-Page Government, and it was consistent with the policy of the Australian Country party, the desire of which was, and is, to ensure the improvement of roads throughout the country. After the Scullin Government assumed office an additional tax of 4d. a gallon was imposed on petrol. The proceeds were regarded as a depression tax, and were used to relieve conditions at that time. The whole amount derived from the increased tax of 4d. a gallon was paid into the
Consolidated Revenue Fund; not one penny was paid to the roads authorities of the States.
– That is not a new point.
– It may not be a new point; nevertheless, it is worth reiterating. Ever since the additional 4d. a gallon was -imposed by the Scullin Government to cope with depression conditions, it has been paid into Consolidated Revenue. When war broke out, it was necessary that governments should raise additional revenue, and a further 4£d. a gallon was imposed by, I believe, the Menzies Government ; this has since produced an additional £27,000,000, That, of course, also went into Consolidated Revenue. Since the inception of the petrol tax in 1926 the collections from that source have aggregated £153,000,000, only £53,000,000 of which has been allocated to road purposes, whilst £100,000,000 has been retained in Consolidated Revenue.
It is desirable at this point to emphasize the levy that is imposed on the owners and users of motor vehicles in Australia. The number of motor vehicles in this country at present is approximately 1,000,000. As far as one is able to learn from the statistics - and I am obliged to the Australian Automobile Association for some figures which it has compiled - ‘ a distance of approximately 6,000 miles per annum is covered by the average user of a motor vehicle. In order to travel that average mileage, every user of a motor vehicle pays a special tax. The average cost of petrol is lid. a mile, of which the petrol tax represents $A. a mile. If we examine the effect of this tax, on the country road user and the farmer in particular, we shall find that a farmer who lives 15 miles from a town has to bear a petrol tax of ls. 3d. whenever he goes to town. Accepting the estimate of d. a mile, a special petrol tax. of £12 a year is levied on the owner of every motor vehicle who travels an average distance of 6,000 miles a year. The motor owner has to pay, in addition to that tax, State registration fees, primage duty on locally refined petrol, duties on chassis and spare parts, sales tax on new vehicles, and so forth, which amount to considerable sums. I have taken out figures, which show that during the last twenty years State registration charges have amounted to approximately £112,000,000, and the petrol tax collections to £153,000,000, a total of £265,000,000, of which £165,000,000 has been allocated to roads, leaving a balance of £100,000,000, which has been devoted to purposes other than the’ improvement of road facilities. On the present consumption of 360,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum, the estimated receipts from the petrol tax are £13,000,000, out of which the Minister for Tranport (Mr. Ward) with professed generosity, proposes to allocate to the States 3d. a gallon, which is equivalent to £4,500,000, plus £1,500,000 for country developmental roads, £500,000 for strategic roads and £100,000 for safety practices, a total of £6,600,000. That is to- say, the Commonwealth Government proposes to retain one-half of the proceeds of the petrol tax. The Minister proposes to “ sharefarm “ - an occupation which he has frequently described in this House as “ odious “ - the motor user, on the basis of not quite 50/50. He intends that the motor user shall receive proportionately not nearly as much as is given to the ordinary share-farmer.
The figures show that, of the total amount produced by the petrol tax, 92 per cent, is obtained from petrol consumed by motor vehicles, 6 per cent, from aviation spirit, and 2 per cent, from otherindustries. I have given this resume in order to underline the difficulties that are experienced by shire councils and other local-governing bodies in their endeavours to render a fair service to country people. This bill is intimately linked with country life, and perhaps, apart from the provision of educational and recreational facilities, the Government could not improve living conditions in the country more greatly other than by the improvement of the roads. For many years shire councils have struggled greatly, and had to contend with numerous intricate financial problems, in order to give service to their ratepayers. Under existing conditions, there is no prospect of relief being provided in the form of better country roads, unless finance can be provided by such means as a betterallocation of the proceeds of the petrol. tax. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, claimed that 3d. a gallon amounts to much more to-day than it did in prewar years. That is true. But that merely emphasizes the larger consumption of petrol, which, in turn, indicates that greater use is made of the roads and, consequently, that they are more in need of repair. It has been pointed out. and I stress, that the problems of a shire council are much more intense to-day than they were in 1939. For example, compared with 1939, labour costs have risen by about 40 per cent., and the cost of bitumen, an ingredient that is used particularly by main roads boards, but not extensively in country . districts, from about £6 a ton to £20 a ton. The Main Roads Board in New South Wales has recently published figures which show that the percentage increase of the cost of maintenance and construction of roads in that State is approximately 33 per cent, or 34 per cent, greater to-day than it was in pre-war year3. The difficulties that are being experienced by the main roads boards are as nothing compared with those of shire councils and other localgoverning authorities. Other speakers have pointed out that during the war there was a very heavy use of the roads by military vehicles in many parts of Australia. I represent an electorate in which there were many army camps. Its roads were cut to pieces by tanks and other heavy army vehicles. In spite of repeated requests by the Tenterfield and other shire councils for some alleviation of the financial difficulties due to the presence of military camps, little if any assistance has been given to them by the Commonwealth. They have extremely limited resources for dealing with the situation. Their rating is pegged on the basis of land values in 1942. Although the appreciation of the value of farms in many country districts has been much less than is generally supposed, local-governing authorities have been prevented from taking advantage of the increase because land values have been fixed at the prewar level. The revenues of localgoverning authorities, in New South Wales particularly, have not increased. The aggregate revenue for roads and other purposes of all the municipal and shire councils is approximately £5,000,000 per annum. In New South Wales there is 126,000 miles of roads, of which only 26,000 miles is controlled by the Main Roads Board, and 100,000 miles by shire councils. During the war years manpower was not available to maintain the roads in proper order, and the machinery of the shires was impressed by the Allied Works Council and other authorities. Yet the bill does not provide for any assistance to be given to overtake this backlog of work. Refusal by the Minister to accept amendments would emphasize lack of sympathetic treatment of country people, who are being urged to produce more food for Australia and Britain. There are one or two suggestions that I shall make to the Minister, even though I am not at all optimistic in regard to having amendments accepted. First, there should be an allocation of at least 3d. a gallon, or approximately £4,500,000, to the different roads boards, shire councils and other local-governing authorities throughout Australia, for the purpose of enabling them to keep their roads in reasonable order after they have been restored to a proper state of repair. That restoration will involve the expenditure of many millions of pounds. The right honorable member for Cowper has suggested that a direct grant of £5,000,000 should be made initially for this purpose. That request is extremely modest; according to figures which I have had given to me, an expenditure of approximately £9,000,000 would be needed in New South Wales a,lone to restore the roads to the condition that existed prior to 1939. I also suggest that there might be scope here for the Government to do something apart from the allocation of money raised by the petrol tax. Shire councils are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining modern earth-moving and road-making equipment, which is invaluable at the present time in reducing labour costs and meeting labour shortages. I suggest that the Minister should consider a proposal to make free grants of money to shire councils in order to buy this equipment, or that it should advance money on easy terms. Only by the use of modern machinery can shire councils hope to cope with increased labour costs, and thus put their roads into a usable condition.
This is a bill which might well have been discussed in a non-party spirit. On both sides of the House are members who represent country areas. I have not heard one Labour representative of a country constituency say anything to which an Opposition member could take exception. Indeed, they all emphasized the arguments used by Opposition members. A majority of the members of this House are almost certainly in favour of making more money available to local-governing bodies for the benefit of country people, yet the Government throws this bill on the table, and says, “ That is our policy ; take it or leave it “. “We should concern ourselves with providing all the amenities possible for people living in the country, and particularly with doing what we can to reduce transport costs. If there should be a change of government, one of the first things changed will be this agreement. That will be in the forefront of the policy of the Australian Country party. However, it should, not be necessary to speak in this strain in a Parliament in which so many honorable members on both sides of the House are in agreement. There can be no possible justification for the Government retaining £6,500,000 out of £13,000,000 raised by the petrol tax, but the Government has the numbers, it lacks sympathy for country dwellers, and it is determined to keep the money. As I have pointed out, government authorities collect millions of pounds from motorists in the form of registration fees and drivers’ licences, in addition to what is collected by the Commonwealth Government through the petrol tax. I hope that when the bill is in committee, the Government will accept amendments designed to give the sorely harassed shire councils a greater measure of relief.
– in reply - There has been quite a deal of discussion on this bill, but not much opposition to its provisions. I take this opportunity to correct some of the misstatements of members of the Opposition. They recognize that measures of this kind are popular, particularly in sparsely settled areas. Therefore, they try to convey the impression that what is proposed in the bill is merely the continuation of a policy that was introduced, in 1926. That is only partly correct. It is true that we are continuing the policy of helping to finance road works by a petrol tax; but it is also true that we have made a number of vital alterations to the original agreement. For instance, it is proposed to devote part of the proceeds of the petrol tax to the building and maintenance of roads in sparsely populated areas. Furthermore, it is proposed to expend a considerable amount of Commonwealth money directly on strategic roads. Finally, £100,000 is to be devoted to. a nation-wide campaign to ensure the operation of road safety provisions. These are important changes for which the Government might well be commended.
Honorable members opposite criticized the Government because it is not proposed to devote the entire proceeds of the present petrol tax to the purpose for which the tax was originally imposed. It is true that, in 1926, when the petrol tax was first imposed, the entire proceeds were devoted to road works. Later, the tax was increased to assist the government of the day to balance its budget during what was termed the great economic depression, and later it was again increased in order to provide revenue for defence purposes. However, what the Opposition failed to point out is that, since the tax was increased, antiLabour governments have been in office, but at no time has any one of them proposed that the entire proceeds of the petrol tax should be devoted to road construction and maintenance. Honorable members opposite commit a fundamental error in their discussion of this subject. No Commonwealth government has ever admitted that upon it lay the sole responsibility of providing finance for roads works. Much of the responsibility for this work still rests with the State governments, which have their own methods of raising revenue for the purpose. The Commonwealth merely supplements what the States are able to provide. Only time can disclose whether the Commonwealth Government is providing sufficient money under this arrangement to meet immediate needs. That is why the Government proposes to limit the operation of the agreement to three years, instead of making it ten years, as under the old agreement. At first, it was proposed to review the agreement after twelve months, hut strong exception was taken to that. Some honorable members have argued that State governments and local governing authorities will be unable to plan their road works if the agreement is limited to so short a period as three years. That could be true only if there were any possibility that, at the end of three years, the Commonwealth would suddenly cease to make available any money to the States from the proceeds of the petrol tax, but we know that there is not even a remote possibility of this happening. The Government recognizes that it must play its part in improving the transport services of the country. The State railways are the direct responsibility of the State governments, but the Commonwealth Government, recognizing the supreme importance of improving rail transport, particularly by standardizing gauges, has agreed to provide 70 per cent, of the money needed for the work. Tn the same way, it recognizes that it must make some contribution towards the cost of- constructing and maintaining roads. It is noi concentrating on any one form of transport. It is not confining its attention to railways, for instance, but intends to play its part in improving transport facilities whether by road, rail-
Way, ship or aeroplane.
Some of the complaints of honorable members opposite may have a bearing upon transport in general, but not upon this bill in particular. Their complaints were directed to matters with which the Commonwealth Government cannot deal because it lacks the constitutional power. The Transport Advisory Council has been set up because “the Commonwealth has very little authority to regulate transport except by agreement with the State. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) talked of the difficulties arising out of the multiplicity of authorities controlling transport arrangements. He spoke of road hauliers who crossed State borders and were -obliged by State authorities to pay additional licence-fees, and he complained of this as a hindrance to development I remind him that this very difficulty arises out of the fact that there is no central authority controlling transport. If there were such an authority it could deal with problems of that kind. It is illogical for honorable members opposite, who have consistently opposed efforts to enlarge the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, to complain of difficulties which have arisen because the Commonwealth Parliament lacks those very powers. There have been continuous consultations with the State governments on various phases of the transport problem. They are beginning to realize the need for a central transport authority, which can plan on a national basis, and they have willingly joined the Transport Advisory Council. Honorable members who complained that the Commonwealth Government was ignoring the .States, clearly did not know what they were talking about. The Transport Advisory Council consists of State Ministers of Transport and Commonwealth representatives, and decisions of the council obviously must be unanimous, because the Commonwealth Government has no authority in this field of activity to impose its will on the States, even if it wished to do so. Consider how ridiculous were many of the arguments used by some honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) advanced the senseless proposition that each little local-governing body should retain the petrol tax raised within the area under its control. If that principle were applied generally there would be no development of our outback areas. It is quite proper that the more populous areas of the Commonwealth, where the great bulk of the petrol tax is raised, should make some contribution to the development of outback areas. How would people in the outback fare if the principle proposed by the honorable member for Swan were applied to the provision of telephone services. If the honorable member’s proposition were carried to its logical conclusion the number of authorities raising taxes for their own minor needs would be greatly increased and there could be no proper national planning. What is the position to-day in regard to road construction and control? Local-governing authorities may have differing ideas as to how their activities should be directed. Some of them may bc road-minded and concentrate on the construction of modern roads ; others may consider that other local works should be given priority. Unless some central planning authority were established it would be possible to have good roads for a few miles, and then inferior roads, or well-lit areas followed by badly-lit areas, thus constituting danger to drivers and pedestrians alike. In co-operation with the States we have embarked on a plan which was conceived on a national basis.
Some honorable members advocated that the whole question of road construction and maintenance should be left to the States, and then devoted the remainder of their speeches to a discussion of the inadequacy of our transport system as at present controlled, complaining that too many roads had been constructed parallel with railways in some instances for distances of hundreds of miles. Having regard to the limited powers which the Commonwealth possesses, the Transport Advisory Council recently established will, we believe, constitute an appropriate body to co-operate with the States in bringing about a proper development of our transport system. One honorable member drew attention to the damage which is being caused to our roads by heavy vehicles and by the excessive speeds at which they are operated. Any one who has recently travelled by road between Canberra and Sydney will know how rapidly that road has deteriorated as the result of its increasing use by fast, heavy vehicles. When the Government contends that there should be some authority to deal with this matter, honorable members opposite say, “No; leave it to the States “. Whether the States have realized this difficulty and are doing something about it, is more than I can say; but I know from personal experience J that the roads are being seriously damaged. Therefore it is essential that a national transport planning authority should be established. There is a multiplicity of authorities on road construction just as there is in regard to road maintenance. While the various main roads authorities of the States have done good work in improving the standards of the State highways and trunk roads, no great improvement has taken place in the roads outside their authority. A suggestion has been made by the Australian Automobile Association that in planning on a national basis we should secure the services of an expert to advise the Government on all matters relating to road standards, road control and traffic measures generally. That suggestion will receive the very earnest consideration of the Government and of the Transport Advisory Council. We hope to be able to acquire the best possible advice in relation to road problems. The States already recognize that there should be some central planning in relation to road standards. Many of our roads were not planned having regard to the natural development of the areas which they traverse and to the requirements of modern road transport. Many factors which now have an important bearing in road construction were unknown when decisions to construct these roads were first made.
Honorable members have complained that no provision has been made for the development of country aerodromes. That is not so. The bill provides that one-sixth of the amount paid to the States may be expended upon such other works connected with transport as the States think fit. The Government has made it perfectly clear to the State governments and to the local-governing authorities that one-sixth of the total amounts paid to them may be utilized for the construction of country aerodromes or on any other work connected with transport. In addition, the Government has ear-marked £1,000,000 for distribution by the States to local-governing authorities for road construction in sparsely populated areas. Some honorable members opposite have contended that that money should be paid direct to the authorities concerned. That aspect has been given the fullest consideration and the Government has been advised that the Commonwealth has no authority to do so even if it so desired. The Commonwealth is dealing direct with the States because road construction and maintenance in general lies within the province of the States. The Government has stipulated that that money must be devoted to the construction of roads in sparsely populated areas and it will ensure that that money is utilized for that purpose.
Reference has been made to the possibility of delays in implementing the road programmes of the State and local-governing authorities. Honorable members opposite have claimed that these delays will be caused by the requirement that all such programmes must first be submitted for examination and endorsement by the Commonwealth Minister for Transport. That requirement does not mean that every proposal to fill a little pothole must be referred for the approval of the Commonwealth. At the next meeting of the Transport Advisory Council particulars will be drawn up of the exact type of information required by the Commonwealth. The Government’s sole desire is to know what major road undertakings the States and local-governing authorities propose in order that the various programmes may be fitted into a nationally planned scheme. The Commonwealth has no desire to interfere unnecessarily with what the States are doing or propose to do in regard to the development of their road programmes. All schedules of road works will be examined by the Transport Advisory Council, which consists of State and Commonwealth Ministers, so that each State may be informed of what the others are doing in regard to road development. In this way it is hoped that co-ordination of effort will be achieved. The £1,000,000 proposed to be granted for the construction of roads in sparsely populated areas may also be used for the purpose of providing localgoverning authorities with modern road-making equipment. This assistance is long overdue. “We know the financial difficulties of shire councils and that they have not the money to buy modern equipment. Therefore, the Commonwealth is coming into the field. The money that may be expended in one year, two years or three years will be limited by the availability of labour, equipment and materials, yet to hear some honorable members speak one would imagine that Australia’s capacity to build or improve roads is limited only by lack of money. The
Commonwealth Government, in planning for an even national economy, must determine what men and materials may be devoted to road works. I am yet to be convinced that road development is being delayed by lack of -money.
During the war, with severe petrol rationing, it is true that the money raised from the petrol tax and furnished to the States for road purposes diminished; but no road works of consequence proceeded during that period other than those required for defence purposes. So the States must have accumulated a considerable sum of money that should now be available for road construction. If it has been used for other purposes, that is a matter that must be taken up with the States. The Transport Advisory Council will keep constantly under review the development of a road policy throughout the country. If we find that the money provided is insufficient, I shall have no hesitation in bringing to the notice of the Cabinet any opinion expressed by the Australian Transport Advisory Council. One thing that we must recognize is that Australia has not made the progress in the matter of transport and general development that it would have made but for the existence of six independent State authorities. More and more people are beginning to realize the need for central planning and control. Some honorable members of the Opposition quoted extensively from the submission of the Australian Automobile Association. But for that document some honorable members would not have been able to make a speech at all. That does not apply to all, for some honorable members made helpful contributions to the debate, and, although many of their suggestions were not directly related to the bill, they will be considered at the appropriate time.
– Does the Minister think the council will be able to solve the difficulties of men travelling from Tennant Creek into Queensland? They are left kicking their heels for three or four days at Camooweal because, after completion of that section of the journey, they must wait for some other person, who has the licence to operate the remaining section, to pick them up.
– That matter could he considered by the Australian Transport Advisory Council, but. no action could be taken by the Commonwealth Government or the State government to correct it unless the council were unanimous, because it is purely an advisory body whose decisions cannot be made binding on any government. The matter to which the honorable member directs attention is one of the problems that will continually arise while there is a multiplicity of independent authorities throughout Australia.
Several honorable members urged a uniform petrol price throughout the Commonwealth or in each State. That matter has no relation to this measure, but, without having had the opportunity of examining it closely to see the other side of the suggestion, I regard it as having great merit, because if we are to settle this country, particularly the out-back, where we urgently need population, we must, as far as possible, remove the disabilities of people in country areas compared with those who reside in the cities. Many of the members of the Labour party may represent big city electorates, but they are not unmindful that we shall not achieve the status of a great nation by concentrating our population in the capital cities. We think nationally. That is the proper approach. I am prepared to help the policy of decentralization in every possible way by providing a system of transport coordination.
Some Opposition speakers comparedroad transport with railways systems. They tried to imply that because railway systems are operated and controlled by governments they are much less efficient than are other forms of transport. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) even suggested that the Tasmanian railway system might be scrapped. Railways still have a part to play in transport in this country. Whether we shall ever reach the stage at which we shall be able to do without railways I do not know; and no one can say with certainty that we shall ever reach that, stage. Railways in present circumstances are essential. Existing national Australian railways are inadequate to meet our needs, and they require modernization and a standard gauge. It is true that other forms of transport may take certain passenger and goods traffic from the railways, but instead of scrapping railways, highly industrialized countries, including the United States of America, are modernizing them in order to meet road and air transport competition. A few days ago an authority from the United States of America assured me that the railways of that country had met the challenge of other forms of transport by improving their services and the provision of modern rolling-stock. I believe in a properly co-ordinated system of all forms of transport. Each has a part to play in the national economy. State railways have always earned in excess of the cost of operating them. People who say that they do not pay first subtract from their earnings the amount necessary to meet the interest bill on the capital invested and then if insufficient remains to meet the working costs, they contend that the railways are operating at a loss. We are not wholly railway-minded, roadminded or air-minded ; we are’ nationallyminded, and we recognize that all forms of transport have their part to play in the national life.
I assure the Australian Automobile Association, which did valuable research work before the establishment of the Transport Advisory Council and has continued that work since, that we appreciate its services and the helpful suggestions it has made to the Government. Those suggestions will be submitted to the Transport Advisory Council for consideration in due course. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you. have indicated that the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is out of order. So I need say nothing about it. I commend the measure to honorable members.
– This bill was brought in on a resolution of a committee of the whole House, initiated on a message from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation from Consolidated Revenue. The amendment proposed by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) would infringe the financial initiative of the Crown, not only because itwould increase the amount of the appropriation, but also because it would vary and extend the objects and purposes expressed in the bill founded upon the resolution. If the amendment were sought by a Minister, under the existing financial procedure of this House, he would require a further message from the Governor-General. I, therefore, rule that the amendment is not in order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Appropriation).
– I did not speak on the second reading of the bill ; but I think the appropriation clause provides a suitable occasion for me to call the attention of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) to one or two rather disturbing features of road construction and repair. The position with which we are faced is extremely delicate. I am open to believing that the Minister is aware of these things, because his speech in reply to the debate on the second reading disclosed him in an entirely new light. I thought he was almost ready to come over to this side. I wondered whether he was not trying to construct a first-class road over here.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to refer to the speeches made on the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– I was complimenting the Minister for Transport. The road system of Australia in the cities and in the country is in a particularly bad way. Roads that were firstclass bitumen highways before the war are wearing out and are being torn up. The ill-treatment to which they are subjected by huge motor transport vehicles will produce a problem with which the repair facilities of every State will be unable to solve. The other important subject about which we have not heard anything from the Minister is the availability of the cheap repair material, bitumen.
– Many difficulties will confront the States which will receive money under this appropriation to expend on the construction and repair of roads. I warn the Minister that the continuance of supplies of bitumen is extremely doubtful on account of the dollar position. The honorable gentleman should request the Transport Advisory Council to investigate the best methods of road construction. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II., roads were being made by certain processes one of which involved the use of quickly manufactured cement made by portable cement plants. Possibly, matters of this description have been overlooked during the last six years. The Minister should endeavour to discover how money can be expended to the best advantage in the making of roads on a large scale. To-day, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) told me about road-making methods, of which he had read, in other countries. The natural surface was ploughed up, mixed with cement and rolled into an efficient road. These matters are of infinite importance to taxpayers, who will provide the money for the construction and repair of roads, and to the States which desire to obtain the best possible return, in the form of new roads and repairs, from the Commonwealth grant. These matters are of great importance to every State. A later clause deals with certain matters which more particularly affect the Commonwealth,
.- The appropriation clause permits honorable members to discuss the manner in which this money shall be expended. The Federal Aid Roads Act of 1926, and the amending act of 1937, set out in the schedules exactly how the money should be expended. Under this bill, however, the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be drawn upon for the purposes described in the schedule. Under clause 4, the moneys will be paid into a trust account. In addition, two amounts - £1,500,000 and £100,000 respectively - will be paid into the trust account and appropriated under clause 5. When we examine the remaining clauses, we find that this amount of £1,600,000 will be at the disposal of the Minister for Transport (Mr.
Ward). He will ultimately determine how this money shall be expended. I ask him to inform honorable members whether he has decided how he will direct the Transport Advisory Council regarding the disbursement of this money. A part of it will be expended on the construction of strategic roads. There, a difficulty arises, because of the following qualification contained in paragraph b of clause 7 -
Where in the opinion of the Minister the road forms part of the general road system of a State, the standard of maintenance required by the Commonwealth is higher than that justified by the normal volume of traffic.
This restriction should be removed. Certain strategic roads should be built from money provided under this bill-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark) Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s remarks are not related to the appropriation of money.
– Once honorable members agree to the appropriation clause, they will not have an opportunity later of discussing how the money should be expended, because they will be told that they have consented to the appropriation.
– The right honorable member must confine his remarks to the appropriation of money.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 - (5.) An amount payable to the States under the last preceding sub-section shall be apportioned in accordance with sub-section (2.) of this section and any such amount paid to a State shall be subject to the following conditions : -
.- Perhaps I may be permitted to continue my remarks on this clause. Under this bill, the money will be distributed to the States as follows : - three-fifths on a popu lation basis and two-fifths on an area basis. Sub-clause 4 provides -
There shall be payable for the purpose of financial assistance to the States out of the Trust Account an amount of One million pounds out of each sum payable yearly to the Trust Account and to which paragraph (b) of section four of this act applies.
This deals with the amount to which I was referring a few moments ago. I propose to cite a particular road in order to illustrate my contention. During World War II., one of the great difficulties which our strategists encountered, was the absence of a proper connexion between the northern railway system linking Newcastle and Brisbane, and the coastal railway system. No satisfactory roads joined those two main railway systems, and an urgent need arose for a strategic road. Because of that, the Nambucca Shire Council has summoned a conference of all shires from Bourke, Brewarrina, Narrabri, Armidale, Walgett, Namoi and the coastal districts in an endeavour to obtain the construction of a road to Milparinka through Armidale to Nambucca on the coast.
– Order ! How does the right honorable member relate his remarks to this clause?
– I am citing an instance of how the amount of £1,500,000 should be expended.
– Clause 7 deals with strategic roads.
– This road could not be constructed as a strategic road, and I ask the Minister to rectify the matter. I do not desire to submit an amendment to secure the elimination of the second qualification, which is contained in paragraph b of clause 7, but I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to this important subject. A road from the Far West to the coast, on a new route, would open up country for tourists and enable the development of out-back areas which you, Mr. Chairnan, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) know is justified. If, after consultation with his officers, the Minister decides to accept my suggestion, an appropriate amendment may be inserted in the Senate. Under present conditions, money could not be provided under this bill for such a road.
I emphasize the necessity for providing financial assistance to shires. This matter may be discussed under sub-clause 4. It does not relate to strategic roads. I have, received the following letter from the council of the Shire of Harwood : -
At a meeting of the council held on Thursday, 10th instant, it was decided to support the request of the Shires5 Association of New South Wales for a review of the hill for the renewal of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. The council agrees with the contention of the association that an amount of at least 6d. per gallon of the petrol tax should be made available.
As you are well aware, councils are endeavouring to carry on to the best of their ability with only limited funds at their disposal. The main source of revenue available to the councils is that derived from local rating, and in the majority of cases such rating is almost at the limit. In this particular area the council in 1945 increased its general rate from two and one-third pence (2Ad.) in the fi to threepence (3d.).
During the last two years this shire has experienced disastrous floods, and many of its bridges have been destroyed and roads have been washed away. In addition, the cost of the materials which it requires has risen considerably. I ask the Minister whether the amount of £3,000,000 may be applied by the Transport Advisory Council to ensure that a local authority, such as the Shire of Harwood, may receive financial assistance to enable it to maintain its roads in good order, and remain solvent?
– I support the proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The Government must give more consideration to the financial position of local authorities. To-day shires find it impossible to raise sufficient revenue to enable them to construct and maintain roads in sparsely populated areas. The ratepayers are, in the main, the primary producers who own the soil on either side of the country roads. They are the only ones contributing. Sooner or later the Government will be compelled to allocate 6d. a gallon from the petrol tax to enable local authorities to construct adequate roads. I urge the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) to amend the clause for the purpose of enabling this grant to be made to the local-governing bodies. Many roads in my electorate have been constructed through hilly country, where no Commonwealth Minister would care to take even a government car. Over these roads the primary producers transport large quantities of fruit and dairy produce. The local authorities have exhausted their borrowing power in raising money to improve the roads, but, because of heavy rains, they are not able to provide a surface other than of rubble and stone. Other soil roads are in such a bad condition that primary producers are not able to use them in the wet season. When the surfaces are repaired motor caravans and heavy trucks quickly tear them to pieces again. The owners of those vehicles do not contribute towards the upkeep of these roads. The person who is attempting to meet this cost is the unfortunate primary producer, who is trying to earn a living from the soil. The soil is taxed as is the value of the produce from it. The members of the local authorities have given their time free, out of a sense of civic responsibility, in an endeavour tq provide good roads in their areas. In the current Federal Aid Roads Agreement there is provision for the construction and repair of roads required to provide transport facilities for the fishing industry. I consider that a similar provision should be made in the new agreement, and I trust that the Minister will accept an amendment to that effect. We would all agree, I think, that the fishing industry should be assisted. Repairs are now being effected to two jetties at Redcliffe, in my electorate, and money for the purpose is to be provided under the terms of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. There has been considerable delay in the work, however, and it. may not be completed until after the 1st July. Possibly by then the old agreement will have been superseded. What will be the position in regard to that expenditure? I am also anxious that provision shall be made in the new scheme for money to be allocated to local authorities for the construction of airfields and for roads to serve them. Civil aviation has an .important place in transportation in these days. Wc all are well aware that in the capital cities, and in big provincial centres, airports and landing grounds are constructed at government expense, particularly when such facilities are required for government-operated aircraft. In the country districts, however, the burden of providing landing-grounds has been placed upon the local governing bodies. This, in my opinion, is most unfair and I should like to see this clause amended so as. to ensure that a part of the proceeds of the petrol tax could be allocated to local-governing bodies for the construction, maintenance and improvement of airfields. I therefore move -
That, in sub-clause (5.), paragraph (a), after the words .” authorities “, the following words be inserted: - “airfields, boat havens, wharves and roads connecting them to established roads “.
– The amendment is not in order, for its acceptance would have the effect of increasing the proposed appropriation.
– I regret that an amendment such as that desired by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) cannot be made to the clause. I agree wholeheartedly with the objects that the honorable member has in mind. I am glad that the bill makes provision in sub-clause 5 for money to be - . . expended upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads through sparsely populated areas, timber country and rural areas. . . .
Et is essential that everything possible shall be done to improve road transport facilities in country districts. I stated in my second-reading speech that local-governing authorities were experiencing great difficulty in maintaining country roads in anything like reasonable order. I am glad, therefore, that the bill also makes provision for the use of money from the petrol tax for the -
Possibly, the local-governing authorities should purchase their own road-making machinery; but costs of all kinds have increased so greatly in recent years that the rating resources of many municipalities and shires are not adequate to meet their needs. Paragraph b of sub-clause 5 of this clause provides that the State shall be responsible for the adequate maintenance of roads in the construction of which a part of the proceeds of this tax is applied. I am not quite sure of the exact meaning of that provision. Perhaps the Minister could indicate whether financial or supervisory responsibility is intended. I am sorry that the Minister is not willing to include in the clause a provision for assistance in the construction and maintenance of country aerodromes. Air transport facilities in country districts are greatly needed, and it seems to me to be not unreasonable to ask that the proceeds of the tax on petrol used for civil aviation purposes in country districts should be applied for the provision and improvement of country aerodromes.
– I point out to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) that money may be allocated by the State authorities for the purposes which they have mentioned. Sub-clause 3 provides, in paragraph a, that the amount of money paid to a State shall be expended by the State upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads -
Provided that a sum not exceeding one-sixth of the amount paid to the State may be expended upon such other works connected with transport as the State thinks fit.
It will be seen, therefore, that the projects mentioned by those honorable members could be favorably considered by the State authorities. The amendment which the honorable member for Wide Bay desired to move is unnecessary.
The remarks made a few moments ago by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) were at variance with the views he expressed in his second-reading speech, when he protested against interference by the Commonwealth with State activities, and objected to my having any authority to approve of schedules of work which the States desired to carry out. Now the right honorable gentleman is requesting that money should be made available for the construction of a road through, his electorate. In my decisions in this matter I shall be guided by the expert advice available to me as to the easiest and best route to follow after the construction of a particular road has been decided upon. It is the policy of the Government to construct roads by the most direct and most suitable route irrespective of whose properties the roads may pass through. In that regard the policy of this Government is quite different from that of anti-Labour governments, which in days gone by have often caused both roads and railways to make strange detours in order that they may pass through the holdings of certain wealthy land-owners. That will not be done under my administration.
.- I point out that sub-clause 3 provides in paragraph b, that the money made available to a State must be expended by the State in accordance with a policy agreed to by the Commonwealth Minister for Transport. The Minister (Mr. Ward) has said that in days gone by roads have been constructed in the interests of certain land-owners. That may have been true of certain parts of Australia, but it is not true of Victoria. _ I do not think that that policy is being applied anywhere in Australia to-day. Objection can be taken to this clause on three main grounds. The first is because it limits the agreement to a period of three years which, in my opinion, prevents effective longrange planning. The second is because the States will have to accept the opinions of the Minister for Transport, whose head-quarters are at Canberra. I do not believe that the affairs of an immense continent like Australia can be effectively administered, insofar as local matters like roads are concerned, from centralized head-quarters in Canberra. If the States “.re to be bound by advice from Canberra, it will undoubtedly be necessary to appoint a very large staff to the Department of Transport. A Minister who resides in New South Wales may be thoroughly conversant with the needs of that State, but could not know a great, deal about the necessary road development in Victoria or Western Australia unless he had travelled widely, or had expert advice at his command. Yet he will decide what policy shall be followed by the States in regard to expenditure on road-construction. It is not to be wondered at that municipalities, and one of the main road authorities - the Country Roads Board - in Victoria are particularly concerned about this part of the bill. They are well acquainted with the needs of that State. They know where developmental roads should be constructed, and where heavy traffic will operate. Thus, they are in a far better position to determine policy in regard to road construction than is any Commonwealth Minister. I know well that the policy of the present Commonwealth Government is unification and centralized control, with which I disagree. It may be that the philosophy of the Government is involved in this matter; if so, it is a mistaken philosophy. I should like this provision to be deleted from the bill, but before moving in that direction I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say.
I support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in regard to municipalities being granted a certain proportion of the money that is to be allocated. I should prefer a larger amount to be allocated and portion given direct to municipalities. I have heard it contended that there should be a limitation of loads on certain roads. I cannot accept offhand the view that there should be a limitation of the service that should be rendered by roads or any other facility which is of value to this nation. Motor transport is handling heavier loads today, and probably its loads will be still greater in the future. Our objective should be not to limit loads but to build roads which will bear them. My electorate is of great value to Australia at the present time, because it is in the centre of some of the best timber country in the Commonwealth. On certain of its roads, the spectacle can be witnessed of motor trucks carrying 5 or 6 tons of timber to mills to be dressed. If there are mills in the forests, the sawn timber is conveyed to the places where it is needed. The matter is not always one which should’ be dealt with by country roads boards, or similar bodies, in the States but by municipalities. The needs of the situation must be the first consideration. I regret exceedingly that the bill is not more liberal and that it does not contain a provision for the making of grants direct to municipalities.
– I should not have risen but for the statement of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) that a sum not exceeding onesixth of the amount paid to a State may be expended upon such other works connected with transport as the State thinks fit. Paragraph a of sub-clause 5 provides - . . that the amount shall be expended upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads through sparsely populated areas, timber country and rural areas, or, if the State thinks fit, upon the purchase of road-making plant . . .
Coal is one of the most important commodities that is used in the production of power for industry. In many coalmining districts, there are no railways running to the mines, and the coal is transported by motor traffic. Many thousands of tons of coal cannot be moved during wet weather because motor vehicles cannot get to or from the mines on the bad roads over which they have to travel, and there are occasions on which the workers cannot be transported to their employment. I raised this matter last night, and intended to raise it again when the committee was considering clause 7, which makes provision for the construction and maintenance of strategic roads. It is a function of the Commonwealth and State governments to ensure’ an adequate production of coal. Before this clause is passed, I want to know whether the Minister will be empowered to consider making available money for the construction of roads leading to mines, and whether such roads will be regarded as strategic roads.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister (Mr. Ward) particularly to paragraph a of sub-clause 3, which reads -
Payment of any amount’ to a State under sub-section (1.) of this section shall be made upon the following conditions: -
that the amount shall be expended by the State upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads:
The qualification in paragraph 6 is -
I ask the Minister, when framing policy, to give consideration to some of the actions of the States to-day which, in my opinion, are not in the best interests of the country, and are not fair and just. Primary producers have represented to me that they must not be penalized by State restrictions on road transport, but that such transport shall be free, apart from the payment of the usual registration fee, when they desire to send perishable produce, such as fruits, vegetables, cream and milk, to the market. In many parts of Queensland, primary producers are not allowed to-day to transport their products to market in their own trucks or lorries. I urge the Minister to provide in any policy that he lays down, that when Commonwealth money is madeavailable to the States for the maintenance, construction and reconstruction of roads, complete freedom shall operate in the transport of primary produce over such roads, and that the States will not be permitted to impose the restrictions which they apply to-day. This relates mainly to country districts.
– O - Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the clause. He may deal only with the construction and maintenance of roads, not with the power of authorities to register vehicles to travel on them.
– Ma May I, sir, submit that I am addressing my remarks to paragraph b of sub-clause 3, which provides that the amount is to be expended by the State in accordance with a policy agreed to by the Minister ?
– The The ruling of the Chair is that that policy relates to the construction of roads, and not to the control of traffic on the roads.
– That being your ruling, I cannot proceed further with my remarks.
– I should like the Minister (Mr. Ward) to clarify a part of the clause, or his second-reading speech in connexion with it. The honorable gentleman said that it will be permissible for the States to expend an amount not greater than onesixth of the total amount of the grant on worts connected with transport other than those mentioned, and that that provision will embrace the. development of facilities such as country aerodromes. Earlier in his second-reading speech, the Minister said that, in calculating the amount, one-sixth of which may be used in connexion with country aerodromes, the petrol used for civil aviation purposes would be excluded. I think that it would be fair and reasonable to use, for the building of country aerodromes, the proceeds of a tax on civil aviation, and that a proportion of the amount set aside for road building should not be used for the provision of a facility which has no connexion with road transport. The matter needs to be further explained.
– The member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has asked for an explanation as to what is intended in connexion with paragraph b of sub-clause 3, which provides -
I assure honorable members that it is not my intention, or the intention of the Government, that the Commonwealth Minister for Transport shall act in the role of a dictator in determining what kind of local road works shall be “undertaken, or when and where they shall be begun. The reason for this provision is that the Australian Transport Advisory Council, which I mentioned earlier, is purely an advisory body, and in consequence any of its decisions cannot be enforced on a State. In order that those decisions may be effective, the States must be unanimous. It may happen that five States and the Commonwealth are in agreement about a policy for road construction and maintenance, while one State stands out. I assume that the proper thing, in the circumstances, would be for the Commonwealth Minister to place the national interest first, and to decide in favour of the majority.
The honorable member for Deakin also said that the Commonwealth should advance money directly to local-governing authorities. I remind him that such authorities are created by State legislation, and are subject to the State governments. It would be presumption for the Commonwealth to make advances directly to them, but the Commonwealth will advance money to the State governments on the understanding that it will be devoted to the purposes agreed upon between the States and the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Deakin objected to the setting up of a central authority, but he destroyed his own argument by saying that roads should be constructed to carry whatever loads are offering, rather than that loads should be limited to conform to the strength of the roads. This can be done only through a central authority. So long as it is left to the local-governing authorities or to the State governments to define policy there will never be agreement about the kind of roads which should be built. It may be that, in order to achieve agreement, there will have to be a central authority to determine standards, after consultation with experts, and with the Transport Advisory Council.
I think that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was under a misapprehension. I referred to the right of the States to expend upon works associated with transport one-sixth of the money allocated to them under this scheme. In addition to this, provision is made for the expenditure of £1,000,000 on road construction in sparsely populated areas, and £500,000 on strategic roads.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull)’ spoke of the action of the Government in withholding from the road fund the proceeds of the tax on aviation spirit. The Commonwealth is retaining this revenue because it has accepted huge responsibilities for the development of aerodromes and aviation facilities. This does not mean that country districts will be neglected. Naturally, the Commonwealth will expend a great deal of the money in country areas. In addition to this, local-governing authorities may receive from their State governments a share of the one-sixth of the total amount allocated to State governments, and may use this share on the construction of country aerodromes.
– I accept the very clear statement of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) that the States may expend on transport facilities other than roads one sixth of the money allocated to them. Provision is thus made for the expenditure of money on country aerodromes, boat havens and jetties for use by fishermen. This covers the point raised in my amendment, so that it appears curious to me that the amendment was ruled out of order.
– The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair. His amendment was moved to another part of the bill.
– I accept the Minister’s statement, but I should like to see where specific provision is made in the bill to meet the point which I raised. I do not want the bill to be passed without such a provision being included. The Minister has said that the bill provides for such and such a thing; but the lawyers will have “ a go “ at it later when it becomes an act, and it is they who will decide what the act really means. I should like it to be made clear in the bill that local-governing bodies, shall rereceive assistance under the scheme from their State governments for airfields, boat havens and jetties for use by fishermen.
– I am forced to agree with what the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said about the relationship between the Commonwealth and local-governing bodies. I do not think that the life of any Commonwealth Minister, would be worth living if he had to deal directly with every local-governing body in Australia. Once we admit the principle of direct relations between the Commonwealth and the local-governing bodies, which derive their powers from State parliaments, we shall be heading for trouble. We have already had experience of that in connexion with banking.
Paragraph b of sub-clause 3 of clause 6 provides that payment to a State shall be made upon the condition that the amount is expended by the State in accordance with a policy agreed to by the Minister. That does not say that the Minister must decide the policy. It puts him in the position of King Canute or Molotov : He can say that the wave shall go no farther, or he can impose his veto. Such a provision is not peculiar to this bill. I have administered acts which contain similar provisions, and I sometimes got into trouble over them. It is a salutary rule that the Parliament which raises revenue for a specific purpose shall, through a Minister, exercise some control over its’ expenditure.
I agree with what was said by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) about the justice of using money raised by the petrol tax upon providing facilities for fishermen, who use petrol in their boats on the rivers and on the sea, just as motorists use petrol on the roads. Up to the present time there has been no clear recognition of the Commonwealth’s responsibility to fishermen, who follow an arduous occupation, sometimes in out-of-the-way places. It may be open to argument whether paragraph a of sub-section 3 covers this point. This paragraph provides that part of the money received by a State may be expended upon “ such other works connected with transport as the State thinks fit “. If I have to interpret that provision I should say that under it a State would be entitled to use the money for the construction of wharfs, jetties, &c.
– The Minister said so in his second-reading speech.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) agrees with me in hoping that there will be a change of Government before the end of three years, when this agreement is due to come up for revision. There may at any time he a change of Ministers in charge of this scheme, so that what the present Minister may say in his second-reading speech can have no bearing on the administration of the law. A new Minister may place an entirely different interpretation on the provision. Except that I believe that fishermen ought to receive much more consideration than they have received in the past, I have no great fault to find with this clause. I have asked that assistance be given to the fishing industry in my State, and, although plenty of advice and literature has been forthcoming, there has been no cash. I hope that when the Minister for Transport returns from abroad he will devise a method to ensure that fishermen obtain some return for the petrol tax they pay.
– I cannot imagine that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) would wish to exercise dictatorial powers, and I can well believe that he will seek the recommendations of the main roads authorities in the various States. I direct the attention of the Minister to paragraph c of sub-clause 3, which says that the States will, prior to the 30th June in each year, submit to the Minister a statement of proposed allocations of expenditure in respect of road construction works for the next succeeding financial year. Normally, that provision is unexceptional, but it does not allow much time for the preparation of proposals between the coming into force of this measure and the 30th June next. In Queensland the practice is for shire councils to prepare their estimates of expenditure by the 31st August. The Minister might feel disposed to grant a two-months’ extension for this year in order to give them time to make a recommendation so that the most needful of the works may be submitted for approval. A proviso has been added to paragraph a of sub-clause 5 which reads as follows : -
Provided that the amount shall not, except with the approval of the Minister, be expended on any road declared by the State to be a State highway, main road or trunk road.
In other words, except with the approval of the Minister, the allocation of money for the construction of roads in sparsely settled areas may not be expended on trunk roads. In western Queensland almost every road is a trunk road connecting with the various stations. I trust that the Minister does not intend to exclude such roads from the benefits of the bill.
– Sub-clause 3 provides, inter alia -
Payment of any amount to a State under sub-section (1.) of this section shall be made upon the following conditions: -
that the amount should be expended by the State upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads:
Provided that a sum not exceeding one-sixth of the amount paid to the State may be expended upon such other works connected with transport as the State thinks fit.
That the amount is expended by the State in accordance with a policy agreed to by the Minister.
I am not in agreement with a good deal of the criticism which has been levelled at the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) during this debate. I should like to think that when a person is honoured by being chosen as a Minister of the Crown his shoulders are big enough to take full responsibility for his administrative acts. Paragraphb of sub-clause 3 gives to the Minister very wide discretionary powers. While I believe that no person should be appointed a Minister of State unless he is prepared to make weighty decisions which may be made the subject of criticism not only in the Parliament but also by the press, the granting of such wide powers to the Minister, as are proposed in this clause, even though it adds to his status, detracts from the status of the Parliament itself. I realize that many Ministers have a very good conceit of themselves and no doubt that will be manifested before long when they are seeking higher salaries. I shall not be backward in stating my case when the legislation to increase the allowance of members of the Parliament is introduced. Under this provision, the Minister may dictate the policy which the States are to pursue. Ten years ago I asked a former government to establish a national planning authority and was considered a “red” for my pains. Since then I have earned another sobriquet, that of “ red-baiter “. I am pleased that the Government proposes to establish a Transport Advisory Council, and that the Minister is “ game “ enough to say that he will seek the expert advice of that body. I suggest that he should appoint to the council highly technical men of the calibre of Mr. Kemp, that great Queenslander who is second in charge of the North Australian Development Committee from which we hope to hear more at an early date concerning roads in the Northern Territory. I represent a far inland area, which extends north to the littoral of the Timor Sea, where few roads exist. On the coast between Darwin and Daly River fine fishing grounds are to be found. Fishermen are getting barramundi 140 miles from Darwin and transporting it to Darwin over roads which they have made themselves. These are the roughest roads in Australia. On the western borders of Arnheim Land the sea is teeming with fish, but not even a tourist road has been constructed giving access to that area. I suggest that some of the money proposed to be provided by this bill might well be used for the construction of roads and for the development of the fishing industry in those areas. The Minister referred to standard roads. It seems to me that he must go a little farther and exercise his authority “with the States because the roads in Queensland seem to be of too high a standard, yet the Queensland Government will use the additional money to be provided under this bill to make them even better. Only a few months ago I hired a boring plant and had it transported from Mundubbera to my home at Nanango, 150 miles away. It was a “ dud “ bore for the sinking of which I paid £261. In addition, however, I had to pay £25 for cartage -and an extra impost of £5 10s. to place it on the road because the road competed with the railway.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the clause.
– I am pointing out that in Queensland the roads must be too good.
– Order ! The honorable member may not continue along those lines. He must address his remarks to the clause, which relates to the construction of roads and not the conditions under which they are used.
– The road into Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, an area controlled by the Minister-
– Order ! If the honorable member persists in dealing with matters outside the scope of the clause I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– The standard of the. roads in Queensland is already too high because pioneers and motor services are being taxed off them.
.- Some definite clarification is required of paragraph a of sub-clause 5 in which the term “ local authorities “ makes its sole appearance in the bill. I trust that the States will be given a definite direction as to their responsibilities to local authorities in respect of the expenditure of the £1,000,000 proposed for the construction, reconstruction and maintenance of roads through sparsely populated areas. Suppose a State purchases heavy road equipment. To whom will it belong? Will it become the property of the State Public Works Department, or will it become the property of the local authority where the work is being undertaken? If it does not become the property of the local authority it could be used on State highways. That point should be clarified. After all, the Public Works Departments do not transport their road equipment all over the States and carry out work on municipal roads. All local authorities have to use their own equipment. The Public Works Departments of the States do not operate mobile plants and move from shire to shire using their own equipment. Work on outback’ roads will have to be done by the local authorities concerned, using their own equipment. If the Public Works Departments of the States purchase very much heavy road-making machinery the local authorities will be in difficulties unless they can hire it for their own use. T ask the Minister to clarify the clause.
.- The Minister’s excellent speech this afternoon has been somewhat marred by his explanation to the committee of the provisions of clause 6 of the bill. The honorable gentleman has attempted to justify certain parts of the clause by claiming that anti-Labour governments had abused their authority by expending money on roads in order to confer advantages on favoured individuals. I take very great exception to that statement. Over the last twenty years money provided by anti-Labour governments for road construction and maintenance has been expended through the main roads boards and commissions of the various States. I do not believe the Minister could name one member of those boards who is not of the highest integrity or who would bo moved by these considerations, nor do I believe the Minister could name one road which has been improperly constructed in order to favour the supporters of non-Labour governments. The honorable gentleman should either elaborate his remarks or retract them in fairness to the main roads authorities who have had the responsibility of allocating the expenditure of this money in the various States. I refer to the provision that a sum not exceeding one-sixth of the amount paid to a State may be expended on such other works connected with transport as the State thinks fit. In New South Wales the amount that may be expended under that provision will be about £210,000 and in Victoria £140,000 a year. The Minister said in his second-reading speech that that money may be used for the development of such facilities as country aerodromes, motorboat havens and jetties, the provision of which has the endorsement of honorable members, especially of those from country areas. I particularly endorse the proposal as it applies to the provision of country aerodromes and, I assume, roads ‘ thereto, which often are not in the best condition. Most honorable members have found that when an authority, State or Federal, gets its hands on money, it is difficult to wrest any of that money from it for distribution to other authorities. Efforts made from time to time to induce State governments to allocate a part of their proceeds from the petrol tax for the purposes mentioned by the Minister have been met with the excuse that they need all the money they have for the main roads boards. As the bill stands, I do not think any of the one-sixth of the money that the States will receive is likely to be allocated for the provision of the facilities referred to by the Minister. I suggest that the Minister amend the bill, either now or in the Senate, in accordance with suggestions made from both sides of the chamber that more money should be provided for expenditure by local-governing authorities by making it mandatory that the States allocate, not an amount not exceeding one-sixth of the money they receive, but not less than one-sixth of it for expenditure by the local-governing authorities or by the State governments themselves ‘ on the provision of havens and jetties for fishermen and country aerodromes. Rather than move an amendment myself, I ask the Minister to do so or to cause an amendment to be made in the Senate. Otherwise, I see little likelihood of the intentions expressed by the Minister in his secondreading speech being carried out.
.- The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has drawn attention to what may be regarded as initial difficulties that may be encountered in the launching of this new scheme. I assure him that the Aus-, tralian Transport Advisory Council, which will meet in Melbourne on Monday next, will consider these matters. The Commonwealth will be prepared to help the States in every practical way possible over the difficulties the honorable member refers to. The distribution of the money in the States and the classification of State highways and State roads are to be determined by the State Ministers represented on the council. We realize that in the States there is a variety of methods of classifying roads and that it may be essential to have uniformity in order to ensure smooth working of the scheme.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) referred to the purchase of road-making machinery for country areas. Details have not been actually worked out by the Commonwealth members of the council, but I should think that equipment will be bought by the State governments on behalf of, and become the property of local authorities that cannot meet the cost of modern equipment, but it may be necessary, because of the great demand that there will be for that form of assistance, for shires to co-operate by the exchange of equipment. It may not always be fully employed in a particular shire and it may be possible for it to be used in another shire. That would assist greatly the Commonwealth and State governments to derive full advantage from this provision.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) again reverses his stand. He objected to interference with the original agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, but now wants the Commonwealth to take further powers to direct the States on how their shares of the grant shall be expended. We are not prepared to do that. The States have cooperated with the Commonwealth, and we believe that they will continue to cooperate. All we are prepared to do is to say that the States may use some of the money for the provision of havens and jetties for fishermen and for the provision of country aerodromes. We do not propose to go beyond saying that a sum not exceeding one-sixth of the money may be expended for that purpose. We believe that the States will co-operate with the Commonwealth, and it is by co-operation that’ we shall obtain the best results.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Expenditure on strategic roads).
.- This clause provides that the sum of £500,000 may be expended annually by the Commonwealth in the construction and maintenance of strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property. My remarks shall be directed to roads of access to Commonwealth airports. A bold policy is necessary. It is a matter that I feel sure the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) could well take up with the Australian Transport Advisory Council. The history of Australian aerodromes is interesting. The main airports are Commonwealth property. They just grew from paddocks used by “gipsy” fliers in small, slow aircraft in the earlier days of aviation. Now, with the great speed and great capacity of aircraft, airports need long runways and all sorts of paraphernalia. Unless the Minister takes early action he will find worse bottle-necks in transport between the aerodromes and the capital cities. One can fly between Melbourne and Sydney in about two hours, but nearly two hours is needed to travel from the City of Melbourne to Essendon airport and from Mascot airport to the City of Sydney. So a great deal of the benefit of the rapidity of flying is lost in the ground transport at both ends of the journey. That disadvantage will be intensified as faster and larger aircraft are produced. The disadvantage is not confined to Melbourne and Sydney, however, for it exists in every other capital city in Australia, including Canberra. The roads to the airports adjacent to capital cities go through densely populated suburbs, shopping centres and back streets, thus minimizing the benefit of aircraft travel. Action is needed to ensure direct roads to the principal airports that will by-pass the densely populated centres. Even in Canberra, the route to the aerodrome is tortuous and passes unnecessarily through the Duntroon cantonment. The Minister knows the part that aircraft play in transport. I am not a fanatic about flying and I know that railways will survive, even if only to carry freight, but aircraft will carry freight, too, and it must be obvious that there must be ready access to the airports from the places where passengers and freight are picked up. It is of no use spending £5,000,000 - expenditure that is long overdue - on the Mascot aerodrome, unless the existing tortuous route to it is replaced by a direct one. No other mention of that matter has been made in this debate, but I hope that that will not deter the Minister from recommending to the Australian Transport Advisory Council that the policy that I have advocated be applied, for I am quite sure that if he does his recommendation will be unanimously agreed to.
.- This clause refers to the expenditure of £500,000 by the Commonwealth in the construction and maintenance of strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property. I foresee difficulty in determining what is a strategic road and what is Commonwealth property, apart from defence property. In December last the Commonwealth Parliament and the Parliament of New South Wales .passed legislation establishing the Joint ‘Coal Board, which has taken over the control of the coal industry in New South Wales. I should like to know whether the coal-mines will now be regarded as Commonwealth property for the .purposes of this measure and whether the roads leading to the mines will be strategic roads, particularly as, especially in war-time, it is naturally a strategic proposition to have coal transported from the pit-tops to the industries that depend upon it to continue in production. As I have said formerly, some mines that produce probably 1,000,000 tons of coal a year, have no roads leading to them, but depend on bush tracks that are un trafficable after heavy rains. Will those mines be regarded as Commonwealth property by the Commonwealth Government and provided with roads ; as roads of access to Commonwealth property, or will the construction and maintenance of those roads be entirely a matter for the Joint Coal Board? My personal belief it that they are strategic roads and that, at least for the time being, the mines are Commonwealth property and that the roads constructed to them should, on both counts, be regarded as the responsibility of the Commonwealth under this provision.
– The suggestion of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) will be considered at the appropriate time. I cannot, at the moment, tell the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) whether collieries covered by the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales will be regarded as Commonwealth property. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) is best equipped to give the honorable member information on that point. Whether roads leading to collieries will be considered as strategic roads will have to be determined after consideration. The Commonwealth is responsible for the expenditure of the £500,000 provided for strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property, but what constitutes a strategic road will have to be determined. Many States will, no. doubt, be anxious to extend the meaning of “ strategic roads “ so that the expenditure on their maintenance shall be a matter for the Commonwealth. For instance, if many military vehicles use a road, the State government or the local authority in the area will be likely to say that it should be accepted as a strategic road. I am not able to say whether roads to collieries will be in the category of strategic road*, but the matter will be con sidered, and then I shall bc able to tell the honorable gentleman.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Road safety practices).
.- This clause provides for the expenditure on road safety practices throughout Australia, in accordance with proposals approved by the Minister, of £100,000 a year. The amount is not stipulated in the bill, but it was stated by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in his secondreading speech. I have carefully examined that speech in its references to this subject to try to discover what is intended. Everyone agrees that the toll of the roads is so high and is increasing at such a rate that anything conducive to safety to users of the roads and the minimising of accidents must be endorsed by the Parliament, but £100,000 seems a large sum to be devoted for that purpose, especially as the Minister’s secondreading speech makes the voting of it practically equivalent to the signing of a blank cheque in favour of the Minister, who, in his second-reading speech, stated that he has acted upon the advice of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. That is most satisfactory, but his speech does not mention, nor is there any indication anywhere, how he will use this money, and to whom it will be apportioned. Will automobile associations such as the National Roads and Motorists Association be allocated the money? Does the Minister propose to create a new organization with its headquarters at Canberra? Will the money be expended entirely on advertising, or has the honorable gentleman other plans? Honorable members are entitled to an explanation of the meaning of the words, “ the promotion of road safety practices “. Of course, it could be said that the phrase means “ to educate the public “. That would be a very broad explanation. I ask the Minister to reply to these matters.
.- This is a most laudable clause, and I commend the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) upon its inclusion in the bill. The roads toll is terrible. Before long it will overhaul our casualties in World War II. Every week, in our large citi’es, valuable lives are lost through road accidents. The amount of £100,000 is not great, but, like the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), I should like to know how it will be expended. I should not object if the allocation were doubled. The Minister should tell us whether he will confer with excellent organizations like the road safety councils. In Melbourne, such a body is maintained largely by private subscription and has, through advertising campaigns, saved many lives on the road. The installation of traffic control lights at intersections is urgently required. At an intersection in one Melbourne suburb, accidents occur every week. The City Council has been examining this intersection with a view to installing traffic lights there, but as one side of the street is within the jurisdiction of a suburban council, an agreement has not yet been reached to enable this work to be undertaken. Meanwhile, accidents continue to- occur there. The Commonwealth could give an excellent lead, and assist various authorities to purchase the necessary equipment to reduce the roads toll. The Minister could state that he would like certain safety measures to be taken.
I suggest also the elimination of dangerous intersections. On the- roads in Holland and in parts of Germany, a motorist who wishes to turn to the left or right draws off the main road and travels by a road that passes underneath an intersecting road. Expenditure of money upon the elimination of dangerous intersections would be quite legitimate, and, if necessary, the proposed vote could be increased. Probably, all these suggestions have been brought to the notice of the Minister, but I should like him to inform us what is happening. Australian inventors might be encouraged by the offer of rewards, to devise useful appliances to minimize casualties. Any measure that helps to save lives should be carefully considered. The majority of pedestrians who are killed on the roads, are children. Adults who lose their lives in accidents, are usually passengers in motor cars involved in collisions. The Minister should tell us how he proposes that this money shall be expended.
.- All honorable members will commend the Government on its wise decision to provide money for the purpose of increasing safety measures on our highways. Like the two previous speakers, I ask the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) for an explanation of how this amount of £100,000 for road safety practices will be expended. Will the money lie in the trust fund until a State authority asks for assistance, or will it be expended on advertising and propaganda, organized through a national council? I do not know whether a road safety council has been established in Tasmania. If one has not, and this money is to be expended by road safety organizations, Tasmania would not participate in the distribution. The Government will determine how the money shall be expended, and, therefore, each .State must be given a direction as to how it should utilize the amount allocated to it. Perhaps the Commonwealth itself will expend the money on advertising propaganda. At all events, I should like this information from the Minister.
– The Government has already had a conference with an Australian Road Safety Council which is interested from the viewpoint of the motor user- and the trade generally. A recommendation has been made for the establishment of a national safety council. That recommendation will be submitted to the Australian Transport Advisory Council next Monday, and details of the plan will be worked out as to how the money shall be expended. I assure honorable members that it will be very wisely expended.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 27th March, (vide page 1275), on motion hy Mr. Chambers -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Whilst the Opposition has no intention of opposing this bill, that will not prevent it from making some very gentle criticisms of its contents and offering some suggestions to the Government regarding the extraordinarily large’ sum which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has revealed as the surplus profits of the Navy, Army and Air Force canteens. The second-reading speech of the Minister was most comprehensive, and I find little fault with it. Dealing with canteens funds generally, he said -
The volume of business done has been very substantial and even the small margin of profit which prudent administration regarded as essential has resulted in the substantial balances which are now available for appropriate distribution through the funds proposed in this bill.
From that statement honorable members probably gained the impression that the margin of profit was not substantial. In using the words “small margin of profit “ the Minister made an unfortunate choice, as I shall show. This bill provides for the establishment of four funds - the Services Canteen Trust Fund of approximately £4,500,000, the Royal Australian Navy’ Relief Trust Fund of £60,000, “the Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund of £60,000, and the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund of £60,000. The “ small margin of profit “ of £4,680,000 was obtained from the servicemen on low rates of pay who served during World War II. By the greatest stretch of imagination, no honorable member could say that the profit was small. The experience which we gained from World War I. should have been an excellent guide. The Australian Imperial Force Canteen Trust Funds contained an amount of £761,746, which consisted of the profits of canteens, Australian Imperial Force regimental funds, interest on investments and miscellaneous receipts. This profit of £761,746 was subjected to severe criticism by members of this Parliament as being an exorbitant profit, extracted from under-paid servicemen who had sacrificed the comforts of civilian life in order to fight for the maintenance of democracy in this country. How much more reprehensible is the profit of £4,680,000, which the Commonwealth Government, through its agencies, extracted from the servicemen ‘ of World War II. for goods that they were obliged to purchase in order to supplement their meagre allowances. However, all the criticism that members of the Opposition could hurl at this so called “small profit” of £4,680,000 will not undo what has already been done. We can only say that such an enormous profit should never have been made. Servicemen could not afford, to pay; the prices that they were charged for the essential goods that they purchased from the canteens.
I issue a warning to the Government based on experiences following the disbursement of £761,746 from the surplus canteens funds after World War I. I have no doubt that the persons responsible for the disbursement of the money did a good job, on which they could be commended ; but it is also true that some of that money benefited people who were not in need of such benefits. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will take all possible care to ensure that those who administer these surplus funds will apply the money wisely. I suppose about 1,000,000 men and women will be eligible to make application for benefits from this fund. They will make their approaches in various ways, which must be considered carefully by the administrators of the fund. The Minister informed us in his second-reading speech that the trustees of the fund would consist of a chairman, three persons who will represent respectively the Naval, Military and Air Boards, a business man - I have no doubt that he will be an accountant competent to control the disbursement of such funds - an ex-servicewoman and four representatives who have served in the ranks in the Naval, Military and Air Forces, to be nominated by exservicemen’s organizations. Why have representatives of the Naval Military and AirBoards been included? I doubt whether such persons who, no doubt, will be high ranking permanent officers, would have any close touch with rank and file personnel from whom the applications for relief will principally come. Such individuals are not likely to give the administrative consideration to this matter that it really deserves. I suggest to ‘ the Minister that one section of the community which deserves every consideration and is. not represented among the trustees should be granted representation. I refer to war widows who lost their breadwinners in the war and are now required to work ha.rd to maintain their children, very often in extremely difficult circumstances. Most honorable members would agree, I believe, that the pension which war widows receive could be described as a mere pittance. I therefore ask that consideration be given to the desirability of including among the representatives a person who will speak specifically for war widows. In consequence of the small allowance which these women receive for the maintenance of themselves and their children, many of the children are suffering to some degree from malnutrition. As their fathers paid the supreme sacrifice, the children deserve the most generous treatment that can be accorded them. I therefore trust that the War Widows’ Guild will be permitted to appoint a representative to this trust. 1 am aware that an ex-servicewoman will be included among trustees but she will be only one woman among nine other members, and such representation is not adequate, having in mind the wonderful service rendered by the women of this country during the recent war. I could cite figures to substantiate my claim that war widows are receiving only a pittance and that consequently they and their children must suffer from some degree of malnutrition, but the Minister can obtain similar information. I hope that he will see the force of my contention that war widows should be represented on this trust. The money that is to be disbursed was obtained from service personnel under conditions which obliged them to pay unduly high prices for the goods they obtained from the various canteens. That the prices of these goods were too high was reprehensible enough in itself, but it would be still more reprehensible if the surplus funds were not disbursed equitably.
I notice that £2,500,000 is to be earmarked from the funds for expenditure on the education and training of the children of ex-servicemen and that this may not be the full total to be used for that purpose. The earmarking of this money is a commendable departure from the conditions which governed previous disbursements of this description. We can all take a measure of pride in the fact that the policies of various governments in regard to the education and training of the children of ex-servicemen through the various repatriation and rehabilitation schemes has been on a generous scale. The children are fully entitled to this consideration. Nothing that we can do would be too good for these young people whose fathers answered the call of their nation in its hour of need. I believe that these children have in them the breeding that will stand this country in good stead in the years to come. With proper treatment, they will become the professional men and women and the leaders of this country in the years that are ahead of us.
With this mild criticism I support the bill. I make it clear that my criticism in regard to the high prices of canteen goods has not been levelled against the present Minister of the Army, for he took charge of this portfolio after by far the greater proportion of these surplus funds had been accumulated. The honorable gentleman, however, referred to the money as “ a modest profit “. On consideration, I am sure that he would wish to expunge the word “ modest “. I trust that the funds available will be disbursed equitably.
.- We are accustomed, in these days, to deal with vast sums of money, and there may be a tendency to consider the sum of £4,500,000 to be disbursed under the provisions of the bill now before us as a not very considerable amount. But when we have regard to the sources from which the money came we must change our opinion. Despite the claim of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) that this fund represents “ a modest profit “, 1 contend that it represents a profit made by the systematic overcharging of service personnel, who were obliged to purchase from the canteens the goods that they required in a time of war. The money, in fact, came from two sources. It came from the profits which accumulated from consistent overcharging, and also from moneys raised in various ways by the friends and dependants of members of the forces. If one thing stands out clearly in regard to this measure it is that the money with which we are dealing belongs to ex-service personnel, and should be expended in their interests. We find, however, from the Minister’s second-reading speech, that a part of the money is to be used in quite a different way. The honorable gentleman said -
It is .proposed that as from a date to be fixed, and which is referred to as “the prescribed date “, the profits and other assets of the canteens services shall be transferred to the Services Canteens Trust Fund, except such as are required to meet existing liabilities, or for the continuing operation of the canteens services, for the purposes of the interim forces. Australia has undertaken to operate canteens for the whole of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan. It is a matter of considerable importance that these canteens shall continue to be operated in a manner which will permit the supply of goods at reasonable prices to British Commonwealth Occupation Forces personnel.
Those are admirable sentiments from some points of view, but I contend that the responsibility for supplying amenities for the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan should fall upon the Commonwealth Government. Money for this purpose should not be taken from surplus canteens funds which accumulated from purchases made by our service personnel in time of war. I have the utmost sympathy with, and commend, any plans to provide adequate amenities for British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan from appropriate sources, but money raised from our service personnel in time of war should not be applied to that purpose. We have to remember that the people who were responsible for the accumulation of this money were required to serve their country in a time of great national emergency, and did so under severe hardships, whereas the men serving with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan are volunteers who have chosen to follow the profession of arms. I do not consider that they have any claim at all to the funds which are now available for distribution from canteen profits. . If the Commonwealth Government has guaranteed to provide amenities for all the occupation forces in Japan, it should do so from funds obtained from some other source. There is another instance of what may be regarded more or less as misappropriation of these funds. It is to be found in the Minister’s second-reading speech at page 1275, where the honorable gentleman said -
Further, it is recognized that in all statutes borderline cases arise just outside the scope of the act. The bill gives a wide discretion to the trustees to expend the moneys entrusted to their care on -any cause which will contribute to the general or collective benefits of exservicemen and their dependants.
Those remarks relate to ex-servicemen and their dependants who are in difficulties. The striking phrases are “ borderline cases arise just outside the scope of the act “ and “ The bill gives a wide discretion to the trustees “. It appears to me that this fund is to be used to provide services to ex-servicemen and their dependants which ought to be provided in the normal functioning of the Repatriation Department and the other departments which deal with rehabilitation and so on. I am sure that all honorable members have had some experience of borderline cases which do not actually come within the scope of the act. We are all aware of instances in which there has been need for officials of the repatriation and. other rehabilitation departments to have wide discretionary powers. At the risk of boring the House, I shall cite two cases that have recently come to my notice. I have had to deal with the case of a woman whose two sons went to World War II. They were her only means of support, and both of them were killed in action. She did not own a home. One left with her a life assurance policy for £700, so that, if he and his brother were killed, she would have sufficient money with which to purchase a home. She could not buy a house, but because she had that small assurance policy for £700 she was ineligible for the pension which a dependent mother is entitled to receive. That is a borderline case which is outside the scope of the act. As a result of representations to the Minister over a period of twelve months, she was finally granted, on account of her two deceased sons, the “ magnificent “ pension of £1 12s. a fortnight, or Ss. a week in respect of each. That, is a terrible state of affairs. The case is a deserving one, yet it is outside the scope of the act. It is useless to contend that profits gained from servicemen should be used to look after persons of that sort. It is the duty of the Government to provide repatriation services and pensions. Those are government matters, and should be treated as such. If they are outside the scope of the act, the act should be amended to bring them within its scope. Officials in those departments should be given wide discretionary power. These funds were provided by and for servicemen, and it is wrong to apply them to work which I consider the Government ought normally to do. I could cite further instances, and doubtless other honorable members also have had to take up most pathetic cases. Apparently, nothing can be done because they are slightly outside the scope of the act. It is wrong to regard this fund as a stop gap which will provide what ought to be normal services for the exserviceman.
I have not yet said how I consider this money ought to be expended. It is easy to suggest several ways. One immediately springs to mind. After all, this money was derived principally from the profits of canteens and comforts funds, and from moneys raised by friends and relatives during the war. I should like a portion of it to be expended on badly wounded and sick ex-servicemen who have spent lengthy periods in repatriation hospitals. If any honorable member will pay a visit to a repatriation hospital he will find that the Repatriation Department, in its functioning, appears to have adopted what may be described as a minimum attitude. There is a fair example of that in Melbourne at the present time. A repatriation hospital is to be closed down after having operated successfully for many years, and the patients are to be moved to another hospital at Heidelberg. Why cannot transport be provided for their families to visit them? A portion of this money could be expended in providing comforts and amenities which would make the lives of the men in such hospitals more tolerable. When it was raised the intention was that it should be a gift. It should be used as such.
.- I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) in reference to the eventual destination of the funds mentioned in the bill. The honorable member has presented a case which I believe will be acceptable to most ex-servicemen, namely, that the best purpose would be served by attending to the needs of ex-servicemen in ways such as those that he has enumerated. The point that he made concerning the responsibility which is evaded by the repatriation and other departments, is sound. But I believe that the true function of the fund is to act as an interregnum fund for alleviating distress which does not fall within the scope of the Repatriation Department. Although the idea of the honorable member for Henty may be sound, it has not been found practicable in the past, and I doubt whether it could be made practicable at this juncture. The point is, that the profits will be used for the benefit of exservicemen and their dependants. As the honorable member has pointed out, there has been an emphasis of what he has aptly described as the minimum standard of repatriation. The functioning of committees established under the Repatriation Commission in Australia generally, and particularly in industrial areas has been of great value, but in the Repatriation Act itself there is no provision whatever for urgent cases which arise suddenly. If a serviceman finds himself in dire need, he is confronted by the hidebound provisions of the Repatriation Act. He may be entitled to a gratuity, .which for very good reasons cannot be touched. He may have other assets which are not maturing. He can obtain immediate assistance only through a repatriation committee if one is functioning in his district. The disbursement of this fund will, of course, be subjected to the criticism that is levelled against all disbursements, namely, that many persons will not be eligible to participate in it, and there will be the usual mad rush to obtain benefit from it.
I followed the inauguration of this scheme very closely, and having had consultations in regard to it with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), who as an ex-serviceman is deeply interested in it, I have come to the conclusion that it is the best that could be devised. It is not perfect, and will be criticized both on its merits and in relation to its operation; but it is backed by some realism and by knowledge of the manner in which similar funds have been administered in the past. Advantage is being taken of the experience that has been gained by providing necessary safeguards. Some of the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. I ask the Minister to say, during the debate, what will be the final set-up of the personnel. The administration of the fund is somewhat overloaded with what is loosely called “ brass hat” personnel. I should like some of the more active workers’ in the cause of ex-servicemen generally to be appointed to the trust, which is to be mainly composed of representatives of every service department and of organizations of exservice men and women. The scheme is sound as such, and I believe that it is balanced by the experience of the last war. I hope, for the sake of those whom it is intended to help, that it will work better than have many other schemes which began nobly but ended in chaos.
I cannot conclude without saying that for once T am in agreement with the honorable member for Henty that there has been irritation in the minds of exservicemen generally because these profits have not been applied as he has requested that they should be. From the broad humanitarian aspect, probably this scheme will have just as good an effect, or perhaps even a better effect, because it will be reasonably and, I hope, capably controlled.
The point which, finally, every man who is interested in the services comes up against is, what is to be done in the future when funds are to be disbursed. This was a very good time for the honorable member for Henty to draw attention to the minimum standards that are now observed, and the necessity to make such provision that funds will become immediately available when there is an acute ease of hardship. A man who is suffering from a war disability, or who may be under the strain of a war activity, is usually inflamed against his people and governments, but particularly his people, if he believes that they have forgotten him, or are unmindful of the work that he has done for his country, and, having reached a condition which is almost intolerable, he finds that he has to fill in form G.A.B. under section 16 (2), and, after waiting for a reply for a fortnight, is told that his application does not comply with the specification, the acuteness of his problem having meanwhile been dissolved by some action by his friends, or, in colloquial language, he has had to “ take the rap “. Overall, 1 congratulate the Minister. While he has held his present portfolio he has striven, as a soldierly man, to give practical effect to good, sound common sense. I realize that the scheme will not be perfect. No measure which comes before this House and is placed on the statute-book is perfect. But if human intention be good, I am sure that that of the Minister is. He has proved that by many of his actions. If legitimate amendments are submitted, and they are of such a nature as to be acceptable to the Minister, I trust that he will listen to the representations of ex-servicemen on both sides of the House; because, before the bill was even thought of or drafted there was a sharp clash of opinions as to how this money should be expended. That that has not been entirely dissipated has been evidenced by the statements of the honorable member for Henty. I believe that this will measure np in the minds of exservicemen as an honest attempt to allocate these funds in a reasonable way, and in directions in which they will confer the greatest benefits. The scheme will be accepted throughout the community as a reasonable attempt to cover the many cases that arise and which, perhaps, will increase as time goes on. I believe that that has been the general idea - to make the scheme as expansive as possible. In the circumstances, I congratulate the Minister on the scope and reasonableness of the bill. I hope that it will be accepted by honorable members in that spirit.
.- This is a bill to provide for the appointment of trustees to administer, in the interests of servicemen, ex-servicemen and their dependants, the profits and other assets of canteens that were conducted by the defence forces during World War II. I notice that very full powers are being given to the trustees under clause 8. They will have the power to administer the fund from time to time, and to do all such acts and things as appear to them to be necessary for the administration of the fund. Paragraph a provides that they shall have the power - . to receive and consider applications for benefits from the fund and determine whether any person or group or class of persons is entitled to benefit from the fund and the extent of the benefit to which that person or the persons comprising that group or class of persons is or are so entitled.
The clause authorizes the trustees -
If ex-servicemen with the right outlook are selected to act as trustees they will have ample power to administer the fund to the complete satisfaction of the beneficiaries. Accumulated canteens funds amount to £4,500,000. Obviously, members of the forces, including those serving in isolated places, were overcharged for what they bought. There was extracted from them a substantial amount of money which they should never have been asked to pay. For that reason, they and their dependants should be generously treated under this scheme. It is necessary that we should know who the trustees are to be. The Minister has not told us, but the Parliament and the ex-servicemen are entitled to be told who they will be, and how are they are to be chosen. The Legacy Club should be represented on the trust. We are all familiar with the extraordinarily good work which the Legacy Club has done for the dependants of deceased soldiers. The club consists of men who served in both world wars, and they have given much time to caring for the dependants of deceased servicemen, whether they died as a result of war service or not. Members of the club have done very fine work all over Australia in an honorary capacity, and they have acted as fathers to the orphans left by deceased servicemen. I ask the Minister whether the Legacy Club is to be represented on the trust, and if not, why not.
If the trust is to do its work satisfactorily, the fund must be administered generously. Applicants should not be required to fill in vexatious forms. Let us hope that this money, which was accumulated, for the most part, as the result of overcharging members of the fighting forces, will be administered in a spirit of fair play and generosity. All ex-servicemen’s organizations should be represented on the trust. I have here a letter from the Demobilized Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Australia. It is signed by the President, Mr. W. P. Lachlan, and by the State Secretary, Mr.R. P.Fleay, and is as follows : -
Some time ago this association made application to the Federal Government for appointment as a trustee of the Surplus Army Canteen Funds. This was refused.
Upon receiving the reply a further application was made, this has also been rejected.
We do not agree with this decision, particularly in view of the fact that this association has been in existence for a great many years, in fact it is the oldest Association in existence to-day, and as such is thoroughly deserving of such an appointment.
We therefore, desire you to bring this question before the House with a view to having the whole matter reconsidered and more earnest consideration given to the appointment of this association as either a trustee of the Surplus Army Canteen Funds or alternatively the inclusion of a nominee from this association upon the Services Canteens Fund Trust. Such action would, we assure you be greatly appreciated by this association.
I should like to know whether the Minister has received applications from the association, whether he rejected them, and if so why.
I am very pleased that there is a provision in the bill that £2,500,000 of the fund is to be allocated for the care and education of the children of deceased soldiers. No one is .better qualified to supervise this work than the members of the Legacy Club. I have been a member of that organization since its inception in Queensland more than twenty years ago. Members have become thoroughly expert in the work. If the Minister is not familiar with the work done by the club, let him investigate it for himself, or cause his officers to do so. Some of them are themselves members. If no arrangements have yet been made for giving the Legacy Club representation on the trust, I ask the Minister to attend to the matter now. I also ask him to consider favorably the request of the Demobilized Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association. If their application was rejected, I ask him to state why.
– I am very glad that a decision has been reached in regard to the disposal of surplus canteens funds. About seven months ago, when it was first announced that something was to be done in regard to the matter, I conferred in Adelaide with men who had been associated with the disposal of patriotic funds of various kinds. At that time, the men representing the services were very keen that, instead of the canteens funds being dealt with by a central authority, they should be utilized, as far as possible, by organizations which had been dealing with funds raised during the, two world wars for the betterment of servicemen. The bill now before us goes a long way to meet their washes. I did not hear the second-reading speech of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), but from my reading of the bill I understand that it is proposed that there shall be a central trust to which all the money will be transferred. In addition, there are to be separate authorities set up to represent the men of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. Presumably, the central trust will allocate so much money to each of the other authorities and they will distribute it to ex-members of the services or their dependants in the various States. I suggest that the success of the undertaking will depend upon utilizing the services of the committees already engaged upon similar work in various parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) mentioned the Legacy Club. We all know that, since the 1914-18 War, this organization has done wonderful work. A total of £2.500,000 is to be set aside for the care and education of the children of deceased servicemen. This appears to be a con.tinuation of the work of the Legacy Club and of the organizations associated with it. I believe that it would create difficulties if the suggestion were followed that grants of money should be made directly to the various committees working in each State. However, when money is allocated by a central trust to authorities representing the three arms of the service, we can rely upon a good job being done. I take it that those who serve on the trust will be either exservicemen or men who have proved during the war their ability to act on behalf of servicemen. I do not presume to offer advice to the Minister on this subject, but I suggest that in appointing members of the trust consideration should be given, not only to men who have had active war service, but also to those who during the war worked day and night in the interests of servicemen. I am confident that the proceeds of the canteens fund will be much more fairly distributed on this occasion than after World War I.
– Certain organizations did very well out of the canteens fund built up during World War I. I commend the honorable member to read the Minister’s remarks on that subject.
– I a I am speaking of some of the previous funds.
– They have nothing to do with this bill,
– Aft After World War I., many of the servicemen who returned to South Australia were almost wholly dependent on what they received from such funds. The proposals contained in this bill will be much more beneficial than those contained .in the earlier legislation. I do not shut my eyes to the fact that a few people will always try to get money to which they are not entitled. No doubt, sometimes the fund will be abused. No matter how astute the trustees may he, someone without claim to any of the money might try to participate in the benefits. In this bill the Minister has made a genuine attempt to provide a fair and reasonable distribution of the money standing to the credit of the canteens fund. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) spoke feelingly of the desirability of making a portion of the fund available to totally disabled ex-servicemen. Provision for those unfortunate people is a responsibility of the Government, and they should not be dependent on the canteens fund for one penny. A great proportion of the money standing to the credit of the canteens fund was derived from excess charges imposed on ex-service men and women during the war. As far as possible, those excess profits should be utilized for the benefit of those from whom they were derived. Other moneys should be made available to meet the needs of ex-service men and women in necessitous circumstances. An attempt has been made in this bill to meet the wishes of the various organizations of ex-service men and women throughout the Commonwealth. The trustees of the fund should consist of representatives of those organizations. I trust that this bill will be the means of enabling the canteens fund to be distributed to the satisfaction of all concerned.
– From the speeches made by honorable members on both sides of the House, I conclude that this bill has met with general approval. I believe that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) is genuinely trying to distribute this money for the benefit of ex-service men and women throughout Australia. Several honorable members have said that the trustees may make or mar the distribution. In my opinion, all -the trustees should be former members of the forces, because the bill is designed principally to benefit the children of ex-servicemen. As the fund has been built up by former members of the forces in camps and elsewhere, they have a right te be represented on the trust. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that the trustees who will be appointed by the Governor-General shall be ex-members of the forces.
– They will be. I shall supply the list of names for the information of honorable members.
– In view of that assurance, I shall not submit an amendment at a later stage to ensure that that be so. As I believe the measure to be in the best interests of ex-servicemen and their dependants, I compliment the Minister on having presented it to the House.
– I offer a criticism of the bill which has not been made by any other honorable member. In my opinion, the measure is remarkable for two grave omissions. In the title of the bill no mention is made of ex-servicewomen. I understand that the Acts Interpretation Act overcomes that difficulty, and makes the use of the term “ ex-servicewomen “ unnecessary. In my opinion, it is not unnecessary, because the bill contains a definition that “ members of the forces “ includes women, but elsewhere in the measure the term “members of the forces “ i3 not used. Ex-servicewomen feel that they have been slighted because they have not been mentioned as such in the title of the bill. They consider that such mention would be a great admission of the importance of the work which they did for Australia. The other omission is in respect of the trustees to be appointed. I do not know whether the appointments have already been made. If so, I may be right in saying that there is another omission. Mention has been made of the distribution of some of the money in the canteens fund by the Legacy Club for the benefit of the war widows and ex-service men and women. Many of the war widows of this country played a notable part in the raising of canteens funds. Having worked extremely hard, they are now slighted by their non-recognition in this bill. I have been in consultation with the wife of General Vasey, who is very worried about this omission. She says that with 10,000 other women’ she worked for the canteens, giving up the whole of the time she could .’pare from her family. These women are extremely concerned at being overlooked. They feel that the least that could have been done was to have chosen some of the trustees from among their numbers. That would have been a simple act of courtesy, because not all of the war widows will benefit from the fund. Some of them are sufficiently independent to be chosen for appointment as trustees. The war widows of Victoria are holding a meeting in Melbourne to consider this bill. I have already received notification of their preliminary decisions which will not be altered by the meeting. I have found that war widows all over Australia are depending on the Government’s promise that they should have some share in the distribution of this fund. They are anxious to voice their opinions and to discuss the use to which, as they term it, “ our money “ shall be put. They contend rightly that the women who are responsible for the care of their families and their homes are best fitted to say what they need most to help them, and where the shoe pinches. They strongly resent the suggestion that they are not responsible enough to have a voice in the settlement of their own affairs. If these women were given some voice in the handling of the fund it would do much to remove the charity slur which is inevitable if they have to go to outside welfare organizations as “ cases “. They claim the right to take some part in the discussion as to how this money should be expended. These women constitute a fine body of Australians. Among the members of this House there are surely some who know Mrs. Vasey, an extremely capable woman who has done wonderful work in organizing and assisting war widows throughout Australia. Mrs. Vasey has travelled throughout the Commonwealth and knows what the war widows in each State are thinking about this bill. The war widows do not want to feel indebted to such bodies as the Legacy Club, which I am not criticizing
– The honorable member could not do so.
– I am criticizing the fact that the war widows have been overlooked. They do not want to have handed to them as a gift or as charity money for which they have worked so hard. They want strong representation on the trust. If the eligibility of war widows to serve as trustees should be questioned, it will be found that a great many of them are themselves exservicewomen, and ex-servicewomen can serve as trustees. That question was raised before I came to Canberra this week and I checked the eligibility of many membersof the organization to serve as trustees. I ask the Minister to make the suggested alterations because I know the feelings of many thousands of women, who ought to be thus recognized. They will be extremely disappointed if I am not supported in this plea.
– I support what has been ably said by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) on behalf of war widows, because, of all the pathetic letters I have received, most have come from them. Doubtless, all honorable members have received similar pleas. No one is so capable of advancing their interests as a fellow woman who has worked so vigorously in campaigns on their behalf as has the honorable member for Bourke, and I trust that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) will heed what she has said and ensure the representation on the trusts set up for the various funds established under the bill.
I rise to ascertain from the Minister the position regarding certain funds raised by the Australian Red Cross Society on behalf of Australian members of the forces captured by the Japanese in the Malayan campaign. Before embarking on that subject, however, I compliment the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) on his excellent speech about the enormous profits made by the canteens services during the war in overcharging members of the forces, particularly “ other ranks “, for goods supplied to them. I am pleased that at long last the Government has brought down this legislation to ensure the distribution of the surplus funds to the needy. That is equity.
– What about equity to the Legacy Club?
– I also rose to support what was said by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) about the Legacy Club. I am not a member of that body, but I do know from friends the splendid work it is doing. I do not like mentioning this, but so impressed was 1 by the fine services it renders that a little while ago I donated more than £90 to the club’s funds. That signifies what I think of the Legacy Club. The story of the part it played in saving my life is too long to tell here.
– What is wrong with « Chill “ ? He is losing his fire.
– I feel that I am in an invidious position. I am lost for words because I am now about to mention the funds of the Australian Bed Cross Society. Apart from the war widows, there is another forgotten legion. It consists of former Australian prisoners of the Japanese. From what I have been told, substantial funds were collected by the Australian Bed Cross Society on their behalf but were later, in pursuance of legislation passed by the Parliament of Victoria, legally paid into the general funds of the society, whose head-quarters are in Melbourne. I see no reference in this legislation to that money, but I should like an assurance from the Minister that he will ensure the use of that money for the purpose, or as near as possible the purpose, for which it was originally subscribed by the people. It appears that after the fall of Singapore praiseworthy people in Sydney and Melbourne associated with the Australian Bed Cross Society approached the public in a street campaign for donations to relieve the Australians taken prisoner in Malaya. I understand that the response was so magnificent that the appeal closed before the due date. Owing to the conditions under which the Japanese fought the war and guarded their prisoners, that money never reached the men for whom it was intended. T feel that I am in an invidious position in raising this matter, but many former prisoners of the Japanese have asked me to raise it. I am a member of a small committee that is interesting itself in the fate of those funds, but I have heard that another committee is to go to Melbourne this week to decide the matter. Recently I signed a letter to the head-quarters of the Australian Red Cross Society asking that the money collected for the former prisoners of war should be used on behalf of those who have returned to Australia and are in need. The committee to which
I belong is not able to get any satisfaction. I cast no slurs on the head-quarters of the society nor on the Sydney section. The members of both committees are reputable citizens who have done a fine job, but I should like the Minister to allay the fears of my friends, who are anxious to know why they are not allowed to take part in the representations that are to be made at the head-quarters of the Australian Red Cross Society. I am not asking for anything myself, but many former companions of mine in the hands of the Japanese have not been able to reestablish themselves, and the appeal is being made that that money collected for them by the society should be made available for the relief of their distress. I leave the matter at that, in the hope that the Minister will be able to indicate that, notwithstanding the legislation of the Victorian Parliament, under which the money collected was entrusted to the general funds of the Australian Red Cross Society, the authority of Commonwealth law will be such that distribution
Df that money among the men for whom it was originally intended shall be assured.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the necessity for businessmen and members of the public to make frequent references to government publications, will he make available for inspection in all capital cities current lists of all such publications?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Copies of all Commonwealth government publications, besides being held in the National Library at Canberra, are distributed to public libraries in all capital cities and are, therefore, available to Hie public for reference purposes.
In respect of current lists, the Annual Catalogue of Australian Publications issued by the National Library, which, in addition to listing printed books, -covers all publications of the Commonwealth, its territories, and the various States, is available to the public at a COSt of 2s. per copy and is obtainable from the Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, and from the Commonwealth Sub-Treasuries in each capital city in Australia. Copies are also distributed to all public libraries.
Pressure of work, together with shortage of skilled tradesmen in the Government Printing Office, preclude, at present, the publication of current lists as supplements to this annual, but when conditions permit, consideration will be given to this aspect of the matter.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Armed FORCES: Australians in Japan.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as f follows : -
The honorable member will recall that on the 20th February, 1947, the Minister for External Affairs informed the House of the Government’s view that an early peace settlement with Japan is desirable. The Australian Government believes that the question of the future control or supervision of Japan will be the most important question for the peace conference to decide. Japan must never again be able to threaten the security of the Pacific and of the world. It must be our paramount aim to see that Japan remains disarmed and demilitarized and confined to her home islands. With a genuinely democratic form of government, Japan would be less likely to embark on a policy of aggression. To achieve these objectives, there must be some form of control or supervision for a considerable period after the signing of the peace treaty.
The Australian Government does not contemplate withdrawal of the Australian portion of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force until some post-treaty control or supervisory authority is satisfactorily established. Australia, because of her status as a major Pacific belligerent, and because of her special geographical interests in the Japanese settlement, will certainly be represented on any such control or supervisory body. The form which this body might take is now under discussion. The Government has no knowledge of a proposal for an allied civilian police control force.
y. - On the 23rd April the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked a series of questions regarding Commonwealth financial assistance to education. The following answers are now furnished for the honorable member’s information, in the order in which he asked the questions : -
FRUIT-GROWING : Tasmanian Representations.
– On the 23rd April the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question regarding the Tasmanian Government’s request for assistance to fruit-growers in Tasmania. I am now able to state that, in reply to his representations on this matter, the Premier of Tasma’nia was advised that, as the grant of £100,000 was authorized for the specific purpose of meeting the position of primary producers who suffered losses because of exceptional conditions which prevailed generally during 19.45 and, as it is an established principle that grants for a definite purpose cannot be diverted to meet circumstances not existing when the grant was made, the request could not be gr anted.
y. - On- the 13th May, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question regarding supplies of coal for Victoria. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has advised me that the Joint Coal Board regularly reviews the whole question of distribution, and has decided that, in present circumstances, a fair quota for Victoria would be 30,000 tons a week, by sea and rail. This target has now definitely been set by the board and arrangements have been made with the Australian Shipping Board for appropriate tonnage. Everything will be done to maintain coal supplies to every State, including Victoria, on a basis which will ensure that their industry can operate at a level not less favorable than that of New South Wales.
Y - On the l6t and 6th May, the honorable -member for Parra matta (Mr. Beale) asked questions regarding the supply of glycerine. I desire to inform the honorable member that the export . of this commodity is prohibited unless the consent of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is obtained, No such consents are given except for orders which were confirmed and ready for shipment before prohibition was introduced. However, there is no Commonwealth control over disposal or distribution of this commodity in Australia and the Commonwealth Government does not itself own or manufacture the product. I understand that there is no shortage in Australia of crude glycerine, but that owing to production problems at the refineries, particularly in Victoria, supplies of refined glycerine have been below requirements. The operations of a new plant which is being established should assist the supply position. Moreover, although the shortage of tallow has been a factor contributing to the supply position of glycerine, it has not been the vital consideration, and the recent price increases for tallow should help to free tallow stocks. I understand also that as soon as the bottleneck in the refining of glycerine is overcome, the position should right itself.
hi Chifley. - On the 16th May, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked a question regarding a letter published in the- Sydney Daily Telegraph on that day. over the signature A. R. Gray, relative to the conduct of the Land Sales Control Branch, Sydney. In accordance with the promise made in my interim reply, every endeavour has been made to contact the signatory; but despite, an exhaustive inquiry, my officers have been unable to locate Mr. A. R. Gray. His name does not appear in the telephone or street directories, electoral roll nor is he known to the Institute of Real Estate Agents. On ,the following day, the 17th May, the Daily Telegraph published a letter from Mr. Roy A. Gray, estate . agent of Martin-place, in which Mr. Gray disassociated himself from the letter published on the previous day and added that he, too, had been unable to trace any one by the name of’ A. R. Gray.
Real Estate Transactions.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470521_reps_18_192/>.