18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J.J. Clark) took the chair at 10.80 a.m., and read prayers.
-Some months ago I questioned the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs about hearing aids. I now ask him why, if the American hearing aid is subject to duty and theEnglish hearing aid comes into the country free, there is approximately the same charge here for both the
American and the English articles? How does the cost of the manufacture of the English article compare with the production cost of the American article?
-I shall ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to supply the information as soon as possible.
– On Wednesday the Minister for Shipping and Fuel released figures which show the number of taxis and hire cars in Melbourne and Sydney. He said that in Melbourne there were 1,175 taxis and 525 hire cars and in Sydney 2,057 taxis and 479 hire cars. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether the chairman of the Melbourne City Council Licensed Vehicles Committee has said that the total of 1,700 taxis and hire cars in
Melbourne which the Minister alleges is operating is 500 more than the actual number and that Sydney, with 1,400,000 persons has 900 more taxis and hire cars than Melbourne, with a population of 1,250,000. In view of the discrepancy between the figures of the Minister for shipping and Fuel and those of the chairman of the Licensed Vehicles Committee, I ask whether the Minister will confer with the chairman of that official body and whether, if the facts are as alleged by the chairman of the committee, he will ensure the licensing of additional taxis and hire cars in Melbourne and the availability of appropriate petrol rations for them.
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member, but I shall direct the attention of the Minister forShipping and Fuel to what he has said, and ask for verification of the figures that have been issued. At the same time, I think it should be clear to every one that conditions under which taxis and hire cars operate in the t wo cities are not at all comparable. Melbourne is one compact block, but Sydney is spread around a harbour, with bays and inlets in all directions.
– It is a beautiful city.
– A very beautiful city; but the conditions are entirely different from those in Melbourne, and merely to say that the number of taxis and hire car licences should be issued on a population basis is to display ignorance of the situation.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to an attack made upon the Australian working man in a special article written for the Melbourne Herald by Professor Douglas Copland, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University at Canberra? As the basis of the professor’s attack appears to be that the Australian worker is deliberately sabotaging production in order to save up jobs for the future, will the Prime Minister state whether the terms governing the professor’s position as Vice-Chancellor of the university enable him to accept other jobs writing for newspapers? What salary does Professor Copland receive, and how many students are there at present at the Australian National University? Will the Government take the necessary steps to ensure that the professor need have no fear that increased effort and greater output at the university will lead to over-production and unemployment, an accusation that he has levelled against the Australian worker?
-I have not seen the statement reported to have been made by Professor Copland, although I have seen several of his articles in the press and have heard one or two broadcast addresses that he has given on economic and other subjects. The best that I can do for the honorable member is to make inquiries about his questions. I am not sure of the precise rate of salary that Professor Copland receives, but I think that it is either £3,000 or £3,500 a year. I shall have all of the honorable member’s questions examined and will supply him with answers as soon as I can do so.
Allegation Against Department of Trade and Customs
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs. I have received a letter from a constituent who states -
I have just received a private letter from England and it has been opened by the Customs people.
Has the Department of Trade and Customs the right to open private correspondence ? If so, what is its purpose in doing so? Is it the practice of the department to interfere with the private correspondence of our citizens?
– I shall refer the honorable member’squestions to the Minister for Trade and Customs and ascertain the facts.
-I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether his department uses as the basis of construction costing in the Northern Territory the usual man-hour sheets sent to the office staffs by gangers, leading hands, foremen and engineers so that those officers may be assisted and kept informed daily, or at least bi-weekly, of any serious deviations from the original estimates of costs. If the Minister has not insisted that such a control system be applied to works in the Northern Territory, will he consult the Harbours Board in South Australia and send a senior costs clerk to Adelaide to familiarize himself with the system used there, under which engineers, foremen and others concentrate entirely upon their technical duties, are relieved of costing duties, and have no control over trust accounts that would enable them to apportion the costs of one job to a different job so as to hide the real cost of any specific work?
– Costing work in the Department of Works and Housing is naturally carried out by the costing clerks. As time-sheets come in from each specific job, the man-hours worked and the wage rates for those man-hours are charged to that job. It is not the practice of the department to charge the costs of one job against another job. The practice that it follows is the normal practice that has been adopted, not only by other departments, but also by private construction firms. I point out that first-class costing accountants are scarce. The department has endeavoured from time to time to engage such officers, not only in Australia, but also overseas. My department is anxious to get additional costing clerks so that this work may be kept more up to date. I do not suggest that the work is 100 per cent, efficient at present, but I assure the honorable member that costs in relation to one job would never be debited to another because of a mistake in the original estimate.
Formal Motions fob ADJOURNMENT
– You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that on Wednesday a matter arose in this chamber which is now the subject of a notice of . motion. It concerns the right of honorable members to move a formal motion for the adjournment of the House, and follows a ruling given by you on a motion submitted by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). In view of the great importance of this problem in its relation to the right of the House to discuss matters, are you prepared in your capacity as Deputy Speaker to convene a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee so that this and other matters relating to the Standing Orders may be examined ?
– A meeting of the Standing Orders Committee will be held in the near future to discuss a number of other matters. I shall . be pleased to place before the committee the problem that the right honorable gentleman has raised.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation yet in a position to make any announcement in regard to the construction of an all-weather aerodrome at Naracoorte in South Australia following inspection of the locality recently by officers of the Department of Civil Aviation?
– I have not yet seen the official reports on the inspection made by officers of my department, but I shall examine them as soon as they are available. I point out, however, that the construction of aerodromes does not depend solely upon decisions by the Department of Civil Aviation. Often works which are considered to be of lesser importance than others are delayed because of lack of materials and equipment. That has been so with one or two airports now in course of construction. I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in the matter, and I shall provide him as soon as possible with the information that he desires.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that 600 or more persons are employed at Australia House, London ? If this is so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House why such a large staff is necessary? Will he also have a statement prepared showing the names and duties of all employees’ at Australia House receiving £A.500 or more a year?
– I shall supply the honorable member with whatever information is readily obtainable on this subject. I do not know whether the total number of employees is as he has stated, but Iunderstand that 140 persons are employed there on immigration work alone. Many officials at Australia House are not attached directly to the High Commissioner, but are working on behalf of various departments. It should be possible to ascertain quite readily how many employees are receiving£ A.500 a year or more, and I shall provide the honorable member with that information as soon as possible.
films - Broadcasting.
– I have recently received two letters from mothers’ clubs. One relates to the importation and display or sale of unsuitable films and literature, and the other to the reported proposal to discontinue the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s children’s session known as “The Argonauts “. I ask the Minister for Information whether the States have been consulted on the desirability of restricting the exhibition of films unsuitable for children. As so many mothers’ clubs believe “ The Argonauts “ session to be of great educational value, will the Minister make representations to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for its continuance ?
– The first part of the honorable member’s question comes within the purview of the Minister for Trade and Customs, with whom I shall discuss it. I hope that the Minister will be able to furnish a reply which will be satisfactory to the mothers’ clubs that made the protests to which the honorable member has referred. I shall consult with the Postmaster-General in relation to the second part of the question. It is good to hear that there is a session on the air that is of value to children. Complaints are generally received that the children’s sessions undo the work of school teachers, do not encourage very high ideals, and exalt murder, arson and many other things, and that therefore it would be better if the children did not listen to them. I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral will discuss the matter with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If the session to which the honorable member has referred is a good one, as the mothers’ clubs claim, I have no doubt that the Minister’s persuasive eloquence will be used on that independent authority to do the right thing.
– I have received a letter from a dads’ club requesting that all pensions be increased in accordance with increases in the cost of living. Will the Minister for Repatriation see what can be done about that request? Will the honorable gentleman also consider the need for altering the law to provide that where the dependant of a serviceman is entitled to an age pension in addition to a dependant’s pension both pensions be paid in full instead of the value of the dependant’s pension being deducted from the age pension, as at present?
– I have received a letter from the honorable member on this subject. As a member of a dads’ club I have some personal knowledge of the problems of ex-servicemen and their relatives in which that organization is interested. I am inquiring into the matters raised by the honorable member with a view to seeing what can be done about them. Theapplication of the means test to pensioners of all kinds is, and always has been, a controversial matter. The law, however, provides that there shall be an upper limit to the total benefit that may be received by persons entitled to two pensions from Commonwealth sources. In the case of dependants of former servicemen whose pensions are supplemented by social services benefit, as the limit applied by the means tests rises, so the total benefit they receive becomes greater. The whole matter is now under consideration.
Mr. BARNARD (Bass- Minister for
Repatriation). - by leave - Almost from the day demobilization commenced, the Government has been subjected to a good deal of ill-founded criticism of the provision made for the care and treatment of discharged members of the fighting forces suffering from what has been commonly termed “war neurosis “. Honorable members will remember that last year I gave them a confidential report upon this subject. The weakness of the consistent attempts to discredit the Government could have been exposed quite easily in a reply by myself for publication. I purposely refrained from making a public reply because my medical advisers, many of whom were at one time prisoners of war. considered that it would have been detrimental to the interests of those unfortunate enough to be sufferers from mental disorders. The Government has always been under an obligation to these men to reduce to a minimum the causes of aggravation of their disability. Time has shown that the Government did the right thing throughout the period the Repatriation Commission was engaged in the task of providing the practical means of dealing with a complex and difficult problem. I am speaking now of the Repatriation Commission’s psychiatric service plan. In the progress of that plan to the present stage, so much has been accomplished and so much benefit derived by ex-service personnel, as to justify now, in my opinion and that of the departmental specialists, the release of some enlightening facts of considerable public interest. This statement I believe will serve that purpose, and in making it I will touch on several aspects of the subject about which, throughout the immediate post-war years, it has been considered that, the least said, the better served would be the interests of ex-servicemen and their relatives.
I spoke earlier of the weak irresponsible public utterances made from time to time by misinformed persons who purported to be speaking on behalf of public bodies, including ex-servicemen’s organizations. These are the critics who have succumbed to the wiles and inspirations of a press campaign intended to confuse facts in which the Government feels considerable pride. It has been evident from the remarks of speakers on the Opposition side of this House that some honorable members found it more convenient to repeat newspaper allegations than to accept the task of attempting to substantiate them; other have been most understanding and considerate.
As I have said at other times, it has become the practice in Australia to use the term “neurosis” in a loose manner to include all varieties of mental disorders, from a mild anxiety to mental derangement. There has been a lack of awareness on the part of the public about the difference between mild mental disorders and a more severe mental condition which necessitates a patient’s entry to a mental institution. The severer cases are known as psychotics. Thimild mental, or neurosis, cases are never mixed with the psychotics. Before dealing with the aspects of responsibility for treating the cases in the respective categories, I desire to mention that the Repatriation Commission, under it? charter, can deal with only those ex- members of the Forces whose condition can be attributed in any way rn war service. That fact requires to be kept well in mind by those who may have been influenced by the loose statement? of critics who have been all astray in their facts and statistics. The fact that the non-entitled ex-service cases are considered by the commission’s psychiatric service in the same light as those who have been “ accepted “, has no doubt added to the confusion of those winhave unsuccessfully attempted to belittle the Government and the Repatriation Commission.
Let me now revert to the reference I made to responsibility for treatment of the cases in the two categories, namely, (1) those who are not sent to mental hospitals, and (2), the severer psychotics who must go to mental institutions. The Repatriation Commission is responsible for treating its accepted cases, but let me stress that the severer psychotic population comes under the lunacy laws of the ‘State governments, and cannot be confined against their will under federal law. However, the exercise of supervision of such cases by the Repatriation Commission’s officers is made possible by the housing of the accepted cases in what are known as repatriation ‘blocks built within the areas of the State Government’s mental institutions. These blocks are excellently built modern buildings and are kept at the highest possible level within the limitations of incorporation, within the State framework. In Queensland the new repatriation pavilion at
Wacol is the most modern institution yet provided in this country for treatment of mental disorders.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was most interested in it. A most up-to-date occupational therapy centre has been completed at the Bundoora institution in Victoria, and a new ward has been completed at Northfield institution in South Australia. These provisions are for cases that need to be admitted to mental institutions. For those who need special psychiatric treatment, clinics are provided in the various repatriation hospitals or are in course of construction at other places in the various States. For instance, in New South Wales, plans are proceeding at Concord Hospital for remodelling the psychiatric section, and the new outpatients’ section at Grace Building will shortly be opened and will contain a special psychiatric clinic.
For the mental disorders of a mild character, the Government has always regarded as essential the provision of an adequate psychiatric service for exservicemen. Committees have been functioning for the supply of advice and recommendations to the Repatriation Commission. Dr. Allan Stoller, an outstanding specialist in psychological medicine, was brought from the Mau.desly Hospital, London University, in England, and appointed permanently to advise the commission on the establishment and implementation of a suitable organization, and to do all those things which a specialist in psychological medicine would be called upon to perform. Since he was appointed about two years ago, he has taken a refresher course in modern techniques abroad. Later, he attended a world conference of specialists in England. In that way he has kept himself up to date on the latest methods in his own special sphere. Dr. Stoller’s appointment led to the provision of adequate facilities for the promulgation nf a plan of treatment, the implementation of which has made good progress. Trained psychiatrists have been difficult to secure, but the best available, as well « s the services of psychologists and social workers, have been engaged.
Buildings have been erected or planned. Out-patient and general hospital activities have been increased to assist the efforts that are being made to keep as many patients as possible away from mental hospitals. Where necessary, the repatriation general hospitals are used for the modern therapies, including shock treatment.
The policy of the Government in this regard is to provide, within the limits’ imposed by physical restriction, a full psychiatric service for those ex-service men and women whose disability is connected with war service. The results of this policy, so far, have been satisfactory and in accordance with expectations. Ultimately, when the full plan is implemented, I have no doubt whatever that it will be on a level with the best world standards. The delay in completion is due to the difficulty regarding labour and materials, over which we have no control. The commission’s plan has always been to treat “ neurosis “ patients either as outdoor or indoor patients at the repatriation general hospitals and to avoid restricting the liberty of the patient as far as practicable. However, in some cases, restriction or certification under the lunacy laws of the various States was unavoidable in the interests of the patient himself and the community at large. It must be realized that the retention of a patient in hospital, against his desire, can be effected only by recourse to the relevant legislative provisions in the various States concerned. The aim of the psychiatric service of the Repatriation Commission is to deal with cases at the earliest possible stage, and the out-patient facilities throughout the Commonwealth are being expanded. The most up-to-date methods of mental hygiene will contribute towards the prevention of the development of the more serious phases of mental illness.
Ever since the war ended this Government has been subject to consistent attack on the score of so-called neglect of the rights of mentally afflicted ex-servicemen. I know quite well that no member of Parliament and no representative organization would care to be credited with having said much of what has become available as public reading matter on this subject during the past year or two.
It is to be regretted that so much incorrect and distorted matter has been used by those who have seen fit to resort to questionable methods of meeting their own ends and, at the same time, casting a slur on an administration that is staffed almost wholly by ex-servicemen. I am now referring to the much-repeated allegation that the Repatriation Commission’s attitude in the matter of the care and treatment of mentally afflicted exservicemen is one of irresponsibility and neglect. This accusation is entirely false and absurd. Ex-servicemen are not allowed to go to the civil mental asylums and then be forgotten, as the critics have alleged. The difficult work of investigating, verifying particulars, and proving ex-servicemen’s cases is going on all the time. Ex-servicemen whose mental condition has been accepted as being due to war service are pensioned, and are mostly in the repatriation blocks and wards, under the supervision of repatriation officials, in the mental institutions. In Tasmania, however, a repatriation block has not yet been completed, but the provision of a building is in hand. Comparatively few of the accepted cases who are in other than repatriation blocks and wards consist of men with homicidal, suicidal, and other tendencies, which necessitate some special provision for them. Ex-servicemen whose mental condition has been rejected as not due to war service are held in other than repatriation blocks and wards, and service pensions are paid to those who are eligible. Some other ex-servicemen make up the remaining category of men whose mental condition has not previously been investigated by the Repatriation Commission, and whose cases are either being investigated or are awaiting investigation, with a view to verification of the particulars held by the commission, and consideration whether they should be accepted for repatriation benefits. In the various statements that have been made against the Repatriation Commission about the care and treatment of these severer mental cases, no attempt has been made, when quoting the number of ex-servicemen in mental hospitals, to disclose the fact that ex-servicemen who are not in repatriation blocks were either not accepted as having a condition due to war service, or are cases under investigation for the purpose of verifying data to be used for consideration by the Repatriation Commission.
I shall now refer briefly to a feature of interest in relation to the result of splendid research and practical work done by the Repatriation Medical Committee respecting repatriated prisoners of war. This committee was constituted to undertake, in co-operation with the Commonwealth Employment Service, a survey of approximately 10 per cent., or about 1,000, of the ex-servicemen who were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. The findings of this body revealed that, in many respects, there was little difference between the post-war condition of men who served in the Pacific area and were not in captivity, and that of the men who were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. I cannot possibly deal with the various findings of the committee in the time now available to me. One result of certain investigations into post-discharge employment, however, should not be left unmentioned. The committee found, in relation to a large group of men in both categories - i.e., those from the Pacific area with war service and no captivity on the one hand, and ex-prisoners of war who had been in Japanese camps on the other hand - that there was only a very slight difference in the numbers of men in the respective categories who had - (a) Returned to prior-to-enlistment employment and were still so employed; (b) returned to employment similar to prior-to-enlistment and kept first job; (c) returned to employment similar to prior-to-enlistment and kept second job; (d) changed their occupation and kept the first job that they tried ; and (e) changed their occupation and kept the second job that they tried. There was no significant variation between the age groups in the categories to which I have referred. Other results of the committee’s work show that many of the Government’s decisions have been quite sound. I recall the strong exception that was taken some time ago in some quarters to the Government’s refusal to arrange post-discharge call-ups and medical examinations in respect of every prisoner of war. This is only one of the instances in which time has proved the wisdom of the Government’s decision. The Government has provided the service and any ex-prisoner of war who desires to avail himself of it is eligible to do so.
In conclusion, I am satisfied that the lines upon which the specialist and the team assisting him have dealt with this problem, which might be regarded as the most complex one with which the Repatriation Commission has to deal, have proved, in the light of experience, to be sound and satisfactory. No one will seek to deny that the problem is a difficult one. It is not one that can be solved entirely by medical men. It is largely a social problem. When houses have become more readily available and men who are married can settle down with their wives and families under their own roofs and take full advantage of the attention that they receive from the Repatriation Department, I believe we shall have gone a long way towards bringing this type of repatriation patient back to normal life. The fact of being engaged in a suitable type of employment has also proved to be one of the important factors in the re-establishment of men who suffer from psychiatric disorders.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Repatriation Commission - Psychiatric Service - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Rankin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 3rd March, (vide page 1012), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is a very interesting one. It begins with a lie and ends with an attempted murder. Those are surely the ingredients of an interesting document.
– It sounds like a “ whodunit “.
– We know who is going to try to do it. They are the socialists of Australia and the Australian Government. The lie is contained in the pre amble, wherein it is said in rolling terms -
And whereas it is desirable in the interests of the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States to establish the shipping industry and the shipbuilding industry in the Commonwealth on an adequate scale and to maintain those industries in continuous operation:
No one will deny that it is desirable to establish those industries on a good scale. The provisions of the bill, however, are not designed to establish the industries on such a scale, but to slaughter private shipping interests and establish what will undoubtedly be an inefficient government monopoly. All those implications are strengthened when one reads the amendment circulated by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman). Apparently, the Government is a little unsure of its power and seems to realize that the High Court of Australia might be asked at a later date to have a look at this measure. The situation of the Government is like that of a man who hopes for moral support by whistling in the dark as he passes a graveyard. That amendment proposes to add the following sub-clause to clause 29: - (2a.) The powers conferred on the Minister by the last two preceding sub-sections are conferred for the purpose of ensuring in the interests of defence, that the shipbuilding industry is established in the Commonwealth on an adequate scale and is maintained in continuous operation, and, in particular, for the purpose of ensuring -
How those matters are directly related to defence and the establishment of a shipbuilding industry on an adequate scale for the purposes of defence I have yet to learn. Therefore, I say that the Government starts off with a piece of disgusting window dressing, false in all its implications. The Government endeavours to relate these proposals to the defence of the Commonwealth because it realizes that if the shipowners have the courage to fight this legislation it is likely to have a very rocky ride in the High Court. I hope that the shipowners will have the courage to challenge this legislation. Private enterprise has not always had the courage to challenge similar legislation of this socialist government, but in some instances has been rather inclined to play along with the Government. However, private enterprise is waking up. The hanks woke up last year.
– Have they woken up?
– And the press woke up when it blew out the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) when he endeavoured, illegally, to use the Commonwealth’s war-time powers for the purpose of stifling discussion and fair comment. I sincerely trust that the shipowners will wake up on this occasion, because if they do not do so they will be engulfed in due course; one more branch of private industry will go down; and one more thread in the already attenuated cord of freedom will be cut. So much for the lie.
The attempted murder which seems to be implicit in this measure is the obvious intention, notwithstanding the verbal form of the relevant provision, to set up a government monopoly in shipping and to strangle private enterprise in that sphere. These things emerge from the bill for several reasons which I shall give. First, all ships at present controlled by the present Shipping Board and acquired under war-time powers are to go over to the Commonwealth; and a considerable number of ships are involved in that. Secondly, a new Australian Shipping Board is to be set up and is to be given enormous powers. Clause 15 provides - ( 1 . ) The Boardshall have power -
Those are ominous words which might well create anxiety in the hearts of not only the shipowners, but also others who are carrying on ancillary services. That clause also empowers the board to carry on the general business of a shipowner and to purchase, sell or lease ships. The powers of this bill, to use a well-known phrase, seem to be almost wide enough to do anything but make a man a woman. Perhaps as soon as the Government gets a chance, it will even embark upon that perilous enterprise, too. Thirdly, no shipbuilding is to be undertaken except under licence. Fourthly, no ship may engage in interstate trade without a licence, which means that overseas ships also will not be able to trade interstate. So there is an effective control, not only of Australian shipping plying between the States, but also of overseas shipowners who desire to engage in interstate trade. A licence will not be issued unless a ship is less than 24 years old, and unless it was built in an Australian shipyard. So the stranglehold on the shipping industry is very tight indeed. One qualification to be provided is that a ship may be granted a licence, although it does not comply with the conditions that I have mentioned, if. at the time of the commencement of the act, it had been exclusively engaged in interstate trade. That provision would cover only a relatively small number of ships. Another qualification, which is contained in sub-clause 4 of clause 30. is that the Minister is to have power to grant a licence for a ship that does not satisfy the conditions set out in the bill, if he is satisfied that the grant of that licence is in the public interest. In view of the Government’s policy and of the identity of the Minister who will administer this legislation, I should imagine that the “public interest” in this matter would be the last consideration.
So, in effect, there is to be no shipbuilding carried out except under licence, there is to be no trading except under licence, and there is to be no use of a ship in interstate trade unless it was built in an Australian ship-yard. Do the provisions of this bill constitute the correct approach to the problem, not only of the Australian shipping industry, but of our relations with Great Britain and the rest of the Empire, with which we are so deeply bound up in the matter of shipping? We are a party to a number of trade agreements with Empire countries and we are dependent upon Britain and the United States of America for our major defence. Is it proper and wise to divorce ourselves so violently and completely from the British shipbuilding industry which has provided the bulk of our shipping requirements in the past, at prices that were about half of what it would have cost to build similar ships in Australia ? British shipbuilding costs, expressed in terms of Australian currency, are now £50 a ton whereas the Australian cost is now £80 a ton. Yet under this bill we are to divorce ourselves entirely ft om the British shipbuilding industry at a time when our defence depends almost entirely upon Britain and when we have a current London balance of £327,000,000, and also at a time when Britain’s economy depends so rauch upon that country’s ability to build shins and sell them to countries in the sterling area. Yet with all these considerations present, this doctrinaire Government -reposes to cut Australia off from British shipbuilding, to put us out on our own and thereby to injure Australia and other parts of the British Commonwealth. Fifthly, the Minister is to be empowered to buy ships anywhere and to sell them anywhere. Sixthly, the bill provides for the establishment of a shipping board to consist of five members. I am forced to wonder about the possible identities of the five members to be appointed. I know who the members of the present board are, but I shall be interested to learn the identities of the members of the new board, particularly as the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) will have a hand in the choice of them. We have heard of the activities of a Mr. E. V. Elliott, who is the secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australasia. He is a confessed Communist. He is the man who, some time ago, in New Zealand, when he thought he was talking to a Communist newspaper reporter and did not realize that he was talking to an ordinary newspaper reporter from America, said that Australians were “ mugs “ to have gone and fought in the recent war. He said a lot of other things, too. That man, who is a confessed Communist, by his actions, is treacherous to the interests of Australia. That man at present is a member of the Maritime
Industry Commission, which was set up by this Government. I wonder whether his aspirations lead him towards this new shipping board. I wonder whether the Government will have the hardihood to put him on it and also to put “ Jim “ Healy on it.
– It will not need to, for they will run it, anyway.
– The right honorable gentleman’s interjection makes my point. They will, indeed run it. Still, one may as well give legal formality to one’s arrangements. So J have no doubt that Mr. Elliott will find, his way on to the board and that Mr. Healy, another professed Communist and a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, will find his way on to it. Mr. Healy seems to have a great number of friends in the Labour party. It was his motor car, No. DC146, that was parked regularly and constantly in the grounds of Parliament House, Sydney. I often saw it there.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the bill and not introduce irrelevancies. He has been given considerable latitude, but the Chair cannot allow him to digress so greatly.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and merely say that I wonder, as does every honorable member with the interest of Australia at heart, how many avowed and confessed Communists in the maritime industry, whose operations have been disastrous to this country, will find their way on to the shipping hoard. I should say that one gentleman whose name I have mentioned and probably more will be among the names of members of the board when the list is published.
I now turn to a few stock arguments that have been or will be advanced in favour of this bill. The first that will be advanced, no doubt, by some bright young men opp.osite, perhaps the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), who I see, is shuffling some papers, apparently in anticipation of making a speech on this measure, is that we on this side are paid by vested interests to oppose such measures as this. I assure the House that, to my regret, I have no vested interests in shipping and no income from investments. That is a great pity, and I wish it were otherwise.
– The honorable gentleman has a vested interest in Parramatta.
– That is the best sort of interest for one to have if one wants to stop in this Parliament. I do not know that I shall continue to represent Parramatta, but I am sure - and as some honorable members opposite agree - that I have at least a toe in there.
– Order ! The honorable member’s interest in the Parramatta seat is irrelevant.
– It is true that, in the course of public duty, one advances arguments that happen to coincide with what are called “ vested interests “. We have done it in this House. We have carried on a most spectacular and well-regarded fight in opposition to the Banking Act. It happened also to be something that supported the private banks. We have criticized the Government’s attempt to stifle the press. It may be said that for that reason we have supported the press. We have criticized bitterly the Government’s proposal to stifle the air by the recent broadcasting legislation. To that extent it may be said that we have supported the commercial broadcasting stations. It seemed to me that they did not want us to support them and were not enthusiastic one way or the other. Commercial broadcasting is one of the institutions that seems to be playing along with the Government. The point, however, is that these institutions, whether they be shipping companies, banks, the press, or broadcasting, are part of the fabric of freedom. They help to spread power and so to prevent the aggrandizement of the Australian Government and the placing of greater power in its hands. Therefore, reasonable protection of them is essential lo the protection of freedom in Australia. It has been said before, but let us say once and for all that any one who rises to support the interests of freedom need not be ashamed because his interests happened, for the time being, to coincide with those of some private concerns. Therefore, I am not ashamed to say that I want to see the private shipping lines of Australia protected and the Government prevented from strangling them and totally destroying them.
The next argument that will be advanced and, indeed, has already been advanced by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor), who shortly, of course, is to supplant the honorable member for Martin in his electorate - he will take refuge elsewhere - is that we need this legislation because of exploitation by the private shipping interests in bringing about freight rises. I point out that even the Minister for Shipping and Fuel who, after all, never pulls his punches, does not say that. In his speech in introducing the bill in the Senate, he said -
At the outbreak of the recent war, the Australian coastal fleet was hardly adequate for the tasks which it was later called upon to face. That is no reflection on the men who sailed the ships, or on the Australian shipping companies.
Indeed, I was struck at once by the absence from his speech of the usual attack that one hears on companies my Labour men. During and after the war years, Australian shipping trade freights were regulated under the National Security (Shipping Control) Regulations. Freights were not permitted to be raised without the consent of the Shipping Control Board. Even when the regulations expired recently and the shipowners found that because of rising costs there had to be an increase of freights, they got the approval of the board before they raised them.
The third argument that will be advanced in favour of this bill will be the wickedness of the Bruce-Page Government in having sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Doubtless the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) will have an interesting story to tell on that subject. It is a grotesque and fantastic story. I have neither the time in which, nor the information on which, to tell the story as fully as the right honorable gentleman will tell it, but there are two salient facts about that shipping line. It was established during the World War I. In the first two years of its life, it lost £1,600,000 and £1,300,000 respectively. The Government, which was supposed to live within its income, and in those days the national revenue was about £40,000,000 a year, excluding the postal revenue, compared with £500,000,000 in these days, naturally became somewhat alarmed. It endeavoured to give the shipping line a chance. It thereupon wrote down the capital assets from £14,000,000 to £4,000,000 so that the line in the future should have some sort of a chance of paying its way, on paper at least. Yet it lost £2,000,000 more, a total of £5,000,000 of losses on a national revenue one-tenth of what we have to-day. That was regarded as too much. There is a report on the shipping line. I commend it to Labour members. It was issued by the Public Accounts Committee in 1926. lt surveys the whole matter of the shipping line and tells a sorry story. So the line was sold. “Why was it that the line incurred such disastrous and astronomical losses ? There were many reasons. Not the least was turbulence on the waterfront and in the maritime industry, which, in those_ years, made a battleground of the shipping industry and especially the Commonwealth line. We all know that the Australian counterparts of the militant comrades of the Russian revolution in those days found their way into our maritime industry and got to work, with the result that we had chaos, confusion, stoppage and sabotage. Everybody is familiar with illustrations of their obstructive conduct, not the least striking of which was the way in which the stewards solved the problem of washing up by throwing the crockery through the portholes, although, of course, nobody suggests that there were no honest men working for the line. Those of us who have had to do the household washing up at various times agree that an admirable method of solving that domestic problem would be to throw the crockery out of the window but the ultimate result of this method is bankruptcy. That sort of sabotage and indiscipline in the maritime industry broke the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and it had to be sold. I agree entirely with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that, having regard to the astronomical losses that had to be faced, the Government of the time did a wise thing in getting in out of the wet. It would have gone bankrupt as a government had it carried on any longer with the line. That was the situation between 1917 and 1925.
Imagine what the situation will be in the new Commonwealth shipping line with the Healys and the Elliotts in charge! Their predecessors who sabotaged the previous line were mere pikers and apprentices by comparison. They were only boys in short pants compared with the gentlemen who now disrupt our industrial life in the maritime industries. The charge that a non-Labour government acted wrongly in selling the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers falls to pieces when it is examined. The fate of that line points the moral for our future actions in relation to the proposed new line. I suggest that the fate of the new Commonwealth shipping line, with the “ comrades “ in charge, as they undoubtedly will be, will be even more wicked and disastrous than was the fate of the original line.
– The Government that sold the original line did not last long.
– That Government camp back and reigned in this country for nine long years.
– By accident.
– Just a trifling accident of nine long years of tenure of office! These paltry arguments about the cause of the downfall of that Government are immaterial and beside the point. The fact is that the original Commonwealth line sustained disastrous losses, and the country was better off when it was sold. Many more millions of pounds of the people’s money would have been lost if the line had continued in operation.
Is it not true to say that all that needs to be done in the shipbuilding industry in Australia can be done by means of subsidies, by intelligent organization, which one does not always get in government enterprise, and by rationalization of the industry? Incidentally, rationalization of the industry implies, amongst other things, that where possible it should be left alone. Fiddling about with it and smothering it with regulations will not help it. We saw what happened during the war as the result of government interference in that industry and in hundreds of other industries. Rationalization should also include a little discipline in the maritime industry. Seamen and stevedores should obey the law for a change instead of running the country according to their own whim and will, or the whim and will of their Moscow comrades. Since 1939, the time of turn-round of ships has doubled. The cost of shipbuilding in Australia also has increased astronomically. lt is now nearly twice as great as the cost of shipbuilding in Great Britain. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel said, in his second-reading speech in the Senate -
Engagement of ships’ officers and seamen on the board’s vessels will normally be made on a temporary basis, but when the line has become fully established, it is hoped that it may be possible for the board to engage officers unci seamen on a permanent basis.
I take that to mean that we are to have ships’ officers, seamen and stewards as government servants in the ordinary way. I ask honorable members to study the picture that is created in their minds by that forecast of the employment of officers and seamen in a government enterprise on a permanent ‘basis. The men will be government servants subject to the usual government regulations. They will participate in the superannuation scheme, and enjoy other privileges of government servants, which are not inconsiderable. Probably they will have single cabins instead of double cabins. I understand that on some lines at present the men insist that not more than two men shall be allotted to one cabin. I suppose that their bath-water will be brought to them in the mornings ! I should like to know who will act as stewards to the stewards.
How far will that sort of thing go when we have a fantastic government shipping line conducted in the soft cottonwool way that has been foreshadowed by the Minister? “Who will pay for it all? Perhaps the men will knock off while they have their early morning tea and let their ships drift. Doubtless the system will be nicely democratic Probably there will have to be a Public Service inquiry to decide whether a ship should turn to port or starboard, and perhaps skippers will not be able to discipline seamen lest they contravene regulation 05554 or something of that sort. Who will pay the piper? The unfortunate, longsuffering taxpayers, of course! Can we hope to make a government shipping monopoly pay? In seeking an answer to that question we are able to turn to our experience. I have already referred to the former shipping line, which sustained a loss of £5,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money in the short period of its existence notwithstanding the drastic writing-down of assets from £14,000,000 to £4,000,000. We know of the spectacular losses that were sustained by the government-operated State brickworks in New South Wales. Another unfortunate State enterprise, in the Commonwealth sphere, is Trans-Australia Airlines which, in the first year of its life, sustained a loss of £500,000. Then there was the case of Coalcliff colliery. I know something about that, because I asked questions about it shortly after I entered this Parliament. The Government took over Coalcliff colliery, a humble little colliery on the south coast of New South Wale3, with a great hoisting of flags, beating of drums and public ceremonial. That was going to be a wonderful undertaking. Yet, although the price of coal from the colliery was immediately increased by 3s. a ton, within two or three years the Government had lost £150,000 of the taxpayers’ money on the project. At that stage, it quietly handed the whole thing back, but without any hoisting of flags or beating of drums ! Nobody would have known what took place had not some honorable members asked rude questions about it. I understand that honorable members from Queensland can speak with some, feeling about government enterprises in that State. Bearing those illustrations in mind, is it thought that we can make the proposed government monopoly of shipping pay? The Leader of the Opposition cited some pertinent figures about State enterprise in Great Britain.
All experience in Australia, and possibly throughout the world, shows that when the palsied hand of the socialists takes control of big enterprises, the country must go “ broke “ if they retain control for too long. Experience indicates that the Government’s new shipping project will end as a ruinous failure, as did the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The taxpayers will have to pay the bill. The ordinary man in the street will have to pay higher prices for his bread and butter and for his housing, and his taxes will have to go up or remain up. That will happen just because the Government wants to satisfy its doctrinaire notions! It ought to know better by reason of its own bitter experience, but apparently it ignores facts. The worst aspect of the plan, to my mind, is that one more strand of the thin thread which links Australia with freedom will be cut. I repeat that there cannot be a government monopoly of everything. The State cannot encroach more and more upon the rights of the private individual, his right to pick and choose, and his right to work and live in his own way, without destroying freedom. This plan is just one more step - not just a childish toddle but a giant stride - towards the Marxian slave state.
.- Listening with considerable interest to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Meale), I could not help being impressed Ky his innocent approach to the great problems of shipping and shipbuilding in this country. It is difficult to think that he actually believes the things that he has said about government enterprises, or the shipping combines which hold in their hands our destinies on the sea. I propose, therefore, to say a few words, first about certain State enterprises, and secondly ibout those philanthropic organizations known as the shipping combine! I was astonished to hear the honorable member mention the New South Wales Government brick and tile works as an example of State enterprises which had failed, because it is well known that that was one of the most successful undertakings established by a New South Wales Labour Government. It kept building costs down, but, like the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, it was eventually given away by a Nationalist government to its friends for a mere song. T remind the House that to-day, in response to popular demand, the Government of New South Wales has had to re-establish State brickyards. One hears a lot of criticism also of Trans-Australia Airlines. Honorable members opposite tell us of the achievements of the private airline companies. What they overlook completely, however, is the fact that the private airline companies have been heavily subsidized by the Australian Government.
– And the shipping companies.
– Yes. In the twelve years up to 1944, the Australian Government paid £3,670,000 in subsidies to private airline operators. In five of those years alone, the Australian Government expended £2,280,000 on the advancement of civil aviation in this country. Without government assistance, private airways could not have survived. Their continuance is a credit, not so much to themselves, as to the governments that have supported them.
If the honorable member for Parramatta had his way, Australian shipbuilding yards would be allowed to languish and we would purchase overseas all the vessels that we required. In other words he believes that we should encourage other countries to develop their shipbuilding, industry, and so provide employment for their people, whilst we in this country remain the poor relations, going cap in hand to buy ships when we require them, and being permitted to do so only when they are available. That has always been the attitude of the present Opposition parties to Australian industries. It was left to the Scullin Labour Government originally to put. Australian secondary industries on a sound footing. Eight down through the years the Labour party has stood steadfastly for the principle that we ourselves should, as far as possible, fulfil the requirements of the people of this country for manufactured articles. The attitude of anti-Labour administrations to the Australian shipbuilding industry in the years before World War II. may be gauged from the tragic plight of that industry when the heavy demands of war were placed upon it. Again, it was left to Labour, with its progressive policy of developing Australian industries and employing our own people, to remedy the situation. It was not until Labour had been in office for some time that this country was able to make a really worthwhile war- effort.
The honorable member for Parramatta referred to shipbuilding costs, but I am not a bit concerned about the cost of building vessels in this country. The high prices that we pay for some goods in this country - they are inflated substantially by charges added by the exploiting vested interests represented by the honorable member for Parramatta - are- the penalty that we have to pay for the amenities and favorable conditions that we enjoy and1 for the Australian way of civilization generally. What does it matter if China or some other country can produce goods more cheaply than we can ? Are we not entitled to foster our own industries, including shipbuilding? It is interesting, however, to note that Australian shipbuilding costs are only a fraction below those of leading shipbuilding nations. For example, taking t-he cost of shipbuilding in the United Kingdom as the unit, we find that the corresponding cost in Sweden is represented by the decimal .95. In Canada the figure is 1.23, Australia 1.3, the United States of America 1.75, Denmark 1, Italy 1.4, and Spain I.4.- It can be seen, therefore^ that Australian costs bear favorable comparison with those of other countries. However- I am sure that there- is widespread support for my view that actual costs do not matter a great deal because, as I have said, they are the price that we have to pay for our way of life.
The honorable member for Parramatta spoke of the tragic record of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. There has been considerable argument over the years as to whether the operation of those steamers was profitable. It seems undeniable from my study of the situation that the then Prime Minister produced in this Parliament what might, be termed a “ rigged “ balance-sheet. That view is supported by the present honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who, dealing with the sale of the ships, and the attitude of the BrucePage Government, said in this chamber in 1927-
I shall deal with the position as it was five years after the purchase, of the original fifteen
Australs. In November, 1921, I made a statement to the House- that lacked nothing in fulness and detail: and in the course of it 1 presented several balance-sheets which, as they had- been prepared by the Treasury, were not open to question. The first statement of accounts, showed a net gain on the sale of the bought ships, of £3,290,905, or,, after writing down the whole capital cost, of £.1.009,387.
He went, on to say -
We had earned in five years. £2.190,000, and were able to wipe out the capital cost of the fleet and still- show a balance- of £1,809,000.
That is a clear answer to the figures cited by the honorable member for Parramatta.. It was given, I remind the House, by the Eight Honorable W. M. Hughes, then a member of the Nationalist party, and certainly far from- being, a Labour supporter. He continued - . . without taking into consideration the saving to the Commonwealth through the carrying of. very large numbers of soldiers overseas,, the net result of the operation . . was a profit of £7.357,231.
That is a remarkable tribute to the line of steamers that he established.
– Some- of the vessels are still running.
– Yes. . The right honorable gentleman also said -
The line is my progeny, and whether it be unique or a monstrosity, I am still attached, to the poor thing.
So, even then, as a sincere member of an anti-Labour party, he still believed in the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which was about to be given away to a company which could not afford to pay for them. He went on to say -
I remind the Government that while it is proposing- to sell this line, Canada and the United States of America - two countries that certainly cannot be regarded as being affected with the bolshevik virus, America being the most individualistic country in the world, are extending their shipping activities.
The right honorable gentleman further said -
I’ contend that the reasons advanced as an excuse for the sale of the line will not bear examination..
The people who have lain for many years in the shelter of this great Australian shipping line are to find themselves exposed to the rude buffets of the shipping conference - a combine which is able to, and does control, not only British shipping but foreign shipping.
Those are the words of a right honorable gentleman who has occupied very high political posts in Australia and whose foresight was responsible for the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Yet the honorable member for Parramatta contends that control of shipping and shipbuilding should be left to private enterprise. The right honorable member for North Sydney could not agree with the tragic action taken by his own colleagues in disposing of the line which had proved to be of such value to Australia. The sale of the ships was the second step taken by the antiLabour government of the day to place the destiny of this country in the hands of vested interests. The first step was in relation to the Commonwealth Bank. T do not intend to quote the right honorable gentleman’s words at great length-
– The greater part of the honorable member’s speech has consisted of quotations of what others have said.
– And very effective quotations of the words of members of the Opposition parties they were, too! Honorable members opposite have talked a good deal about socialism and government enterprise. Let us recall the following words of the right honorable member for North Sydney on that subject: -
I deprecate altogether the talk about government trading, socialism and various other “ isms “ which have nothing to do with the subject-
Few people would recognize those words as coming from the right honorable gentleman -
It is late in the day for Australians . . . to declaim against government enterprise.
What a magnificent tribute to socialism uttered by a member of the Liberal party ! Little did he realize how his words would subsequently be used against him. I propose now to deal with some factors which brought about the losses incurred by the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers about which the right honorable gentleman for North Sydney had something to say. Honorable members opposite have completely lost sight of the fact that in those days Australia had practically no export trade. Indeed, our imports then equalled four times the volume of our exports. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was not patronized by vested interests abroad and as a result our ships were practically black-listed by the majority of overseas shippers. It illbecame the honorable member for Parramatta to talk about stewards throwing plates through portholes during the course of his poor attempt, to explain away the sale, of the vessels.. The climax to the then government’s achievements in disposing of the line is seen in the fact that the companies which contracted to purchase the ships from us did not have the money, with which to pay for them, and Australia is still owed approximately £400,000 on the deal. So much for the argument of those, who have said that the country obtained the benefit of the sale! A perusal of the Hansard record shows that honorable members of practically all political parties of the day considered that some action was necessary to combat the operations of the shipping combine throughout the world. The government of the day was faced with the choice of making an agreement with the private shipping interests or of emulating the Governments of Canada and the United States of America by establishing its own line. The Hughes Government took the right step and established the line which was subsequently disposed of in the tragic circumstances that I have recounted. Great Britain realizes that its very existence depends on the number of ships that can be constructed in the shortest possible time. As. an island continent, Australia is in a similar position. In the early stages of World War II. we realized that we must be in a position to build and repair ships, and that we must have some means of conveying our goods abroad under conditions that would enable us to control freights. Under new world alinements mentioned by the honorable member for Parramatta, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaya and Burma have become either republics or self-governing dominions. Australia is almost the furthest outpost of Great Britain, and it is essential that we should be in a position not only to build and maintain our own ships but also to repair any British or allied ships that may be in Australian waters. We do not again want to be caught unprepared as we were at the outbreak of World War II., when the shipbuilding industry was at a very low ebb. It is interesting to note that before the outbreak of war in 1939 the United
States of America had embarked on a large ship construction programme under the authority of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. For more than ten years the United States Maritime Commission has had under way an active programme of ship construction. At one stage ships were being completed at the rate of four or five a day, some being finished in a matter of days rather than months. The Government’s plans for the future of the shipping and shipbuilding industry are now well advanced. It is determined to maintain the shipbuilding industry in Australia, and to that end it has provided in this bill that, with certain exceptions to meet special cases, ships used on the Australian coast must be built in Australian shipyards, and that in order to ensure that the coastal fleet shall be maintained in a modern and up-to-date condition, vessels must be replaced by new ships when they reach the age of 24 years. By this means it is hoped that a flourishing shipbuilding industry will be established and that Australia will be served by an adequate fleet of modern and uptodate vessels. The principal purpose of the bill is to develop a flourishing shipbuilding industry mainly for defence purposes. The bill will ensure that Australian producers shall be able to transport their goods and commodities abroad independently of the shipping combine. It will result in the employment of large numbers of people in the shipbuilding and allied industries. Under the bill, the Australian Shipbuilding Board, which was established in 1941, will be empowered to engage in the purchase and construction of ships and will be made responsible for the general supervision of the shipbuilding industry. One of the most important lessons that we learned from the recent war was the value to this country - in fact the vital necessity from the viewpoint of defence - of an efficient and active shipbuilding and repairing industry. The decline of the shipbuilding industry before the war left us woefully unprepared to meet the sudden demands that were made upon us by the conflict which was waged on all the oceans of the world. For the first time in Australia’s history its shores were almost invaded by an enemy. Because of the seriousness of the situation which developed during the first year of the war, the Government decided to embark upon a programme of merchant ship construction.. Subsequent events in the Pacific proved that to be a very wise decision. In the electorate that I represent a number of vessels wereconstructed, and they were undoubtedly of tremendous value to the Americans and ourselves, and played an important part in winning the war in the Pacific.
In the early stages the principal demand was for the construction of naval vessels. Apart from the very considerable work carried out in fitting hundreds of merchant ships with defensive armament, a vigorous programme of naval construction was implemented. As a part of that programme 60 corvettes, each of 900 tons, twelve 2,000-ton frigates, and three “ Tribal “ class destroyers of most up-to-date type were constructed. The Australian Shipbuilding Board was established in March. 1941, and was made responsible for th, construction of all merchant ships and other vessels, excluding naval vessels, for the repair and maintenance of all merchant ships and for the provision of dry-docking and repair facilities for merchant ships throughout Australia.
– What year was that?
– What government was in office then?
– I do not recall. Some most interesting statistics of the shipping losses sustained by the allied powers during the war are given in the Britannica Booh of the Year, 1946. That publication shows that each of the allied powers lost at least 50 per cent, of its shipping tonnage. I stress that point in order to impress upon honorable members the necessity for establishing on a sound basis the Australian shipbuilding industry so that we may make proper provision for our national defence. During the recent war, France, for instance, lost two-thirds of its shipping tonnage, whilst Russia is known to have sustained tremendous losses .through the destruction of vessels during the German occupation and also through the aerial bombardment of Russian ports. Of 20,000,000 gross tons with which the United Kingdom started the war, ships weighing 12,000,000 tons were sunk, and only 7,000,000 tons were constructed in replacement. We all remember the very powerful appeal made by the former British Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, for more ships and still more ships. The publication to which I have referred shows that 1360 vessels were lost because of enemy submarine action, 440 through enemy air action, 340 because of mines and 210 because of surface raiders. Those statistics demonstrate how vulnerable merchant shipping is in time of war, and the vital necessity for us to build up our merchant fleet and to establish the shipbuilding industry in this country. The article to which I have referred shows that British naval losses were also colossal. The Royal Navy lost 730 vessels, the United States Navy 696, the Dominions’ navies 46, and the French Navy 239 vessels, making a total of 1,711 vessels. Those statistics do not include Russian naval losses. It is abundantly clear, therefore, that Australia is now dependent entirely upon its own resources, and rightly so. We must provide not only naval craft, but also merchant vessels for interstate and overseas trade. I point out that that is precisely what the bill aims to do.
During the war years, Australian industry made great strides and the work of our craftsmen was most favorably commented upon by overseas experts. I remember the occasion during the war when Admiral Hester, of the United States Navy, launched a vessel in my electorate. He paid a magnificenttribute to the valuable work of the Australian shipbuilding industry. For the information of honorable members I propose to quote some statistics of the achievements of our infant industry during the war and the very direct effect which it had on the employment of our people. We built many ships to maintain our coastal transport services and sustain our war effort. Between 1941 and 1948, ships totalling over 200,000 tons dead weight were built in Australia. They included vessels of all types. Thirteen magnificent vessels of 9,000 tons, of the “River” class, were produced. Those ships are beautiful to see and are a credit to Australia. Other vessels built in Australian yards ranged from 6,000 tons down to 700 tons. We are also capable of building vessels of 12,500 tons. Last year in the town of Whyalla, in South Australia, the launching of a vessel of that size took place. The ship is in commission to-day and is rendering valuable service in Australian waters. A second ship of the same dimensions is now being constructed, and it will be followed by a third and a fourth. At the same time, ships of about 6,000 tons are being built at Whyalla. In 1921, employees in the Australian shipbuilding industry numbered approximately 3,000. To-day, 7,000 men are employed in the industry, but in 1939 no more than 3,000 men were engaged in the industry throughout the whole of Australia. We realize the slump into which the industry was allowed to fall. That should furnish sufficient warning of what may happen in the event of another war if we do not take steps now to foster the industry. It is interesting to notice the degree to which shipbuilding has been spread over the entire continent. At Maryborough, Queensland, 345 persons are employed at the yards of Walkers Limited, and at the yards of Evans Deakin and Company Limited, in Brisbane, 261 persons are employed. At the State dockyards ai Newcastle, New South Wales, 1,356 are employed. Cockatoo dockyard, Sydney, employs 2,265 men, and 1,750 are employed at Mort’s Dock, Sydney. The works of Poole and Steele Limited. Sydney, employ 290 men. In South Australia, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited employs 937 men at Whyalla. Altogether, 7,204 men are directly employed in shipbuilding throughout Australia. In addition, the Commonwealth Marine engineering works in Melbourne and Sydney employ 300 men, mainly on the construction of ships’ engines. Additional large numbers of men are employed in subsidiary undertakings to provide components for ships, including gears and boilers. I have placed those statistics on record as an indication of the efforts made by the present Government to foster the industry. However, I stress that the importance to Australia of the industry is greater even than the statistics of numbers of men employed, vessels constructed, or expenditure of money reveal, because it represents a lasting contribution to the security of this country. The impact upon the national economy of the employment created for many thousands of breadwinners, on whom depend many more thousands of women and children, cannot be over-estimated. Prosperity in the shipbuilding industry has much the same effect on the community as has prosperity in primary production. Full employment in that industry contributes to the welfare of all sections of the community.
The Government is to be commended for its decision to establish a Commonwealth shipping line. That venture should earn the commendation of all Australians, and I appeal, even to the critics of the present Government, to put aside any idea of giving away in the future the shipping line that the Government now proposes to establish. The importance to the defence of this country of a national shipping line, and its beneficial effects upon our transportation system, quite apart from the additional employment that it will create, entitle the proposed line to the support of all sections of the community, even though it may have to be subsidized, ft is probable that in the early stages of the operations of the line it will have to be subsidized, but the important considerations that I have outlined will more than justify the payment of subsidies. Apart from the employment which its establishment will bring to many thousands of Australians, our primary producers and manufacturers will benefit from the reduced shipping freights. The establishment of the line will act as a bulwark to protect Australia against the shipping combine, which is so frequently supported by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and other members of the Opposition.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) was really serious when he said, in the course of his concluding remarks, that the establishment of a government shipping line would pro tect the Australian community from exploitation. If he was really serious and based his opinion on statistics, then all 1 can say is that the statistics must have come from some tainted source, and that he has made no real study of the matter. I know of no government monopoly or service established by Labour administrations, or, for that matter, by non-Labour administrations, which has provided cheaper services for the people than those provided by private enterprise. Without reviewing the operation of the entire list of government enterprises, Commonwealth and State, which have stepped up the cost to the Australian public of goods and services - and I am thinking particularly of our experience of enterprises established in Queensland - I do not know of one that has achieved its objective. We know that whenever any government has placed its hands on private enterprise, the costs to the public have increased. Consequently, we may dismiss that as a legitimate . reason for the establishment of a Government shipping line.
– How does the honorable member account for the people of Queensland loyally supporting a government that gives effect to the policy abou! which he is complaining?
– The Queensland Government had one steamship, which stopped whenever its whistle was blown.
– The reason why the people of Queensland continue to return the Labour party is well understood by every person in politics, and is to be found in the nature of the redistributions of electorates that have taken place from time to time.
The basic purpose of this bill is to establish a permanent government shipping service. Because of constitutional inhibitions, the enterprise will not be a monopoly. In the provision of transport services, notably air transport, this Government has consistently endeavoured to edge private enterprise out of the arena and establish its own monopoly. The Australian National Airlines Bill was forced through the Parliament despite the objections that members of the Opposition raked on the grounds of principle and legality. The Government went, ahead with its plans, but the High Court. of Australia upheld the opinions that members of the Opposition had expressed, to the effect that a government monopoly in transport services was ultra vires the Constitution. Following that rebuff, the government airline had to compete for business with private airlines. Going partly on the history of that legal decision, and being guided partly by some sensitivity to Australian public opinion at the present time, the Government has not attempted to establish a shipping monopoly for the Commonwealth, but, superficially, is entering the shipping business in competition with the private companies. Will this Government enterprise, established ostensibly to compete with private enterprise, ultimately become a government monopoly? I believe that we can answer that question by examining the provisions of the bill in detail, and noting the general practice of the Government when a Commonwealth enterprise competes with private enterprise. However, I shall return to that point in a few moments.
The hill will confer upon the Government considerably more authority than is necessary if it merely desires to establish a competitive shipping service. For instance, the bill provides that no shipping company may engage in the Australian shipping business unless under government licence, and no ship may ply along the Australian coast unless licensed by the Government. The Minister for Shipping, and Fuel will have authority to buy ships and sell ships. The bill also places an absolute embargo upon the employment in the Australian coastal service of any ship that is not constructed in this country. That provision, of course, does not include ships already engaged in the Australian coastal service. The Minister will have authority to pay a subsidy towards the cost of a ship constructed in Australian shipbuilding yards. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), in his second-reading speech, stated that the maximum subsidy payable would be 25 per cent, of the cost of a comparable ship built in the United Kingdom. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has pointed out, the bil] makes no reference to such a maximum, and, consequently, the Minister has unlimited authority to pay subsidies upon ships constructed in Australian yards.
The measure also provides that no ship may continue in the Australian service after it has become 24 years old.
– It may continue in the Australian coastal service with the permission of the prescribed authority.
– That is so, but the Minister will have absolute control. Throughout the entire pattern of this scheme, we see evidence of ministerial control. As the Minister has explained in his second-reading speech, the Government clearly intends that ships shall not continue to ply in the Australian coastal services after they have become 24 years old. I am sure that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) understands that.
– Such ships will not simply have the right to continue in the Austraiian coastal service. They will require the permission of the prescribed authority.
– A ship will not have the right to engage in the service whether it is one month or one year old. No one will have any rights in the shipping business once this bill becomes law, and progressively fewer people will have any rights in respect of any matters in Australia so long as this Government. remains in office.
What are the motives of the Government in introducing this bill ? Obviously the Government has decided that Australia must have continuing shipping and shipbuilding industries. References have been made in this debate to the value of such industries for defence purposes. I shall examine those motives. Obviously, nothing can be more important than the defence aspect.. We must provide at all times for adequate defence. Therefore, I should have thought that the Government would give defence as the principal reason for this bill. Curiously enough, the Government, did not do so. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) introduced this bill in the Senate last year, but the first reference by the Government to the defence aspect is contained in an amendment which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has foreshadowed since moving the second reading of the measure in this House.
– As an afterthought.
– One speaker has suggested that this afterthought is a trick t.o circumvent the Constitution. The honorable member did not use those precise words, but that was the implica tion of his remarks. The Government can claim that any proposal for defence purposes is not ultra vires the Constitution. But if in fact this bill is based fundamentally upon Australian defence requirements why did the Government introduce it in the Senate, and at a much Inter stage, after the measure had been fully debated in that chamber, suddenly realize that there “‘as a defence aspect to this matter, and decided to introduce an amendment which is merely propaganda nl though it has been designed to show that this measure is related to our defence requirements? I say unhesitatingly that the amendment that has been foreshadowed in this House is to meet political rather than defence requirements, because the Government knows that the Opposition, for reasons which were put very clearly by the Leader of the Opposition, claims that this is yet another step along the road to State socialism in this country. The Government is well aware that the Australian people believe that they have been taken far enough along the road of State socialism, and that if this bill is examined in that light it will not have a very popular public reaction.
– Particularly as it follows the banking legislation.
– And so, as a very late after-thought, we find the Government producing this amendment and claiming that the measure is related to our defence needs. I dismiss that as political propaganda. Anyway, is this measure necessary to meet our defence needs? Will there be more ships in the Australian services if they are run by the Government than if they are operated by private enterprise? Our interstate shipping requirements have always been met without the necessity for a government shipping line. As far back as I can remember, 90 per cent, of the interstate carriage of goods in this country has been handled by Australian owned coastal shipping. Will the Government carry 91 per cent, of the cargo if a new shipping line is established? It will not make any difference to the actual dimensions of the Australian shipping industry, and therefore it will not provide additional employment in the industry, apart from those employed in the head office of the government instrumentality. This bill is not required to ensure that, only ships Australian-owned, or on the Australian register, shall engage in the Australian coastal shipping trade because that provision was made long ago. For many years only ships on the Australian register have been permitted to engage in the Australian shipping trade. There will, therefore, be no increase of the dimensions of our shipping or of the number of seamen employed. This bill will add exactly nothing to our defence capacity so far as the Australian shipping industry and the employment of seamen and associated employees in the industry a.re concerned. That cannot be disputed. The Government might say, in effect “ But this bill does provide that every ship engaged in the Australian shipping trade must be built in Australia “. The Government could claim, quite correctly, that that would expand the shipbuilding industry, and if it chose to argue it might claim that that would be a contribution to our defence requirements. I do not deny that that would be so. Quite obviously, if an embargo were placed upon the importation of any article into this country, and we were compelled to manufacture it here, automatically the dimensions of the industry constructing, building, or fabricating the goods concerned would be increased. But no claim has been made .by the Government that our defence requirements necessitate that every ship serving in Australian waters shall be built here. In broad terms the Government has said that that would be a good idea, because more employment would be available for the workers of this country. Taken at its face value, that contention is true. If we did not import anything, much more employment would be created. But what would become of our economy if we applied that principle to everything? I am sure that no honorable member on the Government side of the House would claim that, in the interests of the Australian economy or of defence, we should place a complete embargo on the importation of all manufactured goods into this country. But why single out the shipbuilding industry? [f there is good reason for so doing, the Government should advance more arguments than it deigns to advance at present. Let us get down to fundamentals. Where does the public interest really lie in relation to the proposed legislation? Is the public interest best served by taking such a stand as will -defend the interests of the existing Australian shipping companies? I do not claim, and I am sure that no member of this Parliament would claim, that the public interest or the attitude of any person or political party in this Parliament should be determined by the approach, “ Is this good or bad for the Australian shipping companies? “ I dismiss that completely. Is the public interest to be discovered by examining whether this bill i9 a measurable contribution to the policy of the Australian Labour party of complete State ownership of all enterprises? If the Australian Labour party says that this is the test to be applied and the Government seeks to justify the bill on the ground that this is one more step towards State socialism, the Government should come out into the open and give that as its reason. However, the Minister who introduced the bill did not claim that that was the Government’s reason, and no Government speaker has said so, although I should like to examine some of their secret thoughts. Neither a defence of the existing shipping industry nor the advancement of the policy of the Australian Labour party should govern our efforts to discover the proper reaction that we should have to this bill. In the first place, the proper reaction should be to really discover whether this measure is essential for our defence requirements, and in the second place, whether an essential service to the public will be provided. Does it hold promise of improved shipping services for the public, more ships, more employment, and the cheaper carriage of goods?
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the 80 naval vessels that were built after the outbreak of war were built unnecessarily?
– I should be the last te say that. But not one of those vessels, other than those which were built in yards that existed before the war, was built in a yard that was not established by governments of which I was a supporter. Not one of them was built in a yard established by a Labour government. The enormous expansion of the Australian shipbuilding industry of which we proved to be capable when the emergency came upon us was achieved without imposing an embargo upon the purchase of vessels from other countries. For defence reasons and for the sake of a balanced economy it is obviously necessary that Australia should have a shipbuilding industry. There is no dispute about that. It is not necessary, however, to impose an embargo upon the purchase of ships from overseas in order to achieve that objective. Neither is it necessary to provide that the shipbuilding industry that is intended to be established or stimulated by this measure shall be maintained by subsidies, the payment of which will be determined in an autocratic manner by Ministers of the Crown. Both Labour governments and anti-Labour governments have been instrumental in establishing important industries in this country, but in order to establish those industries it was not considered necessary to impose an embargo upon the importation of goods from overseas. The procedure that was followed was that which has been accepted as proper in Australian affairs. The government of the day, having decided to establish an industry, requested the Tariff Board to consider, after taking evidence at a public inquiry, the best means of doing so.
– In other words, to see how big the embargo should be?
– An embargo is an embargo. The Tariff Board was requested to consider the degree of assistance that should be given to an industry and to assess the cost to the public of such assistance. On some occasions the Tariff Board has recommended the imposition of a temporary embargo, but it has also set out clearly what would be the cost to the Australian public if its advice were accepted by the Government. On other occasions the board has recommended that a protective tariff should be imposed upon certain goods in order to assist a particular industry, but the recommendations of the board have always been accompanied by a statement of the cost to the Australian public if the duty were imposed. When the Government has decided to establish an industry in Australia, the Tariff Board has sometimes stated that, in its opinion, the imposition of a protective tariff would impose an Tin justifiable burden upon the Australian people, but because it has been necessary to establish the industry it has recommended the payment of bounties. It is well known that important industries have been established in this country with the assistance of bounties that were recommended by the Tariff Board, after evidence had been given at a public inquiry. Bounties are capable of review from time to time. That is the proper approach to the problem of the maintenance and expansion of the Australian shipbuilding industry. A Minister of the Crown should not have authority to decide, in secret conclave, to pay a subsidy to one shipbuilding yard and not to another, or to pay a subsidy to one company for the purchase of a ship and not to pay a subsidy to another company for the same purpose. It is had to repose such enormous authority in Ministers of the Crown, hut it is the policy of this Government to do so.
Before this Administration assumed office each of the primary industries of Australia, insofar as it was under some kind of statutory control, was under the control of a statutory board freely elected and free to make its own decisions. Now. however, every Australian primary industry is under the absolute and autocratic control of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). Before this Government came into power, the banking and monetary services that were provided by the central bank of Australia were determined by ‘a bank board, which could be dismissed if it acted improperly. To-day the banking and monetary policy of Australia is under the personal control of the Treasurer. We had a free broadcasting industry, but now complete control of both governmental and private broadcasting reposes in the hands of a Minister of the
Grown. This measure fits into the pattern of the Government’s policy of control of industry by Ministers personally. If this measure is passed, no ship will be able to operate in Australian waters unless the appropriate Minister says that it may do so, no ship will be able to be constructed in Australia unless the Minister says that it may be constructed, no subsidy will be allowed to be paid unless the Minister approves of the payment, and no company will be able to engage in the coast-wise shipping trade unless it has a licence from the Minister to do so. Surely the people of Australia realize that the Government is following the ‘example that was set in Italy in the early 1920’s by .Mussolini. He adopted the policy of vesting in the members of his Cabinet absolute authority over all activities in Italy. By the .middle of the 1920’s Mussolini’s Cabinet had complete power over every activity in Italy. Then Mussolini took that power from hig Ministers and assumed it himself. That was the culminating point of the Italian dictatorship. I have heard many jeers from members of the Labour party about fascism, but, by this measure and others, the Government is copying exactly the concept of fascist dictatorship. That is not an exaggeration. It is a simple statement of fact. When we recall the Government’s legislation in respect of banking, primary industries, broadcasting and the licensing of air services, we realize that it is weaving a complete pattern of dictatorship. Our people, will be gradually enmeshed until they will have no escape. That brings me to the crux of this legislation. Will this policy be good for the people? It will not be good for them. Such a policy is repugnant to all people of British descent. Few advantages are to be gained from it. Superficially, it may appear to offer a few advantages, but the operation of any of the Government’s activities which I have mentioned has given no abiding advantage to the Australian people. Such a policy stifles the driving force of private initiative and enterprise which has been mainly responsible for the development of this country and the progress of the British race as a whole. Under such a policy the individual can do nothing unless he first goes to the Government.
It is bad enough to have to go to a government board for permission to do something, but when one has to plead to a board whose decisions can be overridden by a Minister, it is. time that the people awakened to the course along which they are being taken by the. Labour party.
It is clear from what I have said that the Government’s claim that it has introduced this measure in order to increase our defence capacity is not bona fide. We shall obtain no more ships, or employ more men, or improve the administration of shipping services under this system of ministerial dictatorship and secret ministerial subsidies than under a system of tariff, or ‘bounty, assistance, when the whole matter could be dealt with openly and could be reviewed from time to time, and no favours could be given to one concern as against another concern. Therefore, the Government’s defence concept in this matter is groundless.
No man in his right senses, remembering the Government’s activities in providing the various services to which I have referred, would even dream that the people would be given a cheaper service under this system than they would receive were private enterprise allowed to operate it subject to governmental guidance and, where necessary, a measure of governmental assistance and direction. I realize that it is essential in certain instances to provide shipping services which could not normally be operated at what would be considered to be an attractive profit to private enterprise. I know also that certain goods would not be manufactured in this country to-day at a profit attractive to private enterprise but for the fact that such’ industries were established and stimulated by the aid of government subsidies and bounties. For instance, our wonderful civil aviation services were developed by private enterprise, stimulated and urged, and where necessary, financially assisted, by the Government. Under that system, if the Government believed that it wag proper to provide an air service to, say, Alice Springs, it would have enabled private enterprise to do so. Subsidies were granted to an industry until it developed to a stage where it required no further financial help from the Go vernment. The Government knows that since it entered the air service business no service has been provided where one waa not provided previously. Therefore, it is not warranted in introducing this legislation on the ground that certain shipping services will not be provided unless it constructs ships. If the Government wishes a service to be provided where one does not exist at present, it should approach the matter as did nonLabour governments when they helped private companies to provide air services. No justification exists on defence grounds for imposing the embargo proposed under this measure. Having regard to the great interests of the United Kingdom in shipbuilding, the Government’s decision that no ship constructed in Great Britain can be brought to Australia is an affront to the Mother Country. Under this system the Australian people will enjoy no advantage, but they will suffer tremendousdisadvantages.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Williams) adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board - Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Balance-sheet, Liquidation Account and Summary of Depreciation,, together with Auditor-General’s Report thereon, for year ended 2»th February,. 1948.
The following answer to a question was circulated : -
House adjourned at 12.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490304_reps_18_201/>.