18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– I ask the Minister for Information whether there was in 1933 an organization in New South Wales commonly known as the NewGuard. Had this organization amassed large quantities of ammunition and firearms throughout the State for the purpose of the overthrow of constitutional government in the State? As it is reported that ammunition has been stolen or is missing from certain army stores since the end of the war, does the Minister know whether an attempt is being made to resurrect the New Guard in New South Wales? Will he have inquiries made to see whether any of the missing ammunition has found its way into the hands of the New Guard? Are any Opposition members known to be closely associated with the New Guard?
Mr.CALWELL. - I think it is historically accurate-
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To what department of the administration of the Chifley Government does this question relate?
– Candidly, I think the matter raised by the honorable member for Hume relates to the Department of the Army, but the question has been addressed to the Minister for Information. I do not know what information he has on the subject.
– I spoke to the Prime Minister, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and he told me to reply to the question. I have information and my information is always food. The honorable member for Hume as raised a matter of great public interest. Honorable members opposite have talked about stolen ammunition. It is historically true that there was a New Guard movement in New South Wales in 1932. It possessed ammunition and had plans for overthrowing the government of the day. It had plans for seizing the Berrima gaol and interning the honorable member forReid, who was Premier of New South Wales at that time, “ Jock “ Garden and many other associates of the honorable member for Reid at that time. An attempt is being made to resuscitate the New Guard. The Commonwealth Investigation Service is watching the activities of that body as well as those of all other subversive organizations.
– In view of the statement by the Auditor-General in his annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1948, that certain documents were missing after the amalgamation of the Department of Aircraft Production and the Department of Munitions as the Department of Supply and Development, will the Prime Minister say whether the documents have yet been found? If not, has their disappearance been investigated and what did such investigation reveal? If no investigations have been made, what is the reason for failing to take such action? Have any other documents been reported as missing since the amalgamation? If so, what are they? In view of the strictures passed by the AuditorGeneral in that report and earlier reports concerning the practice of the Department of Aircraft Production in making adjustments involving many millions of pounds in contractors’ accounts without a proper cost check, is there any significance in the disappearance of the documents referred to by the Auditor-General?
– Although an opportunity to discuss the Auditor-General’s report will occur when that report is discussed by the House, I have checked on the matters regarding which the Auditor-General has made special comment that may be construed as criticism. I do not question the raising of those matters by the Auditor-General because it is proper that he should do so. Not only during the lifetime of this Government, but also during the term of office of the previous government, when the arrangements in regard to aircraft production . were made, many difficulties arose concerning the industry. There were numerous difficulties associated with the checking of stocks during the war period. Of course, that applies during any period of war. Australia had a similar experience during and after World War I. Although there is no significance in the alleged disappearance of papers in connexion with this matter, I shall deal later this year with the points raised in the report, particularly the point that has been referred to by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House whether there were any circumstances in which promotions of prisoners of war, made when they were prisoners of war, were ratified by the Government? If in some cases where promotions were not acknowledged by the Government, the production of fresh evidence shows that those cases are equally as good as those that were acknowledged by the Government, will the Minister consider having them reopened?
– This question has been presented on many occasions. A policy was formulated relating to the promotion of service personnel who were taken prisoners of war. The question asked by the honorable member for Fremantle is somewhat similar to the one that was, asked yesterday by the honorable member for Wimmera. I give the same answer now that I gave then, that if proof positive or fresh evidence can be. brought to bear, I would be quite prepared to re-open a particular case and have it re-examined.
– My question arises out of the report on the Channel country of south-west Queensland by the Bureau of Investigation of the Queensland Government. The report, published in Queensland Country Life of the 17th February, suggests that thebureau strongly recommended that consideration should be given to the preparation of a case for submission to the Australian Government for the construction of a strategic railway through western New South Wales to the Northern Territory, and extension of existing lines. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport furnish the House with any information to indicate that this strategic railway is to be ‘built at the expense of the Australian Government, or is the Channel country to be developed merely by bringing cattle by road-trains to the existing rail heads in western Queensland?
– At the momentI am not in a position to disclose the plan. to which the honorable member has referred. I shall examine his question and supply the information to him later.
– Last week I asked the Minister for Information whether he had any information about the royal commission on the British press, but at that stage he was not able to furnish the information I sought. Can the Minister now tell the House when that royal commission is likely to conclude its investigations, and when its report is likely to be presented to the United Kingdom Government? Further, can he indicate when a royal commission is likely to be appointed to inquire into the activities of the Australian press should the Government decide to appoint one for that purpose?
– When the honorable member addressed his question to me last week J promised to endeavour to ascertain the exact position with respect to the royal commission appointed by the United Kingdom Government to inquire into the British press. I have made inquiries through my officers in London and have been advised that the commission began taking evidence in June, 1947, and completed the taking of oral evidence in June, 1948. No interim report will be issued, but the commission’s final report is expected to , be available in June of this year. It will be tabled in the House of Commons and will be -printed by His Majesty’s Stationery Office. Actual sitting days for the taking of oral evidence numbered 58. A total of 182 witnesses gave oral evidence, 23 of them as individuals and the remainder as spokesmen for newspaper companies, news agencies and associations of journalists The commission also accepted written evidence as answers to questionnaires and memoranda from 263 other persons, agencies and newspaper owners. F cannot indicate exactly when a royal commission might sit should the Australian Government decide to appoint one for a similar purpose in this country. My own choice would be about August or September; I do not like royal commissions sitting in the winter months.
Canberra Hostels - Commonwealth Assistance - Commonwealth Experimental Station
– I have received a number of letters from men engaged on housing projects in Canberra and also in Darwin. First, they complain that conditions at hostels provided for workers reflect inefficient management. They allege that much of the food made available to the hostels is being misappropriated and disposed of on the black market. My correspondents complain that general conditions at the hostels are dirty and compare unfavorably with those at hostels provided for workers engaged on similar projects in Victoria. Their second complaint relates to the standard of work being done on building projects. They complain that many of the workers are inefficient, that far too many bosses are on the job in proportion to the total number of men engaged and that much of the expenditure involved in these projects is wasteful. I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether these complaints were well founded? Will he investigate them?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the complaints to which he has referred are not well founded. The standard of food provided at workers’ hostels in Canberra is equal in respect of both quality and quantity to that provided at any hotel in this city. From time to time I have received complaints from certain sections of the men who are accommodated in these hostels. I have offered the men the opportunity to run their hostels themselves on a co-operative basis, that is, that they should meet the actual cost of running the hostels and of providing meals, as shearers do at many sheds throughout Australia. At the same time, I promised the men that they would not be obliged to meet any charges in respect of depreciation or charges of a capital nature but would have to meet only the cost of food and the expenses of management and cooking. All of the over-head expenses would still be borne by the Government. However, the men declined to accept that offer. I do not think that there is excessive supervision of the men on the jobs. The construction of the now administrative block near Parliament House, government offices at the rear of the Kurrajong Hotel, and new hostels elsewhere in the city area is in the hands of private contractors. If there were excessive supervision of the men who are working on those buildings, the cost of that excessive supervision would be borne by the contractors, some of whom ure recognized as being among the best in Australia. I do not think that there is excessive supervision of the men who are employed by the Department of Works and Housing to build houses under the day-labour system. It is considered that it is a little cheaper to build houses by day labour than to employ private contractors. Excessive supervision of the men engaged in the projects would be reflected in construction costs. The only other activity in respect of which a charge of” excessive supervision could possibly be made is in the provision of engineering services, in which no private contractors are engaged. I shall cause inquiries to be made to ascertain the position that obtains in State instrumentalities of a similar kind so that it may be compared with the position in Canberra.
– I hare received a number of letters from people in South Australia inquiring whether persons in that State other than returned servicemen or Commonwealth employees can obtain assistance from the Australian Government to build homes. Will the Minister for Works and Housing say whether the Australian Government has made available to the State governments all the money for home building for which they have asked? Has any money been advanced to the South Australian Government under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement ? Will the honorable gentleman indicate briefly in what way persons other than returned servicemen or Commonwealth employees can obtain direct assistance from the Commonwealth to enable them to build homes?
– There is no way in which private individuals other than returned servicemen or Commonwealth employees can obtain assistance direct from the Australian Government for the purpose of home-building. Under the Con stitution, the provision of houses for the people is the responsibility of the State governments. In order to assist the State governments, the Australian Government initiated the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. It has undertaken to ensure that sufficient money for State housing schemes will be made available to State governments that participate in the scheme. The only obstacles to the implementation of the housing programmes of States that are participating in the scheme are the shortage of manpower and the shortage of materials. We have ensured that never again will lack of finance affect the progress of housing schemes in Australia. A sum of £40,000,000 has been made available toState governments. Houses constructed in the States under the agreement may be sold or let to the occupiers. Rental rebates are allowed if the tenant of a house is sick or in receipt of a low income,, and also if the capital value of his home is high, as it may well be if it has to .be large enough to accommodate a largefamily. South Australia is the only State that is not a party to the agreement. If at any time, the South Australian Government intimates that it desires to become a party to the agreement, the Australian Government will bepleased to extend to the people of South Australia the same benefits as are now being extended, under the agreement, tothe people of other States.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works and Housing arising from an interview that. I had recently with an architect of some standing both in Europe and in Australia, who was very much impressed by what he had seen at the department’s housing research station in New South Wales. Heis engaged in writing a book that is designed to promote greater community interest in housing and town planning and particularly to foster a closer relationship between the community and existing public instrumentalities. He wrote to theresearch station asking for certain information that he knew was available thereso that he could include it in his book. He received in reply a letter stating that, the information would be made available to him upon payment of certain fees. Isit the policy of the Department of Works- and Housing to make a charge for supplying the results of work carried out at it3 research stations? If not, in what way if such information made available to the public?
– The research station to which the honorable member has referred is the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, which has been established at Ryde New South Wales, for t he purpose of carrying out research into all phases of the building industry. In general, the results of the research activities of the station are made available free of cost, in the form of housing booklets, which are issued to the public or by way of information furnished to the Standards Association of Australia, the institutes of architects and engineers and master builders. The honorable member might be good enough to inform me precisely what information is sought. If diagrams or blue prints are required, their preparation may involve the expenditure of money, in which case a fee would be charged. The station provides free of charge to the Commonwealth Rank, the private banks and insurance companies copies of codes of practice for varying standards of housing for use in connexion with advances for homebuilding purposes. If the honorable member will furnish me with details of the information sought I shall see what can be done about it.
Allegation Against Department of Trade and Customs
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs with reference to a complaint made by a constituent who ha’s forwarded to me three letters addressed to himself and his wife from his sister in Lancashire that had been opened by the Department of Trade and Customs. On behalf of that injured citizen, I suggest that the Minister take action to ensure that the officials who open such letters and annoy reputable people shall turn their attention to work of national value instead of committing such inquisitive acts. This man is prepared to disclose his military record. He earned four medals for foreign service in His Majesty’s forces, and he believed that officialdom had died when Hitler died. Will the Minister take action to ensure that officers of the Department of Trade and Customs shall discontinue annoying citizens and direct their energies to tasks of some importance?
– According to my recollection, the honorable member asked a question of a similar nature some weeks ago. The Minister for Trade and Customs informed him in reply that letters were opened by officials only when there was reason to believe that the writers were engaged in some nefarious practice designed to defraud the customs revenue or that the letters contained articles subject to import duties. The Minister stated that, in the circumstances, the department would not relinquish its authority to open letters.
– There was no such information in anyone of those three letters or in any other letter received by my correspondent.
– As I have said, officials open letters when they suspect that an offence has been committed or is about to be committed. Offences can not be detected unless letters are opened. In those circumstances, the department will not abrogate its rights. If it did so, the honorable member would probably be the first to complain that the. Commonwealth was being defrauded because of the neglect of the department in not opening letters when it had reason to suspect that offences were being committed. The honorable gentleman said that somebody whose correspondence had been opened was a returned soldier with four medals. If a person was engaged in defrauding the customs revenues it would not matter whether he had 40 medals, the department would have to deal with the offence.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that licences have recently been granted for the importation of certain types of spanners and other tools from Germany. Is it also a fact that those goods are being marketed in Australia at prices considerably lower than the prices of similar goods manufactured in Australia? If so, will the Minister consider giving further tariff protection to Australian manufacturers in order to protect our home products?
– I shall refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and obtain the information that the honorable member seeks.
– My question to the Minister for Immigration concerns the 3,500 medical doctors who are now in displaced persons camps in Germany. Does any State other than Tasmania permit medical practitioners who are displaced persons to practise their profession here?
– The honorable member asked me a somewhat similar question last week. I think I then told him that I had had a list prepared of 22 such displaced persons in Australia, and that I intended to submit it to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories and the Minister for Health in Tasmania, so that those gentlemen could make a choice of doctors whom they deemed to be suitable for employment in New Guinea or Papua, or in Tasmania.
– I understand that a bill has been passed by the Tasmanian Parliament to permit the registration of such persons.
– I had a conversation with the Tasmanian Minister for Health, Mr. Turnbull, in January last, in which he told me that there were no difficulties in the way of registering such medical men with the Medical Registration Board in Tasmania, and that, under the existing legislation, he could register alien doctors if he was satisfied that they possessed the qualifications required for medical practice in Tasmania. In no other State does a similar position exist. Some little time ago, Sir Albert Dunstan, when Minister for Health in Victoria, intimated that he proposed to amend the Victorian legislation to permit the registration of alien doctors. Such an amendment would, of course, cover doctors who were displaced persons. I noticed recently an intimation that the Premier of Victoria proposes to introduce a bill into the Victorian Parliament during the present session for that purpose, thus bringing Victoria into line with Tasmania in that respect. I hope that the other States will do likewise in respect of not only medical practitioners but also members of other professions whose qualifications could be used for the benefit of the Australian public if certain obstructive legislation were amended. I am unable to tell the honorable member anything more than that I hope that the other States will follow the example of Tasmania and the contemplated action of Victoria.
Area Office at Orange.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether an amount of £30,000 has been allocated in the current financial year for the construction of a new army depot at Orange, which, as the honorable gentleman knows, is the head-quarters of the 6th Motor Regiment? Will the Minister also inform me when the depot will be constructed, and whether it will occupy an area of between five and six acres? Will the honorable gentleman give serious consideration to my previous representations to him that quarters should be built for permanent army personnel who are married, in order that they may be reunited with their families ? At the moment those personnel are living apart from their families, and the separation is causing great hardship.
– An amount of money has been allocated for construction work at thearea office in Orange, and provision has been made to build quarters for the personnel stationed there. When the honorable member previously referred this matter to me, I asked the authorities to expedite the work. If he will come to my office, I shall show him the whole plan for that particular area.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in a position to say whether the Mortlock Estate Subdivision, which is in my electorate, is likely to be acquired for the land settlement of ex-servicemen ? I understand that a proposal to that effect has been submitted to the Minister by the State authorities.
– I have approved of the acquisition for the land settlement of ex-servicemen of the estate in the Grey electorate to which the honorable member has referred. The estate will provide approximately 29 farms, ranging in area from about 750 acres to 2,000 acres. The acquisition of that estate will bring the total area approved for the land settlement of ex-servicemen in South Australia to approximately 500,000 acres.
– I desire to make a persona] explanation. It is reported in at least two of this morning’s newspapers that Mr. W. F. Sheahan, the New South “Wales Minister for Lands, stated yesterday in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales that I had issued an inaccurate and misleading statement. I quote from this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald as follows : -
He was referring to a report that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. Mr. Dedman, had announced that the Government had acquired six properties in New South Wales for soldier settlement.
Mr. Sheahan said the statement was “ inaccurate and misleading”, but as no denial had been made he assumed it was official. “ T do not know the reason for Mr. Dedman’s statement “, he said.
E have before me a copy of the actual statement that I issued to the press regarding those six properties. The statement reads as follows: -
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction announced to-day that, during this week, he had approved of the acquisition of six properties in New South Wales - Plain View (Gunnedah district), Mirriam (Dubbo), Lucern (Canowindra), Lantrys (West Maitland), Glenconnor (Parkes) and Benditti (Walcha), aggregating 17,731 acres, to provide fourteen holdings under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme. . . .
Honorable members will recall that, under the terms of the agreement that was entered into by the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales regarding the acquisition of properties for soldier settlement, the Commonwealth’s approval of such acquisition is necessary. That is all that I said in the statement that I have quoted. That is a perfectly accurate and true account of the position. On behalf of the Commonwealth Government I did approve of the acquisition of those six properties.
– The State does all the work and the Commonwealth claims the credit.
– The State does not do all the work. That is a different matter, and if the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) cares to raise that matter in this House on some other occasion I am prepared to debate it with him. The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth bears a considerable portion of the cost of any lands acquired for the settlement of ex-servicemen that come under this particular agreement. The statement that I made to the press was accurate and wa9 not misleading in any way. I did not make any statement that the Commonwealth had acquired any property whatsoever in New South Wales.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether any provision has yet been made to enable a wheat-grower, who has an equity in the stabilization fund and who, through no fault of his own, has to cease operations in that industry, to obtain a repayment from that fund?
– At one time, members of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and others clamoured for the inclusion in the wheat stabilization acts of a provision to enable a repayment to be made from the tax collected on account of wheat to those payees who were in straitened financial circumstances or who had left the properties on which they had been growing wheat. However, with the passage of time, that demand has become less insistent. The tax in respect of the years 1945-46 and 1946-47 has been repaid and the only tax that is now held ‘ is that in relation to the year 1947-48. In fact, comparatively few, if any, persons are in the position to which the honorable member has referred.
– I am acting on a letter received from the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
– The honorable gentleman has asked a question, and if he will be patient, I shall answer it. As the only tax now held is that on account of the year 1947-48, no real claim at present can he made on the fund, which is. the nucleus of stabilization for five years. It could so happen that in the third, fourth or fifth years some farmers might have a reasonable claim for assistance, but it has been pointed out on numerous occasions that a farmer who is in the position that the honorable member for Wimmera has described will, in disposing of his property, reap the equity that is created as the result of the wheat industry having security for a five-year period. He cannot expect to gain both ways. Hardship may arise at some future date. When the fund is very strong, if some wheatfarmers find themselves in straitened circumstances, I promise that the Government will consider what can be done to help them. A similar promise was made when the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was under discussion in this House. However, the situation that the honorable member for Wimmera fears does not exist at the moment, and there can be no legitimate claim against last year’s tax.
– I ask the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, whether the Government has received any information from the British Government or from the Security Council of the United Nations about the infamous trials in Bulgaria of the Protestant pastors who have been sentenced to life imprisonment. If not, will the Prime Minister ask the Minister for External Affairs, who is now in London, to check on those matters, and to protest, as the United Kingdom Government has done, against such treatment of church leaders? Is the Prime Minister of the opinion that the action of the Bulgarian Government against the Protestant pastors, coupled with the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary, indicates an organized attempt by Communists to intimidate church leaders and to run religion out of central Europe?
– The trial of Cardinal Mindszenty and the imprisonment of the Protestant pastors will be raised at the forthcoming session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I understand that action to have those matters discussed will be taken by two of the larger nations. The Australian delegates to the United Nations already have their instructions, and will support any such representations that are made. The honorable member may rest assured that the matters to which he has referred will be fully discussed by the General Assembly.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation cause an inquiry to be made into the method of booking seats on passenger aircraft? I speak in particular of services between Sydney and Canberra, and Melbourne and Canberra, although, no doubt, similar difficulties have arisen on other routes. By way of explanation, I inform the Minister that recently, when endeavouring to book a seat on an aircraft travelling from Canberra to Melbourne, I was advised by the transport officer of the House of Representatives that no seat was available. Shortly afterwards, however, he informed me that owing to a cancellation a seat could be provided. When I boarded the aircraft I found that there were seven, vacant seats after I had taken mine. This was not an isolated happening, as I found in discussions with other members of the Parliament. In order that the pay-load of the airline company concerned may be increased, and also that a more efficient service may be provided for members and for the travelling public in general, I ask the Minister to overhaul the present booking method.
– There is no more efficient transport service given to the public, and particularly to members of the Parliament, than that given by Trans-Australia Airlines. I do not contest the honorable member’s assertion that, on occasions, some people vre refused bookings and later, owing to cancellations, they are able to travel after all. I have no doubt also that there are sometimes other vacant seats, but there are many difficulties associated with aircraft bookings. I understand that to try to meet the demand of honorable members - perhaps I could say the desire of honorable members - transport officials here book up all the seats available on certain aircraft operating on the day that Parliament is expected to rise. Consequently, those bookings are not available for other people who may wish to travel. I hope that honorable members will assist to improve this state of affairs. I am prepared to make the inquiry that the honorable member has suggested in order that some of the complaints - not all of them are justified by any means - may be investigated. To-day, I have a high executive officer of Trans-Australia Airlines in Canberra, and I can assure the House that members of the Parliament will be given all the assistance that they can reasonably expect with their transport problems.
– by leave - I desire to inform honorable members that it has been decided to prepare a consolidation of Commonwealth acts as at the 31st December, 1950. The consolidation will be published as early as possible in 1951. The first consolidation of Commonwealth acts was prepared as at the end of 1911 and a second consolidation was prepared as at the end of 1935. It was then intended to issue a fresh consolidation at the end of each ten years, but this intention was, of course, frustrated by the war. It has also been decided to issue a consolidation of Commonwealth statutory rules as at the 31st December, 1950. The statutory rules have previously been reprinted twice, in 1914 and 1927. Besides being of great utility, these works will mark the event of 50 years of federation and will be issued to commemorate this important milestone in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– by leave - Idesire to make a short statement on the consolidation of Commonwealth acts. I suggest to the Minister that the establishment by the Parliament of a small statute law revision committee, or something of that kind, would be worth considering. That is a common practice in certain of the States, and I know that such a committee exists in the State of Victoria. The establishment of a committee of that kind would enable expert knowledge to be concentrated on the revision of the statutes. I take it from what the Minister has said that the consolidation that he has mentioned will be consolidation in the true sense of the word.
– It will, therefore, be a very difficult and elaborate piece of work, although it will also be a work of great importance to the Commonwealth which lends more emphasis to the suggestion that I have made. I do not ask for an immediate answer to my suggestion, which I merely place before the Government for consideration.
– I can assure the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the suggestion that he has made will be taken into consideration.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Debate resumed from the 15th March (vide page 1464), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– We are discussing a measure to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and at the outset I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) upon having introduced the measure, particularly because it proposes to confer the franchise on certain aborigines, of whom there are a number in the electorate of the Northern Territory, which I represent. When he introduced the bill the Minister said -
The bill has two main purposes, first, -to provide for the enfranchisement of certain aborigines, and secondly, to improve the postal voting provisions of the Commonwealth law. For many years, representations have been made by responsible bodies urging the extension of the franchise to those aboriginal natives of Australia who, through association and education, have sufficiently developed the attributes of civilization as to be deemed capable of exercising the right to vote, and, as the Government is entirely in sympathy with these views, it has provided in this bill that an aboriginal native of Australia shall be entitled to enrolment on the Commonwealth electoral roll and to vote at elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives if - (a) he is entitled under the law of the State in which he resides to be enrolled as an elector nf that State and to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State; or (6) he is a member of the defence force or has been such a member.
We are all familiar with the fact that aborigines are debarred from voting in only two States, Queensland and Western Australia. In the other States they are permitted to vote if they are sufficiently educated. I understand that in Western Australia those who are exempted from the operation of the State law may also vote. Incidentally in the Northern Territory there is considerable objection by the half-caste people and quadroons to the application to them of the term “ aboriginal “, which is offensive to them. Nowhere in this legislation or in conversations that I have had with people in the south is that distinction made, but there is a clear-cut distinction in the Northern Territory, where there is a big population of half-castes, many of whom are well educated and occupy prominent positions. I consider that the principle should be embodied in this legislation that half-castes and quadroons are distinct from aborigines. I am astonished that the Minister for the Interior, who is familiar with the back country, has not already made that distinction in the legislation. The halfcaste population in the Northern Territory has had the vote since 1922, when the Territory first sent a member to this House, but, strangely, they were not released from the care of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals. So, when I was elected to represent the Northern Territory in this House, in 1934, a great section of the half-cast population of Darwin and other parts of the Territory came to me in great distress, and asked me to move in this House to have them released from the stigma of being under the care of the
Chief Protector of Aboriginals, In other words, they pleaded with me to obtain their freedom. I raised the subject with the then Minister for the Interior, Mr. Paterson, and, as the result of my representations, the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918-1933 was amended by Ordinance No. 4 of 1936 by the insertion of a new section 3a, which provided for the exemption of certain half-castes from the provisions of the ordinance. The nev section reads. - (1.) The Chief Protector may, by notice in the Gazette, declare that any person shall not be deemed to be a half-caste for the purposes of this Ordinance or of any provision thereof. (2.) On the publication of any such notice in the Gazette, the person named in the notice shall, to the extent specified therein, cease to be a person to whom the definition* “ aboriginal “ and “ half-caste “ in the last preceding section apply. (3.) The Chief Protector may, by notice published in the Gazette, revoke any declaration made in pursuance of sub-section (1.) of this section so far as that declaration applies to any particular person and thereupon th, declaration shall no longer apply to the person specified in the notice of revocation.
I admit that the half-castes of the Northern Territory were very pleased with that provision. Unfortunately, some of them abused the privilege and had their freedom revoked. But half-castes are not the only people who abuse privileges. Whites abuse privileges, too. At the same time, the ordinance was further amended by the repeal of sections 48, 49 and 49a and the insertion of the following sections in their stead : -
Provided that nothing in this section shall apply to any half-caste who is found in any house or on any premises in respect of which a storekeeper’s licence, granted under any such law, is in force.
Penalty: Twenty pounds or imprisonment for three months for the first offence and imprisonment for twelve months for any subsequent offence. 49a. Any aboriginal or half-caste who is found drinking, or to have been drinking, intoxicating liquor or who is in possession of any intoxicating liquor shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Ten pounds or, for a first offence, imprisonment for seven days, and for any subsequent offence imprisonment for one month.
Half-castes deemed not to be half-castes, of course, were freed from the restrictions placed on aborigines and halfcastes by those sections. I merely direct attention to those provisions 30 that honorable members, particularly those from the southern .States, who are not acquainted with the position in the Northern Territory, may be aware that an injustice was done to many half-castes and quadroons, some of whom are station managers and are well able to look after their own affairs and keep their own bank accounts. ‘ It was a pleasure to have them thank me for having obtained their freedom.
I think certain remarks made by honorable gentlemen on both sides of the House last night about postal voting should have been taken cum grano salis. I was astonished to hear supporters of the Government quote percentages and ratios and analyse postal votes in such a way as to indicate that all members of the Labour party are magnolia white and that as for their political opponents nothing that was bad was impossible in the manipulation of postal votes. What they said was too stupid for words. Every one, regardless of his politics, knows that fanatical supporters of political candidates in their enthusiasm to have their men elected, will get up to all sorts of snide tricks without the knowledge of the candidates. In the Northern Territory a great many electors must vote by post. I have no doubt that people desirous of obtaining votes in a snide manner for the candidates that they support will abuse the privilege that is being extended in the proposed amendments to the postal voting provisions of the principal act, which will enable any elector to witness a postal vote. I congratulate the Minister upon having made the proposal. I doubt whether even in the Northern Territory a person would be so isolated as to have difficulty in finding some one within a reasonable distance who was qualified to witness a postal vote, but there may be such places. The law at present provides that the following may witness postal votes: -
The list covers a wide field, but I have no objection to the provisions that any elector shall be qualified towitness postal votes. Long beforeI became the representative of the Northern Territory incidents happened in regard to postal votes in the territory that would shock people in the south. Doubtless, the Minister has heard some stories that he could not repeat but I intend to repeat one story. At Borroloola, in 1922, the postal votes were thought to be for theconservative candidate. The mail bag containing the ballot papers was burned and the papers were destroyed. The votescast at Borroloola would have been sufficient to sway the election, becausethe elected candidatehad a margin of only threevotes, whereas about 20 votes favouring his opponent, which had been cast at Borroloola, could not be countedbecause they had been destroyed. Had they not been burnt, the whole history of the Northern Territory may have been different. I mention that incident to show that the postal voting system has been abused notby conservative elements inthe NorthernTerritory but by the other side.The Minister and other honorable members familiar with the outbackcould tell similar stories. Other honorable members wish to speak on this measure, and as we shall have an opportunity during the committee stage to discuss the various clauses, I consider that I should allow other honorable members to now exercise their privilege, because the “guillotine.” will surely be applied soon. Before concluding, however, I shall referto clause 8, which reads -
After section eighty-seven of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “87 A.A person shall not persuade or induce, or associate himself with a person in persuading or inducing, an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballotpaper. “ Penalty : Fifty pounds or imprisonment for one month.”
That clause is full of dynamite. Some honorable members indicated last night how unfortunate sick people,or those who are crippled and in their homes will be debarred from having the necessary papers sentto them, unless some one takes an interest in them. Doubtless every honorable member has received correspondence from such people requesting information about how they should proceed. There comes to my mind an incident that happened in Darwin during the last generalelections. An unfortonate crippled woman was not allowed to have a voting paper taken to her home. She hadto be taken to the electoral office and carried up about twenty steps to record her vote. I trust that that will never recur. That incident serves to prove that this clause is full of dynamiteI suggest thatit be deleted. There are already enough penalties and sufficient observers throughout the electorates to deal with any infringements. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has statedthe Minister has gone out of his way to do a goodjob towards making this bill watertight. However, there are still a few tag ends in relation to the Northern Territory because of the roving nature of the population. Even on election day persons receive instructions to move from one part of the territory to another urgently. A person may start off from Alice Springs to go to Darwin on the evening before the elections, thinking that he will be able to vote in another place. I trust that the Minister will see that polling booths are established at places other than Darwin and AliceSprings so thatpeople may record their votes during their travels en router via Tennant’s Creek. Furthermore, if people from the Northern Territory are down south on polling day and forget to apply for a postal vote,some provision shouldbe made for them. That they may go to an electoral officer in New South Wales or elsewhere and obtain papers to record their votes is unsatisfactory, because frequently the officials at the polling booths are not familiar with the provisions. At times such people have been disfranchised in the south because nobody could supply them with postal voting papers, although I do not think that an enabling regulation then existed. Even under this legislation they will not be able to take advantage of the provisions because in many instances the pollingbooth officiate will not know where the papers can be obtained. I ask the Minister to widely publicize where postal voting papers may be obtained by residents of the Northern Territory who are temporarily in the south, so that they will not be disfranchised as in the past.
– I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) on this bill, which is incidental to other legislation that has .been passed by this House. I refer particularly to enfranchising the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory and giving them an opportunity, insofar as the Constitution allows, to have a member - although not a full-voting member - to represent them in this House. I wish in particular to congratulate the Minister on the granting of the vote to aborigines. Although in one respect this law has to depend upon State laws, in another respect the Commonwealth goes beyond the law of any State. In Western Australia a halfcaste, unless specifically exempted by the Minister in charge of native affairs, is classified as an aboriginal, and he lives under the supervision that is imposed upon an aboriginal who is not living in a tribal state. A half-caste living in the Great Southern district of Western Australia may not enter an hotel. Unless exempted by the Minister in charge of native affairs he lias not any citizen rights in respect of voting for the State Parliament. This measure gives to such aboriginal natives - and in certain States a half-caste is classified as an aboriginal native - the right to vote at the Commonwealth elections, if he has the right to vote at the State elections. Furthermore, if an aboriginal has been a member of the defence forces, whether a State gives him the right to vote or not, the Commonwealth gives him the right to vote. The Minister’s amendment is very wise and very just. I understand that if, in the Northern Territory, a half-caste lives as a European - and usually when he does he is a civilized man - be is treated as a European and has the right to vote.
– At all times.
– That has been the practice for some time. In this respect the Commonwealth has been in advance of the States. The extension of this provision to people classified as aborigines cannot be regarded as an insult to halfcastes who have already been classified as Europeans. I recognize, of course, that it is not a rational matter that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has raised, but something in which people’s sensibilities and emotions are involved. His suggestions should be given consideration. I regret that, except in the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth cannot do very much about getting half-castes and aborigines classified as people who are civilized and able to vote. We are still dependent upon the amount of education that the State governments give to half-castes or aborigines. All of the work which might lift these people- to a civilized state is still in the hands of the States. If a State is backward the Commonwealth cannot do very much about it. It must accept the classification imposed on these people by the States. Only in respect of an aboriginal who has been a member of the defence forces can the Australian Government ignore State electoral provisions. I recognize that administrative difficulties would arise, because the Government would have to set up a separate administration for its purpose. However, regardless of whether the State government concerned had done likewise, it would be a good thing if tha Commonwealth returning officer in each State had, himself, the right to classify aborigines and half-castes as having attained a sufficient standard. The Government of Western Australia, which is responsible for most of the aborigines and a very large number of half-castes in the Commonwealth, has not been very advanced in its treatment of those persons, particularly half-castes who live in predominantly European communities in the great southern province of that State. I regret that except in respect of aborigines who have been members of the defence forces the Australian Government is still restrained by the legislation of tho States, whose attitude in this matter is reactionary.
Another important aspect of the bill is that it gives to the residents of the Australian Capital Territory the right to elect a member to this Parliament. The measure sets up the voting machinery for that purpose. That provision will lead to a great improvement in the administration of the Australian Capital Territory. As time goes on, representatives of the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory will be of assistance to successive Ministers for the Interior; and the presence of such a member in this Parliament will make Canberra a better place in which to live. I warmly congratulate the Minister upon his action in going beyond the States in order to franchise aborigines. This is a small step. Nevertheless, it is a step towards doing justice to the aborigines.
– The Opposition has not criticized this bill. We believe that amendments of this nature are justified. Indeed, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who led the debate on behalf of the Opposition, has made it clear where we stand with regard to the measure. However, I note that even a measure of this kind could not be discussed without some honorable members taking the opportunity to make political capital out of it. For instance, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) imported into the debate matters relating to postal voting at the by-election for the State Concord electorate, which was held last Saturday. All honorable members recognize the necessity to tighten up the postal voting system, because it has been abused by enthusiastic supporters of all parties. However, I recognize that need for a different reason from that advanced by the honorable member for Parkes. The observations which he and the honorable member for Martin made on the subject are rather extraordinary in view of the action which they took with regard to the redistribution of Commonwealth electoral boundaries as the result of which the honorable member for Martin organized himself completely out of his present electorate of Martin in favour of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor), whilst the honorable member for Parkes succeeded in having a portion of his electorate as well as its name transferred to another area and thus made matters very nice for himself. Honorable members opposite assume that something is wrong with the postal voting system only when a majority of such votes are cast for the Liberal party candidate. Last night the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) mentioned a number of electorates in which Labour candidates received a majority of postal votes. He claimed that in those instance? the system was quite all right, but implied that in instances in which Liberal party candidates received a majority of postal votes the system was wrong.
Let us have a look at the record in respect of postal voting in the State electorate of Concord. At the State general elections in 1947, the Liberal candidate for that seat received 62 per cent, and the Labour party candidate 38 per cent, of the postal votes recorded. “ At the by-election held last Saturday, the Liberal party candidate received not 62 per cent, but 60 per cent., or 760 votes, and the Labour party received not 38 per cent, but 40 per cent., or 507 votes, of the total postal votes recorded. Thus the Labour party picked up a bit of ground in Concord so far as postal votes are concerned. However, as the Minister for Information pointed out, in many seats, particularly in Brisbane, the Labour party candidate received a majority of postal votes at the last general elections, and, of course, he said that there was nothing wrong with the system in those instances. I refer him to the strange revelations that were made at the last general elections with respect to voting in the subdivision of Ashfield, which is included in the present electorate of Parkes. On that occasion it was alleged that the names of 1,000 persons who did not reside in the electorate appeared on the roll. I shall not deal further with that aspect, but shall proceed to examine the position with respect to postal voting because the revelations made at that time concerned postal votes recorded not only in the Ashfield subdivision, but also in the Auburn subdivision, and proved conclusively that in those instances the system of postal voting was gravely abused, not by enthusiastic Liberal party supporters, but by super-enthusiastic Labour party supporters. I quote the following extract from an article which appeared in the Sydney Sun of the 8th November, 1946 : -
To-morrow, by-elections for the Legislative Assembly will be held in Auburn, Ashfield, Albury and Corowa. With to-day’s revelation of duplication of postal ballot papers in Auburn the Liberal Party has extended its investigations to that electorate and to Albury and Corowa. Spokesman for the party said to-day that an inquiry would also be demanded on the Parkes vote in the Federal election, in which the sitting Labour member Mr. L. Haylen defeated Mr. A. Richardson (Liberal candidate in the Ashfield by-election to-day) by only 164 votes. (Ashfield is a division of the Federal electorate of Parkes and the same rolls are used for the two votes.) Here are the developments since the Liberal Party made its charges:
I shall deal first with the Ashfield subdivision -
Ashfield: Supporting Liberal PaTty allegations of serious irregularities in postal voting in Ashfield, Matron of a private hospital said to-day she applied for a postal vote as she did not wish to leave the patients in ber hospital and also because she was an arthritis sufferer. A Liberal Party supporter whom Ae knew, delivered the postal voting form about a week ago. Ten minutes after sbs left, a strange woman called and asked if the vote was completed. “I completed the voting return and asked the woman how I would get the declaration envelope witnessed by a J.P.,” the matron added. “ The woman informed me that it would be done at the Liberal Party room.”
I ask honorable members to note that point carefully because it reveals the depths to which some people will sink in their endeavours to obtain votes for the candidate of the party which they support -
I recorded my vote and the woman took it away in the sealed envelope.” Because of an irregularity in the completion of the declaration envelope, it was returned to the matron, who, Liberal party officials say, discovered that the envelope was endorsed with a forgery of her signature. She contacted the returning officer, who sent two men to investigate. They said that the vote would become informal. The envelope was shown to a Sun reporter at the Liberal party room at Ashfield to-day. The signature of the matron and that of the “J.P.” appeared to be written by the same band, in the same ink. Liberal party workers say they have checked on the address of the “J.P.” and, although the surname is the same as people occupying the house, the initials do not correspond with those of any one living in that house. Members of the household, who include two police constables, deny all knowledge of a J.P. by the name of “ R. N. Shaw” living there. Liberal party workers interviewed the returning officer late this morning. They were told that the postal vote remains informal, but that if the matron reports to the polling booth and records an ordinary vote to-morrow, she can present- the postal vote and have it cancelled.
That was not due to the machinations of a super-enthusiastic supporter of the Liberal party. Obviously the votes were mishandled by an enthusiastic supporter of the Labour party.
– What proof has the honorable gentleman that it was done by a supporter of the Labour party?
– The proof, in the form of photostat copies of the document, was placed in the hands of the Criminal Investigation Branch, as I stated at the time in this chamber. The returning officer was perfectly well aware of it,
– There is no proof that a supporter of the Labour party was responsible.
– The matron was given another vote.
– The honorable gentleman should be fair. Why should he assume that what was done was done by. a supporter of the Labour party?
– Who else would do it? Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) think it was done by some “calathumpians”? The election was contested only by candidates of two parties. Let us now consider the position at Auburn. The article in the Sydney Sun states -
Auburn: Charge that six electors bad received twelve postal ballot-papers was made by Mrs. Evelyn Elizabeth Berry, J.P., Henrystreet, Lidcombe. Mrs. Berry said: “The persons who received the extra ballot-papers are leaving on holidays to-night. They brought the papers to me last night so that they could rote before leaving. One man said he had two votes in the elections, and I then discovered the duplication,” she said. “The twelve postal ballot-papers are officially initialled on the. back. Only six of the postal votes certificates contained the full address. The 61X extra votes showed only the name of the voter.” Submitting the envelopes for inspection, Mrs. Berry pointed out that any address could have been filled in and a vote recorded if those who bad received them had been dishonest. “ The extra certificates,” she said, “ carried the correct enrolment number, which was also on the postal vote envelope.” Persons - all of Lidcombe - who received the extra ballotpapers, Mrs. Berry said, are: Grace Averlane Hillman, Allen-street; Alfred Wilson, Graham- street; Averlane Grace Wilson, Graham-street; Colin Stafford Moore, and Joan Lavinia Moore, both of Allen-street; Ellis Roy Neale, Royal Oak Hotel, Lidcombe. When a Sun reporter asked’ the Auburn Returning Officer (Mr. W. G. Urquhart) for an explanation of the duplication, he replied : “ I don’t see it has anything to do with you. I am dealing with the duplicate ballot-papers, and its purely my affair.”
– So it was.
– It was also the affair of the general public to know that duplicate ballot-papers could be issued in that way. The honorable member for Martin and the honorable member for Parkes voiced their suspicions regarding the number of postal votes that have been recorded in favour of Liberal party candidates, but I point out to the honorable gentlemen that no revelations such as those to which I have just referred have ever found their way into the press concerning the Liberal party. That cannot be said of the Labour party or the Communist party. It is the duty of this House to ensure as far as possible that there arn no irregularities in regard to postal voting. The practices of roll-stuffing, abstracting ballot-boxes from polling booths and placing secret panels in ballotboxes have been in existence since the inception of the Labour party. If we can eliminate those practices and tighten the provisions relating to postal voting so that we shall have a clean method of voting, we shall have done something that is worthwhile. I commend the Minister for this measure, which will tend to eliminate abuses of the postal voting system. The Labour party in all States of the Commonwealth appears to have taken the maximum advantage of the present lax system.
.- -I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) upon introducing a worthwhile and timely piece of legislation. It will, I am sure, receive . the unanimous support of the honorable members of this House. When the bill is passed, aborigines will, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, be entitled to vote at federal elections. The fullblooded aborigines, who are the true Australians, were here before white men set foot upon these shores, but in the past
Australian governments have treated them with contempt and inflicted injustices upon them. Although this legislation is belated so far as the aborigines are concerned, let us not forget that in future half-castes and full-blooded aborigines will have the “privilege of voting at federal elections. There will be, in a sense, a new order for them. In 1800 there were approximately 350,000 fullblooded aborigines in Australia, but five years ago, owing to the quiet extermination of these people by the white race, the figure was approximately 55,000. Not all of the aborigines will be given a vote by this measure. Those who apply to a magistrate for Australian citizenship rights will, if it is considered that they fulfil the necessary conditions, become Australian citizens ;by law as well as by right of residence and become entitled to vote for the candidate of their choice in a federal election. Yesterday the Minister for the Interior informed me that he could not say how many fullblooded aborigines or half-castes would be given a vote by the operation of this legislation. The honorable gentleman said that there were approximately 70,000 of them in Australia to-day and that, as a rough estimate, one-seventh of that number would be entitled to a vote in future. This legislation will give to aborigines who are qualified to do so the right to vote as true Australian citizens. I am sure that the mission authorities of the various churches are grateful to the Government for recognizing at last the true worth of many of these people who, in the face of great difficulties, have won renown in this country as musicians, painters, singers and in other walks of life. Hundreds of half-castes and fullblooded aborigines have earned the right to a vote. I have in mind men like Doug Nicholls, of Victoria, and Harold Blair, the singer, who recently gave a marvellous farewell performance at the Melbourne Town Hall. Another one is Lieutenant Saunders, the first aborigine to receive a commission in the Australian Army. Those three men constitute a representative cross-section of the aboriginal and half-caste peoples of Australia who; by their educational qualifications and their ability, have earned the right to vote. Doug Nicholls was a champion footballer who played for the Fitzroy club in Melbourne in pre-war years. He was one of the most popular members of the club. He is now a preacher in a Melbourne church. It is shameful that such men should have been deprived of the right to vote, and therefore I welcome the provision in the bill.
In conclusion, I refer to the subject of postal voting. I shall not reiterate all that was said last night and this morning about rackets that have occurred in postal voting, but I make a suggestion for the improvement of the postal voting system that the Minister might well consider at a later date. Would it be possible to use mobile postal voting booths under the charge of qualified returning officers to handle the votes of all inmates of hospitals, rest homes, sanitoriums and convalescent homes? The suggestion may appear to be a sweeping one but, if it were carried into effect, it would obviate the swarming of political organizers into hospitals, where many people are too sick to be able to stand up to the high pressure barrage to which they are subjected by organizers canvassing their votes. Under the system that I propose, the officers in charge of the booths would act under Commonwealth authority and move from hospital to hospital. I believe that that would eliminate a great deal of the worry and annoyance caused to patients by representatives of various political parties who trouble them day after day in efforts to gain their votes. The suggestion could be investigated by the Minister with a view to its adoption at a later date. I commend the bill, especially because it grants the right to vote to aborigines and half-castes. Several thousands of those citizens will earn the right to vote immediately. I am also glad that the measure will seal loop holes in the postal voting system. I am particularly gratified to note the terms of clause 10, which states - (3.) All applications for postal vote certificates and postal ballot-papers shall be open to public inspection at all convenient times during, office hours from and including the third day after polling day until the election can be no longer questioned.
That will prevent people from going to the central electoral offices daily before the elections to study the lists of postal voters’ applications so that they can swarm around them in hospitals and elsewhere to pester them for their votes. Under the new provision, applications for postal votes will not be open to inspection until the ballot has been conducted. That provision is highly important and has long been needed. I know that the Minister gave a great deal of earnest consideration to it before he recommended its adoption by the federal caucus of the Labour party.
, - Despite the violent effort made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) this morning to create a diversion, the figures cited by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) last night conclusively sheet home to the Liberal party responsibility for the abuse of the postal voting system in previous years that has required the tightening of the system for which the bill provides. Thehonorable member claimed that theMinister had cited only those figuresthat suited his book and that, where the majority of postal votes had been cast for Labour party candidates, the Minister had regarded those results as being perfectly satisfactory. However, that was not the case. The figures cited by the Minister showed, in electorate after electorate, that the proportions of postal votes cast for candidates were entirely out of relation to the proportions of ordinary votes cast. It seems to me that there can be only two reasonable explanations of that circumstance. One explanation is that undue influence has been exerted upon postal voters or that postal votes have been manipulated.
– Better organization surely has something to do with it.
– No. Better organization surely would only lead to an effective postal vote. Honest organization should not have more effect upon the minds of postal voters than it has upon the minds of other voters. It is not better organization merely to ensure that the postal votes of those electors whom one knows to be on one’s side are recorded whilst others are kept out of the ballot. The Only other feasible explanation is that those electors who are young and able bodied, and imbued with idealism, faith and hope for the future, and a spirit of progress vote for Labour party candidates. I noticed that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) attempted to develop that argument last night, although, of course, he reversed its application.
– Would the honorable member suggest that the Liberals of Hobart are very much more dishonest than are the Liberals of Darwin? The Minister for.’ Information referred particularly to figures from Tasmanian electorates.
– I certainly would not make such an assertion, but the honorable member for Fawkner argued last night that the figures could be explained by the fact that postal voters had a different political attitude from that of the majority of electors. I notice that the honorable gentleman soon abandoned that argument. He wisely saw where it would lead.
– I shall come back to it in the committee stage.
– I do not think that any honorable member opposite would seriously claim that the very marked discrepancy between the proportion of postal votes cast for Liberal candidates and the proportion of other votes cast for the same candidates could be put down to a distinct mental or political attitude on the part of people who are qualified to lodge postal votes. However, if the honorable member for Fawkner is prepared to make such an assertion, I shall be very glad indeed to hear him do so.
– I shall do so in committee.
– As I have said, one explanation of the discrepancy is that it is due to the exercise of undue’ influence or the manipulation of postal votes. When I heard the Minister for Information citing figures from electorate after electorate last night, I began to understand for the first time something that had always been inexplicable to me, namely, how certain members of the Opposition ever came to be in this place. I have never been able to believe that they came here as the result of the deliberately expressed will of a majority of their electors. In instance after instance the explanation appears to be that instead of them being here by the deliberate will of the majority of their electors they are here as the result of what the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) euphemistically calls better organization. They are here because of a system which gives them a number of postal votes far in excess of the number to which they would probably be entitled were those votes recorded at a polling booth. The honorable member for Wentworth attempted to explain away not only the figures cited by the Minister for Information, which, in my opinion, are conclusive, but also the figures published in relation to the recent Concord byelection. He claimed that there had been no marked discrepancy between the number of postal votes polled by the Liberal candidate and the number of ordinary votes obtained by him. I propose to cite figures submitted by Mr. W. E. Dickson, the Labour party’s campaign director. Mr. Dickson made a dispassionate and factual examination of the ordinary votes and the postal and absent votes recorded at elections for the Concord seat. He pointed out that at the general election, in 1947, the total postal and absentee votes numbered 2,207, of which 1,730 were absentee votes cast at polling booths. Of these votes 1,108 were allocated to the Labour party candidate and 1,099 to the Liberal party candidate, a difference of only niue votes, between the two candidates. He said that on Saturday last the combined vote, absentee and postal, numbered 1,371, made up of 1,267 postal votes and 104 absentee votes. The majority of the 1,267 postal votes passed through the hands of party organizations before reaching the returning officer. The absentee votes were, of course, cast at polling booths. Of the total of 1,371 votes cast on Saturday in these two categories, the Labour candidate received only 528, whilst the Liberal candidate received 843, a difference of more than 300.
– At what time of the year was the first election held?
– I think it was held in May, 1947. Mr. Dickson said - and I believe that this is the point that sheets the matter home - that of the absentee votes cast at polling booths, the Labour candidates secured a majority, but that the greater number of the postal votes which were exposed to manipulation by unscrupulous party organizers went to the Liberal party candidate.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the organizers of the Liberal party are more unscrupulous than are the organizers of the Australian Labour party ?
– Where a voter attends a polling booth and is able to record his vote without influence in a secret ballot, the vote being placed at once in a sealed ballot-box, one result is achieved, but when votes pass through the hands of party organizers in circumstances in which special influence may be exerted on the voter, a totally different result is achieved. Nobody can explain away that fact. The honorable member for Fawkner does not pretend that the organizers of his party use their influence to obtain votes for a Labour candidate, nor do I pretend that the organizers of the party to which I belong would use their influence to obtain a vote for a Liberal party candidate. When the number of postal votes cast for a Liberal party candidate is completely out of proportion to the number of absent votes cast for the same candidate at the polling booths, the conclusion is inescapable that the postal voting system is being abused.
– I express my satisfaction at the introduction of this bill, which, among other things, proposes to extend the franchise to certain aborigines in Australia. Even though the extension of the franchise is to be limited at least this is a step in the right direction which may lead to the better recognition of the rights of our aborigines and eventually to the full representation of their interests in this Parliament. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) deserves the congratulations of members’ of all political parties for having introduced this measure. Clause 8, about which a great deal was said last night and this morning, proposes to insert in the principal act a new section which reads - 87a. A person shall not persuade or induce, or associate himself in persuading or inducing, an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper.-
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for one month.
For many years it has been understood that the provisions of the electoral law prevented interference with the rights of electors when using the postal vote system. The ballot was supposed to be secret and provisions were made for the preservation of the secrecy of the postal vote; but all of us have known of irregularities that have occurred under the postal voting system. By no means have those responsible for such irregularities been of only one political persuasion. If a candidate demands that those who work for and with him shall be scrupulously honest no election should be attended by irregular practices of the kind to which attention was drawn last night. Infringements of the provisions of the act are the work of unscrupulous candidates and their workers. The provisions of proposed new section 87a will not prevent irregular practices from continuing unless all candidates are determined to conduct their election campaigns on strictly honest lines. Unpleasant recriminations in this House will get us nowhere. I emulate the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) by quoting from the Book of Proverbs a proverb which, in view of what happened last night, is, I think, particularly apt. It reads -
He that is void of wisdom despiseth ‘his neighbour; but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.
– in reply - I am gratified by the reception that this bill has received from the Parliament Very few matters were raised during the debate which necessitate a reply by me. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) informed us this morning that, after a close examination of the provisions of the bill, the Opposition parties were not generally opposed to it. He added his congratulations to those extended to the Government by other honorable member’s opposite for its decision to grant to the aborigines of Australia the right of the franchise. However, he voiced some doubt about the proposal to limit the vote to full-blooded aborigines. When framing this measure I gave considerable thought to the formulation of provisions that I thought would be acceptable to the Parliament and at the same time would be capable of being given effect. The passage of this bill will automatically give to aborigines in New SouthWales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania the right to vote at all Commonwealth elections. The position in Western Australia and Queensland, where many of the aborigines are nomads and are dispersed over large areas, is vastly different from the position in the more populous States. The extension of the franchise to aborigines in Western Australia and Queensland is bristling with difficulties. However, the fact that we have, on this occasion, made provision to grant the franchise to aborigines under certain conditions offers an incentive to them to qualify for the right to vote. In Western Australia, aborigines become entitled to vote immediately they attain citizenship rights. An aboriginal may apply to a stipendiary or resident magistrate for a certificate of citizenship rights. If he is able to demonstrate that he is attempting to lead the white man’s life and live up to the conditions required of all citizens, he is granted a certificate of citizenship rights and becomes entitled to vote. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), who has complained that half-castes are not entitled to vote, is mistaken, because they are entitled to the franchise under the existing law.
I am not without experience of the problem of aborigines, and I have a knowledge of the difficulties associated with it. Much has been written and said about the manner in which the white people have treated the Australian aborigines. With a good deal of that criticism, I agree. In my opinion, the aboriginal race has not received the consideration that it should have had from the people of Australia. The problems of the aborigines have never been properly tackled, and we have much to be ashamed of in connexion with the treatment that has been meted out to that unfortunate race. However, we shall not gain anything by delving into history. We should tackle the problem from the standpoint of present-day conditions. Various State governments are attempting to do so, and I believe that, ultimately, an incentive will be given to aborigines to attain that standard which will make them better citizens.
Some honorable members have referred to the necessity for tightening up the system of postal voting in order to prevent abuses. I am not without experience of that matter. For more than 30 years, I have participated incampaigns to secure the election to the Commonwealth and State parliaments of men carrying Labour’s banner. Therefore, I have often been closely associated with the organization of the Labour and anti-Labour parties. It will be generally admitted that abuses have occurred in the postal voting system, and, in this bill, the Government is endeavouring to prevent the continuance of such malpractices. Under this legislation, the elector will be responsible for folding the ballot-paper, placing it in the envelope addressed to the divisional returning officer, fastening the envelope and posting it. An elector will also be able to request any other elector to witness not only his application for a postal vote, but also the postal vote itself. Under the existing law, the postal vote may be witnessed by only an authorized person. That amendment will overcome a great deal of the inconvenience of finding an authorized person to witness their postal votes that electors have experienced in the past. The provision will also prevent some campaign organizers from bringing undue persuasion to bear on electors. Under the existing act, an elector must hand his ballot-paper, folded, to an authorized witness, who shall enclose it in an envelope addressed to a divisional returning officer. The voter shall forthwith post or deliver it. This position has been thoroughly examined by a subcommittee of cabinet, which has had no hesitation in recommending the amendment to cabinet and caucus for approval.I believe that it will improve the existing act.
Some honorable members have suggested that postal voting should be abolished, and, up to a point, a strong case may be made out in favour of that submission. However, the abolition of postal voting would deprive many thousands of worthy citizens of the right to vote. I know, from my long experience, that some of the pioneers of the Labour party, who fought, went on strike, and worked for the right to vote, would regard the abolition of the system of postalvoting as adenial of that right,andas destroying oneof thef undamental principles that they have advocated. The Labour Governmentdoes not subscribe to the view that postal voting should be abolished, because the effect wouldbe todeprive the aged,infirm and sick membersof the communityof their right tovote in this democracy which they have assisted to establish. One of theobjectives of the bill is to purify, as far as possible, the system of postal voting, and, inthat respect, sub-clause 3 of clause 10 will have a good effect.Under the existing act,all applications for postal vote certificates must be displayed outside various post offices and polling places during an election campaign. That system enables political organizers to compile a list of the names of applicants for postal votes, and harass them for support. The amendment will alter that position, and, in future, the names of applicants for postal votes will not be published until after the election. Therefore, that malpractice will be prevented. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have expressed some doubts about clause 8. I point out that there is not much difference between the wording of that clause, and the wording of the corresponding provision in the original legislation.
– There seems to be no difference of meaning at all.
– Sub-section 3 of section 87 of the principal act provides - (3.) Any such elector shall not persuade or induce, or associate himselfwith any person in persuading or inducing, any person to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper.
Penalty: Fifty pounds, or imprisonment for one month.
Sub-clause 3 of clause 8 of this measure is drawn in practically the same terms. Therefore, there does not appear to be any justification for the fear that has been expressed by honorable members that should an elector be approached and asked whether he has recorded his vote, the questioner might be regarded as having unduly induced or influenced the elector. The aim of the provision is to prevent undue influencing of electors. It has worked satisfactorily over the years, and I consider that the sub-clause as itstands does not warrant the fears that have been expressed by honorable members on both sides of this chamber that it may be applied with undue harshness. I commend the bill to the House, and again I say that I appreciate very much the general reception that has been given to it by honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause8 (Penalty for inducing elector to apply for postal vote -
.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) has just said that clause 8 will leave the position very little different from what it wasunder the original legislation. There is, however, a significant difference to which I draw the attention of the committee. Under the principal act, a penalty may be imposed only if the person who witnesses the signature of an elector to an application for a postal vote certificate and postal vote ballot-paper has persuaded or induced the elector, or has assisted any person in persuading or inducing that elector, to make an application for a postal vote certificate and a postal vote ballot-paper. In other words, as the act stands, if a person acting in the capacity of a witness persuades or induces an elector, he becomes liable to a penalty; but the new provision is much wider. It brings within its scope persons other than witnesses. For instance, it could include a canvasser, or as I said in my second-reading speech, even a candidate who goes the rounds of his electorate as most candidates do at election time. A candidate might say to a person, “Do you require a postal vote? If so, I can arrange a postal vote for you “. Under this clause, that might be construed as persuading or inducing that person to apply for a postal vote. The provision could be applied to a person other than a witness. He may not even be present when the vote is cast, but if he uses words which can be interpreted as persuading or inducing the elector to apply for a postal vote, he becomes liable to a penalty of £50 or one month’s imprisonment. The Minister did not deal with that position, and I believe that he should deal with it. As the legislation now stands, any candidate who, in pursuit of his normal duties, responsibilities, or rights, approaches an elector and endeavours to render a useful service by providing for the exercise of a postal vote, leaves himself open to prosecution and may be punished by a fine or by imprisonment. I do not think that is what the Minister desires or intends. I believe that the Government’s aim is to prevent any undue or improper influence being brought to bear, and I consider that the clause could usefully contain the words “ unduly or improperly “. The clause, as drafted, is much too wide and its strict application would bring within its scope nearly every election candidate.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) and other honorable members opposite have expressed the view that the abuses of the postal voting system have been on a scale which I consider to be very much exaggerated. Undoubtedly, abuses have occurred, but they may be attributed to all political parties and candidates of every political persuasion. I do not say that malpractices have never occurred in the past, and I support the provisions of this measure that are designed to counter them, but the remarks of some honorable members, particularly in the ranks of Government supporters and notably the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), smarting apparently from the effects of the defeat that their party has suffered in territory close to home, would give the impression that malpractices and abuses have been on such a scale that they have almost destroyed the value of any vote recorded in any electorate of the Commonwealth. Their argument was also taken up by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who cited carefully selected election results to show that malpractices were widespread and were attributable directly to members of the party to which I belong. I say that that is so much nonsense. Abuses may occur, but to draw from the fact that in the city residential areas Liberal candidates obtain a preponderance of the postal votes, an inference that there are abuses on the part of canvassers or evidence of malpractice, is a complete misunderstanding of the actual position. I made the point last night, and I now elaborate it, that the older vote in the community tends to be a non-Labour vote. That is not merely my affirmation, but is, I believe, within the experience of all honorable members of this chamber. The younger elements of the community, particularly those in their early twenties, tend to vote Labour. There are a number of reasons why young people vote Labour. Younger voters are perhaps not so experienced as their elders and may tend to be less conservative, although I do not contend that their votes are less valuable than are those of their elders. Just as in community life we require a blend of idealism with the experience and sagacity that comes with age, so we may expect a similar tendency in the vote. I propose to give the House some illustrations of this aspect of elections because the Minister for Information last night raised this matter in some detail. I shall take, as an example, an electorate of which I have some knowledge. The Minister mentioned my own electorate of Fawkner, and said that it was remarkable that postal votes cast in that electorate at the last election were in the ratio of three to one in favour of the Liberal party candidate, whilst the votes cast at polling booths did not reveal anything like the same disproportion. The fact of the matter is that at the last election there were about 48,000 female voters and slightly more than 32,000 male voters in my electorate. Abuses and malpractice are not by any means so widespread as some honorable members on the Government side would have the House believe. In a thickly populated residential area such as my electorate, a larger proportion of the population is elderly and, in addition, there are many voters enrolled in the electorate who lived previously in country areas and have come to the city in their old age to spend the remainder of their days. Naturally, in those circumstances, there is a higher proportion of postal voters and, generally speaking, the postal vote tends to favour the non-Labour side. Those remarks refer to metropolitan electorates but the same conditions are not present in country electorates. As an example, I mention another Liberal seat, Corangamite, which is a country electorate. According to the figures that were quoted by the Minister for Information last night, the Labour postal vote in Corangamite was twenty votes mors than the Liberal party vote cast for my colleague, the present honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald). The Liberal party won the seat with a majority of 4,600.I know that the honorable member for Corangamite does not make any suggestion that there was anything improper in the conduct of his opponents, who gathered more postal votes than he received. There is quite a simple explanation for that apparent contradiction in Corangamite. In country areas, where much of the employment is seasonal, there are many men, who are out of the electorate at election time, who would normally record a Labour vote. In the residential areas of the city there are voters who are old or infirm or who are out of the electorate, travelling, perhaps even in other parts of the world, and consequently a larger proportion of the postal votes goes to the Liberal party. It is a grave reflection on the many public-spirited people who assist candidates of all parties at election time to suggest that malpractices and abuses are occurring on a large scale. The only other aspect that I desire to discuss is that although the provision in this clause is fair as it stands, I think its language is far too loose and would bring a political candidate, who might make certain statements to voters whom he is canvassing, into the category of a lawbreaker. I ask the Minister to re-examine this provision. I hope that there will be no more talk of widespread malpractice and abuses, when the figures clearly reveal that there is a perfectly natural explanation for the disproportion in postal voting figures.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
– It is pleasant to find myself at least partly in agreement with the views expressed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) before the luncheon adjournment. The occasion is all the more pleasant in view of the scriptural injunction quoted by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) this morning which warns us against undue disputation. However, when I recall the satanic glee with which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) recalls to our minds the admonitions of Holy Writ, I am reminded that the devil can quote scripture for his own purposes. The point on which I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Fawkner is that it is natural for the majority of the younger members of the community to vote for candidates put forward by the Australian Labour party. After all, it is only natural that those who possess ideals and hopes for the future, and who propose to live in this country for a long time and desire that it shall progress, should vote for Labour candidates. Indeed, it would be most unnatural for them to vote for the candidates of any political party other than the Australian Labour party. However, I disagree entirely with the other branch of the honorable member’s argument that it is equally natural for the older members of the community to vote for Liberal party candidates. That was, of course, the real point of the argument which he advanced to explain the preponderance of non-Labour votes amongst postal votes.
– The honorable member is distorting what I said. He is obviously attempting to create an argument for the purpose of demolishing it.
– I think that the honorable member said that it is natural for the older members of the community to vote for the Liberal party, just as it is natural for the younger members to vote for the Labour party, and if what he said was correct then there would not appear to be a great deal of justification for the introduction of this measure. If the undue preponderance of Liberal votes in postal votes could be explained on the ground that the older members of the community naturally voted for the Liberal party, then that explanation would be almost conclusive. It is necessary, therefore, to expose the fallacy of the premises upon which that hypothesis is based in order to combat the erroneous deduction drawn from it by the honorable member. The honorable member will be the first to agree that the population of Australia has become an ageing population in recent years. To-day, for every 100 adult males between the ages of 16 and 65 there are 29 men and women respectively aged over 65 and 60 years. The proportion of old and elderly people in the Australian community has grown remarkably, and, from some points of view, most dangerously, during the last 20 or 30 years. Thirty years ago, instead of the proportion of aged to middleaged and young people being 29 to 100, as it is to-day, the proportion was more like 15 to 100. In the early years of this century the Australian population included many more young people than it does to-day. Large families were then the rule rather than the exception, and large numbers of young people were attaining voting age every year. “We also know that in those days Tory administrations were in complete control of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, and that it is only in more recent years, when the older members of the community have tended to predominate, that Labour has come to power. In fact, the proportion of older voters in the community to-day is higher than it has ever been, and the Labour party is firmly entrenched in both Houses of the National Parliament, and it would be idle for the honorable member to dispute that fact. How could any one who has lived through the past 40 or 50 years in Australia be anything but a Labour supporter? How could any one who has experienced the injustices of the system administered by antiLabour governments support any party but the Labour party?
– Are the honorable member’s remarks directed to clause 8?
– I am directing myself to the argument advanced by the honorable member for Fawkner, who attempted, by a specious argument, to explain away the fact that non-Labour votes have predominated in postal votes.
– Order! The honorable member may not continue that line of argument, for he is digressing from the clause.
– Before the suspension of the sitting the honorable member for Fawkner developed the argument that the large preponderance of Liberal votes counted in postal votes was explainable by the fact that older people, who naturally avail themselves more freely of the facilities for voting by post, tend to vote for the non-Labour parties. He contended that that fact, and not the abuses inherent in the system of voting by post, was responsible for the preponderance of non-Labour votes. If his contention were sound it would be quite unnecessary for the committee to entertain the. clause. I am endeavouring to show, therefore, that the premises on which the honorable member’3 hypothesis is based are unsound. I have indicated that as the average age of members of the community has increased, the parliamentary strength of the Labour party has become increasingly stronger. In explanation of that occurrence I was pointing out that any one who has lived in this country during the last 40 years and has experienced the injustices inflicted upon the community by unrestricted private enterprise would be a most peculiar individual if he were not a Labour voter. Any one who remembers the failure of anti-Labour administrations even in the years immediately preceding the recent war to implement any scheme at all for the social security of the people-
– Order ! The honorable member must discontinue that line of argument immediately and confine his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– For example, those who are in the age pension group know very well that the anti-Labour administrations did not attempt to increase the amount of pensions payable.
An examination of the figures of the very recent by-election at Concord discloses certain facts which are directly related to the object of the present clause. The most interesting feature of the votes cast at that by-election is revealed by a comparison of those votes with the postal votes cast in that electorate at the State general election held in 1947. At. a general election voters who are more than 5 miles from the nearest polling place in their own electorate on the polling day are permitted to vote in other electoral divisions as absentee voters. At byelections they are not permitted to do so, but must vote by post. At the general election in 1947, those electors of Concord who were absent from their electorate on polling day who desired to vote did so as absentee voters, and the absentee votes cast on that occasion were almost equally divided between the main two political parties.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– An examination of the figures shows that to be true.
– But the honorable member’s statement is merely an assumption.
– No, I quoted the relative statistics this morning. When the electors of Concord who were absent from that constituency voted as absentees at the general election in 1947, their votes were divided almost equally between the Liberal and the Labour candidates. In fact, I think that the difference between the number of votes polled by each candidate was only ten. However, when the electors of Concord who were not present in the constituency at the recent byelection voted as postal voters, a majority of 300 favoured the Liberal party candidate. That fact is significant when we remember that most of the postal ballot-papers were handled for the absentee voters by political party organizers. A comparison of the analysis of the distribution of absentee and postal votes such as that which I have just indicated provides the strongest possible proof that the system of voting by post is open to the gravest abuse.
– I intervene only for a minute or two in what has quite obviously become a squealing chorus about the Concord by-election in order to say that I have just received a telegram which seems to give so admirable and succinct a reason for the way in which the absentee votes fell in that election that it ought to be conveyed to the House. The telegram, which was sent by a representative of the Australian Trained Nurses Association, is as follows: -
Absent voters have more time to listen to Dedman, Haylen. and Calwell; hence Liberal vote. Resent on behalf of nurses suggestion nf coercion of sick.
In both of its divisions that message seems to be so admirable that it ought not to be lost to the world.
– The purpose of this clause is to tighten the controls appertaining to postal voting in order to put an end to malpractices. With the Government’s intentions in this respect honorable members on this side of the House fully agree. Clause 13 makes a very desirable alteration by providing that the postal voter himself shall mark his voting paper, seal it and post it, or see that it is posted, to the divisional returning officer. That provision has every one’s approval, but clause 8 which is, apparently, designed to prevent abuses, may have the effect of imposing a penalty upon those who have not been guilty of any malpractices. There is very little difference between the amending provisions and the relevant section in the principal act. Indeed, the difference is so small that it must be taken to have special significance. In the principal act, it is provided that a person who witnesses a postal vote shall not persuade or induce an elector to apply for a postal vote certificate. In clause 8 it is provided that no one shall persuade or induce, or associate himself with any one else in persuading or inducing, any elector to apply for a postal vote certificate. The clause could be interpreted to prevent hospital nurses and matrons, who have no desire to influence their patients’ votes, from taking the ordinary steps necessary to ensure that all patients have an opportunity to vote if they want to. The Minister said that the provision would not be invoked against persons unless they sought to influence unduly those who were seeking to record postal votes. I suggest, therefore, that the new section should be amended to read as follows : - “ 87a. A person shall not unduly persuade or induce, or associate himself with a person in unduly persuading or inducing, an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper.
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for one month “.
That would place the meaning of the provision beyond doubt, so that those who have to administer this legislation may know exactly what was in the mind of the legislature.
– I do not think that I can add anything to the explanation of this clause which I gave in my reply to the second-reading debate. The provisions relating to postal voting have been po liberalized that there is no longer any reason why an applicant for a postal vote should seek the assistance of an authorized witness. The purpose of the clause is to prevent an elector from being coerced into doing something that he does not want to do. I ask honorable members to apply their common sense to amendments such as that embodied in the clause.
– Will the returning officer have power to impose penalties ?
– No. An offence must be proved before a penalty can be inflicted. I have discussed this matter with the Chief Electoral Officer, and he confirms the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) that there is really very little difference between the existing section in the principal act and the new provision, the purpose of which is to broaden the procedure somewhat.
.- I regret having to press this point, but I do not think that the matter can be dismissed as lightly as the Minister (Mr. Johnson) suggests. The clause is designed to prevent malpractice, but we should ensure that a candidate going about his political duties in a proper way shall not be embarrassed or prejudiced by the operation of this clause. I cannot agree with the Minister that this is a very small departure from the original provision in the principal act. Section 87 of the principal act certainly provides a penalty for a witness to the application form or postal ballot-paper, if that witness attempts to persuade or induce the voter to record a postal vote. But now we are to have a provision whereby any person who persuades or induces, irrespective of whether he is a witness or not, and any person who associates with that person, shall become liable to a penalty. I can visualize certain circumstances arising when a candidate goes around to contact different members in the electorate. If he were to visit a household to make a personal canvass, found that a member of that household was sick or infirm, and offered to make the necessary arrangements to assist that elector to record a postal vote
– Does the honorable member think that a conviction would bt secured for that?
– No, but if he went into a household that was hostile and had such a conversation, and later a charge was levelled against him that he tried to persuade or induce that person to record a postal vote, it would be a matter of his oath against the oath of the person in that home. That would put the candidate in a particularly vulnerable and hazardous position. No member who had any common sense in these matters would take the risk of laying himself open to the charge that he had tried to persuade or induce an elector to vote. This is a very real, unnecessary, and unwarranted restriction upon candidates and also upon members of the Parliament who have, to contact their constituents in an endeavour to give them a reasonable measure of service at election time. A further comment I make is that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser)-
– He was out of order, and the honorable member for Fawkner will also be out of order.
– The honorable member for Cook at times occupies the position of Temporary Chairman. I shall not go as wide as did the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who stated that I had made certain remarks earlier in the discussion. Quite clearly, he misrepresented what I said to the committee. I want to set the record straight. We were referring to past elections, and I said that the tendency has been for the younger vote to favour Labour and for the older vote, particularly the vote of elderly and infirm persons, especially females, to favour the Liberal cause. That is a very different thing from saying-
– That is a gross reflection.
– I do not think so. I regard that as a tribute to their sagacity and wisdom as a result of experience gained during a lifetime, whereas the younger, and more inexperienced, person is more likely to be gulled by the false propaganda of the Australian Labour party. I say with every confidence that the younger members of our community, gulled, as they have been over the last few years, have at last awakened to the false propaganda of the Australian Labour party. I am confident that we shall have an overwhelming swing by those voters.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Authorized witnesses) -
.- This clause makes provision for the recording of a vote by an elector who may, at the time of the election, be outside of Australia. Can the Minister furnish the committee with some information on this aspect? I think that it will be generally agreed that the next election will be a critical one in the life of this country. I am quite certain that there will be many thousands of residents of this country outside of Australia at the time the election takes place, who will desire to record a vote according to their political conviction or inclination at that time. [ gather from the provision contained in the clause that some action will be taken to enable such persons to record votes. During the war years, of course, action was taken to enable members of the services to record their votes, although they were scattered throughout the world. [ hope, therefore, that adequate provision will be made to enable people who are absent from Australia for business or other reasons at the time of the election to record their votes. It should not be impossible, for example, for vote3 to be lodged with any of our High Commissioners, or with any of the legations where Australian ambassadorial representation is maintained. I understand that the existing legislation provides that application for a postal vote must be made and sent after the tenth day prior to the issue of the writ for the election and before the polling day for the election, to the divisional returning officer for which the elector is enrolled. That means that there is ample time for an application for a postal vote to be lodged, or for an airmail request to be sent from Great Britain, the Continent, or the United States of America to the Chief Electoral Officer in Australia, and for an airmail reply containing the ballot-paper to be received from that centre. I should like an assurance from the Minister that action will be taken to enable persons out side of the Commonwealth when the election takes place to record their votes. I think that the Government should consider also giving in the information normally conveyed to intending travellers, or persons applying for a passport, an intimation that facilities exist whereby they may record their votes by post if they are absent from Australia at the time of an election. The Minister has stressed the desire of the Government to give the widest possible opportunity for duly enrolled persons to record effective votes. If that is the laudable intention of the Government, it should ensure that suitable provision is made to enable these absent voters to record their votes. It would be proper and well within the realm of practicability for the Government to include in the official forms sent out to intending travellers which tell them what is required of them in relation to vaccination, taxation, and passport arrangements, an intimation that a vote can be recorded at certain centres throughout the world.
– I assure the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that the point that he has raised has already been considered, and steps will be taken to facilitate voting by persons outside of Australia at the time of the election, irrespective of where they may be.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 19 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 3rd March (vide page 968), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 3rd March (vida page 968), on motion by Mr. Johnson) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th March (vide page 1086), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– This bill, which relates to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is the outcome of pressure upon the Government by the Opposition to bring the members of every section of the Commonwealth service under the need to take an oath of secrecy. “We urged that all servants of the Commonwealth, but particularly those engaged on matters associated with high defence policy, should be an integral part of the Government’s administration. So that the House shall have some knowledge of the matters involved in this measure, I propose briefly to relate the history of its introduction. On the 30th September last, during the debate on the Estimates, I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), who is also Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, what kind of research work of a defence nature was performed by the council. The question was prompted by press reports going back as far as the preceding July that the United States of
America had refused to pass on to Australia defence secrets, particularly those associated with atomic energy developments because of the possibility of a leakage from governmental channels. I pointed out that the Government had not denied that report, but had the opportunity of assuring the House that it was incorrect and of backing up its statements by purging all the subversive clements within the Public Service. Somewhat belatedly, because the report had been public property in July, the Minister denied its accuracy and said in support of his denial that, under an act of Congress, the United States of America was prevented from passing on such information. As honorable members know from the subsequent debate, that statement was only partially true, because the act made specific reference to atomic development in regard to industrial matters. It has no relation whatever to atomic defence developments. The Minister admitted that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had been engaged during the war on highly secret research, and he said that, unless some other provision was made, defence scientific research might have to be undertaken within the laboratories of the council. After the Minister’s reply, which, of course, left a great deal of doubt as to its truthfulness in the minds of honorable members and of the public, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) produced and quoted in this chamber from a confidential document. Honorable members have some knowledge of the subsequent debate, but the gist of that quotation was that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had told a meeting of Ministers of the United Kingdom at No. 10 Downing-street on the 8th July, 1948, that he understood that the United States of America was reluctant to communicate to Australia certain specially secret information about the progress of research into atomic energy. The Leader of the Australian Country party, at the same time, challenged the Minister for Defence to deny that he had told the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that the authorities in the United States of America had made it quite clear that they would’ not pass certain information to Australia, that the Prime Minister could not give him any details about the matter, and that it was nevertheless certain, in view of the sources of his information, that the feeling in the United States of America definitely existed and that that was the important consideration. The Leader of the Australian Country party also challenged the Minister to deny that in July of last year he, the Minister, had told the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that the Prime Minister had told him that information had been received from high sources in the United Kingdom which made it quite clear that a number of United Kingdom government departments were not certain that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could be trusted with certain documents, :that that feeling had militated in turn against the United Kingdom in obtaining information from the United States of America, and that unless something was done to retrieve the position Australia would not be given scientific information affecting defence matters. The Prime Minister .has been pressed repeatedly to say whether those allegations are accurate, but the only reply that the right honorable gentleman has made is that the documents from which the Leader of the Australian Country party read were either stolen or forged, f they were stolen, they were obviously authentic documents and the question of forgery does not arise. “We have not yet been told whether the allegations were correct and whether the statements that were made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence were truthful, but T suggest that certain legislation that has been introduced places the matter beyond all reasonable doubt. I ask the House to note the period of time that elapsed before the Government took any action, because it seems to me to be very significant. In October of last year the Minister for Defence introduced legislation to transfer the Division of Aeronautics of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Department of Supply and Development The transfer entailed that the officers of the division had to take an oath of allegiance and of secrecy. Almost everything that the Prime Minister had promised to 3o at the meeting at No. 10 Downing-street was given effect to, at least in part. The introduction of that legislation should have been sufficient to convince the House of the truthfulness of the allegations that were made by the Leader of the Australian Country party. The introduction of. that legislation and of the measure that the House is now considering is the result of pressure by the Opposition. I have no illusions, about this matter. I believe that if the documents from which the Leader of the Australian Country party quoted had not seen the light of day no attempt would have been made by the Government to bring this section of the Commonwealth service within the secrecy provisions or to remove from the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research a division that was engaged upon high priority defence work. This measure and the other one to which I have referred confirm the charges that were made last year by the Opposition and constitute a vindication of the action that was taken by the Leader of the Australian Country party. There is evidence that the trend of world events and pressure from overseas have forced the Government reluctantly to introduce security measures which are designed to prevent a leakage of secret information through Communist elements in the Commonwealth Public Service, but it would appear that the action that has been taken by the Government has either been taken too late or is not satisfactory. It was reported from London during the week-end that Australia is being excluded from important defence talks that are being held in that city, although some of the discussions concern the use of Australia as an arsenal and a potential base for operations in the Pacific. It was reported that observers believe that Washington, for reasons of security, has exerted strong pressure to exclude Australia from those talks. It was stated that line heads of the intelligence services of the United Kingdom and the United ‘States of America nave said that until Australia exercises the same care to maintain secrecy a9 they do it -would be f oolish of them to take the risk; of information imparted to Australia finding its way into dangerous channels. The report also stated that :at -some talks at which
British and American representatives were present, dominion representatives were asked to withdraw from the discussions, and that the initiative in regard to that action came from the United States of America.
– Does the honorable gentleman believe the report ?
– I see no reason to disbelieve it.
– It has been denied.
– In view of earlier reports and of the action that has been taken by the Government following allegations that were made in this chamber, I see no reason to believe that the report is not accurate. It was also reported that in some instances American military representatives in London carefully screened Australian officers who had been sent there to take part in defence talks. These reports are too persistent to be merely a figment of some one’s imagination. It cannot be presumed that reputable newspapers would continue to print reports of this kind if they were not satisfied that there was some foundation for them.
– How would American officers in London get police authority to screen anybody?
– They would not make information available until the credentials of the Australian representatives had been checked. The honorable gentleman knows that in all security talks the greatest secrecy is observed and that the credentials of every representative are checked before he is permitted to participate in the discussions. The Government has skirted round the point of either denying or confirming the authenticity of the documents to which I have referred. Even to-day, when I asked the Prime Minister a question regarding current reports, he avoided giving a definite answer. He skirted the question cleverly, and said that he was not prepared to enter into a discussion regarding the matters to which I referred. Those matters are of great importance to the people of Australia.
The Australian Government has done nothing to restore the confidence of Britain and America in our capacity to preserve secret information if it is im parted to us other than belatedly to introduce two measures that have been forced upon it by pressure from overseas and in Australia. Up to now, all that the Government has done, in spite of world criticism of our security arrangements, has been to transfer the Division of Aeronautics of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Department of Supply and Development, and to announce that a new security service, headed by Mr. Justice Reed, is to be established. It is noteworthy that it has not undertaken a purge of Communists in the Public Service similar to that which was undertaken by the British Government. These are the only government accomplishments to which the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Frederick Shedden, will be able to direct the attention of the British Government as evidence of security measures that have been taken in pursuance of his task of arranging a better liaison with the British authorities. In previous debates in this House, the Minister defended certain appointments that were made to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The honorable gentleman said that he accepted responsibility for the appointment to the council of Rudkin, who was convicted during the war of carrying defence secrets to Marx House. When reference was made during the debate on the Estimates to the appointment of the Communist Pomeroy to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Minister, in reply, asked what kind of defence secrets could come into the possession of a photographer in the plant investigation section? That answer was absurd. Australia is being placed in a shameful position in the eyes of the democracies of the world because of the failure of this Government to discharge its responsibility to establish proper security measures within the Public Service. It is well known that there are Communist cells in the Public Service. It is also well known that the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman) has appointed many Communists to that organization. It is well known that a person who was so closely associated with the Communists that he adopted the technique of a character assassin was appointed to the staff of the council by the Minister. This Government appointed Mr. Jim Healy, a member of the central council of the Communist party, to a key position on the Stevedoring Industry Commission. It also appointed Mr. E. V. Elliott, another avowed Communist, to a key position on the Maritime Industry Commission. Having regard to these appointments,- can we expect the Government to screen new appointees to the Public Service and to purge the Public Service of known Communist elements? It is significant that this measure has been introduced at a time when international Communist leaders are proclaiming the solidarity of the workers in the cause of communism. We have recently learned that Mr. Sharkey, another notorious Communist, has stated that the workers of Australia would be .prepared to fight in the cause of communism if some of those who were opposed to the Communists were driven on to Australian shores. In the light of that treasonable statement, what action does the Government propose to take against the Communists in our midst? The whole history of this Government is so wrapped up with the Communist menace in Australia that it is becoming a by-word in the councils of the democracies of the world. In these circumstances, is there any wonder that the democratic countries are not prepared to admit to their discussions the representatives of Australia? Yet this country has a 90 per cent. British population. Things have come to a pretty pass when Australian representatives are excluded from important conferences bearing on the security of the Empire and the democratic countries because of distrust of the Australian Government. Both the United Kingdom and the United States of America are strengthening their defences and are taking positive action against the Communists. It is particularly noticeable and a grave reflection on Australia that this Government has always lagged behind the governments of other democratic countries in taking action against the Communists. The apologists on the Government side repeatedly rise in their places in this Parliament to defend or appease the Com munists. During the debate on communism in this House not long ago the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) referred to .communism as being Christ-like in conception. It is true that it took the honorable gentleman a few moments to adjust his halo after the Opposition had dealt with him. His words clearly indicated the theme that is running through the minds of the members of the Government in relation to the Communist menace. I was not greatly surprised when I read in the press of the 1st March last, a statement by Mr. T. C. McGillick, the leader of the trade union delegation to Russia in 1938, and a former leader of the Communist party in South Australia, that many Labour members of Australian parliaments were actually Communists “ working under the cloak of Labour “. The article continues -
Mr. McGillick said he had renounced communism and added there was not much he did not know about the Communist party. “ Communists have very successfully infiltrated not only our basic unions, including the defence unions, but also our post offices, schools, radio, press and even churches “, be said.
He named a man who, he said was a Methodist clergyman, but who “ used his theological activities to disguise the fact that he is working for the Communists “.
He made an even more important statement to which no effective reply has been given by the Labour governments of Australia for the article continues - “ I know many Communists who, working under the cloak of Labour, have entered the Parliaments of Australia “, Mr. McGillick added: “These men will all be lined up with the Communist party when, and if, the time comes for them to show their true colours “.
That serious statement was made by a man who was a Communist and was formerly a leader of the Communist movement in South Australia. Are his statements borne out by the claim of the Minister for Labour and National Service that communism is Christ-like in its conception ?
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in debating the subject of communism generally under the motion now before the Chair? I submit that he is entitled to discuss only the activities of any person in the employ of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research whom he may believe to be a Communist.
– There is some substance in the point of order raised by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell). The Chair has allowed the honorable member for Wentworth very wide scope in presenting his views on this bill. He must confine his remarks more closely to the bill.
– The bill contains clauses which relate to secrecy. Persons who violate the secrecy provisions of the measure will be liable to the imposition of a heavy penalty. Provision is also made in the bill for the making of an oath or affirmation of allegiance by officers appointed to the new organization. How can I discuss the secrecy provisions of the bill if I am not permitted to deal with communism and the infiltration of subversive elements into the Public Service?
– The honorable member is well aware of the ruling of the Chair. He may not engage in a general discussion of the subject of communism.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am well aware that if I continued to discuss communism I should embarrass the members of the Government.
-Order! I shall not allow the honorable member to make capital out of the ruling of the Chair. If he persists in so doing I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– The Chair will, I assume, permit me to say that Communists are employed in the service of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is on the fact that Communists are already being employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that I base my charges against the Government. Of what value will be an oath or affirmation of allegiance made by a Communist? Communists have no religion and accordingly they have no regard for the sanctity of an oath. The secrecy provisions of this bill will not be sufficient to satisfy the democratic coun tries that the Government proposes to screen carefully those whom it employs, even though it may endeavour to camouflage the position by transferring certain officers from the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the new Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. This Government has lagged behind the democracies even in the face of the disturbing situation in the Asian sphere which, because of our geographical position, should be a matter of major consideration. The Government has refused to commit itself about the disclosures made by the Leader of the Australian Country party regarding the unwillingness of the United States of America to share its defence secrets with Australia. Notwithstanding its refusal to do so, the Government has brought this bill before the House. I ask. the Prime Minister to put an end to his procrastination and to state definitely whether or not the disclosures made by the Leader of the Australian Country party were correct.
-Order! The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter. He must confine his remarks to the bill before the House.
– I am putting it to the Prime Minister - . -
– Order ! The honorable member must obey the direction of the Chair or he will be asked to resume his seat. _ Mr. HARRISON. - This legislation
– Order !
– Surely I am entitled to mention this legislation.
– The honorable member may do that.
– It seems that that is all I am permitted to say. This legislation is the outcome of a promise that the Prime Minister made to the conference of Empire Prime Ministers held at No. 10 Downing-street, to the effect that he would take action to allay suspicion about the efficacy of the precautions which Australia was taking to preserve secrecy in defence matters, and to prevent a possible leakage of information through governmental channels. But the Minister in charge of this bill has had the audacity to make the following statement in his second-reading speech : -
The need for the review of the administrative structure of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research did not dawn suddenly on Ministers between last September and November, as certain sections of the press would have it appear.
He added that in July and August of last year, the Prime Minister and he had placed before their colleagues a suggestion that they seek advice on the over-all reconstruction of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research including the separation from it of any of its interests in the field of defence. I ask honorable members to note those dates. The exposure was made in July. In the same month and in August, the Prime Minister and the Minister in charge of the council placed before their colleagues a suggestion for separating from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research all its interests in the field of defence. The Prime Minister, who had recently returned from the United Kingdom, must have spoken to his colleagues about the proposal to transfer control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Public Service Board. That statement by the Minister coincides perfectly with the charges which members of the Opposition had made about the leakage of secret information. Why did the Government tarry from July until October before introducing the first legislation to ensure the preservation of secrecy in defence research work? In my opinion, that legislation would not have been introduced in October, had it not been for the fact that, in September, members of the Opposition had pointed the bone at the Government because of its efforts to shelter Communists within the trade union movement itself. I wonder whether the Government held its hand in the hope that the outcry which followed the disclosures in the press, would die down. That outcry might have subsided following the ill-informed statement by the Minister in charge of the Council for
Scientific and Industrial Research in answer to my questions in September, but the fact is that the complete exposure of the position by the Leader of the Australian Country party forced the Government’s hand. On that occasion, the Government defended the statement by the chairman of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the effect that science would progress more speedily if scientists in all countries were free to exchange information.
– Surely the honorable member for Wentworth does not suggest that Sir David Rivett referred to defence information?
– The Government defended Sir David Rivett after he had made that statement. Now, however, the Government is taking steps to cut across that defence. When this matter first arose, the Government contended that Sir David Rivett was quite entitled to express that view, and defended his utterance. Now, the Government proposes to transfer the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the control of the Public Service Board. In effect, the Government says to Sir David Rivett “ We have defended on one occasion the statement that you have made in your capacity as chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research but we now propose to transfer the control of that organization to the Public Service Board. We shall also take precautions to ensure that secrecy shall be maintained in defence research work, and persons engaged thereon must make an oath or affirmation of allegiance. Information in the possession of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research must no longer be made available to other countries. In future, research work will be hedged with secrecy “. That conclusion is perfectly logical. Our arch enemy is not prepared to make its scientific discoveries available to the democracies, and, in such circumstances, the democracies would be most foolish to place their scientific discoveries at its disposal. I commend the Government for having taken some action, belated as it is, to protect our research work.
– Sir David Rivett said that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should not be associated with defence work. If it were not associated with defence work, it could freely publish its discoveries.
– I am not implying that Sir David Rivett is a Communist. I do not believe for a moment that he is. I do not attempt to detract from the great work that he has performed on behalf of this country. At the same time, I understand the attitude of scientists and the academic mind in regard to these matters. Scientists, from their lofty mental pinnacle, consider that research discoveries should be made available to other nations, but the Government must take a more practical view. I commend it on having, at long last, taken action to preserve secrecy in our field of research, because the name of Australia has been brought into disrepute throughout the democratic world. The Government will not convince me that this legislation is not the outcome of the Prime Minister’s visit to London last year. Immediately following the right honorable gentleman’s return, the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research addressed a meeting of the executive of that organization, and, in October, the Government introduced legislation which provided for the transfer of the Division of Aeronautics to the Department of Supply and Development. The purpose of the bill which we are now considering is to ensure that secrecy shall be preserved in research work. My conclusions cannot be logically disputed. The sequence of events is too clear. Therefore, I contend that the people are entitled to be told whether Australia’s reputation in the opinion of other democracies is as bad as some reports have stated, whether the Government proposes to follow the load of other democracies and purge the Public Service of subversive elements, and whether the Government considers that its precautions are likely to exclude from this excellent section of defence research work those who may sabotage not only Australia’s efforts but also the work of other democracies against our common enemy.
. A substantial part of his address has nothing to do with the bill, and 95 per cent;, if not 99.9 per cent., of it is completely inaccurate. I shall refer to only two matters in that mass of irrelevancies. The first of these is the apparent opinion of the honorable member that a person who is related to a Communist is necessarily an undesirable citizen. We have a striking instance in the United Kingdom of the fallacy of that attitude. Mr. L. S. Amery is a most distinguished member of the House of Commons. His son was executed after World War II. as a traitor, but nobody has suggested that Mr. Amery himself is a traitor. The honorable member appears to consider that a person whose brother or uncle is a Communist or is engaged in subversive activities, should carry the sins of his relative on his own shoulders. That attitude is the most vivid illustration of intolerance that I have ever known in this House. The honorable member has spoken of the appointment of Communists to various boards and commissions. The persons whom the honorable member has in mind are the representatives on those commissions of trade Unions.
– But this Government appointed them to the commissions.
– Certainly. The fact of the matter is that legislation, which this Parliament - not this Government - passed, made provision for representatives of the unions to sit on certain boards. The various representatives were nominated by the unions themselves, and might easily have been nazis or members of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party. They sat on the boards because they were nominated by the unions to do so.
– Surely the unions do not dictate to the Government?
– Now I shall deal with other points. The honorable member for Wentworth said that this Government had been denied the right of consultation with the defence authorities of the United States of
America. He also referred to our consultations with the British Government, but I speak only of what he implied regarding consultations with the United States Government I denied his allegation in this House. Of course, there are people who can make an incorrect statement - and if it was not for the forms of the House I should refer in much stronger terms than that to the statements that have been made - and repeat them until they themselves, because of their lack of intelligence, believe that they are true. Such people are like parrots repeating something that they have learned by rote.
– Does the Prime Minister imply that certain things that happened were purely coincidental?
– I ask the honorable member for Wentworth, in his own interests, not to persist in that attitude, for, as I have said recently, the time may not be far distant when he may be made to realize that what the Opposition has alleged is not the truth. I am quite sure that he will not discover that Australian representatives are being denied consultation on defence matters. I do not propose to elaborate on that point at the moment, because J. am always satisfied to wait in the complete realization that the truth about such matters will out.
I desire to make completely clear that there is not one tittle of evidence that any secret information of any kind has ever been disclosed, to any one at all, by persons employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. That is not an expression of my own opinion only. Sir Henry Tizard, who is regarded as one of the most eminent scientists in the world, and who knew the position regarding defence scientific research in the United Kingdom, made it perfectly clear in a public speech in Melbourne that there was no justification for what had been said by the Opposition in this House. All I say to the House is that nobody could show, on the evidence available, that any information had ever been improperly disclosed to anybody by scientists in Australia, or by any member of the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I do not base that statement upon the evidence of our own security service but upon the evidence obtained from a very much wider field of investigation.
I now refer to what I regard as one of the most discreditable incidents that has ever occurred in this House. During the debate on the alleged leakage of secret information, which was a purely political debate, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) made reference to a document, or to what purported to be a document, and read it to this House. Every decent man associated with the business of government in the United Kingdom was disgusted with that performance, and the right honorable member did neither himself nor Australia any service in what he did. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman was led into that action.
The honorable member for Wentworth has said that a man named Rudkin, an ‘ employee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, had been proved to be a Communist. The honorable member implied, if he did not actually say, that Mr. Rudkin had conveyed secret information to the Communist party. There is absolutely no truth in that implication.
– Rudkin did not convey secret information while an employee of the council, but prior to his appointment to the council’s staff he was convicted-
– Order! The honorable member for Wentworth must cease interjecting.
– Any one who heard the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth would have been convinced by his remarks that he was implying that Rudkin, while in the employ of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, had conveyed secret information to Communists. If that is what the honorable member implied there is absolutely no truth in such an implication.
– The Prime Minister knows that that was not what I meant.
– I am only taking the honorable gentleman’s statement as it sounded. The Minister in charge of the council (Mr. Dedman) explained to the
House that Rudkin was engaged in plywood research in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– He is now so engaged.
– And he was then. What kind of secret information could Rudkin convey to anybody about plywood? The honorable gentleman may say later that somebody who was engaged in constructing a dwelling might tell the Russians how the dwelling was being built. All the state ments made about Rudkin by honorable members opposite have been sheer nonsense. Also among the most discreditable incidents that have ever occurred in this House was the attack, direct and by implication, upon some of the men associated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who have done magnificent work for Australia. I speak of men like Sir David Rivett, Dr. Richardson, Dr. White and others, who have probably had close association, even in their politics, with the Opposition parties. I do not think that any of those men have political views that coincide with those of the Labour party. Although they have performed magnificent service for this country, they were defamed in this House by honorable members opposite. It is perfectly true that Sir David Rivett made the remarks that were quoted correctly by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), and misquoted by the honorable member for Wentworth. Those remarks were not unusual for a scientist to make. Hundreds of scientists throughout the world, particularly in the United States of America, believe that any scientific knowledge that they acquire, whatever it may be, ought to be available for the use of humanity. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, an organization that was established by a conservative government, was defamed in this House and held up before the world, with all the colouring that imaginative journalists could put into their writings, as being the home of spies and traitors and of people who handed out secret information to the enemy. That is one of the most discreditable incidents that I have ever known in this House, and honorable members opposite who took part in it - I am not concerned with their criticisms of the Government, but with their defamation of men who did so much for this country - should be ashamed of their part in it.
I have made it perfectly clear that nobody, no matter how high or low, can show that any member of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has ever disclosed any information about that organization to anybody. The honorable member for Wentworth has stated that the Government is now making a change in the structure of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I consider that such a change should have been made years ago, not because of any matter relating to security, but because the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research now has 3,000 employees, whereas when it was established as the nucleus of a scientific research organization it had only 200 employees. Its activities have extended greatly, but all those associated with it are not scientists. The Government carefully considered whether the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should be brought under the control of the Public Service Board, as the staff of the Repatriation Department was brought under the board, notwithstanding strong protests. My objective as Treasurer has been to give the Public Service Board authority over the engagement of all Public Service staff, and the right to negotiate with Public Service organizations regarding conditions and wages so that a proper relation may be observed between salaries and conditions in the various departments. The Government is expending six times as much money on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as was expended on it in 1939. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research employs 3,000 persons, a considerable number of whom are not scientists. One of our difficulties is that scientists, because of the nature of their work, cannot very well be brought under rigid Public Service control. The scientists themselves must decide what work is to be done, the way in which it should be done, and the number of persons who ought to be engaged upon it. In bringing the organization under the Public Service Board, we did not wish te hamper the council in its scientific work, but we wished to bring the employees of the council into line with the Public Service generally, insofar as that was possible. It is provided that the Public Service Board may conduct investigations into the character of prospective employees in order to determine whether they are suitable persons for employment, but it is not intended to prescribe by law that a person’s political opinions shall be a determining factor in deciding whether he is a proper person to be employed. In this, connexion, I commend to honorable members a recent statement by Mr. St. Laurent, the Prime Minister of Canada, and another statement by Sir Hartley Shawcross, the AttorneyGeneral of the United Kingdom, in reference to utterances by Communists. As Treasurer, I was not happy that any large organization engaged on work for the Commonwealth should remain outside the scrutiny of the Public Service Board. I was not thinking about whether employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research might be Communists. I was concerned that there should be a uniform standard of conditions and remuneration throughout all government departments and organizations working for the Commonwealth. Finally, this bill was drafted, not under pressure from any quarter, but because the Government believed that the position of the employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should be regularized. As I have said already, 1 was anxious to bring to an end a situation which permitted the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), for instance, to charge the Government with harbouring and encouraging Communists because some one who was employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to wheel a barrow or, as in the case of Rudkin, to work in the plywood division, is reputed to be a Communist, although the work upon which he is engaged has nothing whatever to do with defence. The provision which placed upon the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research responsibility for the appointment of all the employees of the council was inserted in the legislation by an anti-Labour government. If that legislation failed to provide facilities for screening employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the responsibility belongs, not to this Government, but to one of its predecessors, an anti-Labour government. In the future, the Public Service ‘Board will supervise the non-scientific employees of the council, including typists, laboratory attendants, labourers, Aic., and will determine their remuneration and working conditions. The employment of scientists will be in the hands of the council, but the board will have the responsibility of assessing the character of the persons employed. The Minister will no longer be held responsible because some one engaged to wheel a barrow in Queensland is discovered to have Communist tendencies, or to have had a great-great-grandfather who bad radical tendencies, or to have a brother whose opinions are suspect. The existing provisions under which the Council for .Scientific and Industrial Research operates are out of date for so large an organization. They were probably satisfactory enough at the time the council was established, but the organization has grown, and it is still growing quickly. The Minister will still have power to direct the council to undertake specific investigations, including defence work. I conclude by repeating that responsible persons in all the countries concerned are completely satisfied that there has been no leakage of defence information from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There is absolutely no proof that any such leakage has occurred.
– I support the bill. In the opinion of many persons there existed no need to change the organization of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but the Government, apparently, believed otherwise. At the end of last year, a bill was introduced which seemed to have ominous portents for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The speeches made in this House at the time, and the opinions freely expressed outside, including some by staff officers and scientists attached to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who were vitally interested in the matter, seem to have produced a good effect. Apparently, the arguments advanced at that time influenced the Government in the drafting of the present measure. So far as I can see, the bill should not adversely affect the work of officers and scientists of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It should be possible for scientific research to be carried on in the future as satisfactorily as it has been done in the past. Although the interests of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research appear to be sufficiently protected under the bill, there is still nothing to prevent parts of the organization from being transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act (No. 2) of 1948. That would be just as objectionable now as it was declared to be when the previous bill was being debated.
Clause 31, in Part VII. of the bill, provides for the maintenance of official secrecy. While the clause establishes, in so many words, what the Government wants to establish, and while no exception need be taken to it, people should understand that the phrase “ in the course of duty “ can be, and must be,liberally interpreted. We should view the clause realistically. Officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research frequently go abroad to obtain information about the latest developments in science and industry in other countries. Obviously, they are not likely to get the information they require, and that the Government wishes them to acquire, unless they, in their turn, are prepared to give information about conditions in Australia. How far, then, is it understood that the giving of information is part of a scientist’s duty? If that is not understood, the value of the work done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research must suffer. In other words, if we are not prepared to give something we cannot expect to gain something. Difficulties can be foreseen even though one cannot take exception to the wording of the clause. As soon as one begins to think and speak in terms of secrecy, trouble is bound to arise, as was pointed out both inside and outside this chamber in an earlier debate.
I direct attention to sub-clause 4 of clause 11 in Part III. of the bill. I hope the Minister will accept an amendment to insert the words “ including the Chairman “ after the word “ Executive “, so that the sub-clause will read -
At least three members of the Executive, including the Chairman, shall be person* possessing scientific qualifications.
I hope it will be further provided that the three members of the executive who are to devote the whole of their time to their official duties shall be three persons possessing scientific qualifications. This may be the intention of the Minister, but it ought to be made clear in the legislation itself.
.- We owe this bill to the vigilance of two governments, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom. Both those governments had every reason to be gravely disturbed about the position in Australia. Australia is the weak link in the democratic security system. Both London and Washington are fully aware of the Communist infiltration in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and other important Australian defence arms. Hence we have this bill. They have every reason to be worried over the attitude adopted by the Minister in charge of this bill (Mr. Dedman). They have seen how on every occasion on which the Communist party has been tackled in this House members of the Government have rushed to the defence of the Communists and communism. Canberra, unlike Washington and London, has been wide open to the Communists. We have had the spectacle of Ministers working themselves into a state of passion to defend the rights of Communists to go about their deadly work.
– Order! I do not want to interrupt the honorable gentleman’s speech, but I direct his attention to my earlier ruling. The honorable member is not entitled to engage in a general dissertation on communism and must confine his remarks to the bill before the House.
– I desire to make only a passing reference to thatsubject. I do not propose to transgress.
-I hope you do not
– You will find that I shall not do bo. The Communists have been allowed to do their deadly work unhampered by governmental interference. Hence this bill. The Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America have seen the Minister in charge of the bill confounded in this House by written evidence of Communists working inside the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, of which he has charge. What has happened must be obvious to every honorable member and to the country. Great Britain’s future defence depends upon the free exchange of information with the United States of America, and the free exchange of developments in atomic energy, rocket warfare and microbe warfare. It also calls for co-operation with the Dominions in organizing the information, developing the programme and taking every advantage of the latest discoveries in the three matters that I have mentioned. It requires that Australia shall become the defence laboratory of Britain. Because of that we have the guided weapons testing range. Because we are to be the foundation of the defence of the Empire we have not only that range but we are also to have the Snowy River scheme. To develop those projects Britain has to convey to this country vital secrets, and many, if not most, of those secrets must be obtained from the United States of America. But how can the United States of America trust Britain if Britain is not satisfied with the security position in this country? If there are uncovered Communists within the Australian organization, confiding information to Australia will mean confiding it to Moscow. That ‘ is why London and Washington have been worried. It is why they have put the heat on this Government. It is why we have this bill. First, we had a visit to Australia by Sir Percy Sillitoe, of the British Security Service. That was followed immediately by the hurried visit to England of the Australian. Prime Minister to be put on the carpet at No, 10 Downing-street. Never has an Australian Prime Minister had a more humiliating experience than to be told by the British Inner Cabinet that the Government of Australia was not to be trusted with vital information and that the Government was jeopardizing the security of Great Britain because it was holding up information from Washington. Later, we heard a great deal about stolen documents, but the essential point is that there was never any denial from No. 10 Downing-street, though the Government of Australia must have sought a denial from No. 10 Downing-street with the utmost anxiety. If there was a leakage, I submit that there can only be one conclusion and that is that the leakage did not occur in Australia. Had it occurred in Australia, it would have been sheeted home uncomfortably close to the head of this Government. A more reasonable explanation is that the leakage occurred at the London end, and that it occurred because No. 10 Downingstreet was most anxious that it should occur. There has never been, I submit, any leakage from that quarter, unless it was by design. It was the quickest and most effective-
-Order! The honorable member is proceeding to discuss what I take to be the matter of the secret documents. That matter has been debated on a previous occasion and the honorable member is not entitled to go into it in detail, although he may make a passing reference to it.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I must do, but these are the central points of this bill. That was the quickest and most effective means of focussing attention on the position that had arisen, and whether or not the reference to the document was meant to do that, it did do it. If the contents of that document had been fully disclosed - . -
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to proceed on those lines. I have already ruled the discussion of that matter out of order.
– Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but my argument has been based on it.
– That is unfortunate for the honorable gentleman, but the matter that he is now referring to has no connexion with the bill.
– My opinion, which I want to express, is that the bill is before us because of the matters that I have referred to, but I shall not transgress your ruling.
– Publish it in the Century.
– No. At any rate, the Government made a feeble attempt to overcome what had happened: and to which I have been referring ,by introducing an amendment to the Science and Industry Research Act.
-The honorable member may make only a passing reference to that matter.
– Even to that? May .1 draw the attention of the Chair to the fact that the schedules to this bill repeal the Institute of Science and Industry Act and four Science and Industry Acts, the last of which was passed in 1945?
– The honorable member may refer to the bill before the House.
– In the schedule to the bill you will find, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the other measures are to be repealed. 1 want to point out why they are to bo repealed. I hope that I shall be in order in doing so. The Science and Industry Research Act was amended in 1945 because of certain happenings. An act that is to be repealed by this measure took certain employees from the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and placed them under the control of the Public Service Board. That was accepted in London at its face value. It was an empty gesture. It meant nothing. This Government had to be taught that security cannot be fooled with in these days, and this is a security bill. The real lesson of the Communist conspiracies uncovered in other countries had not penetrated this Government’s consciousness. The documents seized in New York came from people right at the top, and not, as the Prime Minister said, in his few remarks, from the man on the wheelbarrow. They included the secret despatches of Ministers abroad to their governments. It is not, as the Prime Minister said, the Communist on the soap-box in the Sydney Domain or on the Yarra bank that we have to worry about. It is the undercover intellectual, the Communist capitalist of industry, the Communist scientist and the Communist public servant. Those are the kind of people that are being suborned by Communists. They are not the small people, but the men on top with influence, power and knowledge. They i are being suborned by our enemies outside. These great gentlemen fall for the jargon, the flattery and the Marxian abstractions of communism. Once those high officials are in the net, they are as helpless as the victim of a Soviet-managed trial. The upshot of the concern that was felt in London and Washington was another visit from a top-ranking British emissary, this time Sir Henry Tizard. There were also talks with representatives of the United States of America. Whatever was conveyed to the Prime Minister, it was obviously not to his taste. No bill that this Government has presented to the Parliament has been so unpalatable to the right honorable gentleman as this one is. He is sailing under sealed orders. This bill is before the House not because of the Government, but in spite of the Government. The position was reached where the Prime Minister had to accept the will of other governments or be confronted with a show-down, which would have been fatal to him later this year. If he had resisted what was asked of him, he would have committed political suicide. The withdrawal of the British rocket range project from central Australia, for example, would have exploded the myth of this Government’s concern about our future security. It is clear that the Prime Minister is acting under duress. That will have been obvious to any impartial observer who has been in this chamber for the last three weeks. The right honorable gentleman has never looked so embarrassed and preoccupied. That is not entirely due to the knowledge that one of his colleagues is spending every available minute of his time in organizing votes for himself as leader of the Labour party. The British Labour Government has sent another representative, Lord Listowel, to hold direct talks with this Government. I direct the attention of the Parliament to the fact that all these approaches by the British Government have been by personal contact. Downing-street knows better than to trust the ordinary channels of communication. The Prime Minister persists in side-stepping the real issue, which is the Sovet land drive in this direction. Fortunately for us, the Governments of Britain and the United States of America are alive to the danger. That is why Britain is insisting upon the passage of the measure now before the House. However, there must be a doubt about whether the measure will be fully satisfactory to those who have made their own surveys of the security position in Australia, or its insecurity. The first step that the Government took was to provide for the independent control of the security service. That was done by appointing a South Australian judge, Mr. Justice Reed, as head of the service. South Australia appears to have a surplus of judges. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, always seems ready to exchange a judge-
– Order! There is no reference to Mr. Justice Reed in this bill.
– Mr. Justice Reed is now in charge of security arrangements in this country. Mr. Playford always seems ready to exchange a judge for a ship-load of coal or the establishment of a new industry in South Australia. It is not sufficient to establish a new security service or to give the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research a new name. The appointment of a new executive will not necessarily end all the troubles that this bill is designed to eliminate. It is a very simple matter for a Communist to take an oath, because he has no conscience to worry him. If an oath stands in the way of him getting what he wants, he will take the oath, and he will not require to go to Moscow to get a dispensation before doing so. The Minister has said that all the employees are to be screened. That is one of those wide-open terms to which any meaning can be given. The success of a screening operation depends upon complete prior knowledge as well as constant vigilance subsequently. If we are to believe what the Prime Minister said when he established the new security organization, the past service has left much to be desired. It was not only suspect but also incompetent and incapable, because otherwise it would not have been replaced. The security screening that will take place under the provisions of this bill cannot be successful, because the information that should be available will not be available. While Communists are permitted to operate openly from their head-quarters and are given access to all the public utilities in Australia, the task of policing them will remain, to put it mildly, difficult. I listened to the Prime Minister say, in this House, that nothing of a defence nature has ever been disclosed. Does the right honorable gentleman not realize that the Canadian Government had not the faintest idea of what was happening in Ottawa until Gouzenko went to a newspaper, the editor of which took him to the “Mounties”! He would have had great difficulty in convincing the Canadian Government of the truth of his statements if he had not had certain documents in his possession. It was not until he produced the documents that the Communist conspiracy was fully unmasked. This bill will probable mean that Comrade Mountjoy will leave the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Of course, he might get the nomination as a Government candidate for a Western Australian seat again.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must deal with the bill, which does not refer to Mr. Mountjoy or to seats in Western Australia.
– I should not have mentioned the matter had Mr. Mountjoy not been a member of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. This bill will also mean that Mr. Pomeroy, after the lying statements that were made by the Minister in charge of the bill, will at last-
– Order! The expression “lying statements “ is unparliamentary. The honorable gentleman must withdraw it.
– I withdraw the expression. The Minister has made untrue statements, as has been proved by the facts. If this bill becomes an act of the Parliament, Mr. Mountjoy, about whom the Minister misled the House, will be screened at last, and the Minister will have to eat his words. The honorable gentleman has consistently refused to take action when these matters have been raised in the House. The first step that should be taken to make the proposed new organization effective is to ensure that it will not be under the control of the Minister for Defence, who has proved his unfitness to hold that position and has stubbornly refused to face the facts. On the slightest provocation he will defend the Communists in this chamber and, I presume, also outside of it. This Government will have to drop its sham tactics if it is to get anywhere in the fight against the Communists. There are wide gaps in the immigration fence-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will not be permitted to refer to immigration.
– The bill provides for the screening of everybody who comes in.
– The bill has nothing to do with immigration and the screening of immigrants.
– I am referring to the screening under this bill. There is a wide gap in the immigration fence. Communist agents have been free to roam round key offices in Canberra. A prominent Communist doctor was recently appointed to Darwin, which is the first port in and the last port out of Australia.
– The doctor to whom the honorable gentleman has referred was not appointed to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The honorable gentleman must confine himself to the bill. If he continues to wander from it I shall ask him to resume his seat. He may only deal with matters which come within the confines of the bill.
– The question of the security of Australia is within the confines of the bill. That is what the bill is for.
– The bill deals only with the bringing of members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board.
– The reason for the introduction of this bill is that persons employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have access to secret information which may leak out to an enemy. If that is not the object of (.he bill everything that I have said is of no consequence. Communist agents are employed in government positions in New Guinea.
-Order ! The bill does not deal with Communist agents in New Guinea or anywhere else. It deals with the transference of certain staff from the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the control of the Public Service Board. If the honorable member can prove that any persons employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in New Guinea are Communists he will be in order in continuing his remarks. Otherwise they are completely irrelevant to the bill.
– I assert definitely that there are Communists in the employment of the Government who are working under the direction of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in New Guinea.
– -Name them.
– I shall do so if necessary. The Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia is under Communist control. Its organizers are constantly visiting our defence factories.
– Order! I shall not again call the honorable member to order. He is deliberately endeavouring to defy the ruling of the Chair. This bill contains no reference to the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia. What the honorable member is saying might be good argument on some other occasion, but it certainly is bad argument in relation to this bill.
– I shall connect my remarks to the bill to your complete satisfaction, I hope, Mr. Acting Deputy
Speaker. The organizers of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia and of the Amalgamated Engineering Union have access to all defence works throughout Australia including works controlled by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. If the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has nothing to do with the long-range weapons project in central Australia, I have no right to speak in this strain. The council, however, does control that work and the organizers of the unions that I have mentioned, both of which are under Communist control, have the right to contact workers employed on that project at any time. Notwithstanding the charges that have been made in this House, the well-known Communists,. Elliott and Healy, still occupy key government positions. If this Government thinks, as I presume it does, that it will satisfy the fears expressed in London and Washington about the preservation of defence secrets merely by passing this bill, it has no conception of the gravity of the situation. It will Lave to do much more than go through the motion of passing this bill. There lias to be a show-down within the ranks of the Government. .Some Ministers are also members of the Australian Workers Union. Let them examine the record of the proceedings of the last convention of the Australian Workers Union. They will then know that the opinions I have expressed here are shared by their own union. What are they going to do about it? Sooner or later they will find that they cannot sit on the fence on this issue. They must declare themselves either for or against the Communists. They must dissociate themselves from those Ministers who rise in their places in this House at every opportunity to defend the Communists. Whether we like it or not, this is the time when we must choose sides. We must declare ourselves either for Australia or for Russia. If we declare ourselves for Russia we shall harbour the Communists as the Government is doing. If we declare ourselves for Australia we shall declare war on the Communists.
.- There are some provisions of this bill which I believe to be very good and others which will depend for their value very definitely on the way they are administered. Before I address myself to the details of the measure, I should like to deal with the general maligning of Australian scientists in which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has just indulged and, secondly, with the innuendo directed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) at Sir David Rivett. The honorable member for Reid made a speech which was very similar to another speech made by him not long ago when a bill to amend the Public Service Act was before the House. While he was speaking to-day, I read his earlier speech in Hansard. It seems that those who “ ghost “ his speeches are falling down on their job and are lacking in originality. Against the allegation of the honorable member that British scientists and the British Government have no confidence in the secrecy of Australian scientific research - an assertion made by a man who is completely devoid of scientific training and has never evinced any interest in matters of science - there is the statement of Sir Henry Tizard, the head of the British scientific research organization. Sir Henry Tizard came to Australia when the last slander campaign initiated by the honorable member for Reid and directed against Australian scientists was raging in this House. Concerning the integrity of Australian scientists, Sir Henry Tizard had this to say: -
I have been somewhat distressed in Australia to find that a little of the gossip which reached mc has been confirmed by what I have read and heard here-. There seems to be an impression, at least in parts of Australia, that the United Kingdom has doubts of the integrity of Australian scientists and engineers and is not seeking their co-operation in matters of a particularly confidential nature. One never knows what gossip is trying to do, but I am in a very good position to report to you the highest official opinion in the United Kingdom on this matter, and I may say there is not the slightest bit of truth in it. We have complete trust in the integrity and carefulness of our Australian colleagues in the realms of science and engineering. We in the United Kingdom have the very highest opinion of Australian scientists and engineers.
Either Sir Henry Tizard was indulging in an untruth when he denied that the United Kingdom had any suspicion about Australian scientists, or the honorable member for Reid is indulging in an untruth. I ask the House to make a choice between the two. The choice, however, is too palpable to be really a choice at all.
The other matter which I shall discuss before proceeding to discuss the details of the bill is the reference made by the honorable member for Wentworth to Sir David Rivett. In response to an interjection made by me during his speech, the honorable member readily admitted that Sir David Rivett had never done anything so absurd as to suggest that defence research should be freely discussed around the world, though the statement the honorable member had been making up to the point of my interjection would at least have conveyed such an impression to people unfamiliar with the background of this matter. I draw the attention of honorable members to Sir David Rivett’s actual words, because only by quoting his actual words can we effectively answer those who make untrue and unworthy assertions about him. Sir David Rivett said -
If national sovereignty demands the right to prepare secretly for the destruction of other sovereignties, let those who take the responsibility of making a decision to that effect keep their projects clear of those national scientific institutions in which the traditional freedom of science must be maintained.
In other words, Sir David Rivett made a clear plea that defence matters should be taken outside the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. At that time the Division of Aeronautics was being transferred from the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the control of the Department of Supply and Development. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the Government’s decision had been made because of concern about the secrecy of defence works under the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. During the war the number of engineers on the pay-roll of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was very greatly increased. Engineers were engaged in applied science and in the practical work, the bread and butter issues, involved in the manufacture of war weapons. The engineer is quite foreign to abstract scientific research into general principles which, before the war, formed part of the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.. From the day the war ended the staff of engineers in the Council for Scientific Research that had been specially recruited for war purposes began the process of the disbandment. The engineers returned to their civilian occupations and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research reverted to its studies in pure physics, pure biology and the other abstract general principles which are the background of applied science. The removal of the Division of Aeronautics, which is predominantly engaged in engineering work, from the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to that of the Department of Supply and Development was a move of the kind to which I have referred. Certain prominent physicists have been associated with the development of war weapons abroad. Honorable members opposite have referred repeatedly to atomic energy. I have not the least doubt that if the mentality we have seen exhibited in this House from time to time had operated in the United States of America during the war, Dr. Oppenheimer, who more than any other individual was the inventor of the atomic bomb, would never have been employed by the United States Government because of his Communist associations. The American news magazine Time, in its issue of the 8th November last, had this to say about Dr. ‘Oppenheimer -
Until 1936, Oppenheimer had never even voted; he waa “certainly one of the most unpolitical people in the world”. But in the depression he watched young, finely trained physicists cracking up because they were unemployed; he also heard about relativesforced to leave Nazi Germany.
Dr. Oppenheimer is of Jewish extraction ;
Says Oppenheimer: “I woke up to a recognition that politics was a part of life. I became a real left-winger, joined the Teachers Union, had lots of Communist friends. It was what most people do in college or latehigh school. The Thomas Committee doesn’t like this, but I am not ashamed of it.
The Thomas Committee was a committee established by the American House of Representatives to investigate the background of scientists and other persons accused of being Communists. The extract continues -
I’m mure ashamed of the lateness. Most of what I believed then now seems complete nonsense, but it was an essential part of becoming a whole man. If it hadn’t been for this late but indispensable education, I couldn’t have done the job at Los Alamos at all.” [ imagine that if a physicist in Australia spoke in that manner an honorable member opposite would immediately move the adjournment of the House to discuss his statement. Oppenheimer spoke similarly to Sir David Rivett, when he dealt with the subject of the freedom of exchange of scientific information. However, all those persons who commend the idea that scientific information should be secret should be reminded of the fact that Australian science is largely the derivative of scientific research abroad. We have not been major initiators in any field of scientific research. Therefore, had this morbid obsession for suppressing scientific information operated abroad in the nineteenth century and so far in the twentieth century, some of our physicists would have poor backgrounds indeed. On this subject, the experience of Oppenheimer is reported by Time as follows : -
What made him so good a teacher was that he was still a student - and always would be. In seminars he was for ever reading aloud the latest letter from a top physicist friend in Denmark or England, reporting a hot tip just telephoned from Harvard, or commenting on a physical journal fresh from a Japanese press. Privy to this latest scientific gossip (“ the lifeblood of physics,” Oppenheimer calls it), his students felt themselves in the vanguard of advancing knowledge.
Oppenheimer himself admits his indebtedness to that international brotherhood of science which freely exchanges information. That is why I believe that there are dangers in any measure that involves the screening of employees. I am not advocating that a Nunn-May, or one of those Communists who is subordinate to Russia, should be employed in any confidential position in Australia. What I do fear is the malice of vicious old gossips, who will slander a person who, in his youth, may have had certain radical associations as Oppenheimer had, and malicious people who will distort a man’s record and lodge information against him. He will never know that such reports have been made, and the minds of public servants who receive that information may be coloured by it. If the screening organization is not extremely efficient and sensitive, and is not endowed with a great deal of nous in relation to scientific persons, some aspects of this measure may easily become disastrous. Any steps that are taken to safeguard security should not involve the suppression of freedom of legitimate political opinion on the part of scientists who will be employed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. If that suppression should occur, it will be disastrous.
The bill relates to an organization that the Government has greatly expanded. The amount that was expended through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on scientific and industrial research in 1944-45 was £920,000, but the estimated expenditure for this year is £2,221,710. During the last four or five years, the vote has been increased by approximately 250 per cent., and scientific research has been expanded vastly. Some of the provisions of this bill seem to envisage an even greater expansion of scientific research, but I feel that, unless this measure is associated with others, its great objectives will not be attained. For instance, clause 9 (1) (b) provides -
The powers and functions of the Organization shall, subject to the regulations and to the approval of the Minister, be -
the training of scientific research workers and the establishment and awarding of scientific research studentships and fellowships ;
The training of scientific research workers to-day is predominantly concentrated in the universities of Australia, but those institutions are starved for funds, particularly in the field of scientific research. There seems to be an impression abroad that any man can be trained for defence scientific research. I am afraid that the Ministers who will administer this legislation as the years pass will find that they will need to carry out the behest of Jesus, to “ let the sun shine on the just and the unjust”, and allow the money that is provided to finance research to be expended on those who may happen to become interested in defence scientific research and not on others who will never be interested in that subject. So far, the Australian Government is making available to the universities an amount of £82,000 per annum for the training of persons in the technique of scientific research. By American and British standards, that sum is absolutely pathetic. When divided among seven universities, £82,000 will not go far in training persons in the techniques of scientific and industrial research. I believe that both the defence scientific project and the other scientific projects that are described in this bill will be greatly retarded by the lack of trained personnel in this country. The reason is that Australian universities are starved for funds. We must face one fact. Certain Australian universities have been endowed. For example, the University of Western Australia was endowed by the late Sir Winthrop Hackett, and the University of Adelaide by the late Sir Thomas BarrSmith and Sir Langdon Bonython. Almost invariably, such endowments date back to about 1910, before the taxation levies that were produced by World War I. destroyed private fortunes. The modern social services State, with its high level of taxation, is removing to an increasing degree the class of individuals who have private means with which to endow universities. Consequently, all the large endowments of Australian universities are from fortunes that date back to the early part of the century. If our universities are not to be starved for funds, the Australian Government will need to show a more enlightened attitude towards scientific research grants. As I have stated, the amount of £82,000 per annum which we make available to Australian universities for training scientific students, is by the standards of a modern industrial nation like the United States of America, pathetic. The United States of America has a population twenty times as great as that of Australia. Over a few years the University of Columbia has been endowed by an amount of £20,000,000. That endowment of that university is greater proportionately, according to population, than the endowment that the Government makes to the seven Australian universities. If this measure envisages a substantial extension of the training of defence research workers, and the awarding of research studentships, we shall welcome it very warmly.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will also be able to make grants in aid of pure scientific research, and will have the task of collecting and disseminating information relating to technical matters, and the publication of scientific and technical reports, periodicals and papers. In this matter, we encounter certain contradictions. The Bruce-Page Government, when establishing ‘the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, inserted in the Science and Industry Research Act a provision to the effect that it should not keep its discoveries secret, but should publish all its findings and make them freely available to Australian industry. For some months, honorable members opposite have been suggesting that secrets belonging to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have been betrayed. Therefore I direct their attention to the original foundation, and to the echo of it in the objectives of this bill, because the organization is to publish freely scientific and technical reports, periodicals and papers. However, clause 31 provides -
A member of the Executive, a member of the Advisory Council, a member of a State Committee, an officer or an employee .shall not, except in the course of Iris duty as such a member, officer or employee or with the approval of the Executive, disclose any information concerning the work of the Organization or the contents of any document in the possession of the Organization.
Thus the bill deals with not only the difficult problem of smothering up defence research, and many avenues of research leading to defence, but also the free exchange of information which leading physicists have described as the very lifeblood of science. We must remember that, in other countries, certain scientists and physicists have been hounded to some degree. I mention the name of James B. Conant, a president of one of the largest American universities. During the war, he was one of America’s leading defence scientific research workers. Fanatics on the Thomas Committee had a great deal to say about him, because of his political associations, although they were not nearly so bad on paper as were the political associations to which Oppenheimer admitted. The result was that James B.
Conant and a great many other physicists and biologists, who were not Communists but who were afraid of any restriction of their freedom, gave the government service away, and will not have a bar of it in future. As President Truman himself has admitted, they are a serious loss to American scientific research. Therefore, I believe that this problem is not an easy one, and that those persons who administer this legislation will need to possess a great deal of sensitivity and knowledge of scientific persons who are employed in the organization. I hope that the officers of the security service will be men of sufficient intelligence to enable them to make that discrimination.
Clause 10 provides -
The Organization shall, as far as possible, co-operate with other organizations and authorities in the co-ordination of scientific research, with a view to -
the prevention of unnecessary overlapping; and
the most effective use of available facilities and staffs.
En the past, considerable overlapping in research work has occurred in the universities and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and I feel that both sections will serve the community better if their work is co-ordinated. Consequently, I congratulate the Government on having included that provision in the bill. I should also like to refer briefly to certain other clauses, particularly clause 21 (3), which reads -
A person shall not be appointed as an officer under this section unless -
he is a British subject;
the Executive is satisfied, upon medical examination, as to his health and physical fitness; and
he makes and subscribes an oath or affirmation of allegiance in accord- ance with the form in the Second Schedule to this Act.
If that provision means that a certain number of foreign scientists are to be welcomed into the service of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, it is a wise move.I had an unfortunate experience concerning a Dutchman who was seeking employment with the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch. I received a letter from the Minister, to whom I had written, in connexion with the
Dutchman’s application, which stated that appointment of the Dutchman to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research would not comply with the requirements of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, as he was not an Australian ex-serviceman, although he had been in the Netherlands Army. Such a narrow and rigid attitude if adopted under this measure, it is quite clear, will lead to the loss to us of the services of foreign scientists. The Dutchman to whom I have referred had qualifications that are not possessed by anyone else in Australia.
If this bill, which envisages the appointment of foreign scientists, sets that narrowness aside, that in itself will be an advance. The important provision? of the bill are those contained in clause 28, which provide for incentive payments to be made to inventors and other persons within the organization. That clause states -
The Organization may pay to officers and employees, or to persons working on behalf of the Organization, such bonuses as the Executive, with the approval of the Minister, determines in respect of useful discoveries or inventions made by those officers, employees or persons.
I am sure that every honorable member of this House will welcome that provision.
– That provision has previously been in force.
– The decisive part of the measure consists of the very general provision contained in clause 33, which reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
The regulations made under this act will be vital, and the persons administering the act will have on their hands the responsibility of forwarding Australian scientific research. But if they handle their task unintelligently they will impede scientific research in Australia. I do not believe for a moment that the Minister has any intention of impeding scientific research, but I am sure that he will agree that not everything done by the security service during the war was particularly intelligent. In fact, a great deal of what it did had to be undone and some of its actions came under judicial notice, due to some honorable members opposite, who thereby rendered a service to the community. Some of the actions of the security service were proved to be completely absurd. Some very grave reflections could be made, by inference anyway, upon the intelligence of the “ intelligence service “. If that service is not more intelligent in its screening of scientists who desire employment in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, it may do considerable harm to scientific research in Australia. I believe that the general tenor of the bill indicates that it envisages a great expansion of scientific research. I hope that it will lead to the adoption of a more generous government policy towards Australian universities and thus enable them to train their personnel, because without such training the bill will be largely meaningless. Because of the great difficulty that has faced the Minister, who must be concerned about security whilst on the other hand scientists must be concerned about maintaining their standard of freedom to exchange information concerning scientific research in this organization I regard the measure as a compromise between the Scylla of freedom and the Charybdis of security. I congratulate the Minister on the measure and hope that it envisages an even greater expansion of scientific research in this country.
, - in reply - Honorable members have directed their criticism not so much at the measure itself but to certain events that preceded its introduction.
– The Prime Minister has dealt with the matters that the Minister now proposes to discuss. If the honorable gentleman did not take up time with this unnecessary reply, the bill could proceed to the committee stage immediately.
– That is all very well for the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), but honorable members opposite and their de facto leader, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) have taken the opportunity provided by this debate to deal with certain matters. I propose to reply to those honorable members. In fact, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Reid, the only honorable members, apart from the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who have spoken on this measure, did not deal with the bill at all but indulged in criticisms regarding communism and what they termed the “ communistic ideals “ of some people associated with the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. First of all let me refer to the observation made by the honorable member for Bourke. I suggest to the honorable member that what she had to say at the second-reading stage of the bill relates to matters that can be much better considered at the committee stage, and if she is willing to wait, I shall undertake to deal with them then.
It is true, as the honorable member for Fawkner has said, that there is really not very much left for me to say, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the honorable member for Fremantle have dealt very well with the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Reid. What those two honorable gentlemen have been endeavouring to asseverate is that this measure was forced upon the Government by the action of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Reid went so far as to say that it was forced upon the Government by the vigilance of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. The honorable member for Fremantle has quoted a statement that was made by Sir Henry Tizard, who visited this country not very long ago, and it is clear from Sir Henry’s statement that he obtained his information from the security authorities of the United Kingdom. I do not know whether that was contained in the quotation by the honorable member for Fremantle, but I know it to be a fact. He was not expressing merely bis own opinion on the matter. So asked the security authorities in the United Kingdom whether they had any suspicions about the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Australia. The answer was an emphatic and clear “ No “. So it is quite untrue to suggest, as. the honorable member for Reid has suggested, that this measure has been introduced because of pressure brought to bear upon the Australian Government by the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The honorable member for Wentworth said that this matter was related to certain discussions in the United Kingdom and the United States of America about defence, from which the Australian Government had been excluded. The Prime Minister dealt with that aspect of the debate very well, and I merely desire to repeat what he said and to put it perhaps more emphatically. Coming events cast their shadows before. Ministers in this House are often in possession of documents of a confidential nature, which, if they could divulge them, would completely “knock over” the case that the Opposition has put forward regarding a particular matter.
– Documents that Ministers have no hesitation in quoting from when they wish to do so.
– That would depend upon the nature of a particular document. I do not think there would be anything wrong with a Minister quoting from a confidential document that had been passed on to him by a public servant. But it would be quite improper for the Government to quote from documents that had passed between it and overseas governments. Naturally, I do not propose to do that. I am really sorry that when the honorable member for Wentworth made his speech the proceedings of the House were not being broadcast, because the whole of Australia would then have known that he had made certain statements regarding the Australian Government being excluded from defence consultations in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
– The Minister took great care to ensure that I should not bp on the air when I spoke.
– Before very long certain events will take place, and the honorable gentleman will be shown to have been possessed of an abysmal ignorance of the true position. I am only sorry that he was not on the air when he made his statement so that the public, when those events become known, would know how foolish he had been in making it.
– The Minister is being very cryptic.
– The honorable member for Fawkner was wise enough not to take part in this debate. Apparently the honorable member for Wentworth has not the same wisdom as his colleague.
– The Minister cannot split us in that way.
– Divide and conquer is the Minister’s motto.
– The Opposition is not by any means the monolithic organization that it pretends to be. That has been well established by press references and also by happenings in the State of Victoria, from which State the honorable member for Fawkner comes. No effort on my part is required to drive a wedge between honorable members opposite. Later I shall have more to say in relation to a matter that closely concerns this bill, and I shall thenshow that driving a wedge between honorable members opposite is a pastime that the Government does not have to indulge in. If left to itself the Opposition always disintegrates. It disintegrated during the greatest crisis through which this country has passed, and it is disintegrating to-day before our very eyes. Haying made that passing reference to the question of differences of opinion among honorable members opposite, I shall proceed to deal very briefly with the provisions of this measure, as the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Fremantle have both dealt adequately with it.
– Then sit down!
– I dealt with this matter very fully in my second-reading speech. I traced the course of events that led to the introduction of this particular measure. I said that this matter had been causing some concern to the Government for the last two or three years. As a matter of fact - and it might be a legitimate criticism for the Opposition to make - the Government did take a long time to bring this measure forward, but, as the honorable member for Fremantle has pointed out, there were difficulties associated with the matter. It became evident in the post-war years that this country, if it desired to carry out a programme that would assist the United Kingdom in British Commonwealth defence, would have to undertake defence scientific research. That was the first time in the history of Australia that there had been any obligation on an Australian government to undertake research of a defence character, and the problem immediately posed itself as to the method that should be used. The question arose of whether it was proper to ask the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to undertake defence scientific research as well as scientific research relating to primary and secondary industries. Sir David Rivett pointed out to me that the act that established the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, gave the Council no authority to deal with defence scientific research, and that, on the other hand, if a decision were made to isolate defence scientific research entirely from scientific research not related to defence, that would involve establishing a completely new organization to deal with defence scientific research. Sir David Rivett, in a statement that has been mentioned in the House to-day, made it perfectly clear that, in his opinion, if defence scientific research had to be undertaken in this country it should be undertaken by a body entirely separate from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– Does Sir David Rivett approve of this measure?
– I should not like to say that he entirely approves of everything in this bill, but I have had discussions with the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and I think it would be true to say that, in general, that body approves of this bill. There may be one or two clauses about which they are a little doubtful. In fact they raised the same point as was raised by the honorable member for Fremantle.
– About which clause are they doubtful ?
– Clause 21 (1). But apart from that, I believe that it is correct to say that the executive, including Sir David Rivett himself, has no objection to the measure. Over two years ago, the Government first began to study this problem, because it was faced with the necessity to undertake scientific research into defence problems. It had to make a choice - whether the council would undertake scientific defence research together with its other work, or whether a separate organization should be set up for that purpose. It is true that there are advantages in having defence scientific research entirely isolated from ordinary research work, but there are disadvantages, also, in such an arrangement, because some matters relating to defence could quite well be clone in the laboratories of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There is a whole range of problems which may become related to defence scientific research, but which are very similar to matters now being investigated in the laboratories of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. For instance, there is the subject of bacteriological warfare. It is obvious that investigations already made by the council into bacteriology in its relation to plant life might be of advantage in the study of matters relating to bacteriological warfare. However, that is not the case so far. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) had a good deal lo say on this point when speaking upon a motion of want of confidence at the end of the last sessional period. However, everything that he said was completely negatived by a statement made the other day by the Secretary for Defence in the United States of America, Mr. Forrestal, who said that no big discovery had been made in the field of bacteriological warfare which would render obsolete weapons now known. Therefore, it is evident that the Leader of the Australian Country party was using his imagination when hie said that discoveries had teen made in that field which could affect the whole trend of our defence preparations. Deep consideration was given by the Government to the subject of defence scientific research. I myself, as Minister for Defence, discussed the matter with scientific authorities and with other Ministers, particularly with the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong), who is in charge of what used to be the Munitions Department. Advantage was taken of a visit by Dr. Coombs to London to discuss the subject with experts in the United Kingdom. Eventually, the Government decided that defence scientific research would be done in a special division of scientific research set up in the Department of Supply and Development. That decision was made long before there was any criticism in this Parliament about Communists in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. so that it is completely untrue to say that this measure has been forced on the Government because of criticism by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who is the de facto leader of the Opposition, in matters of this kind. It was decided over a year ago that in the Department of Supply and Development there should be set up a special scientific research division.
Later, because of certain discussions about the programme of scientific research to be undertaken by Australia in the plans for scientific research for the British Commonwealth as a whole, it became evident that Australia would -undertake research relating to a particular defence problem, namely, aeronautics, for which we had a large and efficient division within the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. If we were to persevere with the policy decided upon, namely, that defence scientific research work should be isolated, the only thing for the Government to do was to transfer that division from the Council for Scientific and .Industrial Research to the Department of Supply and Development, and that was done at the end of last year. I relate the course of events in order to show that there is no truth whatever in the allegations of the honorable member for “Wentworth that this bill was forced on the Government by the criti cisms of honorable members opposite. The step now being taken is a part of a considered plan, which has been developed over a period of two years, to ensure that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be completely isolated from any defence scientific research work, and also to ensure that defence scientific research will be undertaken in the special research division of the Department of Supply and Development.
The honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Reid repeated statements which were completely untrue. They have made the same statements time and time again, although there is no basis in fact for them. I notice that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is now present. He also is guilty of having made outrageously wild statements about the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and its work. Honorable members will recall that, towards the end of last year, there was a fire in a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research laboratory in the grounds of the Melbourne University. It is true that in the laboratory research work was being done relating to atomic energy. The honorable member for Richmond said that he had evidence that it was secret work of « defence character. He suggested that the fire was due to sabotage, that Communists had been able to gain entrance to the building, and that that was the reason for the fire. A couple of days later, Professor Martin, who was in charge of the work, made it clear that the experiments had nothing to do with defence research work, and that whilst it was unfortunate that some of the records had been destroyed, it would be possible by repeating certain experiments to complete the records once more. Therefore, what the honorable member said was entirely without foundation.
– And what the Minister is now saying is a distortion of what I said.
– Honorable members who were present in the House heard what the honorable member said. No doubt he is now ashamed of himself for having said it.
– What caused the fire?
– The honorable member well knows that when scientific experiments are being made there is always some danger of fire.
– Is that the official explanation ?
– That is the official explanation. The fire was a pure accident, and there was nothing of a sinister nature about it. The honorable member for Richmond, the honorable member for Wentworth, and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who also had something to say on the matter, are not the only people who try, without the slightest justification, to fan the flames of discontent against the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th March last, just after the introduction of this bill, there was published a leading article headed “Reversal of Attitude on National Security “. In that article, there was repeated a lie which I had nailed during the last sessional period. I quote as follows from the article: -
The lively concern which had been expressed on the score of security - an issue raised dramatically the previous July by the disclosure of America’s humiliating doubt -whether Australia could be trusted to guard atomic research information - Mr. Dedman construed as “ slanderous attacks “.
I have said time and time again, and scientists of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have made it perfectly clear, that the Government never received any information regarding atomic energy. The Government never asked for any, it was never given any, and it was never refused any. Although I have made this denial two or three times, the lie was repeated in the article published in the Sydney Morning Herald. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has never been interested in any information about atomic energy from the United States of America. The honorable member for Wentworth also mentioned this matter of atomic research. When he raised the subject previously I made it clear that, by an act of Congress, the United States of America was not permitted to pass on any information about atomic energy for industrial purposes. The honorable member for Wentworth immediately said that that was for industrial purposes, but there was no reference in the act to defence purposes.
– In other words, it is to be assumed, according to the honorable member, that the United States of America would not pass on atomic information about industrial matters, but would not try to keep secret atomic information relating to defence.
– When the matter is put in that way, the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth is seen to be ridiculous.
– If the Minister reads the act of Congress he will see that what I said is correct.
– What the honorable member said was utter rubbish, and he knows it. The act relates to atomic energy for industrial purposes. That is true.
– Then why declare that what I said was rubbish?
– The honorable member knows that the United States of America would not take precautions to keep to itself information about atomic energy for industrial purposes, while making available to all and sundry atomic information relating to defence. The United States of America even refused to divulge atomic information to the United Kingdom. That is perfectly clear. So all that the honorable gentleman said about that matter was entirely without foundation. The honorable member for Reid said that the Prime Minister went to London last year in connexion with the doubts that had been cast upon the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. That is entirely a figment of his own imagination. I know sufficient about the Prime Minister’s visit to London to know that that matter was never discussed by him in London. That was not the purpose of his visit. The honorable member went so far as to say that the Prime Minister was put on the carpet at No. 10 Downingstreet in relation to this matter. That, too, is a complete mis-statement. One can only characterize it as a downright lie.
– The Minister has no right to use that kind of language.
– It is unparliamentary, and the honorable member for Reid is not present to demand its withdrawal.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite make such outrageous statements from time to time that the only way in which one can deal with them is to use forthright language. In an earlier debate in this House, several of them said that the least that the Australian Government could do was to make the members and employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research take the oath of allegiance. It is true that one honorable member opposite also sa id that the oath of allegiance was not worth anything.
– I said that about Communists. Do not misrepresent me again. It is a common practice of the Minister to misrepresent honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– I do not want to misrepresent the honorable member for Wentworth. He does believe, then, in the necessity for the oath of allegiance?
– For honest men, yes, but not for traitors.
– The honorable member says that the oath of allegiance has some value.
– When taken by an honest man.
– In relation to all people except Communists?
– No, all people except traitors.
– Well, all people except traitors. The honorable member acknowledges that taking the oath of allegiance has some value. I am glad to have that admission from the honorable member, because I have certain information on the matter. It is most interesting information, in the light of remarks by honorable gentlemen opposite about the taking of the oath of allegiance generally. In May, 1940, the Menzies Government actually considered requiring all temporary public servants and employees of government instrumentalities to take the oath of allegiance. Permanent public servants were already required to take the oath of allegiance. The question was raised by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). I am sorry that he is not present to-day, because he could verify what I am about to say. Honorable members will recollect that at that time the honorable member for Balaclava was not a member of the Menzies Government. He had resigned from it in pique.
– He was never a member of the Menzies Government.
– He resigned from the Lyons Government.
– That is a detail. Honorable members know that the honorable member for Balaclava resigned from, at any rate, an anti-Labour government, because he considered that he had been put one too far down at the table, or something like that.
– What rot !
– It is true that he resigned.
– What has this to do with the bill?
– It is germane to the issue.
– Why is the Minister stonewalling his own bill?
– I am showing that honorable members opposite spoke with their tongues in their cheeks on an earlier occasion when they talked about the oath of allegiance. The honorable member for Balaclava had resigned from an antiLabour ministry. He raised with the then Prime Minister in May, 1940, at the instance of the Camberwell City Council, which is in the electorate of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), the need to require all temporary public servants and employees of Commonwealth instrumentalities to take the oath of allegiance. I do not know why the Camberwell City Council did not raise the question directly with the right honorable gentleman, since Camberwell is in his constituency, but it is evident that there was some bad blood between him and the honorable member for Balaclava when the latter gentleman took up the question on behalf of the Camberwell City Council. The question was actually discussed by the Cabinet in May, 1940.
– Who told the Minister that?
– Never mind who told me. I defy the honorable member to deny the truth of that statement. The Cabinet discussed the advisability of requiring the oath of allegiance to be taken by temporary public servants and employees of Commonwealth instrumentalities at its meeting in May, 1940, and decided that no action should be taken. Not all honorable members on the opposite side of the House were then in the Government, but it is interesting to note that honorable members who have had so much to say about the necessity for the oath of allegiance were then members of the Government that decided to take no action about requiring temporary public servants and employees of government instrumentalities, to take it. There is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has had a great deal to say in criticism of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There is also the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who is, as usual, absent from the House, was also a member of the Government, as was the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who has also been critical about this matter of the oath of allegiance. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), then a senator, was in the Cabinet. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) was also a member. ‘Yet, in May. 1940, the Ministry, after careful consideration of the matter, deliberately decided that it would take no action to require the oath of allegiance to be taken by temporary public servants and employees of government instrumentalities.
– I call attention to the state of the House.
– Order! A quorum is present.
– I shall call attention to the state of the House every time the Minister refers to an absent member.
– I think that proves quite clearly that honorable members opposite, in dealing with this matter, have used it for purely party political purposes. They are endeavouring to prove that the
Government is sympathetic with communism. They believe that that can be done by associating with the Communist party certain persons who, from time to time, have been employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
I do not wish to say anything more about that aspect of the matter. I propose now to make a few observations about the matters raised by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). It is true that, in passing this measure, we are taking a certain risk. It is true that, unless the security screening under this measure is done delicately and sensitively, harm may result to scientific research throughout Australia. I hope, and am sure, that the Public Service Board, in undertaking the duty, will pay due regard to that aspect. It is not easy to decide, as the result of a character test, whether a man should be permitted to be employed in scientific research for which he may have very high qualifications. One particular case comes to my mind. A gentleman was employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research not long ago.
– Was it Mr. Pomeroy?
– Was it Mr. Rudkin?
– No, it was not Mr. Rudkin, either. This gentleman was employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. A security report was made on him. The report did not say that he was a Communist, but it did say that he had been an associate of Communists. That is all that was said about him. In fact, it is extremely difficult to get evidence that any person is a member of the Communist party. He was a man with very high qualifications. In a case like that, what is the judgment to be? ils it to be that because he has very high Qualifications for the job, he shall do it, and do it better than people with lesser qualifications could, or is it to be that, because he has been associated with Communists, although there is no evidence that he is a member of the Communist party, he shall not, in spite of his high qualifications, be appointed to do the job, and that some one with lesser qualifications shall be appointed to do it? He wasnot a permanent employee of the council. He undertook a particular investigation, and, when it was completed, he was no longer employed. But what do I find? This gentleman is now employed overseas on investigations relating to atomic energy. If the authority that screens these people is to say that, merely because a person has been associated with Communists and is a little radical, or outspoken, in relation to his political opinions, he is in no circumstances to be employed on scientific research in Australia? If so, Australia will lose the services of a great many distinguished scientists.
– Therefore, appoint Communists! Is that the argument?
– The honorable member for Wentworth is endeavouring to misrepresent whatI say. The task of screening employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is a very delicate one. I am sure that the Public Service Board, which will be responsible for the character screening, will undertake the task efficiently and will pay due regard to my observations as Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as well as to those of the honorable member for Fremantle. I am sure that the Public Service Board will do the job sensitively and delicately, and, that when it is done in that way, any question of losing the services of distinguished scientists just because they hold radical opinions, will be avoided. I think I have dealt with most of the matters raised in the secondreading debate. Any other matters that honorable gentlemen on either side of the chamber desire to raise can be dealt with in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Bill - by leave - taken by Parts.
Parts I. and II. agreed to.
Part III. (The Executive of the Organization) -
. -Clause 1 1 reads, in part - (1.) There shall be an Executive of the Organization, which shall consist of a Chairman and four other members. (2.) The Executive shall be the governing body of the Organization. (4.) At least three members of the Executive shall be persons possessing scientific qualifications.
I move -
That, in clause 11, sub-clause (4.), after the word “ possessing “, the word “ high “ be inserted. 1 consider it to be essential that at least three of the five members of the executive shall be outstanding scientists. That view is shared by some members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I believe that the Government intends that three of the members shall be outstanding scientists, but as the committee is now considering provisions that will be administered by governments other than the present Government, it is desirable to cover the point in the legislation. In the regulations dealing with the appointment of State committees that have been made under the existing legislation, reference is made to the right of the Australian National Research Council to nominate to each State committee three members, eminent in science, of whom at least two shall be members of the staff of a university of the State. If the word “ high “ were inserted before the word “ scientific “ in sub-clause 4, the clause would be strengthened.
. - The Government cannot accept the amendment, which is meaningless. What would be the meaning of the word “ high “ if it were inserted before the words “ scientific qualifications “ ?
– What is the meaning of the words in the regulation to which I have referred?
– The provision to which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has referred is contained in regulations for which a government other than this Government was responsible. The fact that the provision is not contained in the statute itself proves that there is no necessity for an amendment of this kind. Objection has never been taken to the appointment of persons to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the ground that they did not possess scientific qualifications. The existing legislation does not make provision for limiting such appointments to persons with scientific qualifications, let alone high scientific qualifications. That legislation has functioned satisfactorily in that regard. If the word “ high “ were inserted in subclause 4, i t would be necessary to interpret its meaning. Would a master of science be a person possessing high or low scientific qualifications? What would be the position of a doctor of science or a bachelor of science? How would the word be defined in relation to the scientific attainments of a particular individual?
– Would the Minister be prepared to accept an amendment providing that a necessary qualification for at least three members of the executive should be the possession of a university degree?
– I do not think it is necessary to make that provision. Similar provision was not made in the existing legislation, which was introduced by a government whose political colour was different from that of the present Government, yet the legislation has functioned very well in relation to appointments to the executive and council of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and to State committees. That being so, I see no reason why the provisions of this bill should not be just as satisfactory.
.- In the second-reading debate I suggested that, in sub-clause 4 of clause 11, the words “ including the chairman “ should be inserted after the word “ Executive “. If that were done, the sub-clause would provide that at least three members of the executive, including the chairman, shall be persons possessing scientific qualifications. It is probably the intention of the Government that it shall bo so, but I suggest that the legislation should provide for it specifically. I had proposed to move an amendment to that effect, but I know that the Government generally refuses to accept amendments. I had hoped that the Minister might be able to secure the amendment of the clause either here or in the Senate. Subclause 5 reads as follows: -
The Chairman, and two other members of the Executive specified by the GovernorGeneral, shall devote the whole of their time to the duties of their office.
It would be an advantage if it were provided that those persons shall be persons possessing scientific qualifications. If that were done, three scientists would devote the whole of their time to the organization. I ask the Minister to consider my suggestions.
– The suggestion that has been made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) in relation to clause 11 (4) is that the chairman shall be one of the members of the executive who are required to possess scientific qualifications. That suggestion is somewhat antagonistic to the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). If the honorable gentleman had his way, the word “ high “ would be inserted before the word “ scientific “ in the subclause. Since its inception, the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has had only two chairmen, Sir George Julius and Sir David Rivett. Sir David Rivett, the present chairman, is a gentleman with very high scientific qualifications. Although Sir George Julius possessed scientific qualifications, those qualifications did not constitute the main reason for his appointment. He was appointed chiefly because he belonged to a profession that is very closely associated with science and secondary industry. He was an engineer. I do not want to do anything that will prevent the Government from appointing as chairman of the executive of the new organization a person with qualifications similar to those possessed by Sir George Julius, if it is felt at any time that an appointment of that kind should be made. In those circumstances, I suggest to the honorable member for Bourke that it would be best to leave clause 11 (4) as it is. With regard to clause 11 (5), the honorable member desires to ensure that the chairman and two other members of the executive who will be required to devote the whole of their time to the duties of their office shall be persons possessing scientific qualifications. Although that is what is in the mind of the Government, I do not think that it is really necessary to amend the clause in the way that has been suggested. I have had lengthy discussions with the draftsmen and other officials regarding the wording of clause 11. The present wording is the best that we could devise to provide in the legislation for what the Government has in mind and I should not like to alter the wording of the clause before I have examined the possible implications of the suggested amendment. I shall examine the honorable member’s suggestion and ascertain whether there is any objection to it.
.- May I ask the Minister whether it is the intention of the Government that the three members of the executive appointed on a full-time basis shall be persons possessing scientific qualifications ?
– That is so.
– I regret that the Minister will not accept my amendment. It is no answer to my argument to point out that similar provision was not made in the existing legislation and that that legislation has functioned satisfactorily. It is probable that no request would have been made for the insertion of a qualifying word or phrase in clause 11 (4) if the Government had not appointed a person who appeared to be unfitted for a position of this kind. The appointment created uneasiness in the minds of members of the Opposition and of members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The phrase “ scientific qualifications “ is a loose one. The determination of what are “ high “ scientific qualifications could safely be left to common sense administration. Who is to determine what are “scientific qualifications “ ? The phrase could mean anything. It could be applied to a person who had not undergone a course of training in a university or obtained a university degree. In my opinion, the minimum qualification of a member of the executive of this organization who is required to possess scientific qualifications should be the possession of a degree of an approved university. If the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment, he should give an undertaking on behalf of the Government that in practice no person who does not possess at least the degree of an approved university shall be appointed to a position on the executive of this organization which requires the possession of scientific qualifications.
– I give the honorable gentleman that assurance.
– I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) that in clause 11 (4) the words “including the Chairman” be inserted after the word “ Executive “. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has moved an amendment that is designed to insert the word “ high “ before the word “ scientific “ in that sub-clause. The matters raised by the honorable member for Fawkner and the honorable member for Bourke bring into sharp focus the differences that exist in scientific institutions in the United Kingdom and in Australia between members of the scientific and administrative staffs. Conflicts between administrators and scientists have been going on in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for many years. About ten years ago I quoted in this House some excerpts from an article on public administration, which had been written by a surveyor who was employed in the British Post Office. The writer stressed the very point that has been raised in this debate, namely, that the executive head of a scientific organization should be not only an administrator but also a scientist who is able to speak the language of those who serve under him. The chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization must be a scientist because it will be a highly scientific body. I fear that unless the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Bourke is accepted the scientists in the new organization, as in the case of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research itself, will be swamped by the administrators. Of all the instrumentalities that have been established by the
Government the new organization is one in which scientists must predominate. I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Fawkner that the chairman of the new organization shall be a person possessing the highest scientific qualifications. If the appointee is not a doctor of science, he should at least be a bachelor of science. For instance, the dentists at Darwin and Alice Springs, who are under the control of medical officers, complain that they have no say in the conduct of their profession. They have asked me to exert my influence in Canberra to have the present system of control altered, so that they will be given sole control of their own affairs, by being placed under the control of a member of their own profession. They complain that the doctors do not understand the profession of dentistry. I support their protests. The executive which is to control the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be composed of scientists rather than of administrators. I trust that the Minister will accept the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Fawkner and those suggested by the honorable member for Bourke.
– I was amazed a few minutes ago to hear the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman) say that he did not know the meaning of the term “ high scientific qualifications”. Only a few minutes before he had given us a heartrending account of a gentleman of high scientific qualifications who had cracked under the heat of a screening in Australia and had disappeared. Presumably he went to America. The honorable gentleman also said that the bill as it is at present drafted has been in operation for some 23 years. I am prepared to agree that the principal act has been in operation for 23 years. Surely the Minister does not expect me to believe that the provisions of the bill now before us have yet been in operation. When the Minister delves into the realms of logic he cannot even see the top of his head.
.- This bill provides that the executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organization may make recommendations to the Minister with respect to the policy and work of the organization. I should like to refer briefly to that provision, because I do not know what opportunity will bo given to us to discuss the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which involves the work and policy of the existing organization. A very lengthy report has been presented to the Parliament relating to the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. We are by no means certain that an opportunity will be provided for us to discuss the report during the present sittings of the Parliament. There should be some coordination between the work of the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch and that of State instrumentalities, in particular the State Departments of Agriculture, so that the results of the research carried out by the council may be put in practice. The council should provide suitable salaries and allowances for its scientific workers. The difference between the remuneration of an untrained person, even a manual labourer, and a scientific worker, is too little. Before being graduated in his profession a scientist has to spend many years of study first at a high school or a college and later at a university. On graduation, he usually seeks practical work in his profession in some government department or activity. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; progress reported.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Dedman) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
The bill amends the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947. The amendments that the Government proposes have been made necessary by the happenings of tha past nine months, in which the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act has been in force. In a speech in this House, initiating the second-reading debate on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill in June, 1947, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represented the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), said -
Under this bill there will be no compulsion on medical practitioners or pharmaceutical chemists to take part in the scheme. By reason of the fact that the scheme is designed to lessen the economic barrier between the patient and efficient treatment for his illness or incapacity, the Government believes that the members of both professions will co-operate fully in giving effect to its intentions.
In a speech in the Senate in June last year dealing with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, the Minister for Health stressed that there was to be no regimentation of doctors, and that, co-operating in the scheme the doctor would have complete freedom, of action. He went on to say - . .a doctor is completely free either to come into the scheme or to stay outside it. A doctor who comes into it is not bound by the formulary if his conscience and medical judgment dictate the prescription of something that is outside it.
In many announcements since then, and in communications and conferences with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, the Minister has repeated the assurance that the Government does not seek, under this measure or under any other, to regiment the members of the medical profession. Just as frequently, he has asked for co-operation from the Federal Council and the body of the profession, and has sought, by meeting many of its objections and accepting some of its suggestions, to secure that measure of co-operation that is essential to the full working of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Whilst the Government has contended for the right of the doctor to freedom of judgment and of action, he has been denied that very freedom by the dictates of the Federal Council of his association - the British Medical Association in Australia.
The Federal Council of the British Medical Association advised doctors to stay outside the scheme, and, in a circular to all its members, also advised them to refuse to accept delivery of the printed formularies and prescription forms sent to them by the Government at the initiation of the scheme. Some 3,200 doctors, slightly more than half the membership of the British Medical Association in Australia, complied with that request, ‘ or in other words, obeyed that instruction. Thus it will be seen that a majority of the members of the Association have no knowledge of the contents of the formulary, on the merits or demerits of which the Federal Council claims they have recorded a rank-and-file decision. The doctors of Australia, and particularly those 3,200 to whom I have referred, hare, I suggest, not exercised their individual judgment but have acted on the judgment of the Federal Council. The result has been that only 117 doctors in the whole of Australia have come into the scheme. Nearly 6,000 remain outside the scheme, and of that number more than half do not know what the Government formulary provides and can have no independent opinion on the merits of the scheme that they are rejecting at the behest of the Federal Council.
I review now the efforts made by this Government to secure the co-operation of the British Medical Association right from the very inception of the pharmaceutical benefits plan. In 1943 the then Minister for Health, Senator Fraser, invited the British Medical Association to submit a panel of names from which he would make selections for appointment to a committee to frame the formulary. The British Medical Association declined this opportunity to shape the formulary. It did not submit a panel of names. It was not prepared to co-operate at the outset. When the Government, late in 1945, sought to implement the scheme under the act of 1944 and the amending measure of 1945, the Medical Society of Victoria attacked the two statutes in the High Court, which held that the measures proposed were outside the powers of the Commonwealth at that time. This deficiency was remedied by the referendum of 1946, which gave to the Commonwealth its present specific powers in relation to pharmaceutical benefits.
The next step was a conference that the Minister held with members of the Federal Council of the British Medical
Association in Melbourne in April, 1947. At that conference, the British Medical Association pressed three main objections. It objected to the use of a formulary, to the composition of the committee that was to revise the formulary, and to “ section 22 of the act, which provided a penalty of £50 or three months’ imprisonment in respect of any doctor prescribing under the scheme without making a personal examination of his patient. The Federal Council agreed, at that conference, to consider the formulary and make comments on it. The Minister agreed to recommend that the formulary committee should be predominantly medical in character, and to reconsider the provisions of section 22. Subsequently the Federal Council submitted two totally different proposals regarding the formulary. The first was that the Government should pay for anything at all a doctor might prescribe on his own prescription form. The second was that a limited list of “ life-saving and disease-preventing “ drugs should comprise the formulary.
In July, 1947, the Minister for Health wrote to the Federal Council inviting that body to nominate three members to confer with three Health Department officers as a committee of experts to elaborate and examine all of the proposals. Three months later, the Minister received a letter from the Federal Council rejecting this invitation. The act of 1947 repealed the acts of 1944 and 1945 and included some new provisions. It provided that the formulary committee should be predominantly medical, as the British Medical Association had requested. This committee was reconstituted so that there would be only two pharmacists on a committee of seven. The British Medical Association had been invited to submit a panel of names of doctors from which appointments of medical men to that committee would be made. The act of 1947 also eliminated the provisions of section 22 to which the British Medical Association had objected. In May, 1948, the announcement was made that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme would come into operation on the 1st June. As I have already said, the Federal Council of the British Medical Association advised doctors to refuse acceptance of the forms and formularies sent through the post, with the results I have already outlined. In a further effort to secure the cooperation of the British Medical Association the Minister wrote to the Federal Council on the 26th May, 1948, offering to discuss any aspects of the scheme, or any regulations to which exception was taken. This offer was not accepted, but after an exchange of letters, the Minister agreed to confer with the Federal Council on matters limited by it to three questions - the limitation of prescribing to a formulary, the use of prescription forms, and all penal clauses applicable to doctors. This conference was held at Melbourne on the 3rd July, 1948, and there was exhaustive discussion of these points. The Government offered then to approve substantial extensions of the formulary, to provide greater elasticity in the use of flavourings in compounds, and to allow two drugs, if necessary, to be added to a mixture instead of one drug, from the list of allowable additions.
Subsequently, the Federal Council was informed that the Government was prepared to adopt a larger and plainer prescription form which could be overprinted by individual doctors to record names, addresses, telephone numbers, surgery hours and other relevant particulars. The Government also agreed to permit two prescriptions instead of one to be written on one form, in order to meet another objection raised by the Federal Council, and to permit interchange of prescription forms between doctors. At the Melbourne conference, there was considerable discussion regarding the effect of regulations as they applied to doctors participating in the scheme. In the light of explanations made at the conference, the Federal Council did not press objections to penalties fixed by the act. As regards penalties - and they are monetary penalties only - fixed by the regulations, the Government agreed to amend certain regulations insofar as they applied to doctors. These amendments eliminating some penalties and obligations on doctors, and modifying others, are being made and will be promulgated at a later date.
Honorable members will agree that, in the history of the negotiations, there is ample evidence that the Government has been at all times ready to meet representatives of the medical profession -and discuss with them matters pertinent to the operation of the scheme.) The Government has shown that it is ready and willing to meet the reasonable requests of the British Medical Association. The Government has, in fact, ceded many points in its efforts to achieve the co-operation of the British Medical Association. On the other hand, the history reveals that there has been complete rigidity on the part of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. This body has not ceded one point in its opposition to the Government’s efforts to put the plan into effect. It has consistently refused to meet and confer, except on grounds put forward by itself. It has refused the opportunity offered to it of saying what shall be in the formulary and what shall be omitted. It has denied to its members the right to form their own judgments and opinions on the merits of the Government’s proposals. In his most recent letter to the Minister, Sir Henry Newland, who has recently resigned from the presidency of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, said- . . the alterations you are willing to make have failed to induce the members of the British Medical Association to offer cooperation in the working of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947.
In the meantime, doctors all over Australia are prescribing many specifics, including insulin, the sulpha drugs and penicillin, which are in the formulary, and in the British Medical Association’s own list. Their patients are being required to pay chemists for these prescriptions which could be supplied without charge but for the attitude of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia. The Government, having regard to the continuing attitude of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, to the fact that the many concessions it has been prepared to make, and has made, have not been met by any willingness on the part of this body to co-operate, and to the fact that some 117 doctors throughout Australia using the formulary have found it in practice adequate to provide for the major portion of their patients’ needs, is determined that the present unsatisfactory position shall be resolved. The Go vernment proposes in this measure to ensure that the benefits which it has sought to provide, and which the people themselves have approved, will be available to the people.
– Is that a reference te the referendum proposal?
– Yes. I come now to the provisions of the amending bill, of which two clauses may be regarded as substantive. Clause 5 provides for the insertion in the principal act of a new section, 7a, which reads -
Except as provided, a medical practitioner who writes a prescription for the supply to a person of (a) an uncompounded medicine, the name of which, or a medicinal compound the formula of which, is contained, or is deemed to be included, in the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary; or (&) a material or appliance the name of which is contained in the prescribed addendum to the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary, shall not write that prescription otherwise than on a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth for the purposes of this Act.
This proposed new section imposes no restriction on the freedom of a doctor to prescribe as he thinks fit in the interests of his patient. It simply provides that if the doctor thinks fit to prescribe a specific, a compound, a material or an appliance which is listed in the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary he shall write the prescription on a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth, enabling his patient to obtain the medicine, compound, or appliance, which he has seen fit to prescribe, without charge from the patient’s chemist. This amendment neither proposes nor initiates any interference with the practice of medicine. It involves the doctor only in a piece of paper - that on which he writes his direction to the chemist for the supply of the medicine, compound or appliance in the classes named in the section. The doctor still diagnoses and assesses his patient’s needs in the light of his medical knowledge and experience, and in accordance with his own unfettered judgment. The amendment takes effect only after the doctor has formed his opinion or judgment. If, in his opinion, his patient needs one of the specifics, compounds or appliances named in the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Formulary, then the proscription which conveys his instructions to the chemist must be written on the form provided by the Commonwealth.
The new and larger prescription forms designed to incorporate the improvements proposed to the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, and to which I made reference earlier, are now in course of being printed. Clause 5 of the bill will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. This date will be far enough ahead to ensure that all doctors shall be supplied with the new prescription forms, and shall have had ample time to make themselves familiar with the provisions of the formulary.
The other provision of the amending bill to which I have referred as substantive has reference to approved pharmaceutical chemists or to approved medical practitioners acting as chemists in remote areas. This is clause 9 of the amending bill, which amends section 13 of the principal act to provide that where approval of a pharmaceutical chemist, or medical practitioner, or hospital authority, has been revoked, appeal may be made to the Supreme Court of a State or territory. The amendment provides also that in this regard the Supreme Courts of the States shall be invested with federal jurisdiction. This provision widens the avenue of appeal, which under the act of 1947 was limited to appeal to the Minister. As honorable members will see, other provisions of the amending bill are of a minor or consequential nature to conform with the substantive amendments. Recently, the DirectorGeneral of Health again invited the Federal Council of the British Medical Association to submit names of members for appointment to the formulary committee. A reply dated the 10th March has just been received, intimating that the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, after considering its previous replies to the Government’s invitations is unable to accept this latest invitation. It will therefore be necessary to establish a committee without the assistance of that council. Action will hp taken immediately to establish a formulary committee in order that the present formulary may be revised and brought up to date. I commend this measure to this House as one that ensures that the will of the people, as expressed at the referendum in 1946, at the elections in that year, and through the Parliament, shall not be frustrated, but shall be translated into action, providing an even distribution throughout this country of a very real benefit, which in effect subsidizes the family budget.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 1578).
Part III. (The Executive of the Organization ) - Clause 11 - (4.) At least three members of the Executive shall be persons possessing scientific qualifications.
Upon which Mr. Holt had. moved, by way of amendment -
That, in clause 11, sub-clause (4.), after the word “ possessing “, the word “ high “ be inserted.
.- Prior to the suspension of the sitting the committee was discussing Part HI. of the bill which relates to the functions of the executive of the organization, the Minister’s power, and how the executive is to be constituted. There are several matters contained in the clauses of that Part upon which I should like to comment. I have before me a report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for last year. It is a very extensive and informative document, which shows that the scope of the work of the executive, and of the organization in general, is very wide indeed, touching upon almost every branch of the pastoral and agricultural industries and also upon certain other scientific matters. The point that I desire to make is that this work is all-important and should be of such a non-political character that the executive itself ought to be safeguarded from political appointments, from appointments that are made merely as a matter of political expediency or to provide, by way of a seat on the executive,a refuge for some defeated member of Parliament or any other person whom the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr.
Dedman) may seek to provide for as a matter of grace. I believe that this organization is of such importance that it -ought to be completely free of any suggestion of political taint. Because of the manner in which the Minister has exercised his power in the last year or two by making questionable appointments to the executive, I suggest that very careful consideration be given by the Government ;to the re-appointment, for example, of Mr. Donald Mountjoy. I notice in this report that Mr. Mount joy’s appointment was for three years from 1946. It will expire in November of this year. In his second-reading speech the Minister clearly outlined the duties of the executive. He said that the main initiative in carrying out research work and investigation will come from the executive itself and from the divisional chiefs of the organization. But here we find, in a report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research mention of matters upon which Mr. Mountjoy, as a member of the executive, «ould be expected, by virtue of his background and training, to contribute very little other than his presence and his vote. Here, for example, are some of the matters that came before the executive, by reference from the Minister or without reference from the Minister, for research.
– Order! I do not consider that the honorable gentleman is in order in referring to any particular individual.
– I ask you to note, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that clause 11 (4) states -
At least three members of the Executive shall be persons possessing scientific qualifications.
That leaves the two remaining members to be appointed as the Minister chooses.
– Order ! I do not consider that the honorable member is within his rights in referring to any individual.
– I shall not pursue that line any further. What I want to emphasize is that the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ip such that the persons selected for appointment to the executive ought to be selected only by virtue of their qualifications and of the assistance to the scientific work of the organization that they are able to give. The work performed by the council runs into hundreds of items, but I shall mention only the leading items, which include -
Entomological investigations; plant investi-gations; animal health investigations -
– The honorable member is surely not suggesting that the executive does that work itself?
– I am not suggesting anything of the sort, but I am suggesting that whoever has the responsibility of making recommendations to the Minister about such matters should have a fairly wide general knowledge of the kind of work to which the executive directs its attention and, without mentioning any names, I suggest that at least one of the persons appointed to the executive could not have the qualifications that would enable him to be of actual assistance to the executive in making a determination on scientific matters, and in making its recommendations. I have a very great admiration for the work that has been done by the organization.
There is another aspect to which I desire to direct the Minister’s attention. It is not entirely necessary for me to do so, because he referred to it in his second-reading speech, nevertheless I shall do so. In my opinion insufficient activity has been displayed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in publicising the results of its researches. I arn one of those people whose livelihood and activities are connected mainly with pastoral and agricultural problems. I have found very great difficulty in securing, from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, information in a form that I, a layman, can easily understand.
– Has the honorable member ever asked me for any information of that nature?
– I do not think, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that it should be necessary for any individual in the community to have to approach the Minister and ask him how to eradicate some parasite that might be destroying crops, or other questions of that kind. What T submit is that when 10,000 men and women are engaged in a particular activity and such information as this-
– Order ! That subject has been dealt with during the consideration of Part II. of the bill.
– Clause 12 refers to the policy and the work of the organization, and the funds required for carrying out its work. I am suggesting that a part of the work of the organization is to publicize the results of its researches in such a manner that they can be not only easily and. readily understood by those whom the researches are designed to assist, but also impressed strongly upon them, so that they may become aware of discoveries that have been made. As far as I can understand, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has usually confined itself to research work and has left consequential operations to organizations, such as the State Departments of Agriculture.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! That is all contained in clause 9. I ask the honorable member to keep to the clause that deals with the executive of the organization.
– My remarks are relevant to the Part under discussion.
– I rule that they are not.’
– I point out, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that clause 12 provides -
The Executive may make recommendations to the Minister with respect to -
the policy and work of the Organization’;
the funds required for carrying out the work of the Organization; and
the allocation of funds made available for carrying out that work.
I thought that I was confining my remarks to the work and the policy of the organization.
– Order! The matters that the honorable member has mentioned are covered by other clauses.
– Then I shall not proceed on that line. I have said sufficient to make my view on that particular matter clear. There is another matter which comes within the policy of the organization - or I hope that it does - and that is the interchange of scientists between Australia and other countries, possibly between Australia and the United States of America, Canada or Great Britain. I have learned with some regret from an authoritative source that certain young Australian research’ scientists who would otherwise work abroad have found it impossible to do so because of the poor remuneration that they would receive and the fact that the allowances that are allotted for expenses abroad would be insufficient to maintain them. That information has come to me in a very authoritative manner from a representative of a country that was extremely keen to have an interchange of young scientists with Australia. As a matter of fact that representative said to me that if Australia were willing, his country would be ready to provide the additional living allowances that the Australian scientists would require to enable an exchange to be made. I do not think that if that were done, it would reflect any great credit upon the Australian Government. It would be amazing to find that a country to which scientists had been allocated had to offer to pay, from its own governmental funds, expenses to enable them to remain abroad. The Government should make the allowances big enough to enable those who go abroad to live decently.
– Does not the honorable member think it. strange that the authorized representative of an overseas country should come to him to discuss a matter of that kind rather than to the Government?
– He did not come to me to discuss the matter. The information came out in the course of a casual conversation.
– Did the honorable member suggest that the overseas representative might talk the matter over with the Minister in charge of the department?
– Every time the Minister is reminded of something which he has failed to attend to he suggests that his critic should have gone round to the back-door of his home and told him about it rather than mention it in the Parliament.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member wishes to address the committee, I shall take my second period. I have mentioned the matter now so that the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the scientific officers concerned, as well as people in other countries who may be interested, will know that such matters are ventilated in the Parliament. I do not intend to go to the Minister as a private individual to beg his aid in connexion with some specific public matter which ought to be attended to by him as a part of his ordinary duty. In connexion with the matter under discussion, I do not offer any drastic criticism of the Government. I do not say that the failure to pay a proper overseas allowance is deliberate. I have, however, made what I hope is a constructive suggestion, which will be acted upon in the future. I realize that my hopes are sometimes unfounded, especially when I am dealing with the Minister in charge of this bill. We have in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research many promising young scientists who ought to be encouraged to continue their researches in the older countries.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has complained that allowances paid to Council for Scientific and Industrial Research students working ‘ overseas are not sufficiently generous. This matter was examined by the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the allowances were raised some time ago, so that they are now on a fairly generous scale. It is evident, therefore, that the matter has not been neglected by the Government, as the honorable member suggested. Moreover, “he cannot name any student who has complained of the allowance. The honorable member said that a highly placed representative from overseas had told him that the allowances were not sufficiently generous. The vague way in which the honorable member referred to the matter, and his failure to give the” name of any student who had complained, leads one to believe that the whole story was a figment of his imagination.
Part III. agreed to.
Part IV. agreed to.
Part V. (Staff)-
.- This part of the bill provides for the appointment of staff, and defines the conditions of their employment. When discussing this matter earlier to-day, I asked the Minister whether Sir David Rivett had approved of the proposals put before the Parliament, and the Minister replied that he could say, in general terms, that the Government’s proposals would be approved by Sir David. The Minister added that the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had approved of the Government’s proposals in general, but had some doubt about one or two points. When I pressed him, the Minister mentioned clause 21 (2) as one of the provisions about which the executive had doubts, but he did not state the nature of those doubts. Having regard to the fact that the executive will be required to function under this legislation, it is desirable that the Minister should indicate the matters to which the executive objects.
Another point .relating to clause 22 has been brought to my notice by a correspondent m my electorate. Clause 22 (1) provides that officers shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1948, but shall hold office on such terms and conditions as are, subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, determined by the executive. Thus, although the terms and conditions of employment will, in effect, be determined by the Public Service Board, the officers are not to be regarded as officers of the Public Service in the ordinary sense. My correspondent points out that ordinary members of the
Commonwealth Public Service have the right of appeal from decisions of the Public Service Board, but the bill makes no such provision in relation to officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. To that degree, it appears that they ‘will be worse off than are members of the Public Service proper. I do not know whether that is what the Government intends. If it is not, the Minister should examine the position with a view to ensuring that officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will not be less favorably situated in regard to decisions of the Public Service Board than are members of the Commonwealth Public Service.
– An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service who objects to the appointment of another person to a position has the right of appeal. In the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the right of appeal in such circumstances has been to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Under this legislation, the executive of the new organization will stand in the same relation to the organization as a whole as does a departmental head to his department. Any officer who feels aggrieved will have a right of appeal to the Public Service Board, because the board will have to approve of the terms and conditions of his appointment. Thus, the officer will have a right of appeal from the executive, which makes the appointments, to the Public Service Board.
– “Will the officer have rights no less favorable in substance than are those enjoyed by a member of the ‘Commonwealth Public Service?
– He will have exactly the same rights if it be accepted that the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will stand in the same relation to the Public Service Board as the head of a department does now.
In my reply to the second-reading debate I mentioned clause 21 (2) and said that some members of theexecutive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were not happy about it. I could not give a forthright answerwhen asked whether Sir David. Rivett was in entire agreement with the measureUnfortunately, Sir David Rivett had to go into hospital about a fortnight, ago for a slight operation, and he- is now convalescing. I have not had an opportunity to discuss with .him the details of the measure. However, discussionshave taken place with other members of the executive, some- of whom, have been in touch with Sir David Rivett from time to time.! I alsoinferred, and I now state clearly, that certain members of the executive - not all” of them, because some have not had ant opportunity to express an opinion - are not too happy about clause 21 (2).. However, the provision has been considered closely by me, by the- draftsman,, and by Mr. Dunk, chairman: of1 the PublicService Board, and the wording of thesubclause is the best we can- think of in. order to qualify the power of the executive to make appointments under the act.. We wish to make it clear- that all new appointments to the Council for Scientificand Industrial Research Organization, shall be subject to the same screeningfor security purposes as now applies toappointments to the Public Service generally. The sub-clause gives effect to a: promise which I made in this Parliament a long time ago. While it is passible, as has been suggested, that the sub-clause could be interpreted to give the board authority to intervene for reasons other than those associated with security,, the intention of the Government wasmerely to give effect to my promise. It is not the intention of theGovernment that the Public Service Board shall have any say in determining, for example, the scientific qualifications of appointees to the staff of theCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Obviously, that is a matter on which the executive itself is much more competent to form a judgment than the Public Service Board-‘ would be. The provision gives effect tomy promise that all new appointees tothe organization will be subject to thesame screening as is applied to appointeesto the Public Service.
– I was interested to hear the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Dedman) say that clause 21 (2) had been inserted to ensure that appointees to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization shall be screened in the same way as appointees to the Public Service are screened. Being naturally of a suspicious turn of mind, I referred to clause 5 (2) which provides -
All officers and employees of the Council holding office or employed immediately prior to the commencement of this Act shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, continue to hold office or to be employed as if they had been appointed or employed, as the case may be, by the Organization under this Act.
I do not know whether that means that the Communists who we have spoken of as employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will automatically be transferred to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, without screening, whereas new appointees will be screened. That would not make sense. Part V. of the bill relates to the staff of the organization. Clause 21 (1) sets out -
Subject to this Part, the Executive may appoint such officers of the organization as it thinks necessary for the purposes of this Act.
No argument can be raised against that provision. Then sub-clause 2 provides -
The selection of persons for appointment of officers under this Section shall be made in accordance with such requirements as the Public Service Board determines.
That provision, as the Minister has just explained, has been inserted to ensure that appointees to the organization shall be subject to the same screening as are appointees to the Public Service. Subclause 3 provides -
A person shall not be appointed as an officer under this Section unless -
he is a British subject;
the Executive is satisfied, upon medical examination, us to his health and physical fitness; and
he makes and subscribes an oath or affirmation of allegiance in accordance with the form in the Second Schedule to this Act.
But sub-clause 4 provides -
The Executive may, ‘ with the approval of the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
That means, if one reads it in the broadest sense, that if it be desired to appoint a foreigner who is not prepared to make and subscribe the oath or affirmation of allegiance, he may still be appointed because of the high scientific value of his service. The Minister may ask, “What is wrong with that ? “ I would say that if he was not a saboteur, a member of a subversive organization or communistically inclined, there might not be anything greatly wrong with it, but we know that Communists have been appointed to positions by the Government, and we are naturally suspicious of a provision that dispenses with the need for an oath or affirmation of allegiance and gives the executive the right, with the approval of the Minister, to appoint a person to the staff who is outside the categories that I have already mentioned. The Minister may say that such a man would be screened to ensure that his character was all right. He may also say, “We have taken out of the control of the executive the Aeronautical Research Section of its activities and transferred the officers engaged on that work to the control of the Department of Supply and Development because of its high defence character “. But one cannot pass lightly over the duties of the organization in scientific research as applied to modern warfare. Great strides have been made in the direction of bacteriological warfare. The release of bacteria in a war might well destroy civilization. The world’s food supply could be destroyed. Untold misery and hardship would be caused to people not directly engaged in warfare by feat of arms. Bacteria could penetrate into the homes and bring disaster to the women and children. Further developments in bacteriological warfare could easily originate in experiments conducted by officers of the organization, perhaps by chance. I pass to clause 23, which states - (1.) Subject to this Part the Executive may employ such temporary or casual employees of the Organization as the Executive thinks necessary for the purposes of this Act. (3.) A person shall not be employed under this Section unless when required by the Executive so to do, he makes and subscribes an Oath or Affirmation of Allegiance in accordance with the form in the Second Schedule to this Act.
That means that temporary and casual employees will not have to make and subscribe an oath or affirmation of allegiance until required to do so by the executive. Doubtless, the Minister will again say that they will be screened, and that no difficulties will arise. I know perfectly well that that is the intention of the Government, but, when one has the Healys, the Elliotts, the Rudkins and the Pomeroys appointed by the Government to positions of high trust, one naturally becomes suspicious. But for the fact that I know that it would be futile, I should be tempted to move an amendment similar to that which I moved to meet h somewhat similar situation that arose during our consideration of the Shipping Bill to provide that no Communist or suspected Communist shall be employed. If the Government made such a provision it would establish that it has no intention of appointing one of that treacherous crew of Communists to undermine and sabotage our democracy. The Government would not accept such an amendment. It would not accept the amendment proposed on the Shipping Bill.
– I do not propose to move an amendment because it would be a waste of time. The Government would not accept it. I admit that the arguments of the Minister give the impression on the surface that all will be well, but I .have my suspicions that all will not be well, because I know the record of the Government. The general public will also be suspicious.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has criticized clause 21 (4) which reads -
The Executive may, with the approval of the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, at any time, in war or peace, is likely to seek the assistance of overseas scientists, particularly scientists from the United States of America. The Government of the United States of America has sent scien tists abroad to assist many foreign, countries to solve their problems. 1 can think, offhand, of a great deal of scientific assistance that the United Statesof America has given to Greece. It islaid down in the law of the United States of America that if its nationals make an oath of allegiance to a foreign monarch or government, they forfeit their citizenship of the United States of America. The same situation applies in respect of the laws of other countries. Naturally, a scientist brought to Australia from the United States of America would not make an oath of allegiance to the King or his successors, because he would thereby forfeit his citizenship of the United States of America. Clearly, therefore, this legislation must make provision for foreign scientists to join the staff of the organization temporarily. No valid criticism can . be advanced against the provision. There is nothing to prevent such a scientist taking an oath of secrecy.
There are certain clauses in Part V. that I should like the Minister to explain more fully. I refer him particularly to clause 22 (2), which reads -
Where an officer appointed under this Part, was, immediately prior to his appointment an. officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth, his service as an officer of the Organization shall, for the purpose of determining his existing and accruing rights, be taken into account as if it were service in the Public Service of the Commonwealth . . .
That safeguards the position of a public servant who joins the staff of the organization and presumably it safeguards the position of a man employed by the organization who rejoins the Public Service, but the whole of Part V. appears to have rigidity that regulations may get over. This is the point that I should like the Minister to explain: Scientists are necessarily continually changing their positions. There has been a considerable movement of scientists from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the universities, State Departments of Agriculture and laboratories maintained by private enterprise as well as in the reverse direction. Some people have gone in and out of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research many times. Are any steps to be taken to safeguard their rights? I think offhand of Dr. Currie, Vice-Chancellor of the University of”
Western Australia. He was employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I have not beer authorized to use his name or to cite him as an instance. I do not know, but I assume that he contributed for superannuation as a member of the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Is there to be any provision whereby payment of money by such a man into the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund shall be transferable to a university superannuation fund or from a university superannuation fund to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund? The Government should encourage the utmost fluidity in the staff of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Universities can very often do excellent research work, because they are continually getting new teams of enthusiastic young people who, having graduated, perhaps with honours, gain special knowledge of a research technique. I imagine that very few of the scientists in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could remain enthusiastic research workers for 30 or 40 years. If they join the organization at the age of 25 years and remain there until they are 65 years of age, new scientific research techniques will pass them by unless provision is made for them to turn from nip pried research to refresher courses, and to take sabbatical leave, as it were, to go overseas. All approximations of the position of scientific personnel to the position of public servants arouse disquiet in the minds of scientists. Public servants do not go overseas to pick up the latest ideas in research, or take leave every five or seven years to refresh their knowledge of research techniques. Every suggestion that the conditions of scientists are to be approximated to those of civil servants causes alarm among scientists. I should like the Minister to clarify that matter when he replies.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been a magnet that has attracted to it agricultural experts from State Departments of Agriculture, in general, the salaries and conditions of service offered by the Commonwealth have been superior to those offered by State departments, and, in consequence, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has continually drawn men from those departments. Some scientists who are particularly interested in work of a State department may wish to return to their employment with the department after spending a period of time with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I should like to know whether the Government intends to make provision in the regulations that will be made under this legislation to safeguard the position of such men and to ensure that the payments they may make to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund or any other superannuation fund to which members of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will contribute, will be applied to the State department superannuation fund when they return to the department. These are matters which are worrying a number of scientists, and 1 should be grateful if the Minister would clarify the position.
– The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has raised a number of points, to which I shall endeavour to reply. The honorable gentleman has dealt with the criticism of sub-clause 4 of clause 21 that was made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). The sub-clause reads as follows: -
The Executive mar, with the approval o( the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
The committee will, doubtless, agree that there can be no valid criticism of that provision. The honorable member for Wentworth pointed out that sub-clause 2 of clause 21 deals only with the security screening of new appointees to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and inquired in what part of the bill, if any, provision is made for the security screening of persons who are at present employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and who, by virtue of the provisions of clause 5 of the bill, will automatically be transferred to the new organization when the act is proclaimed. Sub-clause 1 of clause 22 provides -
Officers shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1948, but shall hold office on such terms and conditions as arc, subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, determined by the Executive.
It is under that provision that persons who are now employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be subjected to character screening.
Let me turn to the points that have been raised by the honorable member for Fremantle. Sub-clause 1 of clause 22 deals with the terms and conditions upon which officers of the organization shall hold office. I have already said that that sub-clause provides for the character screening of present employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Sub-clause 2 of clause 22 is in the usual form of a provision for preserving the existing and accruing rights, including rights relating to sick leave and annual leave, of public servants who may be appointed to the organization. With regard to rights in relation to superannuation, the position is that the officers who- are at present employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, if they are permanent officers of the organization, contribute to the superannuation fund of the Commonwealth in the same way as do public servants. That does not apply to temporary officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I cannot say offhand whether the gentleman mentioned by the honorable member for Fremantle was at any time a permanent officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research or whether he was merely a temporary officer of the organization and, having been employed by it for some time, was then, appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia. Existing officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are covered by the Commonwealth Superannuation Act. If they are permanent officers, they make contributions to the superannuation fund. The Commonwealth wishes to encourage to the greatest possible degree the interchange of officers by the Council for Scientific and
Industrial Research and Australian universities, overseas universities, State departments which deal with scientific matters, and the Scientific Research division of the Department of Supply and Development. There are probably other Commonwealth departments which employ personnel with scientific qualifications, and an exchange of personnel between those departments and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization would be desirable if it could be arranged. The Government intends to do all that it can to encourage the fluidity to which the honorable member for Fremantle has referred. One way in which the Government can do so is to ensure that an individual who is a contributor to a superannuation fund shall not lose his rights in that fund when he joins the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That is a matter to which the Government has given a great deal of attention. It is not dealt with in the bill. When, the question has been completely investigated and a plan formulated, it will be dealt with by an amendment to the Superannuation Act. Honorable members will recollect that it was decided first that the staff of the Australian National University should become contributors to the superannuation fund. Subsequently it was discovered that employees of the university might be contributors to a superannuation fund which is known as the Federated Superannuation Scheme for Universities. The Australian National University Act has therefore been amended to provide that employees of the university may contribute to either of the funds. If a person who has been a contributor to the Federated Superannuation Scheme for Universities is appointed to the staff of the Australian National University he may continue to contribute to that fund and thus maintain his elibibility to draw benefits from it. It is hoped that provision can be made for employees of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization who come from Commonwealth departments, State departments or from universities in Australia or overseas, and who are contributors to a superannuation fund other than thi1 Commonwealth fund, to continue to be eligible to draw benefits from the fund to which it is decided that they shall contribute when they become members of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That matter will be considered very carefully, and the necessary amendments will be made to the Superannuation Act. .
– I am not satisfied with the reply that the Minister has made to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) in relation to the clauses that are now before the committee. These clauses are the crux of the bill. They deal with the method of appointment of staff to the organization and with the screenings to which new appointees and existing mem- bers of the staff of the Council foi Scientific and Industrial Research will be subjected. The clauses come belatedly before the Parliament as a result of the exposures that were made last year by the honorable member for Wentworth, who was then Acting Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). Honorable members will recall the famous conference between the Minister and the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which took place on the 6th July, 1948.
– Order! That matter has nothing to do with Part V. of the bill, which deals with the staff of the proposed organization.
– At that conference the Minister referred directly to the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He said that he had been informed that there were more Communists in the employment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research than in any other government department. That was one of the passages in the secret document, the existence of which-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The committee is not considering secret documents.
– It has been alleged that that is what the Minister said. He has never denied it, and I challenge him to deny it now. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research employs a number of persons who, on the Minister’s own admission, cause him some uneasiness lest they be Communists. That fact has also caused uneasiness among people who disclose to the organization the secrets of other countries. The Minister has said that this part of the bill will overcome much of the trouble to which reference was made at that famous conference. He has said that the screening tests provided by the Public Service Regulations will afford sufficient protection to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and presumably, to the Commonwealth, which depends upon the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in respect of certain matters. Regarding the nature of the screening tests, the honorable gentleman has said only that they will be character tests. What kind of character tests will they be? Will they be tests of honesty, of moral scruples and the like, or of political beliefs, especially in relation to communism? Will the Minister say that no Communist will be admitted to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization ? Will he say that any Communists who may be discovered in the organization when these screening tests are applied will be transferred to another department in which he can do less damage than in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization? The phrase “character tests”’ is a very wide one. It is capable of almost any meaning that a person wishes to attach to it. The Minister will doubtless say in reply that one of the character tests, and so far as I can see it is the only one,, will be the willingness of a person to take the oath of allegiance.
– What about clause 31, which deals with official secrecy ?
– That clause does not relate to character tests. As far as I can gather, the oath of allegiance is the principal character test that will beapplied. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) unwittingly told us how the Communists go aboutevading a character test..
– I did not do so unwittingly.
– He told us something of the practices adopted by people who intend to achieve their objectives irrespective of any commitments they may have entered into as the result of an oath administered to them. He recounted a story about some Communists who wished to hold a meeting in a certain town hall in South Australia. He said that the mayor and the members of the local council refused to hire the hall to the Communists until they had taken an path of allegiance. The Communists were not nonplussed by that demand. They took the oath of allegiance for the sole purpose of hiring the town hall for a night. They would not regard that oath as binding any more than would other Communists who might take an oath of allegiance in order to gain entry to the inner circles of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization where they would be in a position to secure valuable information of benefit to a possible enemy. The committee is entitled to an explanation from the Minister of the nature of the test to be applied. How are the persons who are to be employed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to be judged? What does the Minister propose to do about known Communists already employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ?
Part V. agreed to.
Parts VI. and VII. agreed to.
First and Second Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th March (vide page 1329), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill on which honorable members on this side will not take up much of the time of the House. It purports to amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1944, which regulates the compensation payments that are to be made to seamen engaged in interstate trade in Australia who, during the course of their employment, suffer injury; and to the dependants of seamen who die as a result of such injuries. In introducing the bill the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that it had been drafted in its present form in order to bring the seamen’s compensation legislation into line with the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and to give to seamen the same rights as are enjoyed by Commonwealth employees under that act. I see no necessary reason why seamen and Commonwealth employees should be given the same amount of compensation, but as a matter of practice and of ordinary justice when I examine the scale of benefits contained in the principal act and compare it with that proposed in this amending bill I can see no reason for opposing the changes. In fact I can see every reason for supporting them. It seems to me that in these days when a seaman loses the sight of both eyes as the result of his employment he is as much entitled to have the compensation for his injuries raised from £800 to £1,250, as is contemplated by this bill, as is a Commonwealth employee under the bill that we debated in November last. There are some clauses in the bill to which I should like to refer briefly. The first is clause 5 which alters the incidence of benefits under the act in cases where injury or accident is sustained by a seaman arising out of or in the course of his employment. I point out to the House, as I did in connexion with a similar clause in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation legislation that the preposition “ or “ has been inserted in place of the conjunction “ and “. In the previous legislation covering both seamen and Commonwealth employees the relevant phrase used was “ arising out of and in the course of his employment “. As the result of judicial interpretations, particularly in New South Wales but also in other States, certain limitations were imposed on the right of employees to receive compensation because it was held - and rightly so- that an employee must satisfy two qualifications before he became entitled to the benefit. First, his injury must have arisen out of his employment and, secondly, it must have been sustained in the course of his employment. Some years ago thewording of the relevant provision in the New South Wales legislation was changed and it is now proposed to effecta similar change in the Commonwealth legislation. If an injury arises out of or in the course of a seaman’s employment compensation will in future be payable to him. Having regard to the march of events, and to the development ofwhat I might call a national conscience in this and other countries in respect of those injured in the course of their employment,this seems to be aproper change to make, and we, on this side of the House endorse it. Another change is to be made by proposed new section 5aa. The principal act provided that compensation shouldbe payable in cases where a seaman sustained injury while travelling to and from work. A brief code of provisions defined what was meant by the phrase “ travelling to and from “ work. That codehas now been abandoned. As the result of experience that I have had in the courts during my professional careerI can well understand the reason for that. In the past difficulties have arisen over the interpretationofthe phrase. Proposed new section 5aa reads - (1. ) Wherepersonal injury by accident is caused to a seaman while he is travelling to or from - (a.) his place of employment;
The following proviso has been added : -
Provided that if it is shown that, in the circumstances of any particular case, the nature extent, degree and content of the risk of accidentwere not materially changed or increased by reason only of the interruption or deviation, the injury or accident shall be deemed to have been caused to the seaman while travelling to or from work.
Stripped of its legal phraseology, and reduced to the simplest possible terms, the provision means that whenever a seaman on his way to or from his work is injured he shall be entitled to receive compensation for the injury. No longer are there to be any difficult problems associated with whether or not he was travelling to or from his place of abode - the terminus a quo or ad quern problems that caused somuch difficulty in the past. In the past the apparently simplematters of whether an employee ; had been travelling to or from his work andwhether he had made any unreasonable deviation during the course of his journey caused great difficulties, particularly in those cases where , aman had left his place of employment, and, in the course of his journey tohis home, mayhave made a slight deviation in search of refreshment or on some other business of his own. I do notpretend to be entirely satisfied by the way in which this bill has ‘been drawn.I do not think that its provisions will provide a satisfactory solution of these difficult problems, but I do not propose to ask the House to vote against it. Ultimately, these problems solve ‘themselves by the process of judicial interpretation in cases which come before the court in which an application for compensation is resisted on the ground that it falls outside the provisions of the act.
– It is difficult to define these matters in precise language in a bill.
Mr.BEALE. - They are probably better defined in such legislation as that passed in New South Wales in 1916. The New South Wales act has had a great deal of case law and judicial interpretation applied to it, and it has worked fairly well. However, I do not intend to be critical about what may be regarded as a minor detail of the bill. I am prepared to give this new provision a trial. If it involves a widening of the benefits, well and good ; if it involves too much widening of the benefits, the position will be corrected in the courts, or by some subsequent parliament. I am informed that this provision largely follows the South Australian legislation.
I note, in passing, that the medical benefits for injured seamen are to be widened. I find nothing in that proposal to which objection can be taken by honorable members on this side of the House. Any man who is injured in the course of his employment is entitled to reasonable generosity in the way of benefits, either from his employers or from the State. Clause 8 amends section 5o of the principal act inter alia by deleting the schedule to the principal act that contained a list of cornpens a table diseases. This bill provides that a seaman found to be suffering from a disease attributable to or aggravated by his employment, shall be entitled to compensation. That provision seems to .be in line with the general development that has taken place in the community, and I and other honorable members on this side of the House endorse it. The bill as a whole appears to be desirable, and all honorable members will approve of it.
However, there are a few matters to which I desire to direct attention. One of them is the question of election. The House discussed this subject when we were considering the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill last November. On that occasion, several honorable members drew attention to difficulties which, they considered, would arise over the matter of election. The House will understand that by “ election “ I mean the position that arises when an employee has a double right in respect of compensation. He may be involved in an accident in circumstances which give to him not only a right of workers’ compensation against the Commonwealth as his employer, but also a right of taking action at common law to recover damages arising out of negligence. The distinction is clear. The right which an employee has under this bill lies, irrespective of carelessness or negligence on the part of any individual. It is a statutory right that exists merely because of the relation of employer to employee. However, an employee may have a right at common law arising from negligence. It may be proved that the employer, or his servant or agent acting on his behalf, has been careless in such a way and in such circumstances as to enable the employee to bring an action for damages which are unlimited in amount. In the same way, a person is entitled to sue another person who runs him down in the street. If a person is hit by a motor car while he u walking across a street and can prove that the driver of the vehicle acted carelessly, he may sue that person for damages. The jury may award large or small damages. They may amount to thousands of pounds if the victim has been gravely ot fatally injured. Under this legislation, the maximum amount that an injured person may recover, irrespective of negligence, is £1,250. Hence the position arises that a man who is injured in the course of his employment, and his employer is at fault, probably through th* action of another employee or agent, must make up his mind whether he will accept compensation under this act or exercise his right at common law to sue for damages. The matter of election ha* always given rise to great difficulties. In New South “Wales, efforts have been made to solve those difficulties, but they have not been entirely satisfactory. In this bill, the Government seeks to solve the problem in another way. It has adopted the same words as those which appear in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, which the House considered last year. The point to which I desire to direct attention arises out of proposed new section 10a, sub-section 1 of which reads as follows : -
Except as provided by this Act, a seaman shall not be entitled, in respect of personal injury by accident arising out of or in the course of his employment, to receive compensation or any payment by way of compensation from the employer both independently of and also under this Act.
As a matter of obvious common sense, no honorable member will cavil with that provision. It would be most unreasonable for an employee to be able to have it both ways. At some stage, he must hare the obligation cast upon him to elect whether he will accept compensation under the act, or exercise his rights at common law. In other words, he must decide whether he will accept the more limited benefits provided by the act, or attempt to prove negligence against his employer, in which event, if successful, he may get much larger damages. Sub-section 2 of proposed new section 10a provides as follows : -
Where personal injury is caused to a seaman in circumstances which create, or appear to create, a legal liability in the employer to pay damages in respect of the injury and the seaman has received compensation under this Act, the seaman shall not be entitled to take proceedings against the employer to recover damages unless he commences those proceedings within twelve months after the date upon which he received payment, or the first payment, of compensation under this Act.
Sub-section 3 of the same proposed new section, which I need not read, provides that an injured person who has obtained compensation for negligence must make the appropriate deductions from the amount that he has already been paid under the act. The bill provides that he shall not be entitled to take proceedings against the employer to recover damages unless he commences those proceedings within twelve months after the date upon which he received compensation, or the first payment under this act. During the debate on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill some of us expressed the view that the period of twelve months was too short. The proposition which I supported then should be stated again and again. It is not always right to limit the employee to twelve months within which he must make up his mind, because nature does not always allow him to do so. Certain kinds of injury do not manifest themselves until after a period of twelve months has expired. It will be obvious to all honorable members that the criticism which I am voicing now is intended to confer a greater benefit upon workers, because I consider that their rights should be preserved for longer than twelve months. I suggest, for instance, that an injury to the brain, or an injury to a person who is no longer young, may not fully assert itself until after the expiration of twelve months. All honorable members are familiar with the experiences of men who served in World War I. and who, many years after they suffered injuries on active service, begin to show the really deleterious effects of the strain that they underwent. At the appropriate stage in committee, I propose to move, as an amendment, that a rider be added to sub-section 2 of proposed new section 10a as follows: -
Or within such further time not exceeding three years as the court in the special circumstances of the case may allow.
– Will the honorable member make a copy of the amendment available to me ?
– Order I I suggest that the honorable member should deal with the amendment in committee.
– I am merely foreshadowing the amendment for the information of the Minister. Later, I shall hand a copy of it to him. I shall illustrate the point which I am seeking to make. A man may be struck by a truck or be otherwise injured in his employment on the 1st January, 1950, but the gravest results of that injury may not manifest themselves by the 31st December, 1950. If he is the average Australian, he is glad to leave hospital, return to his job and take up the threads of his normal life again. He will take his “ compo “ while he feels ill, but a9 soon as he feels better he will go back to work. Long after the expiration of twelve months, serious effects of the injury which he has suffered may manifest themselves. Therefore, I urge the Government to consider the advisability of extending the period. Under the statute of limitations he has six years within which to bring his claim for damages at common law. Honorable members will be justified in asking why I have limited the period in my proposed amendment to three years. I have done so because I realize that administrative difficulties are involved, and that it is necessary to have some degree of finality. However, I believe that, in the matter of an injury to a worker, the period of twelve months is too short, and, therefore, as a compromise, I suggest that the Government accept the period of three years. Even under my, proposal, an. injured employee would not. be entitled to.- take advantage of the longer period5 unless the court considered that the particular circumstances of the- case justify- it. That, is .an- extra piece’ of generosity which should commend itself to the Government.
I now- direct attention to a certain definition in proposed new section 3 (1). I referred to this matter when the House was- considering the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill in termswhich make it necessary for me to- restate, my position. The definition of “ member of the family “ is as follows : - “ member al the family “, in- relation to a. seaman, means the. wife or husband, father,, mother, grandfather’, grandmother; step-father;, step-mother son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister; adopted child, mother-in-law or any- woman who.- fornot less than three years immediately, prior to his death or incapacity was wholly or mainly maintained- by the seaman, and. who,, although not legally, married, to. him., lived with him- as his; wife on a. permanent and. bona, fide domestic, basis and’ who, at the date of. bis death or incapacity, is- maintaining ona ox- more.- children under sixteenyears, of. age.- or. is- nob less than fifty years of age.
That definition, includes, the- female of: whom. we. speak .as the- de facto- wife.
– ^’Dependant female” is. a> better term.
– If that” piece- of gentility pleases the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) better’ than de facto wife; he may have it that- way, but de facto wife is a well-known expression, and I do not think that it is offensive to anybody. In my- opinion, it is better than “dependant female “, because it. indicates- that- something approximating, the state- of wifehood has” been set up in the. home to which the definition refers: I am. concerned about’ this: matter; because; in recent times, this- kind of definition has-. been included in more* than one- Commonwealth act. Speaking from- memory; T believe that it is* in the social services, legislation; the Australian Soldiers’’ Repatriation Act and the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. When I’ was: speaking1 on the- last-named act;. I used’ words- which T consider are still applicable to the bill now under consideration. On that occasion, I mad’e the folio wing statement.:- -
F also stated! that, in the. particular circumstances of that, bill,. I was: not pre- pared to vote- against it. In the Seamen’s ‘Compensation Bill, which, the Ho,use is now- considering, similar provision* is made- for a. de facto- wife.. In my viewy anything which, derogates fromthe ordinary married state; is a grave, injury to: Australia, and’,, therefore, it. isi only with- the. greatest, reluctance that, any honorable, member in. this House., regardless of the political party to which he belongs; brings; himself to. sanction, a-, definition of that- kind.. The bill corresponds in this respect with; several acts’ that, this Parliament- has passed, but I desire to say that we must be extremely* careful about how far- we are- prepared’, to go in this- matter. For my part, I am not prepared1 to- go any further in1 any other legislation. £ propose, so far as this- particular legislation is- concerned, to placeupon the- notice-paper larter a question that will seek to discover bow many cases of this sort- have- been experienced”, in the operation of various acts, and how many applicants- have- received those benefits. It may be, if we discover- that the- section is- being abused and that, the numberis unduly large; that we shall have to take action te return to- a state - where themarriage tie and genuine home life will’ be further protected,, as’ they must beprotected. This is- identical legislation with a bill to- which this Parliament has- already given approval, and it’ would’ be illogical’ to- denyto women who have- lived’ on1 a bona1 fideand honest basis with’ seamen the same- consideration as is extended to those who lire or have lived on that basis with certain employees of the Australian Government. I am somewhat comforted to find that considerable safeguards exist in this matter, and that there must be a three-year relationship existing immediately prior to the death or injury of the claimant, that it must be of a permanent nature, that it must be bona fide and with a person who has borne one or more children who, at the time of the claim, are under the age of sixteen years, or who is over the age of 50 years. Those qualifications seem to me to give some safeguard, but I am extremely uneasy about it as I know, as other honorable members know, that in the interests of the country, we cannot afford to go any further than we are going in the present measure. Subject to the qualifications that I have stated, we, on this side of the House, approve this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.-I desire to move an amendment to clause 1.0. The relevant portion of the clause reads -
I move -
That, in proposed new section 10a, at the end of sub-section (2.) the following words be added: - “or within such further time not exceeding three years as the court in the special circumstances of the case may allow “.
Those additional words are intended to enlarge the time within which a person who has already received compensation under the act may make a claim under common law. There are many cases in which an applicant may not know within a period of twelve months that he has sustained injuries of so serious a nature that he may desire to pursue his remedy at common law. By this amendment the additional period is only to apply in such special circumstances as the court may decide. I trust that the Minister will accept the amendment.
– It is very difficult for a Minister in charge of a bill to accept an amendment that he has not even seen, but I may say that all the clauses of the bill have been the subject of very close investigations by the Government, not only in relation to this particular measure but also in relation to the act that was passed last year, relating to compensation for Commonwealth employees. Does the honorable member suggest that his amendment provides for something that has been provided for in acts relating to workers’ compensation ?
– No. The point I desired to make was that-
– The Minister has the floor.
– I have the answer that I wanted, which is that this suggested provision is not included in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act with which the House dealt last year, and since that is so, and the purpose of this measure is merely to bring the Seamen’s Compensation Act into line with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act which we amended last year, the Government cannot see its way clear to accept the amendment.
.- That is the strangest reason that I have heard given for passing legislation. My desire was to give adequate compensation provisions to seamen injured in their employment, and I do not think that it follows that, because the Government did not accept such an amendment on a previous occasion in respect of another bill, it should not do so now. Some honorable members have had experience of this kind of claim, including the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) who had something to say on this matter when we debated it last year. Cases arise in which a man does not know what is wrong with him within a particular time, because his injury does not manifest itself in a sufficiently serious form. Simply because the Minister in charge of the previous bill was not pre-‘ pared to accept such an amendment is surely no reason why the Minister in charge of this bill should not accept this amendment, having regard to the fact that all it intends to do is to protect the worker to a slightly greater degree than he has been protected up to date.
– I do not see that there is a need to make any greater provision than is made at present. The Government went into this question very thoroughly when we last amended the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act last year. Before that measure was drafted, long and detailed discussions were held with representatives of the trade union movement and all interests concerned with workers’ compensation generally, and all these matters were very thoroughly investigated at that time. As a result of these investigations we made certain amendments to the act which liberalized it considerably in many ways. The main purpose of this bill is to bring the Seamen’s Compensation Act into line with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, a9 amended. Because all the matters to which the honorable member has referred have been so closely investigated, and because also the provisions of the proposed new section 10a of the bill are exactly the same as the relevant provisions contained in the workers’ compensation acts of South Australia and New South Wales, I do not see any reason why the honorable member’s amendment is necessary.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave-r-Te&d a third time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 36 (Composition of Legislative Council) -
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - At end of clause add the following sub-clause: - “ (7.) A member of the Legislative Council shall, before taking his seat, make and subscribe before the Administrator, or a person thereunto authorized by the Administrator, an oath or affirmation in the form in the Sixth Schedule to this Act.”.
Clause 59 (Appointment and tenure of chief judge and judges) -
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - Leave om “Sixth”, insert “Seventh”.
Senate’s amendment No. 3.- After the Fifth Schedule insert the following Schedule: -
” SIXTH SCHEDULE.
Oath. 1, A.B., do swear that I will render true and faithful service as a member of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. So help me God!
I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely prom island declare that I will render true and faith ful service as a member of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and Now Guinea.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 4. - Leave out “SIXTH SCHEDULE”, insert “SEVENTH SCHEDULE “.
. - I move -
That the Senate’s amendments he agreed to.
The amendments all relate to the requirement that a member of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea shall, before taking his seat on the council, make and subscribe an oath or affirmation of allegiance. The amendment to clause 36, which makes this provision, was made by the Senate after it had been suggested in this chamber by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). Consequential upon the amendment it was necessary to add a new schedule to the bill, prescribing the form of the oath or affirmation to be made by a member of the council.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
War Service Homes - Private Correspondence : Allegation’s against Department of Trade and Customs - Wheat.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a matter that affects the War Service Homes Division of the Department of Works and Housing. The details of the case that I propose to place before the Minister for his consideration are contained in a letter that I have received from a Mr. McGann, of 87 Roscoe-street, Bondi. His letter is dated the 14th March, and it deals with a war service home. I propose to read the letter, because it is not only specific, but is also rather condensed and sets out all the details concerning the difficulties experienced by this man in his efforts to obtain a home. He first of all sets out his military record. He states that he enlisted in October, 1939, with the 6th Division, Second Australian ImperialForce, 3rd Battalion, that his regimental number was NX4938, that his war service included 797 days in the Middle East and 616 days in Australia. He was discharged medical class “ B “ on the 22nd November, 1943, his discharge certificate number being 5163. He was discharged with the rank of warrant officer. He is therefore a man who is worthy of some consideration from the Government. He tells rather a sorry story and I am perfectly certain that the Minister is not aware that these conditions are operating within his own department. If he were aware of them [ do not think that he would permit them to continue. Mr. McGann states in his letter -
On discharge 1 made application to the War Service Homes Commission for a home. I received a letter stating that the Government had not granted a loan for the 2nd war hut that my application would be noted and when a loan was granted I would be treated with every consideration. In November, 1947, I received a letter stating that a loan was granted, giving details of land available and informing me that I was entitled to a home.
I selected Lot 39 Sunny Crescent, Punchbowl, on the 20th November, 1947. My War Gratuity was transferred to the War Service Department. Then I had an interview with the architects re plans and specifications. The architects’ fees were paid on 31st March, 1947 (receipt No. 726088).
On 15th January, 1948, I received a letter stating that the lowest tender was submitted by Mr. A. R. Manning, of Punchbowl. On 24th January, 1948, security documents were signed by me, On the 16th February, 1948, the contract was signed by the contractor, A. R. Manning, the date for completion being 27th July, 1948.
I may state that this home is of timberframed fibro construction, and since the contract was signed on 16th February, 1948, the erection has only advanced as follows: -
Timber frame and roof.
This makes the job eight months behind the specified time. I call at the War Service Homes Department or ring up every week or so and the only reply I can get is “ no further progress “. I have had several interviews with departmental officers and all the satisfaction I can get is that it is the builder’s fault. Yet all around the area are new homes - evidently war service homes - as I had the choice of the ground where these homes are built.
In view of the foregoing facts I am appealing to you to make inquiries as to what action can be taken to have my home completed as soon as possible. I have been living in a small flat at Bondi for six years with my wife and two children - the sleeping accommodation is extremely cramped - one bedroom, a small verandah on which my daughter sleeps, and a makeshift bed in the living room for’ my son aged 19 years.
That is a sorry state of affairs, which should be investigated. It would appear that there has been virtually a breach of contract by the builder. Why was the matter not investigated without the need for prompting by the purchaser? Building costs are rising, and the longer the completion of the house is delayed the greater will be the cost to the purchaser, or, alternatively, some of the facilities which ought to have been included under the contract will be omitted. This is probably not an isolated case. Does the authority which deals with war service homes investigate the bona fides of persons who tender for the construction of war service homes? Does it make sure that contractors are sufficiently financial to carry out their obligations under the contract? If this is a typical case, it would appear that indifference is being shown in the case of a man who was not fortunate enough to arrange for his own architect and builder. Somebody in the department has slipped. It is difficult to believe that the delay could be due to scarcity of materials.
In any case, “with a house of that size, the scarcity should he quickly overcome. The department has a particular responsibility to those who use its full services. I propose to hand this letter to the Minister, and I ask that an investigation he made.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) probably answered his own question when he suggested that the contractor had failed to honour the- terms of the contract. That is borne out by the statement in the letter that other houses in the area have been completed long ago. It was stated in the press recently that some contractors for war service homes had gone bankrupt. The contract is between the builder and the purchaser, with the department acting as supervisor. I do not think that the delay in the case referred to could have been due to scarcity of materials. The State controls materials, but we have a liaison with the State authorities and can obtain materials without much delay. I shall have the matter examined in an endeavour to help the person concerned.
– This morning, a question was asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs about the opening of letters. I was particularly interested because I have received from overseas letters that have been opened. Last week, I received such a letter from a perfectly harmless young woman in Africa, and before that I received from an old-age pensioner in Liverpool a letter which had been opened before it was delivered ‘to me. The answer given to the question this morning was that letters were opened only when the person concerned was suspected of a customs offence. I can vouch for the fact that neither of the letters which I received could be included in that category. I mention the matter now because it seems to me that the opening of the letters was an infringement of the rights of private persons, and that the action calls for further investigation.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) differs in its nature from that raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) this morning. He asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who represents the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) about certain letters, which he complained had been opened by the Department of Trade and Customs, or by somebody on its behalf, because the department wished to learn whether there was in the letters any evidence of smuggling or of improper practices that might lead to the defrauding of the revenue. The honorable member for Bourke says that letters coming through the mail from overseas have been opened, and, I assume, delivered in an open condition.
– No; they were stuck down again.
– Then they were opened and resealed, leaving evidence that they had been opened. The matter seems to call for an investigation by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and, as the representative of the Postmaster-General in this chamber, I shall bring the complaint to his notice, and ask for an early statement. Unless there is very good reason for the opening of such letters, the practice ought to be discontinued.
– This morning I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question couched in these terms -
Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether any provision has yet been made to enable a wheatgrower, who has an equity in the stabilization fund and who, through no fault of his own, has to cease operations in that industry, to obtain a repayment from that fund?
The Minister’s answer was quite unsatisfactory. He said that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation had not brought the matter up recently, and he implied that the federation was satisfied with things as they are. He also said that certain refunds had been made from earlier pools, and that everything was satisfactory so far as the growers were concerned. That is not so. I quote the following from a letter which was addressed to me recently by the federation : -
The Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation <les ires your co-operation and assistance to secure legislative approval to the following improvements:
The federation wants a properly constituted authority to he set up to arrange for refunds to growers with an equity in the reserve fund should the growers he forced out of the industry, or, through no fault of their own, cease to grow wheat. I understand that the Minister himself has received from the federation a letter dated the 23rd February. So it is quite a recent letter. The Minister went on to say that if the wheat-grower had an equity in the fund and went out of wheatgrowing, he could probably sell his equity to some one coming into wheat-growing. The Minister shakes his head now, but that was the idea that he conveyed to me this morning. I am sure that when he receives the proof of his remarks, as reported by Hansard, he will see that 1 am correct. That is not in accord with fact. Men may be forced out of wheatgrowing, as many will be in the Millewa district, in the north-west corner of Victoria. They will soon have to cease operations because a State act proposes to convert their holdings into larger areas. The Australian Parliament should ensure that men forced out of wheatgrowing shall receive a refund of what they have paid into the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund, since they will not be able to benefit from the fund. I have attended meetings in the Millewa district, at which it has been said that some of the wheat-growers who are forced off their properties will probably take up dairying in the western district. They may or they may not do so. They may go into some other form of primary production or go out of primary production altogether. The federation asks that a properly constituted authority shall be set up to determine what refunds should be made to wheat-growers in certain circumstances. lt is only justice that men who havespent years in the industry, and who have been forced out of it through no fault of their own, should be refunded whatever payments they have made to the stabilization fund.
– I am glad to have been here to listen to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) repeat the substance of his question to me earlier to-day. He went on to say that I told him that the matter of the Wheat Industry Stabilizaton Fund had not recently been brought up. I shall be astonished if the Hansard report of my answer to the honorable gentleman confirms his statement. I told an honorable member in the House last week that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation had submitted to me a number of requests and proposals for the amendment of the wheat: industry stabilization plan, and that I had informed the federation that, as thaplan was of such recent origin and had. been the outcome of so many conferences,, the Government had no intention of” amending it at present. The honorablemember also said that I had stated, in reply to his question, that a wheat-grower who left the industry, whatever his circumstances, could sell his equity.
– The Minister did say that.
– I may have phrased my reply in that manner, but the method of sale of an equity must be perfectly obvious. A continuing wheat farm is obviously a better selling proposition under the stablization plan than it would be without a stabilization plan. The honorable member will admit that ‘
– I do.
– That is the answer I gave. I do not intend to debate the matter with the honorable gentleman. I merely point out the facts. Those facts were placed before the Australian Wheat Growers Federation at numerous conferences. They were discussed in extenso at meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council. The Government determined to bring into being the stabilization plan without provision for the eventualities mentioned by the honorable member. I have told the Victorian members of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation repeatedly that we shall keep the- problem in mind, but that there is no need1 to’ act at present, in view of the fact that the wheat-growers have had refunded to them their taxes in respect of the 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48 crops. The only outstanding tax collected from the wheatgrower is the tax on the crop that has not yet been completely marketed. Surely, it will not be claimed, when the plan is in its initial stage, that any wheatgrower is entitled to a refund of the tax simply because he was growing wheat and had left the wheat-growing industry when he was in a more favorable position to sell his farm than he would have been but for the stabilization plan. I said this morning that if in the future-
Mr. Turnbull interjecting,
– The honorable member is like a clucky hen. He asks questions and prattles away when he has been given the answer. I never interrupt him when he is speaking, notwithstanding that what he says is usually full of inaccuracies. When I seek to put him back on the rails he objects.
– Because the Minister misconstrues what I say.
– I give it up. The honorable gentleman is impossible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
By what tonnage annually is the export of butter increased as a result of the continuance of butter rationing?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The annual average per capita consumption of butter in Australia prior to the introduction of butter rationing was approximately 32½ lb. The present annual average is about 24£ lb. per capita. This saving results in approximately 25,000 tons of butter being exported, which would otherwise be consumed in Australia.
Wire, Piping and Steel: Exports.
d. - On the 23rd February the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the following questions : -
Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture he good enough to have prepared for me a statement showing the exports of wire, piping and steel from Australia during the past year? Can the Minister also say whether it is a fact that approximately 52,000 cwt. of plain wire and 70,000 cwt. of galvanized iron was exported last year? Is the availability of steel for the manufacture of ploughshares and harrows affected by exports of those commodities ?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The figures quoted by the honorable member for Barker regarding the quantities of wire and galvanized iron exported during the last financial year are substantially correct. The annexed statement furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician shows exports of wire, piping and steel during the past year.
Seventy-six thousand cwt. of galvanized iron, representing approximately 9 per cent, of Lysaght’s production, was exported to New Zealand and Australian external territories during the year ending June, 1948. These markets are, and always have been, entirely dependent upon Australia for supplies. Exports of galvanized iron which are confined to these destinations, are by no means comparable with pre-war business with these territories and represent minimum essential requirements only. Approximately 52,000 cwt. of wire of all types was exported during the financial year ending June, 1948. Here again exports have been confined to New Zealand and Australian external territories and represent their minimum requirements. About two-thirds of this quantity consisted of nail wire for New Zealand.
The manufacture of ploughshares and harrows and for that matter any other item using steel must be affected to some small extent by these exports, but it is considered that the export of these materials is essential, both from the long range view in maintaining our natural export markets, and in order to provide so far as is practicable the essential requirements of our dependencies.
Entertainment for Children : Films - Broadcasting.
d. - On the 4th March the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked a question concerning the restriction of the exhibition of films unsuitable for children. The Minister for Trade and Customs now desires me to inform the honorable member that the answer to her question is as follows : -
As a result of a decision reached at a Premiers conference two years ago, legislation on uniform lines has been passed by the State Governments in Queensland and Western Australia and Tasmania which includes a provision that only films passed by the censor as suitable for general exhibition shall be exhibited at children’s matinees. By agreement with the Commonwealth Government the censorship provisions of the State acts of these States are being administered, as from the 1st January of this year, by the Chief Commonwealth Film Censor. An agreement on similar lines has been in force for a number of years with the Government of Victoria, but the Victorian Theatres Act has not yet been amended to make similar provision for films ‘ shown at children’s matinees. It is hoped that the necessary amendment will be passed in the near future and that legislation on parallel lines will be passed also by the remaining State governments.
– On the 4th March, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) indicated, inter alia -
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’. Also, 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?
In reply to the honorable member’s question the Postmaster-General has advised me that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not considering any proposal for the discontinuance of “ Argonauts “ clubs, which it regards as avaluable part of its children’s sessions.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows. : - 1. (a) International Monetary Fund, 240,138.377 fine ounces. (b) International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 114,285.714 fine ounces.
3 and 4. With the exception of £324 for packing and other sundry expenses the amount was paid to shipping and insurance companies as follows: - (a) £A. 19,458 to the Peninsular and Oriental Line in respect of freight on the gold in 1 (a) above; (b) £A.9,261 to the Orient Line inrespect of freight on the gold in 1 (b) above; (c) £A.9,819 was paid to the Bank of England to cover premiums on in surance on the gold shipped as follows: -
£6,652 on the gold in 1 (a) above: (ii) £3,167 on the gold in 1 (b) above. Insurance was arranged by the Bank of England at the rate of approximately 5s. per cent. We have no information as to the particular insurance firms to whom these premiums were paid.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Budget Speech and Papers 1932-33.
Financial Emergency Bill 1932 - Parliamentary Debates, volume 135, page 597.
Financial Relief Bill 1932 - Parliamentary Debates, volume 137, page 2689.
Income Tax. Assessment Bill 1932 - Parliamentary Debates, volume 137, page 2995.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Dollar Deficits: Mink Coat.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 2nd March the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) asked a question concerning a Labrador mink coat which was recently offered for sale in Australia. In my reply to the honorable member I indicated that I would have inquiries made into this matter. I now wish to inform honorable members that the coat in question was manufactured in Sydney from dressed Canadian mink skins purchased from a Melbourne firm of furriers. There is no record of any import licence having been granted to cover the importation of mink coats from any source, and there is no dollar allocation for fur apparel of any kind, as fur goods are regarded as luxury items. A small allocation is made each quarter to allow of the importation from dollar areas of undressed fur skins, which are dressed and manufactured into garments in Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 March 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490316_reps_18_201/>.