18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy. Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– On Tuesday last I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the Government had given consideration to allowing members of unions who were on strike on the coal-fields to register for unemployment benefit. What is the present position in that respect? How many persons registered for unemployment benefit in Queensland during last week?
– Persons who are members of any union represented on the Combined Mining Unions Council and are employed in the mining industry are not eligible to receive unemployment benefit in respect of the period of the strike. As- at closing time yesterday, 125,271 persons throughout Australia had lodged applications for unemployment benefit. Of that number, 11,388 applications had been lodged in Queensland, 99,800 in New South Wales, 9,400 in South Australia and 4,590 in Western Australia. No applications had been lodged in either Victoria or Tasmania.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether members of the emergency committee of the Australian Council of Trades Unions which is dealing with the present industrial unrest on the coalfields saw him yesterday? Did they put any proposals to him ? If so, what were those proposals I If they had no proposals to put to him, what was the purpose of their interview with the right honorable gentleman?
– Most of the members of the emergency committee of the Australian Council of Trades Unions saw me last night. They discussed the full implications of the dispute in the coal industry and its effect upon industry generally. They also gave me a resume of the discussions that they had had with various parties interested in the dispute. That is all that I can say with respect to their representations. I indicated to them, as I indicated briefly to the House yesterday, that the dispute is one for arbitration by the Coal Industry Tribunal and that I felt sure that the tribunal would be prepared to hear any of the parties which might be legitimately entitled to-make representations to it regarding the dispute. I indicated that that was the position so far as the Government was concerned.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the number of unemployed persons now entitled to unemployment benefit in this country is greater than the number of unemployed persons at the depth of the depression in the second quarter of 1932, when the Commonwealth Statistician reported that 128,068 people were out of work? If the Government, the miners, and the Coal Industry Tribunal maintain their present “ stand pat “ attitude, can the unemployed people of this country look forward to anything better than the dole ? Has the Government given any consideration to the fact that the miners are in a better position to withstand a long period of unemployment than are people living in the cities? Has the Government any plan to obtain sufficient coal, not only to provide for essential purposes, but also to enable the unemployed to get their jobs back again? If not, will the Government reconsider its responsibility to the community by exploring every possible means of settlement on the lines that I suggested yesterday, which would maintain the principle that the miners must return to work and accept arbitration?
– I shall ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to provide whatever statistics are available of the number of unemployed in this country. It may be true that the number of unemployed is’ great at the moment than it was at the time in 1932 which the honorable member has men-, tioned. I cannot say offhand what the figure is. I do not think that such statistics were as complete during the depression,- when it was claimed that there were 750,000 bread-winners unemployed in Australia, as they are now. A great number of the people who are unemployed now, for instance women, were not seeking employment prior to the last war. Supplies of coal to enable employment to be maintained can be obtained only when the coal mines are working. Indeed, even when all the coal mines are working to full capacity they cannot provide sufficient coal for Australian industry, although they make possible the full -employment of those already employed. Underground coal cannot be won by inexperienced miners. The Coal Mines .Regulation Act of New South Wales prevents inexperienced men from even going into underground mines. Therefore, the only way in which sufficient coal can be obtained is for full production in both underground and open-cut mines. I have no doubt that the parties concerned in the dispute have explored the possibilities of reaching a settlement or an agreement that they can put before the arbitrator. I -do not desire to go on repeating what I have said earlier, but the position has not changed. “Whatever representations are to be made must be made to the chairman of the Coal Industry Tribunal, and the judgment must be made by him.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister concerning the huge advertisements about the coal strike that have appeared under his authority in every newspaper in Australia and also concerning the report that hundreds of thousands of leaflets are to be scattered over the coal-fields. What is the purpose of those advertisements? Are they designed, first, to inform the public of the merits of the strike; and, secondly, to try to persuade the miners to return -to work ? If they are intended to persuade the miners to resume work, what machinery does the Prime Minister suggest should be used in order to ;give effect to the wishes of moderates amongst them who may desire to go back to work? If a sufficient number of miners should wish to return to work, does the Prime Minister suggest that they disobey their union executive and return to the pits, or will he, before the Parliament goes into recess, establish machinery which will provide for the holding of a secret ballot to enable them to determine the issue?
– The advertisements that have been inserted above my name “in newspapers -throughout .Australia have been authorized by the Government for the purpose of enabling the people, and particularly the miners and other workers associated with the coal-mining industry, to learn the facts of the present industrial dispute and with the further purpose, if the facts are appreciated by the mineworkers, of inducing them to see the reason and logic of accepting arbitration and returning to work. The advertisements are designed to make it completely clear that the policy of the Government, which is the policy of the Parliament and of the majority of the people, is to support arbitration and to show that arbitration is the only means by which the miners can expect to secure consideration and rectification of their grievances.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture received any information from the United Kingdom Government concerning the Australian Government’s suggestion that prices for eggs under the present United Kingdom contract be reviewed?
– Honorable members will recollect that within the last twelve months I requested the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to make a survey of the cost of production of eggs in Australia. Incidentally, that bureau was established by this Government. It has proved most successful and stands very high in public esteem, particularly in the esteem of primary producers. Following that survey, I made representations to the United Kingdom Government and furnished it with a copy of the report on the subject by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I am glad to say that, notwithstanding the fact that the United Kingdom Government had a firm contract for a period of five years, it graciously consented to review the terms of the contract, and agreed to the following increases of prices as from the 1st -July, 1949 : - Eggs in shell, 3d. a dozen; frozen egg pulp, 2.1od. per lb.; dried sugared eggs, 1.625d. per lb. ; dried whole eggs, 5.8753. per lb. It has been agreed that during the currency of the present contract future prices will be decided not later than the 1st January each year. It has also been agreed that any variation of prices under the contract will not exceed 7^ per cent, of the prices prevailing during the preceding season.
– As it is now seven days since the closing of the financial year, will the Treasurer inform the House of the final result of the year’s budget, or, if final figures are not yet available, will the right honorable gentleman give a statement of the approximate surplus or deficit for the last financial year ?
– I had a look at the latest available figures yesterday. I do not think that the final position can be accurately determined at the moment. The latest figures indicate that the year’s transactions will result in a surplus of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000. Earlier, I had indicated that it was expected that a surplus of between £3,000,000 and £10,000,000 would be achieved. It is now expected that the surplus will be £8,000,000.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether it is true t.l:i at persons have been employed on the long range weapons project without being required to take the oath or make an affirmation of allegiance, which is generally required of employees working for government bodies? If that be so, how many employees on the project have not taken the oath or made an affirmation of allegiance?
– I do not think that it is true that any employee engaged on the long range weapons project has not taken the oath or made an affirmation of allegiance. As that project is under the administration and control of the Minister for Supply and Development, I shall ask him to furnish an answer to the honorable member’s question.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs. As a result of requests which I have received from members of several trade unions, I ask the Minister whether he will confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to increasing the present inadequate tea ration to industrial shift workers, particularly those working on broken and week-end shifts.
– I shall be glad to confer with my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs in order to ascertain whether it is possible to increase the ration to the class of workers mentioned by the honorable member.
– I bring to the notice of the Treasurer a matter concerning the arrears of taxation owed by a former member of the second Australian Imperial Force, and ask him whether it is the policy of his Government that the Commissioner of Taxation in the exercise of the powers conferred upon him by section 218 of the Income Tax Assessment Act to garnishee wages should be permitted to do so in such a way as to reduce a person’s effective wages below the present basic wage? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the official garnishee forms issued by the Commissioner of Taxation state that the minimum amount which should be left to the taxpayer to maintain himself, and, presumably, any dependants, is only £3 a week? Although the printed figure of “ £3 “ is altered to read “£4” in certain instances, does not the Treasurer believe that the amount left to the garnisheed taxpayer should bear a closer relationship to living costs?
– The .present Government has not altered the law concerning the garnisheeing of taxpayers’ wages, and I presume that it has remained in its present state for 25 or 30 years. ‘ T point out to the honorable member that the power to make a garnishee order rests not in the Commissioner of Taxation or the Treasurer but in a magistrate or other judicial authority.
– The Commissioner of Taxation applies for the issue of a garnishee order in the first place.
– That is perfectly true, but an order can be issued only by some judicial authority. When the
Commissioner makes application to the court for the issue of a garnishee order he asks the court to order that a certain amount foe deducted from the defaulting taxpayer’s income. “Whilst I do not know the details of the particular case which the honorable member has in mind, I know that the Commissioner has a very difficult job to obtain payment of the arrears of taxes by some individuals. I realize that some people have difficulty in paying their taxes, but all the officials who have occupied the position of Commissioner of Taxation have been most sympathetic in cases of genuine hardship. If the honorable member can furnish details of a particular instance where hardship operates, I shall review the matter in consultation with the Commissioner of Taxation and inform her of the result.
– Can the Treasurer say whether it is a fact that more than 3,000,000 dollars are spent annually in the United States of America on the purchase of non-arsenical sulphur for fertilizer? Is it also a fact that this basic commodity and certain others are obtainable from the sterling area at prices which are only slightly higher than those charged by the United States of America? In view of the extremely serious dollar situation disclosed by the figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician for May last, will the right honorable gentleman instruct the inter-departmental committee which reviews dollar expenditure not to make dollars available for the purchase of even essential commodities if, regardless of price, they can be obtained from sterling sources?
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member has been the subject of a good deal of discussion between representatives of the Government and the users of various commodities. Concerning the suggestion made by the honorable member, that consumers of certain goods should be required to purchase supplies from sterling areas regardless of their price, I do not think that many business people would favour that course because, quite naturally and properly, they desire to get the cheapest supplies of raw material available. The suggestion made by the honorable member has been discussed with me by people who are interested in the consumption of those particular commodities. One of the principal tasks of the interdepartmental committee, which is, of course, giving urgent consideration to the matter at the moment, is to review all the supplies that are at present obtained from dollar or hard currency areas in order to ascertain what saving of dollars could be effected by the purchases from easy currency areas, irrespective of the prices that may have to be paid. I remember one violent objection being raised by private enterprise at having to pay high prices for commodities from easy currency areas that could be obtained at a much cheaper rate from hard currency areas. Government instrumentalities which require steel have been instructed to secure it, if possible, from soft currency areas, even though the cost may be greater than the cost of steel produced in Australia, in order that as much Australian steel as possible may be available for use by private undertakings. Private industry in Australia is, in effect, subsidized by being allowed to use Australian steel, while Government instrumentalities usedearer steel from overseas. Mr. Meere, the Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, who is chairman of the interdepartmental committee on dollar expenditure, is going to London. While there he will examine the possibility of importing more goods from soft currency areas rather than from dollar areas, irrespective of price. That course has been forced upon us.
– Has the Minister for Works and Housing recently received any reports regarding materials and living conditions on Manus Island? Is it a fact that enormous quantities of war material, motor vehicles and machinery on the island have become scrap since the United States of America relinquished control of the island as a base ? Will the Minister investigate a complaint by an Australian working on Manus Island, which was published in this week’s Smith’s Weekly, that food received there has been wretched, and there has been no fresh meat for about three months, and that amenities are sadly lacking? “Will he ensure that this Australian outpost in the Pacific is not neglected ?
– I can assure tho honorable gentleman that this Pacific outpost is not being neglected by the Australian Government. No complaints have been received from the men on the island regarding supplies of food. The men are under the control of the Department of “Works and Housing. They are engaged upon the repair of the wharfs and installations that will form part of our naval base there, and also upon the demolition of buildings that will not be required by the defence services.
– “What about the deterioration of the materials and the lack of food?
– I have never heard it suggested that materials deteriorate because of lack of food. No serviceable motor vehicles were left on the island by the American forces. We have had to take trucks and other vehicles to the island in order to carry out effectively the works to which I have referred.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General cause inquiries to be made in order to ascertain the sponsor or sponsors of two propaganda programmes that are broadcast by station 2GB? I refer to the programmes called “ Confidentially Speaking “ and “Ask Peter Barry”. Is it a fact that Peter Barry is being subsidized by an undisclosed organization and that his broadcasting time is paid for by that organization? Is Barry the correct surname of this commentator, or is it an alias? Does the Australian Broadcasting Act permit broadcasting time to be bought secretly and without disclosure of the name of the sponsor or the author of the programme? Will the Minister refer this matter to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and suggest to that body that the provisions of the Electoral Act shall apply to all political or controversial broadcasts and that all broadcasting stations shall be required to announce the true sponsors, authors, and commentators of all programmes of that kind?
– I shall bring the subject-matter of the question to the notice of the Postmaster-General and recommend the course of action that the honorable member has suggested, which is that all aspects of the broadcasts by a gentleman known as Peter Barry - I understand that that is not his right name - be investigated by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with a view to the application of the provisions of the Electoral Act which require broadcasters to give their correct names, and to identify themselves personally or through their organizations, with their expressions of opinion. There is nothing undemocratic in that.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether John Bennett, endorsed Australian Labour party candidate for Latrobe at the forthcoming general election, is a secret member of the Communist party, as was stated on oath yesterday before the royal commission on communism by Cecil Herbert Sharpley? If the Prime Minister has no information on that point, will he instruct the Commonwealth security service to make an immediate investigation, and will the honorable gentleman inform the House of the result of such investigation?
– I was not aware that Mr. Bennett was a selected Australian Labour party candidate. However, if he has been selected, undoubtedly the local branch of the Australian Labour party is satisfied about his loyalty to the Labour movement. The principles of the Australian Labour party are, of course, contrary to those followed by the Communist party. I cannot undertake to have an inquiry made by the Commonwealth security service; but if there is any information on the subject that can be made available to the honorable member for Bendigo I shall supply it to him.
– In view of the fact that Canberra is the seat of a democratic government that appears to he treating the residents of that centre in an undemocratic way, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is true that Mr. Cole, the Town Clerk of Hobart, who has been brought to Canberra to investigate the criticism made by the elected members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, Dr. Nott, Mr. Ulrich
Ellis, and Mr. Shakespeare-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must ask his question.
– The Sydney Morning Herald of the 7th July contained the following paragraph in an article written by a staff correspondent and headed “ Canberra is Keen to Practise all it Preaches “ : -
Canberra residents, like the residents ot other capital cities, want their own elected members. They feel the present Advisory Council has accomplished little in the way of direct action.
– Order ! The honorable member in asking a question may not quote such passages from newspaper articles. If the honorable gentleman does not learn the proper method of asking a question I shall have to ask him to cease asking questions, because he persistently rises in the House and tries to introduce discussion and debatable matter into his questions. He is not entitled to do so, but must ask straightout questions. If he is unable to put his question in the proper manner I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– Is it a fact that Mr. Cole stated that Canberra residents wanted domestic control of their own local affairs ? If that be true, does the Minister intend to take direct action to bring that position about? If the Minister does take action to give direct control of their local affairs to the people of Canberra, will he give the same concession to the people of the Northern Territory? Failing that action, does the Minister intend to wait until another independent member, Dr. Nott, sits in this House, so that this matter may be given consideration and that a joint request may be made that democratic control of local affairs be given to the Northern Territory, which is an outlying territory, as well as to the Australian Capital Territory, which is a near territory?
– It is difficult to know exactly what the honorable member’s question means. The honorable member has gone “ walk-about “ in connexion with it. The position regarding Canberra is that after many discussions and investigations it was decided to appoint a commissioner to investigate the possibility of extending to the people of Canberra some measure of civic control. Mr. Cole was appointed for the purpose of investigating that matter, and in the near future will submit his report for consideration.
– He is a good man too.
– As the Leader of the Opposition has just interjected, Mr. Cole is a good man for the job. I regard Mr. Cole as a very excellent man, who is well fitted to carry out the responsibility that has been placed upon him. The matter of extending the same privileges to the Northern Territory as those that might be extended to the Australian Capital Territory has not yet been considered. The position of the Northern Territory is not comparable with that of the capital city of Australia. However, consideration may be given to that matter at later stages, if it is warranted. Regarding the democracy of the Australian Capital Territory, I can say that this Government has extended the right to the people at Canberra to elect their own representative at the forthcoming general election. If I am any judge of the position, they will not elect an independent candidate.
– Last week I passed to the Prime Minister a request for protection that I had received from persons in insecure circumstances and on low incomes. It appears that some people in that category are in danger of losing furniture or other goods that they are endeavouring to purchase by time payment because, through no fault of their own, they may be unable to continue their payments during the coal strike. Has the Prime Minister investigated this matter? What help, if any, can be given to such people? Since I first passed the request to the right honorable gentleman last week, I have received a further letter from the same source.
– I have made some preliminary inquiries into the matter and, as far as I can see, this Government has no power in relation to it. It seems to me that th« re-possession of furniture or other household goods under time payment or cash order arrangements is a matter than must be dealt with by State law. This subject was examined exhaustively by a board which was appointed by the present Leader of the Opposition when he was a member of a former government.
– The States have laws dealing with hire-purchase and similar transactions.
– Some States have such laws, but the terms of the legislation vary in the different States. I know that it is not possible, in some States at any rate, for a company to re-possess household goods without obtaining an order from the appropriate authorities. I shall supply a written answer covering the various aspects that have been raised in the honorable member’s question, but I am satisfied from my inquiries that this Government has no authority to act in the matter.
– Has the Treasurer received a joint application from the federal councils of the Royal Life Saving Society and the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia for a Commonwealth subsidy to assist them to maintain their gear and to carry out their voluntary work of protecting the public from drowning? The members of those organizations save scores of valuable lives annually, and perform great work in connexion with the national fitness campaign. Their request for a subsidy has been supported by members of all political parties in this Parliament on previous occasions. Will the Prime Minister give favorable consideration to the request?
– I cannot recall any activity which the Commonwealth has not been asked to assist financially. If the Royal Life Saving Society and the Surf Life Saving Society of Australia have not previously sought assistance, they must be the sole exceptions. However, I recollect that various honorable members, and the life-saving bodies themselves, have asked the Government to provide certain direct assistance-
-t- A subsidy.
– They have asked the Commonwealth to provide a subsidy, if the honorable member prefers that word. After having carefully considered the matter, the Government rejected the request on the ground that it should not provide subsidies for various bodies that are engaged in a variety of activities. However, the Commonwealth already provides a grant for national fitness, and that money is distributed by the States to deserving organizations. I cannot undertake to recommend to Cabinet that a subsidy be granted to the life-saving bodies that the honorable member has mentioned.
– Last week, the honorable member for Darwin asked a question concerning statements in the press about Nauru, which were attributed to M. Soldatov, the Russian representative, at the fifth session of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. I have not received the official record of the discussion which took place during the recent examination by the Trusteeship Council of the report on the administration of Nauru for the year 1947-48, in the course of which M. Soldatov’s statements appear to have been made. However, I repeat that there are no grounds for accusations of harsh conditions and the exploitation of workers on that island, or for allegations that racial discrimination is practised there. Honorable members will recall that the report on Nauru for the year 1947-48 was tabled in the House on the 23rd June, 1949. That report deals with one administrative period only, and in amplification of it, I should like briefly to mention something of what has been achieved in Nauru since Australia became responsible for its administration, following its acceptance of the mandate in 1921. The first steps to train Nauruans were taken in 1921, when they were vested with powers of administration.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, should not the Minister have obtained leave to make a statement?
– Order ! The Chair considers that this’ matter should he regularized. The Minister should ask for leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?
Opposition Members. - No.
– Let the Minister make the statement at the end of questions.
Leave not granted.
Sale of Rifles
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether the Commonwealth Disposals Commission still has several hundred service rifles for sale? Are the rifles being sold, and if they are, in what numbers? If sales are being made, is it ‘possible for members of the public to buy rifles? What precautions have been taken in the past, and are being taken now to ensure that the rifles shall not fall into hands in which they may represent a danger to peace and’ order in the Commonwealth?
– I do not know whether the Commonwealth Disposals Commission has any service rifles for sale or not. However, I shall make inquiries and furnish the honorable member with the information desired as soon as possible.
Formal Motion fob Ad journmen t.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The necessity for a substantial increase in the allocation by the Commonwealth to the States of moneys from petrol tax for the construction and maintenance of roads, in view of (a) the increased importance of motor road transport because of decreased coal supplies, and (b) the necessity because of dollar restrictions to make the best use of the available motor vehicles and motor spirit.
Mr. TURNBULL (Wimmera) 11.W]. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
-Is the motion supported?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The points that I shall amplify in this debate are that the serious deterioration of roads in Australia is inimical to our progress and economic security; that motor transport depends on good roads for efficiency and economy, and with dollar restrictions, it is vital to make the best use of motor vehicles and motor spirit; that motor transport as a means of locomotion has become increasingly important, owing to the uncertainty of rail transport due to the decreased output of coal in relation to demand; and that a substantial increase of the allocation by the Australian Government to the States from the petrol tax for road construction and maintenance is urgent, necessary and desirable. I shall trace briefly the history of the petrol tax. The Federal Aid Roads Bill was introduced in this House on the 27th July, 1926. Prior to that time, the then Treasurer, Dr., now Sir Earle Page, when bringing down the budget for 1926-27, said -
The Commonwealth is co-operating with the States in a national road policy and will impose special customs duties which will be hypothecated for road construction. The imposition of these duties at the source will ultimately result in the road users paying this special tax proportionately to their use of the roads.
Thus was established the principle of a special tax for a specific purpose. The initial payments under the act came from an impost on petrol of approximately 3d. a gallon, and it was all used for road construction and maintenance. In the intervening years scores of millions of pounds from that fund have made possible the building of thousands of miles of roads that have been a vital factor in the settlement and progress of our nation. To-day, there are more motor cars than ever before on the roads in Australia, they are using a larger quantity of motor spirit than even the most optimistic people could have anticipated, and the Australian Government is collecting by means of this tax approximately £17,000,000 per annum. From this amount, however, it is diverting approximately £10,000,000 .per annum for other purposes, and is paying to the States for road construction and maintenance only approximately £7,000,000 per annum, which is at least £1,500,000 less than half of the amount collected. This has been taking place for years. Now, with reserves depleted and costs of road work from 50 per cent, to 100 per cent, higher than previously, the money that is being paid to the States is appallingly inadequate to keep our roads at the required standard of efficiency. The present serious deterioration of roads in Australia is inimical to our progress and economic security. Motor transport depends on good roads for efficiency and economy. Since the imposition of restrictions on dollar spending, it has become more than ever necessary to make the best possible use of motor vehicles and motor spirit. It has been conservatively estimated by the Australian Automobile Association that the cost of operating a motor vehicle is about 11/2d. a mile greater on a bad road than on a good one. There are about 500,000 miles of roads in Australia, a third of which are in bad condition. Oh the assumption that every second motor vehicle operating in Australia travels 7,000 miles a year, an aggregate saving of approximately i’11,000,000 per annum would be effected if all the roads were good. As most of the saving would be in dollars, the proposition should appeal to the Prime Minister, who has constantly urged the need to restrict dollar expenditure. For instance, in the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial of Wednesday last the following report a ppeared -
Canberra, Tuesday. - Warning of an impending dollar crisis for Australia following the conference of British Commonwealth Finance Ministers, to be held in London in the next week, or two, was given to the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to-day.
In last night’s Melbourne Herald the following report was published in tho stop press column : -
Canberra. Wednesday. - A serious collapse in an earlier promising trade position with North America is disclosed in a trade survey for the eleven months ended May 31.
Day after day, and week after week, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). has been telling us that dollars must be conserved’. Those who have driven cars know that it is necessary to slow down over bad patches of road and then, in order to make up time, to travel fast over the better stretches. More petrol is used at high speed, and grave damage is done to motor vehicles by bad roads. Every one knows how hard, it is to get spare parts for motor vehicles. However, when it is proposed that the Government should allocate a larger proportion of the proceeds of the petrol tax for the purpose of maintaining roads, and thus save dollars, the Prime Minister turns a deaf ear to the proposal. History shows that a nation cannot remain long at the cross-roads. It must go forward or backward. By hesitating, it will be displaced by other nations in the race from which so many other nations have fallen, through their disregard for the fundamental sources of prosperity. Surely, good roads are a fundamental necessity for national prosperity. The Prime Minister has said that the petrol tax is not a tax on the motor users, because it is, in fact, passed on to the whole community. I ask him, how can the national revenue be spent better than in maintaining the great national asset that we have in our roads, and which has cost us .many millions of pounds? I do not think that the Prime Minister realizes how the roads are falling into disrepair, and how important the matter really is. Speaking on this subject in the House on the 9th December last the Prime Minister said that shires and municipalities would not be able to expend any additional allocation that might be made to them for road construction and maintenance, because they lacked adequate equipment and that such equipment was not available. That view shows hon much out of touch the right honorable gentleman is with the progress characteristic of this modern age. He said - .
If a shire or municipality is called upon solely to maintain a one or two horse grader the expense is out of .proportion to its revenue. By a co-ordination of effort a firstclass grader could be purchased by several local governing bodies.
Any one who talks about the use of onehorse or two-horse graders for use in road construction to-day is not abreast of the times. The fact is that the great majority of local government bodies now possess up-to-date road construction equipment. I have received from many of those bodies details of the equipment they have available, but in view of the limited time at my disposal I shall give only a typical list. The secretary of one shire council has written to me and stated that during the last two years his council has purchased two power graders, two mechanical loaders and two trucks and has ordered two more trucks with a view to making up some of the leeway in road repair work in its area. Many local government bodies possess similar equipment, but they are not able to utilize it fully because of lack of funds. Yet, the Prime Minister talks about the use of one-horse and two-horse graders. Are we not living in an age of progress? We must realize that fact, or we shall fall out of the race. Year by year motor transport is playing an increasingly vital part in the economic development of many countries, but unfortunately, the Australian Government has not seen fit to maintain the great national asset which good roads represent.
If time permitted I could give details of the needs of numerous individual shires, but I shall take one instance at random. Owing to a dearth of contractors the shire I have in mind has, during the last few months, purchased modern road-building plant from its loan money, but owing to lack of funds it is not able to use that plant to the best advantage. [ am informed that road repair work which should be done in that shire would cost about £40,000. It must be remembered that the base of many roads constructed ten, or fifteen, years ago is too light to carry modern heavy traffic and, consequently, it will be necessary to reconstruct many roads of that kind. I emphasize that many local government bodies possess modern road-making equipment but they have not sufficient funds to enable them to use it to the best advantage. Generally, people who use the main highways are not aware of the deterioration that is taking place on other roads. The fact is that most of the roads between thriving towns have fallen into disrepair whilst many roads which provide outlets to main highways and railheads have deteriorated to an alarming degree. Unless they are repaired in the near future they will have to be completely reconstructed. I shall now refer to the views expressed last month by Mr. W. L. Dale when, upon the eve of his retirement from the position of chairman of the Country Roads Board of Victoria he was given a complimentary luncheon by shire councillors. I believe that few men have had as much experience in road construction in Australia as has Mr. Dale. He said that the Country Roads Board of Victoria had expended all the reserves it had accumulated during the recent war and was now dependent upon its current revenue. That statement refutes the claim made by the Prime Minister on several previous occasions that the States are holding millions of pounds in reserve for road-building purposes. Mr. Dale pointed out that local government bodies cannot obtain sufficient funds from State governments for road-building because those governments have to finance the operations of their roads boards. At the same time, in view of the incidence of continued high federal taxation, local government bodies cannot increase their rates as a means of .raising money for road purposes. Mr. Dale said -
A 3s. rate now is only equal to a ls. 6d. rate before the war. It is not possible to maintain roads constructed and all local government bodies are in a process of frustration all the time.
I trust that the Government, following its usual custom, will not gag the debate on this subject which is of national importance. Owing to the limited time at my disposal, I have been able to give only an outline of the general position, but other honorable members could deal with the position existing in the various States. They could give information which would be most enlightening. However, if the “ gag master “ comes in and cuts this debate short we shall know that the Government Iras little regard for the welfare and progress of Australia. The continuing serious deterioration of roads in this country is inimical to our progress and economic security. We cannot progress without good roads which are also essential from a defence point of view. The provision of good roads would preserve the life of motor vehicles and thus help to conserve petrol. For some years past the lack of adequate supplies of coal has limited transport facilities with the result that motor transport has become increasingly important. I am sure that no honorable member would suggest for one moment that if the States were given increased allocations from the revenue derived from the petrol tax they would fail to use it .to the best advantage. The States would get better value for the expenditure of such money than could be obtained under any scheme dictated by the centralized government at Canberra. Therefore, it is urgent and desirable in the national interests that the Government should, for this purpose, substantially increase the allocations made to the States from revenue derived from the petrol tax.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) made certain statements in reply to what I said when discussing this matter on a previous occasion in this House. His observations may be applicable to conditions existing in Victoria, but different conditions prevail in other States. He said that when I spoke about the use of one-horse and twohorse graders I was out of touch with this progressive age. The fact is that those graders are the most suitable that can be used in certain areas in some States. Only recently a number of shire councils in New South Wales have purchased graders of that class for use in areas where it is not ‘possible to use speedcontrolled graders. On outback roads, which are not greatly used, and which have not been constructed for high-speed traffic, it is impossible to use speedcontrolled graders. The honorable member apparently is not aware of the conditions that exist in States other than Victoria. Certain shires and municipal authorities use graders of that kind because they are best suited to the areas which they control. The honorable member has referred to the heavy cost of road maintenance. I point out that the motor registration fees paid by owners of commercial vehicles are not as high as they were prior to the war. In all S’tates with the exception of Tasmania, motor registrations were reduced during the war period. Only two States - South Australia and Western Australia - have since reverted to pre-war charges. In New South Wales, motor registration fees were reduced by 20 per cent., in Victoria by 25 per cent, and in Queensland by 25 per cent.
– Those reductions were made because of the shortage of petrol.
– That argument does not apply to commercial vehicles. The owners of such vehicles have always been given all the petrol they needed for thecarriage of essential goods.
– Not in Victoria.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. Passenger vehicles, of course, come into a different category. Is it not only fair that when road maintenance costs have increased twofold or threefold since pre-war years, those who use our roads should pay moreto maintain them ? Is it suggested that the owners of commercial vehicles should now pay less for the maintenance of our roads than they did before the war?
– They pay more for petrol now.
– I can effectively reply to that interjection by saying that a substantial petrol tax was already imposed before this Government came into office. However, we are not dealing with that aspect of the subject now. The total grant made by the Commonwealth to the ‘States for road maintenance purposes has been more than doubled in the last four years.
– So have the costs of road maintenance.
– In 1945-46, grants made by the Commonwealth to the States for road purposes totalled £3,300,000. In 1948-49, they were increased to £7,300,000. Whilst the costs of road maintenance have greatly increased. those increases have been largely offset by increases in the grants made to the States for this purpose. I have not lost sight of the fact that, although road maintenance costs have greatly increased, most of the States are still collecting reduced motor registration fees. All of these matters are being examined by the Commonwealth’ in association with the
States. During the war the States accumulated large balances in their roads accounts because road works were curtailed. Grants were, however, continued by the Commonwealth, although the amounts were smaller because of petrol rationing. When the grants were being reviewed last year it was calculated that the funds available to the States for road purposes during the two years 1948-49 and 1949-50 amounted to -.£39,500,000, made up as follows:-
At the 30th June, 1946, the balance in the New South Wales road fund amounted to £1,800,000. At the 30th June, 1948, the balance had been reduced to £1,700,000. The corresponding figures for Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia are as follows : -
The total balances standing to the credit of the State road funds at the two periods mentioned were £8,400,000 and £5,300,000 respectively. I have no doubt that those balances have since been considerably reduced. It is of no use for the honorable member for Wimmera to claim that the Commonwealth has not done its share in contributing to the maintenance of our roads for, as I have already pointed out, the total . grants made by the Commonwealth to the States for that purpose have been more than doubled in the last four years. The Commonwealth has insisted” that portion of the money granted to the States shall be used for the construction and development of roads in out-back areas. Last Sunday I travelled over one of the main highways in New South Wales. It is a first-class’ road with an excellent surface. I noticed that a huge deviation was under construction for the purpose of increasing visibility. The money being expended on that deviation would probably be sufficient to construct or improve 50 miles of out-back road. Most of these improvements to our highways are being effected solely for safety purposes. However, the people have been using the roads for the last forty or fifty years and have not found them dangerous when travelling at reasonable speeds. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister of the Commonwealth I led a deputation of representatives of the Shire Councils Executive of New South Wales which requested that additional moneys be made available by the Commonwealth for the construction of roads in sparsely populated areas. The deputation pointed out to the right honorable gentleman that moneys made available to the States for road purposes were allotted to the State road authorities and that it was as difficult for the shires to obtain money from the State road authorities for the construction and maintenance of developmental roads within their areas as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The honorable member for Wimmera has complained that certain shires have all the plant they need but are unable to obtain the requisite funds to enable them to use it. That is not true.
– The representatives of many shires have complained to me on that score.
– It is perfectly true that some shires have more plant than they can use; but it is also true that others cannot purchase the plant which they need. A few weeks ago I received a deputation from the representatives of two shires seeking my assistance to obtain plant so that they would be able to expend the moneys made available to them.
– Why not let those shires which have the plant use it?
– Some shires and municipal authorities desire to expend very much more money than has been available to them. Others cannot expend the money allotted to them because they are unable to obtain their requirements of plant. Following that deputation I wrote to supplying companies with a view to expediting the delivery of the plant in an effort to assist them. Honorable members will appreciate that the Commonwealth has no control over the supply of road-making plant. The general managers of the companies concerned have since written to me stating what they are prepared to do in the matter. One of them informed me that it will be impossible to fulfil the orders for more than twelve months. The honorable member for Wimmera has talked about parochialism and working the parish pump. In these matters a certain degree of parochialism is inevitable. The owners of commercial and passenger vehicles should be called upon to pay more than they are now paying in road tax and motor registration fees. In Victoria the fees charged for the registration of motor vehicles have been reduced by 25 per cent.
– The amount of money involved is so small that it would not matter.
– State motor taxation now brings in £19,000,000 a year.
– The right honorable gentleman is speaking of the revenue derived not by Victoria alone but throughout Australia.
– I am speaking of the revenue from the whole of Australia. The balances in State road funds now total £5,300,000. Commonwealth payments amount to £15,000,000, and State motor taxation for two years amounts to £19,000,000 at present rates.
– That is throughout Australia over a period of two years.
– The balance of £5,300,000 in the funds has come about because of the inability of States to maintain their roads during the war, but it could be expended in carrying out deferred maintenance of roads?
– It may be, but I do not want that figure to be taken as authoritative, because later figures have been compiled and that amount may now have been reduced. During the period of two years approximately £40,000,000 was available for road work in this country. Although the State Governments reduced motor vehicle registration fees during the war, they have not increased them since, although the costs of roadmaking and maintenance have substantially increased.
– The proceeds of motor vehicle registration tax are expended on the maintenance and construction of main roads, not on shire roads?
– That is perfectly true. No matter how much money we give to New South Wales, it is passed on to the Main Roads Board. However, the Government has now decided that approximately £2,000,000 shall be made available for expenditure on road maintenance in remote areas, and that money will be distributed to all States. I do not propose to exceed the time permitted to me under the Standing Orders for discussion of this matter because the debate could- go on for a great length of time. Opportunities will be available for honorable members to discuss the matter when the budget is introduced. The Government is now obtaining all the relevant figures from the States, and I have no doubt that the matter will be discussed at’ the forthcoming conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, which is the appropriate body to discuss it. Most of the discussions on matters such as that now before the House arise out of circular letters sent by some local government body to other bodies, which automatically circulate it, just as the Communists do, and, in consequence, members of the Parliament receive hundreds of requests.
– Is not the right honorable gentleman convinced that there has been a great deterioration in country roads in the last two years?
– No, I am not, and I do a great deal of travelling over country roads. The Government has made available £2,000,000 per annum for expenditure on roads in outer areas. I emphasize that no money was ever made available for that purpose by previous Australian Governments. From that grant Queensland will receive £384,000, Victoria £348,000, New South Wales £564,000, South Australia £220,000, Western Australia, which is a sparsely populated area, £384,000, and Tasmania £100,000. That has never been done before in the history of the Commonwealth Government.
– There has never been 60 much need for expenditure of money on roads.
– -The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) always has something new to say. I am merely pointing out that for the first time in the history of the Australian Commonwealth substantial sums of money are to be provided for outback roads, which contradicts the assertion of the honorable member for Wimmera that local government, bodies in country areas are compelled to use such antiquated machinery as two-horse graders.
– The right honorable gentleman suggested that I said that local government bodies use such antiquated machinery.
– The honorable member asserted that no local government body used such machinery to-day, and I merely said that his statement was completely inaccurate. The honorable member suggested that any body could obtain all the road-making machinery that it desires, but that statement is also completely inaccurate.
– I did not say that.
– However, honorable members can rest assured that the matter will be fully discussed at the forthcoming conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. We are getting all the facts and figures from the various States concerning their finances, and that information will include the state of country roads and the amount required to be ex-, pended upon them. I point out to honorable members that we now obtain much more information from the States than we used formerly to obtain, and that all that information will be placed before the conference. In the meantime, I feel it is quite useless to discuss the matter any further. i
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Leader of
Minister (Mr. Chifley) has just said, this matter will, no doubt, be discussed in the future, partly at the forthcoming conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and partly during the debate on the budget, and therefore I do not propose to occupy more than a few minutes with my remarks. I desire to make it quite clear that the Liberal party, which I have the honour to lead, associates itself with the general theme put forward by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). After all, the gravamen of his case was concerned not with two-horse graders, but with the necessity for a substantial increase of the allocation by the Commonwealth Government to the States of revenues from petrol tax for the maintenance of roads. That is the proposition which has been put forward, and the Liberal party is in complete agreement with that proposition. After all, I remind the House - and it is something which we ought, perhaps, to keep in mind - that the State governments would themselves have imposed petrol tax years ago and become the masters of these revenues if it had not turned out, as the result of an interpretation placed upon the Constitution by the High Court, that they had no legal power to do so. As a matter of fact, South Australia and another State attempted to levy a tax on petrol, but the High Court held that such a tax amounted to an excise charge, which the States cannot constitutionally impose, and the States, therefore, had to stand out of the field of petrol revenues. One of the great problems in this country, which has not yet been solved, although all parties have made honest attempts to solve it, is how to distribute the financial resources in a federal system. If it had been possible to augment the States’ revenues by giving them power to impose indirect taxes, they would long ago have raised money by imposing a tax on petrol. As it is now, they are pegged in point of income tax because they are within the uniform tax structure; and they are pegged in respect of indirect taxation because they are prohibited from imposing any form of such taxation. One of the few types of tax left to them is a tax upon motor vehicles.
– They cannot afford to tax vehicles too highly.
– As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has just remarked, there is a very definite limit to the amount of revenue that can be raised in that way. To obtain a few hundred thousand pounds of revenue it might be necessary to impose a crushing tax upon the owners of individual vehicles, and, therefore that is not a very elastic source of revenue. The Commonwealth, being in command of the excise revenue, must be looked to by the States if any real relief is to be given to country municipalities. That is the argument in a nutshell, and it is just as well to remind ourselves of it.
The ^remarks that I am about to make apply to all municipalities, but I shall deal only with country municipalities. It is elementary to anybody who has considered this problem that country municipalities find themselves with their costs at least doubled and their revenues pegged. Do not let us forget that the pegging of rural land values is still in operation. Consequently, the ordinary expansion of values that might bring in a greater revenue from the same rate is not .possible. There is a limit to the amount of a rate. It is all right to talk of a rate of 2s. 6d. or 3s., but nobody engaged in municipal affairs would regard it as practical politics to talk of a rate of double those amounts. There is thus a practical limit to the amount of the rate and the rateable value. Therefore, there is a very sharp limit to the revenue of municipalities.
– Their costs have increased greatly.
– That is so. Their revenue has been kept static, but their expenditure has at least doubled. The Prime Minister makes two answers. First, he says, quite rightly, that the Government has not ‘been insensible of these difficulties and that the Commonwealth grant has been increased. That is not disputed, but there still seems to me to be an irresistible case for a further increase of the grant. We must not dwell too much upon our past virtues in this matter. I commend that suggestion to the attention of the right honorable gentleman. The Prime Minister says, secondly, that the States could have dealt with this problem, but in some instances they have actually reduced the tax on commercial vehicles.
– The tax on commercial vehicles would have been only a contribution. I do not say that it would have solved the problem.
– 1 am glad that the right honorable gentleman has made that interjection. In Victoria, which is the second largest State for this purpose, a reduction by 25 per cent, of the registration fees in respect of motor vehicle* with an allowance of less than 25 gallons of petrol a month entailed an annual loss of revenue of approximately £350,000. That is not a great sum when it is set off against the difference that exists to-day between the financial resources of the country municipalities and the amount of money that they should be expendingupon roads.
– It would help a bit.
– Every little helps. That is the motto that we are commending to .the Government. I am glad that the “ lord high executioner “ has made that remark before performing the duty of his sacred’ office. Country municipalities find that main roads passing through their territories may be kept more or less in shape. In various places substantial sums of money may be expended upon such roads,, and that expenditure may be open to criticism. But if we are to give the farmers of Australia the amenities that they need, we must concentrate upon thebyroads and the back roads along which their produce is brought to the rail-head or the market. What we are concerned: with in this motion is the type of road for which the country municipalities have practically the sole responsibility, and in relation to which their shortage of revenue becomes, therefore, all the more significant. I have risen only to bring to a point the case that I believe everyone on this side of the House wishes to present and which does not seem to me to have been answered satisfactorily by the Prime Minister.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Immigration Bill 1949.
War-time Refugees Removal Bill 1949.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 191.3-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.:- - Supply and installation of a central heating system and a central hot water supply system at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, to serve a total of eighteen buildings.
At present, only six of the eighteen buildings are provided with central heating from two coke-fired boiler plants. The remainder of the buildings have to rely entirely upon very inadequate fireplaces or upon electricity, which has not been available for heating purposes during winter periods for the last four years, and is not likely to be available for a number of years to come. Temporary heating expedients such as kerosene heaters have been tried without success, and the provision of a central heating and hot water supply system is considered to be the only economical solution. Heating and hot water supply are proposed to be provided from a brown coal-fired boiler, reticulating hot water by means of underground piping to the eighteen buildings. Individual calorifiers would be connected to this system to provide hot water. Existing pipe reticulation and hot water radiator systems would be re-used wherever possible. The estimated cost is £118,500, which would be borne proportionately by the Departments of Defence, Treasury, Navy, Army and Air. I lay on the table a plan indicating the proposed boiler house and pipe reticulation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations, namely: - Erection of the Batman Automatic Telephone Exchange, Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
This project was reported on by the Public Works Committee in 1946, and received the approval of the Parliament on the 7th August, 1946. The estimated cost at that time was £800,000, inclusive of £175,500 for the building section. The committee recommended in its summary of conclusions that, in view of the great variation of building costs, a special review of the estimate should be made before substantial commitments were entered into in connexion with the proposal. That was done. The committee has reinvestigated and reported on the proposal. The cost is now estimated to be £1,150,000. The committee has stated in its second report that, although costs have risen steeply, the work is still urgently required and should be proceeded with as an urgent measure. I am in agreement with the committee’s decisions. I recommend that the project, which was fully explained to the House on the 10th February, 1949, receive the approval of the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 30th June (vide page 1864), on motion by Mr. Calwell -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill to amend the Post and Telegraph Act is very short, but I am not at all sure that it does not possess a little more significance than meets the eye. Its one operative clause provides -
After section eighty-one of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1946 the following section is inserted: - 81a. -(1.) A person shall not use a telegraph line (not being a telegraph line erected upon private land or within a private building) for the purpose of transmitting a programme or other matter, being a programme or matter broadcast by a broadcasting station, television station or facsimile station (as defined by section four of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1948), and if a person uses a telegraph line for any such purpose he shall be deemed to have used that telegraph line without the authority of the Postmaster-General and the provisions of section one hundred and twentyeight of this Act shall apply accordingly.
In other words, this little bill, in terms, prohibits the use of a telegraph line to transmit a programme or other matter being a programme or matter broadcast by a broadcasting station. The plain purpose of the bill is to prevent the introduction into Australia of the broadcasting system, known as re-diffusion, which is extensively employed, for example, in Great Britain. I do not claim any expert knowledge on this matter, but, as I understand it, broadly, re-diffusion is a broadcasting system that is used in closely populated areas. Broadcast programmes are conveyed by wires to houses, thus eliminating the necessity for a wireless receiving set. Each house is simply equipped with a loudspeaker, and the occupants can switch on to any of, say, four stations. Apparently that system has been found to have some merits. So much so, in fact, that it is extensively used in Great Britain, where various companies have been formed for the provision of the service. I understand that the service is provided on a rental basis, and that it has been found satisfactory and profitable. However, I am not in a position to discuss the pluses or minuses of this method of conveying a programme to a listener. The point about the bill is that it prohibits the introduction of the system into this country. Whether the intention is to make the prohibition temporary while investigations are being made, I do not know. If the purpose of the measure is to stay the introduction of this system while expert opinion is being sought on it, I have no objection to it, but if it is intended that henceforth there shall be no re-diffusion in Australia, that is a limitation on public choice of the means of listening to broadcast programmes which requires more justification than has been given to the House so far. Perhaps the Minister can relieve my mind on that point now. Is the intention of the bill merely to hold the fort while the matter is being investigated ?
– Yes, for a period of some months or perhaps a year or so.
– If it were only for a period of a year, I should not be troubled by the measure, because I can quite see that this matter has to be examined carefully. If, however, the proposal is to exclude from this country permanently this method of broadcasting programmes, the bill requires justification, and nothing that I have heard so far persuades me that re-diffusion is any more unsuited to Australian conditions, or any more deserving of exclusion than any other means of conveying programmes to the listening public that may be devised.
.- As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, the bill is very short. Its purpose is clearly stated as being to prevent the introduction into this country of the new method of broadcasting known as re-diffusion. Like the right honorable gentleman, I know very little about the system. However, it was brought to my notice as a member of the Broadcasting Committee at a recent inquiry held in Perth. The radio trade was not asked to give evidence on this subject, but, as I happened at that time to be the acting chairman of the committee, I informed representatives of the radio trade that, although re-diffusion was outside the terms of reference of the committee, I would bring their statements on the matter to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. That is my reason for speaking in this debate to-day. Possibly, it is because of the views expressed to the committee in some detail by representatives of the radio trade that this measure has been introduced. The Leader of the Opposition spoke carefully on this measure, and put up a considered argument. He said that if the proposal was to exclude re-diffusion temporarily, he would not oppose the measure, but that if the exclusion was to be permanent, it should be justified1 more strongly than it has been so far. That argument is sound. It is also clear, however, that this bill cannot place a ban on this type of broadcasting in perpetuity. Any future Government could, if it were satisfied that re-diffusion was a desirable method of broadcasting, repeal this measure or make deliberate provision for the introduction of re-diffusion into this country. As I remember the arguments advanced by the radio trades, re-diffusion might be the death-knell of the radio manufacturing and trading industry. They said that the Postmaster-General (.Senator Cameron) had’ before him applications for licences to conduct re-diffusion broadcasts. They thought, in fact, that licences would be granted at an early date. They were at some pains to point out that re-diffusion was not a cheaper method of broadcasting to the general public, but was, in fact, more expensive.
– I do not think that is correct.
– It may not be. I am merely stating the opinion that was expressed1 to the committee. The radio traders also said that re-diffusion was not a proven method of broadcasting, and was no better than the present system.
– Is re-diffusion broadcasting the system under which the householder dials a number to receive a programme ?
– The programmes are conveyed to houses by land-lines. For that reason, the system is regarded as most suitable for closely populated areas. A separate line is required for each programme. All that the householder requires is a loudspeaker. The programme is received without the use of the conventional broadcast receiving set. The radio traders fear that the apparent cheapness of the service would induce many people to seek it.
– Re-diffusion reception would be free of static?
– I am not clear on that point.
– It is.
– The radio traders claim that it is not free from interfer ence, and is not a better service than that provided by the ordinary broadcasting system, provided receiving sets are properly tuned. That is all 1 know about that particular subject; but they said, if brought into general use, it would almost kill the radio manufacturing industry of this country. I support the bill whole-heartedly. If, ultimately, this system proves to be a better system than the present one, there is no doubt that the Government of the country will accept it.
– How can the system be demonstrated if it is not permitted to operate in Australia?
– I presume that the Postal Department and the radio traders themselves will watch developments in overseas countries. It would involve an expensive outlay to try the system out. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be put into operation if its advantages are proved, and if it is not too expensive. I believe that this bill should be passed because it is desirable first to have a complete knowledge of the success or otherwise of the system overseas before having it established here. If experience in other countries, and particularly in Britain, where the system is fairly widely in use, shows that it is worth having, this measure can easily be repealed and provision can be made for this new kind of broadcasting.
, - I do not claim to be an authority on this subject of wired wireless; but I rise to ask the Minister a question about the intentions of the Government and also to make several observations. I have studied this matter to some degree and have some practical experience of it, and it seems to me that wired wireless is undoubtedly a boon to .people who have only a limited amount of money to spend on radio entertainment. It is cheap and of a uniformly good standard. It is maintained by the organization operating it in a cheap and efficient manner. That has been the experience in Britain and the United States of America.
– The initial outlay is cheap, but would the cost to the listener over a period of years be cheap?
– I should say so. I have seen the relevant figures in a publication, hut I regret that I have not them with me to give to the House. Some publications have a method of calculating what the average radio listener spends on wireless sets over a certain period of years. The average cost to the listener of ordinary wireless reception shown in the figures I have seen compared most unfavorably with the small capital outlay, which is only 10s. or £1, for the wired wireless system, even when the monthly payments that the user of wired wireless pays are taken into account. The system has the effect of improving the standard of broadcasting from the various stations because there is only a limited selection of perhaps four stations to which the listener can tune. Experience in the United Kingdom and elsewhere has shown that a uniformly high standard results when the listeners have good alternative programmes to listen to. That seems to me of some value. Of course, that is one reason for the opposition to this plan, apart from any opposition in the minds of the Government. Broadcasting stations are not uniformly in favour of the system which would cut their advertising revenue down to some extent, because people do not want to listen to a large number of advertisements, as they often have to do at the present time. Those operating this wired wireless system will not allow unlimited advertisements, which seems a very good thing.
I should like the Minister to tell the House some of the history of this matter. I understand that the interests that put forward the proposition to the Government made some generous offers to meet the Government on. almost anyground it chose. They were prepared to bring their own operatives out from England so that there would be no drain on Australia’s man-power caused by the establishment of the industry, and also to bring prefabricated houses for their employees so that our housing position would not be affected. They were also prepared to make the equipment themselves in Australia or to have it made by local manufacturers. No dollar expenditure would be involved. I understand that they were prepared to do almost anything that the Government laid down as a condition upon which they could operate in this country. I should be glad if the Minister would tell us something about that matter. Wired wireless is obviously a means of bringing cheap entertainment into the homes of those who have a limited amount of money to spend on radio entertainment. It will undoubtedly come to this country as the density of population increases, just as it has come to other countries. I want to know whether the Government is really putting off the decision because it is examining the possibilities of the system and intends to go on with it in due course, or whether it is seeking to make the system a government monopoly? I should like to hear a reply from the Minister on that point because it seems to me that the country has so obviously nothing to lose in this matter that one is forced to search for the motives behind the Government’s opposition to the introduction of the system. We, on this side of the House, consider that there are already enough exclusive government fields of operation in regard to wireless, television, facsimile reproduction and so on, and I should like to know whether wired wireless is to become a close field for purely government activities.
– The justification for this legislation is that it provides for a breathing space while the possibilities of this system of wired wireless are examined so that the best decision can be made as to means by which it should be operated in this country. I know of no other justification having been put forward for the bill. The possibility that the system would cause some loss of profits to commercial radio stations or some injury to the business of those engaged in selling radio receivers does not constitute any justification at all for preventing the system from operating in Australia. I know very little indeed about wired wireless except that I can remember it operating in the United Kingdom many years ago and apparently providing a cheap and useful service to people in crowded areas in large cities.
– What was its effect on static ?
– There was no static. The programme came over a few miles of wire from a central radio station in the city.
– “Was there only one station, or were there several stations?
– I am speaking of a time about fifteen years ago. It was possible to choose one of either three or four programmes, so far as I can remember. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has pointed out that by this method it is possible to listen to programmes without being submitted to the nuisance caused by commercial advertisements. I remember having a discussion on this matter some time ago with people who were very impressed with the possibilities of rich profits from rediffusion. One man had the idea that it would be possible to sell a wired wireless service to owners of factories for the reason that not only would it provide acceptable entertainment to employees during the day, but also because it would enable the employer, every ten or fifteen minutes or as often as the employees would stand it, to give them a “pepup “ message, or some piece of propaganda designed to make them work as contentedly and hard as they could be persuaded to do. The system has all sorts of possibilities that are well worth examining, but I feel that the bill is justified at the present stage.
– I understand that the British Broadcasting Corporation has a complete monopoly of broadcasting services in the United Kingdom. Does some independent organization operate the wired wireless system there?
– I was speaking of the position as it was fifteen or sixteen years ago. I am not sure what it is now. The bill appears to be justified from the point of view o’f taking time to consider what is the best method of re-diffusion for Australia. I can see no reason why the system should not be permitted in Australia and no reason for any long delay in making a decision.
– I do not know a great deal about this subject, but I shall be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say presently. I take a very strong exception to any action by the Government that will tend to retard the development of this system. Science must progress. Most of us remember the time when the blacksmiths and coachbuilders were gravely concerned about the advent of the motor car. Many of them would have prevented the development of the new invention had they been able to do so. I believe that the representations of vested interests, such as the radio manufacturing companies and the commercial broadcasting stations, should not be heeded if they are opposed to the public interest, and the public interest demands that any improvement of broadcasting technique should be adopted in this country. I have witnessed the success of vested interests to the detriment of public good on more than one occasion. For example, the petrol companies some years ago succeeded in persuading the Government of Queensland to prohibit the erection of electrical petrol pumps throughout the State. To-day we still have the anomaly of electrical pumps in service at garages on the Tweed . Heads side of the New South “Wales-Queensland border while obsolete manually-operated pumps are used in Coolangatta on the other side of the border. That ridiculous state of affairs exists because the petrol companies wanted to save the expense of installing electrical pumps.
– Order! That has nothing to do with the subject of the bill.
– I am dealing with the principle of developing improved community facilities. I do not intend to. labour the point, but it is relevant inasmuch as it demonstrates how the public interest can be ill-served by legislation similar to the bill that we are now considering. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and other honorable members, including the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), have expressed the hope that the bill has not been designed to prohibit permanently the introduction of re-diffusion services. I hope that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) will be able to reassure us on that point. Improvements of the nature of re-diffusion are continually taking place in this electrical age, and the people of Australia are entitled to enjoy the benefit of those improvements even though the manufacturing companies and the commercial broadcasting stations mav suffer financially in the process. Vested interests should not be allowed to hinder progress in Australia.
– in reply - The system of wire broadcasting, or re-diffusion as it is called, with which this bill deals, is a system of distributing radio programmes to listeners from a central point by the use of telephone lines. In other words, it is an alternative system to the ordinary broadcasting system. It operates in Great Britain and the United States of America. In Great Britain, ordinary radio broadcasting is controlled by a government monopoly, the British Broadcasting Corporation. The United States system, of course, is entirely in the hands of private enterprise. The re-diffusion system in Great Britain is controlled by private enterprise. There are a number of companies, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has remarked, and they make a very substantial profit - about £4,000,000 annually - from the operation of re-diffusion broadcasting services. I have no doubt that they give good service to the people who use their system. Those people certainly enjoy the benefits of broadcasting more cheaply than if they had to pay for individual listeners’ licences and had to buy receiving sets. Under the re-diffusion system, they have only to pay a rental for a set and for the service. Re-diffusion has certain advantages in the matter of clarity, and subscribers have the choice of three or four programmes. However, although there are many advantages in the system, there are some disadvantages also. There are disadvantages from the point of view of persons who make radio receiving sets for the ordinary broadcasting system, and there is very strong opposition on the part of those manufacturers to the adoption of the re-diffusion system. That is natural. All of us tend to become conservative as we grow older and to protect our particular vested interest, whatever it may be.
– Does the honorable gentleman expect to live to .a ripe old age?
– I have a long way to go before I become as conservative as the honorable gentlemen upon whose smiling faces I look at this moment.
Some of the people who object most to the introduction of the new system once showed a great deal of enterprise in engaging in the manufacture of receiving sets for amplitude modulation broadcasts. Those people also objected - and their objections were voiced in this Parliament by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) - to the adoption of the television system by the Government because they thought that ite introduction would lead to the scrapping of existing types of receiving sets, in the manufacture of which they have invested tremendous sums of money. They feared that their investments would waste away if television became popular. Opposition of a similar character has been raised against the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting. Nevertheless, science marches on and the inventive genius of man has now discovered methods of adapting existing receiving sets, by the use of a few small gadgets, to meet the demands of television.
– Surely the manufacturers are not worried about existing receiving sets being outmoded?
– They are. Nobody is more worried than is Mr. Arthur Warner, a member of the Victorian Government, who is the presiding genius of Electronic Industries Proprietary Limited. He is very strongly opposed to the introduction of frequency modulation and television. The Government has been subjected to pressure by a number of groups which claim that, if the system of re-diffusion broadcasting is to come into operation, it ought to be introduced in some orderly way. At least, there ought to be a complete examination of the system that is in use in Great Britain, with particular reference to its adaptability to Australian conditions. British conditions are vastly different from those of Australia. It is easy enough to use re-diffusion in London, where 8,000,000 people live in a confined area, but it would be a different proposition to install it satisfactorily in Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board was asked by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) to give him advice upon this matter, and it recommended that the introduction of the system should be deferred for some time.
– For how long?
– We do not know. I said in answer to the Leader of the Opposition that it might be twelve months, two years, or perhaps even longer. Those are the factors that have influenced the Government to adopt its present .point of view. There is a great demand for telephonic facilities throughout Australia to-day. If we allowed the copper wire that ought to be used to provide telephone lines to be used for the purpose of establishing what relatively would be a luxury service, we should do a grave disservice to the people who want telephones.
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department would not provide copper wire for the purposes of rediffusion at the expense of telephone services?
– No, it would not. The Postmaster-General has received twenty applications for licences, but he is refusing to issue them. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has advised the Government that no licences should be issued within the next twelve months, or even a longer period. The PostmasterGeneral is placed in a difficult position if the will of the Parliament is not expressed in legislation upon this matter, and it is left to his discretion to decide whether to grant some licences and to refuse other applications. The Government considers that it is better to let everybody know that, for a period of at least twelve months, no licences will be issued.
– Why does not the Government make provision in the bill for that limitation ?
– It should be left to the government of the day to decide, twelve months hence, whether the circumstances that will then exist warrant the development of this field of broadcasting. I have not the slightest doubt that, whatever happens, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will not then be the PostmasterGeneral. The Government considers that there should be no uncertainty about the position. As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has stated, a reputable firm in Great Britain sent its representatives to Australia and offered to bring its own prefabricated houses and, what is even more valuable, the “knowhow “ of this service. That firm was even prepared to provide its own copper wire, and thus avoid incurring dollar commitments in that respect. But the Government must be sensible of public opinion. Should it permit the importation of copper wire from Great Britain for this particular purpose, whilst it does not import, copper wire for the extension of telephone facilities? Perhaps the firm which I have mentioned could obtain the copper wire from its stocks in Great Britain, and, in that event, that wire would not be available to the Government. However, the Government’s advisers have expressed1 the opinion that this facility should not be made available at the present time. I recall that a few weeks ago, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) protested against a proposal by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to proceed with extensions to a telephone exchange in Melbourne, because he considered that that work would deprive the housing programme of essential materials.
– I was not opposed- to the proposed work on the telephone exchange, but I said that the work, if undertaken at this time, would rob the building materials pool.
– I think that I have interpreted the honorable gentleman’s view fairly. He did not want building materials to be used in erecting a new telephone exchange, because he considered that, while the housing position remained so serious, this work could wait. In the same way, the Government considers that the system of re-diffusion can wait for some time. If the Government were to grant licences to applicants who desire to introduce the system, it would need to determine the charges that should be made, because under the present system of determining the cost of wireless licences, the Parliament has enacted, in special legislation, what that charge shall be annually, and the receipts from that source are paid to the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Commercial broadcasting undertakings do not receive any part of the fee, but they are permitted to charge for the advertisements that they broadcast, and, in that way, they obtain their revenue. The matter to be decided is whether any part of the wireless licence-fee shall be paid to the operators of the re-diffusion service, or, alternatively, whether the company that operates the service shall pay to the Postmaster-General’s Department any particular amount, other than the amount that they will have to pay for using the facilities of the department that are now made available, not only to the commercial stations, at a cost, but also to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
-What is the position in Great Britain?
– I understand that the payment which the company makes is regarded by the Postal Department as a reasonable amount. Recently, it was suggested in the United Kingdom that the system of re-diffusion should be made a government monopoly, and that aspect is being investigated at the present time.
– The Postal Department controls the charges in any case.
– I think that that is correct. If we introduce the system of re-diffusion in Australia we must appoint an’ authority to control the charges. It may be that, when the Government of the day decides upon this matter, it will do as the Bruce-Page Government did, and appoint an authority like Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, in which the Government will have one share more than half the total number of shares, and make a government-private enterprise monopoly of the system, instead of allowing four or five competing companies to operate and waste materials, and perhaps depreciate the efficiency of the service to the general public, and, in that way, not provide such a satisfactory system as the system of which Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited would be the prototype. All those matters will require consideration at some future date. I do not think that any one will be able to assert with justification that the Government is acting precipitately in this matter. It may be accused of being over-cautious, but I believe that, in the matter of wireless broadcasting, caution is justified in the light of experience. There was a time when commercial broadcasting licences had to be hawked around the country in the hope that somebody would use them, and popularize the old crystal receiving sets and the use of broadcasting generally. But the day soon came when broadcasting licences were almost unobtainable, and to-day only a few fortunate people have the chance to make the best use that they can make of the facilities available. Of course, the business is most profitable to the companies engaged in it.
There is a system now in operation in hospitals, hotels and factories whereby radio programmes are broadcast in rooms from a master set. That system is different from the re-diffusion system, although the general principle of broadcasting from a master set is the same. The Government does not intend to interfere with any system that now exists. What is operating to-day is operating under legislation that has already been enacted. The new system, whilst it has similar features, has other problems which are not capable of solution at this moment, and the Government considers that they may very well be left for the future to determine.
I have now answered the various observations that have been made by honorable members opposite in this debate. I assure them that what is being done will be of benefit to all interested parties and to the Postmaster-General’s Department, which cannot now provide the facilities that would be required by the entrepreneurs interested1 in the new system for some time. It will satisfy the manufacturers of radio receiving sets, because they will be able to plan ahead for a year or two without having to fear that their plant will become out of date or outmoded in the immediate future. It will satisfy those people who have a knowledge of the system, and desire to operate it in Australia, because they will now be certain that it will be of no use them planning to extend their operations in this country for at least twelve months. I think that it will be of value generally to all those people who are interested in wireless broadcasting to know that th« chaos and confusion that arose from the haphazard growth of the present system of broadcasting will not be repeated in the new system. I commend the bill to the House and hope that it will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The vital clause in this measure is clause 2. Proposed new section 81a (1), which the clause proposes to enact, reads -
A person shall not use a telegraph line (not being a telegraph line erected upon private land or within a private building) for the purpose of transmitting a programme or other matter. . . .
This means that the Postal Department will refuse service to a company or organization wishing to give the public the benefit of a new invention. I know that this is a technical subject, of which I and other members of the Parliament know very little. Indeed, it is something new. However, the fact remains that an inventive company is prepared to introduce it to Australia and I am astounded that the Minister, who is most enthusiastic about all matters relating to immigration, should not encourage the company to do so. I understand that this matter has been considered for about two years.
– Not quite that long.
– The Government has had plenty of time to consider the matter. We need additional artisans in this country. The company is prepared to bring out its own staff and prefabricated houses for them. That in turn would create additional employment. I consider that the Government is acting retro.gressively by introducing this measure. It savours of the objections that were offered by stage coach proprietors when the intention to construct railways was announced, and of the opposition by members of the railways unions to the advancement of aviation. Some honorable members will also remember the time when it was decreed that a man carrying a red flag should walk in front of a motor car travelling on the public roads. It is a sign of a backward government that new inventions are not encouraged.
Science must be allowed to progress. A little over a century ago a campaign was waged by the Luddites against machinery, because they considered that their people would be deprived of employment. They went from factory to factory smashing machines. The Minister has said that the limited supplies of copper wire at present available are required for other purposes. As Australia produces copper wire there is no reason why a quantity sufficient for all purposes should not be produced. I do not offer this comment in a partisan spirit. The Government has exhibited a lack of imagination in this matter; the new system should at least be given a trial. If when Orville and Wilbur Wright sought assistance in connexion with aviation, the government of the day had told them that petrol or something else could not be spared for the purpose, aviation would not have progressed to such a degree.
.- I am not at all happy about this bill. Since I last addressed myself to this subject I have made inquiries about it, and have ascertained that it is used extensively in Great Britain and on the Continent.
– It is also used extensively in the United States of America.
– It is not an innovation as far as wireless broadcasting services are concerned. An enormous amount of information on the subject, which has been accumulated during the period of about fifteen years that it has been in operation in other parts of the world, is available for the Government. I have an uneasy thought that pressure has been brought to bear on the Government by vested interests, particularly the commercial broadcasting stations, who fear that some of their revenue would be affected if this system were introduced into Australia. It may be another example of the old story of “ somebody pulling the strings “ to the detriment of the public interest.
– That would not be so with the Australian Labour party.
– If a royal commission were held some of the breweries’ employees may be able to supply information on that aspect of the matter.
– The Australian Labour party does not receive money from the breweries.
– This bill has been introduced with the deliberate intention of preventing an English company from operating in Australia.
– Although that may be a partial effect, it is not the purpose of this measure.
– That is what has happened. Although an English company that has operated this system successfully for many years in various parts of the world is prepared to introduce it to Australia, the Government has seen fit to introduce this entirely unnecessary bill. That has apparently been done at the behest of interested bodies, because it has been admitted that the Government has very little knowledge of this subject. The Minister has said that the Postal Department, which would have to install the copper wires, would not be able to do so at present because of the shortage of material. There is therefore no need for special legislation to prevent the system being put into operation at present, because economic circumstances now operating would preclude that being done. The coal strike prevents many things being done at present.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - (Mr. Burke). - Order! The coal strike has nothing to do with the measure before the committee.
– I submit that the availability of material has everything to do with the installation of copper wires and equipment.
Sitting suspended from 1248 to 2.15 p.m.
– The system of rediffusion broadcasting, which this bill proposes to prohibit in Australia, has been operated very successfully in England and on the continent of Europe. Under that system, the user could install at very low cost a radio reception apparatus which would serve the purpose of the expensive receiving sets now in use. For a few shillings, or at most for £1 or so, the installation may be completed by any handy man. I have suggested that vested interests are behind the introduction of this bill, and the attempt to prevent Aus tralian listeners from getting the best and cheapest broadcasting system. Those interests, I suggest, are the manufacturers of radio equipment, and their representatives, and the broadcasting stations which fear that, if the new system were introduced, their monopoly over advertising would be challenged and their revenues diminished. As the result of inquiries I have made, I believe that the Government has yielded to pressure exerted by wealthy organizations, and has introduced this bill to prevent the English company from operating in Australia as it does in other parts of the world. The Minister said that one of the most antagonistic opponents of the proposed system was u gentleman named Mr. Warner, who is Minister for Housing in Victoria.
– I did not say that he was most antagonistic. I said that he was strongly opposed to it.
– Yes, and he is also head of Electronic Industries Proprietary Limited, and chairman of the association of radio manufacturers in Australia. I understand that he made the strongest representations to the Government, or to the press, in opposition to the proposal. I also heard - and I place this before the Minister, who may contradict it if he cares to do so - that Mr. Warner, a few days after he had expressed his opposition in the press approached the Postmaster-General with a request that he himself should be given the right to operate the new system, and, possibly, be given a monopoly in regard to it.
– The honorable member knows more than I do.
– The Minister is at liberty to contradict the suggestion, and he may be right, but it is freely rumoured that Mr. Warner made an inside approach to the Postmaster-General, after having stated that the new system would be a threat to the radio industry in Australia, and asked that his own firm be given a monopoly to operate the system. As the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has himself said, the new system would be a gold-mine to the organization operating it. It would also, of course, be of great benefit to the listening public, and would provide them with a cheaper service. Of course, Mr. Warner, if he is so disposed, may contradict the suggestion about the reasons behind his opposition to the system. I have also said that commercial broadcasting stations are opposed to the system. The Minister has said that the bill was introduced at the suggestion of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
– That is so.
– Well, let us see what is the constitution of the board. The Australian Broadcasting Act provides that no member of the board shall have any financial interest, whether direct or indirect, in any company which is the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station. I wish to trace this manoeuvre in order to show what is behind the Government’s pose that it is seeking to protect the interests of the public. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) went to London, and there saw Mr. Beg Denison who is head of the Macquarie broadcasting network.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– The Prime Minister himself said that, as a result of a discussion with Mr. Denison, arrangements were made for the free use by the Prime Minister of the Macquarie broadcasting network for a weekly broadcast to the nation. If such a broadcast had to be paid for at ordinary commercial rates, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) would have to pay, it would cost the Labour party many thousands of pounds.
– The cost of such a broadcast by the Leader of the Opposition would be defrayed out of Liberal party funds.
– In the case of the Prime Minister, the service is provided free by the Macquarie network, and is costing the Labour party nothing. But there has been a pay-off because, although the act provides that no person having a financial interest in a broadcasting station may be appointed to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the fact is that Mr. Ogilvy, who had an interest in the Macquarie network, and who was
Managing Director of one of the stations in that organization, was appointed to the board.
– Not until after he had divested himself of his interests in commercial broadcasting.
– By the simple and easy expedient of resigning from the Macquarie network, after having spent a lifetime in association with it, Mr. Ogilvy thereby became eligible for appointment to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. What a beautiful set-up for the Government! Are we to believe that this gentleman, or any other similarly placed gentleman, could so easily divorce himself from interests with which he has been closely associated for many years ? We proceed from the Prime Minister to Mr. Denison, and from Mr. Denison to Mr. Ogilvy, and this is the pay-off on the part of the Government. Mr. Ogilvy, a director of the Macquarie network-
– An ex-director.
- Mr. Ogilvy resigned from his position as a director of the Macquarie network and thereby qualified for appointment to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which, in turn, made a recommendation to the Government, which, as the Minister has said, is responsible for this measure having been introduced into this Parliament to prevent competition by private radio interests.
– What is wrong with that?
– If there is any decency in public life in Australia, there is a lot wrong with it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. The honorable member for Wimmera.
– May I not take my second period now, Mr. Deputy Chairman?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - The honorable member may not do so because the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has already been given the call.
– The honorable member for Wimmera rose merely in order to move that the honorable member for Richmond be given an extension of time.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order I There can be no question of an extension of time because the Chair has already given the call to another honorable member. If the honorable member for Wimmera had not risen, the honorable member for Richmond would have been entitled to take his second period.
– I do not desire to speak to the clause.
– Am I to be permitted to continue, Mr. Deputy Chairman?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- No.
– I wanted to hear the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) conclude his speech. I am sorry he was not permitted to do so. 1 shall reply, however, to the first instalment of his attack on a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Although there are three members of the board only ohe of them was referrred to by the honorable member for Richmond. The Chairman of the board is the former DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning. The fact that Mr. Fanning was once Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs does not prejudice him in favour of the Postal Department as against private enterprise. Yet, if the honorable member’s argument were valid, any person who had been associated with the Postal Department should not be appointed to a position which entails the making of decisions that affect private enterprise. Nothing has been said against the appointment of Mr. Fanning. I merely mention his appointment to show that if what has been said about Mr. Ogilvy could be sustained the same criticism could equally validly be used against the appointment of Mr. Fanning. Mr. Ogilvy has. a very wide and extensive knowledge of commerical broadcasting. He has been a very successful entrepreneur - if I might again use that term - in the field of commercial broadcasting. He was managing director of station 2CA Canberra until a few days before he was appointed to the office to which reference has been made. If Mr. Ogilvy had not been appointed to the position, some other person with wide experience in the broadcasting world would have been appointed to it. It was suggested at one time that Mr. King, M.L.C., who is manager of the Sydney Labour station, 2KY, and also secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, might be appointed. If we had appointed Mr. King, we should probably have been accused of appointing a person with strong political prejudices. Mr. Ogilvy was a very important member of the Denison-Macquarie radio organization which has had a very successful career in radio.
– Is the MacquarieDenison organization the organization which arranges free broadcasts for the Prime Minister?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) should not put leading questions to me or try to examine me. The facts in relation to those broadcasts have already been announced. Probably the announcement was made on one of those many days on which the honorable member for Warringah was not present in this House. The time which the Macquarie network has made available for this purpose is given to the occupant of the office of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth for the time being. Some day the honorable member for Warringah might enjoy the advantage of broadcasting to the nation as Prime Minister of Australia free of charge; but that day is a long way off. The third member of the board is Mr. Osborne, formerly registrar of the Australian National University. Mr. Osborne is a distinguished lawyer from Tasmania who became a member of the Commonwealth Public Service for a period during the war years and remained in the service of the Commonwealth until his appointment to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. No one was more surprised than was Mr. Osborne when he was appointed. We selected the most qualified persons we could find for the positions for which the act made provision. We had to appoint somebody who had a knowledge of broadcasting. If we had not appointed Mr. Ogilvy, as I have said, we might have appointed Mr. King. If we had not appointed Mr. King, we might have appointed Mr. Dooley, the secretary of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. We might even have considered appointing “ Ammo Alfie “ Paddison, who runs the station owned by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). It could be argued against any of those persons that their association with broadcasting precluded them from consideration in the same way as the honorable member for Richmond desired to exclude Mr. Ogilvy. Many members and former members of this House have been appointed to responsible governmental positions. The fact that they had engaged in politics did not necessarily prejudice their appointments. As a matter of fact the experience which honorable members gain in this Parliament very often helps them to carry out the duties of such important positions. In passing, I mention that Mr. C. L. A. Abbott, a former honorable member for Gwydir, was appointed from this House to the position of Administrator of the Northern Territory. A former right honorable member for Kooyong became Chief Justice of the High Court. A former honorable member for Parkes became a justice of the High Court. One of the two latter gentlemen was a Nationalist and the other was a Labour man; but that they had been associated with politics did not necessarily mean, nor has it meant in the opinion of honorable members ever since, that they were unfitted to occupy the official positions to which they were appointed. By the same line of argument, Mr. Ogilvy should not be excluded from occupying a position on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board because he has been associated with broadcasting. Because Mr. Ogilvy had been associated with the Macquarie network, which decided to make time available to the Prime Minister free of cost, the honorable member for Richmond is not entitled to use the term “ pay off “. That is a nasty expression. This Government makes no deals with people in regard .to services that are generously offered to it as a government. The broadcast which the Prime Minister makes over the Macquarie network every Sunday night is, as its title implies, a report to the nation, and is not Labour propaganda. The right honorable gentleman merely makes reports of what is happening in Australia from time to time and the people appreciate them. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has suggested that the British company should have been given the franchise for which it asked and should be allowed to commence operations immediately, bringing out its prefabricated houses and its staff, so that it could give the Australian people the advantage of a new development in broadcasting technique. On the face of it, there is something in the honorable gentleman’s argument. But there is also something against it. If we gave that company, with its large capital resources, a licence to begin this form of broadcasting in Australia, we should be giving it a monopoly. The company would be the only organization in Australia with the necessary capital, facilities, technique and know-how to start immediately. If it were given a licence, it would hold it for all time. We should establish a monopoly for private enterprise. One honorable gentleman has said that the company was prepared to manufacture its equipment in Australia and to enter into arrangements with the Government concerning the conduct of its activities. We do not say in this legislation that an arrangement of that kind cannot be made in the future. All that we say is that the time is not ripe to allow one company to begin such an enterprise. It may be that the honorable member for Richmond was correct in saying that Mr. Warner opposed the introduction of this method of broadcasting and applied for a licence for himself almost the next day. I shall have to check up on that statement. I suppose that, viewed from the standpoint of commercial morality, there is nothing wrong in such a line of action. It may be a commonplace happening in the business world. If we gave the British company, with its great resources and tremendous advantages, a licence and then gave a licence to Mr. Warner, I am not sure that he would be satisfied. He would probably feel that he was at a great competitive disadvantage.
As I said in the second-reading debate on this bill, it is important that we should introduce this new system in an orderly manner. In the early days of commercial broadcasting, licences were granted willy-nilly, with the result that at the present time all the broadcasting stations in Sydney and Melbourne have clear channels and the best frequencies. They have very great advantages over broadcasting stations in country areas, which must share channels and operate upon frequencies that do not permit them to compete effectively with the strongly entrenched metropolitan broadcasting stations. The metropolitan stations have passed into the hands of newspaper proprietors and others, who operate them in order to advance their particular political beliefs or ideologies and for their own profit. They are not primarily concerned with the interests of the people as a whole. In view of the raw deal that was given to country broadcasting stations, we do not want to start off on the wrong foot in regard to this new system. Let us wait a while. We shall lose nothing by doing so. Nobody will be disadvantaged. We could not start the new system now even if licences were issued, because the Postal Department could not supply the necessary landlines, because it needs all the copper wire that it can obtain to make more telephones available for the people. If we went ahead at the speed that has been suggested by the honorable member for Balaclava, more public criticism would be directed at us than will be the case if we wait for a year, or perhaps two years, until conditions are more settled and we know precisely where we are going.
We have tied up television in the same way as we desire to tie up re-diffusion broadcasting. The proceedings of this Parliament will not be telecast for a few years.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) apparently has reason to say “ Hear, hear ! “ in answer to that state ment. We have tied up the issue of television licences, and for very good reasons. The Parliament passed the legislation that has enabled us to do so. There is, therefore, nothing wrong in following that precedent in regard to re-diffusion broadcasting. Television, frequency modulation, facsimile broadcasting and re-diffusion broadcasting form a pattern. Let the experts tell us when the time is ripe to begin the issue of licences. Do not let us act prematurely and get ourselves into an unfortunate position similar to that which obtained when broadcasting licences were first issued. Nobody then wanted them and they had to be offered to people who might use them, with a plea from the Postmaster-General’s Department, “ Please take one of these licences and see if you can make the system work”. A lot of headaches were .caused as a result of that action. We do not want headaches again if we can avoid them.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has boasted that, since this Government has been in office, it has tied up this, that and the other_ thing. Having tied them up, what has it done with them? Many people are anxious to have materials for tying things up, but they cannot get them. On the 11th September, 1946, three years ago, the Government tied up completely the production of uranium in this country. When I asked for information on that matter-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The honorable gentleman must not discuss that subject.
– I am dealing with the Government’s tying-up process. As soon as the Government puts its hands upon anything, that thing is tied up in such a way that it cannot move at all. I have a strong suspicion that if the Minister for Information remains in office for as long as he hopes he will, we shall not see television during that time. I have no particular desire to see it myself, but that is a “matter upon which I do not see eye to eye with some of my fellow citizens. They believe in what is called progress, but I am not quite so enamoured of something which is somewhat difficult to define.
The Government is now attempting to do a little more tying up. I think that the time has come when it should begin to do some untying. There ought to be much less binder twine, tie wire, and odds and ends in government departments. The people want those materials, but cannot get them. I have a suspicion that three years after the Government has taken control of television it will have done just as much in regard to it as it has done in regard to the production of aluminium, the production of uranium and several other matters, including the Snowy Mountains scheme. Whales will still be running as freely as sardines then. Everything will be legally tied up, but television facilities will not be available to anybody in the Commonwealth.
.- I desire to make it clear that I have not criticized Mr. Ogilvy’s capacity as an expert in the broadcasting industry. The legislation under which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was established was introduced by this Government and not by the Opposition parties. The Government provided in its own legislation that no person who had a financial interest in an existing commercial broadcasting station would be eligible for appointment to the board when it was established.
– That is a very wise provision.
– At the time at which the Minister made that declaration and when the Australian Broadcasting Bill was passed through this Parliament, Mr. Ogilvy was a director of the Macquarie Broadcasting Service Proprietary Limited, or, if not exactly at that time, at least at about that time. The Minister may argue that by the simple process of resigning from the directorate of the Macquarie network on the day before he was appointed a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, Mr. Ogilvy conformed to all the requirements of the Australian Broadcasting Act. Technically he did so conform, but nobody will believe that he has divorced himself from his lifelong association.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- We have had a good deal of discussion on this particular matter, and the Chair has been lenient and tolerant about it. However, the bill does not deal with the subject of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board except insofar as the recommendation regarding the wireless system came from that board. The discussion is now being confined to broadcasting control and is not being related to the measure itself.
– The board made the recommendation and therefore-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Then the discussion ought to be solely on the validity of that recommendation.
– If you rule that my remarks are out of order, I shall not pursue the subject, other than to say that I do not believe that a man can divorce himself completely from his life-long associations in such a way.
– Would the honorable member say that of the judges of the High Court of Australia ?
– I should not say it of something that was laid down in an act of Parliament.
– This is laid down in an act of Parliament.
– It is no more possible for a man to completely divorce himself from his interests within 24 hours than it is for a member of the Communist party to resign one day and say on the next day that he is completely free of the Communist taint.
– That is a reflection on Mr. Sharpley.
– It may apply to him, for all I know. I view with very great suspicion, any one who can turn a complete somersault within a matter of 24 hours.
I take no exception to the Government holding off for a little time in order to ascertain what the position is in respect of this particular method of radio transmission, but, as other honorable members have pointed out, it has been in operation in Britain for many years, and the Government has had ample opportunity over a long period of time to acquaint itself regarding what is the best thing for Australia in this regard. My objection to this measure is that, as it stands, it will place a permanent prohibition on this system being operated privately. The Minister has said that the prohibition will operate probably only for twelve months or two years but I am of the opinion that it will prove to be like Kathleen Mavourneen - it may be forever. We have had some experience of acts of Parliament that, once passed, are not easily repealed. Therefore, in the absence of any provision in this bill to place a time limit on the prohibition against the people of Australia getting the advantage of this new system, which would be cheaper and, in some respects, particularly in the capital cities where better wiring facilities are available, better for them, I take the strongest exception to the Government putting a sprag in the wheels of progress. The effect of this measure will be that we shall stand still in respect of this new development. If the system is not going to be successful, if it is not better than the present system, the public will not patronize it. That- will be the best answer. The English company cannot hope to succeed with the operation of the system unless the service that it provides is either better or cheaper than the existing service. The Government has introduced this bill because it fears the provision by a private organization of a cheaper and better service that would gain the patronage of the radio listeners. The fear that a vested interest will be challenged is the real motive that has actuated this measure. It has not been actuated by a fear that the public may not get a good service because, as I have said, the test would be how cheap and how good the service was.
– I must reply to two criticisms made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). One is that the Government fears that, unless this bill is passed a vested interest will suffer, and that if the bill were not passed the people would get a better ser vice than they are getting at the present time. The second is that the Government has brought the bill down under pressure from, first, the manufacturers, and secondly the controllers of commercial radio stations. Neither charge has any validity. The Government has not acted under pressure from anybody. It is not protecting the interests of either the manufacturers of radio receiving equipment or the owners of commercial radio stations. It has taken into consideration the interests of all the people interested in broadcasting, but it is primarily concerned with preserving such facilities as are available for the use of the people of Australia, such as the telephone service, and providing for the installation of increased telephonic communications, and the like, rather than dissipating the energies of the nation upon something that, at the present time, is in the nature of a luxury development.
– The system would not be a luxury development if it were cheap.
– That may be so, but cheapness is not the only consideration. A lot of people who now desire telephones connected to their homes would be glad to have them even if they had to pay twice the rental and twice the new rates that have been imposed. It is the facility that they want and the price that they would have to pay is not worrying them. We must consider first things first, and cheapness is not the first thing to be considered in this matter. The honorable gentleman can be assured that we are not reacting or responding to pressure from vested interests in the way that some of our predecessors in office did. There is nothing to fear in that regard. There is no requirement in the act which could in any way be held to bear upon the fact that Mr. Ogilvy assisted in making this recommendation. There is no requirement in the act that any person appointed to the board must relinquish any appointment that he may have had in any commercial radio station immediately the bill was introduced. He should have to relinquish an appointment only if he were asked to accept an appointment on the board. Mr. Ogilvy agreed to accept an appointment on the board and then became quite a dispassionate person.
Therefore his recommendation about this matter has no relation to any previous position that he held.
– What clause is the Minister dealing with?
– I am answering the objection raised by the honorable member for Richmond that Mr. Ogilvy, as a member of the board, did not make the recommendation on this particular matter that he would have made if he had not been associated with privately owned broadcasting interests. The honorable gentleman went on to say that people who once had certain interests cannot divorce themselves from those interests or affections or feelings when they make recommendations as members of a board that is not directly under the control of the interests that they once served. I think that acceptance of that line of argument would mean that no judge of the High Court of Australia could ever be appointed from the political sphere, and no member of this House could ever be appointed to the diplomatic service or as an administrator of the Northern Territory or Norfolk Island, for instance. The honorable gentleman has exaggerated his point far beyond what is fair and reasonable. The Government is quite satisfied that Mr. Ogilvy’s recommendations are as valuable and disinterested as are those of any other member of the board.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 1st July (vide page 1915), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have examined the provisions of this bill carefully, and I have no reason to oppose it. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in his second-reading speech, said-
The bill will place the territory lighthouses directly under the Commonwealth Lighthouse
Service, which has the organization and skilled officers to enable it to extend its activities with the least possible delay and with a minimum of cost.
The Government has decided that the most economical and efficient means of controlling lighthouses and other aids to; marine navigation in the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea is to bring the existing service under a central authority, the Marine Branch of the Department of Shipping and Fuel. The Marine Branch, which is responsible for the maintenance of lighthouses and other marine aids on the Australian coast, has at its disposal lighthouse steamers and equipment, and the skilled personnel necessary to carry out this work in the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea. The bill is designed to give statutory authority to the Government’s decision.
In the past, employees in the lighthouse service have been dissatisfied with their conditions, and I have directed attention to the matter by means of a question in this House. Although lighthouse keepers and attendants are entitled to the benefits of the 40-hour working week, fifteen months elapsed before a decision was made about their position. After their claims had been heard by a board, the men were notified that for the additional hours that they would be required to work, they would be paid £1 a week. Lighthouse keepers and their attendants, instead of working 40 hours a week, are on duty for 65 or 68 hours a week, and, in return, they are paid at the rate of approximately 9½d. an hour. One of the first acts of the Marine Branch should be to review the working conditions of those men. They are engaged in most important work, and their conditions of employment are in striking contrast with those that are enjoyed by persons engaged in other activities of national importance. For example, civilians who are employed in some military camps because of the lack of recruits receive £2 14s. a day for Saturday work, and £3 6s. 9d. a day for Sunday work. I invite honorable members to contrast that rate of remuneration with the miserable sum of £52 per annum that is paid to lighthouse keepers and attendants for working 25 hours or 28 hours a week more than the prescribed 40 hours.
Lighthouse keepers and attendants live in isolated places, and they are not in the position to make demands that will be speedily met by the Government. For that reason, it appears, their claims have been almost completely overlooked. The position has been aggravated by the decision to pay them only £1 a week for the additional hours that they must work. The men who man the ships that carry supplies to the lighthouses work a 40- hour week, and receive all the benefits that accrue from it. The Minister, when replying to the debate, may claim that payments were made to lighthouse keepers and their attendants retrospectively for fifteen months. That is perfectly true, but an additional £1 a week is a miserable amount to grant them. I hope that the Marine Branch will ensure that lighthouse keepers and attendants in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea will receive a much better deal than they have had in the past. Their work is most responsible. The safety of shipping in those parts depends upon the care with which they perform their duties. I direct the attention of the Minister to this matter, because when I asked a question about the conditions of these men some time ago, I was informed that the matter would be investigated. But fifteen months elapsed before this worthy body of men received any redress.
– I desire, briefly, to support the remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), because I was associated with him on a previous occasion in making representations to the Government to improve the conditions of this worthy body of men. Without going into the pros and cons of the matter, I emphasize the importance of the lighthouse service. Lighthouse keepers and attendants work in isolated situations, and the lives of many people, and the safety of shipping generally, depend upon the job that they do. It is essential, in the interests of the safety of marine navigation, that these men should be satisfied with their conditions of employment. Some members of the lighthouse service have informed me that, in contrast with the improved conditions that other sections of the community now enjoy, their conditions were not varied sometimes for periods of ten years. I raised the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and the right honorable gentleman, in the course of a lengthy reply, referred to a number of improvements that had been made in the conditions of employment of lighthouse keepers and attendants. However, the fa.ct remains ‘that, for working 25 or 2S hours a week in excess of the prescribed 40 hours, .the men are paid only £1 a week, or at the rate of 91/2d. an hour. The Marine Branch of the Department of Shipping and Fuel, which controls lighthouses on the Australian coast, will, under this bill, control lighthouses in the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea. It is essential that, in the interests of public safety, lighthouse keepers and attendants should be treated in a manner similar to other sections of the community. They should be kept contented in their highly responsible jobs.
.- Some lighthouse keepers have complained to me about their conditions of employment, and I have come to the conclusion that this small but important section of the community has been long neglected. The general public, who do not come in contact with these men in their isolated situations, .tend to think that they have very little work to do in a lighthouse. There is a widespread, but erroneous, idea that lighthouse keepers and attendants apart from keeping the lamps burning, have an easy time. A brief examination of the qualifications that are required of a lighthouse keeper dispels that illusion. He must be a specialist in a number of branches of endeavour. For example, he must be an electrician, and have a thorough knowledge of the complicated machinery that he is required to attend. He is also responsible for the maintenance of a lighthouse. His hours of duty are considerably in excess of 40 a week, and he has the disability of living in isolated situations. I was amazed to learn that for nearly twenty years, lighthouse-keepers and attendants had not received an increase of salary. When I made further inquiries, I discovered that their claims for improved conditions had been considered by the Public Service Board. I felt so strongly about the matter that I discussed it with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), because I considered that lighthouse keepers and attendants had just claims for increased wages and improved working conditions. In my opinion, their claims had not been heard by a competent tribunal. When employees in various branches of ‘ industry seek improved conditions, their submissions are heard by an industrial tribunal. I suggested to the Prime Minister that the claims of lighthouse employees should be heard by a conciliation commissioner, who would investigate their conditions in a thorough manner. The Public Service Board might not have had a proper understanding of their conditions, and the specialized work that they perform. Their claims should be examined by a competent authority in order to ensure that they shall receive the justice to which they are entitled. These employees have been long neglected. I support the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) on this bill.
:. - mi re-ply - It is true that the men that man our lighthouses do valuable work for the rest of the community; but it is not quite true to say that they have not received any increases of allowances or pay, except those cited by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden).
– The rate that we cited was the maximum increase.
– That may have, been the maximum rate of the particular increase referred to by the honorable member, but, in fact, lighthouse keepers have received three separate increases in the last three years. First, they were granted an increase to recompense them for the fact that the 40-hour week could not be given to them. Secondly, they have received the ordinary increase of salary in accordance with cost-of-living adjustments and that amounts to £66 a year. Thirdly, head lighthouse keepers have received an increase of pay amounting to £54 a year and other lightkeepers have received increases ranging from £30 to £42 a year.
– When was that increase granted to them?
– I forget the exact date, but I shall find it out and let the honorable gentleman know. All that I am pointing out now is that the honorable member for Corangamite and the honorable member for Gippsland have not quite fairly stated the position in regard to the pay of these men, for they have received three separate increases. It is true that they were entitled to a special allowance to recompense them for the fact that the 40-hour week could not be granted to them. Honorable members have stressed the point that these men perform an important function in the community. I agree. They are, of course, public servants and they come under the Public Service Board, which classifies their positions and decides the salary scales applicable to the various grades. Their pay and conditions of employment are dealt with by the Public Service Arbitrator. There may have been some delay in the hearing of their claims by the Public Service Arbitrator. Honorable gentlemen opposite and honorable gentlemen on this side, too, are of the opinion that their pay and conditions of employment should be dealt with by the proper arbitration authority. That authority will determine those matters. I am pleased to point out that representations have been made by the Fourth Division Officers Association of the Department of Trade and Customs that the conditions of employment of lightkeepers should be bettered and that the Public Service Board has arranged that a conference shall be held between the representatives of the board, the Department of Shipping and Fuel, and the Fourth Division Officers Association. At the conference, which will be held at an early date, the conditions of employment and rates of pay of lightkeepers will be fully examined and, if any anomalies or justifiable grievances are revealed, they will be rectified. So, although there may have been some delay, I assure honorable members that the matter is being attended to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee “without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Erection of a new school at Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
Debate resumed from the 1st July (vide page 1916), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill, as its title implies, is to provide, in the interests of defence, for the maintenance of stocks of liquid fuel within Australia. The general result of the bill will be to maintain stock levels of liquid fuel within Australia for military purposes and for essential transport in a national emergency. Whilst the bill cannot be opposed for that reason, the methods of achieving the result are open to the gravest criticism. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) said -
The Defence Committee, comprising the chiefs of stuff of the three services and the Secretary for Defence, gave urgent consideration to this matter following on the termination of petrol rationing and has recommended, from the defence point of view, that the Government should take whatever steps are needed to ensure that adequate reserves of liquid fuel are held in Australia at all times to meet the requirements of the fighting services and essential civilian services in a national emergency.
Obviously the Defence Committee did not regard this matter as urgent until after the Government’s petrol rationing regulations had been declared invalid by the High Court. Yet it allowed stocks of motor spirit at seaboard in Australia to dwindle to less than a month’s supply, and -.he average for twelve months to fall to five and1 a half weeks’ supply. What has made the accumulation of stocks so urgent within the last four weeks? The Government’s use of the defence power to patch up hastily-drawn legislation of doubtful legal validity is becoming all too common. When the Shipping Bill was introduced, the establishment of a shipbuilding industry was alleged to be necessary in the interests of naval and military defence. When the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Bill was drafted, the defence power was again dragged in willy-nilly, although the real purpose of the scheme is to supply power for civil use. The present bill is an attempt by the Government to overcome the dilemma that it was placed in by the hostility of the States and the Australian people to the re-imposition of petrol rationing. No one believes that we are in imminent danger of war, or that adequate stocks of petrol cannot first be obtained from overseas. Obviously, then, the use of the term, “ in the interests of defence “, in this bill, is mere camouflage. The bill is an attempt to legalize the re-introduction of petrol rationing for the private motorist, by combining this doubtful legislation with the Commonwealth’s undoubted import restriction powers. Has the defence of Australia become infinitely more vital since the 7th June? That was the day after the High Court had given its decision on petrol rationing and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) issued his notorious panic-stricken statement that chaotic conditions could develop rapidly unless the States took immediate steps to ration petrol. That statement could easily have caused a wave of panic buying, with consequent increased consumption, thus depleting seriously the stocks of liquid fuel in Australia. Did the Prime Minister, when he made the statement, consider the defence position of Australia as it might be affected by the depletion of stocks of liquid fuel ? Was that statement made on the advice of the Defence Committee? Is the defence of Australia in greater jeopardy now than it was three weeks ago, when the New South W ales manager of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited wired to all his agents instructing them to obtain maximum sales of motor spirit under . unrationed conditions ?
The Commonwealth owns more than half tha shares in Commonwealth Oil Henneries Limited and, as legal men in this House have pointed out, the Prime Minister could, most probably, have compelled the directors of the company to countermand the instruction. Was the Government interested enough in the defence of Australia at that time to prevent such a thing from occurring? The judgment of the High Court in the petrol rationing case states that no attempt was made by counsel for the Commonwealth to justify the continued operation of petrol rationing regulations ou the ground that the control of liquid fuel was necessary or desirable in order to ensure sufficient stocks for the armed services, and for the security of the country. Evidently, the Government thought that such an argument would be so unsound as to be not even worth advancing in the High Court.
There are other ways in which the Government can ensure that adequate reserves of liquid fuel shall be held1 in Australia. The method proposed in this t>ill is to compel the oil companies to hold their present stocks and, in effect, to ration private motorists. The alternative is to allow more petrol to be imported.
– The right honorable member must not go too deeply into the subject of petrol rationing.
– But petrol rationing is linked with the subject-matter of the bill before the House. The reason advanced in justification of the bill is the effect which the abandonment of petrol rationing has bad on petrol stocks. If, as is alleged, it is necessary to take emergency measures in order to preserve stocks of liquid fuel, the Government is guilty of a grave dereliction of duty in refusing to allow more petrol to be imported in order to replenish stocks. Despite arguments to the contrary, sterling petrol is undoubtedly available for importation into Australia. Only a week ago, an Australian company was offered substantial supplies of petrol from an exclusive sterling source. I have seen the cablegram in which the offer was made, and the sterling that would be paid for the petrol would not be convertible to dollars. If there is a serious defence emergency, why has the Government not taken advantage of these recent offers of petrol from sterling sources in order to replenish depleted stocks?
One of the most urgent defence measures is the provision of facilities in Australia for refining crude oil. Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) consulted representatives of the oil companies with a view to planning and building refineries in Australia as a part of a long-term defence and dollar conservation scheme? Britain is supplying Italy, a former enemy country, with crude oil from sterling areas. We could use some of that crude oil if we had the facilities in Australia to refine it. However, the Government has done .nothing to ensure that refineries shall be established1 here, either as a defence measure or otherwise.
Again, Britain is to supply Argentina with 5,700,000 tons of petroleum products under the recent five-year trade agreement signed between the two countries. If Australia’s defence is in such a serious condition that stocks of liquid fuel must be immediately increased, why should we not ask Britain to divert to Australia a small proportion of the 17,000.000.000 gallons which is to be supplied to Argentina during the next five years? Why should there not be diverted to Australia some of the petrol that is being sent to Africa or India, or former enemy countries, or European nations that have abandoned rationing? As the Government has done nothing in the direction suggested, it is obvious that petrol stocks, which are to be frozen under this proposed legislation, are not urgently required for the defence of Australia in the immediate future. Why does not the Government obtain more petrol from sterling areas? Why cannot India, South Africa and other British Commonwealth countries share their supplies of sterling petrol with Australia? Why should there not be a more equitable distribution of the sterling petrol available? If the position is as grave as we have been told that it is, why does not the British Government curtail supplies of sterling petrol to former enemy countries in Europe, and divert enough of it to Australia to enable us to accumulate reserves for defence purposes? Why can there not be a readjustment of the agreement with Argentina under which Great Britain proposes to supply that country with 5,700,000 tons of petrol? According to the Prime Minister’s own estimate, a mere trickle from that vast quantity would be sufficient to make rationing unnecessary in Australia. Why have not the facilities for refining crude oil in Australia been increased?
The Prime Minister has quoted Sir Stafford Cripps on the dollar shortage, and has asked us to believe that Australia’s petrol supplies are linked with the general dollar position. I remind honorable members that, of the 5,700,000 tons of petroleum products which Great Britain has contracted to supply to Argentina, no less than 90 per cent., according to the statement of Sir Stafford Cripps himself, will have to be obtained from dollar sources. We are asked to believe that, as an important integral part of the great British Commonwealth of Nations, we should forgo accumulating adequate defence stocks in this country in order to enable the British Government to supply 5,700,000 tons of petrol to Argentina. What do the relations between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government matter by comparison with the relations that exist between the United Kingdom Government and the Government of Argentina? Our financial advisers are being led around by the nose by Sir Stafford Cripps, the advocate of austerity, who refuses to disclose dollar profits derived from oil sales and other relevant figures. Indeed, this Government has become so “ pro-Cripps “ that it has become completely antiAustralian. The Treasurer recently informed the State Premiers that the total net cost of oil to the sterling area is well in excess of 400,000,000 dollars, or £100,000,000 annually. He has said that those figures are based on information which he has received from the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is a grossly misleading statement, as has been pointed out by the London Economist, of the 25th June. The net cost of oil purchases is 160,000,000 dollars, and not considerably in excess of 400,000,000 dollars as the Treasurer has stated. I shell prove my contention by quoting from an editorial in the London Economist of the 25th June last and from White Papers which have been issued by the British Government. This is what the London Economist had to say on the subject -
The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, is reported to have told the Australian Parliament this week that figures supplied to him by Sir Stafford Cripps show the total net dollar cost of oil to the sterling area to be more than 400,000,000 dollars a year. London authorities suggest that the actual figure is “ well over “ 400,000,000 dollars - and this total has been reached after deducting sales of sterling oil to dollar areas.
Strictly, however, it represents the dollar expenditure by the oil industry, and not the cost of the actual tonnage of oil consumed. Out of the total, it is calculated, 160,000,000 dollars is the net cost to the sterling area of British companies’ purchases of oil from United States companies. The balance of the expenditure which must be well in excess of 240,000,000 dollars is accountable under two heads. The first is the heavy demand of the British oil industry for United States equipment. (A good deal of this demand arises from expansion programmes at various oil fields and may therefore be a non-recurring - and, indeed, dollar earning - item.) The British petroleum equipment industry has increased its output considerably, but cannot supply all the companies’ needs. Moreover, although it has learned a lot since the war, there are still criticisms that the equipment industry pays insufficient attention to the exacting local conditions under which the equipment is expected to work.
A second, and severe, loss of dollars, occurs at those British-exploited oil fields which do not lie within the sterling area. The companies have to meet their current operating expenses there, either in dollars or some other hard currency. Venezuela is a case in point. A similar drain may arise in Iran, where royalty and other payments are made in sterling. An agreement between the British and Persian Governments provides that where the sterling area cannot supply the country’s needs, the British Government will make the necessary dollar expenditure to obtain them from dollar sources. Such purchases have not so far been heavy, but they are tending to grow.
That is an authentic statement and it is backed up by White Papers, which are official documents published by the British Government. Those White Papers were no doubt available to this Government and the information they contained should have been made available to the State Premiers during their recent conference in Canberra. An examination of the facts reveals beyond any doubt that the annual cost of petrol in the sterling area is not 400,000,000 dollars as has been stated by the Prime Minister but approximately 160,000,000 dollars. The balance of over 240,000,000 dollars is made up as follows: - (a) Refinery equipment - a capital cost arising from expansion programmes which may be a non-recurring and, indeed, a dollarearning item, the bulk of which might be supplied under Marshall aid; and (b) The dollar or hard currency component of royalties and working expenses for sterling oil produced in non-sterling countries, such as Venezuela.
If the sterling area, including Australia, must import oil for defence purposes or otherwise, the net annual dollar component is not in excess of 400,000,000 dollars, but is approximately 160,000,000 dollars as the article in the Economist has clearly and unequivocally shown.
Let us consider the subject of hard currency receipts from the sale of petrol products by the British oil companies. On that point Sir Stafford Cripps has been strangely silent.
– Sir Stafford ‘Stripps “?
– He is stripping the public of Great Britain.
– In order to ascertain what use is made of these hard currency receipts, I have applied accountancy principles to the three British White Papers, numbered CMD 7324, entitled “ United Kingdom Balance of Payments, 1946-47”; CMD 7572, entitled “European Co-operation”; and CMD 7647, entitled “Economic Survey for 1949 “. The last mentioned paper shows that British expenditure for petroleum for the six months ended June, 1949, amounted to £54,000,000 or a gross payment of £108,000,000 per annum. This figure appears to be the source of the £100,000,000 or the 400,000,000 dollars cited by the Treasurer to the State Premiers as the net dollar costs of petroleum to the British Commonwealth. I repeat that that £100,000,000 includes items of a non-recurring nature and also capital expenditure. Let us examine the hard currency receipts as they are dealt with in the British White Pa ner. Hard currency receipts from the sales of pet roleum products are treated as an invisible item in British balance of payments calculations for the period 1949-53. That is admitted on page 52 of White Paper No. 0MD 7572. Following that itemization, petroleum receipts must have been handled in the same manner in White Paper No. CMD 7647, as it covers merely the first year of the period 1949-53. As receipts from petroleum products are now proved to be included in the “ invisible “ section of balance of payments calculations, we find further that, in the more detailed calculations of “ invisible items “, petroleum products are normally included under the item “ Receipts, other - net “. That is admitted in the note to item 11 on page 5 of White Paper No. CMD 7324. The index to item 11 is outlined as follows : -
Item 11. This is a miscellaneous section of receipts and payments. The principal item includes overseas transactions of British oil companies, insurance and expenses of upkeep of British enterprises abroad during the year. It also includes royalties and private remittances. In 1946-47 it included allowances for errors and omissions on current account.
This item totalled only £20,000,000 in 1947, and is expected to increase to £85,000,000 in the first six months of 1949, or to approximately £170,000,000 for the calendar year 1949. Accordingly, receipts for petroleum sales by the British companies amount to £170,000,000 net compared with expenditure, including the purchase of capital equipment, of £100,000,000. The only item which could cause so great an increase in receipts in two years is the overseas transactions of British oil companies. Other items such as insurance, business travel, private remittances, upkeep of British enterprises abroad, &c, represent payments and not receipts, and consequently, they would already have been deducted when the estimated annual net receipt of £170,000,000 was arrived at. Therefore, whilst British current receipts from sales of petrol are estimated to be approximately £170,000,000, the net payments for petrol imports are admitted to be only a little in excess of £100,000,000 annually. The latter amount, I repeat, includes capital items. In other words, Great Britain makes a large over-all profit, which includes hard currency, of many millions of pounds annually on its purchases and sales of petrol, including dollar petrol. That is the reason why it is expending so much on oil imports. It is making a colossal profit on re-exporting them. Another factor which has not been disclosed, and in respect of which Australia should have the fullest information, is that Great Britain has been importing liquid fuel to the greatest possible extent in order to relieve the drain on coal supplies and to enable it to export coal to Sweden and other hard currency countries. The whole position must be examined very carefully in the light of the information that is disclosed in the British White Papers to which I have referred, and of the additional information that I have given to the House. I refute the charge that in bringing this matter forward I am antiBritish.
– What else is the right honorable gentleman?
– Anti-socialist! It is the socialist Government of the United Kingdom, behind which this Government is trailing, that is dictating the fiscal and financial policy of Australia. Owing to the degree to which we have acceptedthe policy of Sir Stafford Cripps, we are in danger of becoming the wood and water joeys of the British Empire. The socialist Government of the United Kingdom must take stock of the position and ask itself whether the provision of free spectacles, wigs and corsets for the people of Britain should take priority of adequate and’ proper food. The policy that the Government of the United Kingdom is pursuing is to the disadvantage of Australia and of Great Britain itself. The position must be reviewed. We must consider whether the socialistic policy that has been and is being adopted by the United Kingdom Government is in the best interests of both that country and Australia.
– At a time when the United Kingdom and the Dominions are fighting for their economic existence, the House has witnessed the pathetic spectacle of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) pleading the cause of small vested interests in this country. Let me say at once that the managers of the leading oil companies in Australia have washed their hands of the agitation that has been engaged in by the right honorable gentleman. He has been the victim of every furphy and misleading statement that has been circulated by certain parties which are interested in this matter. He suggested” recently that there had been some interference with oil tankers from Indonesia.
– I did not say any such thing.
– The right honorable gentleman said’ that he had been informed that that was so. He repeated a report, which was a complete lie, that there was some interference with oil tankers coming from Sumatra to Australia. The report has since been denied by the general managers of the companies that are refining petrol in Sumatra. There has been no interference of that kind at all. Nevertheless, the right honorable gentleman was prepared, as a responsible parliamentarian, to retail to this House and to the country a report in which there was not a tittle of truth.
– I rise to order. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) does not desire wilfully to misquote me. I never said’ any such thing. What I said was that,-
– Order! The right honorable gentleman realizes that no point of order is involved. He may make a personal explanation later, if he desires to do so.
– The right honorable gentleman said that he had been informed that that was so. It is queer to find the leader of a political party repeating in this House a report which completely misstates the position, without having made any attempt to ascertain whether or not it is true. The general managers of the oil companies in Sumatra have stated that the report was a complete lie.
The right honorable gentleman has cited a lot of figures in regard to petrol. Many people have a queer idea of the sterling area. Iraq is the only part of the Middle East that is in the sterling area. I want to make it clear that, as far as I know, there is no shortage of crude oil at the moment. Sufficient supplies of crude oil are available, but the capacity of refineries in the sterling area is insufficient to meet the demands of the United Kingdom and the countries associated with it in the purchase of petrol. I do not think that I am disclosing anything of a confidential nature when I BaY that the United Kingdom Government has a plan for the installation of refining plant in that country. The plan envisages the expenditure of ‘ approximately £120,000,000. In addition the United Kingdom Government has interested itself in the provision of refining plant in other countries in the soft currency areas. The objective of the plan is that within two, three or perhaps more years the capacity of the refining plant in soft currency areas shall be sufficient to supply the petrol requirements of the countries within those areas. I want the House to understand that I am not speaking now of crude oil or petroleum products. Those products are completely different from refined petrol. It has been said that some European countries are being supplied with petrol by the United Kingdom. Italy is one of the countries that was mentioned in that connexion. Italy does not obtain refined petrol from that source. It obtains crude oil, and it refines that crude oil in its own refineries. The real trouble is in regard to refined petrol and aviation spirit. There is no difficulty in obtaining crude oil or petroleum products, but there is not sufficient refining plant in the soft currency area to produce enough refined petrol to meet the needs of that area.
I do not propose to go into the matter of the dollar expenditure associated with the purchase of petrol from American companies that are refining oil in soft currency areas. The Shell Petroleum Company Limited, which is an English company, has a refinery in Sumatra and proposes to erect another when it is able to obtain the equipment, which, of course, will be mostly American and will have to be purchased with dollars. The Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited is an American company. I am not reflecting upon the oil companies, which are doing their jobs very efficiently. The Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited has refineries in Sumatra also. I think that it has sent approximately 300,000 tons of refined petrol from Sumatra to Australia. There is no difficulty at all in its sending whatever petrol it can refine to Australia. I want to wipe out a furphy or a lie that has appeared in the press, and I shall do it on the authority of the general manager of the company concerned. I am not depending only on my own view of the matter. The shortage of refining plants means that finally, either directly or indirectly, the United Kingdom dollar pool is called upon to find dollars for petrol, and I use the word in its broad sense. Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited is the company which was supposed to be fathering the agitation in which the Leader of the Australian Country party has indulged. I have seen Mr. Field, the general manager of the company, and he has repudiated any association with that campaign. I told Mr. Field of the position as I saw it. He said that he did not understand all the ramifications of the matter, but that he hoped that the figures would be checked with the Bank of England. They were checked with the Bank of England, and also with the British Treasury. The figures that I gave to the Premiers relating to the dollar expenditure in relation to petrol - and I am speaking principally of refined petrol - have not been disputed by any company, English or American. They have accepted them as being absolutely correct. With regard to petrol from the Bahrein Petroleum Company, 90 per cent, of the cost must be paid in dollars. As I have said, the United Kingdom hopes to be able to produce within the next few years sufficient quantities of refined petrol to meet its needs and the needs of countries associated with it. It can achieve that objective only if it imports equipment from dollar areas. The dollars for the purchase of the equipment must be obtained from somewhere.
The profits of American oil companies in soft currency areas go back to America. A great number of the employees are paid in hard currency. The whole matter is very complicated and difficult to understand. It is easy to bewilder people by quoting from White Papers, but the plain fact of the matter is that to enable the
United Kingdom and the Dominions to obtain the present limited quantities of refined petrol that they are using dollars must be expended from the dollar pool. I have already stated that the drain upon that pool in respect of petrol is well over 400,000,000 dollars a year, and that is a very conservative estimate.
– Is that in respect of petroleum ?
– The dollar expenditure upon petrol is the equivalent of approximately £42,000,000 sterling a year. Adding the incidentals associated with it, the expenditure is well over £100,000,000 sterling or 400,000,000 dollars a year. It is a very complicated matter. As I have said, it is easy to bewilder people with figures and stories of what somebody has told you, but no general manager of an oil company in Australia has disputed the figures that I have supplied to the Premiers or to this House. They were invited to send them to their head-quarters in America, and I presume that they have done so, but they have not been able to dispute any of the figures that I have given. I did not want to ask the House to accept only my word. I requested that the Bank of England and the British Treasury should prepare an absolutely accurate statement of the position. They did so, and I supplied it to this House and to the country.
I do not wish to be unduly pessimistic or alarmist, but the position in regard to dollars will be very difficult. Last night, Sir Stafford Cripps made a speech in the House of Commons in the course of which he surveyed the position in a general way, but he did not indulge in so close an analysis as I could if I liked to go into details now. The fact is, and this is the final answer, that we are expending more in dollars, whether it is for capital equipment to increase our refining capacity or otherwise, than we are able to earn from the dollar area. As a result we shall not have enough dollars to buy from the hard currency countries all the commodities that we require. We are losing more than £100,000,000 sterling, or 400,000,000 dollars a year on balance of trade. That is the simple fact. The United Kingdom has been trying to overtake that position, so that it can buy capital equipment, by trying to encourage American companies to establish themselves in the soft currency areas.
The depreciation costs of the petrol refining plant on Bahrein Island have to be paid for in dollars. That shows how complicated the position is when, although the capital expenditure has been in dollars, the provision made for depreciation has also to be in dollars that must be drawn from the British dollar pool. We all know of the desperate position in regard to dollars. I do not want to be an alarmist, or even to be pessimistic, but there is a hard fight ahead. I have not been able to see any brightening of the dollar position during the last six months and the reason simply is, not that we are buying a great deal more, or in the aggregate, any more from dollar areas than we bought in past years, but that
Ave are earning much less for our exports than we earned before. On the present estimates the Marshall aid to the United Kingdom will fall this year from about 1,250,000,000 dollars to 940,000,000 dollars. That means that we shall have 300,000,000 dollars less in the dollar pool this year with which to buy our dollar requirements. That amount may be reduced even further. At least reports have appeared in the press that it may be reduced when the appropriation is dealt with by the United States Congress. In addition to that, the whole group of sterling countries is not able to sell as much as it sold before to hard currency countries, or if it succeeds in doing so in some instances, it does not receive as high a price for the goods as it received before. As a result Malaya and the other colonies, for instance, which sell rubber, tin and goods of that kind to America and other countries, find that not only has the volume of their sales been reduced but that in addition they are not receiving for the goods as high a price as they formerly received. We endeavoured last year to ascertain from the Joint Wool Organization, which is a joint British-Australian organization of which Sir Ernest Shackleton, I understand, is chairman, and which has the most highly qualified experts associated with it, what would be the possible sales of wool to America for this year. We were told that, according to a rough estimate, the sales would probably total 600,000 bales. But the total will bc far less than that. We have been working very hard in an endeavour to give the British Treasury some idea of what our dollar earnings will be next year. The British Treasury has given me a figure that it says can only be the roughest guess, and that represents a deplorable reduction in comparison with the quantity of wool that we sold to America last year. We even had an examination made of the sales of woollen goods in American shops like Macy’s and other big stores, and found that they have fallen by three-fifths. We were even told, although it seems rather incongruous, that one of the causes of the decline of sales of woollen goods in America was that the female population of that country is discarding the “ new look and as a consequence there is not so much demand for woollen goods.
– The Prime Minister always .thinks of something.
– That shows how illogical may be the causes that affect our national economy. The American people will probably spend their money in some other way than on woollen goods, but at the moment, I understand, there are nearly 4,000,000 unemployed in that country, so they may not have so very much money to spend anyway.
I deplore the discussion that has gone on here regarding this particular matter because I know how difficult the position is. Anxious as we are to expend money on bringing out certain capital equipment, the position is so difficult that we are unable to do so. Only last week I was reluctantly forced, because of the continuing drain on dollars, to reject a proposal for the establishment of a new process of manufacture in this country by an American company in conjunction with an Australian company, although I was satisfied with the proposal. That is apt to happen. It is perfectly true, as the right honorable member for Darling Downs has said, that if we enabled capital to be devoted to the purchase of refining equipment, in two or three years time we would not be forced to expend so many dollars on refined petrol. But that is some time away, and the British dollar reserves are running out. As I have said, I do not want to be an alarmist about that matter, but those dollar reserves have been seriously reduced by the drain imposed on them and by the sterling area’s inability to sell goods for hard currency either in sufficient quantity or at the prices that we were being paid some time ago/ I say to the right . honorable gentleman, more in sorrow than in anger, that I am sorry that he has been led into this particular matter.
– I have not been led into anything.
– The bigger oil companies and their general managers, with whom I have had discussions, have a full appreciation of the difficulties, but there are one or two small oil companies which consider that they have not been fairly treated, and have hawked their propaganda around the country. They are operating in a very small way and I do not suppose that they supply more than 5 per cent, of the petrol consumed in Australia. Their propaganda was hawked in other places before they reached the right honorable gentleman.
– Are they not entitled to consideration even if they did so? The powerful oil companies can pick up the Australian market whenever they need it.
– These companies did not think that they had been given a “ fair go “ and therefore tried to discredit the Government’s proposals. That is very bad in view of the psychology associated with our attempt to save dollars, because this year, despite all our efforts, we find ourselves very far short of being able to find the dollars that would be needed to pay for the dollar imports that we require. We cannot find those dollars without going to the United Kingdom reserve of gold and dollars. For the financial year that ended last week, despite all our restrictions and all our vigilance - and hundreds of thousands of cases have been dealt with by me personally because of the importance of this matter - we were not able to earn anywhere near as many dollars as we expended. Next year the position will be worse in relation to the dollars we shall be able to expend.
The right honorable gentleman ended hi9 speech with a diatribe about socialism. .1 should have thought that the politics of a country was a matter for the people of that country, and that whether the people of England return a Conservative or a Labour government is entirely their business. It is not for us to criticize the kind of government the English people put into office. It is perfectly true that there is a so-called socialist government in England. But it is also true that there is not a socialist government in America, where the real genesis of a recession will lie. Any recessive effects in the world to-day have been the result of happenings in America, which is a capitalist country
– It is the strongest country, economically, in the world.
– I do not disparage for a moment the magnificent gifts that have been made by America to the rest of the world. But I know that if these gifts had not been made in the form of goods the position now arising in America would have arisen much earlier.
– That is a fallacious line of economic reasoning, if ever there was one.
– I am not attempting to criticize the politics of any country. That is the business of the people of that country. I regret that the right honorable member raised the matter of politics. He tried to drag in the fact that there is a Labour Government in the United Kingdom. There is not a Labour Government in power in France, or in Italy, yet those countries are faced with the same economic difficulties as are other parts of the world’. As a matter of fact, the most prosperous countries of the Scandinavian area are probably more prosperous than either the so-called socialist or capitalist countries in other parts of the world. The subject of the politics of any one country has nothing to do with this matter. The truth is that the world is in an unfortunate position.
I shall return to the subject of petrol, from which I have departed considerably. We have in the world to-day three eco nomic blocs. One is behind the “ iron curtain”; another .is the soft currency area ; the third is the hard currency area. It is very difficult to see how the countries of the world will be able to abolish restrictions of trade while that condition continues. I am sorry that the right honorable member, who, I know, has the ability to grasp these matters just as well as anybody else, has raised the matter we are now discussing. I believe, and if I am wrong I am subject to correction, that he did it at the instigation of certain vested interests in Australia who hawked propaganda around the country. Their propaganda has been completely exploded. If those interests can controvert the figures for this year that have been supplied by the Bank of England and the British Treasury, they are welcome to do so, but I know that the final answer is that the dollars for petrol must come from the British dollar pool. That applies even more to the by-products associated with petrol. There is a drain on our dollars that will have to be examined’, and that will be examined, at the economic conference that is to take place in London shortly. I make no threats or anything else about that matter. Remember that, after all, the dollars are not our dollars. We must go to some source to buy them. If the dollars belong to the Bank of England or the British Treasury it is not much use kicking if we cannot earn enough dollars to pay for the things that we want. As I have said, we must go to some source to get those dollars, and the source to which we must go is the United Kingdom Treasury, the owner of the dollar reserve. Is the British Treasury not entitled to ask that we shall be very strict in our dollar expenditure and that it shall not be bled white of the dollars that it is using to buy things that are necessary for Britain’s very life? The purchase of foodstuffs causes one of the greatest drains on the British dollar reserve at the present time. We have heard all about Argentina and the fact that Britain will supply that country with 250,000 tons of oil and petroleum products in return for food. That can be easily explained. But it is a case of “ needs must, when the devil drives “. It would not matter what government was in power in
England to-day. The economic position . of the world was not caused by any one particular government, but is the result of a set of circumstances that I shall not attempt to elaborate. Those circumstances include the devastation wrought in various countries during the recent war, the disequilibrium resulting from the war, and also the existence of three economic blocs in the world. There is also the fact that the investments of many countries abroad have been reduced. Then there is the great potential, and actual, production capacity of America itself. There is only one real cure for the world’s present economic ills, and that is that the hard currency areas, including the dollar area, shall buy from the rest of the world the equivalent in value of what they sell. It is not easy politically to sell that idea. I am not complaining about the attitude of the United States of America. We know the legal position in that country, and we realize that it is not easy for the Executive or Congress to convince the American people. I am not attempting to criticize the motives of the United States of America. I pay a tribute to the magnificent generosity of the American people in providing Marshall aid. I am only sorry that that great assistance has not produced the results for which the Americans had hoped. Without that aid, there would have been complete economic chaos in Europe. Although conditions are bad on the Continent now, they would have been infinitely worse if the United States of America had not provided Marshall aid. The Americans are probably disappointed that their great generosity has not restored economic equilibrium in Europe and the United Kingdom, and I can only console those who feel a sense of despair about the position with the statement that, had it not been for Marshall aid, there would have been complete economic chaos in Europe. The Americans have at least succeeded in preventing that chaos and even if Marshall aid has not provided a complete cure, it has contributed to restoration of economic stability in western Europe and the United Kingdom, and, indeed, Australia, because we ourselves are dependent upon the economic position of the people of those countries.
Reference has been made to the fact that the value of the goods that the United States of America sells greatly exceeds the value of its purchases from other countries. Australia is in a similar position. We, in our own small way, are selling a much greater quantity of goods to Europe than we buy from it. I understand that the value of Australian sales to Belgium is three times as much as the value of our purchases from that country. It may be that this year, the value of the goods which Australia sells to Europe will exceed by £50,000,00.0 or £60,000,000 the value of the goods that we purchase from it. Consequently, Australia is in the same position as the United States of America, because we are selling more goods to other countries than we are prepared to buy from them. We have a problem of our own in that respect. Under the intra-European system of payments, the United Kingdom has been trying to assist France, Italy and various other countries of Europe by providing money for the purchase of Australian wool and sheep skins. Australia, in return, as far as its financial position will permit, has endeavoured to assist the United Kingdom in that work. The Leader of the Australian Country party may dislike the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, whom he has called a socialist-
– I do not know Sir Stafford Cripps. I call the Prime Minister a socialist, but I like the right honorable gentleman.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party has not shown much evidence of his liking for me. I have a great respect for the ability of that much maligned gentleman, Sir Stafford Cripps. His mode of living is probably a little more austere than my mode of living is, but I do not believe that any person in the United Kingdom, whether lie !3 a supporter of the Labour party or the Conservative party, will deny that Sir Stafford Cripps has tremendous ability, and that as the guide of the Government in economic matters he is completely honest in endeavouring to adopt the proper policy. We may disagree with the policy. The views of the Leader of the Australian Country party on political matters are often different from mv own opinions. However, the position is that we are spending more dollars on petrol than we are able to earn with our exports, and we must meet that deficit with dollars that we obtain from the United Kingdom Government. “While we remain in that position, we must endeavour even if only for the purely material reasons to co-operate with the United Kingdom. However, I go further than that. We have strong sentimental ties with the people of the United Kingdom. Many Englishmen have settled in Australia. The United Kingdom is now fighting a stern economic battle. I have not been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see only years of great difficulty ahead, but at least we must play our part to assist the United Kingdom in its economic struggle, just as we played our part to assist the United Kingdom in World War II.
.- The House is indebted to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for his review of the economic situation. The right honorable gentleman has said sufficient to indicate bow important it is for honorable members to examine the causes .of the present difficulties, and, if they can, to suggest how, in part at least, those difficulties may be alleviated. It is true, as the right honorable gentleman has said, that the problem is basically one of dollars. It is equally true, and it cannot be denied, that the United Kingdom is desperately short of dollars. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the United Kingdom will require 1,000,000,000 dollars during the current year to enable it to bridge the gap between its imports and exports. That huge sum will be sufficient only to allow the people of the United Kingdom to maintain a standard of living which is no higher than it was in 1939, and which, in some respects, is even lower than it was in that year. I agree with the concluding remarks of the Prime Minister that Australia is bound to co-operate with the United Kingdom in the present economic crisis. The pitiable part about the matter is that the United Kingdom, which, perhaps, contributed more than any other nation to achieve victory, and which fought alone and with such magnificent gallantry through the difficult days of 1940-41, is the nation that has suffered most seriously. Whatever we in this country can do to aid the United Kingdom in its difficulties and to tide it over the present crisis, we should certainly do, because the people of Great Britain, through their sacrifices in the war, are entitled to that assistance. We should render that aid not only in the interests of our own material economic welfare, but also because of the bonds of kinship between us.
This debate affords honorable members an opportunity to discuss these important matters, because the present economic situation demonstrates how international trade has broken down. There are abundant supplies of petrol throughout the world. The United States of America is producing more petrol than it requires for its domestic needs, and, in addition, a war is raging in that country between those interests that are producing oil in America and the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey which is importing petrol, crude and refined, from the Middle East at a cost less than the cost at which petrol can be produced in America to-day. So the overall picture to-day is that there is more than sufficient petrol for the world’s needs, but Australia is unable to obtain enough for its requirements. The important point which I shall seek to establish is that it is not sufficient, in the end, for the United Kingdom and Australia to adopt continuing restrictive measures to meet this problem, because those measures will not solve it. On the whole, they will only increase and deepen it.
– I entirely agree with the honorable member.
– When I make that statement, I am not criticizing any individual. I am referring to the problem itself. I shall develop that theme. So far, .all the attempts to solve the difficulty have been negative. It is true, as the Prime Minister has said, that we must earn with our imports or acquire from the United Kingdom the dollars that we need.
– Or borrow the dollars that we need ?
– Yes, I shall come to that point. The truth is that we cannot, in the nature of things in the years immediately ahead, find markets for our goods in hard currency areas that will provide the funds to enable us to import the goods that we really need. If we pursue the course of imposing restrictions and more restrictions, and there seems on the policy presently being pursued to be no alternative to that apart from obtaining a loan, I fear that, ultimately, the second condition in the United Kingdom and Australia will be worse than the first condition. It is wrong to say that we have no interest in the manner in which the United Kingdom conducts its affairs, because to the extent to which this problem of dollars is created by lack of foresight in policy, by the adoption of a wrong policy, or by a breakdown of the economy, the effects will be felt directly by the Australian economy. I believe that the Prime Minister will agree with me when I say that, in order to develop this country properly, we need a large number of imports from hard currency areas. Australian expansion is being retarded because we cannot obtain those goods. If we cannot solve the dollar difficulty, other problems will not be solved and they will become more serious. Therefore, it is important to consider the causes of Great Britain’s present economic difficulties. I desire to say, at the outset, that I think that the principal cause of its trouble, but not the only cause, has been the substantial losses of its overseas investments.
– The principal cause is not associated with socialism.
– I agree with the interjection by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), but I shall refer to the effects of socialism in a few minutes. The principal contributing cause is the fact that during 1940-41, the United Kingdom lost the best of its overseas investments, and the result was that the income which it previously received from those investments and which enabled it to bridge the difference between its exports and its imports, was lost. As we all know, Great Britain has not been able, for at least 50 years, to balance its budget on the value of its exports alone. It has depended upon its exports, plus proceeds from overseas investments, plus invisible earnings from insurance companies, shipping and the like. During the dark days of the war in 1940 and 1941, the British people made a tremendous sacrifice in the cause of victory by selling their overseas investments. The United Kingdom had to realize, not only hypothecate, those investments in order to enable it to hold the bastion against nazi-ism and fascism.
– Particularly the American investments.
– That is true, but I do not think we should refer to this fact with any rancour, because the generosity of the United States of America since that time counter-balances that factor. In 1940 and 1941 constitutional limitations imposed difficulties on America making overseas commitments. However, that is beside the point, and does not take us nearer to the solution of the present problem.
The second important factor that has contributed to the present difficulties of the United Kingdom is that its exports have failed to improve to the extent necessary to make any real inroad upon the disbalance between its imports and exports. The relevant figures are available in various white papers. It will be seen that, despite every effort on the part of the majority of the British people, they have not been able to make any real impression upon the gap between imports and exports. That, in my opinion, is due in no small way to the fact that much of the equipment in British factories is obsolete. Again, I do not want it to be thought that I am voicing criticism. During the war, the British people had to make do, and, in that respect, they did a magnificent job. But the fact remains that to-day, they have reached the stage at which they are entering an intensive buyers’ market, and they have to compete among other nations with the United States of America itself, a country in which capital equipment has probably reached the highest stage of efficiency that the modern era has yet known. The problem is how to remedy that position. The
United Kingdom requires dollars because of its own inability efficiently to direct its own economic activity to increase exports in order to bridge a gap that in turn is preventing it from re-equipping its own economy. If this problem is to be tackled in the proper way it may well be that neither the United States of America nor ourselves, in the end, can meet it except by considering a governmenttogovernment loan specifically for the purpose of re-equipment. I have suggested on other occasions that the Government of Canada should make a dollar loan to the Government of Australia to enable Australia to obtain the capital equipment in order that we may increase production. England must obtain the dollars needed to purchase capital equipment necessary to increase its production and thereby bridge the gap between its expenditure on imports and. its income from exports, because unless it can bridge the gap, its position will not be remedied and people of the Empire, particularly those in Great Britain, will face a continuing period of restrictions, and that is a hopeless prospect.
The third matter with which I wish to deal concerns socialism. It is unfortunate that the Government of the United Kingdom has in this period directed itself bo much to what has been called “ socialism in our time “. If socialism is to be the ultimate path that Great Britain wants to tread, and I sincerely hope that it is not, that is a matter for its people to decide, but I do not think the conclusion can be escaped that the tremendous programme of socialism that has been squeezed into a few years has affected quite drastically its ability to produce goods. I do not need to develop that point, because it is fact. That has been acknowledged by even some Labour leaders in Great Britain. A Mr. Edwards, who had been a life-long supporter of the Labour movement in Great Britain, said that the British Government’s plan to socialize the steel industry would increase its difficulties, retard production and that, in his opinion, such a procedure could in no way assist in improving the conditions of the average man and woman.
I have stated what appear to me to be the main causes of England’s problems.
I should also indicate what appear to me to be the remedies, because it is well that we should express our views on those problems to the Prime Minister and tha Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, before either, or both, of them go to England to discuss the matter with the Ministers of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Ministers of the governments of other nations in the British Commonwealth. I believe that these problems are more far-reaching than any other problems, apart from the problem of war, that we have faced in the last 25 years. One of the suggested solutions of Great Britain’s economic problem is the devaluation of sterling. I desire to express my own opinion about that proposal. If the devaluation of sterling is taken as the way out of Britain’s difficulties, on a short view, it may pay dividends, but, on a long view, I believe that it would make Britain’s position far worse than it is.
– I think that that could also be said about devaluation of sterling on a short view.
– That may he, but, taking the long view, I contend that the devaluation of sterling would make conditions far worse, because England, in the very nature of things, is an importing country, and, to the extent to which it devalued sterling, it would immediately increase the problem of how to pay for its imports. For a short period, the devaluation of sterling might enable it to compete more successfully with other countries in a buyer’s market, but the time would come when that advantage would disappear and, when that occurred, its position would be ever so much worse.
– One of the major problems to-day is the high cost of raw materials.
– That also may be so; but the devaluation of sterling would be a mistake. The second question that springs to my mind is whether it would be wise to revalue gold. I think it would be wise to do so. Of course, the revaluation of gold would have to be done in accordance with the terms of the International Monetary Fund Agreement, but I believe that it is important to the soft currency areas to increase the price of gold, because that would add many millions of pounds - £300,000,000 is the immediate figure which is forecast - to their financial resources. It would be of particular advantage to Australia, because, while the price of an ounce of gold has been pegged at the price that existed when the International Monetary Fund Agreement was entered into, about two years ago, currency inflation has occurred in most countries since then. That means that the goldproducing countries are seriously disadvantaged by the pegging of the price of gold at the price that ruled two years ago. I suggest, therefore, that, from the point of view of Australia in particular, we should fight for an upward revaluation of gold.
The next matter that I . propose to deal with in expressing my views on the remedies that might be applied to cure the economic ills of the Empire concerns capital equipment. As I said earlier, England’s productive capacity is limited by the obsolete or obsolescent character of much of its capital equipment. I do not mean to imply that the capital equipment in all England’s industries is obsolete or obsolescent, because some of them are highly efficient, and they include some of the industries on which it depends to supply its export markets. Nevertheless, much of England’s industrial equipment is obsolete or obsolescent. Attention should be paid to the necessity to re-equip England’s old established industries with modern machines. The same remarks apply equally to Australia. It may be said that there is no alternative to a direct government-to-government loan to enable England to re-equip its industries with up-to-date capital equipment. I do not know that the alternative which I have in mind would commend itself to the British Government, but, at one time, it was suggested that certain American interests were prepared to go into partnership with interests in Great Britain and to provide the essential modern equipment for that partnership, provided that an .arrangement could be made with the British Government that the industries conducted by that partnership would not be nationalized for a given period of years. I believe that there is still a vast reservoir of capital in the United States of America and that its owners would be prepared to invest in British industries, if they could see before them a long period in which the industries in which they invested their funds would be free from nationalization. I know that the argument can be advanced that if .that process occurred, Great Britain itself, in some senses, would be hypothecated to foreign investors, but that argument does not impress me, because, as long as the British Parliament exists to control foreign investments in Great Britain there is no real danger. Consideration should be given to that aspect of the matter.
I do not believe of course that any of the remedies that I have suggested would solve completely the problem of Great Britain and western Europe. It must be realized that, in this modern era, Great Britain is carrying a population which is beyond its capacity to feed and house and generally sustain. One thing that struck me while I was overseas - and I again do not intend my words to be taken as criticism - was the fact that the average Englishman is so much settled in his own island - and there is no lovelier one - that he rarely thinks beyond England. “When he does think beyond England, his thoughts tend towards continental Europe with which England has lived for centuries. Rarely does one find an Englishman who thinks of the tremendous resources of the British Commonwealth. If only the English people would realize it, the only real solution of their main difficulties lies within the strength of the resources of the British Commonwealth. I do not believe that we have attempted to do more than scratch the surface of the resources of the Commonwealth. We must dig deeper if the people of England and, to a lesser degree, the people of Australia are to survive on present standards. England cannot survive without the support of the other parts of the British Commonwealth, such as Australia. Equally, we cannot survive without its support and the support of other parts of the British Commonwealth. The Prime Minister or the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, ought to initiate a discussion at the forthcoming conference in London on the development of the resources of the British Commonwealth as the ultimate solution of its problems.
There ought to be also a discussion on the mass movement of industries and population from Great Britain to other parts of the British Commonwealth, although frankly, I do not expect much of a response from Great Britain. It is easy, I know, to propose the mass movement of industries and population, and I realize how difficult it would be to give impetus to such a movement, but, if my proposition is correct that the cause of Great Britain’s problem is basically its inability to support its population in the British Isles, I believe that such a movement ought to take place. During the war, there were mass movements of people by ourselves and our allies. Why cannot something comparable be done in times of so-called peace ?
The disbalance to-day is not merely one of currency; it is also one of economy The United States of America is tremendously rich in raw materials. Those come naturally from its land; but the United States of America has developed technically far more than other countries have done. Those facts are basic to the problem. It is useless to talk about currency and free-trade when economic free-flowing disbalance exists. It is important that other parts of the world - and I speak particularly of Australia - should develop as fast as they can to a level of technical efficiency equal to that of the United States of America.
I have referred to a number of possible remedies in rather general terms, and I make no apology for having done so. Each of them could provide the substance for a debate. But it is clear enough, when one looks at the world picture, what the result will be if the present conditions continue. If they do continue, the productive capacity of the United States of America must break down bit by bit, because it will be unable to find markets for its products. The result of that will be substantial unemployment in the United States of America. That country has ample money. It is not short of funds as it was in 1929. But the basic reason for the depressed conditions that may occur in America will be similar to those that caused the crash of 1929, because, although it is able to produce practically all the want.= of its people, in order to keep its industry and economy going in such a way as to maintain full employment, it must find markets to absorb its surplus production. If it cannot find markets, its production must drop, and, if production drops, unemployment will be created. So America will begin to go down the slide. The farther it goes down the slide, the worse the position of the world will become. Two things that will occur will be that other countries will be less able to maintain their own economy and the American people will be more reluctant to aid other nations, no matter how strong the arguments may be in favour of continuing or increasing aid to those nations, because their own problems will absorb their whole attention.
What are we to do? Is our policy to be greater and greater restriction of the importation from the hard currency areas of petrol and other commodities, which, as the Prime Minister has admitted, we must have if we are to maintain our level of production. We must make our views known in Great Britain. All our sterling funds are in Great Britain and we cannot use any more of those funds than the British Government is prepared to release, or indeed, for purposes other than Great Britain approves. That creates a problem of first-class importance. How are the industries of Australia to progress? Are we to use our sterling funds and, if so, for what purpose? If we are to use them for essential purposes, let us use them now. But Great Britain is short of most of the things that Australia is short of. It cannot supply us. If we use our sterling funds in purchasing the things that we are not short of, it must be done at the cost of Australian industries. Australian secondary industries are the principal providers of employment in Australia although, fortunately for us, our basic economy is still linked with the land. Australia is one of the few countries in the world which is producing more than it needs, and selling more than it imports. Our sterling balance in London is piling up, but it is of little more value to us at the moment than money in the bank which cannot be drawn. We can obtain dollars only through Britain, so that, in respect both to dollars, and credits for our exports to Great Britain, the key is in Britain. I dissociate myself from the suggestion that we have no concern with the kind of government there is in Great Britain. I do not wish to engage in a controversy on that subject, but if Great Britain is following a course that is limiting its productive capacity, that fact must bear upon the standard of living of every person in Australia. We have a vital interest in how affairs are conducted in Great Britain. We have a right to ask for details, and this Parliament has a right to receive them, just as Great Britain has a right, in view of the manner in which our economies are linked, to demand that we shall limit within reasonable limits our claims on dollar resources. It is a two-way traffic.
The Prime Minister has made it clear on more than one occasion that our problem is one of dollars, and Ave know, in general terms, how the problem has arisen. However, when we ask for detailed information about the dollar problem, particularly in its relation to petrol, none or very little is forthcoming. As a member of the National Parliament, I protest because figures which may be obtained by ferreting through British white papers are not made more readily available to us from Government sources. Petroleum imported into Great Britain in 1947 was valued at £78,000,000, or 5 per cent, of the value of total imports amounting to £1,541,000,000. In 1948, the value of petroleum imports increased to £120,000,000, or 13 per cent, of total imports valued at £S96,000,000. Figures are available for only the first six months of 1949, but from those it is estimated that the value of imported petroleum will bc about £100,000,000 for the whole year, which is expected to be between 10 per cent, and 11 per cent, of the total value of all imports estimated at £960,000,000. During that time, the exports shown in the British budget papers under the word “ Net “ went from £20,000,000 in 1947, to £140,000,000 in 1948, and to an estimated figure of £170,000,000 for 1949. The item under the word “Net” is an inclusive figure which indicates a miscellaneous collection of receipts and payments and includes the principal overseas transac tions of British oil companies. I cannot say what the facts are in relation to oil, but it is not sufficient that this Parliament should be supplied with general statements only. If, as we have been informed, the State Premiers can be supplied with full details which, in turn, they supply to their Cabinets, much of the information must eventually become common property. Therefore, I should like to know what is secret about the figures which cannot be disclosed to this Parliament.
In general, I support the remarks of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I am not very much moved by the reply of the Prime Minister that the major oil companies have washed their hands of the matter. The truth is that the major oil companies are run by the same directorates wherever they may be operating, and they are selling inside the sterling area all the petrol they want to sell there. If they sell a little less in Australia, their turnover in some other sterling countries will be correspondingly greater.
I do not criticize Great Britain for what it is doing, because the action it is taking is essential to its recovery, but the truth it that Great Britain is unquestionably importing more crude oil, and is seeking to increase its refining capacity, so as to increase the quantity of petrol at its disposal. It is obvious from the figures available that a very substantial amount of petrol is being sold outside the United Kingdom, and outside the British group of nations, in soft currency or hard currency countries, probably both. It is equally clear that Great Britain ha3 been trying to export more and more of its coal. Before the war, coal was one of Great Britain’s most important export items. Coal exports increased very little since the end of the war until quite recently, but Great Britain is now exporting more coal, and using oil as a substitute. I do not dispute the general statements made by the Prime Minister on this subject, but their generality pre- -ents us from engaging in any useful discussion of the facts.
This debate presents honorable members
With an opportunity to express their views, and I hope that those expressions of opinion will be borne in mind by whoever represents Australia at the financial conference in London. What is done there within the next ten days will have the most far-reaching effects on Australia for a long time to come.
I come now to a consideration of the bill itself, which represents legislation of a new type. For instance, the bill contains this passage -
The Minister may -
by notice in writing served on a person who imports liquid fuel into Australia, require that person to maintain, at such places in Australia as are specified in the notice, stocks of liquid fuel of such classes and quantities as are so specified, being stocks which, in the opinion of the Minister, it is essential should be so maintained in the interests of defence; and
That means that the Government can say to any oil company : “ We require you to maintain at points A. B, 0 and D throughout Australia certain quantities of petrol and oil for purposes of defence “. In order to comply with that direction, it might be necessary for the company to engage in vast capital expenditure. Certainly the maintenance of the supplies as requested would immobilize large stocks which would not earn profits for the company. It is true that clause 6 of the bill provides that a person, upon whom notice is served, will be entitled to fair compensation, but only in respect of any loss suffered by him. That is important. I wonder how an oil company could establish its real loss in respect of outlay on capital equipment. It could be argued that, although a company might be obliged to lay out money in providing storage tanks, it could not claim that the money was lost, because the asset was there. Thus, the only loss that could be proved would be the interest on the outlay, and the profit that was not earned on the turnover of the stock. Under the bill, it is proposed to compel people to expend capital on behalf of the Government. This legislation must be very carefully considered. In my opinion, if the Commonwealth wants storage dumps, it ought to provide them itself. We should not support the principle that any one, whether a company or an individual, can be compelled to expend money in establishing something for the benefit of the Commonwealth, because that would be to empower the Commonwealth to direct capital expenditure, and exercise control over the businesses of companies or individuals. Not even in the interests of defence should we give such power to the Commonwealth. If it is desirable, in the interests of defence, that there should be stores of petrol, or steel, or aluminium or any other commodity, the expenditure involved should be met by the Commonwealth.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was so realistic that it might have been one of the efforts of Sir Stafford Cripps himself. I refer to the first 30 minutes of the speech, in particular. I do not think, however, that the honorable gentleman has grasped the nettle so firmly as Sir Stafford Cripps usually does. When he was concluding his argument about the economic position of Great Britain, he seemed to imply that the solution of the problem was to be found in another dollar loan. I am inclined to think that that is unquestionably one way in which to postpone a depression. But we ought to remember that Great Britain has done that once, for it borrowed 3,750,000 dollars from the United States of America. The question arises, how often can a country raise loans as a means of postponing the day of reckoning, particularly when the discrepancy between imports and exports is as great as it is in Great Britain’s trade relations with the United States of America? The honorable member was very realistic and, I think, very honest, in his analysis of the economic position of Great Britain. We should think very carefully before we accept the sort of clap-trap that is published in the Sydney Bulletin, and repeated by some honorable members in this House, that the declining standard of living in Great Britain is associated with the political complexion of the government in power there. The honorable member spoke of the loss of Great Britain’s overseas investments. In 1939, Great Britain had in North America £700,000,000 worth of investments. In order to obtain arms from the United States of America, Britain sold the factories, the railway shares, and the fixed capital assets which were paying for imports from the United States of America, so that they would not have to be covered by exports from the United Kingdom. It is of no moment to say that Great Britain obtained far more value than it gave, because the United States of America provided Great Britain with something like £1,000,000,000 worth of food each year during the period of the war, and sent to Britain arms valued at far more than the capital investments that Great Britain has held in North America. The point is that what Great Britain got from the United States of America was consumer goods. What Britain lost in the United States of America was fixed capital which, year after year, had earned consumer goods. In other words, Britain consumed its foreign capital because of the war conditions. In South America until 1945, before the recent confiscations were made, Britain held investments valued * at £1,000,000,000. Most pf that money was represented by obsolete nineteenth century investments on railways whereas in the same area American investments were very largely made in the modern motor car and other modern industries. The whole of the £1,000,000,000 which Britain had invested in South America, particularly in Argentina, earned only £19,000,000 in interest, the average return being 1.9 per cent. Britain earns from its investment of £489,000,000 in Australia, £20,000,000 sterling per annum. iSo, an investment in South America twice as great as Britain’s investments in Australia, obtained only about the same- amount in interest. Britain had investments in China valued at £400,000,000, principally in physical assets such as cotton mills in the Yangtse valley, but they were destroyed by the Japanese army during the war. Britain’ also had investments valued at approximately £585,000,000 in India but the maintenance of the British Army in India and food purchases from India ultimately turned Britain’s favorable position vis-a-vis India into a debt which now stands at £1,200,000,000. The truth of the matter is that before the war Britain had very many people working for it abroad. Goods came into Britain by way of interest which did not have to be paid for by goods sent out of Britain. To-day, Britain has to send more goods out of the country in order to get the same quantity of goods which it got in 1939 by way of interest. Irrespective of whether or not a Conservative government had remained in office in Britain the fundamental situation would not have changed. Britain lost most of its capital investments in the United States of America and Canada in 1940 when a Conservative government was in office. Although Britain was governed by predominantly Conservative governments during the war years, that did not prevent the destruction of British capital in China nor did it prevent the financial relations between the United Kingdom and India deteriorating to the disadvantage of the United Kingdom as the result of the need for maintaining a large army in India for the defence of that country.
I join issue with the honorable member for Warringah in respect of certain statements made by him, particularly in reference to the British steel industry. Between 1935 and 1939 the British steel industry had many scandalous and slovenly features associated with it. I am speaking of the industry as it was operated by private enterprise. One of the major scandals was the deliberate suppression by the steel ring of the most modern steel plant in Britain established at Ebbw Vale. Because so many obsolete steel concerns were operating on which a return of capital had to be obtained the steel ring did not desire the competition of the modern plant established at Ebbw Vale. By agreement between the steel companies the plant at Ebbw Vale was kept at a very low rate of production for some years. Britain has little to thank the steel companies for in pursuing a policy of that kind nor has it cause to be grateful to the steel ring for having kept the British steel industry with obsolete plant. Naturally a tremendous amount of government money was expended on the industry during the war years as part of the war effort.
What really surprised me was the demeanour of Opposition members when the Prime Minister stated that the United States of America might have felt the breath of a recession earlier had it not been for its magnificent policy of Marshall aid and loans to other countries. I cannot see why that statement should have surprised honorable members opposite. That is exactly the position which this country is in to-day. We have sterling balances in London exceeding £350,000,000. We have exported goods to that value in excess of the value of our imports from the United Kingdom. We have not been paid for our exports in goods. Is it suggested by honorable members opposite that if we had not exported those goods, we would not have felt a sharp depression in this country? The effect of our transactions has been that for the goods we exported our exporters were paid money incomes in Australian currency which enabled them to purchase their requirements throughout this country. If we had not exported the goods we should be feeling a recession to-day. The honorable member for Warringah was profoundly right when he said that if we approach this matter as a question involving restrictions, all that we shall do is to bring about another depression. I think that that was the logical implication of the honorable gentleman’s argument, though I do not pretend that those were his words, and I agree with it. Whether or not we should obtain a loan from Canada is a question on which it is almost impossible to hazard a guess. If we obtained such a loan and bought capital equipment, as the honorable member for Warringah has suggested, and with that equipment produced goods, the policy would be sound only if, having produced the goods, we could find a market for them which would provide us with dollars with which to pay the interest on the loan and something more. If the world trade situation changed and there was a freezing of trade such a policy would probably not be justified. If the United States of America did not change its policy and it started to buy more freely from the sterling area all we should find would be that we would have a greater dollar deficit because we would have to pay out more dollars to meet interest on the loan.
I cannot feel the same respect for the statements made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) as I felt for those made by the honorable member for Warringah. The Leader of the Australian Country party has referred again to Argentina and has stated that, of the petrol which Britain was sending to Argentina, 90 per cent, came from dollar sources. Why he should imagine that that strengthened his argument in relation to petrol, I do not know. If anything, it weakened it. Right in* the middle of the right honorable gentleman’s diatribe in relation to the dollar position was his statement that the United Kingdom supplied Argentina with 117,000,000 gallons of petrol in exchange for meat. He proceeded to draw the astonishing conclusion that the United Kingdom should be providing us with petrol and that that constituted an argument against the continuance of petrol rationing. His argument appears to me to point in the opposite direction. Officials of the Department of Health are at present in Great Britain. One of them is a personal friend of mine. A great deal of nonsense is talked about juvenile health in Great Britain. The observations of my friend, who has made a very close study of the position, show that whilst as the result of special attention to their diet young people in the United Kingdom were in magnificent health, she had come to the conclusion that she had never seen a poorer adolescent population than is the adolescent population of Great Britain at the present time. At the age where rapid growth takes place, diet is of the utmost importance. People may talk as much as they like about calories and vitamins .but it is an undisputable fact that adolescents need proteins. They must have meat and the protein content of the United Kingdom diet has fallen far below danger level with consequent damaging effect on the health of the people, particularly of rapidly growing adolescents. Consequently, if as we believe Argentina offered to Great Britain the choice of two alternatives, one that it was to be paid for its meat in dollars, and the other that it was to be paid for its meat in petrol, the United Kingdom Government was driven by overwhelming circumstances to accept the second and to provide petrol which might otherwise have been directed to this country as a means of liquidating some of Great Britain’s sterling indebtedness to Australia. The argument advanced by the Leader of the Australian Country party was unworthy. of him. On both occasions when he has spoken on this subject, the right honorable gentleman has mentioned, in the middle of his speech, a fundamental fact which has contradicted his whole argument. I express the conviction that were Labour in Opposition and playing party politics with petrol as the right honorable gentleman has been doing, and were a Labour leader to make a speech similar to that made by the right honorable gentleman with respect to the AngloArgentine agreement, every newspaper throughout the Commonwealth would have headlined that part of his speech in black letters and would have published leading articles which would have shown how completely it contradicted the argument which he had sought to advance.
A few days ago the Prime Minister spoke about three trading blocs. We should not omit to look at one of them and examine its relationship to the United States. That matter has not been fully discussed in the course of the debate to-day. In 1946, the United States of America had a very big trade with Russia. Undoubtedly, Russia has gained a great deal of capital equipment from the United States during the last four years. Let us examine the cold figures in relation to the trade between I he two countries. In 1946, the United- States exported to Russia goods of the value of 357,900,000 dollars and imported from Russia goods valued at 100,500,000 dollars. That gave to the United States what is ordinarily called a trade advantage, but which I prefer to describe, in terms of realistic economics, as rather an advantage to Russia. In other words, American exports to Russia exceeded its imports from that country by 257,400,000 dollars. In the following year the United States commenced a trade restriction policy with respect to Russia. In 1947 it exported to Russia goods to the value of 149,000.000 dollars and bought back from Russia goods valued at 76,900,000 dollars. That meant that as far as Russia was concerned it had a trade deficit with the United States of America of 72,100,000 dollars. In 1948, the American Congress made its trade restriction policy with Russia even more drastic. In that year the United States exported to Russia goods valued at 27,800,000 dollars. The decline was due to the American policy of establishing a stockpile of strategic materials. For the benefit of our Communist friends, I may add that Stalin is at present maintaining a pretence that he fears that Russia may be attacked by the United States of America. The trade figures relating to the two countries show that Russia had been exporting to the United States of America manganese, chrome and other strategic war minerals. In 1948 it accumulated a surplus of dollars with which it was able to sell goods to the United Kingdom in exchange for materials. If Stalin really fears an attack by the United States of America, he is providing that country with the means of making it, in which case we should be hearing from our Communist friends about “ Scrap Iron Joe “.
– Hear, hear! I thank the honorable member for that kind remark.
– The point I make is that by these exports Russia has enabled the United States to establish a stockpile of strategic minerals. The restrictive policy adopted by the United’ States has since been intensified. In the first two months of 1949 the United States exported to Russia goods valued at only 400,000 dollars and imported from Russia goods valued’ at 4,900,000 dollars. Thus, there has been a spectacular fall in trade between the two countries. The aggregate American-Russian trade in 1946 was valued at 458,400,000 dollars. If trade between the two countries is maintained at only the existing volume it is doubtful whether it will amount in the aggregate to even 25,000,000 dollars this year. We might look at the matter “from the political point of view and say that the United States is absolutely justified in restricting exports to Russia. I do not argue on that score. One conclusion is, however, inevitable. If a trade restriction policy is applied for political reasons there must, as a consequence, follow a heightening of political tension between the countries affected. It is a vicious circle. Politics lead to economic restrictions, and economic restrictions lead to further political tension. A sober analysis of the trade relationships between Russia and the United States of America appears to confirm that view.
The honorable member for “Warringah has suggested a dollar loan as a possible method of assisting to meet the difficulties of the present situation. I hope that that suggestion will not be rejected without full consideration. It is impossible to decide whether or not that policy is a correct one. If a loan were obtained, much would depend upon the trade position of the world afterwards. I think that a young country like Australia, which requires further capital equipment and apparently cannot obtain it from the United Kingdom, will ultimately have to incur a debt and obtain it from the United States of America. That was the realistic point of the speech of the honorable member for “Warringah. Although a loan might lead to some difficulties, it must be borne in mind that when a country has invested money in another country it is often forced to take further economic measures to protect its investment. If the United States of America, for instance, lends this country a considerable sum of money, it will ultimately be forced into the position that the United Kingdom was in in the nineteenth century. The British Government adopted a policy of free trade in .the nineteenth century because Britain had investments abroad and had to allow goods to come in as interest on the investments. The United States of America is undoubtedly the world’s provider of capital goods now, and it will have to abandon its excessively restrictive trade policies. The trouble is that we are in a transitional period when the United States of America is only just assuming fully the position of the economic leader of the world and the provider of capital goods for the world. Consequently, -it has not yet realized that its position necessarily involves the lifting of restrictions on the inflow of goods. There is one thing that is quite certain. Although a borrowing policy may lead to disaster, a policy of restriction will undoubtedly lead to disaster, because it can only result in a depression. That important point was made in the speech of the honorable mem- ber for “Warringah, for which the House is indebted.
.- Honorable members have taken advantage of the motion for the second-reading of this bill to discuss the economic policy, not only of Australia and Great Britain, but also of the world in general. That is very wise, because in the near future, important “discussions will take place in Great Britain and I believe it to be necessary that the Minister who represents Australia at those discussions, whether he be the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) or the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), should be acquainted with the views of members of the Opposition as well as with those of Government supporters.
The House is indebted to .the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) for again raising the question of petrol. I do not associate myself with all the observations that were made by the right honorable gentleman, but at least they drew from the Prime Minister a statement regarding the position that we had previously been unable to obtain. It will be remembered that when petrol was discussed on a previous occasion, the Prime Minister stated that last year the cost of petrol to Great Britain was approximately 400,000,000 dollars. If I have understood the right honorable gentleman correctly, he has now admitted that that figure includes a substantial sum for capital expenditure and that the whole amount has not been expended upon petrol as petrol. That is an important fact with which the House and the country should have been made acquainted long before to-day.
There are very few people in Australia who appreciate the gravity of the position of Great Britain or realize that the future welfare of Australia depends very largely upon the success of that country in its present economic struggle. We are, however, as the honorable member foi Warringah (Mr. Spender) has said, interested in Great Britain in a very much closer way than that. We are able to discuss this and other measures in this House solely because of the magnificent effort that was made by Britain during 1940 and 1941, when it resisted the Nazi horde* almost unaided. We all agree with the honorable member for Warringah that the present sufferings of the people of Great Britain are largely the result of the great sacrifices that they made and the heavy burden which they bore during those years. We have a duty to do something more positive than express our sympathy for Great Britain, but I am bound to say that when the question of assistance to that country has been raised in this chamber, honorable members on this side of the House have received very little encouragement from the Prime Minister or other honorable gentlemen opposite. Over the years honorable members on this side of the House have expressed definite views and have made suggestions which, if they had been adopted, would have enabled us to assist the old country in a positive fashion. When the difficulty of obtaining dollars for the purchase of petrol was raised, the first, and as far as T know the only action that was taken by the Government was to propose to reduce the petrol ration in this country. I admit that that is the first action that any government would take but, any government which stopped at that, would be applying a policy of despair. I have been expecting some positive suggestions to be made by the Government on how we can reduce the consumption of petrol in Australia and also help Britain in its time of need. The Prime Minister has said that there is no shortage of crude oil in the sterling area. That being so, I should have thought that some positive action would hare been taken by the Government to establish refineries in this country so that we could treat the crude oil and produce the petrol that we require. No suggestion of that kind has been made. We are still looking for a statement of policy by the Government that will indicate to the people, first, the necessity for restrictions on the consumption of petrol; and secondly, the means by which those restrictions can be removed eventually. T do not dispute the statement that equipment for the refining of crude oil comes very largely, if not entirely, from America. The purchase of the equipment would involve the expenditure of dollars. I agree with the honorable member for Warringah that under present circum stances a dollar loan may be justified. A loan to enable us to purchase equipment for the refining of the crude oil that is available would be a justifiable means of obtaining a commodity that we require.
The honorable member for Warringah has made a very comprehensive and sound survey of world economics. In the course of it he stated that he was expressing only his own opinion. The observations that I am about to make now are expressions of my opinion. It is common knowledge that some people believe thatone way in which Great Britain can bridge the gap between its dollar expenditure and dollar earnings is by the devaluation of sterling. I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of international exchange, but I recall that in the not far distant past Australia was in the throes of an economic crisis. It was a crisis such as had never been faced by this country in the memory of living men. I well remember that during that crisis, against the desire of the government of the day and against the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, which is the controller of these matters in this country, the Australian exchange rate was depreciated very substantially. The results of that, it has been said, were only short-term, but I personally regard those results as having played a very considerable part in the recovery of this country. I am not one of those people who believe that there is anything sacroscant in currency relations and exchange. I see no danger and nothing wrong in having a depreciated currency in relation to one or other of the world currencies. I can see nothing right in bringing a depreciated currency back to par merely so as to be able to say that it is at par with the currency of some other country. I repeat that the results achieved by the depreciation of our currency are still being felt, to the country’s benefit. We all know that, when a country depreciates its currency in relation to the currency of other countries, it has to pay more of its own currency for imports from those countries, and also that those countries can buy our exports more cheaply. Australia exports mainly raw materials, and imports manufactured goods. For that reason we would be more likely to have a reaction against a depreciated currency, because raw materials are always cheap in comparison with the price of manufactured goods. We have to attempt to increase the value and volume of our exports of raw materials so as to be able to afford to import the goods we need. The position in Britain is exactly the opposite. Britain has always been an exporter of manufactured goods and an importer of foodstuff’s and raw materials. The prices that our raw materials bring in the world markets are already falling. I make those observations without pretending to solve the problem that faces the Old Country, but 1 think that at least we can gain from the experience that we have had in this country
-The honorable member is making very little mention of petrol, which is the subject with which the bill deals.
– Petrol is one of the items that we import, and for which apparently wo have to pay in dollars. If either Australia or Great Britain depreciated its currency, petrol would cost us more than it does now. I am not an authority on these matters, but it is as well that we should keep in our minds the experience we have had in Australia in this very important matter because as I have mentioned earlier, we are about to send a representative to an economic conference in London, and we have been told that this matter will be discussed at that conference. I do not want to say anything more than that, up to date, we have taken a completely negative view with respect to this matter and it is of no use to say that Australia cannot do more than it is doing to-day. I know that for political reasons the Prime Minister, the Government and honorable members opposite in general told the people not long ago that we were entering a “golden age”. They have issued unending streams of propaganda about the achievements of Australia since the end of the war, although we know that the results achieved in this country since the war, in comparison with what we could have achieved, are pathetic. Many of the goods that were saleable in the sellers’ market that existed from the end of the war until recently, and that are still saleable in the buyers’ market that is now developing, are not being produced by us in sufficient quantities for export. Our industries are not producing at more than 70 per cent, of their capacity. The way to be able to buy petrol or anything else from abroad is, as has been said by the Prime Minister, to sell more of the goods that are in demand overseas at the present time. In this country we are peculiarly fortunate in that we are able to produce some of the basic requirements of industry at prices lower than they can be produced in other parts of the world. I refer to iron and steel. But what is the position in the iron and steel industry? Even before the disastrous coal strike that is now in progress, the iron and steel industry was operating at only 60 per cent, capacity.
The Prime Minister has pointed out that many of the dollars being used by Great Britain now are not for capital equipment or for petrol, but for foodstuffs that are the very life-blood of Great Britain. What is happening in respect of foodstuffs produced in this country? The acreage of cereals has decreased since the war, and so has the production of meat, butter and wool. I shall not be side-tracked by any statement that such reductions have been due to seasonal conditions, because that is not true. If this Government, apart from giving lip service to the Old Country, would set its house in order so that we could deliver to Britain the goods that this country is capable of producing, we should be doing a better service to Great Britain than we can do by imposing restrictions on the use of petrol.
– There are two aspects of this measure that I consider deserve the very close consideration of the Parliament. The first is the title of the bill, which is -
A bill for an act to provide, in the interests of defence, for the maintenance of stocks of liquid fuel within Australia.
I shall deal with that matter first because I think that all too little has been said about that rather important aspect of the bill. Some of us on this side of the House take a rather strong attitude on the necessity for the maintenance of the standard of Australian defence. When this question is raised from time to time in the House we are repeatedly told by members of the Government, particularly by the Prime Minister, that there is no necessity to become very much alarmed about defence. In fact, the Prime Minister said only quite recently that we are in a much safer position from the point of view of our defence than we have been at any other time since the war. We have had also the report of the Prime Minister’s homily, delivered to the annual conference of the New South Wales branch of the Labour party, in which he stated that Soviet Russia’s development was 50 years behind ours. The capacity of any country to wage war depends to a very large degree on its industrial development. If this is a bill for an act in the interests of defence, the first question that the Government should clear up is: Against’ which country is this defence being instituted? Why are these plans being inaugurated at this time and in this way? Certain reserves of petrol and other petroleum products were kept in stock during the last war. Certain depots were established. We have not been told by the Government that those depots are still in existence. I have a strong suspicion that some of them were disposed of at a time when, on the Government’s own admission, the country was taking very much greater defence risks than it is taking to-day. There is nothing in the statement of the Prime Minister or the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) that gives the Opposition or the country the slightest clue to the identity of the power against which the Government intends this defence measure to be instituted on behalf of the Australian people. When we examine this question from the point of view of defence interests we must have regard, first, to the sources of oil; secondly, to the sources of potential war; and thirdly to the capacity of the possible aggressor or enemy to cut across our lines of communication with the oil-fields that are our source of supply. We draw our oil partly from the Pacific coast of the United States, partly from Borneo, to some small degree, at the moment, from the Dutch East Indies, and to a very large degree from the Persian Gulf. There is no country that we are likely to be at war with which has territories that lie across the lines of communication between us and the areas from which our petrol comes. The only country with which we might possibly become embroiled is the Soviet Union. If the Soviet Union decided to take any military action to prevent oil supplies from reaching Australia from the sources that I have named - and there are no other sources - then it must take air action based on the occupation of certain land bases, and also naval action. These are the only two forms of action that it could take. If honorable members study, as I did this afternoon, the naval records contained in last year’s edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships, they will find that the Soviet’s naval resources in the Far East, which is the only area from which an attack could be launched, are negligible. I understand that that also applies to the air forces in Russian territories in the Far East that might be in a position to interfere with the passage of oil-carrying vessels from the west coast of the United States, Borneo, the Dutch East Indies or the Persian Gulf to Australia. Only very long-range aircraft operating from bases in the Communistheld territories of China could attack those lines of supply. If the Government has introduced this measure because of the fear of war with Russia then there is a very great necessity for it to pay some heed to a suggestion that I made in this chamber only a few days ago, that the Commonwealth of Australia should be definitely represented in the defence of Hong Kong. But although this bill provides for certain things to be done in the interests of defence, the Government is not making the slightest move to take any action outside Australia that could possibly be conceived as designed to protect our lines of communication between the oil-fields and our own territories.
Then there is the question of those oil reserves that I have mentioned previously. To listen to the Prime Minister and tha Minister for Defence talking about the Government’s reserves of oil one would think that the accumulation of reserves was an indefinitely continuing process. One would imagine that out of every month’s shipments of oil to Australia a certain amount had to be put aside into what must be an ever-growing reserve. If that were not so, as soon as the reserves had been built up to the required level petrol and oil would thereafter become available for civilian use. This bill is one of the most dreadful ruses which has ever been adopted by any government. The use of the word “ defence “ in the title of the bill is a complete and unblushing prostitution of the term. This legislation has no relation to the defence of Australia, and if the Government has allowed the Commonwealth’s oil resources to become seriously depleted since 1945, especially in view of the international situation, it is criminally responsible to the people of Australia. That is the only way in which I can describe the situation. The oil companies have been brought into the matter. If this Government has any dins to account for, it is only natural that it will attempt to transfer them to the unprotesting shoulders of private enterprise. This Government, which wears a bright and shining halo, could hardly be expected to bear the blame for any deeds of omission or commission
I said previously that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had denied the likelihood of war. He has declared that the only country with which we might POSsibly be involved’ in war is 50 years behind us in industrial development, and to crown that statement, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) asked us, a few days ago, in a long and tedious review of international affairs, to place our faith, without any limitations, in the United Nations. The right honorable gentleman is the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations for the time being. “What is the position? The Prime Minister has said, in effect, “ There is no likelihood’ of war, boys, you can go home, like the women of Harlech, and sleep soundly at night, because no one will disturb you “. The Minister for External Affairs, disregarding Cromwell’s advice to his troops to “ Put your trust in God, but keep your powder dry” says, in effect, “ Put your trust in the United Nations, and keep me in the office of President, and everything will be all right”. Following those contradictions, the Government has introduced this bill, which asks the Parliament to legislate to restrict the use of liquid fuel by the public in the interests of defence. It is unthinkable that those limitations will not affect the users of petrol. This bill is aimed at the ordinary motorist, , because the Government believes that this scheme is the only way in which it can square the ledger with the Australian petrol user since the High Court has decided that petrol rationing, as administered by the Commonwealth in peace-time, is illegal.
The Government has also been sorely irritated by the one-man campaign that has been conducted by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) for some time. The right honorable gentleman has produced certain irrefutable facts to prove that countries which suffered occupation by foreign armien during World War TI. on the continent of Europe, and which are so hopelessly stony broke that they must have Marshall aid from the United States of America, not so much for their industries, as to provide food and clothing for their people, have not introduced petrol rationing. But the Commonwealth of Australia, which has in London credits amounting to approximately £350,000,000, and which produces many goods that the United States of America can take ae soon as that country is prepared to assume the obligations of a creditor nation, is not in such a good position a» countries like Italy Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, to mention only a few of them. The Australian petrol user and the Australian public generally will not accept this position. The Government cannot justify it.
The Prime Minister has lectured us on several occasions about the sterlingdollar crisis. I understand that the right honorable gentleman is quite an authority on that subject. I am not. It is as much as I can do to count 20s. into £1, but I have certain basic ideas about currency matters. Quite unlike the socialists, I do not believe in the wisdom of a “ rigged “ currency. I consider that many of the economic troubles which now affect the ability of certain countries to buy petrol, are due to the fact that they pin their faith to a “ rigged “ paper currency, and they are not prepared to face the facts of the economic and financial situation. One commodity which we must produce, and for which there is an everlasting and unfaltering demand, is gold; but we are selling our gold to-day at a fraction of its true worth because this Government is a party to a certain international financial agreement. So long as we do not receive the true value for our exports, whether they be gold, wheat or wool, our capacity to purchase our petrol requirements will be seriously unpaired.
– How does one establish the true value of gold?
– What has France done? That country has established the true value of gold by returning to the gold standard. The result is that the price of gold in France is more than double the price of gold in the Commonwealth of Australia.
– Those facts do not mean that the French receive more than 35 dollars per oz. for gold.
– I advise the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) to study the position more closely. Why are some people attempting to smuggle gold out of Western Australia? Why is one body of police employed to prevent gold-smuggling in Kalgoorlie, and another body of police is engaged at Mascot to prevent gold smuggling to the Far East, Karachi, Singapore, Batavia and other places where gold is *old at £40 or £50 per oz.? The police at Mascot actually apprehended one man whom they suspected of smuggling gold.
– What would be the price of gold on the free market if the United States of America ceased to purchase it?
– I refer the Minister to the report of a statement in the Commercial and Mining Review of Perth last month. That statement was made by a South African authority on gold.
– Does that authority answer my question ?
– I do not dodge any questions, and, in that respect, I am unlike the Minister. My answer to the interjection is that the United States of America cannot cease to be a buyer of gold. America owns 70 per cent of the world’s gold, and it has the greatest vested interest of any country in gold. According to the South African authority to whom I referred a few minutes ago, the United States of America is securing the world’s gold for less than one-half of its market value. He said that if gold were allowed to reach a free level in a free market, the United States would have to increase the price of the precious metal by 111 per cent. That would be a price of approximately 74 dollars per oz., instead of the present price of 35 dollars per oz. That authority has also stated that in order to produce an equilibrium between the price of gold - and the currency of the United Kingdom, the price of gold would need to be increased from the standpoint of the United Kingdom, by 348 per cent. I have raised this matter because it has a direct bearing on our ability to purchase petrol. The South African authority considers that there is only one hard currency, and it is not dollars, but gold. I agree with that view. When we are considering the basis of a currency, we realize that only two things are imperishable. Petrol is burned in the engine of a motor car, and, according to the state of the engine, the user gets a good mileage or he does not. But when we examine the basic facts, we find that gold or land is the basis for all currencies.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the bill, which deals with petrol. The honorable member has given us a long lecture.
– No, it has taken only five minutes.
-The honorable member must return to the matter before the Chair.
– Every honorable member is entitled to talk on this bill to the full extent of the time allowed to him by the Standing Orders, and, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, this is more a currency measure than anything else. He spoke at great length in explaining Great Britain’s dollar position in regard to petrol. He pointed out what I have read, through the good graces of the Leader of the Australian Country party, in the economic and financial newspapers of England, that a great deal of the trouble in the United
Kingdom lies in providing capital equipment for certain oil areas without the expenditure of dollars. It stands to reason that, if we have to equip our oil areas by expending dollars, it is the height of folly to calculate the expenditure of dollars on new machinery and appliances for those areas in endeavouring to state our position in regard to dollar petrol. The articles in the financial and economic newspapers of England to which I have just referred show,as the Leader of the Australian Country party has pointed out, that the United Kingdom is doing its very best to try to avoid dollar commitments for capital equipment by using sterling capital equipment, and that is all to the good. But these are facts that ought to be brought out in this debate, if we are to get right down to the two vital issues of this measure, which are defence and currency. I am perfectly sure that the Government is simply attempting to use the defence part of the title of the bill as a means of blocking discussion of the Government’s financial and economic policy which we on this side of the chamber have believed, from its very inception, must bring this country to the brink of economic and financial disaster. I say now, as I have said previously, that it would be an act of poetic justice if this Government were still in office when the blizzard occurred, and it will occur. No greater act of poetic justice could happen in politics than for the makers of the present position to be called upon to solve the difficulties that they have created through their bad policy. I. can see by the look in your eyes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will not allow me, on this measure, to develop an argument on the methods by which the dollar petrol problem may be overcome.
– The honorable gentleman has been given wide scope.
– That question is of first-class importance, and it should be developed. There should be no attempt to have the Parliament go into recess, until we have had the opportunity to say something about the position into which Australia is drifting, not only in regard to petrol and defence but also in regard to currency.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scully) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., for the year ended the 30th June, 1948. and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
In Committee of Supply:
Motions (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1947-48, for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
Supplementary Estimates fob Additions, New Works, Buildings, Etc., 1947-48.
That there he granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1847-48 for the purposes of Additions, Kew Works, Buildings, &.C., a further sum not exceeding £1,246,723.
.- Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) explain the procedure which it is proposed to adopt in relation to the matters now before the committee? Before the dinner suspension, an understanding was reached with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that after the appropriation bills had been introduced, honorable members would be given an opportunity to study them before being required to debate them. I understand that the Government now intends to proceed with them immediately.
– That was a request.
– I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) will state his views on the matter. This is the first time that members of the Opposition have seen the bills.
– I suggest that consideration of these measures be postponed until after the next business has been dealt with.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on Resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Holloway do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This- bill provides for a supplementary appropriation of £S,746,852 to cover additional expenditure on certain services during the 1947-48 financial year. The amounts, as detailed, were expended from a general appropriation from revenue amounting to £10,000,000, which was provided to enable the Treasurer to make payments which could not be foreseen when the original appropriation was made. Parliamentary approval to cover the several items of excess expenditure is now necessary. Full details of the expenditure for which approval is now sought were shown in the Estimates and Budget Papers for 1948-49. These publications show the. amount voted for 194S-49, together with the actual expenditure for the previous year, which is included for information purposes. Details of the items concerned are also included in the Treasurer’s finance statement for 1947-48, which has been tabled for the information of honorable members.
The Supplementary Estimates detail the items under which the additional amounts were expended by the various departments. Expenditure under the various “ Parts “ of the Estimates, in round figures, was as follows: -
Further details of the various items of expenditure will be available at a later sta cp.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
[8.SJ. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The total appropriation passed by the Parliament for works and services in 1947-48 was £29,967,000. The actual expenditure was approximately £22,469,000, that is, £7,493.000 less than the appropriation. However, due to requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates Were prepared, certain items show an increase over the individual amounts appropriated, and it is now necessary to obtain parliamentary approval for these increases. The excess expenditure on the items concerned totals £1,246,723, which is spread over the various works items of the departments.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Second Reading. rebate resumed (vide page 2208).
.- This bill is a short one and is intended ostensibly to provide for the maintenance of adequate stocks of liquid fuel for the defence of this country. However, because of the time that has elapsed since the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made his speech on petrol supplies, and the nature of the answer given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the scope of the debate has widened very considerably and now extends beyond the compass of this measure. It has developed into a consideration of the petrol problem generally in its relationship to the world problem of international exchange and trade. I trust that I shall not exceed the scope of the bill in the few remarks that I intend to make upon it, but it becomes necessary, in view of the discussion that has already taken place, to give some consideration to the problem of the petrol supplies that aw available to the people of Aus tralia and the bearing which that will have upon the availability of petrol to the community. I think that all members of the Parliament, and, indeed, most members of the public who have followed the press reports of the developments that have taken place in the last few months, will be concerned at the extraordinary decline of the future prospects of world trade. We are talking now in terms of “ depression “, “ recession “ and “ slump “. Those words are coming bacl into the press. Even the word “ unemployment “, which we thought was merely some ugly memory of the past, is appearing in contemporary literature. We. therefore, ask ourselves what is thi? remarkable change that has taken place in the economic situation in the last few months which has made this a matter of public consideration? I think that if w< look around the world as a whole we shall find that in at least one respect the world condition is unchanged. The world it still clamouring for goods. There are widespread shortages of essential commo dities. The peoples of the world are still short of essential foods, clothing, and other necessaries.
– Order : The honorable member must return to s discussion of the measure.
– The people of the world are short of essential goods that are no* directly .concerned with this measureThere have been no radical changes in thesituation of the peoples of the world. The goods are still present; all that hap changed is the mechanism, with the result that what is produced in one country cannot be transported to another. It it against that background that we must consider this general problem.
Although the Prime Minister has stated that there is a likelihood of the supply of petrol to this country being reduced, he has not attempted to convince us that there is a world shortage of petroleum products. It is quite clear that as postwar reconstruction has got under way the production of petroleum products has steadily increased. New fields have been opened up, and the old fields have bees yielding increased production, including fields which were put out of action by our enemies during the war. So far from there being a shortage of petroleum products throughout the world, many of the producing countries find difficulty in obtaining markets for their petrol, and that is particularly true of the United States of America, which is probably the largest producer of petroleum products at the present time. Therefore, the problem is not one of a world shortage of petrol, but one of world exchange and currency systems, and it is related to the difficulties of those countries which have not the necessary foreign exchange to import the quantities of fuel oil which they require. The situation is not one that calls for treatment of the kind to which other countries, whose shortages could not be fulfilled, have had to resort. The solution of the problem requires statesmanship; and I define statesmanship as the application of common sense to political action. The world needs petroleum products. There are countries which can supply those products, but because of difficulties of exchange and currency, to which the Prime Minister has referred, such countries as the United Kingdom and Australia, together with other countries within the sterling group, are required to go short of the petroleum products which they so urgently need. Because this is only one facet of the general problem of world trade we hear increasing talk of “ depression “ and “ recession “. I consider, therefore, that it is necessary for us to examine the situation of Great Britain in this matter. It is quite clear that if we did not have any commitment to the sterling pool and were able to sell our own products in the best markets that we could find, we could accumulate sufficient credits in the dollar areas by the sale of our wool, wheat, butter and other valuable commodities to purchase all the dollar goods that we require. However, for reasons which no member of the House will challenge we have recognized our responsibility to other members of the British Commonwealth. We recognize that such credits as we can establish by our sales should be brought into the sterling pool so that al] can share in the dollar goods available. As I have said, the matter does not affect Australia alone, because we could sell sufficient wool, butter, wheat, steel and gold abroad to give us all the dollar credits that we need for our requirements. Our problem is very directly bound up with the economic problem of the British people and the economic policies of the British Government. I stress to the House now my belief that, far from finding a solution of the problem in a policy o? restriction such as that expounded to us by the United Kingdom Government as well as our own Government, thai policy will have world wide repercussions Indeed, what is now referred to as a “ recession “ may degenerate into a far more grave situation, and may ultimately lead us into another world economic’ depression. So, I stress the point that this is a matter in which statesmanship must be exercised by the leaders of the world. During the period of the war we were able to devise the lend-lease formula which enabled a country such as the United States of America to give the benefit of its vast productive machine to the allied nations and, in return, accept goods and services from them. I do not think that anybody will argue that if we could devise a similar formula to-day, petroleum products which are urgently needed by this country, and other products which require the provision of dollars, could not be readily made available. I level at the Government the criticism that it has made no serious attempt to seek from the Government of the United States a formula for meeting the present difficulties which would operate on a basis somewhat similar to the lend-lease arrangement. A little while ago there was hope that that could be done. The United States of America, which is producing more than 50 per cent, of the manufactured goods used by the nations of the world, and which is utilizing more than 16 per cent, of its own budgetary provision for aid to other countries, particularly to European countries, has been searching for such a formula. It has been talked of in terms of the off-shore purchase scheme, the principle underlying that schema being that countries which could assist the United States of America to provide the needs of European countries should do so and thereby build up dollar credits which they in turn could utilize for the purchase of American goods. Many of us were hopeful that such a constructive proposal would be implemented, and that Australia would be able to send to Europe its wool, wheat and other products, and that in return the Governments of European countries would be able to purchase goods in terms of their own exchange and currency. We hoped that this proposal would fit into the pattern of European recovery and that in that way we should be able to establish dollar credits in the United States of America. We are entitled to an explanation ‘from the Prime Minister or from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), of why the Government has not sent one of its senior representatives to Washington to endeavour to work out a scheme along those lines. Why should such a gesture of co-operation which was found to be so eminently practical in time of war prove to be impracticable, or not even be considered, in the economic crises of peace? The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is the presiding officer of the General Assembly of the United Nations. When that body was first established we were told that one of its objectives was to deal, through one of the organizations established under its charter, with economic and social questions. I have yet to learn that the United Nations has faced up to the problems of currency and exchange in a practical or constructive way. I wonder why the Minister for External Affairs, who exercises such a high responsibility in relation to the proceedings of the United Nations, has never submitted to it a proposal for dealing with such matters. I fear that the world may be heading into a recession or even another economic depression as the result of the policies that are being pursued at present, particularly by Great Britain, and to a lesser extent, because we count for so much less in the world scene, by the Government of Australia.
This matter has a very direct relation to the problem presented to us in the bill now before the House. The British and Australian Governments have given lip service to the principle of international trade. Their representatives have attended conferences at Havana which have been held under the auspices of the International Trade Organization. Both governments have subscribed to the charters of that organization and to the principles of the Atlantic Charter relating to world-wide free-trade or a freeing of the barriers of trade so that greater freedom of movement in world trade may be achieved. Australia played an active role in those negotiations. Honorable members on this side of the House predicted at the time that the proposal for the establishment of the International Trade Organization was visionary and impractical, and that, having regard to world currency and exchange problems it would not be possible to devise a practical scheme for bringing together so many nations and getting them to lower their tariff barriers. Our predictions have been verified by the result. The International Trade Organization has not yet commenced to function. Although it was established years ago I should not like even now to forecast when it will commence to function. Any man of common sense who had practical political experience in world affairs in the years leading up to the war could have foreseen what would happen, ls it likely that the United States of America, with its Congress and its Senate dominated by the political consideration of preserving American trade and industry will, in the teeth of all the experiences of the past, adopt a policy for the radical lowering of its trade barriers in such a way as to permit the goods of other countries to enter freely into the United States of America? It is all very well for economists in the Department of External Affairs to talk about these things; it is a very much more serious and difficult matter to get them translated through political action into actual reality. So, the British and Australian Governments, which have pinned their faith to the International Trade Organization, have found that that organization has not been able to function. In practice both governments have pledged themselves to the principle of free world trade; but they have found in practice that they have had to resort to the narrowest of all forms of trade, namely, trade arranged through bilateral trade agreements. The British Government under Sir Stafford Cripps has outHi tiered Hitler in its adherence to a policy of bilateralism at the expense of the freedom of world trade, and of the restriction of trade throughout the world generally. I remind the House that despite the European recovery plan more than 300 bilateral agreements have been adopted by countries nearly all of which have pledged themselves to the principles of the International Trade Organization.
– Order! Has the honorable member any ideas in relation to the bill?
– With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am not going beyond the arguments which were advanced by the Prime Minister and to which other honorable members have already addressed themselves.
– Order ! The honorable member must return to the bill.
– The effect of these bilateral agreements has been to establish
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks may have some relevancy to the motion for the printing of papers relating to international affairs which is listed on the notice-paper. The honorable member should endeavour to relate his remarks to the bill before the House. It is true that other honorable members have spoken of the difficulties of currency and exchange; but the honorable member is endeavouring to make a speech which would more appropriately be made when the debate on international affairs is resumed. The Chair will not permit him to continue along those lines.
– I am quite prepared to have the remarks that I have addressed to the House to-night examined against those made by-
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect upon the Chair. If he does not confine his remarks to the bill, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am endeavouring to deal with the arguments put forward by the Prime Minister. I think that it will be generally agreed that, in the course of this discussion, honorable members have addressed themselves to the background of world trade and in particular to the problem of Great Britain - a country to which either the Prime Minister or a senior Minister of the Government will go within the next few weeks. If the Chair insists that the debate must now be restricted to the specific problem of petrol, I can only say that a ruling is being made in respect of myself that was not directed against any previous speaker.
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair.
– I understand that the Government is anxious to conclude these proceedings, and I imagine therefore, we shall not be given the same opportunity to discuss this matter that was given to certain other honorable members. However, I accept the ruling of the Chair. The use of petrol by the people of Australia is very directly linked with the policy of the Government of Great Britain on imports and exports generally. Although we are now being asked to restrict our use of petrol, despite the world glut of that commodity, the stringency of the economic situation in the United Kingdom is such that the British Government, under the economic leadership of Sir Stafford Cripps, is paying - and I use dollar terms to make the illustration clearer - 1G7 dollars a ton for newsprint obtained from Scandinavian countries, although it is available from Canada, a country within the British Commonwealth, at 112 dollars a ton. To-day, we are so accustomed to mumbojumbo about the dollar problem, that we are losing sight of the course that common sense dictates that we should take. Here we have the British Government paying Scandinavian countries 167 dollars a ton for such an essential commodity as newsprint when it could be purchased from a British dominion for 112 dollars a ton ! At the same time, the British Government is refusing to import from Australia, certain commodities that we manufacture, and instead is importing them from European countries some of which formerly were our enemies. All that is done in this curious process of bilateralism that has been set in motion. The people of Australia are naturally devoted to the British Commonwealth, with which this country is linked. “Whenever, by our sacrifices, we have been able to assist our kith and kin in other parts of the Commonwealth, we have never shown the least reluctance to do so, whether in time of war crisis or in time of peace crisis, provided that we have been convinced that a reasonable and common-sense policy was being followed. But if anybody can say that it is commonsense policy for the British Government to buy from European countries at 50 per cent, higher prices, goods which could be obtained within the British Commonwealth, common sense is an expression that has ceased to have any significance. I hope that when Australia’s representative goes to Great Britain to discuss the petrol position and the general problem of currency and exchange, he will take a little healthy Australian common sense into the council room with him. He should endeavour to show first of all that a visionary and impracticable international trade organization will not get us anywhere, as events have already proved, and that a policy of bilateralism which ignores the prospects of opening up trade with other countries is a policy of futility and despair. That was the very policy that we attacked so vigorously when Hitler and’ Mussolini tried it, and I have yet to learn that it has developed any greater utility since then. Surely, between the two extremes, there is a com,Iii on -sense middle path. It is seventeen years since representatives of the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations met in an economic conference. The last meeting was at Ottawa in the middle of the depression. As the result of the cooperation that was achieved at that conference, the British Commonwealth countries were able to assist each other to get out of the economic mess in which they then found themselves. Another meeting of representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations would be of considerable value to-day. Then there are the countries of Western Europe.
– Order I The honorable member must keep to tha bill.
– Conferences of thos* groups of nations would gradually have the effect of increasing international trade, freeing the channels of that trade, and ridding us of present-day trade absurdities. It is ridiculous, for instance, that a country such as this, which in terms of money is able to produce more goods for exports than it requires in imports, should have to restrict the importation of essential fuel oil, capital equipment and goods which could raise our standard of living. We have ample overseas credits to purchase these things. Our problem is not one of exchange. We can still sell more abroad than we need’ to import. Our problem, is that of currency. It is to be hoped that when the Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth get together, they will be able, by the application of common sense, and by the abandonment of this stupid doctrinaire approach which ‘ has brought the British Commonwealth, and particularly the people of Great Britain, to the brink of depression and despair, to rescue us all from our difficulties.
.- The bill now before us has a very innocuous title; but it has enabled honorable members to spread themselves on international affairs and particularly Britain’s dollar problem.
– I ask the honorable member not to proceed on that course.
– I do not intend to do so; but I should- certainly like to reply to some observations made from the Government side of the chamber in justification of the policy that is being followed in regard to petrol. The aim of the bill is to compel, in the interests of defence, the maintenance of stocks of liquid fuel throughout Australia. That is something quite new. It was not necessary during World War II., or, to the best of mv recollection, during the first World War. The explanation of it mav be. of course, that during the war periods the power was exercised under the National Security Regulations. It seems strange indeed that, four years after the end of the war, this measure has been suddenly introduced so soon after the High Court’s disallowance of the petrol rationing regulations. If one examines the bill in detail one finds that, according to clause 4 - (1.) The Minister may -
The clause then proceeds with a long elaboration which I shall not read. In clause 5 heavy penalties are prescribed for importers of liquid fuel who fail to maintain stocks of liquid fuel at various centres throughout Australia in accordance with directions issued by the Minister or his agent. This little innocent bill could be used in quite a number of ways to inconvenience the people of Australia who use motor spirit. For instance, it could provide a back-door method for the Government to implement a new petrol-rationing scheme. The Minister is to be empowered to give directions to the oil companies ordering them to store certain quantities of petrol at places that he designates. If the importation of petrol is to be restricted by the Government, only limited quantities will reach consumers throughout Australia. As a result, local shortages of petrol may occur. If those shortages are to be prevented, the oil companies will have to improvise a rationing scheme.
I think that I can claim that my views on petrol rationing have been consistent. Last year, I moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the maladministration by the Government of the petrolrationing scheme that was then in operation. I pointed out at that time that although petrol rationing was being imposed upon law-abiding Australian citizens, eighteen-year-old boys at the Sydney office of the Liquid Fuel Control Board had been able to obtain coupons for more than 500.000 gallons of petrol. In a magistrate’s court the boys confessed that they had sold the coupons. As a result, more than 500,000 gallons of petrol were misused. Incidents of that kind sickened the people of Australia of petrol rationing in general. The people were also losing patience with it because in many other countries it had not been considered necessary to continue the rationing of petrol long after the war had ended. Even in Great Britain, where restrictions upon the expenditure of dollars are equally as severe as those that obtain in Australia, it was not considered necessary to institute a petrol-rationing scheme of the same relative severity as that which was in operation in Australia. I consider that the Australian Government has done much to impede the efforts of the oil companies to distribute petrol throughout the Commonwealth in such a manner as to avoid panic buying. After petrol rationing had been declared by the High Court to be invalid, I made inquiries at many country garages. I discovered that in almost every instance the daily sales of petrol after the decision of the High Court had been announced were very little greater than they had been under the rationing scheme. As a matter of fact, in many instances they were less. As a result of the statement by Government spokesmen that petrol rationing might again be imposed, some persons bought petrol in 44-gallon drums in order to store it. That statement led to temporary over-buying. I believe that if the Government were to announce that it intends to allow the oil companies to import sufficient petrol to meet the reasonable requirements of this country, the consumption of petrol would be not much greater than it was under rationing, and it would not be necessary to introduce measures of this kind.
In the course of the debate on this bill, a great deal has been said about the dollar position and the restrictions that are imposed upon the Australian Government by reason of the fact that we must buy a large proportion of our petrol from the dollar area and that the purchase of supplies from other areas eventually involves dollar expenditure. It has been said that because Australia is permitted to draw only a limited number of dollars from the Empire dollar pool, it is necessary for us to reduce our consumption of petrol. I believe that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has proved, in a series of statements, that there is not so great a necessity for severe restrictions upon the use of petrol in Australia as the Government has attempted to make out that there is. We know that either the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) or the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) is going to London shortly to discuss the Empire dollar position with Sir Stafford Cripps and representatives of other dominions. It is interesting to recall that Sir Stafford Cripps was prominent among those who said that the Empire was out-moded and that the sooner it was liquidated the better it would be, or words to that effect. Sir Stafford Cripps and the other persons who took that view, including the Minister for Defence, have discovered that the old imperialism did a great deal towards developing the trade and credit upon which the British economy so largely depends. It is substantially because of the severance of those credits and because the war made necessary the sale of assets that the British Government and British private investors possessed in the dollar area, that the present situation has come about. But a great deal of the trouble is due, insofar as dollars are concerned, to the socialist Government of Britain having used its energies, not to the degree that they might have been used for the production of commodities for export, but for the nationalization of steel and for its embarkation upon all kinds of enterprises that have no real connexion with the economic needs of the country. A great deal of the criticism that has fallen upon the heads of the people of Britain has been due to the policy followed by its Government in relation to its implementation of socialism in that country. I believe that Australia is tied very closely indeed to the economy of Great Britain. That applies particularly in relation to our primary industries. I have taken out some figures that disclose the degree of our dependency upon the British economy. In 133S-39, our imports from the United Kingdom amounted to £46,000,000 or 39 per cent, of the total value of our imports. In 1947-48, they totalled £132,000,000 or, again, 39 per cent, of the total. So that although the value of imports from
Great Britain .had risen considerably between those years the percentage in relation to our total imports remained the same. But a very different story exists in respect of our trade with the United States of America and Canada. In 1938-39 our imports from those two countries, which I link together because they represent dollar trade, were £16,600,000 or 21.8 per cent, of the total value of our imports. In 1947-48 our imports from them were valued at £66,800,000 or 24.2 per cent, of the total value of our imports. So that despite the imperative necessity to conserve dollars we are, as a matter of fact, importing a greater percentage of our imports from the dollar countries than we were in 1938-39 when there were no restrictions on dollar imports. The story in relation to exports is even more tragic. One part of our job in Australia ought to be the development of our exports to the dollar areas. But in 1938-39 our exports to the United States of America and Canada were valued at £19,500,000 or 15.3 per cent, of the total value of our exports, whilst in 1947-48 our exports to those two countries amounted in value to £35,000,000 or 9.8 per cent, of the total. Those figures show that we are losing on both sides of the ledger, despite the restrictions on dollar purchases that have been imposed by the Government. Of course a great deal of the difference is due to the rise of prices in the United States of America. Whilst we get, say, 100 car chassis now for 1,000 dollars apiece, we probably paid only 300 dollars apiece for similar chassis in the years before the war. There are certain methods of attacking this problem insofar as Australia is concerned. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence propose to go abroad to confer with the British financial authorities to see what plans can be invoked to deal with this situation. But all their plans must of necessity hinge on a policy of restriction. They will amount to preventing this and that, curtailing something else and cutting out something else again. I submit that that must be the nature of the discussions and of the result that will come from them, if we can pay any heed to the cabled reports of speeches by Sir Stafford Cripps and to his budget statement in the House of Commons yesterday. There is another way in which Australia can attack this problem. That is, by stepping up, first of all, its own production of goods that would otherwise come from the dollar areas, and even from the sterling area, because the less machinery, clothing, tools of trade, &c, we require to import from Great Britain itself or from the sterling area the more will Great Britain be able to export to the Argentine and to other countries so as to obtain dollars. Therefore, our first duty towards helping Great Britain in this crisis is to step op production. What prospect have we of stepping up our own production in the present circumstances? At this very moment, due very substantially to the policy of appeasement that has been folowed by this Government in respect of industrial hold-ups that prevent the production so desperately needed by this country, a nation-wide coal strike is in progress. The purpose of this bill is stated to be the conservation of petrol stocks. What we should do to avoid the necessity to use petrol more than is absolutely necessary is to use the alternative means of providing combustive power, that is, the fuel that we have in this country - coal! Coal provides the answer. But to-day huge motor lorries with trailers are travelling from Melbourne to Brisbane, from Adelaide to Sydney, and all over the country, burning up tens of thousands of gallons of petrol every day simply because the fuel that we have in this country - not dollar fuel, but fuel in the ground in the Newcastle area - is not being extracted. There is the answer to the Government’s dilemma in respect of the fuel situation ! We can conserve our dollars and restrict our purchases of dollar materials and of petrol from overseas, by avoiding the necessity to use motor vehicles where coal-burning trains could be used to convey our goods and passengers.
I support this bill because it has the sacred label of “ defence “ attached to it. Of course, almost every measure that the Government introduces now bears that label. The Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Power Bill had the same brand. Any project that can be even remotely linked with defence is treated in that way so that the Government, backed by its smug supporters, can say to the Opposition, “ You dare not reject this measure because it is essential to the defence of the country “. The conservation of petrol supplies- is not essential to Australia’s defence at present. There is no sign of war in the near future if we are to believe the pronouncements of Ministers and their supporters. The Minister for Defence has said that there i9 no enemy in sight and that there will be no war for another generation. The Government has made no other urgent preparations for defence, as far as I can see. We have virtually no army and only a very small air force, and the navy is not worth talking about, in terms of quantity, not of quality. In the light of those deficiencies in our defence arrangements, the introduction of this measure to provide for the accumulation of large reserves of liquid fuel in strategic areas, following hot upon the announcement of the High Court’s judgment disallowing the petrol rationing regulations, is significant.
– And the reserves will be established at the expense of petrol consumers.
– That is so. I should be happy to support the bill if I could be sure that the Government would not turn round and say, “ We are sorry, but we are not able to make petrol available to the truck drivers, the transport organizations, the farmers and other motor vehicle users who need liquid fuel to conduct their business affairs because, under the new legislation, the Minister for Defence has ordered the petrol companies to establish vast reserves “. That is what will happen, even though we have been assured that war will not occur within the next 50 years.
– The honorable member should finish on that note.
– The people will be happy to finish off the Government on a different note if it cannot manage the affairs of the nation better than it has done so far. I hope that the bill will not be used. in an underhand fashion to impose further unjustifiable restrictions upon the use of petrol. I could speak at considerable length about the effect of the dollar shortage upon our liquid fuel supplies, but that should not be necessary. The
Leader of the Australian Country party has submitted ample evidence against the need for restrictions, and so far that evidence has not been disproved. The Prime Minister has quoted statements which, according to him, have been made by Sir Stafford Cripps. A man would have to be a mathematical genius of the calibre of Einstein to be able to understand the circumlocutions of Sir Stafford Cripps’s explanation of the situation. Nevertheless, that explanation is being used to justify the restrictions that have been imposed upon the Australian people. While we have a socialist government in Australia and a similar government in the United Kingdom, I suppose that we must expect such things to happen.
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 24th June (vide page 1500), on motion by Mr. chifley -
That the following paper be printed: -
New Guinea Timber Rights Royal Commission - Report
– It was on the 15th December, 1947, that the matters which were the subject of inquiry by the Royal Commission on New Guinea Timber Rights first came to my knowledge. Since that date there have been almost continuous proceedings arising from those matters - two police court cases, two trials, and an inquiry by a royal commission. All that time had to elapse before the truth concerning the New Guinea timber transaction could be finally disclosed ! Naturally, it is very pleasing to me to know that, after such a long period, my good name has been cleared of the unjust charges that were made against it by an unscrupulous lawyer, the motive for whose action in attacking me I shall expose later in my speech. Before proceeding with my general remarks, I pro pose to make one or two references that will help me to show, as I proceed, not only that an attempt was made to “frame” me, but also that the story behind the charges made against me was invented by Mr. Simon Isaacs, a well-known criminal lawyer - and I use the word “ criminal “ in its real sense, not merely as a designation of the branch of law in which he practises. I shall reveal, before I conclude my speech, the motive of that barrister in attempting to destroy me politically. Mr. Isaacs did not know me personally; I was of no moment to him, but there were other forces behind the scenes. It was very pleasing to me to find, when the royal commission was finally appointed - andI had asked at the outset that a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into this matter - that I had been fortunate in that the Government had secured the services of a judge who could be regarded as impartial in every sense. I did not ask for the selection of a judge who had been appointed to the judiciary by a Labour government for fear that it might have been thought that the inquiry was not an impartial one. All that I wanted was fair treatment. However,I knew that men in public life, particularly Labour men, were not always treated fairly when they were the objects of such charges as had been levelled at me. Therefore, there was a certain element of risk in the appointment of a royal commission. I was happy that the Government had been able to secure the services of a judge who would sift the evidence as I wanted it to be sifted, because I knew that, once the truth became known, it would be evident that I had not been implicated in any way in the very sorry transaction that had led to my request for an inquiry.
I propose to deal with one or two things that happened during my absence from this House in the course of the inquiry. I remind honorable members that it was I who initiated the investigation. Nobody else was responsible.I asked for it. It was I who reported the matter to the Commonwealth Investigation Service in the first instance, because I had nothing to hide and had a clear conscience. Prom that moment until the time when the royal commissioner submitted his report to the GovernorGeneral, certain members of the Opposition conducted a heresy hunt against me. [ do not include all honorable members of the Opposition. Although I might disagree with them politically, I know that some of them would not be associated in any way with the things that have happened during these investigations. Some honorable members of the Parliament wanted the terms of reference extended. They said that they were not wide enough. I wanted them wide. Fortunately the judge did not regard himself as being bound strictly by the terms of reference, and he investigated many things that he could have avoided had he wanted to do so. But he wanted to clean the matter right up, as I did myself. Although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) thought that the terms were not wide enough, I think that he would be prepared to tell us now that the very things that he was afraid would not be investigated were, in fact, investigated, sifted, and covered in the royal commissioner’s report. But other members of the Parliament also had ideas. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) thought that my private financial affairs should be examined. I was not afraid of that. Whilst I was not compelled by the terms of reference of the royal commission to have my private affairs investigated, I voluntarily agreed to that being done, and they were investigated by a Mr. Kerr, a Sydney accountant with whom I am completely unacquainted. He went through the whole of my affairs. I think that it would be a very good idea, whenever there is any suggestion against the honesty and integrity of a member of Parliament, that his private affairs should be investigated. I remember that when 1 was a mere boy in this country, certain allegations were made against the right honorable member relating to a sum of £25,000 that was given to him which, it was suggested, had come from particular quarters. All sorts of suggestions were made by the Labour members of the day about where the money came from, and who had subscribed it. But they were never investigated. The right honorable member resisted any investigation of his private affairs, nor did he disclose the source of that money. I think that his memory should be refreshed on these particular matters. I shall comment about what was said by some members of the Opposition who wanted to kick me in my absence; they thought that it was safer to do that when I was not present in the House. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) in my absence accused me of having as good as committed murder. By suggestion he inferred that 1 had been responsible foi: the disappearance of what he termed an important witness in the case. This is what he said in this House on the 10th February last -
Ainsley Auburn Kingsford is, or was, until the time of his disappearance, an officer employed in the Security Department of the Head Office of the Bank of Now South Wales . . In ordinary circumstances the disappearance of a member of the community might he a matter of minor significative. Hut having regard to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of this nian, the matter becomes one certainly of considerable m> story and perhaps of very great significance. On the 23rd January, 1048, Mr. Kingsford gave evidence as a witness in New South Wales, In the preliminary hearing in the New Guinea Timber Lease case, he produced certain documents concerning a State Deposit Box . . . On the day preceding his disappearance refer,ence was made to his responsibility as an officer in charge of the section of the bank in which he worked and an intimation waa given that an inspection was to be made of the safe deposit boxes in that section.
That is completely untrue. Mr. Kingsford was not employed in the security section of the bank, and there was to be no search made on the particular day that the honorable member referred to. Honorable members can, therefore, see that the honorable member for Fawkner, who claims to he a legal man and tn be concerned about the ethics of his profession, was prepared to stoop to the very depths in order to try to blacken my good name. He continued -
It was following that intimation that tha man disappeared. I do not propose to place a construction on his disappearance. Many constructions could be placed upon it, but I feel that for me to place a construction on his disappearance at this time might be unjust and mischievous, and in the circumstances might interfere with inquiries proceeding at the present time. The Government has a responsibility to inform Parliament of the whereabouts of a man who, if he were in the community at the present time, would undoubtedly lie regarded as an important witness in an inquiry now proceeding.
Honorable members may judge how important Mr. Kingsford was as a witness by the fact that he was not even sworn, and was not even asked a question. But the royal commissioner’s report refers to it, and there is a reference to Mr. Kingsfords report to the bank authorities when be returned. The reason for this man’s disappearance is now common knowledge, and I shall not add to the sorrow and misery of Mr. Kingsford’s family by repeating all that was disclosed by an officer of the bank who was compelled to come forward and give certain details regarding the personal affairs of this unfortunate man. The royal commissioner said that Mr. Kingsford’s disappearance was in no way related to the inquiry and’ had no significance whatever. All that he did was to carry a few documents from the bank to the court. He was not even asked a question or put upon his oath. That is my reply to the honorable member for Fawkner, who believes, according to the ethics of his profession, that justice should be done on all occasions. Right from the outset of this whole business I have been the victim in a conspiracy by four criminals to defraud a company. I do not completely exclude the company from some responsibility and condemnation in the matter. Arising out of that conspiracy was another conspiracy to destroy me politically, and to injure the party that I support. Before I deal with the latter conspiracy, I shall make a reference to the depths to which the press and their tied-up radio stations were prepared to go in connexion with the missing bank clerk. On Saturday evening, the 22nd May. 1048, T listened to a broadcast by Sydney station 2UE, which is owned and controlled bv the Associated Press. The broadcast was described as news flashes from the following day’s Sunday Sun. This is what was said -
Pol ire lui ve abandoned the search for the missing bank clerk who gave evidence in the Kew Guinea timber lease case. His wife, in an interview with a Sunday Run reporter said that when she saw him in her dreams his lips it’.nved as if he were trying to convey a message to her
What message do honorable members believe was there suggested? It was an attempt to implant in the minds of the public the belief that either I or some forces under my control had removed this witness from the scene. That is all that I have to say in regard to the honorable member for Fawkner.
I come now to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who, referring to Garden, said -
Apparently this man hail the greatest possible freedom of access to the affairs of the Department of External Territories, in which he was not employed.
Garden had no access to the Department of External Territories. It was never suggested in evidence that he ever had access to it. Mr. Justice Ligertwood, in his report, makes it very plain that Garden had access to my office, which is not a part of the Department of External Territories. But that did not matter to the honorable member for Barker ! He wanted to join in with the pack and have a kick at me during my absence.
Another lawyer member of the Opposition, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), went a little further than some of his colleagues. He said -
The Minister is still retained in office although grave allegations, some of which were actual disclosures of facts and some of which were mere allegations, have not been disposed of and proved one way or the other.
I should like the honorable member, when the discussion proceeds, to tell the House what were those grave allegations and actual disclosures of facts. He continued -
Garden was permitted by the Minister to exercise authority in the Department of External Territories.
That was a deliberate lie. Garden never had any authority in that department, and never had any authority in my own particular office. The honorable member for Parramatta went on to ask -
Why was he signing letters and using ministerial notepaper?
It was disclosed in evidence, and has been supported’ by the royal commissioner’s finding, that the notepaper was thieved from my office by Garden. At that stage the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) interjected -
There was no suggestion that he was exercising any official authority.
Tie honorable member for Parramatta then said -
He was. I have read the evidence in this case. This man was exercising authority and negotiating with the Minister’s consent in the Bulolo matter.
That was a deliberate lie. The honorable member for Parramatta has complained because the Attorney-General of New South Wales will not make him a King’s counsel. I say that any legal man who has such a poor idea of what constitutes the ethics of his profession ought not to complain of any treatment that he receives from the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales. I should like him to point to any section of the evidence in which he can show that Garden, at any time, had ever had any authority in this matter. 1 come now to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who said -
The Judge specifically criticized the ethics involved in an outsider, who was on the payroll of another department, being given access to departmental files and records.
What I have said about other honorable members opposite also applies to the honorable member for Balaclava. I agree with the laughter that greeted my mention of his name, and I must apologize to the House for referring to him, because he is of no importance whatever.
I now desire to refer to several peculiar happenings during the hearing itself. Mr. Simon Isaacs made a desperate bid to prevent any investigation of his allegations, once he had made them in the police court. That was all he wanted to do, because he had earned his money. He was not only the barrister for the Gardens. Any member of the legal profession (in this House who is prepared to speak the truth will admit that if Mr. Isaacs was briefed by the Gardens, and that was the best he could do for them, he did not earn his pay. But Mr. Isaacs was not worried about Garden. He was more interested in his other brief. He was more concerned about putting “ in “ the Minister for External Territories, a member of the Labour party, than he was with getting the Gardens out. Later I shall indicate who was behind Mr. Isaacs in this matter. He went down to the police court proceedings in the forgery case against Garden, and threw all the mud that he could possibly throw. As I. proceed, I shall indicate where he secured some of it. I now come to the first hearing of the conspiracy case, and I shall cite an example of the kind of reasoning Mr. Isaacs indulged1 in. He asked for an adjournment of the conspiracy case because, he said, if the court were to proceed with that hearing, it would prejudice Garden’s case in regard to the forgery charge. When the forgery trial was called on, Mr. Isaacs immediately asked for a long adjournment on the ground that Garden’s conviction would imperil the liberty of his co-conspirators. Honorable members will see that Mr. Isaacs was reversing his argument to suit his purpose. He also put forward at the conspiracy trial that that hearing should be postponed for a lengthy period because, he said, they proposed to engage Mr. Barwick, K.C., to conduct the defence, and the banking case in which Mr. Barwick was appearing was proceeding. They wanted to wait until he was free. However, Mr. Barwick did not take the case. My information is that Mr. Barwick had a look at the papers, and would not have anything to do with the matter. He washed his hands completely of it.
I shall now refer to the illness of Edward Farrell. I do not claim to be a lawyer. I am. a layman, and I do not know very much about the law. But it seems strange to me that it can be successfully argued that a criminal should not be called upon to stand trial, because he is in a dangerous state of health. That is exactly the plea that was made in respect of Farrell. Are we to accept the position that if a man .is suffering from a serious illness, he may commit any crime whatever and never be brought to trial? That apparently was the position of Edward Farrell. Eventually, he was compelled to give evidence before the royal commission. I desire to compliment the Commonwealth Crown Law authorities and the Commonwealth detectives engaged upon the case on tha ingenuity and alacrity which they displayed in bringing Farrell before the royal commission as a witness. But Mr. Cassidy, K.C., who is a prominent member of the
Liberal party in New South Wales, was appearing for Mr. Farrell, and when be was asking for Farrell to be excused, he handed some medical certificates to the judge, and said -
I ask Your Honour to read the statements, but they should not be published. I do not want anything to appear in the papers that my client might read. They are very bad reports.
Information was even passed on to me confidentially that “ when the trial comes on in February, he will probably be with us no longer “. Of course, as we all know, Farrell is still with us. Mr. Simon Isaacs, appearing for the Gardens, said -
We regard farrell as a material witness. My clients would be seriously prejudiced by Farrell’s absence.
I believe that Farrell’s absence was engineered. They knew that Farrell’s absence was of great strength to the other three conspirators. In defending themselves, they could say, “ That was Edward Farrell. He told me, and he did this and that “. In my opinion, had Farrell been called at the conspiracy trial, the four of them would have been in their rightful place to-night. But, of course, the court upheld the appeal by Mr. Cassidy, K.C., and Farrell was stood aside.
I desire to refer to another suspicious circumstance. Mr. J. <T. Lynn was the solicitor for Edward Farrell, and acted for him. He actually had in his office the carbon copies of some important documents in the case. As a matter of fact, he admitted in evidence that some of those documents on governmental paper had been typed in his office. But the most important point is that Mr. Lynn, when writing a letter to the timber firm of Hancock and Gore, said that he had satisfied himself that Garden had authority to act for the Minister. If Mr. Lynn had evidence that Garden had authority to act for me, he was the most important witness that the defence could have called, but Mr. Isaacs did not call him. Mr. Lynn did not appear to give evidence until the royal commission began its investigations, but he was in court acting as solicitor and assisting Mr. Cassidy on behalf of Edward Farrell. Therefore,, it seems to me a rather peculiar setupEven the judge commented on the absenceof Mr. Lynn as a witness, but that solicitor was not forthcoming to give evidence. When, eventually, the jury took a hand’ and asked that Mr. Lynn be called as a witness, their request, unfortunately, came after the case for the Crown had concluded, and the judge was obliged tostand him aside, and say that he could not be called at that stage of the proceedings. Referring to Mr. Lynn, the judge said -
Whether he had ever seen the Minister himself or not we do not know. We have no record of it from Mr. Ward and we have not seen Mr. Lynn, but these remarks about having investigated things and so forth are serious matters for any one to write unless he has gone to the root authority. In this case we have no evidence that he did.
While the judge was making that comment, Mr. Lynn was appearing as Farrell’s solicitor in the court room. I want to make a reference to the further efforts of Mr. Simon Isaacs to prevent any thorough investigation. The House will remember that members of the Opposition were taunting me about the need for an investigation of the allegations made concerning me, and about the statement that Mr. Isaacs wanted a royal commission, and the, publication by the Daily Telegraph of alleged statements by the jurors in one trial who, it was claimed, had been canvassed by a representative of that paper - a most improper thing to do - regarding the need for appointing a royal commission. When the royal commission was appointed, the very people who tried to stop its sittings aud prevent it from sifting these matters were Mr. Simon Isaacs and those who were backing him. First of all, he challenged the validity of the royal commission to proceed with its investigations. He then raised the question of Garden’s legal costs. He had said, in earlier proceedings, that he had satisfied himself that the Gardens were able to repay the moneys which they had received from the timber firm of Hancock and Gore, but at the royal commission, he began to raise the matter of Government assistance in respect of their legal costs because of their impoverishment. I mention the matter at this stage because I would riot suggest thai every member of the bar would stoop to the depths to which Mr. Isaacs was prepared to go. I have a greater respect for them or, at least, a great number of them. Let me give an idea of the character of Mr. Isaacs. From inquiries I have made I have been told that he is very avaricious, that he would do anything for money, and that he would sell his soul for money. He appeared for the unfortunate Mrs. Livesey, whose case honorable members will recall. Mr. Isaacs and Mr. Lander - and I do not want honorable members to confuse the latter name with that of Mr. Abram Landa, who is a member of the Labour party - flew to Adelaide at their own suggestion to assist Mrs. Livesey with advice. They did not appear in court for her because she had engaged her own lawyers. I understand the proceedings in court lasted one day and they charged her £500 each. When their action became known during bankruptcy proceedings involving Mrs. Livesey, the taxing master in New South Wales ordered them to pay back some of that money. That is the type of person which the Opposition employed to do its dirty work in this matter.
After the royal commission got under way and certain evidence was given which Mr. Isaacs said was unknown to Garden and himself previously, it was decided to appeal against Garden’s conviction .for forgery. An appeal was lodged with the Court of Criminal Appeal and an application was made to the royal commission to stay its proceedings pending the hearing. His Honour, Mr. justice Ligertwood, dismissed the application. An application was then made to the High Court seeking an .order restraining the royal commission from proceeding, and although Isaacs had said that Garden did not have sufficient money to pay him to appear before the royal commission, Isaacs flew to Melbourne and represented Garden before the High Court. Did they lack funds to meet the cost of that appeal? The fact is that Mr. Isaacs realized that when the royal commission was to be appointed the game for him was getting very dangerous and he wanted to get away from it. He was not prepared to face up to it. It is significant that although Mr. Isaacs said that he was not able to appear before the commission because his clients could not meet their legal costs, nevertheless, day after day he sat in the public gallery during the proceedings before the commission. He did that because he was worried. He also had in the court room Miss Jollie Smith, a solicitor, who took copious notes which she handed to Mr. Isaacs, and she continued to take notes when Mr. Isaacs was temporarily absent. That wai done in order to keep Mr. Isaacs fully informed of the proceedings.
I now come to Garden. I shall indicate the course I took when this matter was first brought to my notice on the 15th December, 1947. I sent for Garden and taxed him with it immediately, and I conferred immediately with my colleague, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and with the Crown Solicitor in New South Wales, Mr. Watson, and asked them to arrange immediately for a thorough investigation into the whole matter. On the 22nd December, one week later, after Garden had had any amount of time to think about it and to cool down, he admitted that I had told him on the 15th December that I was putting the matter in the hands of the Crown Law Office. He was interrogated by Detective Inspector Wilks and Mr. Gamble, of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, who recorded the interview in shorthand. Their report was submitted in evidence. At that stage Garden did not make any charge against me. He said that I was completely free of responsibility in the matter, that he had had no authority and that I would not take money in any circumstances. Approximately one month later, when the police court proceedings came on Isaacs began his cross-examination and began to empty out all this filth. Something had happened since the 22nd December. It is now known that in that period Mr. Garden had interviewed Mr. Isaacs and that Isaac9 had discussed the defence with Garden and the other accused. Then it came finally to the royal commission when, for the fifth time, I appeared in the witness box. On the four previous occasions practically the same allegations had been made against me with certain variations, because as the allegations were completely disproved my opponents abandoned them. Some of the allegations were, however, carried right through the four hearings. When it came to the royal commission and it was realized that the game was up, Garden went into the box and said that he was not the source of the allegations, with one exception and that was that I had received the sum of £5,000. That was the only allegation to which he adhered. An examination of the evidence in respect of that allegation also shows that Isaacs invented the story. That is not only my opinion, but also the opinion of my own counsel and counsel assisting the royal commission. When I was first asked in the police court about this alleged payment no name was mentioned in respect of the giver. Isaacs said on the first occasion that a certain person came to my office and handed me the money. Isaacs at that time would be in possession of all the information Garden had given him and he could have mentioned Garden’s name at the first hearing if there had been any truth in the allegation. The reason why he did not do so was because they had not decided upon a name at that stage; they had not made up their minds that they were going to say it was Garden. There was no date mentioned as to when the alleged payment was made, and they mentioned no time. Isaacs said on the following day that I had told Garden that I had received my cut and that it was going into a safe deposit box, together with an amount of £6,000 that Isaacs said that I had got in a deal with the late Mossy Hyams. Later, that allegation was abandoned, because when Isaacs obtained my office appointment books which were subsequently produced in court he knew that I had left very early on the following day by air for Adelaide. When a request was first made for the production of my appointment books, I objected to Mr. Isaacs seeing them because I had heard of him and knew his reputation. I asked that the magistrate himself should examine the books. Isaacs was supplied by my counsel with a complete list of the occasions on which Garden had seen me in my office and also secured details of my movements by ques tioning during cross-examination. When they got that information they decided that the date would be the 3rd December, 1945, and that date was selected because it was the nearest to the 29th November, on which date Farrell had drawn a large sum of money from the Bank of New South Wales at Collaroy. Farrell denied the story and said that no money ever passed between him and Garden on the date mentioned by Garden. Garden said at one stage of the hearing that he did not know that I had a safe deposit box. I shall touch upon only one other point dealing with this aspect of the matter because the judge has gone into it thoroughly. The ridiculous suggestion was that I had obtained money and intended to put it into my safe deposit box. If such was the case, why should I want Garden to take the money to Newtown to be given to Bill Urquhart who was to return it to me the same night when my safe deposit box was situated in a building approximately 300 yards from my office? That is the fantastic story they manufactured with Isaacs patching it up here and there as the production of facts made this necessary. Certain important evidence came to light later. Garden said he saw me in my office at 5 p.m. on that day. It was eventually established that Urquhart left his office at Newtown at 5.5 p.m. According to Garden’s stupid story, Garden, after coming to my office, rang Urquhart. We both spoke to him and afterwards the parcel had been taken to Newtown and handed to Urquhart who was to hand it back to me within a few hours. To fit in with the facts, all these happenings would have had to occur during a period of about five minutes.
Let me give a further illustration of how far this individual Isaacs was prepared to go in his schemes to bring down a public man. This was one important slip. When Garden was telling his story, he was asked which way he turned when he entered my office on the 3rd December. In his original statement, he said that he turned right. My office had been altered just before I went overseas in June, 1947. In order to come into my office in December, 1945, upon entering the office suite, he would have had to turn left.
Later on, he altered his statement. I wanted to see just what Isaacs was capable of. [Extension of time granted.] When the court adjourned for lunch on that day, I deliberately approached the bar table when Isaacs was gathering up his papers, and, in a voice loud enough for Isaacs to hear, mentioned this point to Mr. Shand and Mr. Smythe, who were appearing for the Crown. Garden, as I expected, upon resuming his evidence, asked for permission to correct his earlier statement which was a clear indication to me that Isaacs had suggested this course to Garden during the adjournment. Isaacs was rebuked for leading Garden in his evidence and virtually putting words into his mouth. He was repeatedly challenged on this point by counsel, and was eventually rebuked by the judge.
We now come to Mr. Urquhart. Recently I have heard honorable members in this House talk about character assassins. They wanted to take action against such persons, and even suggested that parliamentary privilege should be abolished so that no one could shelter behind it. Urquhart had never been in a police court in his life before these proceedings, but he was maligned from one end of the country to the other merely because he was my friend, and because it was sought to use him as an instrument with which to attack me. It was said that he acted as a dummy for me, and had purchased shares in Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited for which I had paid. Garden said that he did not tell Isaacs this story. He suggested, rather, that the reverse had happened ; that is, that Isaacs was responsible for the allegation. Isaacs then referred to Urquhart’s betting, and tried to ridicule bis story about winning days. Urquhart was able to produce bookmakers who had, fortunately for him, retained some of the relevant betting sheets. The bookmakers were brought to the court during the conspiracy trial but because the case was then at the stage when evidence was being taken in rebuttal, Mr. Isaacs saw the judge in his chambers, and the bookmakers were not allowed to give their evidence. It was not until the inquiry by the royal commission that their evidence was heard.
Referring to the allegations in general, Isaacs said, “ Where else would you expect to find graft except in political circles ? “ He did not confine his charge to the Labour party. Because of such wild and irresponsible statements having been made from time to time, there are now many people who believe that every politician is a crook and a grafter. Therefore, for the sake of the prestige of the Parliament, it is good that the charges have been disproved. Simon Isaacs appeared for Garden, but no one saw his instructions, if he received any. Garden said that until the crossexamination commenced in the first proceedings he had no idea that Urquhart was supposed to be my dummy. He had not previously heard a suggestion, he said, that Urquhart had acquired shares, or that I was in any way financially interested in Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited. These suggestions came to him as a surprise. He had made no charges against Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited, and dissociated himself from any imputations made against that firm, or against Mr. Urquhart. He said that he regarded Urquhart as an able, capable and honest man. That is the evidence of Mr. Isaacs’s client, but that did not deter Isaacs from slinging mud. Referring to the introduction of Urquhart into the proceedings, Mr. Shand said -
It might have been thought that he should be put forward as a desirable confederate because there was a large amount of crossexamination directed to his credit. Of course, on the other hand, it could be said there was the risk perhaps that Urquhart would not be where he was supposed to be. Now in that regard it may seem to Your Honour that certain questions that were asked may give some kind of pointer.
Then Mr. Shand referred to the questions that had been asked about the nights upon which Urquhart had visited my home, and whether he was there on the night of the 3rd December. All that information was obtained before the allegation was made by Isaacs that money had been paid to Urquhart. Referring to Isaacs’s story Mr. Shand continued -
I am not suggesting it was invented merely in the third hearing - the forgery trial. It must have been present in the first hearing.
This is what Mr. Justice Ligertwood said to Mr. McClemens, counsel appearing for William Urquhart and Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited’ -
But I am nothere to judge Mr. Isaacs’s conduct. Is it not enough for you that this charge of accepting bribes at Newtown was made? This Commission has been going on a good many months now and nobody has come forward to make any attempt even to substantiate that. There is no evidence that he ever accepted any bribe and, on the contrary, the conduct from which, on very flimsy ground, that charge was made, has been explained by him and has been supported by corroborative evidence from bookmakers.
Mr. Isaacs did not bother making any inquiries, and he did not produce witnesses to support his allegations. I quote the following passage from the transcript in regard toUrquhart: -
Justice Ligertwood). -I suppose the Judge told the jury that they had to accept Mr. Urquhart’s story, did he not?
Mr. McClemens. ; The trouble is that he did not. I feel that it is my duty to deliberately refrain from an examination of his summingup.
Justice Ligertwood. - We do not want to get into a discussion on law, but I feel certain that the Judge would direct the jury on a matter affecting credit. I will assume, anyhow, that it was done.
But it was not done. Isaacs was making allegations in cross-examination regarding credit. They were not supported by any evidence whatever, and he then based his address to the jury upon those allegations as if in fact witnesses had been called in support of them. It appeared to me, as a layman, to be improperprocedure. I now hurry on to some of the other allegations, all of which came from Isaacs, not from Garden. Take the allegations about the race-horse, Precise. It was said that I had circulated a rumour that my wife had won ?11,000 when Precise won the Villiers, and that I had done this to explain a sudden accession of wealth. It was shown, however, that the story would not hold together because Precise had won the Villiers a year earlier than the date mentioned. Moreover, Hyams had not left for New Caledonia until 1946, twelve months later, so I could not have told Garden these things in 1945. On the “Precise” story, Garden said that Clark had told him that Lou Shapiro had heard that Mrs. Ward had won ?11.000 on Precise when it won the Villiers
Handicap. He added that he had told’ Isaacs that he did not think that this story was correct. He said that he had seen Mrs. Ward at the races that day, that Mrs. Ward had given him the tip, and that he had won a bit of money on it. That is Garden’s own evidence, but Isaacs continued to make the allegation. When evidence was produced to show that Hyams had not left for New Caledonia until 1946, Mr. Shand said -
Another little slip, gentlemen, that may indicate to you that this was a deliberate intention, serving as a background for the suggestion that this bribe of ?5,000 had been received, plus this ?6,000, which, I take it, is suggested to be some shady transaction.
His Honour said -
And there is no evidence at all, and Ward denies it here, and nobody comes forward to gay that the rumour was spread!
Mr. Shand said, “ No “, to which His Honour replied -
Well, can we not just dismiss it?
Mr. Shand replied ;
It is in your Honour’s hands, but the angleI was dealing with it from is that it may show a constructive story which gradually disintegrated and was abandoned.
The story was Isaacs’s invention. Garden denied any knowledge of it and said that it was quite untrue. His Honour, when referring to the stories told of Precise and by Hyams, at the fourth trial, said -
What did they do with that in the fourth trial - dropped it like a hot cake, I suppose?
Mr. Shand replied, “Yes, your Honour “. That is exactly what they did. Mr. Shand added -
Your Honour further has the gradual growth of the story, which expands and colours just behind the ascertainment of facts upon which itappears to feed, the sensitive shrinking of the story when it comes against new and unknown facts.
That is the history of Isaacs’s conduct of the litigation, and it is typical of hit conduct throughout. He changed his ground continually as the facts unfolded themselves, and, as they completely disproved his story, Isaacs alleged that I had a secret file concerning Hancock and Gore in my possession. Garden; denied that he had told him that; but the fact remains that Isaacs, without having produced witnesses or without having substantiated his statement, persisted with his allegation. He also alleged that I had taken 12,000 dollars with me when I went overseas in June, 1947. He could have ascertained the truth or otherwise of that allegation by simply making an inquiry of the Commonwealth authorities. He made no inquiries. Of course, this practice was not new to him. Not so long ago, when be appeared in a case against the Australian Workers Union, he made the unsupported allegation that the minute book of the union had been “ faked “. Subsequently he had to apologize and withdraw the allegation. He also alleged that T had travelled under an assumed name, and that I had a bank account in the name “ E. J. Brooks “. He produced no evidence whatever to support that allegation. I want to make reference to the filthy part that the press played in this matter. At the eleventh hour, newspapers grudgingly conceded that there was nothing whatever in the allegations against me. His Honour Mr. Justice Ligertwood said -
These insinuations are made in crossexamination, and the common law rule is that you take the witness’s denial. The public do Dot understand that and that is the trouble, and that is why counsel should be so careful with a cross-examination because the insinuation is given great publicity in the papers and people think there is something behind it, whereas the publicity that should have been given is to the witness’s denial that there is nothing in it at all.
I have no doubt that the press had already convinced a great many people that there was something in the allegations. The finding of the royal commissioner must therefore have come as a terrific surprise to many people. I remember the contents bills that the press displayed during the course of the litigation when allegations were being made against me. However, when evidence rebutting the charges was given before the royal commission, the newspapers gave it hardly any publicity at all, or else suppressed it entirely.
I come now to another significant matter concerning Mr. Isaacs. I should like the lawyers on the opposite side of the House to tell us whether they consider it is proper for a barrister to travel to interview people who are likely to be called as witnesses in a case instead of having those people attend his chambers with a solicitor. I refer now to the special aeroplane journey which Mr. Isaacs made to Brisbane with Mr. Maloney, solicitor for the Gardens, to interview Mr. Biggs and the principals of Hancock and Gore. Mr. Biggs was asked certain questions. He says he requested Mr. Isaacs to put the questions in writing because he wanted to consult other people. Later it transpired that, conveniently, he could not find the list of questions. He was asked the following question by Mr Shand-
He fore this case came on, did it strike you it was necessary to explain your conduct in not accepting the invitation to see tha Minister?. Did it strike you that was a fact that might have looked very remarkable, and should have been explained away!
Biggs replied -
That did not occur to me. I did not recollect it.
In the course of his address to the royal commissioner, Mr. Shand remarked -
Now is a very significant statement.
Biggs said -
I think it was when Mr. Isaacs and Mr Maloney came and asked certain questions in my office in Brisbane.
It. is as clear as daylight that Isaacs, realizing that failure to seek an interview with me was a serious weakness in their story, arranged for them to give the same explanation when they were called upon to give evidence. [Further extension of time granted.] In the letter of the 11th January, 1945, written by Garden to Hancock, the following appears : -
The Minister has informed me that yon and your party can proceed to New Guinea to commence operations. lie baa- also informed me that you will have no difficulty in obtaining the necessary machinery in New Guinea.
Mr. Shand said that he regarded that as a remarkable letter which required some explanation. The war was still on and the military were still in control. His Honour referred to the document as “ an extraordinary letter “. Referring to Hancock and Gore, Mr. Shand said -
They all concur, ai.d this included Forshaw, which makes it almost impossible to think that there was not collaboration between them - perhaps when Isaacs and Maloney were up there.
So it was quite clear that Mr. Shand was satisfied that Garden’s legal advisers were the people who invented the defence story. It was claimed that the expression used in the letter should have read “ for Guinea “ instead of “ in New Guinea “.
Now I come to a man who brought information to my counsel, which we were unable to use because of an undertaking given to him that, unless he agreed, he would not be called as a witness, nor would his name be disclosed. He told my counsel that in conversation with Garden he inquired -
Is Eddie Ward in this?
To which Garden replied -
No, but he’s got to be.
When my informant asked Garden what he meant, Garden said he was “ too old to go to gaol “, and that he had been advised by one of the “ higher-ups “ that his only hope of escape was to involve Ward, as, if that were done, he thought it would not be difficult to get a jury to disagree. This, man was reluctant at first to interview or discuss the matter with my counsel, Mr. Eric Miller, K.C. He was pressed, in the interests of justice, to give evidence, but he asked for the opportunity to discuss his position with a few of his friends, including his employer, Mr. W. J. Smith, of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited. Later, this man said he wanted to have nothing at all to do with the matter.
Now I come to Mr. Thomas Breen’s evidence. Mr. Breen is a Sydney journalist employed on the staff of the Sun by Associated Newspapers Limited. He gave very important evidence concerning Mr. Isaacs. Mr. Breen said that on either the first or second day of the first proceedings in the federal court, which was either the 22nd or the 23rd January, 1948, while he was on federal rounds for his newspaper, the Sun, he spoke to Isaacs during one of the adjournments. Breen deposed’ -
We walked down the passage and I asked Mr. Isaacs if there were going to be any more summonses. I asked what would be the position if the summonses were issued. Would it be conspiracy? Isaacs replied: “If they go on with this, we are going to say Ward, was in it, too “.
Breen added -
With a wink, he turned on his heel and left.
Breen said that Isaacs’s statement shocked him, but until he saw his editor he did not mention the incident to any one. Breen said that evidence given by Garden under crossexamination by Mr. E. S. Miller, K.C, in which the witness had denied that he was responsible for the allegation? that Mr. Isaacs had made against me in crossexamination, had recalled to his mind the conversation that he had had with Isaacs during the first proceedings, and, to use his own words, it had “ caused him personal concern “. He discussed the matter with his editor, Mr. Frank Ashton, and with the newspaper’s solicitor, Messrs. Minter Simpson and Co., and, as the result of a subpoena from the Crown he gave evidence during the proceedings. His Honour inquired -
Has Mr. Isaacs been given notice of this. This is, in effect, a charge against him.
Mr. Miller stated ;
I said earlier that Garden’s defence was fabricated, and I maintain that position.
Mr. Shand then said ;
I shall see that he gets notice.
Isaacs did not go to the royal commission. He did not do what I had done five times, that is, go into the witness box to face cross-examination. Instead he sent word to the royal commission through Mr. Shand that he had referred the matter to the Bar Council. I have waited very patiently for information as to the outcome. I remember the occasion when the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) referred to Isaacs as a “ larrikin lawyer “. I was amazed at the right honorable gentleman’s tolerance and temperance in referring to an individual like Isaacs in such moderate terms. The Bar Council immediately demanded withdrawals and apologies. But what has that great bastion of freedom, the New South Wales Bar Council, done in regard to these most serious allegations against Isaacs? I have not been able to ascertain that it has taken any action. Mr. Miller said that he did not think that Isaacs was entitled to dismiss the matter by referring it summarily to the Bar Council. He said that he would ask that Isaacs be subpoenaed to appear before the commission. His Honour in reply said that if Isaacs claimed privilege, he would have to rule in Isaacs’s favour as he was bound to uphold a claim of privilege unless the client waived it. The two Gardens then went into the witness box and when they were asked whether they would waive their privilege rights, they both refused to do so. Mr. Shand said -
If it be an invented story, I assume it is no part of the duty of this commission to have to decide who invented it.
I agree that it was not a part of the duty of the royal commission to do so. I do not criticize the commission for not having investigated that matter. Every person present was, however, quite clear on the point that it was an invented story. One would have thought that, if the allegations of Mr. Breen were without foundation Isaacs would have been anxious to appear before the commission to deny the charges; but he did not do so. Mr. Miller continued -
That evidence showed corrupt conduct by Isaacs. If there had been infamy it should be sheeted home. I should have the opportunity of sheeting it home in that box- pointing to the witness box - by cross-examination.
Notwithstanding that these serious charges were made against Isaacs there is no evidence that the matter has ever been dealt with by the Bar Council.
Dealing with Isaacs, Mr. Justice Ligertwood said -
These questions that Mr. Isaacs asked must have been inspired by somebody or other. We hear from Garden that he did not inspire a lot of them and those that he did inspire he admitted that he really had no foundation for them, but he put them to his counsel because he had heard of them and they could make such use of them as they saw fit. But the people who made the charges must have been known to Garden’s counsel, and they have not come along here to give evidence although the inquiry has been going on since January last.
There were in fact no persons who .could give such information to Isaacs. It was completely invented. I do not know whether the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) remembers the occasion, but he once claimed credit for assisting Isaacs and for giving him advice about how the defence should be conducted. Therefore, the- honorable member must take some responsibility in the matter. I shall give him one or two details so that he will realize that I know what I am talking about. The honorable member may recall a farewell function given to the rector of the Church of England at Manly in November, 1948. The honorable member was on the platform in company with Sir Frederick Stewart. He spoke very freely on that occasion, lie told several of the people present that he bad “ interviewed “ Mr. Simon Isaacs and had made suggestions to him about the conduct of the case and that they were gathering certain information against the Minister. He took to himself some credit for so doing.
– That is untrue.
– I propose now to deal briefly with the firm of Hancock and Gore. I do not regard this firm as being free from criticism and responsibility for what occurred because it knew right from the outset that the transaction into which it had entered was not a proper transaction. In evidence taken during the fifth hearing, it was disclosed that £4,000 had been paid by Farrell to Forshaw. Honorable members will recall the great play that was made about the evidence given by Forshaw at all the hearings and about how Judge Holt in his summing up to the jury in the conspiracy trial had said -
You, gentlemen, have to decide whether it was Ward, the Minister, or Forshaw who got the £5,000.
Every member of the firm knew at the time that Forshaw had received £4,000 from Farrell. Farrell’s counsel, Mr. J. Cassidy, K.C., must have known of it. Farrell said that Garden knew about it but not one of them mentioned it until evidence before the royal commission compelled them to break their silence. They preferred to see the liberty of an innocent man endangered and his name blackened to save their own hides for political reasons. This case fairly oozed with political prejudice. Just as Forshaw was about to give evidence, the members of the firm withdrew £4,000 in cash from the bank and sent it down to repay it to Farrell because they said they thought that it might embarrass Forshaw in giving his evidence if they failed to do so. No regard was paid to truth or justice. Mr. Biggs said in his evidence first that he thought Forshaw’s action in taking the £4,000 from Farrell was foolish. Later when he was pressed by Mr. Justice Ligertwood he agreed that it was dishonest. The firm did not bother to ascertain the financial status of the members of the syndicate. The agreement called for the issue of a licence within three months, but Hancock and Gore did nothing about it for three years. Mr. Shand said -
Hancock and Gore indulged because of the fear of discovery in a transaction, undoubtedly thought by them to be a dishonest one, in a systematic attempt to deceive the courts before which they appeared and also this commission . . . Biggs, Hancock, Hawkins, Sinclair and Forshaw are completely discredited and their evidence cannot be accepted unless corroborated, or unless it tells against themselves. They were prepared to adopt any means, regardless of the harm that might be done to others in their efforts to save themselves from the situation fraught with criminal consequences and this they carefully test about to do.
Because of the lack of time, I shall pass quickly over some of the minor characters in the case. For instance, there was Mr. Lloyd, Collaroy manager of the Bank of New South Wales, whose wife was secretary to Mr. Service, the director of the Army Inventions Directorate of New South Wales. Mr. Service wrote letters on behalf of the syndicate and arranged travel priorities for its members and was proved to have received ?200 from Farrell, no doubt in payment for services rendered. I revert again to the firm of Hancock and Gore. The minutes of the firm were proved to be vague. An interesting point which was not given a great deal of publicity was revealed by Mr. Miller. The balance-sheet of the firm showed as an asset an amount of ?50,000 which had been paid to the syndicate under the heading “Profits to Funds”. Under the price fixing arrangements the firm was allowed to earn an income of 12? per cent, on the ?50,000 paid to the syndicate.
I come now to the question of the canvassing of the jury following the forgery trial. Honorable members will recall what happened. They know how the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that jurymen had stated that it was their opinion that a further inquiry should be held into matters raised during the trial. The newspaper did not identify by name the jurymen whom it was alleged had made this request. Only the foreman of the jury could be identified. In the newspaper report all the other jurors were referred to as the first juror, the second juror, and so on, to the sixth juror. What of the other jurors? Suspicion was cast on all of them. [Further extension of time granted.]
On several occasions, the press was reprimanded for false reporting. I shall give one or two illustrations to the House to show the tactics of those people who art always talking about the freedom of the press, which, as we know, means freedom to lie and distort. On one occasion the Sydney Morning Herald carried the following headlines : -
“CONVICT GARDEN, CLEAR ME.” WARD’S EVIDENCE IN TIMBER CASE
The quotation marks in which the first part of the heading is enclosed suggest that that was part of my evidence. Actually no such thing was ever said by me. The questions and answers upon which the report would appear to be based were as follows : -
Mr. Isaacs. ; The allegations made against you of bribery and corruption are serious!
Mr. Isaacs. ; And, if true, they would be the finish of you politically?
Mr. Isaacs. ; You know that a conviction of “ Jock “ Garden is an exoneration of yourself ?
Mr. Isaacs. ; Is it your view that an acquittal of Garden in these proceedings would be a reflection on yourself?
Because I said that Garden’s conviction would be an exoneration of me, the Sydney Morning Herald used the headlines - “Convict Garden. Clear Me.”
Ward’s Evidence in Timber Case.
I could give many other similar illustrations, but I hesitate to do so becauseI havealready taken up a great deal of the time of the House tonight. However,I draw the attention of honorable members to just one further illustration. When I volunteered to produce the contents of my safe deposit box for examination by the magistrate in the earlier proceedings, and I had to walk about 300 yards to do so, press photographers took about 30 photographs of me from every conceivable angle. Surely one would have been sufficient; but, of course, they wanted to get the right one, and I have here theone that was published. It shows me walking between Detective-Inspector Wilks, and Constable King. We were walking along chatting in an ordinary manner, but due to a flaw in the photograph, the impression is given that I am handcuffed to the police constable. That is typical of the filthy tactics of the anti-Labour press in this country.
I said that I would indicate who I thought was behind Mr. Simon Isaacs and who had paid for his second brief which I claim he had during these proceedings. On the 8th January, 1948, before the first proceedings commenced, I received a telephone call from Mr. W. F. Sheahan, the New South Wales Minister for Lands, stating that he had been told by a wellknown criminal lawyer that it was common talk in legal circles that if the charges were proceeded with, the men involved would attempt to implicate me. That was later confirmed in my own office by two pressmen. Mr. Breen, an employee of Associated Press Limited, was not afforded an opportunity to tell all that he knew when he appeared before the royal commission. I am not suggesting that there was anything wrong with that because the further matter that Mr. Breen brought to my notice, and subsequently to the notice of my counsel, was not one which came within the scope of the inquiry being conducted by Mr. Justice Ligertwood. Nevertheless, it is important. Mr. Breen’s story is that about the middle of March, 1948, he and a fellow journalist, Norman Gallagher, had morning tea in Repin’s coffee shop in King-street. At the same table was seated Mr. William Hutton, whom Breen knew as a Sydney barrister. They discussed the Garden case, and Hutton made very strongly deprecatory remarks about myself. As they were leaving the restaurant, Hutton told Breen that he had been asked by the Institute of Public Affairs to raise £5,000 to meet “ Jock “ Garden’s expenses. Button said that he proposed to ask several business people to subscribe £1,000 each. He mentioned Mr. Charles Lloyd Jones, Sir Norman Nock and Mr. Frank Packer. During the .succeeding months, Breen saw Hutton many times. Hutton informed him that he was the right-hand man of Mr. Vernon Treatt, Leader of the State Opposition in New
South Wales, in small things pertaining to electoral matters, and in bigger behindthescenes moves in State affairs. He said that, on one occasion, he had been approached by Mr. Isaacs regarding Garden’s legal costs, and that he discussed the matter with Mr. J. Cassidy, K.C. It was suggested that an approach be made to the Institute of Public Affairs. Breen said that he believed that Hutton spoke freely to him because Isaacs had assured him that he could do so. He met Mr. Isaacs several times during the sittings of the royal commission into land sales control. He had handled the story exclusively for Mr. Allan Lush, who was the delegate of the Treasurer at the time, and for whom Mr. Isaacs appeared before the commission. Hutton said he was busying himself in two ways. One was in collating damaging information about me, and the other was in raising funds to enable Liberal party supporters to keep payments up to Mr. Isaacs. When the royal commission was sitting in the Arbitration Court, Breen met Hutton in Martin-place outside the Rural Bank during one luncheon adjournment. Hutton said that he had a well-to-do Liberal party “big-shot” waiting in his rooms, and that that gentleman was going to hand over a large sum of money to Mr. Isaacs as a contribution to “ Jock “ Garden’s legal expenses. Hutton had hardly concluded telling Breen this when Mr. Isaacs crossed Martin-place to the footpath a few yards from where they were standing. Breen says he called’ to Mr. Isaacs : “ Come back, Sam, I will not bite you “, and Isaacs, rather sheepishly, joined them. Hutton had previously told Breen that he was expecting to meet Isaacs. After a few pleasantries, Isaacs and Hutton left Breen and walked around the corner into Phillip-street and crossed the road in tha direction of Hutton’s office.
It is rather significant that Mr. Landa, M.L.A., the Labour member for Bondi, speaking in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in April, 1948, said -
The Leader of the Country party (Mr. Bruxner) spoke about a nian called Garden, and the fact that lie was a Communist and was once in the Labour party. I make the charge here and now that the Institute of Public Affairs, which is an auxiliary of the Liberal-Country party, is collecting money to-day in order to defend that same Jock Garden. I ask the Leader of the Country party to deny that?”
Mr. Bruxner did not deny it. He said -
They will not get any of my money.
He did not deny the truth of the allegation. Mr. Landa interviewed the press, or the press interviewed Mr. Landa after he had made the statement, but the press did not publish one word of the interview. So much for the freedom of the press.
There is one other piece of evidence to which I shall refer. On the 4th February, 1949, a conversation took place in the press room at the Commonwealth Bank building in Sydney between a number of pressmen and Mr. Hanrahan, businessmanager of Liberal Opinion, a journal issued by the Liberal party. Here is what Mr. Hanrahan said -
The Liberal Party had before it a request to pay Garden’s legal expenses at the royal commission, but turned it down. Consideration bad also been given to Liberal Party representation. He said it was feared that the considerable expense incurred in Garden’s legal representation would arouse suspicion and may lead to inquiry. In any case it was thought that as Mr. J. Cassidy, K.C., was appearing before the Commission on behalf of Edward Farrell, that would be sufficient, as he would keep an eye on the situation for the Liberal Party.
I conclude by saying that the period of all those proceedings has been one of strain, not only upon myself, but also upon my wife and family. It was a strain to which they should never have been subjected. However, I was not afraid of the most searching investigation and, fortunately, I had good health and strength. I had faith also that a majority of the people of this country were fairminded and would be prepared to deal with the charges on the evidence given, and not on the allegations of a larrikin lawyer. I give my thanks to Mr. Shand, K.C. and Mr. Smyth, counsel who assisted the royal commissioner, to my own counsel, Mr. Miller, K.C, and Mr. J. Kerr and to Mr. Justice Ligertwood for the manner in which the investigation was conducted. I was not spared. The commissioner himself said that I was given a most rigorous cross-examination by counsel assisting the commission. But I wanted it that way, because I wanted no doubts to be left in the public mind about my conduct in the matter. What happened to me could happen to any other member in this chamber. I believe that a number of Opposition members in this chamber would be just as shocked as I am by what I believe lies behind this whole sorry story. My friends have told me that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said in the course of conversation long before the report of the royal commissioner was presented that they did not believe that I was in it. I believe that that applies to many other members of the Opposition. I may differ from them politically, but that is an entirely different matter from attacking a man’s good name on false evidence and invented stories.
I conclude by thanking the House for having listened to me patiently. I have told a story that I have wanted to tell for a long time. Now that it has been told and is supported by the findings of the royal commissioner, I hope that the Australian public are satisfied beyond a shadow of doubt that from the outset this matter has oozed politics. I am not suggesting that some ‘ elements of the Liberal party were involved in the original transaction, but they cashed in on it. I express my thanks to my friends and those who have helped me in this matter and I am grateful for the fact that I have come through it so successfully.
.- The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) has undoubtedly been through a great personal ordeal. The Government showed him the consideration of appointing a royal commission to investigate the charges that were made against his good name, and the Parliament has extended to him the indulgence of permitting him to occupy 75 minutes of its valuable time in placing his views before it. In those circumstances, the Minister may well feel that he has been shown a consideration that other members of the Parliament whose characters have been attacked from time to time have sought in vain. He has been shown a consideration that the Government was not prepared to extend, for example, to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), who was the subject of a vicious attack in this Parliament a few weeks ago. This has been an unsavoury business. It has not been sweetened by the hysterical harangue to which we have listened for 75 minutes. I consider that the Minister would have served himself and the Parliament more wisely had he allowed the matter to rest upon the calm, temperate and judicial language of the report of the royal commissioner, but he has chosen to do otherwise. He has not been content with explaining his own position. He has ineluded in his statement allegations against honorable members on this side of the House and persons outside the House who are not in a position to defend themselves.
I have risen mainly because I received a mention in despatches very early in the course of the Minister’s speech. I desire to say something about that matter and then to make some general observations about two other matters, one of which was present before the Minister spoke and the other of which has arisen from his remarks. The honorable gentleman saw fit to make an attack upon me. The only active part that I have played in this affair has been to raise in the Parliament, in accordance with my public duty as I saw it, a matter that had not then been brought to the attention of the royal commissioner, that is, the whereabouts of a Mr. Ainslie St. Aubyn Kingsford. I shall inform the House of the background to the questions that I asked in February of this year. At that time there had been two court investigations of this matter. One was the trial .of Garden for forgery and the other was the trial of two Gardens, Parer and Farrell for conspiracy. I think that I am stating the position fairly when I say that in each of those cases the jury, by its verdict, expressed its doubt of the Minister’s version of the affair. In the first case, although the jury found Garden to be guilty of forgery, it was not prepared to accept the evidence of the Minister. In the conspiracy case, the accused persons were acquitted. In that case the prosecuting council made it very clear that the jury had to choose whether it accepted the evidence of the Minister or the evidence of the accused. I do not say that the jury, by acquitting the accused, said that it did not accept the evidence of the
Minister, but it showed quite clearly that, in its view there was some doubt about where the truth resided. Therefore it acquitted those who had been charged with a criminal offence. It was against that background that the Opposition had to consider this matter.
The terms of reference of the royal commission were not discussed with the Opposition. That was a distinct departure from the practice of the Parliament This is not the first time that the Minister has been involved in a royal commission. When a royal commission was appointed to examine the honorable gentleman’s “ Brisbane line “ allegations, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, in informing the House of the terms of reference of the commission, said that in accordance with practice they had been agreed upon in consultation with representatives of the Opposition parties. That was not done in this instance. When the Parliament assembled early in this year honorable members were aware that in two sets of legal proceedings there had been quite clearly a refusal by juries to express a definite view of the credibility of the Minister, and also that the terms of reference of the royal commission had been determined by the Government without any reference to the Opposition. I considered that the disappearance of Mr. Ainslie St. Aubyn Kingsford, whatever the explanation of it might be, was a matter that came within the scope of the inquiry by the royal commission. Therefore, I sought the first convenient opportunity to ask the Government whether it had made any inquiries into the matter and, if it had done so, what was the result of those inquiries. I asked further whether, if the Government considered that some examination of the matter should be made by the royal commissioner, his terms of reference gave him the opportunity to do so. I was by no means satisfied with the replies that I received, and I raised the matter temperately, and I hope fairly, in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 10th February of this year. The Minister has seen fit to attack me for the action that I took. He has said that I implied that he had committed on act of murder. My remarks are on record.
What was the result to the action that I took in the Parliament in the exercise of my sense of responsibility? When the royal commission met again I was the subject of a scurrilous and offensive attack by counsel for the Minister, Mr. Miller, K.C, who completely misrepresented what I had said to the Parliament. He made charges against me that were obviously untrue, as an examination of Hansard will prove. Mr. Miller, with a knowledge of my professional status, could not have spoken in the terms in which he did speak unless he had been prompted by the Minister to do so. He made these remarks concerning me -
He set out then to recite what he alleged to be gross distortions of fact. He continued -
I make that public statement, Your Honour, because it does seem to me, with all due respects to the privileges of the House, that it was a grossly wrong thing for. a solicitor to make such misstatements of fact at the very time when Your Honour is investigating these important matters.
If what he had to say had been true there might have been something behind the charges that he made. When the Parliament met I made a personal explanation in this House that clearly “blew out” the allegations that he had made against me. I went further than that. I posted to the royal commissioner the Hansard extracts of what I had said on the earlier occasion and of my personal explanation, which completely covered the matter. I had hoped that if the counsel representing the Minister, or the Minister himself, had any sense of fairness in the matter, that some reference to my explanation, in view of the fact that the charges had been made publicly about me before the royal commissioner and had been widely reported, would have been made before the royal commission. However, for reasons that the royal commissioner perhaps could explain he did not see fit to mention them. In fact, I have not even received the courtesy of a formal acknowledgement of my correspondence that accompanied the extracts of my first statement and of my personal explanation. That, of itself, is a minor matter. I am able to take care of myself in this place when charges may be levelled against me. Rut I want to say to the Minister that those members of the Opposition against whom he has levelled his attack to-night have all of them, I am quite sure, acted from a sense of their public responsibility in connexion with such matters. Here was a matter about which the public was entitled to have the facts. It was a matter of great importance, and we on this side of the House shall not be dissuaded or intimidated in the carrying out of what we regard as our duty in relation to such matters by the kind of attack to which we have been subjected to-night.
The matter of Mr. Ainslie St. Aubyn Kingsford remains a mystery. The missing Mr. Kingsford disappeared at the same time as it was learned that the safe deposit box of the Minister was to be examined. To this day there has not been any satisfactory explanation of why he disappeared. I say frankly that it was with some surprise that honorable members on this side of the House learned of the existence of the Minister’s safe deposit box. After what we had heard the Minister say in this place over a period of years against those who, by some means or other, had collected worldly possessions, we were astonished, to say the least, that he found it necessary to have a safe deposit box in which to place his valuables or private papers. That was particularly so because the safe deposit box was in the Bank of New South Wales, a capitalist institution, and not in the Commonwealth Bank, to which the Government professes such devotion. However, Kingsford’s disappearance remains a mystery. I do not consider that the statement in the royal commissioner’s report concerning it clear the mystery up to any degree. The royal commissioner said that Kingsford was in financial trouble and that he had disappeared on account of the financial trouble. There, so far a3 the royal commissioner is concerned, the matter ends. I do not propose to pursue it any further.
The general observation that I want to make is that this unsavoury matter has been brought upon the Minister’s own head as the royal commissioner’s report very clearly reveals, because of his own association over a period of years and in conditions of personal intimacy with a certain man who has been utterly discredited and is now serving a term of imprisonment. I think it is worth making some reference to what the royal commissioner said about Garden in his report. In giving a brief biographical sketch of Garden, he mentioned, amongst other things, that in 1919 Garden formed the Australian Communist party, and, in 1922, having been elected a member of the world’ executive of the Communist party, he attended a conference of the party in Moscow. It was brought out in evidence at one of the (proceedings that at the time that his personal effects were examined he still held the ticket of membership of the Communist party in Australia. This is the man, who, as a result of influence exercised by the Minister, had a position specially created for him in the Commonwealth Public Service. This is the man who was retained in a position of confidence and close association by the Minister and who, as secretary of the Labour party branch in the electorate that the Minister represents, had access to the Minister and from time to time dealt with constituency matters at the Minister’s request. This is the man who, after the Minister ceased to be Minister for Labour and National Service, and after the then Minister for Labour and National Service had apparently come to the conclusion that his retention as liaison officer was unnecessary, was retained, partly, at any rate, as a result of representations made by the Minister for External Territories in the Commonwealth Public Service. He was not removed to quarters or offices connected with the Department of Labour and National Service, but was left in a room occupied by the Department of Transport, and made a practice of seeing the Minister almost daily in the most intimate fashion. So when we find that as a result of this association and of the proximity in which Garden found himself to the Minister, with the resultant accessibility to confidential documents and ministerial notepaper, and through his association with the Minister’s staff, he was able to perpetrate this fraud, we must say, in exercising our responsibility in this place, that the Minister, by gross negligence and gross neglect, by a failure to either perceive the character of the man with whom he was dealing, or, knowing it, by remaining in close and intimate contact with him, has brought himself into this predicament in which he has floundered for the last twelve months or so. I believe that goes to the whole root of this matter.
I do not propose to say anything about the Minister’s other associations that were revealed during the trial. The royal commissioner has spoken, and I am prepared to let the matter rest there. But one moral at least that comes from both the proceedings of the royal commission and the speech that we have heard from the Minister to-night is that men in this Parliament are particularly vulnerable to attack in respect of their reputation. It takes moral courage for a man, knowing what awaits him, to offer himself for service in this Parliament. It takes moral courage of a high order for a man to get up, as honorable members on this side of the House have done in the exercise of their duty, and endeavour to sift these matters without shirking the charges and attacks that may viciously or otherwise be made against them. Another thing that has been made clear in this matter is the vulnerability of public men to attacks, either inside or outside the Parliament, from those who find’ it easy to smear or destroy in the cowardly fashion that rumour provides for them. I say to the Minister that I had hoped that this matter would have served as something of a lesson to him. There is no man in all my experience in this Parliament who has done more than he has done to peddle the poison of personal defamation. There is no man in this place who has so callously, recklessly and viciously attacked the reputations and characters of honorable members sitting opposite to him in the Parliament, and also of men outside who have no opportunity to defend themselves. But I say that if he, for once, has had to taste something of the bitter brew that he has ladled out in the Parliament so recklessly to so many others in the past, it is evidence that there is a rough nemesis which exercises a just toll. I had hoped, as I have said, that this would have proved to be a lesson to him. But he has seen fit to attack honorable members on this side of the House. I wonder what sort of charges and attacks would have been levelled against me or any of my colleagues had’ the Minister been placed in a position to challenge our actions and to deal with us as so often in the past he has dealt with every honorable member who has opposed him in this Parliament. He should be grateful to honorable members on this side of the House for the temperance and restraint that they have disclosed in dealing with this matter.
– They could not do anything else.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service not to “buy” into this argument.
– Is the honorable gentleman not satisfied with the report?
– I have accepted the royal commissioner’s report. I have not challenged it. At no stage of my speech to-night have I gone behind it.
– The honorable gentleman has refrained from doing so very grudgingly.
– I do not know why the Minister should say that. Does he expect me to quietly accept the sort of charge that the Minister for External Territories has levelled against me? I am here to defend myself as well as any other men who may be so attacked, and to exercise the responsibility that I have as a member of this Parliament. I have not said anything more than the bare minimum that the occasion demands.
The last matter that I shall deal with was not brought before this Parliament at any earlier stage than during the speech made by the Minister for External Territories to-night. One might reasonably have hoped that, out of the ordeal that he has experienced and from his own feeling of victimization and realization that he was charged unjustly and falsely, the Minister would have learnt some restraint and care in relation to the character of others. Nevertheless, in the last few minutes of the lengthy period that an indulgent House allowed him to-night, he saw fit to embark upon a wild and reckless campaign of character assassination against a number of people who have no opportunity to defend themselves in this place. Many of those persons are unknown to me; I had not heard of them previously. But one of them is known to me. He is Mr. Vernon Treatt, the Leader of the Liberal party in the Parliament of New South Wales. Mr. Treatt was selected as a Rhodes scholar to represent Australia. He gave valiant military service to this country and earned the Military Medal. He was chosen as the leader of his political party in New South Wales. He is a man of the utmost integrity, whose character nobody should stoop for a moment to assail. Yet the Minister uttered the wild charge that he had lent himself to some process for the collection of funds in some sort of conspiracy to attack the Minister. I give the lie back in the teeth of the Minister. We in this House who know Mr. Vernon Treatt and the members of the Parliament of New South Wales, including those who are opposed to him politically, know just how much weight to attach to the charges that have been made against him. There is a lesson in this experience for the Parliament. Many of us have learned it, and I had hoped that the Minister would do likewise. He has had a pretty fair run in this Parliament in making charges against other people. There is scarcely a man who has been a member of this House for any length of time who has not felt the lash of his tongue. Many honorable members, and their families, have suffered as the result of the reckless and damaging charges that have been made by him. If the Minister has had his share of public rumour, criticism and comment, then he has bought it by his conduct in this place. He has had a bitter lesson. Let us hope that he will benefit from it and will put it into practice in the future service that he gives in this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scully) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1949.
Australian Soldiers’ Repntriation Bill 1949.
Census and Statistics Bill 1949.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 34 - (1.) The Court shall have power to regulate industrial matters in connexion with stevedoring operations insofar as those operations relate to trade and commerce with other countries or among the States or are performed in a Territory of the Commonwealth, whether or not an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State exists in relation to those matters.
Senate’s amendment. - Insert the following new sub-clause: - “ (1a.) The Court shall have power to determine the terms and conditions in accordance with which, including the rates at which, the board shall pay attendance money to waterside workers.”.
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
The sub-clause that has been inserted by the Senate will merely give the court power which might well be covered by the reference to “ industrial matters “. That power will be made clear and explicit by the addition of the sub-clause.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Dedman) read a first time.
– by leave -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purposes of this bill are to repeal the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923 and to vest the ownership of Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands in the Commonwealth. The old Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers operated under the authority of the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923, and the act has remained on the statute-book not withstanding the fact that the line was disposed of many years ago. A board has continued to function under the act, however, although its only function has been to administer Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands. The act contains powers in many respects similar to those conferred on the Australian Shipping Board constituted under the Shipping Act 1949, and “with the passing of the latter act, it is necessary to repeal the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923. With the repeal of the old act, some other means of providing for the control of Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands becomes necessary. The alternatives are either to set up a special authority charged with the duty of administering the islands, or to arrange for their administration to be undertaken by an appropriate government department. After careful consideration, the Government decided that the second method would be preferable. The bill, therefore, provides for the repeal of the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923 and for the vesting of the ownership of Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth assumes all the rights, property, assets, obligations and liabilities of the board constituted under the act, including the obligations and liabilities under any contract, in particular the agreement contained in the schedule to the Cockatoo Dockyard Agreement Act 1933. As I have indicated, the administration of the islands, instead of being vested in a board, will be undertaken by the appropriate Minister and handled by his department in the ordinary fashion. A further consequence will be that the financial transactions connected with the islands will be dealt with by parliamentary appropriation in the normal manner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 2209).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 2210).
– There is no point of order involved. The House has decided that that matter will be further considered at a later hour this day.
– Is the Chair able to say at what hour this day the debate will be resumed ?
– The Chair is not able to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
In the normal course of events it was proposed that the House should meet again probably in the last week of August or the first week in September. It may be, however, tha;t circumstances might arise which will necessitate the calling of the House together urgently at an earlier date. If that need arises, honorable members will be summoned accordingly. I merely give the warning that circumstances may arise that will necessitate an earlier and even an immediate meeting, but, in the normal course of events, the Government proposes that the House shall meet in the last week of August or in the first week of September.
– What notice will be given if there is to be an urgent summoning of the House?
– The longest possible notice. We shall try to give at least a few days’ notice.
– In the normal course, when the House adjourns at the end of a sessional period such as this has been we adjourn on a motion presented by the Prime Minister, and in the normal course, honorable members would receive ten days or a fortnight’s notice from Mr. Speaker of the re-assembling of the Parliament. But it is unnecessary to say that these are not normal times. The coal strike is not at the moment showing any sign of ending. The severity of it is, in fact, intensifying. More and more people are losing their employment every day. I suppose that it will be agreed that in the absence of some special steps for obtaining coal there may very well be 1,000,000 people, or at any rate a very substantial proportion of 1,000,000 people, out of employment within the next fortnight. In those circumstances I put it to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) very strongly that this Parliament must be in a position first to know of all such developments promptly; and, secondly, to take any steps that might have to be taken to cope with them. This is not merely an administrative problem. On behalf of the Opposition, I have repeatedly put to the right honorable gentleman that there are two aspects of this strike which have to be faced. One of them is, how to deal with those on strike. In relation to that matter the Government has presented emergency legislation which was supported by the Opposition and is now on the statute-book. It is in operation, and certain proceedings have been taken under it. I do not quarrel with that procedure, I support it. The Opposition entirely supports the Prime Minister’s emphasis on the complete and continuing importance of arbitration as a means of settling this strike. But there is another aspect of it. Apart from freezing the funds of certain unions and dealing with organizations or individuals, what steps are to be taken to get coal ?
– We have not been told.
– Those two matters have not been discussed. I shall not occupy the time of the House now by discussing, them again, because I dealt with them on another occasion. They involve the matter of getting coal at grass, and the matter of obtaining coal by the development of open-cut mining, and the prompt production of coal through working our open-cut resources six days a week and three shifts a day. So far the Prime Minister has not yielded to that suggestion. But if this matter develops he may find himself confronted with a choice between adopting that proposal, with whatever consequences it may involve, or resigning this community to a complete black-out industrially and in almost every other way. If that happens, special emergency legislation may have to be passed. I desire to say, on behalf of the Opposition, that we are perfectly willing to remain on duty, whether it means by prolonging the sittings by sitting on a regular day each week while the strike continues, or by accepting the proposition that all honorable members shall regard themselves as being at call, on 24 hours’ notice, and be ready to cancel any engagements that they may make, to resume the sittings of this House. If some urgent legislation must be passed by the Parliament to combine with some legislation passed by the Parliament of New South Wales, or proceeding from our own independent powers to deal with this crisis, which is the greatest industrial crisis we have ever known, we want to be here in our places in order to ensure that that legislation shall be passed. The position may be in any one of the various ways that I have mentioned, but I point out to the Prime Minister that it would not be consistent with the feelings of honorable members or of the country if we were to go away on a normal adjournment at a period of notice of a week or ten days, at the end of which we may be expected to be back here. I suggest to the Prime Minister, that we should have either a regular sitting day, or an understanding that we shall be recalled at the shortest possible notice to take up our work. I suggest 24 hours’ notice.
.- I oppose this motion on two grounds. A quarter of an hour ago, the debate on the report of the royal commissioner on the New Guinea timber lease case was postponed until a later hour this day. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) had spoken for about an hour and a half with our concurrence, but we are now to be denied the opportunity to continue the debate. That is absolutely scandalous. I believe that an arrangement had been made for at least three honorable members from each side of the chamber to speak on the report. I acquit the Minister for External Territories of using any cunning or improper device to postpone this debate. I think that he would have been prepared to allow the debate to continue, but from the smile on the faces of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and other honorable members opposite, I conclude that the adjournment of the debate was merely a trick to prevent the people of Australia from hearing the story in its proper continuity. Such an act on the part of the Government is utterly wrong and shameful. It is a trick which is unworthy of the Government, in view of the course which that debate has taken to-night.
– I accept full responsibility for the decision to adjourn the debate.
– Very well, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) accepts that responsibility. If he does-
– I desire to add that the honorable member will have an opportunity to continue the debate in the next parliamentary period.
– 1 shall have that opportunity if the Government does not put that item of business at the bottom of the notice-paper. We know that it has denied the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) the opportunity to introduce legislation to amend the Commonwealth
Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I have no doubt that the debate on the report of the royal commissioner will be postponed week after week, and month after month. Honorable members will be given an opportunity to debate the report “ some day, pancake day, probably never “. If the Prime Minister accepts the responsibility for having the debate adjourned, he should be ashamed of himself.
– Not a bit.
– The Prime Minister has used this trick before.
– Order !
– It is well that the Parliament and the people should know how members of the Opposition feel about this matter. The Minister for External Territories had every opportunity to state his side of the case. Members of the Opposition were glad that he had that opportunity. He has been vindicated, and he had every right to comment on the report of the royal commissioner. It would have been most improper to deny the Minister every opportunity to state his case to the House. But, in the course of his speech, the Minister went further-
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to refer at this stage to that debate.
– I merely desire to say that the Minister smeared other people.
– Order ! The Chair will ask the honorable member to resume his seat if he continues along those lines. He is not in order in referring now to the previous debate.
– I come now to the second ground on which I oppose the motion. I am absolutely opposed to the adjournment of the House for five or six weeks during the present crisis. We do not know whether supplementary legislation may be required in relation to the coal strike, and other possible events. Men have been sent to gaol for contempt of court, and we have yet to ascertain how the community will react to that. It is wrong and dangerous for the Parliament to adjourn at the present time. I have a strong suspicion that there is some funny business going on about the coal strike. We had a hint of it when the
Prime Minister was replying to a question that had been asked by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). The right honorable gentleman said that he had indicated to the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, that if he decided to grant the coalminers a 35hour working week, or long service leave, the Australian Government would ensure that the necessary money would be provided to meet the cost. I interjected at the time that a wink was as good as a nod. The Prime Minister has declared that the Government stands for arbitration, that the men must submit their claims to the proper industrial tribunal, and that the Government will uphold the law, but I am beginning to wonder whether the Government will make an inflexible stand. Something peculiar may be happening behind the scenes, and, if it is, the Parliament should be in session to keep an eye on the situation. Honorable members should have the opportunity to voice their views and their criticisms in this forum, if necessary, on behalf of the people of Australia. The Prime Minister has airily taken full responsibility for having an important debate adjourned. Honorable members should not be satisfied with that position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next meeting.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) to a disability which employees of his department are suffering from at the Cambridge aerodrome, in Tasmania. At present the department has no pay office in Tasmania, and some of the employees have been obliged to wait a long time for special pay, and even for ordinary pay. Several of them have made representations to me about the matter. One member of the ground staff, who is a married man, has been employed for five weeks, but has not yet received any pay. Some personnel have been deprived for some months of increases of pay resulting from promotions. Others have had difficulty in respect of pay while they have been on sick leave. One employee has not received any pay, although he has been on sick leave for eleven weeks. I urge the Minister to provide facilities for the payment of employees of the Department of Civil Aviation through a central office at Hobart or elsewhere in Tasmania instead of through the Melbourne office. The existing uncertainty about receiving pay is worrying a number of these employees. They do not receive substantial salaries and are dependent upon their pay from week to week. I ask the Minister to investigate this matter at the earliest possible moment and rectify the position.
– I shall be glad to investigate the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). I have not received any representations about it by letter, and I was completely unaware of the existence of the conditions that he has described. However, I am sure that the honorable gentleman would not have raised the matter if representations had not been made to him. He has suggested that arrangements be made for the employees of the department at the Cambridge aerodrome to be paid from the Hobart office instead of from the head office in Melbourne. I am not sure whether the present system of paying salaries and wages involves the head office.
– It does.
– I agree that a position such as the honorable member has described if it is correct, should not arise. However, I do not want it to be thought that I accept the suggestion that there is no reasonable excuse forwhat happened, although I am surprised to hear that people have had to wait for as long as five weeks for payment. Investigations will be made, and steps will be taken to remedy the position if the facts are as stated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1949 -
No. 48 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 49 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia).
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - J. R. Dallinger, R. B. Dick, V.N. Fitze, E. J. Koop. D. J. Omond, R. A. Shutz, G. A. Wiffen.
Treasury- L. W. B. Gibbons, J. N. Hutchinson.
Works and Housing - J. K. McElgunn.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and Designs (6).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes -
Spencer’s Brook, Western Australia.
Immigration purposes -
Port Kembla, New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Kulpara, South Australia.
Liverpool, New South Wales.
North Sydney, New South Wales.
West Tamworth, New South Wales.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1949, Nos. 38, 39.
Social Services Consolidation Act - Report by the Director-General of Social Services for year 1947-48.
War Service Homes Act -
Amendment of the arrangement of the 17th July, 1934, between the then War Service Homes Commissioner (now Director of War Service Homes) and the State of Western Australia.
Land acquired at -
Bankstown, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Questions I to 5. None.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are as. follows : -
All figures in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 above are expressed in sterling.
t,. - On the 30th June, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked the following question : -
Will the Attorney-General say whether it is a fact, as reported in the press some days ago, that Signor Mammalella has returned to Australia? Signor Mammalella was a notorious fascist leader of the Sydney Fascio and, as the Minister knows, was interned at the outbreak of the war with Italy. Is the Minister also aware that Signor Mammalella travelled to Australia on a ship that carried a large number of Italian immigrants? If so, will the Minister have inquiries made about Signor Mammalella’s activities on the voyage and in Australia to ascertain whether it is desirable that he should be in contact with Italian immigrants in Australia?
On the question being referred to me by the Attorney-General, I promised to give the honorable member for Parramatta the true story in the next week. I now desire to furnish the following details : -
A person named Amedio Mammalella was a consul for Italy in Australia prior to the war, but no Italian of this name has entered Australia since the end of the war. Advice has been received by my department that a person named Amedio Mammalella was assistant steward on the SS. Surriento which arrived in Australia from Italy recently. He may be identical with the former consul. The Immigration Department cannot exercise any control over the appointment of crews of overseas vessels and its powers are limited to those who seek to enter the Commonwealth or who desert their vessels in Australia. Mammalella made no effort to obtain permission to enter Australia and was on board the vessel when she left Australia.
l. - On the 28th June, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following questions : -
The Postmaster-General has consulted with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commission has furnished the following observations concerning the honorable member’s questions : -
The commission considers that the broadcast “ The Boy from the Never Never “ was in good taste and that the treatment was in no way questionable or vulgar. At no point was the script irreverent or otherwise inconsiderate, nor was it specifically mentioned that the stranger who appeared to the boy in the desert was a vision or an appearance of the Deity. The producer a.t all times bore in mind the possibility of offence to people holding strong religious convictions and handled the script with care. There is no ground for any suggestion that there was any political propaganda associated with the broadcast.
Coal Strike: Postal Services - Shipping.
l. - On the 28th June, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral arrange with the Minister for Civil Aviation, during the national emergency caused by the coal strike and .the complete dislocation of rail services, for all first-class mails to be carried by air, particularly in country districts? If that suggestion cannot be followed, will he arrange with the Minister for Transport that all first-class mail matter be_ carried by road because the restriction of rail services is causing great inconvenience.
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
Arrangements have been made for the utmost use of air carriage and road transport, in order to permit postal services to continue functioning to all parts of Australia during the present emergency. The Postal Department hopes to maintain an effective mail service to all country districts so far as firstclass mail is concerned, although the frequency of the mails may be reduced. In addition, the services of other types of mail will be maintained as far as practicable, but the heavier mail items such as parcels may be subject to some delay. The Postal Department is collaborating closely with the Department of Civil Aviation and surface transport authorities, and the utmost will continue to be done to ensure the continuance of reasonable mail facilities throughout for the public.
– On the 6th July, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked me a question regarding Commonwealthowned vessels which are tied up because of the coal strike. Further to my oral reply to the honorable member on that date, I now advise that there are two Commonwealth owned vessels tied up owing to shortage of bunkering facilities. These are Dubbo in Melbourne, and Daylesford in Sydney. Daylesford is continuing to load cargo for Melbourne. The crew of Dubbo are doing maintenance work.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
Will he have prepared a statement showing - («) the number of tons of wire netting, all sizes, produced in the years 1946-47 and 1947-48; (b) the number of tons of rod suitable for wire netting manufacture produced in 1938-39 and 1947-48; (c) coal production, in tons, in the several States for 1938-39 and 1947-48;(d) steel production, in tons, for 1938-39 and 1947-48; and (e) steel production in tons per man monthly for 1938-39 and 1947-48?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
(Figures on coal production are computed for calendar years.)
n. - On the 30th June the honorable member for the Northern Territory. (Mr. Blain) asked, whether I would have inserted in the Crown Lands Ordinance of the Northern Territory a provision authorizing the Minister to convert miscellaneous and short-term leases and mining tenements into town leases and agricultural leases so that security of tenure may be granted in deserving cases. He added that the relevant act did not empower the Legislative Council of the territory to deal with matters concerning Crown lands.
In the first place, I should like to point out that the Legislative Council of the territory is not debarred from making ordinances dealing with Crown lands. In fact, the Legislative Council is the only authority to make ordinances for the Northern Territory. An ordinance made by the council has, however, no force or effect until it has received assent. Generally the Administrator has power to give the necessary assent. In the case of ordinances dealing with the Crown lands the Administrator is not permitted to assent thereto unless it contains a clause suspending its operation until the signification of the GovernorGeneral’s pleasure thereon. Miscellaneous leases are granted for periods up to 21 years. Short-term leases in the Darwin area were granted for a specific purpose. Consideration was recently given to the question of the conversion of miscellaneous and shortterm leases into town and agricultural leases, but the proposal was not agreed to. I have, however, approved of an amendment of the Crown Lands Ordinance to provide for the issue of leases for cultivation purposes in town areas, such leases to be of short duration and without tenant rights in improvements. Mining tenements are issued under the provisions of the Mining Ordinance 1931-1940 and the regulations thereunder. In view of the various purposes, conditions and tenures for which mining tenements are issued, I am not prepared to agree to a variation of the existing law on the lines suggested by the honorable member.
Mr. J. J. Healy.
y. - On the 1st July, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr.
Harrison) asked me a question relating to the association by Mr. J. J. Healy with the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. I now advise that Mr. J. J. Healy, general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation represented his federation as a member of the board of management of the pool from the 25th February, 1947, until the termination of the board on the 19th May, 1949. The last payment made to him was for a meeting held on the 5th March, 1949, and the total amount paid to him as fees for attendance at board meetings was £107 2s. The functions of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool are primarily -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Production of steel ingots and castings in metric tons -
The Commonwealth Statistician has no information concerning the number of employees engaged in the steel industry in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and it is therefore not possible to give any comparative figures of unit production as between the three countries.
y. - On the 23rd June, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked me the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Fending the necessary action being taken by members to exempt from national taxation salaries and allowances paid out of the budget of the Fund, the Governors and Executive Directors and their Alternates, the Managing Director and the staff members shall be reimbursed by the Fund for the taxes which they are required to pay on such salaries and allowances.
The Executive Board of the fund has recently approved a convention on the privileges and immunities of the fund and its officials. Member nations including Australia are being asked to accede to this convention. The substance of Article VI., section 19 (6) of the convention, is that officials of the fund shall be granted exemption from tax in respect of all salaries and emoluments derived from the fund. In the event of Australia acceding, without reservation, to the convention, the Commonwealth may be obliged to grant complete freedom from tax on salaries and emoluments paid by the fund, even though the officials concerned may be residents of Australia. The proposed convention is receiving consideration but a decision as to whether any reservations will be made has not yet been reached. 4. See answer to question 3 above.
Armed Forces: Keswick Barracks Ordnance Staff.
s. - On the 10th June, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that at Keswick Barracks, Adelaide, there is an ordnance staff of 120 officers and men on weekly pay ranging from £8 10s. for privates to £20 for higher ranks? Are these men paid on a sevenday week basis even though the depot is closed at week-ends? Is it a fact that they are only doing work that was done by a staff of seventeen before the war, and that they are only busy for about two or three months of the year in making preparations for Commonwealth Military Forces camps ? If those statements are correct, will the Minister have investigations made with a view to effecting economies?
Inquiries have confirmed the opinion I expressed at the time, that there is nothing in the statement that the staff of 120 are only doing the same work that was performed before the war by a staff of seventeen, nor in the statement that the present staff are only busy two or three months a year. The stocks are about three times the pre-war quantity and they include a much wider range of items and include requirements for Woomera and the Northern Territory. It is further observed that the honorable member has also been misinformed about the pre-war staff, which was 34 and not seventeen.
y. - On the 23rd June the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked me a question concerning patients who are being nursed in their own homes because of the inability of public hospitals to provide the necessary facilities. It was suggested by the honorable member that hospital benefits of eight shillings per day bc allowed in respect of such persons. Further to my oral reply to the honorable member on that date, I now wish to advise that payments of the nature suggested could not be authorized under the hospital benefits legislation, which relates to persons occupying beds in public hospitals or in approved private hospitals. The extension of the hospital benefits scheme to give effect to the proposal envisaged in the honorable member’s question would present many difficulties, including that of opening up of very great avenues for abuse. The Government does not contemplate the framing of special legislation to provide benefits in the type of case referred to by the honorable member.
y. - On the 24th June the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked me a question regarding the recent flooding of a section of Aberdare Extended colliery at Cessnock. Supplementing my reply to the honorable member on that date, I now advise that the proposal to recover pillars and top coal by open-cut methods near the outcrop area of Aberdare Extended mine was initiated by the owners of the mine - Caledonian Collieries Limited - early last year. The operations were undertaken by a contractor and described as “ Caldare open-cut “. A similar class of work - i.e., removal of top coal and pillars by opencut methods - had been successfully carried out in other parts of the mining world, and most recently had been very successfully applied at the Stockton mine on the Collie coal-field, Western Australia. Officers of the New South Wales Mines Department, in consultation with the mine management and the district officers of the Joint Coal Board, agreed on certain precautions to be taken in connexion with operations in the Caldare open-cut, these being - (a) the erection of a series of approximately twelve seals underground by means of hydraulic stowage using material from the surface - these seals being designed essentially to prevent any interference with the underground ventilation and to control the possibility of Spontaneous heating; and (b) the preparation and implementation of plans designed to prevent the possibility of surface flooding of the area. The precautions taken in this regard were by way of levee embankments and watercourses around the proposed open-cut area. They were based on the experience of the maximum flood conditions within living memory and, to that extent, were, and normally would have continued to be, completely adequate.
However, during the night of Thursday, the 16th June, and the early morning hours of Friday, the 17 th June, phenomenal rains fell over the Cessnock area. At 6.30 a.m. on Friday, half an hour prior to the commencement of work, the official examining the area noted waters running at a level 18 inches below the top of the embankments, but reported conditions to be safe. In the meantime, flood waters banked up to the south of the Bellbird colliery line topped and breached the embankment of the line, washing away the ballast and causing an additional inflow of flood-waters into the water-courses surrounding the Caldare open-cut. The culverts in this system were unable to take this additional flood water, which backed up, overflowed and breached the levee protecting the opencut. The water entered the open-cut, made its way into the mine, breached one of the ventilation seals and flooded the No. 12 South District. A number of men, whose duty take3 them down before the normal commencement of the shift, experienced difficulties as a result of the inrushing water, but all got safely back to the surface. However, 22 horses were trapped and drowned. The underground transport taking the men into the mine was stopped and the men were sent to the surface. Meantime, the surface flood waters rose to the extent of flooding the colliery stables, and a sandbag embankment 3 feet in height had to be built around the tunnel entrances to prevent the flood waters entering the mine at these points. This is the only mine on the field where an attempt has been made to extract, by open-cut means, pillars connected with an operating mine, all other opencut activities on the field are isolated from the underground working by a substantial and solid coal barrier. The question of the future operation of the “ Caldare open-cut” is a matter now under consideration by the Department of Mines, which is the authority responsible for the safe working of mines in New South Wales. No further information is available at this stage, but it is desired to stress the fact that the phenomenal rains and flooding were the cause of this unfortunate occurrence.
g asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 July 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490707_reps_18_203/>.