House of Representatives
9 September 1949

18th Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

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Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.

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– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction furnish the House with an indication of the progress that has been made recently with the war service land settlement scheme?

Minister for Defence · CORIO, VICTORIA · ALP

– The total area of land that has so far been acquired in connexion with that scheme throughout Australia is nearly 7,000,000 acres. Over 500 properties have been acquired for subdivisional purposes. In addition, over 500 single-unit properties have also been purchased and allotted to ex-servicemen.

Mr Francis:

– But the Minister refused to grant single-unit properties to ex-servicemen when the bill was before the House.


– The honorable member for Moreton is quite wrong. Up to date the number of ex-servicemen who have been settled on the land is nearly 3,000, whilst the total expenditure on all forms of war service land settlement is about £13,500,000.


– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction make the position clear about war service land settlement in the case of an ex-serviceman who suddenly dies but leaves a family? Has the wife or son of a deceased exserviceman any right to carry on the farm?


– The terms on which a soldier settler holds land differ in the respective States. In Tasmania, the State Government is the agent for the Australian Government. Nevertheless, the agreement relating to the tenure of the land is drawn up by the State Government. I shall inquire into the matter raised by the honorable member and advise him in due course.

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– As my question has to do with petrol and Trans-Australia Airlines, in the temporary absence of the Minister for Air, I address it . to the Prime Minister. “Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether it is a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines has been, and, I understand, still is flying empty beer bottles from Sydney to Perth ? If so, is this a paying proposition for Trans- Australia Airlines? What is the average load of empties carried by each aircraft? Is the charge for this freight based on the scale of charges applicable to ordinary air freight? Have the rates been varied’ in any way in respect of the carriage of empty beer bottles? What would be the liability of Trans-Australia Airlines in the event of breakages of the empty beer bottles? What proportion of petrol used on the Sydney-Perth flights is necessary to transport these fragile cargoes by air? What is the total quantity of petrol that has been required to transport them up to date?


– The carriage of freight by Trans-Australia Airlines is a purely commercial transaction. Neither the Minister for Air nor I would be aware of all of the details necessary in order to answer the honorable member’s questions fully. The honorable member has inquired about the liability of Trans-Australia Airlines in the event of breakages of empty beer bottles. I should think that liability would1 be greater in the event of the breakage of bottles full of beer. I presume that the flights from Sydney to Perth, to which the honorable member has referred, would be flights on the ordinary passenger schedule, and that when freight is offering that remunerative trade is accepted. I shall make inquiries in this matter and inform the honorable member of the result as soon as possible.


– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited, which began operations only sixteen months ago, now has a staff of «t least 200 employees and occupies the whole of the ground floor of a large insurance building in Sydney? Is it a fact that this huge staff has been built up in order to keep two aircraft a week in the air carrying 74 passengers each way between Sydney and Vancouver? If so, will the Minister take the necessary steps to ensure that a drastic economy is effected immediately?


– It is true that British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited has an office in Sydney. I do not know the number of employees on its staff there. Australia is only a partshareholder in that company. It owns 50 per cent, of the shares, New Zealand owns 30 per cent, and the United Kingdom owns 20 per cent. The corporation which controls it is operating a service of two flights weekly from Australia to San Francisco and one flight each fortnight to New Zealand. As is the case with every airline operating to America, the number of passengers carried has been seriously affected by the dollar shortage. The purpose of the airline is to maintain a connexion between Australia and the United States of America and Canada, and it is hoped that, when the dollar situation clears, the patronage of the service will be greater than at present. I cannot say whether the number of employees in the airline’s office in Sydney is more than is required. The report of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited has not yet been supplied to the Australian section of its ownership. However, as soon as it comes to hand I shall ask the Australian representatives to have the matter examined. I am satisfied that it is essential to maintain the air connexion between Australia and America, and I am also satisfied that British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited is operating one of the best services in the world.

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– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Australian Government, through its representatives abroad, has made a survey of the quantity of petrol that could be imported into this country from Russia, Roumania and Poland? If quantities of petrol are found to be available in those countries for sterling payment, is the Government prepared to grant the import licences that will bc required before the petrol can be imported?


– It must be remembered that the importation of petrol is entirely in the hands of private companies. The ramifications of those companies are very extensive. The Australian Government is concerned only with the dollar content of petrol that is brought into this country and does not make inquiries about the sources from which it is obtained. If a company applies for a licence to import petrol, the Government, in considering the application, is guided by what the petrol will cost in terms of dollars. The British Treasury has to meet the deficit between our dollar earnings and our dollar expenditure. I have already stated clearly to the press that if the purchase price and the cost of transport of petrol that comes as part of an ordinary transaction from countries behind what is known as the Iron Curtain can be met in sterling, we are prepared to issue the necessary import licences. We make a careful survey of all offers of goods from behind the Iron Curtain, because we consider that in many instances they are made for political reasons. We have been told that there is a shortage of petrol in countries behind the Iron Curtain, and that may or may not be true. If a company discovers that it can import sterling petrol, by which I mean petrol the cost and carriage of which can be paid for entirely in sterling, the Australian Government will issue the necessary import licences.

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ARMY Vehicles.


– Will the Minister for the Army say whether it is true, as bas been stated recently, that the Australian Army has little or no transport of its own and that nearly all the vehicles that it uses, such as staff cars, heavy duty trucks and bren gun carriers, are owned and controlled by the Department of Supply and Development and that the Army has to requisition them from that department whenever they are required? If that is the position, does the Minister agree that it is undesirable from the point of view of both maintenance and administration? Will he take immediate steps to remedy iti

Minister for the Army · ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · ALP

– It is not correct to say that the Army is supplied with its transport by a government department other than a service department. A percentage of head-quarters cars is taken from the transport pool, but the vehicles used by units are issued to the units, and belong to the service. All units have their own vehicles.

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– Will the Prime Minister state whether, having regard to the fact that our inability to earn sufficient dollars is due largely to the reluctance or inability of the United States of America to purchase sufficient goods from Australia, the Government has explored every possible way in which we can earn dollars by the sale of our primary products or manufactured goods? Has consideration been given to the creation of new types of products for export that are likely to be sought after by the United States of America?


– The problem of earning additional dollars has been under close investigation by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture for a long time. In order to facilitate the investigations, the Government has established a special inter-departmental committee which works under a Cabinet subcommittee. Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician, is chairman of the committee, which was appointed to investigate every possible avenue by which additional dollars might be earned in the United States of America or, indeed, in the hard currency areas generally. It must be remembered that the field is very limited. For instance, as far as primary products are concerned, we have entered into contracts with the United Kingdom for the supply of meat, under which that country takes all our surplus meat. There is only a limited amount of butter for export to countries other than Great Britain. The United Kingdom meat contract applies also to pig meats and a number of other commodities of that kind. As I have said, there is a very limited field as far as additional markets for primary products are concerned, and I can assure the honorable member that that particular matter has been examined very closely. One of the factors that must bo remembered is that the American tariff operates on a very high schedule of rates, a fact with which the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction is fully familiar, as the American tariff was discussed at very great length at the international trade conferences at Geneva and Havana. It is proving very difficult to induce the Americans even to reduce the rate of duty on wool. One of the other factors affecting this matter that is not clearly understood in this country is that apart from, the high American tariff rates, the interpretation and applicability of the rates often have the effect of making the American tariff most restrictive. All those matters have to be studied. Although a consignment of export goods to America may include only 10 per cent., 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, of a commodity of a standard subject to a high rate of tariff, the higher rate is applied to the whole of that particular commodity. It is a very complex matter. I repeat that every possible avenue is being explored to ascertain whether it is possible to increase our dollar earnings through additional exports to America. Our great difficulty at the moment is that the sale of goods by the sterling area to America, both in respect of volume and prices, has been very much reduced. In the June quarter of this year the returns from the sale of tin, cocoa, rubber, wool and several other commodities fell by one-third compared with the previous quarter. Some of our great difficulties are due to the fact that we are earning very much less in dollars now even when we are selling the same quantity of goods.

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Standardization of GAUGES.


– Can the Minister for Transport say what progress has been made in reaching agreement with State governments on the subject of standardization of railway gauges, and what prospect there is of this work being put in hand in the near future ?

Minister for External Territories · EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– Progress in this important work has been delayed by the failure of the Government of New South Wales to ratify what is known as the three-State agreement, which is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. It appears that New South Wales is not prepared at this stage to proceed with the work. Direct negotiations are now taking place with individual States. I am to visit Western Australia at an early date to discuss with the Government of that State the rehabilitation of its railways, and this will involve the standardization of the gauge on the trans-Australian line from Kalgoorlie to Perth. There are also to be discussions with officials in South Australia and Victoria, and it is hoped that, as a result, some progress will be made at an early date.

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– Has the Minister for. External Affairs seen a recent report from Singapore which states that Communists from several Pacific countries, including Australia, are convening an international conference at Peiping in China later this year to discuss a “Red Master Plan “ for the Pacific. In view of the revolutionary character of the decisions likely to be made at the conference, and of the losses inflicted on our own people by Communists during the recent coal strike, will the Minister refuse passports or vises to known Australian Communists who desire to attend the conference?

Attorney-General · BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The matter of vises comes within the jurisdiction of the Department of Immigration. I am not aware that the conference to which the honorable member has referred is to be held.

Mr Francis:

– Will the Minister make inquiries about it ?


– I shall inquire into the matter. So far as Australia is concerned, the Communists have been in full and open, retreat since the recent coal strike.


– In view of the Prime Minister’s emphatic declaration that the Government regards the banning of the Communist party as a complete futility, can it be taken that he now intends to give effect to the threat of the Minister for Information to put Australian Communists into concentration camps? If not, what effective action does the Government intend to take, as a government, to deal with members of the Communist party?


– I dealt only yesterday with the proposed banning of communism. I have indicated in answer to questions at various times that if Communists, or any other members of the community, engage in subversive activities, illegal activities, or activities calculated to destroy order and good government, they will be dealt with -in accordance with the law. I do not propose to say any more on the subject except that the necessary action will he taken when the necessity for it arises.


– I desire to ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction a question based upon a report that a young man employed in London by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization was alleged to have taken a leading part in a Communist disturbance in front of Australia House. Will the Minister say whether it is a fact that the Government has received a summary of an official inquiry in London into the incident, and whether Mr. T. R. Kaiser, the young man referred to, took part in a demonstration which protested against the gaoling of union leaders during th.i coal strike? If so, will the Minister state what the Government intends to do about Mr. Kaiser? Will he make available to the House a copy of the report which has been received on the subject?


– It is true _ that a young man named Kaiser did take part in a demonstration outside Australia House in London. Kaiser was appointed to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, as it then was, in 1943. During the war, he did excellent work in the Radio-physics Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, some of it of a highly secret nature, but there was no suggestion that information about the work was divulged to unauthorized persons.


– How does the Minister know ?


– Order ! I ask honorable members to observe the courtesies of the House. Yesterday, some of them spent a good deal of time criticizing the Chair. Let them now reflect upon their own conduct.


– It has been alleged that Mr. Kaiser, at a later stage, became a member of the Communist party. He was awarded a two years’ scholarship by the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to be taken out in the United Kingdom, and two years ago he went to the United Kingdom to take up the scholarship. The members of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at that time were Sir David Rivett, Dr. A. E. V. Richardson, Dr. Clunies Ross, and Dr. E. W. G. White. There were then only four members on the executive and honorable members will appreciate that those four gentlemen are thoroughly loyal and trustworthy persons. Mr. Kaiser has been studying in the United Kingdom on the scholarship which was awarded to him. It is alleged that he took part in a demonstration in front of Australia House not very long ago. Immediately the Government received information to that effect it ordered an inquiry, which duly took place and a summary of that inquiry is in the hand? of the Government. As the result of consideration of the situation by the executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Mr. Kaiser’s appointment with the organization has been terminated.


– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether the Government has obtained full reports giving the number of government scholarship holders who participated in a Communist demonstration outside Australia House, London, last month. Did the demonstrators include a Mrs. Daphne Gollan, former secretary of the Communist New Housewives Association and former librarian and research worker of the Communist-controlled Federated Ironworkers Association? Is she the wife of Robin Allan Gollan, who is at present attending London University on a national university scholarship? Was Gollan, who is a brother of W. E. Gollan, a member of the Communist party executive, among the demonstrators? When Gollan was given his scholarship, was the Government aware of his Communist activities, and that he was a member of the Australian delegation to the Communist International Youth Conference held in New Mexico in 1942?


– So far as I am aware no other Australian Government employee participated in the demonstrations in front of Australia House, but I shall make inquiries and advise the honorable member of the result of them in due course.

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– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration relating to Somers camp. Can the Minister state the number and types of migrants who will be accommodated there? Are their services to be made available locally or are they to be held there only temporarily pending their transfer to other districts? If the latter is the case, what payments do those migrants receive when in camp, and who is responsible for such payments?

Minister for Immigration · MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP

– Generally, Somers camp can be described as what we call a holding camp for women and children. It will take at least 700 persons and we hope to build up its capacity to 1,000.

Mr White:

– It could go to 1,500.


– Perhaps, as the honorable member for Balaclava suggests, it could go up to 1,500. The honorable member for Balaclava was commanding officer there in the Royal Australian Air Force in the days when the camp was a very large Air Force establishment. We want to employ some migrant male labour in that particular district, and we are examining the possibility of using the camp as a hostel for workers as well as for a holding camp for migrants’ wives and dependants. The people who live in holding centres pay, on the average, 25s. a week whilst those occupying places in departmental hostels pay £2 12s. 6d. a week for board and lodgings. Generally, conditions at the hostels are much better than those at holding centres. Our original idea was to use Somers camp, which is within 40 miles of Melbourne, as a centre to which new Australians working in Melbourne could go at the week-end to see their wives and dependants.

Mr Ryan:

– Are all of those persons new Australians ?


– Yes, at present. I hope that when we get over the rush which we are now experiencing in handling these people, and which will possibly continue for a year or so, we shall be able to use the camp for the handling of British migrants who come to Australia.


– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. I have been in formed by some displaced persons and others associated with them that there is a great deal of discontent amongst displaced persons who are working under the terms of the contracts under which they entered Australia about what they regard as the breach of a promise that was made to them before they came to this country. They say that they were promised that, if they came to Australia, they would be permitted to live with their wives here. Will the Minister have inquiries made in order to find out whether or not such a promise was made to them in Europe? If it was made, will he make

Mire that a similar promise is not made to other persons about to come here from Europe? Will he also take steps to ameliora te the position of those who are here, so that, as far as possible, they may be able to live with their womenfolk while they are working here under contract ?


– Promises were made to persons who were invited to volunteer to come to Australia under the condition,” that we laid down that, at the earliest possible moment, we would enable families to be re-united so that the bread-winners would be able to maintain them in the localities in which they were working. Promises were made that we would give every other assistance within our power to make these people happy in their new surroundings. Because of the housing shortage which affects the Australian public - the honorable gentleman is probably not aware of it - it is not possible to enable every displaced person sent to a particular town to rent a house in that town.

Mr Beale:

– Were they the only promises that were made?


– No. I have told the honorable member that we promised that we would do our very best to re-unite families as soon as possible. There may be some discontent amongst some of those people because they cannot all live in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart or wherever they may want to live and cannot do just precisely what they want to do. However, it must be borne in mind that many Australians who follow seasonal occupations have to go away from their homes at various periods of the year. The new Australians, of course, come from very crowded districts in Europe and they are not accustomed to conditions that obtain in Australia. There may be some discontent amongst some of them. One finds unreasonable people everywhere. There are even unreasonable people in the Liberal party.

Mr McDonald:

– A very small minority.


– I know that the honorable member has to put up with a lot as the party Whip. We do our very best to satisfy all the people who come here. We operate upon the good principle, for both old Australians and new Australians, of doing the greatest good for the greatest possible number and I think that generally we have achieved good results.

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– Has the Prime Minister read a report published in to-day’s press that a substantial increase of the price of gas has been granted by the Victorian Liberal Government to the Metropolitan Gas Company, and the Brighton Gas Company in Melbourne? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that this is the fourth price rise that has been granted to these companies since the rents and prices referendum was held in May of last year? Is he also aware that there is considerable dissatisfaction among consumers over this further substantial increase? Finally, is this not a striking indication of the ineffective manner in which prices are controlled by Liberal and Country party governments in the State sphere?


– I have not seen the press report to which the honorable member has referred, but I know that several increases of the price of gas have been approved, and that an application for a further increase of price had been made.

Apparently that increase has been granted as the press has indicated, if, of course, the press report can be taken as a reliable guide. I have said previously that, with divided control, great difficulties would arise in co-ordinating prices in the variousStates and inevitably great increases of prices would result. That has occurred. Because of all the difficulties associated with prices control the Commonwealth was anxious to retain that control on a uniform basis as far as possible so that rises in costs could be checked. It must be clear that there are certain elements affecting costs which would inevitably result in some price increases irrespective of who controlled them. Those increases, however, have been very much greater under the divided control, or the lack of co-ordinated control by the States, than would otherwise have been the case.

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– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether certain importing countries listed in the International Wheat Agreement have not yet ratified the agreement ? If so, how many countries are so situated? Have these countries been given extended time for ratification, and, if so, is it not unfair, and economically unsound, that those countries should foe able to wait and watch the wheat market before becoming parties to the agreement, whilst Australia has been a party and has been receiving the lower price fixed by the agreement since the 1st August last?

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · ALP

– I note that the honorable member has questioned the fairness of some countries being able to delay the ratification of the agreement. I point out that the conditions of attachment to the agreement are laid down in the agreement itself and that the honorable member voted in this Parliament in favour of the agreement. I shall be glad to furnish to the honorable member as soon as possible a list of the countries which have still to ratify the agreement.

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Australian Capital Territory Franchise


– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior. Is it a fact that a directive has been issued by the Department of the Interior in relation to employees in the Australian Capital Territory who are in receipt of living-away-from-home allowances that they are entitled to vote at the forthcoming elections in the Australian Capital Territory? If this is so, for what purpose is the livingawayfromhome allowance paid? Is a person who is temporarily resident in the Australian Capital Territory and in receipt of such an allowance entitled to vote here, and, if so, is he disqualified from voting in the electorate in which he ordinarily resides? Has this directive been issued so as to. make it easier for the Labour candidate to fight the next election ?


– To attempt to go into the details of the application of living away-from-home allowances in Canberra would take up a considerable amount of the time of the House. I know most of the facts associated with the question, but I think that it would be better if I had a statement prepared and read it to the House on another occasion so that the whole matter could he fully explained.

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Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -

That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1948.

Bill presented, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction · CORIO, VICTORIA · ALP

. - by leave-I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

By this bill it is proposed to effect the amendments of the Income Tax Assessment Act which were forecast in the budget speech. The most important of the amendments extends the depreciation allowances for wear and tear of plant and machinery. Honorable members will recall that, in 1946, measures were taken by this Government to assist the post-war rehabilitation of industry and the establishment of new industries in this country. One of the taxation concessions granted to industry at that time was the allowance of an initial depreciation deduction amounting to 20 per cent, of the cost of plant acquired or installed during the period from the 1st July, 1945, to the 30th June, 1950. The allowance has provided great benefits to industry, as it has served to offset, to a large degree, the inflated costs of new equipment in the post-war period. Leaders of industry have represented to the Government that an extension of the period of the allowance is necessary, as the high costs of plant replacement have not only been accentuated since 1946, but also are likely to continue indefinitely. To meet the needs of industry, the bill contains a clause extending the concession for a further two years until the 30th June, 1952. This extension will assist manufacturers in long-range plans for plant replacement and expansion.

At the same time, the Government has recognized that industry would be further assisted by increasing the initial depreciation allowance from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent. It is proposed in this bill, therefore, to afford taxpayers an opportunity, if they so elect, to deduct 40 per cent, of the cost of new plant in lieu of the 20 per cent, now allowed. This increased allowance conforms broadly with amendments of the United Kingdom income tax law which were made earlier this year.

The bill also contains a provision regarding the concessional rebate of tax on life assurance premiums, superannuation fund contributions, friendly society payments and the like. Since 1936, the total payments in respect of which this particular rebate is allowed to a taxpayer have been limited to a maximum of £100 in each year. Taxpayers now find themselves obliged to expend proportion.tely greater sums in order to make suitable provision for their retirement or for ;heir dependants. In recognition of this “act, the Government proposes to raise he maximum to £150. A small technical amendment included in the bill will enable taxpayers to obtain credit in respect of tax instalment stamps which they have purchased but which have been destroyed before remission in pavment of tax. As is customary with bills amending the Income Tax Assessment Act, an explanatory memorandum has been prepared for the information of honorable members. 1 commend the bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. SPENDER) adjourned.

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– I move -

That the .Ruling of the Deputy Speaker - that the terms of the matter proposed to be discussed on the 2nd March, 1949, on a motion for the adjournment of the House to be moved by the right honorable the member for Cowper, had been the subject of a previous debate this session - be disagreed with.

I regret that I have to pursue a subject that was dealt with so fully yesterday in the debate on the motion of want of confidence in you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the motion which I have submitted relates to a specific ruling that you have given. First, I take great exception to the long delay in the bringing of this matter before the House. From time to time honorable members have been told that if they are dissatisfied with a ruling of the Chair, their remedy lies in notifying their dissent in writing, in the orderly course of the conduct of this House. Standing Order 287 reads -

If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must bc taken at once, and in writing . . .

I complied with both of those requirements and Motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the House, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.

I point out that although I moved my motion on the 2nd March, an opportunity to debate this matter has only now been accorded me. The Standing Order specifically mentions that debate on a motion shall be adjourned to the next sitting day.

Mr Scully:

– The honorable member has had plenty of time to think about it.


– My complaint is that there has been plenty of time for the matter to be forgotten. If justice is to be satisfactory in any department of life it is very essential that it shall be meted out promptly. There was no obstacle in the way of this matter being determined by the Parliament. Although early in March the circumstances relating to this ruling by the Chair were fresh in the minds of all honorable members, the heavy volume of business that has since been dealt with by the House since then may have caused many of the details to be forgotten. My motion of dissent from your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, arose as a result of an effort that was made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to move the adjournment of the House to deal with specific matters relating to the health of the community. In this connexion, Standing Order 38 provides that a motion for the. adjournment of the House shall be proposed only under certain conditions. Thi? Standing Order is lengthy. In brief, it provides that an honorable member must rise in his place, and that his motion must be supported by five other honorable members. It does not provide that notice must be given of an honorable member’s intention. The relevant portion of Standing Order 38 provides that an honorable member -

  1. . before the business of the day is culled on, rising in his place shall propose to move the adjournment for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance (which he shall then state and hand in, in writing to the Speaker-) . . .

He is then given the right to address the House on his motion. The right honorable member for Cowper was refused that permission by you on certain grounds. I again take the gravest exception to the manner in which you drew your authority to reject the right honorable gentleman’s petition, because you based it upon the tenth edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice, which you cited. The following passage appears at page 241 of that edition -

The Speaker also is bound to apply to these matters the established rules of debate, and to enforce the principle that subjects excluded by those rules cannot be brought forward thereon ; such as a matter under adjudication by a court of law, or matters already discussed during the current session . . .

I should like to know why you had recourse to the tenth edition of May when there is a copy of the fourteenth edition in the Parliamentary Library. Doubtless you would have a copy of that most recent edition in your possession. At page 375 of the fourteenth edition this rule appears -

A motion or an amendment may not be brought forward which is the same in sub stance as a question which has been decided in the affirmative or negative during the current session.

The ruling given by you on that occasion is at variance with that provision to a substantial degree. This pertinent section of the fourteenth edition continues -

The rule may he stated fully as follows: - No question or bill shall be offered in either House that is substantially the same as one on which its judgment has already been expressed in the current session.

This rule varies considerably from the one contained in the tenth edition of May published many years ago, on which you relied.


– Order ! The honorable gentleman should use titles in order to conform with the Standing Orders.


– I am sorry if 1 have offended in that respect. I am referring to yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The right honorable member for Cowper, who is a doctor of medicine by profession, endeavoured to bring before the House certain matters relating to public health. The right honorable gentleman desired to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing -

The urgent necessity of securing the full, spontaneous co-operation of the medical, dental, pharmaceutical and nursing professions, of State and hospital organizations and of voluntary sickness benefit organizations with the Commonwealth Government to ensure a successful and satisfactory national health service.

That was disallowed by Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask honorable members to note particularly the wording of that motion. Mr. Deputy Speaker disallowed it on the ground that it conflicted with the rulings given in the tenth edition of May and also on the ground that it was a matter that had been discussed in the current session, in the preceding year, when the National Health Service Bill 1948 was brought down. I point out that if that ruling is to be insisted upon, honorable members will be virtually unable to, bring anything before this House after the budget session, because almost everything that one can conceive to be spoken about is discussed during that session. If it were insisted upon by the Chair that nothing that had been dealt with in a current session could be used as the basis of a motion for the adjournment df the House, there would be complete strangulation of the principles of debate in connexion with such motions. Immediately after Mr. Deputy Speaker had ruled that motion out of order, the right honorable member for Cowper wrote out, and handed to Mr. Deputy Speaker, a fresh motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing -

The urgent necessity of implementing immediately a successful and satisfactory national health scheme.

As soon as the right honorable member for Cowper did that, in compliance with his rights under the Standing Orders, Mr. Deputy Speaker ruled that he would not accept the motion because the right honorable gentleman had not given due notice of it. I repeat that there- is no provision in- the Standing Orders that due notice ought to be given. The ruleis very definite- and clear-. Standing Order 3-5 provides th’at an honorable member shall’ write out the motion that he intends to move, and hand it to Mr. Speaker, and:’ that if’ he is supported1 by five other honorable members the motion shall be put before the House. The right honor able gentleman complied1’ with that Standing- Order.


– But regard most Be bad for established’ custom.

Mir. ANTHONY. - I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh, (Mr. Thompson ).. Established custom a> motion* for the adjournment of the House-,, based1 on- material such as t]ia* presented1 by the- right honorable member- for Cowper; shall’ Be placed’ before- the House-. I agree, also, that it is highly desirable that notice1 should be given to- Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, and the Minister who may have to deal’ with- the- subject.


– Notice*, was given- inthis> instance-


– I contend that’ if it is’ to be mandatory that notice shall be given, that, provision ought’ to be included, in. the Standing Orders. Mr. Speaker or his deputy should’ not be called! upon suddenly to adjudicate whether reference to a matter of very great importance is in order or otherwise. However, the right honorable member for Cowper was prevented from proceeding on the ground that the matter that he proposed to discuss had already been dealt with by the House. A fortnight later the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) introduced the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill 1949 into another place. That measure dealt with a matter that is substantially the same as that to which the right honorable member for Cowper desired to- refer on his motion for the adjournment of the House. Indeed, it might almost be said that in many respects the contents of the measure had been filched from the public announcement that the right honorable gentleman had been compelled to make to the press in lieu of making it to this House. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that the Minister for Health, in moving the second reading, of that bill,, said’ -

Under this- bill there will’ be no compulsion on medical practitioners or pharmaceutical chemists to take part in the scheme.

The matter to which the right honorable member for Cowper desired to refer was the urgent necessity of securing the full and’, spontaneous co-operation of the medical and pharmaceutical professionswith the Government to- ensure a satisfactory and successful national health, scheme. It. was,, in substance;, the matter th,at. was dealt with by the Pha.rma,ceutical Benefits- Bills 1949-.. Nevertheless, a fortnight before that bill was’ introduced,. Mr., Deputy Speaker denied the- right- honorable’ mem-ber for Cowper the right to- move- the adjournment’ of the* House on, the ground that- the matter* that he proposed, to discuss1 was1 one that’ had been fully debated’ by the House’ within the last few preceding; months’.. ]Taxing regard to the long debate that took place yesterday regarding the conduct’ of the; Chair, I do not intend to labour this matter unduly. I direct the attention of t&e House again to a passage that occurs at page 3.75 of the. fourteenth edition of May, because theincident in. which- the: right, honorable;- member for Cowper was involved may be said to establish a precedent under which other honorable members will be deprived of their rights in the future. The passage is as follows : -

Matters already decided during the same session. - A motion or an amendment may not be brought forward which is the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided . . . during the current session.

An obligation is cast upon the occupant of the chair to distinguish between a motion which is the same in substance as one that has been dealt with during the current session and a motion which touches only in some degree upon matters that have already been discussed during the session. If the occupant of the chair were to give rulings on the lines of your ruling on that occasion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there would be scarcely a matter that a private member could discuss on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House.

I protest against the Government’s disregard of the Parliament by delaying until the 9th September a motion of dissent from a ruling of the Chair that was given as far back as the 2nd March. The motion refers to a very simple matter, and it could have been disposed of on the day following the occurrence of the incident if the Government had been conscious of the rights of honorable members of this House.

Sir Earle Page:

– I formally second the motion.

Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction · Corio · ALP

– On the 2nd March of this year the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) intimated that he desired to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing the following matter : -

The urgent necessity of securing the full, spontaneous co-operation of the medical, dental, pharmaceutical and .nursing profession, of State and hospital organizations and of voluntary sickness benefit associations with the Commonwealth Government to ensure a successful and satisfactory national health service.

The proposed motion was rejected by Mr. Deputy Speaker on the ground that that matter had already been fully discussed that session, that is, this session of the Parliament. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has said that the matter was discussed in the previous year; but, in fact, it was discussed only three months prior to the 2nd March. It was very fully debated on the motion for the second reading of the National Health Service Bill, to which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who was then Acting Leader of the Opposition, moved an amendment which covered practically the same ground as the matter that the honorable member for Cowper desired to discuss on his motion for the adjournment of the House. Parliamentary practice prohibits debate upon a matter that has already been decided by the House. In addition, the following principle is enunciated at page 426 of May : -

Reference to the debates of the current session is discouraged, even if such reference is not irrelevant, as it tends to reopen matters already decided.

The right honorable member for Cowper really desired to use the forms of the House to put the case for the British Medical Association regarding its refusal to co-operate with the Government in the implementation of legislation that had been passed by the Parliament.

Mr Anthony:

– I rise to order. The sincerity of an honorable member in proposing a motion to the House should not be impugned. The Minister has said that the right honorable member for Cowper, in attempting to bring his motion before the House, was acting as the spokesman of the British Medical Association. There is no justification for such a statement.


– There is no point of order involved. It is purely an expression of opinion.


– I do not think that any one could imagine a more flagrant attempt to use the forms of the House in a manner contrary to parliamentary practice. The attempt was rejected by Mr. Deputy Speaker, who quoted from page 241 of the tenth edition of May as follows : -

The Speaker is bound to apply to these motions the established rules of debate and to enforce the principle that subjects excluded by those rules cannot be brought forward thereon; such as a matter under adjudication by a court of law, or matters already discussed during the present session, whether upon a previous motion for adjournment, upon a substantive motion, upon an amendment or upon an order of the day.

In plain fact, the right honorable member for Cowper was endeavouring to obstruct the business of the country, and was using the forms of the House to do so. The honorable member for Richmond, the mover of this motion, has overlooked the fact that Mr. Speaker has to be satisfied, before allowing a debate to proceed, that the proposal complies with certain conditions such as whether it is specific, and whether it is urgent, also whether the debate would be in conformity with the rules of procedure generally agreed upon. I refer the House to an extract from page 344 of May’s Parliamentary Practice,, fourteenth edition, which quotes the attitude of Mr. Speaker Peel to urgency motions generally. The extract reads -

What I think was contemplated was the occurrence of some sudden emergency either in home or foreign affairs. But I do not think it waa contemplated . . . that a question of very wide scope, which would demand legislation to deal with it in any effective manner, should be the subject of discussion . . .

In fact, the matter that the right honorable member for Cowper wished to raise, was not an urgent matter in that it had already been dealt with only three months earlier in this Parliament. I submit that Mr. Deputy Speaker’s ruling was a correct statement of parliamentary practice, and that his ruling therefore should be upheld by this House.

Motion (hy Mr. Scully) proposed -

That the question be now put.

Sir EARLE Page:

– It is absolute dirt. There is no freedom in this House at all. The Government is afraid of the truth.

Honorable members interjecting,


-Order! Honorable members are not entitled to take advantage of a division for the purpose of being disorderly. They must conform to the Standing Orders.

Question put. The House divided. (Me. Deputy Speaker - Mb. j. j. Clark.)

AYES: 30

NOES: 23

Majority . . 7



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Question put -

That the motion (vide page 172) be agreed to.

The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mb. j. j. CLARK:

AYES: 23

NOES: 33

Majority 10



Question so resolved in the negative.

Leader of the Opposition · Kooyong

– I move -

That the Ruling of the Deputy Speaker - that the proposed amendment of the Right Honorable the Leader of the Opposition to the motion for the second reading of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was outside the terms of the bill - be disagreed with.

This is a motion of dissent from a ruling given by the Chair. The incident out of which it arose took place some time ago, and for two reasons I do not propose to occupy the time of the House with it. First, it has been made perfectly clear within the last 24 hours - if it needed to be made clear - that any such motion will be dealt with on party lines, and automatically defeated. I am no fonder of wasting my own time than I am of wasting other people’s, and it would be a waste of time to debate this motion, which ought to be considered on its merits as a matter of interpretation, but which we are now told quite plainly will be dealt with as a party matter. Secondly, if a motion of this kind is to be discussed, honorable members with a point of view regarding it might desire an opportunity to express their point of view. Although it is Friday morning, and 70 minutes before the time the House is due to adjourn, one motion of dissent has already been gagged after one speech from this side of the House. I do not propose to instigate any more such foolish proceedings. I can only express my astonishment, and indicate that I do not intend to offer any argument at all on the motion.

Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction · Corio · ALP

– Since the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) does not propose to offer any argument on this motion, it is not necessary for me to do so, either. I merely wish to make this point : The right honorable gentleman suggested that every matter brought before the House should be considered on its merits. My reply is that every matter brought before the House is considered on its merits, but it can happen that a proposition which the Leader of the Opposition and honorable members opposite think has some merit, in the opinion of the Government has no merit at all.

Question put -

That the motion be agreed to.

The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)

AYES: 22

NOES: 34

Majority 12



Question so resolved in the negative.

Mr.Harrison. - I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like you to advise honorable members of the question on which the last division was taken. I distinctly heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) when dealing with notice of motion No. 3 - under “ General Business say that he did not intend to occupy the time of the House. He did not move a motion, and none was seconded. Yet the House divided. I should like you to explain, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on what motion the division was taken.


– If the Leader of the Opposition intended’ to withdraw his motion he did not, apparently, give that impression to the House. I was not in the chamber at the time, and when I returned to the Chair I understood the House to call for a division on a motion of objection to a ruling by Mr. Deputy Speaker. A division was taken, the result of which I have just announced.

page 178


Motion (by Mr. Dedmam) put -

That the House do now adjourn.


– I declare the Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sir Earle Page:

– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I had risen in my place before you declared the question resolved in the affirmative.


– The Chair did not hear any honorable member call before declaring that the question had been resolved in the affirmative. When I put the motion I was not interrupted. Therefore, I declared’ the motion carried.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 178


The following papers were presented : -

Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations -

Orders- Nos. 3432-3435.

National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 161, 102.

House adjourned at 12 noon.

page 178


The following answers to questions were circulated: -


Mr.Adermann asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice - 1.When was the New Zealand embargo upon the importation of Australiancattle imposed?

Mr.Pollard. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

Cattle from Australia excluding Tasmania have never been allowed entry into New Zealand.

The reason for the New Zealand embargo on the entry of Australian cattle is the existence in Australia of contagious bovine pleuro pneumonia and tick fever.

The question of lifting the embargo was first raised with the New Zealand Government in July,1936, and again in June, 1945. On the latter occasion the Australian Government’s request was chiefly based on - (i) the infrequency ofocerrrence of pleuro pneumonia in States other than Queensland; (ii) the contention that the use of the complement fixation test along with other specified precautions would allow the importation of cattle from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia into New Zealand with a high degree of safety. In reply, the New

Zealand Government advised that serious consideration had been given to all aspects of this matter, but referred to the fact that measures adopted in Australia had not prevented infection being brought into other States from Queensland and consequently New South Wales and Victoria must be regarded as possible sources of infection.Further that while the Dominion Government agreed that the complement fixation tost for pleuro pneumonia was undoubtedly a valuable diagnostic test, it was pointed out that no test was recognized to be 100 per cent. reliable. It was also stated that, having regard to these aspects and the organized opposition of New Zealand farmers to the introduction of stock from any country from which contagious stock diseases might be brought, the New Zealand Government was not prepared at that stage to relax the existing prohibition on cattle from Australia, but was prepared to review the position from time to time with the object of permitting importation as soon as it should be abundantly clear that cattle could be imported from Australia without risk.

Mr Pollard:

– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes.
  3. The possibility of a devaluation of sterling or of any alteration in the direct relationship of Australian currency to sterling, is not specifically mentioned in any of the longterm contracts concluded with the United Kingdom Government in respect of the bulk purchase and sale of Australian primary products. In the case of the meat, butter and cheese and egg contracts, there is a provision in each whereby an annual review of the terms and conditions of the contract may be sought on substantial grounds. As regards all contracts, however, devaluation of sterling would be regarded by the Commonwealth Government as creating exceptional circumstances justifying reconsideration of such contracts.
Mr Johnson:
Minister for the Interior · KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

The property known as Craig’s Buildings, Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, was not purchased by the Commonwealth. It is owned by the Commonwealth Bank. I am not in a position to furnish the information desired.

Mr.Ryan asked the Minister for the

Interior, upon notice -

  1. To whom, at what date, for what price and subject to what conditions was Somers camp sold?
  2. How much money was expended by the purchaser on improvements to Somers camp?
  3. What sum was paid by the Government for the re-purchase of the camp?
Mr Francis:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What is Australia’s present gold production and what is its value?
  2. In view of the economic difficultiesof sterling 6toc countries, would an increase in the official American rate from 35 to 55 dollars an ounce provide an additional 300,000,000 dollars a year for Great Britain and the Dominions, excluding Canada?
  3. Does the International Monetary Fund control the price of gold; if so, will the Government apply to the International Monetary Fund for an adjustment in the price ofgold?
  4. How long has the present price been in operation ?

Income Tax: Rebates

Mr Francis:

s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. In view of general hardships suffered by people who are out of work because of sickness and who are compelled to live on their capital in the absence of any income, will he reconsider the limit of £50 as the maximum amount of medical expenses for which a rebate may be claimed?
  2. Did the Taxpayers Association recently ask the Government to increase from £100 to £300 rebatable expenses on life assurance premiums, friendly societies and superannuation; if so, what steps has the Government taken to meet this request?
Mr Chifley:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. This question was examined in 1944, when the limit of £50 applied to the total medical expenses of the taxpayer and bin spouse and children under the age of 21 years. Following the examination, the concession was enlarged so that the maximum rebatable amount of medical expenses became £50 for the taxpayer, £50 for his spouse and £5.0 for each of his children under 21 years of age. Thus, in the case of a taxpayer with a wife and two children, the rebatable amount may be as high as £200 each year. It is recognized that the limit is exceeded in some cases, but the concession does substantially assist taxpayers who are obliged to incur medical expenses. It is considered that the present allowance is reasonable and accordingly it ia not proposed to further increase the concessional allowance.
  2. Yes. Representations urging an increase in the maximum rebatable amount for life assurance premiums, superannuation contributions and similar payments were received from many quarters. As announced in my budget speech, it is proposed to raise the maximum rebatable amount from £100 to £150.

Empire Trading Company.

Mr Chambers:

s. - On the 29th June, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked a question regarding two high-ranking serving Army officers stationed in Japan being associated with an engineer of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria in the formation of a company in Japan called the Empire Trading Company. I have investigated this matter, and desire to advise the honorable member as follows: -

The Commander-in-Chief, British Commonwealth Occupation Force, has intimated that his head-quarters has no knowledge of any officers serving in Japan having acted in conjunction with an engineer of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria in regard to the formation of the Empire Trading Company. The Commander-in-Chief further advises that, if any officers made any inquiries on behalf of the State Electricity Commisssion in Victoria, they were made without the knowledge or sanction of his head-quarters. Tt is a fact that an electrical, engineer of the State Electricity Commission visited Japan in 1948 and arranged contracts for the purchase of insulators on behalf of the Electricity Supply Association of Australia, members of which include the principal electricity authorities in Australia. The State Electricity Commission has informed my department that the engineer previously referred to is in no way associated with the Empire Trading Company, and that he is not aware of the identity of the principals of that company.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.