19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the House that I have received a letter from the Speaker of the United Kingdom House . of Commons. I propose to lay it upon the table of the .House and furnish party leaders with copies of it. The purpose of the letter is to acquaint the House of the fact that His Majesty the King will open the new House of Commons on the 26th October of this year and that it is the desire of the United Kingdom Government and the Speaker of the House of Commons that this House shall he represented there. A reply by air mail is requested. I lay on the table the following paper : -
New House of Commons, Westminster - Invitation to Opening on the 26th October, 1950.
– I direct a question to the. Minister for External Territories which arises from the news that the Australian Government had appointed an official of the Department of External Territories as hangman of alleged Japanese war criminals before the war crimes trials had even commenced. “Will the Minister issue a statement freeing the Australian people from the contempt of enlightened opinion arising from the implication that the trials are proceeding to a known conclusion of guilt and the death sentence? Why was the appointment of an executioner made before the trials started? Does the Minister expect that such a proceeding will gain the respect of the peoples of Asia for our ideas of justice? “Will the Minister cancel the appointment of the hangman because of his association with a primitive people, and their respect for him as a civilizing influence may be weakened if he becomes an executioner. I ask that this action he taken also because of his indiscretion in asking for £30 a head for each execution to be paid into a welfare fund, the implementation being that the greater the number of individuals executed the more a deserving charity will benefit?
– I do not think that an argumentative question such as that can he of any benefit to the Parliament or to Australia and I regret very much that the honorable member has seen fit to couch it in the terms that he has used. I do not know of any such appointment
– It was reported in the press
– One reads many things in the press. It is rather strange that a member of the Opposition”, which constantly criticizes the press, should use a press report as the foundation for a question. I know of no such appointment as the honorable member has mentioned. If one has been made I shall see that it is cancelled.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, in view of the definite ministerial statement that the Government intends, under its proposed national health scheme, to provide every child in Australia under the age of twelve years with half a pint of milk daily and the fact that bulk milk rations in New South “Wales and the
Australian Capital Territory have already been cut by 10 per cent., he will indicate what incentive to production the Government has in mind to meet the new demand?
– The honorable member may be assured that, in deciding upon any policy, the Government will have full regard to the availability of milk.
– My question to the Postmaster-General follows - a statement which he made to the House recently about the liberalization of the terms for the. provision of telephone services in country areas. “Will the honorable gentleman inform me whether the decision in that matter will apply to the large number of applications which have been outstanding for some time, and which have been held up because of the fust that intending subscribers were not able to meet the required financial requirements? In other words, do the new provisions apply only to new applications, or do they extend to outstanding applications as well ?
– Instructions have been issued to the Deputy Directors of Posts and Telegraphs in all the States to re-examine all the applications and to aPPly to them the terms that I announced in the House last week.
– In view of reports “ that officers of the Postal Department have disconnected telephones which, it has been alleged, have been used for starting price betting purposes, does the Postmaster-General propose to continue the system that has operated for many years whereby telephone subscribers who have been convicted of unlawful practices of that kind have subsequently had their telephones disconnected, or does he intend to appoint himself investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury in dealing with such cases and to take action at his own discretion to disconnect such telephones?
– Authority to take action in instances of the kind to which the honorable member has referred is vested in the Postmaster-General under the Post and Telegraph. Act. “Where abuses are found to be occurring in connexion with the use of telephones, the Postmaster-General has absolute discretion to take action regardless of any police action that might also be taken. In the instances that have been mentioned t have taken action upon evidence that has been obtained by departmental investigators and as the result of inquiries conducted by other persons. Those inquiries ha.ve been made in a proper manner. In some instances we found that in suburbs where many persons have been endeavouring to obtain telephones for the past two or three years, there were seven telephones installed in one house. I do not think that any one can justify such a state of affairs. In another suburb where, also, many people have been endeavouring for some time to obtain telephones, as many as fifteen telephones were found on the one premises. I do not think that any action taken to remedy such conditions needs much justification.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral investigate the possibility of increasing the comparatively small allotment of rural automatic exchange equipment, to South Australia? In the distribution of such equipment will the honorable gentleman consider the claims of subscribers in sparsely populated areas who at present are seriously inconvenienced by the inadequate service provided by manually operated exchanges?
– It is realized that a rural automatic exchange provides a very great convenience to subscribers who live in country districts. Automatic exchange equipment is as far as practicable equitably apportioned over al! the States. I shall look into the position in South Australia, in order to satisfy myself and the honorable member that that State is receiving its just share of such equipment.
– In addressing a question to the Postmaster-General I state by way of explanation that I have received numerous complaints from all parts of my electorate regarding the closing of telephone exchanges, postal agencies, &c, during the lunch-hours of the officers in charge of such establishments. Attention is drawn to the fact that during harvesting operations breakages freqently occur to farming machinery, and fanners on their return home for lunch desire to contact their agents by telephone so as to procure necessary -new parts. Graziers also desire at all hours of the day to speak to stock agents regarding markets. Would it not be possible to have an extension bell from the exchange placed in the living- quarters of the officer in charge and also to grant extra remuneration to an officer for remaining on call during his lunch hour?
– The provision of non-official officers is not an easy matter either for the Postmaster-General’s Department or for the people of country areas. A non-official postmaster himself must consent to the hours that are fixed. Those hours cannot be arbitrarily imposed upon him by the Postmaster-General’s Department because frequently they would be inconvenient to non-official officers, many of whom are engaged in additional activities such as farming. If the honorable member will bring any particular instance to my notice I shall have it investigated. Non-official postmasters now come under the provisions of arbitration, and their remuneration is determined exclusively by arbitration.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question regarding the shortage of telephone instruments. What is the estimated shortage of instruments? Prom where are instruments obtained? What number of telephone instruments is being made in this country? Can the supply be expedited ?
– I shall have to obtain the facts before I can answer the right honorable gentleman’s question. I shall do so and let him have an answer.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House of the name of his informant in the recent starting price betting telephone tapping sensation, in which startling disclosures were made to the effect that employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department were listening in to conversations between racing men, telegraphing the information which they had gained in that way to agents in various parts of the country, and then retailing it to the general public at a price? Is it a fact that his informer is none other than a wealthy registered Australian Jockey Club paddock bookmaker, who is a very active member of the Liberal party of Australia and a very close friend of the editor of the sheet that exposed the scandal? Indeed, does not the bookmaker live in close proximity to the editor? Is it a fact that the informer is still engaged in transmitting racing information through the General Post Office channels, and that since the disclosures were made, he has raised his rates for that information to the remarkable price of fo a wire? Is it also a fact that instructions have been given by the Postmaster-General personally to his investigators in the General Post Office that there is to be no interference with thi9 informer, that his blackmarketing operations are not to be’ disturbed, and that his telephones are not to be disconnected? Such is to be the price for the information received. Is it also a tact that the informer will have no obstacles placed in his way in the establishment of a monopoly in blackmarket racketeering? Will the PostmasterGeneral give an assurance that the two telephones which the informer is using will be disconnected immediately?
– If any justification is required for my action in ordering the disconnexion of quite a number of telephones in Sydney, it is the question which the honorable member for Watson has asked. The honorable gentleman has referred to an informer. I may state that the first information which the Postal Department received about the matter came from the police department. It raised the case, and the investigators of the Postal Department then began their inquiries. That investigation disclosed the wide ramifications of the activities of persons who have been illegally using the telephone services, and I exercised my authority with complete impartiality. I have no personal knowledge or acquaintance in any shape or form with any of the individuals involved. I do not know who the department’s informant was, nor do I know any of the persons whose telephones have been disconnected. My only consideration in the matter has been that those who have abused the telephone services should be brought to book as quickly as possible in the interests of the public generally, and particularly those of the thousands of persons in Sydney who havebeen unable to obtain telephones. At present over 40,000 applications for telephones are outstanding. As I mentioned in reply to an earlier question, more than half a dozen telephones were found concealed in cupboards in one house. I ordered such telephones to be disconnected and to be allocated to exservice personnel, persons who are ill, and aged and other classes of persons who have a high priority for telephones. I am sure that that action will be endorsed by the Parliament.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Health. 1 have in my hand a piece of “ boong “ twist that has been issued to the patients at the Bundoora hospital, a mental home for ex-servicemen, as a smoking mixture. Will the right honorable gentleman take possession of this piece of “boong” twist, and smoke it, or will he ask one of his colleagues to smoke it, and if the reactions are as I confidently expect that they will be, will he ensure that those ex-servicemen, who deserve to be treated so well by their country, shall be provided with a choicer selection of smoking mixture ?
– I cannot promise that I shall smoke the piece of “boong” twist to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I shall try it on my colleagues, and perhaps the Leader of the Opposition will be willing to test it. If that is found to be impossible, I shall have the twist examined with a view to determining what it really consists of.
– I bring to the notice of the Prime Minister a joint statement by several Liberal party candidates who are contestants in the New South Wales election, and also to a statement by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, to the effect that the recent increase by 25 per cent, of State pension rates payable to former railway, tramway and omnibus employees had been wholly or partly off-set by corresponding reductions in the age and invalid pensions payable to them. In view of that anomaly and injustice, will the Prime Minister use his influence to have a suitable adjustment made so that: people who pay for superannuation as well as for social services shall receive the benefit of those schemes? As that increased payment is a practical step by the Labour Government of New South Wales to put some value back into the £1,. will the Prime Minister give his full cooperation in the matter?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred,- but I shall be happy to have it examined.
– Will the Minister for
National Development inform me whether it is a fact, as stated by a responsible Minister in Sydney on the 2nd June last, that it is the intention of the Government to assist local governing bodies with their problem of main roads, feeder roads and maintenance from the national fund of £250,000,000? If that is so, will the Minister make a considered statement so as to prevent any confused thinking among those who s’erve on local govern)7ig bodies?
– I saw a reference in the press to a statement by one of my colleagues during the last few days which, as I read it, was broadly and, perhaps, in particular, in accordance with the statement by the present Prime Minister in his policy speech during the general election campaign nearly six months ago. The means of implementing the Government’s policy, particularly in relation to the provision of financial assistance to local government authorities for stated purposes, is under active consideration at present. I believe that it will take at least several months in consultation with the States to work out adequate machinery for that purpose. As soon as the Government has determined its policy, I shall make a statement on the matter.
– With respect to the provision of grants by the Government; to the States for the construction of roads, I ask the Minister for National Development whether, in addition to the grants that are now made under the federal aid roads scheme for the construction of access roads, the Government will consider making grants to the States for the construction of other classes of roads, including main roads in sparsely populated areas, particularly in the northern and western parts of Queensland? Will the Government make such additional grants available and thus provide practical evidence that it actually has under consideration developmental plans about which -many reports have been published in the press recently, but of which no concrete evidence has been forthcoming?
– The honorable member has asked several questions on previous occasions on the matter that he has just raised. I again inform him that the Government is now working out machinery for assisting the States in respect of their developmental plans. This is a very big task which must be worked out in conjunction with the States, and the matter is actively under consideration at present. As I said in reply to a question that was asked earlier this afternoon, it will take some months at least to evolve the administrative machinery necessary for the scheme and as soon as that is done I shall make a statement on the subject to the Parliament.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation what progress has been made with the provision of landing aids for use under conditions of low visibility at airports at the capital cities, including Canberra, and other important airports for the construction of which authority was given last financial year? Can he state whether the work for which provision was made at Canberra is nearing completion? In view of the arrival of seasonal conditions of low visibility which cause considerable delays and inconvenience, can he say when the work will be completed?
– The Department of Civil Aviation is installing, as an interim measure, two runway localizers, one being at Essendon and the other at Mascot, for testing purposes and also to improve traffic control facilities. Approval has been given for the installation of thirteen instrument landing systems at the major airports between Cairns and Perth and also in Tasmania and at Darwin. Tenders for the supply of that equipment have closed and are now under consideration. I shall obtain information with respect to the provision of landing aids at Canberra, and supply the details to the honorable member later.
– I ask the Ministor for Supply whether the squadron of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to be sent to Malaya will be serviced and repaired in Australia, or in Malaya ? By whom will that work be done?
– The aircraft to which the honorable member has referred will be serviced and repaired in the factories of the Department of Supply. That department has the duty not only of manufacturing but also of repairing service aircraft. We have been doing that work for the particular squadron that it about to go to Malaya and also for air- i-raft of the Royal Air Force squadrons that have been stationed in Malaya for some years past, and I understand that the Royal Air Force has been completely satisfied with the work that has been done on its behalf.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. Is it a fact that it is very difficult to secure lead in Australia at the home price of £35 a ton, but that ample supplies are being exported at £125 a ton? Is it also true that supplies are being withheld from the home market until the Australian price has been increased to £70 a ton? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that sufficient supplies of lead shall be made available to Australian users, particularly for purposes connected with the erection of houses?
– The export of lead is a matter which concerns the Depart ment of Trade and Customs. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs. I may say in reply to part of the honorable member’s question, that it is true that there is a marked disparity between the home and world parity prices of lead. It is also true that in the past there has been a. tendency by some lead buyers to obtain licences for the export of lead, either in the form of scrap or otherwise. My impression is that action has been taken recently, if not to prevent, at least to discourage that practice. As I speak only from my general knowledge of this subject, I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs for a full reply.
SS. “ MARIETTA Dal “ - AUSTRALIANBUILT Ships - Service to Darwin.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development, relative to the substantial quantity of good.-, carried by the British freighter, Marietta Dal, which was wrecked off the Queensland coast on the 15th May last for the recovery of which salvage attempts are now being made. Were these goods covered by insurance in dollars or in Australian currency? Is there any possibility that such goods as cannot be salvaged will be replaced in order to assist Queensland industries ?
– I understand that some of the goods were insured in dollars and some in Australian currency, and that the Minister for Trade and Customs has agreed to the re-issue of import licenses in respect of all the goods that were lost. 1 understand that in respect of goods obtained from dollar sources dollars will be made available on application for the re-purchase of similar goods. However, as this matter more closely concerns the Minister for Trade and Customs, I shall bring the question to his notice.
– Has the Minister for Supply seen a statement in a Sunday newspaper published in Sydney to the effect that the Australian ship-building industry, which is regarded as being vital to the defence of Australia, may close down and that the high prices of
Australian ships are preventing the Australian Shipbuilding Board from disposing of vessels that have already been built? If so, will the honorable gentleman comment on the statement?
– I saw that newspaper statement on Sunday, and all I can say is that the gentleman who wrote it has been exercising his imagination a little. It is not true that the Australian shipbuilding industry will close down and it is not accurate to say that the high prices of Australian-built ships are preventing them from being sold. The previous Government sold several ships that had been built in Australian shipyards, and this Government has already sold one and is in the process of selling two more named Balook and Benaarson. Tenders for the purchase of the two vessels were called and certain tenders were received, but they were not high enough. The Government considers that it should not sell ships unless they bring proper prices. We have a. subsidy arrangement by which we adjust to a reasonable degree the difference between prices of vessels from British shipyards and those from. Australian shipyards, but we do not propose to conduct any bargain sale of ships. Balook has been completed and is in commission. Benaarson has not been completed yet.
– During the recent visit of the Minister for the Interior to the Northern Territory, several deputations met the honorable gentleman and discussed with him various aspects of the shipping service from the eastern States. The deputations stressed the unsuitabil’ity of the vessel Culcairn, which is at present on the Northern Territory run. They also discussed the unsatisfactory facilities available at Darwin for handling shipping and cargo. I now ask the Minister whether any steps have been taken by the Government to improve the shipping service to Darwin along the lines that were suggested by the deputations?
– I have had inquiries made about ‘Culcairn, and the equipment which is used on the wharf at Darwin. It is recognized that Culcairn is not entirely suitable for that run, but, unfortunately, a suitable vessel is not available, and Culcairn will have to continue on that service for the time being. I gave a most comprehensive reply to the deputation which waited on me about the facilities for handling cargo at Darwin, and I shall supply the honorable member with a copy of it.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that doctors cannot work out his national health scheme. Is it also a fact that when doctors asked for further information about the scheme the right honorable gentleman referred them to Treasury officials? Were the Treasury officials unable to give the information required by the doctors, and did they suggest that the scheme was still in the blue-print stage? If those are facts, I ask the right honorable gentleman to take the House into his confidence and tell it whether he really has a national health scheme or not?
– I am able to give the honorable gentleman the text of a resolution that was carried by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. It was as follows : -
That the Federal Council, having consulted the Branches and in the knowledge that a majority of Branch Councils has approved the general principle of the scheme for subsidizing voluntary contributory medical insurance presented by the Government, and in the belief that this scheme is in the interests of the people and the profession, assures the Minister of thu profession’s willing co-operation.
That is the position. The matter is now receiving further consideration.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health a question which is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Werriwa. Is the agreement which the Minister has arrived at with the members of his union, the British Medical Association, in accordance with terms dictated by him or those dictated by the association? Is the agreement supported by the friendly societies? In making the agreement with the British Medical Association, has the Minister considered the position of chemists and friendly societies’ dispensaries and has he ascertained whether they are agreeable to the terms that he has arrived at with his fellow unionists?
– Any agreement between the Government and the British Medical Association would have nothing whatever to do with any agreement that may be made with chemists or friendly societies. Independent agreements would be made with those interests. The arrangements made with the British Medical Association are similar to those that were proposed by the Government five months ago and, as indicated in the resolution which I read a moment ago, have been considered by the various branches of the British Medical Association throughout Australia and approved by the Federal Council of that body.
– I am sure that the Minister inadvertently overlooked the part of my question about whether he has satisfied the chemists and the friendly societies dispensaries regarding the details of the proposed scheme.
– I have had frequent discussions, including a conference yesterday, with representatives of the friendly societies on the matter that the honorable member has raised, whilst the representatives of the chemists have just sent me a letter informing me of the result of their last meeting at which they considered the Government’s proposals.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether negotiations have been commenced with the United Kingdom in connexion with the annual review of the contract prices for butter and cheese? When does the “Minister expect to be able to make an announcement regarding this matter? Will he consult the dairying industry regarding the prices that Australia should isle for butter and cheese which is to be sold next year?
– The negotiations in connexion with the annual review of the prices for butter and cheese sold to the United Kingdom under the bulk selling contract are about to begin. I have already conferred with thd Australian Dairy Produce Board on the general issue and the Australian Government will make its requests to the United Kingdom substantially on the basis of that discussion. The dairying industry has been consulted insofar as I have conferred with the statutory marketing body, the Australian Dairy Produce Board and also because I have for the first time given the Australian dairying industry an opportunity actually to “ sit in “ on the price negotiations in London where the principal Australian negotiator, Mr. McCarthy, who is the Deputy High Commissioner for Australia in London, will have beside him as consultants during the negotiations the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. Mr. Howey and one of the producer members of the board, Mr. Gibson, who as well as being a member of the board is president of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, so that the industry is in consultation with the Government on all points.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral been able to ascertain whether it is possible for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to arrange for uninterrupted and unmutilated descriptions of international and important Australian football and cricket matches to be broadcast this year?
– The honorable gentleman asked me a question on this subject last week. I have not yet been able to obtain a reply to his inquiry. I shall supply him with an answer as soon as one is available.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to unofficial reports to the effect that Russian submarines have been seen operating in the South China Sea and to the possibility that submarine bases on the China coast may be used by Russia, under secret agreement with the Central People’s Government at Peking? Has the Minister any official information regarding such reports? In view of the implications of submarine activity in this area and the fact that, under existing conditions, submarines could be used to convey Communist agents, together with small arms and other materials, to territories which are at present being subjected to internal pressure by Communist groups within them, will the Minister assure the House that action will be taken, in co-operation with the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America, to ascertain the authenticity of these reports ? If they are found to be correct will the Government co-operate fully with the Government of Great Britain and the United States of America to counter such activities, which must react against the future security of Australia?
– I have seen the unofficial statements to which the honorable member refers and have received certain official communications dealing with the activity of submarines. I do not intend to convey these to the House at present for reasons which I am sure honorable members will understand. The honorable member may rest assured that the Government is watching activities in the South and the South-East Asian areas very closely and that it will work in close collaboration with the United Kingdom Government and, to the fullest extent possible, with the Government of the United States of America.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether it is a fact that a vessel that has been especially rigged for tuna fishing is to be brought to Australia from America in order to investigate the potentialities of commercial tuna fishing off the Australian coast? If this is a fact, will the Minister ensure that the vessel includes the south and east coasts of Tasmania in its itinerary as tuna exists there in great quantities?
– It is a fact that proposals have been under discussion with the object of bringing a specially equipped vessel, with its own skilled crew, from the west coast of the United States to Australian waters for the purpose of engaging in tuna fishing on a commercial scale. I am not at the moment in a position to say whether this matter has been finally concluded. In my discussions I have been aided by the parliamentary secretary for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Franklin, and it is my belief that these negotiations will be successfully concluded. If such a vessel with its skilled crew comes to Australia, the understanding is that Australian crews will be given an opportunity to be on the vessel and to observe the technique of tuna fishing. I shall be glad to inquire into the possibility of having this vessel operate in the waters to which, the honorable member has referred. I think that the discussions up to date have referred to the operation of the vessel in waters off the coast of New South Wales. However, I shall investigate the possibility of the ship operating in the waters referred to by the honorable member.
– Recently the Libera! party, of which the Prime Minister is a member, sought candidates to contest the New South Wales general election in the Newcastle district. Competition was keen and many candidates were offering. The result was that paid organizers were employed to canvass new members for the party to ensure that sufficient delegates would be in attendance at the selection committee in order that the candidate of the State executive’s choice would be selected. A few days ago a list of names came into my possession which purported to be a list of people who recently became members of the Liberal party-
– Order ! What has this matter to do with Commonwealth administration ?
– I am coming to the question now.
– The honorable member is trying to make a speech with reference to the New South Wales general election.
– Among the names were those of people who are Communists and fellow travellers-
-Order! I must again ask the honorable member what this hae to do with Commonwealth administration ?
– lt has this to do with it, Mr. Speaker, that under the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, amongst the bodies to be declared will be bodies which include people who are members of Liberal party branches. I want to know whether or not the Prime Minister will declare those branches of the Liberal party within which are found members of the Communist party and fellow travellers.
Question not answered.
– My question to the Prime Minister relates to the recently increased prices of timber, brought about by the McGirr Government of New South Wales, which will result in an increased cost for homes. Is it a fact that additional freight charges and royalties imposed by the McGirr Government of New South Wales upon timber produced in that State, have resulted in an additional burden of approximately £1,000,000 upon the construction programme for housing, and other projects for which timber is used? Is it also a fact that the sawmillers of New South Wales are required to give detailed evidence of increased costs before the Prices Commissioner will grant an increased price for timber-
– Order ! I think the honorable member must realize that the Prices Commissioner is not under Commonwealth control.
– Is it a fact that the Government of New South Wales, without a.ny explanation, merely imposes additional charges for freight and royalties on timber used by home builders? L’s this a sample of the co-operation extended by the McGirr Government to the Australian Government in the national task of putting value back into the £1?
– I have no information about the matters raised by the honorable member.
– Recently, in reply to a question that I had asked, the Prime Minister stated that the Minister for External Affairs was no longer a director of the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company (Australia) Limited. I now ask the Minister for External Affairs whether his name is still listed as one of the world) directors of that organization? If he isnot now a director of the company, when, did he cease to hold a directorship! Isit a fact that the honorable gentleman is a large shareholder in the Goodyear Tyreand . Rubber Company (Australia)Limited? Does the company have largecommercial interests in Malaya and Indonesia, and does the Minister consider that it is appropriate that he should administer a department that largely determines Australia’s policy in relation to those areas?
– I am sure that the honorable member is very much interested in my private affairs. My association, with the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company (Australia) Limited since I becamea Minister of the Crown has been fairly well known. I was and am a director of the company solely in a professional’ capacity. From the time when I becamea member of the board, I did not hold anybeneficial shareholding interest at a 11 either directly or indirectly, and neither did any member of my family. I have never had a pennyworth of interest in the company. From the time when I became a Minister, I took steps to ensurethat I should not draw a penny from the company and that I should not be entitled’ to do so, either directly or indirectly, apart from a nominal sum, and that positionwill continue while I am a Minister. Since I became a Minister I have dissociated myself from any active affairsof the company. In asking the question,. the honorable member was not concerned with any purpose other than to gain some political notoriety. He did not indicatethat some members of the Chifley Government, in which he held a .portfolio, frequently voted upon matters that affectedtheir own interests. Members of that Government were associated with big. business, even, as I am reminded by the Treasurer, as directors. I, on the contrary, indicated quite clearly to thedepartment that I was appointed to administer when I became a member of the Government, my association with the company that the honorable member hasmentioned so that there could be no possible conflict of duty or interest on my behalf . All I have to say to the honorablemember is that he enjoyed for a fong time the use of a safe deposit box in a private bank, and that he has had a greater association with big business than I have had; and that, if certain members of the former government had declared their business interests and severed themselves from any financial interests in such concerns, much better administration would have resulted, ft is always said by Labour party members that a member of the Cabinet, particularly if lie is a lawyer, is supposed to dissociate himself completely from outside activities when he becomes a Cabinet Minister, but apparently the same rule does not apply to members of the Labour party who, when they are in power, still carry on their private businesses and discharge their duties to outside organizations.
– I have never had any business or any connexion with any business.
– In directing a question to the Prime Minister, I point out that many of my old comrades of the Australian Imperial Force are deeply concerned about the very unfortunate case of Private Gordon Linsell, of the Black Watch, who has been condemned to death for shooting a drunken German policeman in the course of his duties and in accordance with the standing orders for sentries. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Australian General Staff is a section of the British Imperial General Staff. Does it work in close co-operation with that body, and could similar circumstances arise in the Australian forces? Does the Prime Minister consider that such a ruling on standing orders for sentries might have a very serious effect upon morale efficiency, discipline and general determination to carry out orders within the Australian Army? If a precedent is established by reason of the case of Private Linsell, will the Australian Government give consideration to the serious danger of placing upon a private soldier the onus of deciding whether standing orders for sentries or any other orders are lawful or unlawful? Will the Government consider the need for protecting private soldiers from the necessity for making such decisions?
– I am afraid that I do not know anything about the case that the honorable member has mentioned, but I shall ascertain exactly what the corresponding situation is in Australia and will inform the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that a Japanese doctor named Katsu Masayama chief of the Kamakura Tuberculosis Research Centre, has claimed the discovery of a new medicine that is 90 per cent, effective in curing tuberculosis? Is it a fact that this medicine is injected into the blood stream and is reputed to permeate inner cavities that have been formed by tuberculosis germs, which it attacks with deadly results, and is it also a fact that Dr. Masayama spent two and a half years in conducting experiments with 1,200 patients, 90 per cent, of whom recovered? If so, will the Minister consider the advisability of getting in touch with the authorities in Japan with a view to obtaining all available information about the drug so that tuberculosis patients in Australia may have a chance of being cured of the dreadful disease?
– I have no knowledge of the matter to which the honorable member has referred, but 1 undertake to ascertain whether any information about the doctor and his reported discovery can be obtained.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether it is a fact, as reported in the press, that he has decided to reduce the staff of his department by approximately 200 persons? If that is a fact, is he making that saving by closing down certain suburban and country offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service ? If his answer to that question is in the affirmative, will he say whether he has considered the convenience of members of the public who desire to do business with Commonwealth employment officers ? If he is dispensing with the services of 200 employees, will he inform me whether they will be transferred to other departments, or whether they will be thrown on to the industrial scrap-heap?
I should like to point out that many of those officers, who are not permanent members of the Public Service, have given good and faithful service during the. past few years.
– The Prime Minister has indicated that a review of the organization of various Commonwealth departments has been proceeding for some time. That review has been made in the Department of Labour and National Service, and1, as the result of recommendations which have been furnished by the senior officers of my department, the Public Service Board has had before it recommendations for the retrenchment of staff, particularly in the Commonwealth Employment Service- and in the welfare section, involving, in all, approximately 200” persons: I d’o not think that anyserious loss of efficiency will resul’t from that economy in man-power. The reorganization will involve some amalgamation of offices in particular- districts, and reductions of staff in other directions, but the overall1 effect should not be a substantial’ reduction of efficiency, or loss of service to the public generally. The recommendations to which I have referred1 are being considered by the Public Service Board, and if that body approves of them, they will be put into effect. The Public Service Board will determine the future of the officers concerned, and I am not able to provide any definite information about that matter, but I should like to make it clear, that the Government considers that they have given good service, and that the action is not being taken through any lack of effort on their part.
– Is the. Prime Minister able to give- to- the House- any information about the dismissal of Dr. P. R. James.? That gentleman, is. a resident medical officer at the Repatriation Hospital at Heidelberg,. On the 29th May last,, he received through the- Public Service Board one week’s notice of dismissal,, and. no, reason was given for that action. E do not know whether the dismissal of that gentleman was justified, and I donot know him personally. Will- the PrimeMinister inquire- whether it -is a fact that Dr., James was informed by the Medical Superintendent of the Repatriation Hospital at Heidelberg that no one has questioned his efficiency and competence? Is it also a fact that Dr.. James is a]1 ex-serviceman, with six and a half years’ war service, and that he has a brilliant medical record? In fairness to that gentleman,, it is stated that he is not a member’ of the Communist party of Australia, but it is agreed that he is a member of the Democratic Rights Council’ and of the Australian Peace Council. Will the Prime Minister inquire into the charge which is made that this ex-serviceman, who has such an excellent medical’ record, and who is performing useful work for disabled ex-servicemen of World War II., has been dismissed because of his outside political opinions? I raise this matter particularly, and I ask for an inquiry, because I understand that he has been dismissed under section 82 of the Public Service Act, under which the board is not required to give any reasons for its action, and the person concerned is given no right to ask for them. The dismissal of Dr. James will take effect to-morrow. In- view of the statements that have been made, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of arranging, for the dismissal to be suspended, until inquiries have been conducted?
– I personally know nothing about the matter to which the honorable member has referred’. I think, that it was brought to my notice yesterday or the day before in Melbourne, and’ it is within the jurisdiction of the Department of Repatriation. I do- know that the Minister for Repatriation, is at present actively inquiring into the case, and that he proposes to make a statement on it at the earliest possible moment. I shall, of course, convey the honorable gentleman’s remarks to him-.
– - About a fortnight ago the- president of the Tasmanian branch of the miners federation made representations to me concerning the: pa”0,vision of long service leave for coal-miners. Can the Minister for Labour and! National Service inform the House how- far the coal tribunal and the governments concerned have progressed in the implementation of long service leave in the industry the lack of which was one of the causes nf the coal strike that occurred last year? Can the Minister indicate when finality may be reached in this matter ?
– Some time ago I indicated to the House that the Government had adopted, in substance, the plans that had been placed before the Parliament by the previous Government for the provision of long service leave for persons working in coal mines. Since I -made that
Announcement a good deal of administrative action has been taken. New South “Wales, which is the most important State in this connexion, is serving as a model, and the first step has been taken in the arrangement that has been arrived at between the Australian Government and the Government of that State. Exchanges of correspondence and conferences between senior officers of the respective Governments have occurred, and amending legislation was recently passed by the New South Wales Parliament. It will be necessary for this Parliament to pass a small amendment to its legislation, and I hope that it will do so before the current period of tike session concludes. Correspondence on the matter has now gone from the Australian Government to the other States concerned, including Tasmania, with the object of having the model arrangement that has been worked out with the Government of Vew ‘South Wales put into effect by those “ States. We are pressing on as rapidly as possible towards the full implementation of the scheme.
– -by leave - The British Commonwealth Conference on Foreign Affairs, which met in Colombo in January of this year, recognized the immediate importance, particularly in the light of world events, of considering plans to assist the ‘countries of South and South-East Asia to stabilize their economies and raise their levels of production, thus improving the standards of living of their people.
It is scarcely necessary for me to emphasize to the House the urgency of this task. Economic and political changes in the area during and since World War II. have taken place at a rate which it would have been impossible to anticipate or predict ten or fifteen years ago. In the economic field, for instance, the pre-war low living standards of some 500,000,000 people who inhabit the area have in many countries been depressed because of the war to even lower levels, in some cases as a result of direct Japanese occupation. In the political field, many of the countries of South and South-East Asia have but recently achieved independence after long periods of colonial rule, and the new governments are faced with the enormous task of developing, and in some -cases of rehabilitating, their national economies in such .a way as to ensure for their peoples a substantial and permanent improvement in their living standards. If these new Governments are to succeed the first requisite is, of course, that they should explore and utilize all means of self-help open to them. They should not, however, be compelled to rely on .selfkelp alone; if anyt.ih.iiag worthwhile is to be achieved they must have assistance from outside and this assistance must be prompt and generous.
There are ‘Several reasons why this externa! assistance should foe given. In the first place, om humanitarian grounds we cannot ignore the basic meeds of such a large and important section of the world’s population. Secondly, a permanent improvement iaa world trade depends in a ‘substantial degree upon the economic development and increased .productive capacity of the countries of South and South-East Asia. Thirdly, the task of achieving (political stability in this area will be well-nigh impossible unless living standards are lifted from their present very low levels. Finally, conditions of misery and want provide a fertile breeding ground for philosophies and for-ces, particularly .imperialistic communism which seek the destruction of democratic institutions.
As the House is aware, the Colombo Conference of Foreign Ministers established a British Commonwealth Consultative Committee for the purpose of considering and dealing with these problems on an organized, Commonwealth basis. It was felt that joint Commonwealth action would be of tremendous significance. It would demonstrate to the peoples of the area that the Commonwealth as a whole recognized their problems and was ready as well as determined to do everything possible to help to solve them. Moreover, the granting of assistance by Commonwealth countries, supplementing aid already received in the area from United Nations and other sources, should be a powerful factor in the securing, on a soundly-planned and organized basis, of assistance to South and South-East Asia from nonCommonwealth countries as well.
In this connexion, the Australian Government greatly welcomes the recent statement made in Washington by the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson, that he had discussed in London with Mr. Bevin the initiative of the Commonwealth Conference held in Sydney for a programme of economic development in South and South-East Asia. Mr. Acheson added that he had informed Mr. Bevin that the United States Government would attempt to co-ordinate its efforts in that area with the efforts of the Commonwealth in order that the United States and Commonwealth action should be mutually supporting. This statement of the United States Secretary of State gives additional ground for hoping that the aid available from all sources, Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth, may result in real and lasting benefits, not only to the countries of South and SouthEast Asia, but ultimately to the world as a whole and so prove a potent force for peace.
The first meeting of the Commonwealth Consultative Committee was held in Sydney from the 15th to the 20th May. It is, perhaps, not without significance that this meeting was held in Australia. That fact, in itself, demonstrates the vital interests which Australia has in all developments in the area, and in a sense reflects our consciousness of the initiative which Australia must take in meeting and solving the economic and political problems of South and SouthEast Asia. At the Sydney meeting, which was attended by delegations representing the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Ceylon, as well as Australia, it was recognized that progress in raising living standards in South and South-East Asia must be based in the first place upon the plans and efforts of the respective countries in the area. It was also recognized, however, that selfhelp and mutual aid would not be enough and that the scale of the problems involved made it inevitable that substantial external assistance would also be required. The consultative committee gave earnest consideration to ways whereby the members of the British Commonwealth could best supply and organize this external assistance. Its conclusions took the form of recommendations to governments which I have every reason to expect will shortly be endorsed by the respective governments concerned. These recommendations covered three main phases of possible Commonwealth assistance. These were the preparation of a comprehensive plan for economic development in the various countries in the ‘ area : a programme of Commonwealth technical assistance to be put into operation immediately; and interim steps to consider, and if possible to meet, economic requirements of countries in South and South-East Asia clearly shown to be essential and urgent.
The consultative committee agreed that any plan for economic development in South and South-East Asia must be based on full information of needs and resources. It was decided that the govern- . ments of South and South-East Asia should be invited to collaborate in the development of what might be called a “ six-year plan “ for the whole area. This would include all projects which might be expected to be completed over a period of six years ending the 30th June, 1957. A first and indispensable step in the preparation of this programme would be for each participating country itself to draw up a realistic and comprehensive statement of its economic situation, its development programme for the next six years and the extent to which such a programme could be carried out from its own resources. It is hoped that these programmes of individual countries wishing to collaborate in the Commonwealth scheme will be ready by September, 1950, when the consultative committee will meet again in London. There, the committee will consider the statements of the individual countries with a view to drawing up a self-consistent report on the developmental needs of the area as a whole. This report will be unique and unprecedented in providing an authoritative statement, based upon the replies of the governments concerned, of the economic needs over a six-year period and the internal resources available to meet these needs. On the basis of this report, an assessment should be possible of the extent to which the gap between needs and internal resources can be filled through resources available to existing international organizations, through contributions by the Commonwealth countries themselves, and through assistance from other countries with interests in the area which might be able and willing to help.
It was also agreed at the Sydney conference to recommend that a Commonwealth technical assistance programme should be developed immediately to provide technical assistance for countries in South and South-East Asia, up to a maximum of £stg. 8.000,000. At an early date, a, Commonwealth bureau is to be established at Colombo to assist in administering the technical assistance programme and to co-ordinate such assistance with that available from international or other agencies already in existence. The type of technical assistance which it is hoped to provide under this programme includes provision of the services of technical personnel to applicant countries, the training in Commonwealth countries of personnel from South and South-East Asia, and the provision of equipment necessary for technical instruction. Commonwealth governments are to facilitate and encourage the sending of experts, technicians and other personnel of their own countries for service under the scheme and to make available, to the utmost practicable extent, facilities for the training of personnel from applicant countries. The technical assistance programme is a limited scheme which, of course, cannot in itself provide a complete answer to the developmental problems of South and South-East Asia. I t is, however, an important part of the overall programme envisaged by the consultative committee, the full scope of which it is not possible yet to foresee. I feel that the technical assistance that we are proposing to make available in the near future will be a practical and immediate contribution to the solution of the economic problems of the area. The significance of the programme lies in the fact that technical training is an essential part of any permanent long-term developmental plan. Its implementation should help substantially to improve permanently the technical skill available in the area, so that countries concerned can gradually become less and less dependent upon foreign aid in the future.
It wa3 appreciated by the governments represented on the consultative committee that some of the countries of South and South-East Asia might have urgent requirements for immediate economic assistance, other than assistance which will be provided under the technical aid programme, consideration of which could not be deferred until the overall programme had been prepared. Such urgent needs might be for credits to finance import goods urgently required for relief or for economic rehabilitation. The consultative committee agreed that consideration of means for co-ordinating requests for emergency aid of this nature should be given as high a priority as possible on the agenda for the meeting of the committee in London in September, 1950.. It also recommended that, in the meantime, individual Commonwealth governments should consider sympathetically, having regard to their existing commitments and resources, requests for such emergency aid which might be received from countries in the area, consulting other members of the Commonwealth as might seem appropriate in each particular case.
The House may also wish to know that some consideration was given by the consultative committee to the problem of maintaining uniform levels of world prices for the export commodities of the countries of South and .South-East Asia. Most of the countries of the area are largely dependent upon the export of one or two major commodities to finance urgently required imports and to maintain internal employment. The committee recognized that movements in world prices for these commodities could have most deleterious effects upon the economies of exporting countries and agreed that Commonwealth countries should consider by what means, having regard to existing international obligations, sudden or marked falls in the world prices of such commodities could be avoided. Such, briefly, were the more important topics discussed at the Sydney conference, and the more important decisions taken.
The problem of raising living standards in South and South-East Asia is, of course, vast and complex. It cannot be solved in any easy and immediate way by waving a magician’s wand. A permanent solution can be found only if the basic facts are ascertained after careful inquiry and if realistic developmental programmes are prepared and co-ordinated. The real significance of the Sydney conference lies, perhaps, in the fact that representatives of the governments of seven Commonwealth countries of widely diverse interests, culture and race, collectively considered the special needs of; South and South-East Asia and thereby recognized a degree of collective responsibility for the development of the area and the welfare of its peoples. This, I believe, is a matter of outstanding consequence not only to the countries which may receive aid, but also to Australia, whose economic development and security must depend in large measure upon the degree of economic prosperity and political stability of the countries of South and South-East Asia. I lay on the table the following paper : -
South and South-East Asia - British Commonwealth Consultative Committee Conference, Sydney, May, 1950. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I move -
That the Orders of the Day, Government Business, be postponed until after Notice of Motion No. 1, General Business.
The purpose of this motion is to enable the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to move the motion that stands inhis name on the noticepaper. The honorable gentleman gave notice, as far back as April, of, his desire to submit that motion. It might have been dealt with on either one of two days since then, but on the first occasion it was postponed at the request of the Government because of the urgency of government business then before the House. On the second occasion it was postponed willy nilly because of a special adjournment motion. It is not the desire of the Government that the House should debate this matter to finality at this stage. I understand that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will be the first speaker for the Opposition on this matter. I think that my colleague the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) will also desire to speak on it and I gather that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) may also wish to say something. If that course were followed I suggest that the debate be then adjourned, two speakers having been heard on each side.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I thank the House for its courtesy in allowing me to move in connexion with this matter. I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Federal Government’s efforts to increase the production of open-cut coal in Australia should be continued and intensified ; and, further, that the present underhand sabotage of open-cut coal production by the New South Wales Labour Government should be checked as far as possible. 1 need not stress either the vital importance of coal to our national economy or the tremendous losses that are inflicted upon us by the chronic shortage of that commodity. Professor Copland told me recently that in his opinion the losses of coal caused a loss to the nation of more than £100,000,000 a year, which is a loss of nearly £500,000 for every working day in the mines. We suffer not only from the direct loss of coal production but also from indirect losses that are occasioned thereby. The coal shortage is the biggest single factor in our dollar shortage, because of the fact that it limits our steel production. By decreasing efficiency in industry it is mainly responsible for taking value out of the JE1 and for increasing prices. It is a limiting factor upon immigration, housing, and national development. For all these and other reasons, there can be no solution to our general economic problems in Australia until the coal shortage is met and conquered. Let me say also that although various qualities of coal are used for various purposes, an increase of the production of steam coal would solve all the shortages attendant upon coal losses, because at present both coking coal and gas coal are being diverted for use in raising steam. If we can obtain more steam coal, then all the other coal shortages, including shortages of coking coal, will automatically be resolved. Coal is obtained by means of either underground or open-cut mining. There does not seem to be much prospect of achieving any increase of the yield of coal from underground mining. That fact can be seen by reference to statistics in relation to coal-mining in New South Wales, which I shall now cite. In 1939 the production of coal by underground mining in New South Wales was 11,200,000 tons. For the last four years the annual production of underground coal in New South Wales has been -
During those years, in which the volume of production has fallen, the number of miners employed underground has risen from 16,000 to about 17,250. Much more important, however, is the fact that there has also been a great deal of mechanization during those years so that, prima facie, one would think that the output a shift would increase. On the contrary, it has significantly decreased since 1939. For reasons which I do not intend to enter into at the moment, because time would not permit me to do so, there does not seem to be much hope of being able to break the coal bottleneck from underground sources. That brings us back to open-cut mining. In open-cut mining, as honorable members know, coal is won as if from a quarry. First the overburden is removed and then the coal is dug and removed. Since 1944 considerable development of open-cut mining has occurred in New South Wales, where production of open-cut coal rose from 200,000 tons in 1944 to 1,300,000 tons in 1948. It has stopped, however, at that point. There are two reasons why the production of open-cut coal in New South Wales has not passed the level that was reached in 1948. The first reason is that a good deal of open-cut effort in the last year has been put into developmental projects. That is a sound and wise policy, and I do not desire to minimize what has been clone in that respect. The second reason, as I shall show in a moment, is that there has been some kind of underhand sabotage of open-cut coal production.
Let me remind the House that the production of coal by open-cut methods is relatively recent in all countries, because the heavy earth-moving equipment which makes it economically possible has been developed in the United States of America only in comparatively recent times. It was not until the late 1930’s that open-cut coal production achieved any considerable importance in the United States of America, and it was as late as 1943 before it assumed any significance in the United Kingdom. The fact that there was no open-cut mining in Australisbefore the last war need not surprise lis, because it is a new technique. We might, just as well be surprised that Australia did not have jet-propelled aircraft before the war.
The crucial factor in regard to an open-cut programme is the quantity of coal available. The position must be considered with regard to cost, transport, utilization and reserve. A big deposit can be worked by big machinery much more cheaply than a small deposit can beworked by small machinery. Big machinery is more economic because it is able to deal with the overburden in one operation. It can put it back into the place from which the coal has been won so that it does not have to be loaded on lorries and carted away. When rock has to be dealt with and big machinery is used the rock does not have to be pulverized or blasted as it does when small machines are used. Tremendous economies pan be obtained in dealing with open-cuts on a big scale. Open-cut areas are not always in the same places as underground mines.
There must be a transport system to move any coal that is produced and it is not economic to install a transport system until it is known how much coal is available in the cut.
Open-cut coal is very often different from or of lower quality than underground coal. Consequently, it has to be burnt in a different type of furnace. It is not economic to install a new furnace if it is only going to be fed from a small deposit ahead, but if a big deposit is to be worked it is economic to change coalburning machinery or some significant part of it. So very often, although there may be no market for 1,000 tons of opencut coal there will be a market for 1,000,000 tons. In regard to reserves it is important, if Australia’s reserves of open-cut coal are relatively limited, that they should not be worked out in a year or two. The crucial question is, “ How much coal is available?”
In 1946 Mr. Jones, a geologist employed by the New South “Wales Mines Department, said that there was practically no open-cut coal in New South Wales. On the 30th November, 1948, the Joint Coal Board, in paragraph 34 of its first annual report, stated -
In New South Wales open-cut possibilities are relatively limited and cannot be relied upon as a long-term supplement to underground coal production. For this reason the Board proposes to expand the capacity of the underground industry sufficiently to meet the estimated future requirements. If at any time the needs of the community can be met either wholly or almost wholly from underground sources, it will be a relatively simple matter to close down the necessary proportion of open-cuts.
That was a policy-forming statement which was dependent upon the fact that the board estimated that open-cut possibilities were relatively limited. That opinion was repeated by the Joint Coal Board on the 30th July, 1949. On the 14th August, 1949, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made an official broadcast in which he said that there were 35,000,000 tons of proved open-cut coal and that that quantity might perhaps be extended, with reasonable assurance, to 50,000.000 tons. Those are clear and definite statements but they are almost the exact opposite of the truth, which is that the open-cut coal in New South Wales canbe measured in terms of a 1,000,000,000 tons or more. I shall quote my authorities on that point in a moment. It may easily be that, considering the accessibility to the sea and points of consumption, the New South Wales deposits of open-cut coal are greater than those being worked in any other part of the world. I do not make that as a definite statement because, as I shall show, much more exploration is required to be done. Dr. Dulhunty, who is the Commonwealth Research Fellow in coal problems at the University of Sydney, agreed with me that there was at least 1,000,000,000 tons of coal that could be worked by open-cuts in New South Wales and that there was probably more than that quantity. Recently, I visited a number of prospects with field officers of the Joint Coal Board and those officers agreed that 500,000,000 tons of open-cuttable coal was available within 10 miles of Ravensworth station. That estimate was made on the basis of a ratio of 10 feet of overburden to one foot of coal, a very moderate ratio which is considerably less than that used in the United States of America. In the west only 30,000,000 tons have been proved by bore but the amount of country bored is only a very small fraction of the potential coal-bearing area. There are immense reserves at Ulan and Wollar which we know are there but which have not been tested. A great part of the valley of the Goulburn River has been cut down by the river towards the coal measures but not through them, so that the coal exists as a potential open-cut proposition. That would be true of some parts of the Cudgegong area also, but those are still relatively unproved. Around Olinda the upper coal measures come to the surface but the amount available is unknown. There are only some 25,000,000 tons proved in the Greta Gully. There are about 10,000,000 tons at Cessnock, roughly 10,000,000 tons at Muswellbrook and 5,000,000 tons elsewhere but there is a very large part of the Greta area which is unprospected. Even where that seam is vertical, presenting the least favorable condition for the operation of an open-cut mine, modern machinery could remove over 2,000,000 tons a mile of outcrop from a 30-foot seam. These figures are all based on the ratio of ten to one. The possibilities of winning coal . by means of open-cuts in the Newcastle area are not very well known. At Minmi the Borehole seam is exposed and is being worked as an open-cut and the Young Wallsend seam above that is being prospected. I believe that there are many millions of tons of coal there but, again, they are unproved. There are other fields. For example the whole of the upper coal measures lying by the Hunter River between Aberdeen and Denman. All that country is like a Dagwood sandwich of earth and coal. There is every reason to think that very large quantities are available immediately adjacent to Kayuga. There is a very big prospect of cindered Greta coal available near Edinglassie. It is unsuitable for gas but it has a sufficient calorific value to be burned successfully in a properly constructed furnace and the deposits there are big enough to serve for many years the whole of the requirements of the northern part of the State.
– What is the ash content?
– It is about 15 per cent, to 16 per cent.
– That is too high for power-making.
– No, it is not too high. The coal is quite satisfactory for some furnaces, and it has a much lower ash content than coal that is being burnt in other parts of the world. The ash content is too high for some of our existing furnaces. The fusion point of this coal is over 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit.
Almost incredible deficiencies have occurred in our boring programmes. Boring results which prove the actual existence of coal must be the final determinant of policy. The Joint Coal Board has only two core-boring machines working on open-cut prospects at the moment. They have both been recently imported. The board has approximately twelve percussion drills, but they have only a limited use for the determination of the coal horizon and are not suitable for prospecting work. It has no geological boring facilities, and its prospectors are to be found scraping around the outcrops in the most primitive way instead of solving problems, as they could quite easily be solved, by a few experimental test bores. Nevertheless, in spite of all these difficulties we can now say that we do know enough about open-cuttable coal to be able permanently to end the Australian coal shortage within twelve months.
– That is if the machinery were available.
– I shall come to that matter in a moment. We do not yet know the best locations, but we do know that there are locations good enough for working, and that there are enough of them. We have discovered sufficient to form an opinion, but we have not yet reached certainty. My remarks are directed only to New South Wales because I do not know the position in the other States. The opinion that can be formed about the resources of open-cuttable coal in New South Wales is that there is sufficient to justify a permanent reorientation of our whole fuel economy. However, the first requirement for either a short-term or a long-term programme is a thorough exploration and survey. That can be done by the New South Wales Mines Department, but for various reasons that organization is not keen about getting information on open-cuttable coal. It can be done by the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources, and either Dr. Raggatt or Dr. Dulhunty are officers who would be entirely competent to control such a programme. It could be done by the special geological section of the Joint Coal Board, but I feel that such action is not justified. The geological work of the Joint Coal Board should be confined to test-boring in respect of proved prospects. With regard to the ground survey, since the availability of open-cut coal depends largely on its depth, the contours of the over-lying country are very important. Prospecting west of Lithgow is to-day much retarded because the Army contour map of the Glen Alice sheet has not yet become available. Air survey can help, and the Army can also be of assistance.
More drilling is the key to a proper ground survey. We need perhaps fifteen or twenty deep drilling plants to establish the general geological formation of the country in that area. We need 40 or 50 shallow core drills capable of drilling to 300 or 400 feet to locate the actual coal seams that we desire to work, and we need perhaps 40 or 50 friction drills to tap and locate the horizons in the areas that have been proved by the deeper drills. There is no reason why we should not get the core drills. I have made certain investigations and I have received this telegram from R. N. Kirk and Company of Melbourne -
Reference our conversation regarding drilling machines. Our principals Mineral Drillers Pty. Ltd. advise they can supply E1000 machines capable of drilling 200 to 300 feet and giving 3 or 4 inch core. ‘ If order immediately placed can supply two machines. Balance twenty-eight machines at one per week. Also pumps and all necessary equipment.
The machines cost about £1,045 each plus the cost of certain extras. Apart from Australian sources of supply, of which this is only one, such machines can be imported off the shelf. They can be ordered from overseas by cable, and put on the ship immediately. There is no reason at all why, when we are losing a national income of £500,000 a day, we should tolerate for one moment any deficiency of necessary drilling machines which are a prime factor in ending the general coal shortage. I have found that there is no difficulty about getting skilled men to operate the machines. I have talked to drilling contractors, who have told me that, by adopting the system of putting drillers on in teams of five or six, no shortage of man-power will occur. A number of drills are available to Commonwealth and State departments, and are being used at the present time upon work of lower priority. No work is of even comparable priority with the work of obtaining adequate coal supplies. The machines now being used on other work can be diverted to open-cuttable coal locations. There need be no delay if only we will use the resources that are available to us.
Let us examine our available resources. This matter must be looked at from the point of view of digging coal which can be immediately utilized. We can get 2,000,000 tons a year at Greta, 500,000 tons a year at Newcastle- Wallsend, 3,000,000 tons from the western fields and 2,000,000 tons from Ravensworth Tops, which is coal of low calorific value. We can also get 3,000,000 tons from Ravenworth Bottoms, which is satisfactory coal. Those supplies could be utilized as follows: - 500,000 tons from Newcastle-Wallsend for coke, 6,000,000 tons from Western and Ravensworth Bottoms for power purposes generally, 2,000,000 tons low-grade coal from Ravensworth Tops for storage against a strike, and 2,000,000 tons from Greta for gas and locomotive purposes. That is a total of 10,500,000 tons a year, which can be attained within twelve months, thus ending permanently the coal shortage in Australia and the economic difficulties arising from it. Equipment on order or that has already arrived, includes three twelve and a half yard draglines and twelve 6-yard shovels. They, with the necessary miscellaneous equipment, are capable of producing and stripping about 5,000,000 tons a year. We need to order immediately four 25-yard draglines and three 12-yard draglines, which can be bought immediately in the United States of America. The cost would be about £2,750,000. That is a big sum, but it is insignificant compared with the fact that it would entirely end the coal shortage. We should immediately send a man to the United States of America to get this plant, and we should obtain all other required plant from local sources. That is a matter which can be handled, given only the will to handle it.
– What about the men?
– The honorable member has mentioned the men, but he should remember that a man in an opencut produces ten times as much coal as a man working underground. Two thousand men working in open-cuts would produce as much coal as would 20,000 men working underground. Only 1,500 men would produce enough coal for this programme. We need transport facilities. The line from Branxton to Muswellbrook should be duplicated.
– That is being done now.
– But the work is being sabotaged. We need a few special haulage locomotives for the Hawkesbury and Lithgow, banks. We also need more special coal hoppers. They are on order, and they could be supplied almost immediately if it were made clear that we could end the coal shortage when we had them. Unfortunately, 1 have no time to discuss this matter in detail although I am prepared to supply all the facts to any honorable member who is interested. So far, I have spoken about the equipment that we need immediately for a scheme which, within twelve months, would enable us to produce 1 0,500,000 tons of coal a year from opencuts and thus put an end to the coal shortage for all time. We might be well advised also, though this is not certain, to reorient our entire fuel economy around open-cut coal instead of underground coal. I remind honorable members that open-cut coal costs 8s. or 8s. 6d. a ton on rail. It is not of such good quality as is some of the underground coal, but it is perfectly suitable if burned in the right plant. Therefore, as a matter of economics, it may well prove that we should concentrate upon our immense resources of open-cut coal instead of upon deep mining. Coal from the underground mines, of course, will have to be used for coke. So far as is known, very little coking coal can be obtained from opencuts. However, apart from our coke requirements, it would seem that nearly all the needs of our economy can be supplied from open-cuts so that underground mines can become permanently mere subsidiaries to the open-cuts. However, the development of open-cut mining is dependent upon further boring activities. We need to know more about the available deposits. Although I say definitely that we can end the coal shortage within twelve months, I will not say definitely yet, without having further information from boring operations, that a total readjustment of our fuel economy is justified.
In the brief space of time that is left to me, I want to say something about the way in which the New South Wales Government has been responsible for the delay in developing open-cuts. The State Government has not acted openly to retard the development of open-cut mining because it has not had an opportunity to do so. It has gone about the task in an underhand way. The reason for that is not only that the Communists in the miners’ federation want to keep a stranglehold on industry but also that even the non-Communists want to maintain a chronic coal shortage so as to augment their industrial power. I have heard honorable members say in this House that in no circumstances must we build up stocks of coal. If we fail to establish coal stocks, industry will always be at the mercy of the miners. Time after time the official journal of the miners, Common Cause, has referred to open-cuts as “ menaces “. The policy of the federation is to prevent their development. Men who have been appointed successively to the post of Minister for Mines in New South Wales have been members of the federation. As loyal union men they have entered upon their administrative job with a’ directive from their organization to sabotage the opencuts. I refer to Mr. Baddeley and Mr. Dickson.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry that I shall not have time to develop that theme.
– I second the motion and, under Standing Order 70, reserve my right to speak later.
.- First, I express the astonishment of members of the Opposition at the action of the Government in suspending the Standing Orders and delaying the consideration of very important business so as to permit the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to make what was merely an electioneering speech that was intended to influence votes at the impending New South Wales State general election. The honorable member commenced by reading his motion, but he devoted only a few minutes in the concluding stage of his speech to some wild and general statements, in which he charged the New South Wales Government with sabotaging open-cut mining. He failed, however, to produce any evidence in support of that unjustified accusation. The truth is that, the Government of New South Wales has a creditable record in relation to the development of open-cut mining as it has in every other field of its activities. The official figures demonstrate that fact. Production of open-cut coal in New South Wales increased progressively from 1940, when 45,000 tons was produced, until 1949, when 1,348,000 tons was produced. The honorable member for Mackellar said deliberately that the output of opencut coal had not increased since 1948, thereby implying that the Labour Government in New South Wales had been able by some means to retard development. The quantity of coal produced from opencuts in 1948 was 1,255,000 tons. The quantity produced in 1949 was 1,348,000 tons, an increase of 93,000 tons. Those figures contradict the honorable member’s declaration. In fact, the Government of New South Wales has been very active in encouraging the development of open-cut mining. The honorable member for Mackellar said that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley”) had stated some time ago that the known deposits of coal suitable for open-cut mining in New South Wales amounted to 35,000,000 tons. Then ho asserted that he would show that that figure was ridiculous and that the quantity available for open-cut mining totalled 1,000,000,000 tons. The honorable gentleman did not produce any authority for that statement or any evidence in support of it. I listened particularly to the terms that he used, and he said that he admitted that the area that he had mentioned had not been prospected and that the quantity that he had stated had not been proved. Those admissions proved conclusively that his claims were based merely on guesswork. I also remind the honorable member that production figures were affected by the disastrous floods that occurred in the open-cut mining regions of New South Wales during 1948 and 1949. The floods reduced the output from open-cut mines by thousands of tons. No government could be held responsible for that situation.
The honorable member said that the Joint Coal Board was not anxious to get on with the job of developing open-cut mining. What a ridiculous statement to make! Does be suggest that the board is dominated by Communist influence or that its members are Communists who are co-operating in some alleged con- spiracy with the Government of New South Wales to retard open-cut production? The members of the board are eager to develop open-cut mining in order to alleviate the shortage of coal for industry. The honorable member failed to tell the House what the State government was doing to help open-cut production by importing essential machinery. He admitted, of course, that unsuitable machinery had bee]] in use in Australia prior to 1940. Road-making equipment had to be used because we had none of the specialized machinery that has since been brought to perfection in the United States of America and elsewhere. However, the Labour Government set out to relieve the situation and, as a result, the Joint Coal Board has been able to obtain a considerable quantity of suitable modern heavy equipment during the last eighteen months. In 1948-49, it purchased the following items of machinery for opencut mining : - Twenty-four excavators, five compressors, seven cranes, twelve drills and boring plant, seven generating sets, twelve pumps, eleven scoops, ten Tournapulls and Tourna-trailers, and 42 tractors. In June, 1949, the value of the open-cut equipment on order but undelivered was about £1,250,000. The honorable member for Mackellar disclosed his ignorance of the subject when he talked about being able to get drilling equipment in Australia. One would imagine from what he said that our problems would be solved if we drilled into the earth and discovered coal. Machinery of many types is needed to recover the coal from the ground. Earthmoving equipment must be used in the first place, and then scoops are needed to excavate the coal. Efficient transport services must also be provided to carry the coal to the places where it is needed. The honorable gentleman glibly bypassed those problems as though they did not exist.
Let us consider further what the Government of New South Wales is doing in order to foster open-cut mining. It expects to take delivery in the near future of the following items of equipment that it has ordered : - Three draglines of 12 cubic-yard bucket capacity, one of 5 cubic yards, one of 2? cubic yards, eight steam shovels of 2 cubic-yard bucket capacity, five of 2^ cubic yards, four of 5 cubic yards, and sixteen of 6 cubic yards. The New South “Wales Government has been alert and, instead of remaining inactive, has done everything possible to develop opencut mining. The facts show that there has been continuous progress in the field of open-cut production. How can the honorable member justify his charge that the Labour Government of New South Wales has been guilty of underhand sabotage of open-cut mining? The honorable gentleman did not even try to do so when he was speaking. He admitted that the coal produced from open-cuts was inferior to that which is obtained from underground mines and that it was not suitable for various uses. When he was stating figures in relation to coal production, I noticed that he deliberately omitted any reference to 1942, which was the year of record coal production in Australia under the administration of a Labour government in the federal sphere. The honorable gentleman made a careful selection of the years when, for various reasons, coal production was slightly lower than in other years, and he religiously avoided any reference to periods of record production.
– Coal production is decreasing.
– One of the problems of the coal industry, I point out to the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), arises from the shortage of labour. The honorable member for Mackellar did not tell us where additional labour for the coal industry .was to be obtained. Supporters of the Government often talk about the good jobs that can be had in the coal mines, but the workers are the best judges of industrial conditions and to an increasing degree they are avoiding the industry. Formerly, sons followed their fathers into the pits, hut miners’ sons to-day, as a result of legislation enacted by Labour governments, are able to obtain a higher standard of education than formerly was the case and are seeking employment in other industries. They do not want to work in the mines.
– Why should they?
– I do not suggest that they should. They are entering professions and seeking more suitable employment than mining. The men who remain in the coal industry are becoming old and, because the recruitment of labour has not been adequate, the production of underground mines has been restricted. As the honorable member for Mackellar charges the New South Wales Labour Government with sabotage of the coal industry, notwithstanding the steady progress that is revealed by the figures that I have mentioned, what has he to say about the activities of the Liberal Government of South Australia, because the open-cut mine at Leigh Creek-
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! This debate must now be interrupted under Standing Order 108.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the time foi- the debate be extended.
– I understand that the average production at the open-cut mine at Leigh Creek is between 7,000 and 8,000 tons a week. When the general strike occurred on the coal-fields in New South Wales last year, and the need arose for greater production of coal in other States, the output at Leigh Creek was stepped up to 13,000 tons a week. Yet, after the strike on the coal-fields in New South Wales had ended, the Liberal Government in South Australia allowed the production to slip back to between 7,000 and 8,000 tons of coal a week. Does it consider that the demand for coal is no longer urgent? If the production of coal in this country is being sabotaged, it would appear that an anti-Labour Government is responsible. The honorable member for Mackellar should devote some attention to that problem. Experts in South Australia have advised the Government of that State during the last four years to obtain a steam drying plant in order that the production of suitable coal for various uses may be increased, but they are still awaiting action. Perhaps I should say, in fairness, that the necessary machinery may not be available, but the inference may be drawn that no basis exists for the charge by the honorable member for Mackellar of deliberate sabotage on the part of the Government of New South Wales.
The honorable gentleman seemed to attach a great deal of significance to the fact that in 1936, Mr. Jones, a coal expert in New .South Wales, said that no coal was available in that State for mining by open-cut methods. Such a statement would have been correct at that time, because the large earth-moving equipment that is so essential for the operation of open-cut mining had not then been developed to the stage that has been reached to-day. What was impracticable in 1936 becomes practicable to-day by reason of the application of improved methods of production. lu 1948, the Joint Coal Board stated that the quantity of coal that was available for mining by open-cut methods was limited, and I agree with that conclusion. Prospecting for the location of new resources is still proceeding, but the known quantity of coal that is now available for open-cut mining is 35,000,000 tons. I accept the Joint Coal Board’s figures in preference to the honorable member for Mackellars wild guess that is based upon nothing more than pure supposition.
I should like to mention one other particular matter about the activity of the Labour Government of New South Wales. It has induced two large British firms to establish themselves in that State for the purpose of assisting the development of open-cut mining. The firm of Davis Contractors is now working an open-cut at Ravensworth, and Dowsett Engineering Limited is operating an open-cut mine at Minmi. Therefore, it does not appear that there is any lack of effort on the part of the Government of New South Wales to encourage greater production of coal. I also point out that key personnel of the firm of Lindsay Parkinson Limited have been brought to this country by the Joint Coal Board to advise it on means of increasing the production of coal. From those facts, it must be evident to honorable members that the charge by the honorable member for Mackellar that the Labour Government of New South Wales has neglected opportunities to develop the coal resources of that State are without basis.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has been critical of the
Mr. Ward t.
Labour Government of New South Wales because it would not make available for exploitation by private interests the enormous coal resources in the Burragorang Valley. The position is that the Labour Government has been prospecting that field, and the stage has now been reached at which it is prepared to proceed with the establishment of a government mine in that area. Because the McGirr Government would not make that Crown land available, with its enormous resources of coal, for exploitation by private interests, it has been attacked by the honorable member for Bennelong, and, no doubt, the honorable member for Mackellar will also criticize its policy in that respect.
I should now like to refer to the statement by the honorable member for Mackellar that the Labour Government of New South Wales is not proceeding to develop open-cut mining because it is under the domination of the Communists, because the Communists do not want the coal resources of that State to be developed, and because the Communist party and the allegedly Communistcontrolled miners’ federation are opposed to the policy of having coal at grass. The suggestion that the Communist party and the Labour Government of New South Wales have been in concert to retard the production of coal in that State is without an atom of truth. The State Labour Government has been keenly desirous of producing as much coal as possible. It is rather interesting to note that the honorable member for Mackellar, who always parades himself in this House as a. great anti-Communist, happens to be an unfinancial member of the Federated Clerks Union. He wrote articles to the Sydney Morning Herald in which he claimed that that union was under Communist domination. He joined that organization when he was a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, and he refuses to acknowledge notices from it, or to pay his arrears to it. But something that is of even greater interest to honorable members-
-Order! I do not think that the honorable member’s remarks are related to the subject of coal mining.
– My remarks are related to coal mining in the sense that the honorable -member for Mackellar suggested that an agreement existed between the Labour Government of New South Wales and the Communist party to prevent the expansion of the production of coal in that State, and the establishment of stocks at grass. I submit that any evidence that I can adduce to show that the honorable member for Mackellar is insincere in advancing those arguments is material to this debate. I shall mention the matter briefly, because I do not wish to devote to it too much of the time that is available to me in this debate. In 193S, the honorable member for Mackellar conducted on the South Coast of New South Wales a newspaper that was known as the Illawarra Star. The workers placed a ban on that publication, and the honorable member became worried about its financial position. In the following year, what was known as the “ pig iron dispute “ occurred on the South Coast, when the waterside workers refused to load the steamer Dalfram. The honorable member called on Mr. Ted Roach, a well-known Communist, who does not hide the fact that he is a member of the Communist party, and discussed with him the lifting of the ban on his paper, and he contributed £10 to strike funds.
– Order ! I am still unable to see that the honorable member’s remarks are related to the present motion.
– I have only a few more words to say, and I should like to conclude my speech by informing the House that the honorable member for Mackellar presented a cup for the best display in the May Day procession. The prize, which was known as the Illawarra Star Cup, was won by the Port Kembla waterside workers, and Mr. Healy handed it to Mr. Ted Roach on their behalf. I do not question the honorable member’s actions but I do question his motives. The honorable member for Mackellar accuses the Labour Government of New South Wales of being in concert with the Communist party to restrict the production of coal in that State. I doubt whether a more foolish statement or charge has ever been made in this House. I suggest to honorable members that they take the opportunity to examine the evidence of what ha 9 been done in New South Wales to increase the output of coal. They will then learn that the State government has used every endeavour to bring expert knowledge to this country and to secure the equipment that is so urgently required for the development of this most important industry.
. - The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is to be congratulated upon having brought the subject of coal, and particularly of open-cut mining, to the attention of the House. Coal is normally regarded as rather a prosaic subject, but during the last decade or so it has progressively become the basis of the whole of the Australian economy. The majority of Australians never see a lump of coal from one year to another, yet the whole of our economy, primary and secondary, is based upon it. That has not always been so, but by reason of the increasing mechanization of primary and secondary industries, coal has become more and more a factor in the Australian economy until to-day the lack of it is sabotaging our developmental and housing programmes. Coal affects every State. It is true that New South Wales, on which the honorable member for Mackellar rightly concentrated most of his attention, is easily the most important coal-producing State, because it produces 80 per cent, of the Australian production of black coal, on which the economy of Victoria, South Australia and, to a lesser degree, the other States, largely depends. The Joint Coal Board has made plans for gradually increasing the production of black coal in New South Wales by the progressive mechanization of underground mines, and by the expansion of open-cut mining. The situation that the present Government inherited from the Labour Government in respect of coal is, broadly, as was described by the honorable member for Mackellar. According to the estimates at the time when we took office, the proven quantity of black coal that could be mined from open-cuts in new South Wales was 35,000,000 tons, but that quantity might prove to be as much as 50,000,000 or 60,000,000 tons. All the evidence that has come before us this year tends towards the proposition that a great deal more black coal may be mined in open-cuts in New South Wales than was estimated in the immediate past. I earnestly hope that the very large tonnage of black coal, of which the honorable member for Mackellar spoke this afternoon, will be mined from open-cuts in the future. I, personally, do not believe that the figures that he has cited are so fantastic as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has stated.
I shall now attempt, very briefly, in the limited period that is available to me, to give the House a quick sketch of the coal position in the various States, many of which are dependent on supplies from New South Wales. I need not dwell for very long on the position in Western Australia and South Australia. At Collie, in Western Australia, the quantity of coal that has been proven, to date, to be available for open-cut mining operations is approximately 1,000,000 tons. The Government of South Australia is vigorously prosecuting the development of the not very high quality coal at Leigh Creek. It is now obtaining from open-cut mines approximately 350,000 tons a year, and its plans provide for an increase of production as rapidly as possible up to approximately 1,000,000 tons a year. The proven reserves there are between 12,000,000 and 20,000,000 tons, which is not a great deal. As is generally known, the Government of Victoria is making great efforts,’ and will expend some tens of millions of pounds during the next five to eight years on the development of the groat brown coal deposits in the La Trobe Valley. 1 shall not bother the House with the details of the proposals in that matter other than to say that the present Government of that State is determined to remove Victoria as rapidly as possible, from what is known there as the thraldom of the New South Wales coal-fields. I believe that any government of Victoria, regardless of its political views, would adopt that policy. The situation of thraldom arises because Victoria imports at the present time about 20 per cent, of the output of black coal in New South Wales.
– I doubt whether that is so.
– No, I have inadvertently misstated the position. New South Wales exports about 20 per cent, of its production of black coal, and Victoria receives a percentage of that quantity. However, it is perfectly clear that unless the production in New South Wales is rapidly increased, a relatively small increase of the consumption of coal in that State will deal an almost mortal blow to the economy of Victoria and South Australia. Therefore, Victoria is doing whatever it can to make itself as selfsufficient as possible in coal and also in power. Generally, the power situation throughout Australia is that approximately SI per cent, of total electric power is generated by coal, approximately from 12 to 15 per cent, is generated by hydro-electric power and a small percentage, about 5 per cent., is generated by small internal combustion power plants. These figures will be varied as a result of the increase of hydro-electric power generating capacity during the next ten years, but it would appear that for all time Australia will depend for the greater part of its requirements on power that is generated by coal. That is true in respect of many other countries as well. In Queensland the production of coal totals 2,000,000 tons a year, of which 1,500,000 tons is produced in underground mines, whilst the two open-cut mines at Blair Athol and Callide produce 500,000 tons. No one knows yet the real extent of the Callide deposits, but, certainly, they will yield some tens of millions of tons. I am glad to know that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, and the Victorian Minister for Transport, Mr. Guye, intend to visit the Callide field during the next few days. The supplying of Callide coal can appreciably relieve the coal situation in Victoria and South Australia during the years immediately ahead. At present, production at Callide is comparatively trifling and most of the coal being produced there is being used by powergenerating stations in Brisbane. What is needed for the development of the Callide field is a marketing plan extending over from three to ten years. Such a plan would justify increasing capital expenditure on an improvement of the facilities for open cutting, transporting and handling,
– Is the Minister referring to internal marketing?
– Yes. I am not so optimistic as to believe that we shall be able to export coal within any appreciable foreseeable period of time. Callide coal can be landed in relatively small quantities at the wharf at Melbourne at a cost of £5 5s. a ton. A plan for the marketing of some hundreds of thousands of’ tons of coal annually is needed in order to justify capital expenditure on the development of the Callide field. If that were done, the cost of Callide coal to Victoria and South Australia could automatically be reduced substantially. Under those conditions, even with the present road transport facilities to Gladstone, the nearest port to the field, the price could be reduced to approximately £4 a ton landed at Melbourne. If a marketing plan were evolved for a period longer than five years and the quantity of coal to be handled warranted the building of a railway from Callide to Gladstone at a cost of some millions of pounds, I should say that it would not be very difficult practically to halve the present cost landed at Melbourne.
– What is the present price of New South Wales coal landed at Melbourne?
– From £3 10s. to £3 12s. a ton.
– If the market over a period were sufficient to justify the construction of a railway, Callide coal could be delivered to Melbourne at a lower cost on a British thermal units basis than that at which it is now possible to land New South Wales coal at Melbourne. That would be possible if an assured market existed for some hundreds of thousands of tons of Callide coal a year.
– What is the present price of New South Wales coal at grass at Newcastle?
– Between 1.0s. and £1 a ton.
– I have not spoken about Tasmania because no open-cut deposit has yet been found in that State. New South Wales is the Mother State in every respect, but particularly in respect of black coal. That State must continue for any foreseeable period of years to hold the key to Australia’s power and coal situation. Therefore we might ask whether everything possible is being done 1o increase the production of black coal in underground and open-cut mines in that State. That is the basic question in relation to Australia’s development on which, probably, our whole future and continued security depend. That is why I congratulated the honorable member for Mackellar upon initiating this debate and thus giving the House an opportunity to consider the problem, which is of basic importance, lt has fallen to me as Minister for National Development, in conjunction with the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), to deal with it, and we intend to give the greatest possible attention to the problem.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that the problem of coal in New South Wales is principally a problem of labour. I refute that contention. The fact is that if every coal mine in New South Wales had worked with its present labour force for five days a week during the last four years there would not be any shortage of coal whatsoever in Australia. On the contrary, we should have mined an additional 3,000,000 tons a year during that period. The present production of coal in New South Wales is from 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 tons a year short of the demand. Iron and steel production is inseparably linked with the production of coal. That industry, with the labour force that has been available to it for the last three years, and with no additional labour at all, could have produced an additional 500,000 tons of steel annually if it had had sufficient coal and thus it would have been enabled to meet fully Australia’s demand for steel. Therefore, the problem in New South Wales is not, in essence, a labour problem. Approximately 1,500,000 tons of open-cut coal was mined in. New South Wales last year, whilst the Joint Coal Board has estimated that 1,750,000 tons of open-cut coal will be mined during the current year, and that only 3,000,000 tons will be mined during 1952-53. That rate of production is tragically low and all concerned should do their utmost to increase it. I, personally, am not without hope that that can be done. The honorable member for Mackellar has pointed out that the matter is related to the dollar problem. In recent times our development has been positively retarded because of the dollar problem.
– The honorable member for Mackellar blamed the New South Wales Government.
– I shall show that that Government is not wholly without blame in the matter. Unless we overcome the dollar problem our development will be retarded and our immigration plans will not fulfil their promise in the years to come. Our security will be menaced, because we must obtain developmental equipment in large quantities. My departmental officers are now estimating the upper and lower limits of our requirements of developmental equipment for the next five years, excluding consumer goods entirely. Those officers are estimating how much of that equipment we can make ourselves, how much of it we can obtain from soft currency countries, and how much of it we shall be obliged to obtain from the United .States of America. The last phase will be the toughest part of the problem. We must get round the dollar problem in order to obtain the developmental equipment that we require. We need considerable equipment for opencut coal-mining and other developmental projects that can be obtained only from the United States of America. With respect to the culpability of the Government of New South Wales in this matter, I am informed by those who are in the best position .to know that open-cut mining in New South Wales is being held up by the bottleneck of railway transport due to shortages of rails and rolling stock.
– And also to lack of the developmental equipment about which the Minister has just spoken.
– Yes ; but coal is now piling up at grass at open-cut mines in New South Wales because sufficient railway transport is not available to shift it.
– At what mines is the coal piling up at grass?
– At a dozen of them.
– That is not true.
– I have been advised to that effect by the Joint Coal Board.
– The shortage of railway rolling-stock has arisen as a result of the war.
– The war ended nearly five years ago. We are short of steel because we are short of coal, and we are short of coal because we are short of steel. That is a vicious circle. We must obtain equipment for the provision of sidings and loading and washing plant. For that purpose we require steel which at present we cannot make for ourselves owing to the lack of adequate coal supplies. The position is tragic, and the honorable member for Mackellar has not exaggerated it in any respect. The railways in New South Wales are the responsibility of the government of that State. That government allowed its railway system to get into the position that it cannot move even the relatively small quantity of coal that is now being produced at open-cut mines. What will our position be five years hence when, we hope, the rate of production will be five times greater than it. is at present? That is the responsibility of the New South Wales Government. So far as I know, that government did not make any approach in the matter to the Chifley Government, and I now inform the House that it has not ,made any approach to the present Government on the problem. Australia is now importing steel, mainly through private enterprise channels, at the rate of 500,000 tons a year, at a cost that is nearly twice the cost of Australian-produced steel. We require annually not merely that additional 500,000 tons of steel that we are now importing but probably a present total of 1,000,000 tons in order to meet our requirements for the years immediately ahead. Therefore, I endorse broadly what the honorable member for Mackellar has said. I stress the vital importance of this problem. I assure him and the House that the Government is well aware of the general position that he has placed before us. It is well aware of the fact, to use a mixed metaphor, that coal is the rock on which this country’s plans may well founder.
– What has this Government done about it?
– Later, I shall inform the honorable member of the detailed plans that the Government has made for improving the production of coal in Australia. It has already done a great deal.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I should have liked either the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) or the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) to attempt to justify a statement contained in the last portion of this motion which was placed on the notice-paper solely in order to gain a party political advantage for the Liberal party, in New South Wales. The first part of the motion reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Federal Government’s efforts to increase the production of open-cut co.il in Australia should be continued and intensified.
There is nothing wrong with that statement. It was to that aspect of the motion that the Minister for National Development rightly devoted most of his remarks.
The remainder of the motion reads -
And, further, that the present underhand sabotage of open-cut coal production by the New South Wales Labour Government should be checked as far as possible.
Was any attempt made to prove the charge that open-cut coal production is being sabotaged by the New South Wales Labour Government? The honorable member for Mackellar made no attempt to substantiate it, nor did the Minister, who referred in the main to the lack of transport facilities in New South Wales. We are therefore left with no alternative but to assume that the motion was placed on the notice-paper solely for party political purposes. Let us consider the facts. The Labour Governments of New South Wales, first the McKell Government, and later the McGirr Government, were the only State governments that indicated their unqualified willingness to join with the Australian Government in a scheme for the improvement of coal production.
– What about the Victorian Government?
– The honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), who knows a great deal about this matter, is well aware of the fact that Victoria has only one large coal mine at Wonthaggi and one or two small mines at other places. The New South Wales Government was prepared to abrogate many of the sovereign rights of the State to enable an agreement to be reached between the Commonwealth and the State for the stepping up of coal production under a long-term plan. The preamble to the New South Wales Coal Industry Act 1946 contains a paragraph stating that each of the two governments undertook not to take action without the prior concurrence of the other, to repeal or amend any of the legislation covered by the agreement. That legislation deals inter alia with amenities and insurance schemes for the miners which are very important factors in achieving harmony in the coal industry, and consequently have a very important effect on coal production. In 1938-39 no State government had sufficient financial resources to enable it to embark on a programme for the expansion of coal production such as is envisaged by the Joint Coal Board. What States prior to 1940 could possibly have provided the funds necessary to embark upon such a scheme ?
– The uniform income tax system was not in operation in 1938.
– It is true that the uniform income tax scheme was not adopted until 1942, but it cannot be denied that between 1936 and 1940 no State could have raised sufficient money, either through the Loan Council or by other means, to finance such a scheme. Indeed, the Australian Government itself was at that time experiencing some financial difficulties. I recall that in 1938 the then Acting Treasurer, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), was running round the country trying to raise a Commonwealth loan of £12,000,000 through either the private banks or the Commonwealth Bank. I know only too well the position that then existed. I do not reveal any secret when I say that as a private member I was well aware that the resources necessary to provide for the expansion of the coal industry in New South Wales were not then available to either the Commonwealth or the States. The MenziesFadden Government was not then prepared to incur the expenditure involved in increasing the output of either opencut or underground coal mines in New South Wales. It was not interested in increasing the production of coal in any State nor was it prepared to finance any State government to do so.
The Minister for National Development has referred to the deterioration of the New South Wales railways. It is perfectly true that the New South Wales railways cannot handle the coal that is being produced in the open-cut mines in New South Wales as well as its other freight commitments. When the New South Wales Labour Government came into office in 1941 Australia was engaged in a world war and it was unable to obtain materials for the electrification or duplication of existing .railway lines or to purchase new rolling stock. Indeed, it could not obtain sufficient rolling stock to cater adequately for the movement of troops throughout the State. There was a complete bottleneck in western New South Wales which had remained in existence since the regime of conserva tive governments. That bottleneck was aggravated by increased traffic on the single-track portion of the western line and by the increased volume of freight coming from Mudgee and Lithgow. Much the same position existed in the northern part of the State. From what source could the New South Wales Labour Government have obtained additional locomotives and sealed coal-carrying hoppers? The honorable member for Mackellar has spoken of the possibility of importing steel for their manufacture locally. I remind him that until last year it was possible to obtain steel from abroad only in very limited quantities. When I was in Paris I discussed with M. Schumann, the French Foreign Minister, the possibility of importing steel for that purpose. The New South Wales Government was the first government in this country to take steps to obtain steel rails from abroad when it placed an order with French suppliers for between 20,000 and 30,000 tons. It is true that steel production in France has increased very rapidly and that - at a price - we are now able to obtain large quantities from that country. The fact that the New South Wales railways are unable to handle all the coal produced in that State is due not to any lack of effort on the part of the Labour Government of New South Wales to provide additional facilities, but to its physical incapacity to obtain steel for that purpose. Concerns such as the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, which are engaged in the manufacture of steel railway trucks, have had to import steel from the United Kingdom and continental countries in order to maintain a reasonable output. It is true, as the Minister has said, that the inadequacy of the Australian output of steel is due, in some measure, to the shortage of coal,- but I do not agree that that state of affairs has arisen as a result of lack of effort on the part of the New South Wales Government to stimulate coal production.
The honorable member for Mackellar has referred to what he described as “the sabotage of open-cut coal production by the New South Wales Government “. The only open-cut mine that has been continuously in operation for a number of years is the Nubex mine in the Wallerawang district and the efforts of the person who controls that mine have been scoffed at by the owners of the underground mines as the venture of a timber getter. The Nubex mine was regarded alike by the coal owners and the miners’ federation as a “blackleg show1’. That state of affairs indicates how much interest the conservative governments of New South Wales of the past have taken in the subject of open-cut mining. Other factors that have militated against the development of open-cut mining were the difficulty experienced during the war and for a considerable time thereafter of obtaining sufficient dollar allocations for the purchase of the requisite mechanical equipment and the slow fulfilment of orders. Only during the last eighteen months or so has it been possible for manufacturers to fill our orders for equipment of that kind within a reasonable time. Mechanical equipment is short of requirements not only for the coal industry but also for the construction and maintenance of roads. In many instances access roads to the open-cut mines were mere bush tracks. They have had to be remade and motor trucks of a specialized type had to be purchased to transport the coal from the mines to the railways. There is not the slightest justification for the allegation of the honorable member for Mackellar that the New South Wales Labour Government has sabotaged opencut coal production. As I have said, it is the only State Government that has cooperated fully with the Commonwealth in a plan to stimulate the production of coal. Tt is true that the Governments of Victoria, Western Australia and, later, Tasmania, indicated a willingness to consider the conclusion of such an agreement but nothing further was done in the matter. The Queensland Government opposed the appointment of a joint coal board unless it were given majority representation on the board.
The honorable member for Mackellar has spoken of Communist influence in the coal-mining industry. The former Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McKell, who is now the GovernorGeneral, agreed on behalf of the New South Wales Government that the Joint Goal Board should have no affiliation with either employers or employees.
– Nevertheless, it has failed.
– The Coal Industry Act 1946, under which the Joint Coal Board was established, is the finest piece of legislation that has ever been placed oil the statute-book of the Commonwealth. When Mr. K. A. Cameron was appointed as chairman of the board, I said to him, “ Some people will expect miracles as a result of the appointment of the board. Tn my opinion it will take from five to ?even years - perhaps ten years - to bring about a complete re-organization of the coal-mining industry. Do not be disheartened if you do not make much progress during the first few years of your activities. Before you can achieve success, among other things you will have to do will be to change the psychology, not ‘ only of the coalminers but also of the coal owners “. For the development of the black coal industry we evolved a plan to operate, not for a short time but for a long time. The Premier of New South Wales agreed with us that the three members of the board should be entirely free from affiliation with commercial or trade union organizations. Both the mine-owners and the miners’ federation exerted strong pressure to obtain representation on the board. All those efforts were resisted and we selected Mr. Cameron to be chairman of the board. It is perfectly true that we approached several other people - one of whom, I am sorry to say, is now dead - who had rendered very distinguished service to the country. We were finally able to induce Mr. Cameron to accept the position of chairman. With him on the board he had the chief inspector of the New South Wales Department of Mines and the Under-Secretary of the New South Wales Treasury, who had been co-operating with the Australian Government on coal production problems. The New South Wales Government did more than any other government to assist in making the Joint Coal Board a success. It even relinquished its rights in respect of legislation on its own statute-book so that this country could have a long-term plan for the production of coal. I do not think that the honorable member for Mackellar knows much about open-cut coal-mining. I know something about it because at various times I have been on the end of a shovel using that kind of coal. Although there may be instances of high quality opencut coal being mined in some parts of the world, the fact of the matter is that Australian open-cut coal is invariably very much inferior to underground coal. When I worked on the railways some of my colleagues told me that open-cut coal left an ash residue of as much as 22 per cent. Such an ash content in coal is a very great problem, even in coal that is used for the raising of steam.
The nearer coal lies to the surface of the earth the more inferior is its quality. The only real solution of our coal problem would be to have new underground mines that are completely mechanized. Mines cannot be mechanized in five minutes. I understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is attempting to mechanize some mines on the south coast of New South Wales. The John Darling mine and some other mines on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales are, of course, already mechanized. The Kandos Cement Company Limited has mechanized its mines at Kandos and Robertson, on the western New South Wales field. It is impossible to meet the coal needs of this nation by means of open-cut coal-mining, although such mining may assist in building up coal reserves for purposes other than the manufacture of coal gas. In extreme emergencies, it might even be possible to use open-cut coal for gas making. The coal that is mined at Cullen Bullen, Minmi, Ravenswood or the other places mentioned by the honorable member for Mackellar is vastly inferior to underground coal.
– Would the right honorable gentleman say “ vastly inferior “ ?
– Yes, when it is compared with the gas coal that is produced from Bellbird, Richmond Main, Abermain and other mines on the Maitland coal-field in New South Wales. Opencut coal does not bear comparison with coal produced from those mines, nor, indeed, with coal produced from underground mines for steam-raising purposes. Inferior open-cut coal can, however, be used for steaming purposes where it cannot be used for gas-making. The right honorable gentleman knows what the position is in regard to coking coal. I rose only to say that the attack by the honorable member for Mackellar on the New South Wales Government is completely unjustified. There is not one atom of proof to. justify his remarks. As I have said, the New South Wales Government did everything possible, even to the extent of sacrificing its own legislative rights, to reach an agreement for Commonwealth and State co-operation through the Joint Coal Board. I consider that this country for decades to come will be very grateful to the New .South Wales Government for its co-operation in the establishment of the board. I am astonished, therefore, by the statements of the honorable member for Mackellar-
-Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Osborne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 3665), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- A study of the arguments that have’ been advanced during the debate on this measure has satisfied me that this is a case in which our policy should be to hasten slowly. Australia’s history has shown very convincingly that the people of this country have a marked aversion to alterations of the Constitution. Only four of the 23 proposals for constitutional alteration that have been submitted 90 far on eleven separate occasions have received the sanction of the people. One of the four successful proposals was that relating to social services, which was submitted to the people in 1947. Another was the proposal regarding an alteration of the time of Senate elections, which was submitted in 1906. The two other successful proposals concerned the assumption by the government of responsibility for State debts, under section 105, and were carried in 1910 and 1928 respectively. It is most significant that the only occasions on which referendum! proposals have received popular approval have been those occasions on which the issues that were placed before the people had received substantial general support from the major political parties. It is also worth noting that on two occasions - the referendum in connexion with aviation that was held in 1937, and the referendum in connexion with employment and marketing that was held in 1946 - a majority of the aggregate popular vote was in favour of the proposals, but a majority of the States was not in favour of them, and the proposals were consequently defeated. It is most difficult, under the present constitutional position, to carry any referendum proposal, even when the various political parties are in agreement upon it, because it is necessary to obtain not only an aggregate majority in favour of the proposal but also a majority in a majority of the States. Because of the opposition of distant States to any alteration of the Constitution, it is difficult, in any circumstances, to carry any referendum proposal, even when the major parties are in agreement. The 1937 referendum is a classic example of that fact. I remember that during that referendum speakers from both major political parties spoke in favour of the proposal from the same platform in Melbourne Town Hall. Yet, that proposal was defeated. If there ever was a clear case for the adoption of a provision for Commonwealth instead of State control, such a case was contained in that proposal for Commonwealth control over aviation. It was not until the States by agreement allowed the Commonwealth to take over control of aviation that that vexed problem was solved. It is quite evident from these facts that any referendum proposal upon which the major political parties are in conflict must inevitably be defeated. I ask honorable members on the Government side to remember that fact. After all, the votes cast at the last federal election for the Government parties, despite the overwhelming preponderance of members that those parties have in this House at the moment, were only 50.45 per cent, of the total votes. That is not a very emphatic majority, and does not give the Government much hope of carrying its present referendum proposal unless it is supported by all parties. Distant States will certainly not vote for a proposal to alter the Constitution in relation to the Senate. I urge the Government earnestly and seriously to consider the suggestion that has been made by honorable members on this side of the House that the Government’s present proposal be referred to a select committee of the Parliament which might produce a proposal that would be acceptable to all parties and could therefore be submitted to the people with some chance of success.
A number of aspects concerning the Senate require to be reviewed. It would be idle to attempt to disguise the fact that for many years that chamber has not enjoyed a very high reputation with the people. In saying so I make no personal reflection upon the undoubtedly high qualities of the men and women who have constituted its membership since federation. They have contributed outstanding powers of intellect, and wise and mature judgment, to the many problems that have required solution. But the plain unvarnished fact is that the Senate has not fulfilled the expectations of its sponsors. What were those expectations that the framers of the Constitution hoped to bring to fruition ? Perhaps they . are best expressed in the monumental work on the Constitution by Quick and Garran, which says -
The Senate is one of the most conspicuous and unquestionably the most important of all the Federal features of the Constitution, using the word Federal in the sense of linking together and uniting a number of co-equal political communities under a common system of government. The Senate is not merely a branch of a bicameral Parliament, it is not merely a second chamber of revision and review representing the sober second thought of the nation, such as the House of Lords is supposed to he. It is that, but something more than that. It is the chamber in which the States, considered as separate entities and corporate parts of the Commonwealth, are represented. They are -so represented for the purpose of enabling them to maintain and protect their constitutional rights against attempted invasions and to give them every facility for the advocacy of their peculiar and special interests, as well as for the ventilation and consideration of their grievances.
Only a bold man would assert in this House that the Senate has lived up to the bright hopes that existed in the minds of Quick and Garran when they penned those words. The Senate was an offspring of the fight for federation. In the House of Representatives, with its rough equalization of electorates, urban interests tend to predominate and the more densely populated States tend to override the interests of the other States. That fact is an inevitable corollary of the federal electoral system. The Senate was formed to offset this concentration of power. To be perfectly honest with ourselves we have to admit that the Senate in practice has only served the purpose of reflecting the will of the party or parties that have or have had the majority in that chamber. The Government now asserts that because it has a majority in the House of Representatives as a result of the last general election the Senate should not oppose any of its legislation. In other words, the Government wishes the Senate to be reduced to a mere carbon copy of the House of Representatives. If that proposal is accepted by this House or by the nation - and of course it will not be accepted by the nation - the question will immediately be raised of whether we should have a Senate at all if it i6 merely to pass Government legislation in the form in which it receives it. As the architects of the Constitution saw the Senate, it was a noble conception. In practice, however, it has never functioned as it was intended to function. Under the Government’s proposal the Senate’s .period of usefulness would pass and it would be reduced to a pale reflection of this House* I cannot believe that the people of Australia would agree to such a proposition. If this bill is passed the arguments of the critics will be greatly reinforced because the proposed referendum would be a complete waste of the taxpayers’ money and I have no doubt that a new movement for the complete abolition of the Senate would gather force throughout the Commonwealth. Under the existing Constitution, the Senate can be abolished only by means of a referendum. I favour the abolition of the Senate, particularly if this bill is passed, but because of the suspicions of the less populous States it is very doubtful whether a majority in favour of its abolition could be secured in those States. That being so, the necessity for a more practical solution of this problem confronts the Government. Nobody is satisfied with the way in which the Senate has operated for many years.
Honorable members on the Government side of the House have stated that this measure is necessary in order to avoid a deadlock after a double dissolution. “Why have a double dissolution if there is a conflict between the two houses? Of course, the Constitution provides for a double dissolution but if it is proposed to alter the Constitution, why not do so by eliminating the provision for a double dissolution in the event of a conflict between the two houses? A double dissolution seems to be an unnecessary and cumbersome method of overcoming a deadlock and, as honorable members of the Opposition have shown, it would be overcome only temporarily. Why not hold a referendum on a proposal to alter the provision in relation to deadlocks? Why should not the Constitution be altered so as to make the relationship between the two houses in this country the same as that between the two houses in Great Britain? If the House of Lords conflicts with the House of Commons it can delay legislation only for a certain period and then the will of the House of Commons prevails. Another solution of the problem would be to elect senators on the same day as members of the House of Representatives are elected and then, if the House of Representatives dissolved before a certain date, for the Senate to dissolve also. This would ensure that the party that had the majority in the lower house would have a majority also in the upper house and the will of the Government would prevail. Another way of dealing with the problem would be to alter the Constitution to provide for joint sittings of both houses after a period of disagreement. This also would enable the Government to have its proposals accepted. Those three propositions seem to me to be much more practical for overcoming deadlocks than the cumbersome method that has been submitted by the Government. Double dissolutions are not the only remedy for deadlocks and a select committee could recommend to the House the adoption of one of the three proposals that I have put forward. Any of those three suggestions would have a much greater chance of being accepted by the people at a referendum than would the proposal embodied in this bill.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) in a sensible, intelligent speech early in the debate, proposed that both parties should confer in order to consider this matter and I am astonished that his realistic suggestion has not been adopted by the Government. It has been said by honorable members opposite that time is the essence of the contract but practically every honorable member knows that the Senate is due for a measure of reform and it would not take long for a select committee to propound a positive policy. It is possible that there would be a delay of only one or two months and the result would be a perfect settlement of a position for which this bill provides only a temporary remedy. A select committee could review the Senate’s functions. If the Senate is only to endorse decisions of the lower house it will not be of much value, but a select committee could consider extending the powers of the Senate and giving to it specified duties. In view of the constant increase of the powers of the Government it would not be impossible to confer certain duties on the Senate. To-day, the Senate does not loom very large in the esteem of the Australian people, but if it could be given some specific responsibility its prestige would be enhanced.
A well-known constitutional authority, Lord Bryce, at page 204 of volume II. of his book, Modern Democracies, says -
Not having any special functions such as that of control of’ appointments and of foreign policy which give authority to the American Senate, itf Australian copy has proved a mere replica and an inferior replica of the House.
The adoption of the suggestions that were made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) would make the Senate a responsible, legislative body. The honorable member for Fremantle mentioned many spheres of government such as foreign affairs and the welfare of aborigines which, if they were allotted to the Senate, would give that body new life and usefulness. » Being only the occupant of a back bench, I know that my views are not regarded as of much consequence by the Government; nevertheless I should like to consider the suggestion made by the’ honorable member for Angas, and appoint a select committee, because if any proposals are to be put to the people at a referendum they should be of such a nature that they will be endorsed. It is very hard to obtain the endorsement of the people to any proposals at a referendum and the only way in which proposals of this nature can be put to the people successfully is by having them endorsed by all parties. Any approach to the people by way of referendum on an issue concerning which parties are divided is doomed to failure.
Apparently the Government is not prepared to consider suggestions of the kind that I have made because it has not responded to the representations that have been made by previous honorable members who have spoken from this side of the House. I therefore make a few general criticisms of the bill. A point that stands out like a beacon on a headland is the method of voting that is proposed under the proposed new sections. The Government does not seem to have made. up its mind about whether voters will receive one or two ballot-papers. In any case, there will be two sets of candidates for them to vote for and if both are on the one ballot-paper the task of the voter will be much harder. Those who have taken an active part in election campaigns know that, under the present system of voting for the Senate, informal voting has reached astronomical dimensions. If anything is done to alter the method of Senate voting it should be simplified. The present system of voting is complicated enough, but the proposed new one will cause endless confusion and if the Government’s proposal is implemented the present number of informal votes will be doubled.
The Government claims that this bill has been introduced in order that the will of the people shall be carried out. Yet Government members are not so anxious that the will of the people shall prevail in the filling of casual Senate vacancies. If the Government is so keenly desirous that the people’s will shall be carried out on all occasions, why does it not propose an alteration of the present method of filling casual vacancies in the Senate ? Surely it would be easy to insert another clause in the bill to provide that the present conservative, outmoded and undemocratic method of filling a casual vacancy by a joint meeting of State Houses of Parliament shall be eliminated. That method is the very antithesis of democracy, especially while there are conservative upper houses in a number of States. There has been a number of cases in which State parliaments, despite the fact that the Labour party had received enormous majorities at previous Senate elections, have chosen an anti-Labour senator to fill a casual vacancy. The ‘Government is concerned not so much about the will of the people as about the advantage that may accrue to the Liberal party, and this bill is an example of blatant political opportunism.
The bill reveals a distinct lack of adequate preparation. The proposed new section that deals with the number of senators to be elected by each State is an example of this fact. Despite the sophistry of honorable members on the Government side, the fact remains that upon the interpretation of the relevant provision any increase of the membership of the Senate must be of the order of four for a State or 24 for the Commonwealth. According to the Constitution, the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators. That ratio of two to one is a rigid element and a basic requirement of the Constitution. The proportion cannot be modified by the Australian Parliament, it can be altered only by an alteration of the Constitution approved by the people per medium of a referendum. If the Government’s proposal becomes law then the membership of the House of Representatives could be increased by 4S so as to preserve the ratio of two to one with the membership of the Senate. As time passes by and as this country develops the necessity will arise, perhaps in the near future, for an increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives. But then it would be most difficult, bearing in mind their present duties, to increase the number of senators. If careful thought had been given to the provisions of this bill, a clause would have been, inserted to provide for the alteration of the two to one ratio. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that that matter has not been even mentioned. All that the Government is concerned about is the gaining of what it regards as a little temporary party political advantage. An alteration such as this will cause endless trouble in the future, but no doubt considerations of that nature will not influence those who are to-day showing such a profound lack of vision.
Another matter that should be considered is that a party returned by a slight majority of votes could have a number of elected members out of all proportion to the number of votes cast in favour. It appears that the final result will be a membership of six to four in each State. Thus a majority of the electors can be substantially over-represented. A two to three thousand majority in the first and second ballots would cause a great disparity between the number of senators who secured a majority of votes and those who secured a minority. A political swing back at the next general election could give a majority to the minority party at the double dissolution. In the event of a double dissolution the number of senators returned will be in the proportion of 36 to 24. Although I am not a betting man, my view is that at the next general election the odds will be a hundred to one that the parties will be returned in the proportion of 30 to 30. That would mean 30 for Labour and 30 for the Government parties. It is absolutely certain that another deadlock will occur three years after a double dissolution. Therefore, the implications of this bill are very wide, and it is evident that no foresight was displayed when it was being drawn up. The Government’s attitude in this matter proves that the bill, although it proposes to alter the situation permanently, could, in three years time, cause the same trouble that it is designed to remedy. The suggestion of the Labour party for the appointment of a select committee should be favorably considered by the Government. The matters that have been raised by the Opposition have not been effectively rebutted by the Government.
The extraordinary claim by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his second-reading speech that the proposal enhances the rights of the electors is beyond my comprehension. It does anything but enhance the rights of electors. At present if a double dissolution occurs the electors have the right to decide which senators shall have a sixyear term and which shall have a threeyear term. But under this legislation that right is to be placed in the hands of the party organizations. Surely this privilege should not be taken from the electors, because it is reasonable that they should have the right to say which senators shall have the six-year term and which shall have the three-year term.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
.- I support the bill. The time ha9 come, I think, to state the essential features of the measure more simply and clearly than they have been stated by recent speakers. The Opposition, with a great deal of ingenuity, has been smothering the bill under a great woolly blanket of words. Yet it is a very simple measure, and it has only one purpose. It provides for the situation that arises in the event of an election following a double dissolution, which, as all honorable members will agree, is a very rare occurrence. The complexity with which the bill has been surrounded can be removed, I think, only by attempting some very simple statements of its purpose, even though those statements may seem to be trite. As all honorable members know, normally only half the members of the Senate retire at any time, but, in the event of a double dissolution, all senators retire and become eligible for re-election. As there are ten senators from each State, and as there is a system of proportional representation for the Senate, it is almost impossible, and certainly highly improbable, that an election following a double dissolution will result in anything but an even division of the Senate, with 30 members on one side and 30 members on the other side. As all honorable members are aware, a swing so great as to give a proportion of six to four in any of the States would be unprecedented in Australian politics. Therefore, the prospect is that any election that takes place after a double dissolution will result in an even division in the Senate. That is a fairly simple but very real problem to which this Parliament must give its attention. All the arguments that have been raised against the bill have complicated and confused this simple issue by introducing all manner of constitutional discussions. These arguments have concentrated on two particular points. On the one hand, some honorable members have argued, quite persuasively according to their lights, that the Senate is in. need of reform, and, on the other hand, other honorable members have argued, quite persuasively according to their lights, that some better procedure than is laid down at present is needed for the resolving of deadlocks.
I submit that neither of those two points is immediately relevant to the measure. However, because they have been raised, I should like to deal briefly with each of them. I appreciate fully everything that has been said to the effect that the Senate has not in practice fulfilled the intention of the framers of the Constitution. Neither in its membership nor in its functioning has it achieved what was intended when it was founded. Although I do not fully agree at all points with the diagnosis of this illness, I agree, as I believe that most honorable members will, that there is a chronic illness in the upper chamber that must be attended to sooner or later. However, that illness cannot be dealt with effectively in a bill of this kind.
Two distinct problems are involved in any proper consideration of the bill. There is the problem of the mechanical operation of the parliamentary system. It is the problem of what will happen in the event of an election after a double dissolution - a mechanical problem relating to the working of the Constitution. Quite apart from that, there is a broader and more fundamental problem concerning the whole design of the Constitution and the principles according to which it has been shaped. I suggest that those two matters should be kept separate. They cannot benefit each other by being treated together. Listening to members of the Opposition during this debate, we have heard many highly coloured adjectives used to describe the situation in the Senate, and a few rather pale arguments about the need for a reform of the Senate, but we have heard nothing of any consequence about the means of repairing the mechanical fault that has developed. Because I credit members of the Opposition with having a certain degree ot intellectual capacity, I suggest that they have been endeavouring to distract attention from their reluctance to get out and get under and repair the fault. I admit that some supporters of the Government have talked in similar broad terms about the reform of the Senate and fundamental changes of the Constitution. In passing, speaking personally in my own right as a member of this House, I make it plain that I do not accept their belief that the Senate ought necessarily to reflect the opinion of the lower house. Although that general opinion has been submitted by some of my colleagues, I believe that it arises from a misreading of the purposes of the Constitution and, in fact, represents a contradiction of the terms of the Constitu tion.
The arguments in favour of the measure do not need to rest on the thesis, which is essentially a Labour party thesis, that the upper house should be a pale reflection of the lower house. In fact, the bill rests only on the need for remedying the particular difficulty that arises in the event of an election following a double dissolution. That brings me to a consideration of the problem of a deadlock in our parliamentary system that occurs when a conflict between the two bouses , arises and cannot be readily resolved. I suggest that any government at any time in any Parliament should expect to be confronted with an upper house in which the majority belongs to another party than that to which the majority in the lower house belongs. That situation is contemplated in the Constitution. The general idea of providing a different form of election for the upper house and a different term of membership for the members of that house was conceived precisely in order that the upper house should not be a reflection of the lower house. The provision is customarily thought of as being a safeguard against precipitate change. Having accepted that safeguard, we must expect to find ourselves sometimes in situations such as that which exists at present when, having passed through a period of socialist experimentalism, we find the system operating in order to consolidate and maintain those socialist experiments. That is a natural outcome of the general constitutional framework of this Parliament. However, we must also realize that, within the parliamentary system itself, there are procedures, machinery and methods by which deadlocks between the two houses can be resolved. I suggest that not through any mere element of combativeness or for any mere hope of party advantage should either the Government or the Opposition leap lightly into a double dissolution. Both the Government and the Opposition have an obligation to try to resolve a deadlock. Only when it cannot be resolved by the ordinary parliamentary means does a’ double dissolution become necessary. Although there has been a great deal of talk about deadlocks in this debate, I suggest that the issue raised by this bill is, not the issue of resolving deadlocks, but the issue of what to do after a deadlock has ‘ been resolved by the act of a double dissolution. Members of the Opposition have spoken at some length about methods of resolving deadlocks. As a private member, I suggest that it is up to them to give full value to their words by acting in the spirit of those words and accepting their obligation to ensure that a double dissolution shall not lightly be effected.
If a deadlock cannot be resolved by any other means than a double dissolution, surely honorable members; must recognize the importance of trying to ensure that the election following the dissolution shall not give rise to another deadlock. The bill applies itself simply and constructively to that problem and to no other problem. It contains no provision for the resolving of deadlocks, because such a provision is already inherent in the parliamentary system under which we work. It contains no provision for a reform of the Senate, because that is a larger matter that cannot be dealt with in a measure of this kind. It concentrates solely and simply upon the one problem of making effective an election after a double dissolution. I emphasize also that it does not’ apply only to some phantom double dissolution that honorable members may expect to see at any time during the next few months. If passed and endorsed by the people at a referendum, it will apply to all double dissolutions for as long as .the system of proportional representation in the Senate continues in operation. It does not relate only to a particular political event. It is designed to alter the Constitution and it relates to all constitutional eventualities. The bill consists of three clauses, the first of which cites the short title and the second relates to the number of senators. Some members of the Opposition have engaged in rather laboured humour about the phrases that are used in that clause in order to state a very simple proposition. They have chuckled at length over the provision that the number of senators for a State shall be a number which is divisible by two without remainder, but which is not divisible by four without remainder. That, as has been explained on previous occasions, is a very simple way of expressing the simple proposition that, in order that an odd number of senators shall retire at alternate elections, it is necessary that the total shall be an even number which, when divided by two, shall give an odd number. Unless we establish that point, it will be impossible not only for the measures that are proposed in this bill to operate, but also for the normal voting system for the Senate at general elections to be carried out. For that system to prevail, it is necessary that an odd number of senators shall retire every three years.
The third clause of the bill is devoted to the procedure that is to be followed in the event of a double dissolution. It attacks this one great problem of how to conduct the election so that the result will not be an evenly divided Senate. It proposes that the power shall be placed in the hands of the people, and that two voting papers shall be prepared, one of which will contain the names of the candidates for election for a term of three years, and the other the names of the candidates for election for a term of six years. By that simple method, we ensure that the will of the people shall be expressed clearly and well, and that the possibility of an even division in the Senate shall be overcome. I suggest that that is a very simple and effective method, and I have not heard any member of the Opposition submit an alternative to it. [ have heard such suggestions as, “Reform the Senate”, and, “Introduce new’ procedure for ending deadlocks “, but I have not heard any concrete suggestions for tackling this mechanical problem - the single problem with which this Parliament is faced at the present time, namely, the problem of how to conduct an election after a double dissolution so that the new Senate will not be evenly divided. I remind honorable members that the system that is proposed in this bill will operate in both ways, and, on reflection, they will see that it gives no advantage to one political party as against another political party. It is neither for nor against the Government; it is neither for nor against the Opposition. The Government, facing a double dissolution and the election of the Senate under this measure, would run just the same risk as the Opposition would run. It would have the same prospect as the Opposition would have of realizing the hope that it might obtain a majority of supporters in the Senate. This bill operates in both ways with complete fairness.
If honorable members opposite are frightened of the bill, and some of them have shown signs of fear about it, I suggest that the reason is not any dou’bt about the system of voting, but a lack of confidence in their own appeal to the electors of Australia; <a lack of confidence in the state of their own party; and a lack of confidence in the condition of divided and confused leadership in it. That is the basis of their fear. It is not a fear on their part that this bill will operate unfairly. One reason why the Government places this bill before the House with confidence is that it has enough faith and trust in its own reputation to be prepared to go before the people on any equitable system of voting, and to take the consequences. If we win, we shall do so because we deserve the victory. If we fail, we shall be prepared to accept the verdict of the people. As I have stated, the Opposition’s case against the bill has been largely designed to distract attention from the solid, simple, concrete provisions of the measure. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who led the case for the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and other members of the Opposition have spoken of matters other than those that are contained in the bill. They have talked about reforming the Senate, and about methods of parliamentary procedure to end deadlocks. Indeed, they have talked of anything except the simple mechanical problem with which this bill deals.
In closing, I should like to draw an analogy, which, I think, will immediately appeal to all honorable members who have rooms in the newly erected wings of this building. The analogy is that of leaks in the roof. We have been familiar with them during the last few weeks. If there is a leak in the roof, do we repair it, as Opposition members suggest, by erecting a complete new building ? Do we end the problem by constructing three new wings? Do we repair the leak by immediately re-designing the whole building ? Of course, we do not ! We do one simple thing. We stop the leak in the roof. We are faced with the difficulty of a deadlock that is likely to arise out of the present system of election following a double dissolution, and, figuratively speaking, honorable members opposite would not attend to the leak in the roof or try to make the Constitution habitable, or waterproof. They say, “ Let us move to another building, or construct a new wing, or re-design the whole structure “. They would do anything but attend to the fault itself. I suggest that this bill offers a simple and effective way of overcoming a real constitutional difficulty; a way that is completely fair to both sides of politics that are represented in this Parliament; a way that is equitable and just; a way that will allow the people of Australia to provide a new Parliament, should the present Parliament prove unworkable and march to a double dissolution.
.- I desire to offer two assurances to the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck). The first is that, for my part, I shall not be one to bring about a double dissolution lightly. I think that I owe it to my constituents to ensure that they shall not be troubled, by other people who trouble me, any earlier than is absolutely necessary. The second is that I have no fears about the bill, for reasons that I shall proceed to state. I have no fears on the score that the measure will ultimately be given effect. Those assurances may be comforting to the honorable gentleman since he displayed such concern about the situation.
The initial thought that occurs to me when I address myself to this bill is that there is no call at present to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to elections for the Senate. No deadlock has arisen between the Senate and the House of Representatives, but, apparently, Government supporters assume that one will occur between them after certain bills have been considered by the two chambers. That assumption began immediately after the 10th December last when the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were returned to office. Whilst no foundation for that assumption has been stated here, so far as I am aware, it is pertinent to recall the historical fact that only one double dissolution has occurred since federation, and that was in 1913.
– And the government of the day crashed.
– Yes. Honorable members should bear in mind the point, which has been completely overlooked, at least by members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party, that the Government may secure a double dissolution on any issue whenever a deadlock occurs between the Senate and the House of Representatives. The assumption that immediately after a general election a deadlock will occur can be most misleading. The matter of whether the Senate, in which the Government has not a majority of supporters, is deliberately setting out to frustrate the Government’s legislation is most pertinent. In my opinion, a desire on the part of the Senate to amend certain legislation that has been introduced by the Government cannot justifiably be interpreted as an act of deliberate frustration of the Government’s programme. The purpose of an Opposition is not to frustrate the Government, and, more often than not, it seeks to amend legislation only in order to make it more effective. I realize that I should not be in order in referring to any of the earlier proceedings in this House, but I am sure that honorable members will recall that, in the past, many of the amendments that were made to bills at the instigation of an Opposition, have had most beneficial results. Even if an opposition stubbornly insisted on amending legislation not necessarily to the point of frustrating a government’s programme for carrying out the mandate that it had received from the people, ways and means could be devised for overcoming that situation, and ways and means can be devised at the present time to effect a worthwhile compromise between the Government and the Opposition, and undoubtedly that will be done. All honorable members know, and I think that the public should understand, that no very great differences exist between the average legislative programmes that are presented to the Parliament by the political parties which from time to time occupy the treasury bench. We should keep that fact prominently in mind at the present time. The reason for that situation is obvious. The demands on the principal political parties emanate from the same people, and the means that have been suggested for overcoming anomalies or for introducing services that are desired by the people come from the same source. Therefore, no very great differences exist in the philosophical basis of any legislation that may be introduced into a parliament. The consideration that counts is, “Who shall administer the acts of the Parliament?” Those who administer the acts are actually the ones that govern the people. They have a substantial voice in determining the degree of sympathy that shall be applied to certain cases, and, therefore, it is important to realize that political parties struggle to become the government with the object not so much of passing legislation as of administering the acts of the Parliament. It is of little use to try to give the public any other impression. The whole position can be completely misrepresented by assuming that, merely because an amendment is suggested by the Opposition, it is trying to frustrate the Government’s programme for giving effect to the mandate that it obtained from the people.
The House is now asked to consider a bill, the purpose of which is to avoid double dissolution deadlocks. Probably, a deadlock between the Senate and the House of Representatives is not in the offing, yet we are asked to regard the action of the Opposition in securing an amendment to a bill as a factor that may produce a deadlock between the two chambers, simply because the Government has not a majority in the Senate. At present, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have a majority in the House of Representatives, and the Labour party has a majority in the Senate. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party in at least a majority of the State Parliaments have known of similar conditions throughout the years, yet they have found no danger in them. Of course, that position in the States has been brought about through the medium of a limited franchise, and no attempt has been made to reform it. Labour governments in the States have encountered from time to time, not upper houses that have amended their legislation, but hostile upper houses, which they have not been able to reform. The conclusions that I draw from the present situation in the Parliament of the Commonwealth are quite logical. It is obvious that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are adept at “ dishing it out “, but they cannot “ take it “ This bill proposes to alter-the provisions of the Constitution. The honorable member for Curtin stated that many references have been made in this debate to the Australian Constitution. The explanation of that is that the Government has preferred to make this bill a measure to alter the Constitution.
The most unsatisfactory feature of this proposal is that it has been hastily conceived. It was evolved by a zealous supporter of the Liberal party who happens to be a member of the legal profession. It originated in an atmosphere of secrecy, wherea s any proposal to alter the Constitution should, from the moment of its conception, be given the greatest possible publicity in order to enable the people to consider fully its implications. That is particularly desirable when the proposal relates to the constitution of either house of the Parliament, which is the keystone of our democracy. The gentleman who originated this proposal might be expert in resolving football problems, but it is clear that he is not a sound political psychologist. Proposals for alterations of the Constitution should originate with persons who have had considerable legislative experience and who can, unquestionably, be regarded as patriotic Australians. My colleagues and, I believe, many honorable members opposite agree that a proposal of this nature, which is advanced primarily in order to gain some party political advan- tage, is unworthy of consideration by either the Parliament or the people. The introduction of this measure is unworthy of the Government. In this connexion we shall do well to recall the ideals that the architects of the federation set before them. The Senate was conceived as a States House,, and care was taken to ensure that it should not become merely an echo of the lower house. If this proposal is agreed to, that objective will be defeated, and the present position of the Senate as a costly and worthless institution will be emphasized still further. The people will be quick to realize that that is precisely the position tha.t exists to-day. The Senate was born of State jealousies and it is unfortunate, perhaps, that party political rivalry has achieved what could not be achieved by an appeal to truly national sentiment. Party political divisions have become as pronounced Representatives, and thus the intention of the framers of the Constitution has been defeated. Would any person be content to see the Senate become merely a worthless appendage of the lower house? That state of affairs will be brought about if this proposal is agreed to.
If it is wise to effect an alteration of the Constitution to deal with a particular problem, we must get away from’ the stunting and bluffing that have been associated with the introduction of this measure. The object of the bluffing, of course, has been to discourage any attempt to amend certain measures. If we seek to alter the Constitution in a desirable way, we should follow the procedure that was followed when the Constitution itself was being hammered out. The Government should gather together in conference those members of the community who have the best brains and the most experience, such as the leaders of all parties in the State parliaments and in this Parliament, so as to improve the constitution of the Senate. Every one realizes that the Senate will not be abolished, if only for the reason that the less populous States will not tolerate such action. Regardless of the ineffectiveness of the Senate up to the present, those States would at least cling to the original conception that the Senate should be the States’ House, and should have the primary duty of protecting State rights. My colleagues and I realize what, the Government has failed to realize, namely, that there is not the slightest chance that this proposal will be endorsed at a referendum. This measure is farcical because, whether or not it is passed, there is not the slightest chance that the proposal which it embodies will be approved at a referendum by an absolute majority of the aggregate votes or by a majority of the States a result which the Constitution requires before any alteration of the Constitution can be effected.
However, it would be profitable for the Parliament to consider the future form and scope of the Senate. Such a study offers great possibilities. I admit that I cannot suggest a solution of this problem. But persons with greater experience in such matters might be able to evolve ways and means of making the Senate, in fact, the protector of the States’ rights, and, at the same time, a house of review. Many difficulties have arisen among the States as members of the federation. The States have suffered as the result of the funding of State debts, the introduction of uniform income tax and restrictions upon borrowing. Those are a few of the difficulties that come readily to one’s mind. I also point out that the States are now asking for assistance from the Australian Government in health matters and to enable them to liberalize their education systems from the kindergarten stage to the university. For many years, the leaders of State governments have met regularly with the object of protecting their respective interests. That responsibility could be shouldered by a remodelled Senate and a consideration of those factors would be worthier of the Parliament than is a consideration of this proposal to alter the Constitution, which would make the Senate merely a replica of the House of Representatives from a party political standpoint. For those reasons it would be a thousand pities if the people approved of this proposal at a referendum.
Some honorable members have described the proposal as an experiment but, surely, it is unwise for any government to attempt to effect a permanent alteration of the Constitution in order to enable it to. apply at elections of the Senate a mathematical formula that is designed to serve party political expediency. I repeat that should this proposal he approved by the people the Senate will merely be a reflection of party representation in the House of, Representatives, and I trust that the people will realize that fact. Another weakness of the proposal is that it will embarrass future parliaments that may wish to increase the numerical strength of the House of Representatives, because if it is embodied in the Constitution it will not be possible to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives unless the number of honorable senators from each State is increased by at least four. However urgent the need might be in the future to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives, it would not be possible to do so until circumstances justified the number of members being increased by at least 48. I also emphasize that the present act may be amended so as to produce the result that the government of the day may wish to achieve. Another undesirable feature of it is that following a double dissolution, the ten vacancies in each State shall be filled at two ballots, at one of which five senators shall be elected for a period of six years, and at the other five senators shall be elected for a period of three years. Under such a system, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has pointed out, the number of informal votes will be increased considerably. When one remembers the large proportion of informal votes that are now cast at ordinary general elections, one readily admits the probability that the number of informal votes will be practically doubled under the system of voting proposed under this measure. That would mean the disenfranchisement of a corresponding number of electors.
The point has also been made that under this proposal greater power will be vested in the party political machine, because the machine will determine which candidates shall be nominated in either of, the two ballots. The people would have very little opportunity to obtain redress should they disagree with the decision of the party political machine. Although, at present, the party machine selects candidates, a voter still retains a considerable degree of choice while, at the same time, supporting a particular party. In whittling down that degree of choice still further this proposal is undemocratic. In addition, the measure makes no provision for the filling of Senate vacancies that may arise because of the retirement or death of a senator. Therefore, we must conclude that the present system of filling Senate casual vacancies will be continued. As the proposal as a whole will affect the interests of future generations, more, consideration should be given to the problem that it seeks to solve. That is most important, particularly when we recall that at present, the Senate casual vacancies are sometimes filled by persons who have been nominated by the State Governors upon the advice of their respective Governments. We have seen that system in operation in the making of appointments with undue might in upper houses in the parliaments of various States. Its significance has been demonstrated on more than one occasion when, after such an appointment has been made, the people at the following general election have rejected a candidate who had the added prestige of having served in the Senate for a short period. The Prime Minister must offer some cure for that defect before he can logically ask us to believe that he has introduced this bill solely for the purpose of clearing up difficult situations that might exist as the result of a deadlock occurring between the two Houses of the Parliament.
A double dissolution has occurred only once in the history of the Commonwealth. The point that must be emphasized, so that the people may understand the true position, is that ample machinery already exists to meet such an emergency. The Constitution provides that in the event of a deadlock continuing after a general election has taken place following a double dissolution, a joint sitting of both Houses may be held, At such a joint sitting the force of the Senate is largely nullified by the greater number of members of the House of Representatives. After a double dissolution the Senate would more closely reflect the will of the people than would the House of Representatives. That fact can be clearly demonstrated.
After a double dissolution bad occurred the matters which had caused it would be more fully explained than wouldthose normally placed before the Parliament, no matter how bitterly the opposing parties might have disagreed upon them. Apart from that the Senate is a States House, whereas the House of Representatives is elected on a much more precarious basis. All honorable members are well aware that about twelve seats in this chamber which are at present held by both Labour and anti-Labour members were won by the successful candidate by a majority of approximately only 1,000 votes. It must be obvious that a very great change could take place in the composition of this House without indicating a very serious swing away from the Government. That fact demonstrates that the Senate, as it is constituted at present, is a much more stable branch of the legislature than is the House of Representatives, and constitutes a sound argument for the retention of the present system of electing the Senate until a more worthwhile constitutional reform than that proposed by the Government in this bill has been devised.
Honorable members opposite surely do not claim that the Government has a mandate for this legislation. Those who have listened closely to the arguments advanced for and against this bill must agree that it is partisan in concept in that it seeks to bind posterity for party political purposes. I have deliberately refrained from mentioning any particular political party because I do not want those who are listening to me to confuse the arguments that I am advancing. The position in relation to the Senate and the House of Representatives in the federal sphere has existed in some of the States in relation to the upper and lower branches of their legislatures. Therefore, we cannot be expected to accept as sincere the Government’s contention that the bill was introduced solely for the purpose of solving problems that might arise in the Parliament following a double dissolution. It goes much further than that. Submission of this proposal to a referendum of the people will be costly and futile because the prospect of its endorsement by the people is practically negligible.
– The honorable member has already said that.
– I repeat it for purposes of emphasis. We cannot amend this measure. The best we can do is to await its ultimate rejection, which seems to be certain.
.- On a measure such as this, which deals with a proposed alteration of the Constitution, no honorable member should be prepared to record a silent vote. It is obligatory on all of us to do everything we can do to avoid the possibility of the legislation of any government being nullified as the result of a deadlock arising either in the Senate or between the Senate and the House of Representatives. In introducing this measure the Government is acting on right lines. I have listened keenly to the debate, with a great deal of interest to some honorable members, and with bored tolerance to others. I was immensely impressed by the speech made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), who clearly defined the position and indicated exactly where he stood in regard to this measure and on the subject of Senate reform. If he cares to advance a proposition based on the lines indicated in his speech, I shall have great pleasure in supporting it. Opposition members have introduced into this debate arguments that have no relation to the purposes of this bill. I believe that they object to its very title. The main purpose of the bill is to provide such a system of electing Senate candidates as will prevent a stalemate in the Senate after a double dissolution. It has no relation to such problems as the abolition of the Senate, the filling of Senate casual vacancies by the State parliaments, the functions of the Senate and many other matters that have been raised by Opposition members, no matter how much they may be commended in the interest of the improvement of the Senate.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has referred at great length to the problem of filling casual vacancies. He and other Opposition members referred to the fact that when Senator Keane died in America the resultant vacancy in the Senate was filled by Senator Fraser who was of a different political faith from that of the late Senator Keane. lt is true that that was done. However, they made no reference to the fact that when Senator Adamson died in 1922 the resultant vacancy was filled, at the instance of the Queensland Government, by Senator McDonald who held a political creed that differed from that of the late Senator Adamson.
– We referred to that also.
– The Leader of the Opposition studiously avoided it and 1 take a great deal more notice of him than I do of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson). The filling of casual vacancies is the responsibility of the State parliaments and it is the privilege of the political parties holding a majority of the seats in the State parliaments, whether they be Liberal party, Australian Country party or Labour party, to choose a person of their own political faith to fill a casual vacancy. In these circumstances there was nothing wrong with the appointment of Senator Fraser to take the place of the late Senator Keane.
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– Another matter to which attention was not directed by Opposition members was the danger of the President of the Senate losing his office, not because the Senate has no confidence in him, but because of certain decisions by persons or bodies outside this chamber. That is a matter which might very well be examined when we are considering any proposal for the reform of the Senate. The Senate should itself determine who shall preside over its proceedings.
We have watched with great dismay the policy of frustration adopted by the Labour Opposition in the Senate. My electors have always shown an interest in events that occur in Canberra. Despite the importance of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill and other important measures now before the Parliament, my electors have shown the greatest interest in what is occurring in the Senate, particularly in the recent action of Opposition senators in boycotting a sitting of the Senate while they peeped through the doors giving access to the chamber from the corridors. The conduct of the Labour Opposition in the Senate constitutes a challenge to the Government which mustbe accepted. It foreshadows what we may expect should a double dissolution take place. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would not be worthy of his salt if he did not accept such a challenge and to do his utmost to thwart it. If necessary he must be prepared to go back to the people and ask them to re-affirm his mandate.
– Hear, hear !
– I notice that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) is applauding that suggestion. I only hope that if the Prime Minister decides to take such action he and other Opposition members will not back down. Let them be prepared to face the people and have a showdown.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills is interjecting too frequently. If I remember aright, he has already spoken to the bill.
– A study of the Senate figures recorded at the last general election and of the voting at the recent general election in Tasmania shows that, there is every reason to believe that if a double dissolution occurs the people of Australia will return to the Senate an equal number of senators representing each party. In those circumstances, after the matter in dispute had been settled, a stalemate would inevitably follow. I do not believe that the Chifley Government had any sinister motive in introducing its proposal to change the system of voting at Senate elections. It simply overlooked the problem that would arise as a result of that legislation should a double dissolution occur. In these circumstances, surely we can look to the Opposition to support this plain, simple measure to correct the error made by the Chifley Government even if only to ensure that the system of proportional representation shall be made to work. Despite what has been said to the contrary, the provisions of this bill will not prevent a political party from endorsing whatever candidates for election to the Senate it chooses to endorse. Political parties will in future decide who shall stand for election for six years, and who for three years instead of the Senate making the determination after the election. Surely that is a more just, safe aud democratic method than that which exists at present under which the Senate decides which of the senators elected 9hall serve for six years and which for three years. I fail to see how Opposition members can claim that the purpose of this bill is to take away from the people some of the privileges which they now enjoy. Under the existing system a political party with a majority of more than one may grab for its own candidates all the seats carrying a six-year term. In those circumstances I consider that any honorable member who has studied the position will agree that my views are right and that that is something that is neither democratic nor just. The Government has introduced this measure for the purpose of simplifying the method ot electing candidates to the Senate, and to ensure that we shall not have a stalemate in the Senate following a double dissolution. I consider that the people are very anxious that we, their elected representatives, shall hasten on with the job and do everything we can to speed up the solution of the problems with which this country is faced. We should not adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) and wait until the crisis is upon ais. We should now proceed to plan and to prepare the machinery necessary to deal with a position that is anomalous and that requires rectification. It gives me the greatest of pleasure to declare exactly where I stand in relation to this measure. [ hope that it will be carried. Above all, I hope that there will be no fear at any time on the part of the Labour party that would prevent it from proceeding with its threat to cause a double dissolution. The sooner we can go to the people of Australia and submit our problems to them the better will it be in the interests of the nation.
.-A politician is a member of parliament who thinks of the next election. A statesman is a member of parliament who thinks of the next generation. This measure is a politician’s bill. I suggest to honorable members on the other side of the House, who have been so concerned about the possibility of the Labour majority in the Senate causing a deadlock, that instead of bringing down a bill of this nature they ought to have introduced a testimonial of gratitude to the Senate, which has saved them from their own headstrong policy in relation to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950, because if reports regarding the Government’s intentions are correct it certainly appears that, far from the Labour majority in the Senate having had an adverse effect upon the legislation-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not in order in referring to measures at present before the Senate.
– Let me say then that at the present time the Senate apparently is carrying out very admirably its functions as a house of review. It seems quite obvious that the Government, instead of introducing legislation of this character, should introduce legislation to strengthen the power of the Senate as a house of review. In view of the impossibility of this bill being implemented before a double dissolution could take place on the measures at present before the Parliament, it is obviously a big stick that the Government has produced to wave at the Senate in order to compel it to pass that legislation. If a double dissolution were to take place on the issue of any of the measures now before the Parliament, it would have to take place before this measure could be implemented because the Labour party majority in the Senate could delay the passage of this measure and the referendum could not in such circumstances be held before the period specified by the Constitution had expired. Because of the Senate’s power to delay the measure and frustrate the Government, the best that the Government could do would be to hold the referendum simultaneously with the double dissolution. Therefore a double dissolution on any of the measures at present before the Parliament could result in a deadlock at the subsequent general election.
The bill is not intended to alter the ordinary system of election to the Senate. The Government and its supporters are prepared to accept the system of proportional representation, and the bill affects the method of election that is to be followed only in the event of a double dissolution. Government supporters have advanced the argument that when a double dissolution took place the will of the people might be frustrated because the subsequent election for both Houses might result in the return of an equal number of senators to represent both sides if the ordinary system of proportional representation were used. Some amateur mathematician in the Liberal party has suggested that there may be some possibility of obtaining a 60-40 result rather than a 50-50 result, if this bill is carried. I desire to say to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLea.y), who criticized honorable members on this side of the House for having introduced in this debate matters that are not directly concerned with the hill, that this is a bill for a referendum to alter the Constitution in relation to the system of electing senators that is to be used at a general election following a double dissolution. We on this side of the House do not believe that any government or any parliament should lightly interfere with the Constitution for merely temporary political purposes. Although our Constitution is not regarded by the Australian people with the same reverence as is the American constitution by the American people, nevertheless it is the charter which the people have given to the Parliament that is to rule over them. The people have said in effect, “We are prepared to arm you, as our representatives, with certain limited powers over us, which we are putting down in black and white in order to ensure that no government goes further than we are prepared to let it go “. No more important decision could be made by the people or the Parliament than a decision to alter that Constitution. I regret that the Government, which prides itself on its attitude towards constitutional matters, should have deliberately brought down a bill that is intended to be merely a bludgeon for use upon Labour party senators so as to make them pass legislation. The bill if carried would affect our whole parliamentary structure as it is laid down in the Constitution. I say to any honorable members who. may be statesmen rather than politicians that, because of all the problems that now confront us as a nation, the future of parliamentary government has become endangered. Honorable members on both sides of the House know how close to impossible it is becoming for Ministers of the Crown to take their places in this Parliament and participate in the debates, answer questions and, at the same time, carry the overwhelming load of ministerial duties that they are required to perform. The job is becoming a “ killer “, whether Ministers are Labour party or Liberal party Ministers. The problem is whether parliamentary government as we know it can survive or not and we ought to be devoting our attention, as far as alterations of the Constitution are concerned, to solving it. The principles of our Constitution were laid down in 1900 and. except for some minor alterations, we have since carried on our parliamentary practice as it was then established. Admittedly at that time the squattocracy met in leisure to decide the affairs of the masses. Those days are gone, and the masses are now participating in the government of the country and in its responsibilities. The activities of governments now reach into every corner of the citizen’s life, and that fact makes a continuance of effective parliamentary government with our present Constitution very difficult indeed. Nobody knows that better than do those honorable members who have been, or who are, Ministers of the Crown. I sympathize with them. In fact, on many occasions I pity them because of the tremendous burden that they have to carry even at ordinary times if the affairs of the the country are to be properly conducted. At such critical times as the present the situation becomes even more serious. I suggest to the Government that, having had a practical lesson on the necessity for a review of its legislation by the Senate, it should withdraw this bill and adopt the suggestion made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) and endorsed by the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) and the honorable member for Boothby), for the establishment of a body to. consider the whole of the machinery of the Commonwealth Parliament and its relation to the States. After all, the introduction of uniform taxation itself in effect fundamentally altered the Constitution in relation to the relative powers of the Commonwealth and the States. But nobody has yet taken the time to examine the effect of the legislation relating to uniform taxation upon the administration of the States and the Commonwealth, nor has anybody bothered to state what alteration ought to be made in our Constitution i.u order to cope with that particular situation.
I am disappointed that the Government has brought down a bill of this nature instead of tackling the problem of Constitution alteration in a statesmanlike manner. Referendums are far too easily defeated if the proposals put before the people are supported by one side only. Neither a majority of the people nor a majority of the States, as is required by the Constitution for the carrying of a referendum proposal, would vote in favour of a proposal that was submitted with the approval of one party only. All parties should agree on the proposals that should go before the people or should at least express their views on necessary alterations of the Constitution so that the proposals might be put to the people in conjunction with an expression of the united opinion of the Parliament. However, that is not to be. This Government has attempted to tinker with the problem of constitutional reform in order to gain a party political advantage and to overcome a temporary disadvantage caused by the Labour party’s present majority in the Senate. If this bill is passed and if the people endorse the Government’s referendum proposal, the argument that the Senate is a house of review will be destroyed for all time.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in his second-reading speech that this bill had been brought down because of the possibility of a deadlock occurring in the Senate after a general election caused by a double dissolution.
Surely a house of review must be expected to disagree at times with the government of the day. If it is merely to endorse always the actions taken by the House of Representatives obviously it will not be a house of review. According to the Prime Minister’s secondreading speech, in effect, the bill’s sole purpose is to obviate the Senate continuing its functions as a house of review in the event of a double dissolution.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that the Labour party would have any prospect of obtaining a majority at a general election that followed a double dissolution?
– The honorable gentleman will learn in good time the Labour party’s views in relation to all the matters that come before this Parliament. He will learn of them earlier than some of his colleagues seem to learn of the Government’s intentions. This Government has decided that, if it can secure endorsement by the people of its referendum proposal, it will finish the Senate as a house of review.
– The Senate has never been a house of review.
– The honorable gentleman says that the Senate has never been a house of review. I think that the events of the next few days will show very convincingly that it is a very effective house of review. An argument which has been advanced by the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) and other honorable members opposite is that the Senate has failed miserably as a house that was founded primarily to protect State rights. It is true that the effectiveness of the Senate in protecting State rights has not been very evident, but it is also true that the effects of its representations have been felt very convincingly in the party rooms, where, after all, the real decisions are made. Everybody knows that no matter what eloquence is used in this chamber, or what arguments may be advanced here, the real decisions are made in party rooms before honorable members enter the House, and that without exception honorable members vote as their party has decided. For that reason the effectiveness of the Senate as a protector of State rights is not very evident in the Parliament, hut it is clearly evident in the party rooms. The less populous States are represented by as many senators as is New South Wales or Victoria. It is evident therefore, that the Senate gives to those States some opportunity of makins; their views prevail against those of the overwhelming weight of the number of representatives of the more populous States who sit in the House of Representatives. The present state of affairs in the Caucus rooms enables the Senate to provide the less populous States-
– This bill will not affect that position.
– This bill could very well alter that position. I was answering the argument advanced by honorable members opposite that the Senate had failed to carry out its prime function of acting as a States House. Even if the Senate has not acted as a States House, honorable senators have not failed to present State viewpoints at party meetings. To that extent the Senate has given the less populous States a. chance of equalizing representation and of making their views carry weight.
Honorable members opposite have twitted the Labour party for not carrying out what they claimed to be its policy of abolishing the Senate. The Labour party’s policy does include the abolition of the Senate, but it provides also that before the Senate is abolished the principle of initiative, referendum and ‘recall shall be embodied in the Constitution. Under that principle, a number of electors deemed to be sufficient can have a measure initiated by voting in favour of it and can also demand a referendum on it. Similarly, a sufficient number of electors can recall their representative. That is a solution which the Labour party offers of the problem of a government that is confronted with an opposing majority in the Senate. If the Government wants to do something effective to remove deadlocks and free the democratic system from the fiddling alterations it proposes to make I suggest that it implement the principle of initiative, referendum and recall. That is an item that has always been on the Labour party’s platform and it is one that must be implemented before the Labour party will agree to the abolition of the Senate. The Labour party believes that some review of the lower house’s activities is required and that that review should be conducted by the people themselves per medium of the principle of initiative, referendum and recall. Labour governments have not abolished the Senate because the people have not yet approved of that principle.
– They have not had a chance to approve of it.
– I suggest that the Government give them a chance in order to overcome deadlocks. When the Labour party was last in office it was not faced with deadlocks.
– The Labour party gave rise to the possibility of a deadlock by legislation that it introduced in 1948.
– That legislation was supported by honorable gentlemen who now occupy the treasury bench and it is still supported by honorable members on the Government side of the house who favour the election of the Senate by means of the system of proportional representation. A deadlock has occurred because the Labour party was able to obtain sufficient votes under the system then existing and in the intervening period to give it a majority in the Senate.
– The present position is the result of the careless and thoughtless legislation that the Labour Government had passed in 1948.
– I suggest that the honorable member who has interjected should read tha speeches which the present Prime Minister made when he was Leader of the Opposition in relation to the legislation that wa3 introduced by the Labour Government in 1948.
This bill was produced for use as a big stick to be waved at the Opposition in another place. As a test of the Government’s sincerity in relation to this matter honorable members should examine some of the remarks that were made by the Prime Minister in the course of his second-reading speech on the bill. He >aid -
Nothing can be more fatal from the point of view of the people of Australia than to perpetuate a state of affairs in which a government that has been handsomely elected to the House of Representatives can be set at nought.
That remark was made by a gentleman, who, in 1947, campaigned with the Liberal party and the Country parties in Victoria to destroy a Labour Government that had been thrown out of office incontinently by a Liberal Legislative Council which had been elected by a third of the people of Victoria on a property franchise. That council decided that it did not want the Labour party to continue in office, not because of any legislation that it had brought in, but because of the Federal Government’s banking programme. Its rejection of vital legislation caused the Victorian Labour Government to resign and brought about a general election. I am not sure whether the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) did so, but the Prime Minister and most of the members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties campaigned throughout Victoria and said what a wise thing the Legislative Council had done in throwing the Labour party out of office. The frustration by an upper chamber of a democratically elected lower house did not worry them on that occasion. They were prepared to accept an upper house under their control that would throw out of office a Labour government. Then they come into this Parliament and say what a wicked and terrible thing it is that the Labour party, which has a majority in another place, should dare to suggest that legislation is not acceptable in the form in which it has been presented by the Government. That proves the insincerity of members of the Government. It proves that they had no real thought of proper constitutional reform when they introduced this legislation. The fact of an upper house frustrating a government does not mean anything to them so long as they are the people who are doing the frustrating, lt is only when they are being frustrated that it becomes essential to parliamentary democracy that the obstacle shall be removed; consequently, they propose to hold a referendum seeking approval of an alteration of the Constitution.
It is unfortunate that this legislation has been aproached in a partisan spirit. I had hoped and I still hope that honorable members who occupy the back benches on the other side of the House might force the old gang on the treasury bench at least to pay some attention to the needs of the future as well as to the political requirements of the present. I hope that they will be able to convince their Ministers that one should consider the national welfare as well as an immediate party advantage. I hope that, in view of the suggestions that have been made by the honorable member for Angas, the honorable member for Curtin, and the honorable member for Boothby, they will ask and, indeed, demand if they are prepared to run the risk of doing so, that this matter of constitutional reform shall be treated with the seriousness that it requires and that they will not be content to accept a referendum on what is a minor matter when the Constitution should be viewed in its broad aspects. This matter should be vested with the importance that it warrants and the Government should institute a constitutional convention or give some consideration to altering the Constitution so as to provide for a more effective working of the democratic system. I am sure that the Minister at the table (Mr. Holt) will agree that the present method of government is imposing an intolerable burden on those who are called upon to assume the office of Minister of the Crown and is making it impossible for the Government to function as efficiently as honorable members would like a democracy to function. The Government should withdraw this measure and consider the suggestions that have been put forward by members of its own party. In the interests of the nation, it should give serious consideration to making fundamental alterations of the Constitution. As far as the problem of a deadlock after a double dissolution is concerned, I would refer the Government to the Labour party’s platform and suggest that it institute tie principle of initiative, referendum and recall.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) commenced his speech on a highsounding note. He said that the politician thinks in terms of the next election whilst the statesman thinks in terms of the next generation. After a fairly long experience of politics, I have discovered that one is only referred to as a statesman when one is dead. It is to the politicians of the present that the public must look for the government of their country. The honorable member would make a great mistake if he were to use the term “ politician “ as one of abuse. The politician does necessarily look to the next election because his job is to carry out the will of the majority of the people as he interprets it. No man can claim a higher function or responsibility in a democracy than that of carrying out in the place to which he has been elected the wishes of the majority of the people as he understands them. I regret that I found a note of abuse or of cynicism creeping into the honorable member’s remarks when he referred to the politician. The title of “ politician “ is one of honour and if any honorable member at the end of his three-year term can claim that he has, in this place, expressed sincerely and courageously the views of those whom he has been sent here to represent, he will carry that title proudly for the rest of his days.
The Government does not say that it has set out to redress something that politicians have caused in this country. There is an order that is much lower than that of politicians. I refer to that of demagogues, those who, without even looking to the next election, merely try to tickle the ears of the groundlings as they pass on, without any real sense of responsibility, in order to secure an immediate result. The Government has been chided by the honorable member for Yarra for having brought in what he calls a fiddling alteration of the Constitution. How can the Government be criticized for having brought a matter before the Parliament for serious consideration what can become a part of the law of this country only if a majority of the States give it their approval? After all, fiddling proposed alterations of the Constitution are not the prerogative of any one party in this House. In 1944, the Labour Government proposed fourteen alterations of the Constitution by way of a referendum. Those proposals were succeeded by others.
What has the Government set out to do ? The bill before the House, although it seeks to have the Constitution altered, has a simple purpose. It represents an honest attempt on the part of the Government to achieve the aim of every true democracy, which is to give to the Government elected by the people the right and the opportunity to put into effect the policy on which it was elected. We, as the joint Government parties, are seeking to do that and no more than that in this legislation. We believe that in December last we were given a mandate to carry out. Our policy in the form in which it was put before the people at that time was not vague; it was not something that we wrapped up in a cloud of mystery by saying that we stood on our record. We did not say “ trust us, believe in us and all things will be good unto you “. We said to the people, “ Here is a practical programme which represents our policy “. That programme dealt with a variety of issues - banking, petrol rationing, child endowment, the menace of communism and a host of problems which are set out in detail in the policy speech of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The public was under no misunderstanding of where we stood and what we meant. Much of our policy was attacked by honorable members who now sit opposite. It was criticized, torn apart piecemeal, and analysed by them for the edification of the people of Australia. Despite all that criticism and analysis the people returned us, at the general election of the 10th December, with an. overwhelming majority. They expected us, as a new Government, to get to work and put our policy into effect. Now what has been the result of our endeavours to put that policy into effect during the last few months? The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), during the week-end, had the impudence to tell the people of Australia that this Government was a fraud. He said that it had promised certain things in its policy speech, and that now, five or six months after the general election, not one bill had been passed through the Parliament of the country. He said that this Government was a fraud upon the people and that it had not attempted to honour the promises that it gave to them. I say that no government in the history of this country since federation has done more than has this Government, to carry into effect the undertakings that it gave at the general election.
The legislation that we promised to the people at that time is not to-day recorded on the statute-book because of the obstruction, delay and frustration that we have met through the deliberate tactics employed by the Labour party in the Senate. That cannot be denied by any honorable member in this House. All that this measure seeks to do is to remedy an evil and not to ram something down the throats of the people, because it cannot become law unless the people by an overall majority vote in a majority of the States supports the proposal. All that this legislation envisages is that if we go before the people because of some deadlock that has occurred in this Parliament over an item of our policy which they endorsed at the general election and which we cannot get through the Parliament because of the Labour majority in the Senate, then the people themselves will be able to determine the issue. If there is a double dissolution, we shall not only ask the people to put us back into power, but also put to them the proposition that having recorded their decision on the merits of that proposal they should have an opportunity of carrying their decision into effect. As the Constitution and the present law stand that is virtually impossible. I say that very deliberately. It will be virtually impossible, in the event of a double dissolution of this Parliament, for the public to be able to record a decision which would have any practical effect in the Parliament.
I shall give an illustration to honorable members opposite in order to show quite clearly what I mean. At the last general election the parties that I represent had a smashing victory in the State of Queens- land. Out of eighteen Queensland seats for the House of Representatives they won fifteen. I do not think that anybody would expect to have a very much more decisive result than that in any State. If we should have a double dissolution of this Parliament and a vote should be taken for the election of ten senators from the State of Queensland, and if precisely the same vote should be recorded then as that which gave us fifteen out of eighteen seats, then the Labour and non-Labour parties would still be equally divided in the Senate;
– That only shows that the honorable member’s parties should not have got the fifteen seats.
– “We got a substantial percentage of the total Queensland vote. “We received nearly 55 per cent, of the Queensland vote. That vote gave us fifteen of the eighteen seats for Queensland in the House of Representatives. I have checked those figures with the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, and I have been assured that if the same vote were cast in the event of a double dissolution we should not get more than five of the ten Senate seats. The honorable member for Yarra said that we are speaking as politicians campaigning for the next general election. I accept the title of “ politician “, but I deny that we. are speaking for the next general election. We are speaking for the next generation so far as this Parliament is concerned. This bill deals only with the issue of a double dissolution. We should need to have a landslide beyond the memory of man, upon a double dissolution, in order to get a result which would give one party or the other, irrespective of how the people voted, a working majority in the Senate. This bill merely sets out to redress such a situation. Quite clearly, as some honorable members opposite have said, it will not always avoid a deadlock because in some States six senators could be elected from one party and four from the other, with the reverse result in another State. However, it will do more to minimize the possibility of a deadlock than would any proposal put forward by any honorable member opposite. That is all that the bill sets to to do.
One would have thought that if honorable members opposite meant what they said about democracy, about giving expression to the will of the people and about a majority vote being allowed to register its will in this Parliament, they would have supported this measure as a welcome and practical solution of a problem which they had not foreseen at the time when their own legislation was introduced. But they have not done that. Every honorable member opposite who has spoken opposed this proposal. I say that they opposed it for a very good reason. That is that they set out to achieve the present result when they enacted their own legislation in 194S. They set out first to secure a Labour victory at the general election. If that had happened they would have had a working majority in both Houses. They also decided that if they failed to achieve a Labour victory at the last general election they would secure a result which would frustrate the will of the people so far as this Parliament was concerned.
I propose to establish that proposition for the benefit of my newly acquired friend from Yarra, who has recently come into this House, and also for the benefit of other honorable members sitting on the hack benches who are not so familiar with the history of this matter as are those of us who were here when it hardened. I desire to put before them something of the history of this matter because the developments in the constitutional set-up of Australia are incomprehensible unless that history is known, hi the Parliament elected in 1946, there was an overwhelming Labour majority in both Houses. In this House, although my side of politics had made some small gains at the election of 1946, there were 45 Labour supporters compared, with 29 nonLabour supporters. In the Senate there were 33 Labour supporters compared with three non-Labour supporters. That came about through the chances of political life, and we did not squeal about it. We took reverses in our stride and prepared for the time when the public would realize the merits of our policies, and give us the chance to put those policies into effect. The Labour party was in those days, just as it is to-day, notoriously contemptuous of the wishes of the public. It disregarded them, and attempted, in the teeth of the clearest indication of public hostility to certain measures, to ram those measures down the throats of the people.
The worst blunder of all was the banking fiasco, when the Labour party set out in the teeth of the greatest hostility to carry its plans into effect. It attempted to ram nationalization of banking down the throat of the public through its overwhelming majority in the Senate and its steamroller majority in this House. Gradually some of the more sensitive of its supporters felt the cold wind of public disapproval, and sensed that things were not going well for them, so they began to look to the future. As good Labour men they had adopted the slogan of security. Security for them began in the caucus room; that is, it began at home. Therefore, a very interesting project was developed. The honorable member for Melbourne put his bludgeon away for the time being and donned the mantle of Machiavelli. He produced a subtle and sinister scheme, which was eagerly accepted by the caucus of that day. At that time there was a Parliament of 74 representatives in which were 45 Labour members. In the Senate there were 33 Labour supporters and three non-Labour supporters. In relation to this House, security meant that so far as was practicable they should contrive to have 45 Labour strongholds in the next Parliament. In the Senate, under the old arrangement of voting on the straight-forward system, it was a case of one in all in or one out all out. If the dice rolled against a party, all its candidates were defeated, and if in favour of a party all its candidates were elected. Of the 33 Labour senators, eighteen were due to face the electors in 1949. If public opinion was running against them that eighteen would be left out in the hard, cold world. Therefore, the honorable member for Melbourne took to the caucus his ingenious proposal. He suggested that the membership of this House should be increased to 120 members. In the 120 seats he expected to establish 45 Labour strongholds, one for each of the sitting members. It was known that the Senate must consist of approximately half the number of representatives. That would mean 60 Senate seats. There were 36 senators at that time, of which eighteen were due for retirement in a few months’ time. That meant that the ensuing general election would embrace the additional 24 senators plus the eighteen who were retiring, or 42 senators in all. Of the 42 senators, seven would be elected in each State. The honorable gentleman then suggested that they introduce, for the first time, the system of proportional representation, well knowing that on the worst conceivable result under it his party would have three senators elected in every State. Assuming that the eighteen retiring senators secured their party endorsement, they would be home and hosed, to use the racing vernacular. They would be assured of their re-election to the Senate, whatever the over-all result of the election might happen to be. As I have pointed out, even in such a political landslide as occurred in Queensland, when the present Government parties won fifteen of eighteen .seats for the House of Representatives, the same parties could not secure more than five of ten seats in the Senate under the proportional representation system. Thus the eighteen Labour senators who were due to retire were assured of a further six-year term in the Senate. No wonder the proposal that had been so carefully and cunningly contrived was embraced by the Labour caucus !
– Did the honorable gentleman and his colleagues vote against the bill?
– We criticized it just as the honorable member for Yarra and his colleagues criticized the bill dealing with communism, which I hope the Senate will pass with flying colours a few hours hence.
– Order ! The Minister must not refer to proceedings in the Senate.
– I apologize, sir. I was drawn off the trail by what might be aptly described as a red herring. The plan spelled security not, only for the 45 Labour boys in the House of Representatives, but also for the eighteen Labour senators who otherwise would have been destined for the political scrap-heap, as they had realized from the response to Labour’s banking legislation. Therefore, the legislation to give effect to the scheme was passed. The honorable member for Yarra has asked whether we criticized it. We did. We criticized it as strongly as we could within the limits of the language that we were allowed to use in this place. It was a snide political manoeuvre in which the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), as the Prime Minister of the day, and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) were willing collaborators. I say that it was a snide political manoeuvre because it not only guaranteed security to individual members of the Parliament but also guaranteed that, even if a majority of the people opposed the Labour party at the succeeding election, it would still have a working majority in the Senate. What was expected to happen did happen. The honest and democratic thing to do would have been to dissolve the whole Senate. Then the will of the people would have been fairly recorded. But no ! These men, who use the noble ideals of democracy, prostituted democracy for their own purposes. They gave legislative effect to their scheme knowing that, whatever decision the people might give at the general election, the Labour party would retain control of the Senate and would be able to cause obstructions and delay. And lo and behold, that is precisely what has happened !
The present Government parties had a decisive victory in every State at the subsequent general election. In fact, there was a landslide in one State. After the election we came to this House, which has been described by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and some of his colleagues as the final court of appeal of the people, to put into effect, the policy that we had laid clearly before the people during the election campaign. We set out, as speedily as any government could reasonably have been expected to do, to give effect to that policy. We bad advocated banking reform during the election campaign. Therefore, we introduced a bill in the precise terms of our promise as soon after the assembly of the new Parliament as was possible. We had advocated endowment of the first child in every family. Therefore, we introduced legislation to honour that undertaking. We had advocated the smashing of the menace of Communism. Therefore, we introduced legislation for that purpose. But now we are told by the honorable member for Melbourne, with the effrontery that is characteristic of him, that the Government is fraudulent because it has not carried out any of its undertakings. Why has it not done so? Because the Senate, which cannot claim in its present composition to be representative of the public will, and which would not for a moment have the courage to. go to the people again and test the public will, has so far departed from the dignity and authority that were characteristic of the Roman senate in the days of the imperial toga that it sinks to the miserable tactics of communism. Members of the Labour Opposition in that chamber are using the go-slow methods and the tactics of the one-day demonstration strike, which they condemn when the Communists use them but which they gladly employ to, suit their own cheap party political purposes. That is the situation that has developed in this Parliament. The honorable member for Tarra tried to twit the Government by harking back to the Victorian State election of 1947. He said that the Legislative Council of that State sent the lower house to an election as the result of a deadlock in spite of the majority will that was expressed in the lower house. Was that a true parallel with the present situation in this Parliament? If the Senate was doing now what the Legislative Council did in Victoria in 1947, we should welcome its action. But the Senate has not said to the Government, “We do not believe that you are doing what the people want you to do and therefore we are going to give the voters a chance to say whether or not they approve of- your actions “. Had it issued such a pronouncement, there would be no word of criticism of its decision from the Government and its supporters. Indeed, there would be no real need for this legislation. But that is not what the Senate has done. The Senate is not seeking to test the popular will. Instead, it is engaging in tactics of delay and obstruction. I express the view that there will not be a double dissolution in the lifetime of this Par liament because I believe that, after going to the most extreme lengths of which they are capable in order to sabotage the Government’s programme, just as the Communists and other industrial lawbreakers do, members of the Labour Opposition in the Senate will then retreat. They will use hit-run tactics and all the snide, irritating methods that they can employ, and will then retire to their next obstructive position. In the process, the Government of the country will be frustrated. In such a situation, it cannot act with the authority and decisiveness that are necessary if it is to deal with the tremendously important problems that confront it.
All that the bill sets out to do is to make parliamentary democracy work effectively. Quite clearly, the Labour Opposition does not want democracy to function as it should function. It does not want the will of the majority of the people to be translated into practical political measures. The Government has shown a willingness to listen to an expression of the view of members of the Opposition, an attitude that comes as a refreshing change after the treatment that we received from Labour governments in recent years. We have examined every constructive suggestion that has been made and have sought to register the serious opinions of the Opposition. We have shown a readiness to compromise with our opponents in order that we may be a united people, not a warring people engaged in a conflict that can lead only to industrial and economic disaster. We want all parties to unite in supporting a programme of progress, development and prosperity. I say with all sincerity that that is the way in which the members of the present Government approach the problems of the nation. Our attitude on such issues would remain unchanged whether we commanded the support of a majority in the Senate or did not. We want to adopt policies that are acceptable to the Australian people as a whole. But we are being thwarted and frustrated at every turn by irresponsible mischievousness on the part of a party that is as determined, now that it is in opposition as it was when it was in office, to override the will of a majority of the people. The provisions of this bill oan apply in one situation, and that situation can arise only if a deadlock has occurred between both Houses of the Parliament. If a double dissolution occurs as the result of a deadlock, the people will have before them a clear issue upon which they can give a clear decision. As the law now stands, they would be able to record a decisive vote for the House of Representatives that would give a working majority to one side or the other in this place ; but, as the figures that I have cited prove, it would not be possible for them to record a decisive vote for the Senate. This bill is designed to provide a means by which the people, by their votes, can give a working majority, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, to the parties that they endorse. It seeks to do no more than that, and every man worthy to be called a true democrat and a representative of the people must endorse and support it on that account.
.- I particularly liked the remark by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to the effect that this Government would always give careful consideration to the wishes of the Opposition, and, in fact, had already embodied some of them in its legislation. I can fully appreciate the amazed pleasure with which the members of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party greeted the results of the general election last December. I can also understand their disappointment when they reflected upon the fact that there would be a Labour majority in the Senate, and I realize that they desired to get rid of that majority at the earliest possible moment. The outcome of their combined pleasure, disappointment and desire is reflected in the bill that we are now considering. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was introducing the measure, he gave me the impression, which other honorable members also may have gained, that it was the result of laborious consideration by the members of his Cabinet. He spoke of it as if it were the child of their mental labours. He pointed out that it had certain peculiarities, of which he seemed to be inordinately proud. One of these he described as an arithmetical epigram. Shortly after he had delivered that speech, I went to Melbourne, where I found that a political “whose baby” case was disturbing the minds of readers of the Melbourne Herald. A lawyer by the name of Kenneth Gordon Mclntyre had said, “ This bill is mine. I set out the simple theory it contains on one sheet of foolscap in double-spaced typing on the 19th March and the Government adopted it without alteration “. The Government did not call Mr. Mclntyre to the halls of government in order to consult him about his simple theory-
– Plenty of people in Sydney talk like that. The honorable member should not be caught so easily.
– Plenty of people in Sydney may claim to be the father of this political baby, but Mr. Kenneth Mclntyre was able to produce a letter in which the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) thanked him for his idea. That letter was published in the Melbourne Herald. My point is that neither the Prime Minister nor his Cabinet consulted Mr. Mclntyre about the scheme. I do not think that the Cabinet consulted all members of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party about it. I am not even sure whether the Prime Minister consulted some of or all the members of his Cabinet.
– The honorable member would not know that, in any event.
– What I do know is that the right honorable gentleman said, in effect, “ This is an atomic bomb to destroy the Labour party’s majority in the Senate, and that is all that matters”.
– If we assume that the honorable member’s contention is correct, the Labour party would be returned with a majority at the general election that would follow a double dissolution.
– The Labour party will be returned to office soon enough. I do not desire to be diverted by interjections from the logical sequence of my remarks. I shall tell my story in my own way. This bill, which I describe as “ the whose baby atomic bomb”, is a dud. The Prime Minister himself admitted that it might be a dud. He said that it was conceivable that in the voting in the various
States at a general election that was conducted in accordance with the provisions of this bill, the strengths of the Government and Opposition parties in the Senate might still be equal, thus causing another deadlock. The bill may not do what it is intended to do, and it certainly will not do more than it is intended that it shall do, namely, temporarily remove an embarrassing Opposition majority in the Senate. The bill will not resolve the problem of deadlocks between the Senate and the House of Representatives in the future.
– But the bill is perfectly fair to all the political parties that are represented in this Parliament.
– I repeat that the bill may not do what it is intended to do, and will not do more than it is intended that it shall do, but it will be a costly proposition. If this proposal is not acceptable to a majority of the electors in a majority of the States, the referendum will be a complete waste of money, time and effort. I am a democrat, and I believe that parliaments should be responsive to the will of the people. Because I hold those views, I claim that the Government should appoint a select committee consisting of honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives, or summon a constitutional convention, to examine the Senate and its place in the legislative structure of the Commonwealth. In reality, our present difficulties have their origin largely in a meeting that took place in the midsummer of the year 1787 in the town of Philadelphia, where 55 persons, 33 of whom were lawyers, assembled to consider a constitution for the United States of America, which, some time before, had declared their independence of Great Britain.
– Has the honorable member centuries in which to speak on this subject?
– I wish to trace briefly the events that occurred in the United States of America in 1787 because they have a direct bearing upon the Australian Constitution. Some of those who attended that meeting at Philadelphia considered that the new Congress should consist only of a House of Representatives, but the vast majority of them decided in favour of the bicameral system. That system was already in operation in the various States, which had adopted the British parlia.mentary system. The meeting decided that Congress should consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The problem then arose of how to constitute the Senate.
– What has that to do with this bill?
– I refer to the early history of the United States of America because the framers of the Australian Constitution adopted some of. the provisions of the American constitution. I shall show how the method of electing the Senate of the Commonwealth was determined. Some of the Americans who attended that meeting at Philadelphia advocated that each State should be represented in the Senate in proportion to its population or wealth. Others urged that each State should have equal representation in the Senate. After lengthy argument, the so-called “ Connecticut compromise” was adopted. It provided that the States should have equal representation in the Senate ; that each senator should hold office for six years; that elections for the Senate should be staggered so that all senators should not retire simultaneously; and that Senate elections should not be held at the same time a3 elections for the House of Representatives were conducted. The framers of the Australian Constitution in 1900 slavishly imitated the “ Connecticut compromise “ in respect of the establishment of the Senate. They could not claim that it was democratic, because it was not. Even the factors that at least appeared to justify the adoption of the American system of electing the Senate did not exist in this country. Those factors were that the United States of America was more like a confederacy of nations than a federation of States, which had similar outlooks and in which the people had similar ideas and occupations. Small States such as Connecticut and others, in the north had small populations, and their economies were totally different from those of the large slave-owning States in the south. The framers of the Australian Constitution adopted features of the American constitution that tended to produce the conditions that lead tq deadlocks, namely, the States had equal representation in the Senate, the election of senators did not occur at the same time as elections for the House of Representatives were conducted and all the senators did not retire simultaneously. I believe that if we must have a Senate, that chamber should be more representative of the people and that, together with the House of Representatives, it should make the Australian Parliament more democratic than it is to-day. I urge that a select committee of honorable senators and honorable members of the House of Representatives should be appointed, or that a constitutional convention should be summoned, to investigate the Senate and its method of election in order to seek the basis of an agreement for making the Senate procedure more flexible and democratic.
I strongly believe in making our system of government as truly responsible to tho people as possible. It should be responsive to the will of the people, and should reflect the will of the people at a given period. I do not advocate conditions under which an Opposition in the Senate is able to destroy the effect of a vote that has been cast for the House of Representatives. .Some people claim that the reason for the existence of an upper house is that it can delay legislation that is submitted to it by the representative chamber, such as is the House of Representatives. I do not want delays to occur in giving expression to the will of the people, and in translating that will into law. I represent a Victorian electorate, and I do not want to see in the Parliament of the Commonwealth a situation similar to that which exists in the Parliament of Victoria, where the Legislative Council, which is elected upon a restricted franchise, has caused deadlocks over a period of 50 years whenever a Labour government has occupied the treasury bench in the Legislative Assembly. A similar situation prevails in several of the other States. There is a perpetual state of deadlock and frustration when Labour governments that represent the average man and woman submit their legislation to legislative councils that are elected on a restricted franchise. Government supporters have chided some Opposition members with having been hypocritical in their approach to the bill and with having failed to adopt a truly democratic outlook. Had they directed their energies to reforming the legislative councils in their respective States so that those upper houses would not be able to frustrate the will of the people at a given moment, members of the Labour party might side strongly with them in this debate, and could agree that they are not giving merely lip service to the form of democracy of which they speak.
However, the point that I seek to make is that the bill has not been given mature consideration by the Government. The measure is based on a bright after-dinner thought by a Victorian lawyer, which was quickly transfered to Canberra and was kept in cold storage until it was presented to this House in the form of the bill. It may be mainly the attractive little epigram that the Prime Minister described it to be when he moved the second reading but Opposition members, who urge caution, suggest that the Government should examine the whole problem of the Senate and its relation to this, chamber. We have submitted a common-sense proposal.
– A select committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives ?
– Yes. Such a committee would, at least for a start, be more desirable than a constitutional convention. A considerable time would elapse before a convention could be summoned, and it would not be so effective and speedy as a select committee of the .Senate and the House of Representatives would be. If such a committee were ‘appointed to consider the difficulty, we should be making progress, whereas the present proposal, in reality, is only a shot in the dark. Tho Government has admitted the truth of that statement by saying that the bill may not resolve the present deadlock. Having regard to the details of voting in the various States at the last general election, we can conceive of the present deadlock being repeated following a double dissolution. In its efforts to deal with this position the Government should act along democratic lines and should strive primarily to. achieve a true reflection of the will of the people. However, it is endeavouring to use its temporary political advantage in order to dispose of a hostile majority in the Senate which, no doubt, is irritating the Government, but, at the same time, is anxious to improve the legislation that is placed before the Senate. The method by which the Government is attempting to dispose of that hostile majority in the Senate is undemocratic. I endorse the wish that the Minister for Labour and National Service expressed that nothing shall be done that will weaken democracy in this country. As the honorable member for Yarra has pointed out, the institution of parliament not only in Australia but also in all other democratic countries is now on trial. We should be careful not to give the slightest pretext to the opponents of democracy, whether they be of the left or of tha right, to heap ridicule upon our parliamentary institutions by alleging that whilst the Parliament pretends to express the will of the people, in reality, it expresses the will of only a section of the community. It must be obvious to the Government that the more democratic our legislatures are made in fact, the less danger will there be of totalitarianism whether it be of the right or of (.he left. Before the outbreak of the recent war the totalitarianism of nazi-ism and fascism, under Hitler and Mussolini, made an appeal to large sections of the people of Europe and since the end of that conflict the totalitarianism of communism also hae made a strong appeal to millions of people in Europe. During the last few years Russia has brought under its sway greater areas and larger masses of population than Napoleon controlled at the zenith of his military power. Therefore, the Government should strive to meet the needs of democracy rather than to seek to gain a party political advantage.
.- In spite of the effort that was made by the honorable member for Curtin (M.r. Hasluck) to re-direct the debate to the straight and narrow path of the measure now before the House, members of the Opposition almost without exception since the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) opened this debate on their behalf have strayed into numerous by-paths. As a literary effort the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle was well read and was pleasant to listen to, but as an essay on the powers and functions of the Senate it would- do credit to a schoolboy, and it was totally irrelevant to the bill. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) reached the height of absurdity in the arguments that he advanced. He said, in effect, that the Senate should be abolished, but as that was not practicable because the Senate was a part of the bargain under federation, the federation itself should be abolished. By a simple process of that kind, the debate has drifted from a discussion of the avoidance of deadlocks following double dissolutions to a consideration of whether or not the federation should continue to exist. The measure does not deal with the functions of the Senate. However, because the Government has introduced the bill as a means of solving one problem that arises under the Constitution, members of the Opposition have suggested that it is faulty because it does not seek to deal with every defect in the Constitution. For instance, they deplored the fact that the bill does not make provision for the filling of casual vacancies in the Senate. I remind thom that the measure arises out of legislation that was passed by the Chifley Government in 1948 instituting the system of proportional representation in the Senate. The bill does not make any attempt to deal with casual vacancies in the Senate or with any of the other problems that members of the Opposition have raised. When they were in Government they failed to deal with those problems although they were not averse to submitting to the people proposals for an alteration of the Constitution.
We have a bi-cameral parliamentary system, and so long as two houses of the Parliament exist the possibility of disagreement will always be present, regardless of the party political colour of the government that happens to be in office. There are various methods of resolving such disagreements. For instance, when disagreements arise between the House of Commons and the House of Lords in
Great Britain they are usually resolved by the threat of the government of the day to appoint sufficient peers to overcome obstruction to its legislation. It has been suggested that a joint sitting of both houses should be held in order to overcome the present impasse. However, at a joint sitting the members of the Senate would be in a minority and would thus be unfairly penalized. It has also been suggested that the subject of any disagreement should be submitted directly by referendum to the people. However, should the proposals of the government of the day be rejected by the people under such conditions, there would be a strong moral obligation upon that government to resign, in which event the country would be faced with the possibility of an election in spite of the holding of a referendum. All these problems were fully considered by the framers of the Constitution who, therefore, made provision for double dissolutions should there be no possibility of a compromise being reached. As honorable members opposite have said, every opportunity is provided under the Constitution for all parties in the Parliament to reach a compromise. If the majority in the ‘Senate is convinced of the soundness of its reasons for opposing legislation sponsored by the government and is satisfied that it has a just case, it has no reason to fear a double dissolution. Likewise, if the House of Representatives is convinced that legislation which it proposes to press is right, it also need have no fear of an appeal being made to the people. Therefore, all the talk that has been indulged in by honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Yarra ( Mr. Keon), about this measure being a bludgeon with which the Government is threatening the Senate, and to the effect that the Government is seizing its political opportunity to wave a big stick, is nonsense; because if the Senate believes that it is right in the attitude that it has taken, it has nothing to fear from a double dissolution. Tha framers of the Constitution realized that fact, and although the day when it was hoped that the Senate would be, in fact, a States House has practically passed, the following views expressed by Quick and Garran in their monumental work on the Constitution still hold good. I quote the following passage from that work: -
It would be premature as well as unwise to indulge in speculations as to whether its liability to dissolution will tend to weakeu the effective power of the Senate. If the Senate is well led, a dissolution may result in its being supported and strengthened by the States … if an uncompromising attitude on the part of both houses leads to a double dissolution, the Senate may be reconstructed with added and not diminished authority. On the other hand, it is equally possible that the Senate badly led may be badly beaten in the appeal to the people and the States. This much is certain, that the people as final arbiters will be the gainers of power by the liability of both houses to- dissolution.
The provisions of the Constitution in relation to double dissolutions have worked satisfactorily since federation and have achieved their objective insofar as the threat of a dissolution of both houses of the Parliament has induced a spirit of compromise when circumstances have caused disagreement to arise. I do not pretend, as members of the Opposition have done, that the prospect of plunging the country into another general election is pleasant. Therefore, every opportunity for compromise should be examined. However, that is not the object of this legislation. We are only concerned with the state of affairs when all attempts to reach a compromise have failed, and a double dissolution is an inescapable fact. This measure is designed to make the provisions that are already in the Constitution work satisfactorily and in that respect it is supplementary to the legislation that was passed by the Chifley Government in 1948 instituting proportional representation in the Senate. The result of ‘that legislation, whether foreseen or not, has been to effect a de facto alteration of the Constitution by making those provisions unworkable. I do not think that honorable members opposite will disagree with me when I say that the Constitution has, in fact, been made unworkable by the introduction of proportional representation in the Senate. Therefore, we are now faced with the choice of either abandoning proportional representation in the Senate or trying to reconcile that system with the provisions of the Constitution for double dissolutions. The honorable member for
I reman de and the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) have suggested that under this measure the Government is seeking to apply a permanent remedy in order to extricate itself from a temporary political difficulty. If Opposition members have sufficient faith in the popularity of their political views, they have nothing to fear in the event of a double dissolution. The Government, far from extracting itself from one difficulty, will land itself in another. The suggestion that this bill is purely a party political measure is absurd. The possibility of a permanent deadlock will always remain until some means have been found to avoid such a state of affairs. This is by no means a temporary measure. It proposes to alter the Constitution to make the system of proportional representation workable.
– Deadlocks may arise notwithstanding the provisions of this bill.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has been making all sorts of weird interjections to-night. None of them have been to the point. The honorable member for Fremantle and other Opposition members have referred to what might be called the numerical objection to this bill. An increase by four of the number of senators representing each State would require the membership of this House to be increased by 48. Let us examine its effect on the numerical strength of the two Houses of the Parliament. At the time of federation there were approximately 3,500,000 people in Australia. In 1948, when the membership of this House was first increased, the population had grown .to more than 7,000,000 persons. In 1903 each member of this House represented on the average 25,000 electors. In 1948 each member represented an average of 64,000 electors. In the latter year when the Labour Government introduced its legislation to increase the membership of this House it suggested that an appropriate electorate was one containing approximately 40,000 voters. If -vo accept that as a desirable figure the number of electors will have to be increased by approximately 1,920,000 electors before the membership of this House can be increased by 48. In other words we should each be representing almost 60,000 electors before the membership of this House could be increased by 48. We were able to survive in the years between 1900 and 1950 before the membership of this House was increased and I therefore suggest that its existing membership might be continued unaltered for the next ten or fifteen years until the number of voters has teen increased by at least 1,000,000. That would not cause any great injustice to the people. There is no validity in the objection of the honorable member for Fremantle to the bill on the ground that it restricts the change in number of members of the House of Representatives.
Another objection raised by the honorable member for Fremantle with which I wish to deal briefly is that democracy so far from being strengthened would be weakened by this bill as it would leave in the hands of the people the decision on who should represent them in the Senate for six years and three years respectively. We subscribe to the view that members of this House are elected democratically, yet in fact, disregarding independents, the political parties each endorse one candidate, who alone is submitted to the people. The honorable member for Fremantle has suggested that because the party organizations will endorse Senate candidates for terms of six years and three years, those who are selected will not be elected on a democratic basis. That is a peculiar idea because it suggests that members of this House are not democratically elected. We subscribe to the view that the people, by the support of their own political parties, influence the endorsement of candidates who in turn are selected by their party organizations under some democratic method. There is no validity in the honorable member’s argument. A further aspect that should not be overlooked is that the Constitution provides that in the event of a double dissolution the members of the Senate shall decide who shall be elected for six years and who shall be elected for three years. What would happen if there were a double dissolution under the present set up and after the ensuing general election the political parties were equally represented in the Senate? In those, circumstances who would be selected for appointment for six years and for three years respectively ? It is obvious that a further deadlock would arise on that issue alone. I submit that the proposal of the Government to leave in the hands of the people the decision on who shall be elected for six years and three year3 respectively constitutes the best method of tackling this problem.
A somewhat peculiar view was taken Uv Opposition members who admit that the system of proportional representation is an experiment which we all agree is desirable. Further, if after a double dissolution the parties were evenly represented in the Senate proportional representation would plainly be shown, to be unworkable, but that we should do nothing to make it workable. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) realized when he framed the Chifley Government’s legislation that an odd number should be elected to the Senate in every election so that the proportional representation system could be made to work. By opposing this bill Opposition members who presumably favour the system of proportional representation, propose to bang that system without even giving it a trial. They subscribe to the view that the Constitution could be made unworkable by by-passing the provision that requires a referendum to be held before it may be altered. They have distorted the effect of the Constitution by their insistence on the system of uniform income tax. They also distorted the Constitution when they voted for the 1948 legislation which provided for proportional representation in the Senate without proper examination of its effect. If they are really democratic, as they claim to be, they will not object to this proposal to submit to the people the question whether proportional representation is to be made a workable proposition, or whether it is to be completely nullified and the provisions of the Constitution rendered unworkable.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Repatriation: Medical Treatment ok Nurses - Pensions - Malaya - Civil Aviation - Departmental Stationery - Coal - New South Wales Public Service : Appointments.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to raise a matter of considerable importance to the nursing staff of repatriation hospitals throughout Australia, which has been brought to my notice by a nursing sister employed in the Repatriation General Hospital, Hobart, where 29 other trained sisters are also employed. The sister has had many years nursing experience, as have all other members of the staff. Some time ago she became ill and applied to the repatriation authorities for treatment. They replied that they had not the facilities to treat her, and that she would have to seek treatment at an outside institution and would have to bear the costs of such treatment. The sister obtained outside treatment and paid for it, and has now taken up the matter with me, not because she is concerned about having to -pay the money, but because she believes that the attitude of the repatriation authorities is unjust, and she feels that she cannot return to duty in their institution unless her grievance is rectified. Since the matter involves a principle which is important to all the other sisters employed at that institution it has aroused considerable interest amongst them. Until approximately seven years ago a member of the staff at a repatriation hospital had to pay for sick treatment, but a regulation was then introduced which provided that expenses associated with sickness of all nursing staff of a repatriation hospital should be met by the Government irrespective of whether the treatment facilities were provided by the department or by a private institution. In explanation, I point out that some repatriation hospitals have facilities to treat female members of their staff who become ill, whilst others have not. The regulation has apparently continued in operation until quite recently, and expenses incurred by members of the staff who had to seek treatment for illness in private institutions have been met by the Government. However, I shall now read the letter which was sent by Mr. H. E. Hoyles, Deputy Commissioner, Repatriation Department, to the sister concerned, in reply to her formal application to the department for refund of expenses incurred in treatment for her illness. The letter, which is dated the 14th April last, registration number S/409, reads, in part, as follows: -
In reply you arc advised that I have received recent instructions from the Repatriation Commission directing that medical treatment for resident staff may be provided as a departmental responsibility where facilities iiic available at the departmental institution concerned, but that this department should not meet the cost of treatment which cannot lie provided in its own institution.
As facilities for treatment of female staff do not exist at the present time at the Re put.riation General Hospital, Hobart, and in consequence of the recent instruction referred to above, there is no authority under which this department can meet the cost of treatment in your case, or any other similar case in the cure, until the necessary facilities are provided at the Repatriation General Hospital.
Apparently the department now discriminates between the treatment to which staff are entitled, according to whether they are employed at hospitals where facilities are provided or at institutions where such facilities are not provided. 1 am deeply concerned that such discrimination should exist, because it appears to be most unfair. I need hardly remind the Government that to-day the difficulty of securing staff for hospitals generally is considerable, and I do not think that the Government should deliberately alter regulations concerned with the privileges of the staff, because it must have the effect of discouraging sisters and nurses from entering the employment of the Government. If the decision not to make refunds of expenditure incurred by members of the staff in certain institutions in respect of treatment they have to undergo is intended as an economy measure, I feel that it will fail in its objective because it will probably result in a worsening of the present difficulty of obtaining staff. I .ask the Minister for the Army (“Mr. Francis) to take up the matter with his colleague the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) and to inform me of the result of his inquiries.
– I desire to bring before the House a serious anomaly that exists in the eligibility of minors to receive invalid pensions, which is causing grave hardship t.o many boys in the community. The first case to which I shall refer concerns an invalid boy, twenty years of age, who is suffering from advanced tuberculosis and from sugar diabetes. He is living with his parents, and his father is employed on the omnibuses at “Wollongong. After the nature of the boy’s illness had been discovered his father communicated with the Department of Social Services with a view to obtaining an invalid pension for his son. However, payment of a person was refused because the boy was under 21 years of age. His father then applied on his son’s behalf for payment of tuberculosis allowance, but that was refused because the boy was not in receipt of an invalid pension. The lad was desperately ill, and his father took the matter further. He applied for payment of social services sickness allowance to his son, but that was refused because the boy was permanently incapacitated. The tragic feature of the anomaly is that, although the boy was suffering from two terrible diseases, he was not, apparently, entitled to any financial relief. Although treatment by doctors was discontinued a few months ago, his medical advisers have endeavoured to do what they can for him. His mother brought him home from Sydney Hospital, and his local doctor says that he has a chance of recovery if he stays in -bed for some time. It costs £5 a week for special foods and medicines for the boy. His father’s wage is £9 lis. 6d. a week which he receives as a worker on the local bus service. Because his father is earning that wage the boy is deprived of the invalid pension. The family pays 25s. a week for sharing a cottage and has to pay for fuel to keep the son’s room warm, and for gas and light and the ordinary necessities of life for him. In addition to that, the family has to buy other necessaries for him. One of our newspapers, the Daily Mercury, took the boy’s case up and more than £20 was subscribed in less than an hour. It seems rather hard in a country like Australia that the hat has to be taken around to provide assistance in a case like that. The invalid pension should be payable to a boy of sixteen if he is not able to work. All allowances, such as child endowment, welfare payments and so on end at the age of sixteen. They end then because it is understood that the recipients will start to work at that age. Yet there is a gap between the age of sixteen and the age of 21, when no pension is paid to people who are unable to work and who are disqualified by age from receiving the other allowances to which I have referred. Something should be done immediately with a view to overcoming this anomaly.
Another case to which I direct the attention of the House concerns a boy of twenty years of age who is suffering from paralysis. His arms and legs swing helplessly at his sides, and he will never be able to work. He has a brother and sister, both of whom are married, and his father earns only an ordinary wage as a fitter and turner. The boy lives with his family. He was receiving a pension of 5s. a week, but that payment was discontinued when his father received an increase of wages as the result of the regular basic wage increase. The 5s. that the boy had been receiving was sufficient to pay his bus fares and so on, but now he has nothing whatever. Something will have to be done in cases like this. The family income limit as it relates to pensions was fixed many years ago when the cost of living was lower than it is now and when the £1 was worth more than it is now. We must either increase the permissible family income or remove the means test altogether. I consider that the means test should be removed entirely. The boy to whom I have referred wrote to the Department of Social Services about his case and received a reply which read -
I have to advise you that the Social Services Consolidation Act provides that an invalid pension shall not be granted to a person if, in the case of a person under the age of 21 years, his parents, either severally or collectively, adequately maintain him. In view of your father’s earnings, you are deemed to be adequately maintained by him, and it is necessary to cancel your pension.
Such cases are a blot upon our civilization. We have always been proud of
Australia’s social legislation that was introduced by Labour Governments in the past. We have been, as it were, a beacon light to the rest of the world in that respect, but the anomalies that I have mentioned must be rectified as soon as possible. There is nothing to stop this young country from providing adequately for the sick and aged. We have a duty to our fellows and we must help those who have fallen by the wayside during life’s journey. We must care for those people who have pioneered this country and made our pathway smoother than it otherwise would have been. We can afford to pay invalid pensions at sixteen years of age instead of at 21 years of age. We can afford to increase pensions for the aged and the infirm. I trust that we shall do so as quickly as possible. I have mentioned those two case so that the obvious anomalies that cause such suffering can be rectified. Probably other honorable members know of other cases just as bad. I trust that the Government will do something to remove the difficulties that suffering people have to contend with.
.- I bring to the notice of the House what I regard as a most important and serious matter. I refer to the failure of the Government to give to Parliament an opportunity to discuss its proposals regarding intervention in Malaya. I notice that the items of business which relate to Malaya are Orders of the Day Nos. 9 and 10 under “ Government business “ on to-day’s notice-paper. I do not desire to canvass the matter, but merely to state that in my opinion the Government should have given those matters a high priority so as to provide the Parliament with an opportunity to discuss this important question and also to on able the appropriate Minister to give the House greater detail regarding what the Government proposes to do in the Malayan area. The Labour party has made a statement of its attitude towards that matter, and my own opinion which is, I believe, the opinion of the majority, if not all, of my colleagues, is that the Malayan question should be referred to the United Nations for some examination. The great danger that I see is that while preparations proceed for large scale military operations, and other nations - in this case Australia - are introduced into the conflict there is a danger of the conflict spreading and more nations becoming involved. I believe that every effort should be exerted to effect a peaceful settlement of the Malayan trouble. I well recollect that during the Indonesian trouble the Indonesians, who are now regarded as having been engaged in a nationalistic movement, were at that time referred to by members of the present Government parties as being Communist-dominated or actually Communist forces. But to-day they are recognized as constituting a government. Their conflict was resolved sensibly as a result of the intervention of Australia in having the matter referred to the United Nations. Some effort ought to be made to settle the Malayan position peacefully. As an indication of the seriousness of the position we have only to take the statement published in the press to th. effect that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) is speeding up preparations for conscription and compulsory military training in this country because of the deterioration of the situation in South-East Asia. So far as I am aware, that settlement has not been contradicted by the Minister. I should like to know as a member of the Labour party Opposition whether the Government has already committed this country to further intervention. I make that inquiry because the moment any forces go into any theatre of operations there is always a danger that they have to be followed by other forces Does the Minister’s declaration mean that this country is already committed to some intervention by other military forces than those to which we have already been committed? That is the impression created by the Minister’s statement and if it is correct it would cause a great deal of. dismay amongst the Australian people, particularly women folk, who would be greatly disturbed by the prospect of their sons becoming engaged in large scale operations in Malaya.
– -I rise to order. I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member unnecessarily while he is making the point that he has set out to make, hut I gather that he is now proceeding to debate the very matter that he has said would not come before the Parliament for some time.
– I was studying the notice-paper while the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was speaking, and before the Minister rose to his point of order. I point out to the honorable member for East Sydney that items 9 and 10 on the noticepaper deal with the situation in Malaya. One of them reads -
Situation in Malaya - Ministerial statement - Motion for Printing Paper.
The other reads -
Situation in Malaya - Australian Assistance - Ministerial Statement - Motion for Printing Paper.
I think that the honorable member for East Sydney has got very close to the precipice on this mater.
– I rise to order. May I point out that the Australian assistance mentioned in item No. 10 on the noticepaper refers to certain air force assistance only and not to general military operations ?
– I realize that.
– I have said sufficient for my .purpose. I now ask the Minister for the Army when it is likely that the Parliament will be given an opportunity tq disC.1 SS this very important matter. Is he able to say whether his press release indicating that there was to be a speeding up of preparations for the introduction of compulsory military training has any connexion with the Government’s proposal to intervene in Malaya?
– The answer is “ No “.
– As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said, items of business relating to the situation in Malaya are Nos. 9 and 10 on the notice-paper, but I point out that the debate on the foreign policy statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) is item No. 2 on the noticepaper, and, presumably, will be proceeded with when the measure currently before the House has been passed. The debate on that statement will permit honorable members to refer to all matters of foreign policy.
– It will not permit a debate on the Malayan situation.
– That, I suggest, is a matter for discussion. The honorable member is a senior and experienced member of the Opposition, and he must knowthat if the Opposition party wants a general discussion on any matter appearing on the notice-paper, the normal practice is for the Leader of the Opposition to indicate his wishes to the Prime Minister. I gather that a number of honorable members on the Government side also would welcome an opportunity to discuss the issues that are involved. I do not think it can be seriously argued that, at any stage in the life of this Parliament, the Government has denied to the Opposition party a reasonable opportunity to deal with matters of importance on which the Opposition has desired to place a case before the Parliament. The Government hopes that the present sessional period will conclude by the 15th of this month. As I understand the position, the only remaining business, apart perhaps from one or two minor and noncontroversial measures, is the constitutional bill at present under discussion, and certain supply bills. On the general debate on a supply bill, honorable members will have an opportunity, with the consent of the House, to deal with the subject to which the honorable member for East Sydney has referred to-night. If not, I suggest to the honorable member in all sincerity that he bring the matter to the notice of his leader. Then, if it is the desire of the Opposition party to have a discussion, I am quite sure that the Opposition’s wish will be examined seriously by the Prime Minister with a view to enabling the House to express its views on this important subject.
– I ask the Government to give attention to the urgent necessity to provide an alternative aerodrome for Canberra. As most honorable members are aware, due to the inclement weather, aircraft frequently have to by-pass Canberra to the great inconvenience very often of politicians and business people. It is on record that people have been over-carried as many as two or three times both ways, thus nullifying completely their arrange ments to negotiate business with government officials in Canberra or to attend to private matters. Consideration should be given immediately to the provision of a second aerodrome not far from Canberra. I suggest that a site could be found, say, east of Queanbeyan or perhaps towards Yass where there is not the low ceiling that is characteristic of Canberra on many days between May and October. This is a matter of considerable concern. The possibility of disaster in the air is always present. I understand that to-day six aircraft were circling over the Canberra aerodrome at one time awaiting an opportunity to land.
– In these circumstances it is not difficult to conceive of a disaster on the Canberra aerodrome similar to that which overtook a party of Ministers of a previous government. I bring this matter to the notice of the Government in the hope that it will receive the urgent consideration that it deserves.
I come now to a matter which concerns the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride). A number of Australian Capital Territory residents to-day showed me envelopes in which they had received correspondence from the Department of the Interior. The envelopes bore the inscriptions “ On His Majesty’s Service,” “ Commonwealth of Australia,” and “ If not delivered within ten days please return to the Official Receiver of the Bankruptcy Administration, Pitt Street, Sydney, New South Wales.” That inscription has caused some concern to the recipients of the envelopes. The finances of the Department of the Interior must have reached an all-time “ low “ if it has to forward its official correspondence in envelopes that it has borrowed from the bankruptcy administration. The people who have received the envelopes are in no sense bankrupt and they are taking grave exception to the use by the department of envelopes of that kind. I hope that this matter need only be mentioned to be remedied, and a more efficient supervision of out-going mails of the department exercised.
– I wish to refer briefly to several matters affecting the administration of the State of New South “Wales. One is the supply of coal, but I shall deal only with deep coal-mining. The item of business on the notice-paper relates to open-cut coalmining. The production of coal in New South Wales for its own consumption and for consumption in other States, is falling far short of requirements. In 1947 there was a shortage of 87,000 tons. By 194S, the discrepancy had reached 1,279,000 tons, and by 1949, approximately 4,000,000 tons. In that year of course there was a considerable loss due to the strike. The output per man shift has fallen from 3.51 tons in 1938, to 2.99 tons in 1946, and 2.87 tons in 3948. In spite of increased mechanization, coal production per man has fallen, and the amount lost through strikes has increased from 380,367 tons in 1939, to 740,000 tons in 1949. In this House earlier to-day I heard the New .South Wales Government defended by a right honorable member. Reference was made to the Joint Coal Board. It was claimed that considerable success had been achieved by advancing funds to enable the J Joint Coal Board, to function. It is true that funds were provided and expended, but we still have not got sufficient coal.
-Order ! The honorable member must not refer to a debate that has taken place in this House earlier to-day.
– I have said enough on that matter to make my point clear. I come now to the administration of the coalmining industry by the former Minister for Mines in New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, who, at every possible stage, did what he could to impede the production of coal. It is a sorry story. The more strikes we have, the lower is the output per man shift, and the longer will the disastrous shortage of coal continue. At the age of 67 or 68 years this gentleman was given a reward in the form of a salary of £2,500 a year as director of State coal mines. The only good thing about that was that he was taken away from a position in which he could adversely affect the operation of a greater number of mines and put hi control of two or three to which he could not do so much damage.’ During his career he has done more damage to the coal industry than any other man of whom I know.
Another matter of State administration to which I shall refer relates to the appointment of two persons as assistant forestry commissioners at a salary of £1,350 a year. One is a man called Brown, who was a draftsman in the Department of Lands. The other is a man called Harris, who was a junior forester and who was made assistant commissioner over nine or ten highly qualified forresters of the Forestry Commissioner of New South Wales who had given their life’s work to the department and tried hard to serve the State. Their claims were ignored in order to make way for the appointees of whom I -am talking. The man, who was previously a draftsman in the Department of Lands, was appointed to this high position where he and the other assistant commissioner could outvote the commissioner on important matters affecting the supply of timber for housing. One of those men got his appointment because he had been organizing for a State Minister in his elecorate. That shows that it does not pay to try to serve the State. The best way to-
– I rise to order. Is the public service of New South Wales a matter which concerns the Commonwealth’ Parliament?
– In a debate on the motion for the adjournment the only things that cannot be referred to are matters which are on the notice-paper, to pertain of which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) went very close himself, and the debates of the current session. Otherwise, so far as I know, there is nothing on earth, or in heaven, or down below that honorable gentlemen cannot discuss.
– I do not blame the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for being restive about my remarks, because these events have been described by an ex-inspector of forests in Canberra as the most shocking and corrupt appointments that have taken place in Australia. This is a matter which affects the morale of the public service in New South Wales and which should be of the deepest concern to this Parliament. Two men have been appointed as assistant commissioners, not because of good work or knowledge or academic training, but because they supported the Labour party and it appears now that if one wants to get on in the public service of New South Wales one must join that party.
Some other appointments have been made in New South “Wales during the la3t days of the dying Parliament. Mr. Winsor has been appointed to a position at a salary of £5,500 per annum, Mr. Conde to a position at a salary of £5,000 per annum, several former Labour members of the Legislative Council and a Labour candidate, Mr. Manning, who lost the election in the electorate of Lawson, have been appointed to certain positions. One must be’ a member of a political party in order to get on in New South “Wales. It does not do any good to train oneself or gain academic qualifications and do one’s best for the State in the public service. That does not help one at all. One must get on the political side - the Tammany Hall side - in order to obtain an appointment to-day. It is a crying shame that the people of any State should be subjected to this sort of thing. If the public service of New South Wales is lowered by this sort of policy the result will be the chaotic position that can be found in the tram, train, and road transport systems of the State of New South Wales because employees have been treated so shockingly that they have lost their morale.
A gentleman named Banks has been appointed as chairman of the Greyhound Coursing Council at a salary of £1,000 a year. He was the secretary of the Liverpool branch of the Australian Labour party. Certainly, he might know about racing greyhounds, but the point is that one must belong to a political party in order to receive an appointment.
– Would the honorable member be making an election speech?
– The honorable member is correct. The public service in New South Wales could easily consist of Labour League secretaries and presidents from now on. The Ministers of the Crown in New South Wales would even prejudice the position of the police force if they could.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The very important matters that have been raised by the honorablemember for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) can best be left to the people of New South Wales. They are outside the scopeof the Australian Government.
I regret that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) did not appear to be very well informed upon the matters that he raised, but I shall be happy to help him if he will let me have the name of the sister to whom he referred, who was recently employed in the Repatriation Department. I shall then bring the matters that he mentioned under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper).
I shall be happy to help the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) to bring the points that he has raised to the notice of the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner). The legislation that relates to these matters was amended by the previous Government and the present Government has not yet had the opportunity of readjusting it. The legislation was originally introduced by an anti-socialist party. I think I can say that legislation dealing with social services will be reviewed from time to time. I am at a loss to understand why, as the honorable member has suggested, a person who is totally and permanently incapacitated is unable to obtain a pension at the age of sixteen years and. has to wait until he is’ 21 years of age. I am sure that the honorable member must be mistaken, but if he will supply me with the names of the persons concerned I shall see if it is possible to help them.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) raised two very important matters. I shall be pleased to see that his suggestion for the construction of an alternative aerodrome to meet the requirements of Canberra is brought under the notice of the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation. I regret that the envelopes that the honorable member mentioned have been issued, apparently by the Department of the Interior, and I am sure that this matter will be adjusted when it is brought under the notice of the Minister.
I do not propose to waste any time in commenting on the statements that were made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Every variation in the relationships that we need to exercise will be brought under the notice of the House, as the Prime Minister has done on previous occasions. I assure the honorable member that all actions to grant or increase assistance will be mentioned to the House. That has been the policy of the Government at all times.
-So there are certain commitments?
– No commitment has been entered into except those that have been announced.
– The Government is anticipating some?
– The honorable member is anticipating them. I am emphatic in saying that the only anticipations are those in the honorable member’s mind. I shall make no statement on the question of national service except that the observations made by the honorable member to-night are not in accordance with fact.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - J. A. Hart.
Labour and National Service - H. L. Farrimond.
Repatriation - I. T. Macgowan.
Works and Housing - L. Benson, L. S. Coventry.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes - Elizabeth Bay (Pott’s Point), New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Cowell, South Australia.
Cleve, South Australia.
House adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– On the 17th May the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked me a question concerning the demand by philatelists in the United States of America for Australian stamps and whether the appointment of a leading philatelist from Australia to one of the Australian agencies in New York would be considered by the Government.
I would advise the honorable member that full particulars of each new stamp issued are supplied to the Australian agencies in New York, where current Commonwealth postage stamps are on sale. It is considered, under the circumstances, that the appointment of a philatelist to supplement the information already available would not be justified.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 9d. per lb. (b) An average subsidy of approximately 3s. 2d. per lb. was paid on tea sold by the Tea Control Board to tea merchants during the month of April, 1950. 2. (a) £4,802,951 (including subsidy on cheese), (b) £4,667,260. 3. (a) £8,000,000 (including subsidy on cheese processed milk products). (b) £7,000,000.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the total number of Commonwealth employees, permanent and temporary, including those employed by all statutory authorities, boards, commissions, &c, at tha 31st December, 1949?
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The grouping is not departmental but a broad classification according to functions.
The information as at the 30th April, 1950, will not be available for some time. I will, however, arrange for it to be supplied to the honorable member as early as possible.
e asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - l.’Is it a fact that, with the expiration of Canadian long-term contracts for newsprint in 1948, publishers or their agents attempted to, renew them for a further ten. years from 1949, but because of the growing dollar difficulties, government approval which was given was subjected to progressive reductions as the dollar stringency increased?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply : - 1 to 14. These questions present a summary of the case submitted by a deputation from the newspaper publishing industry which was received by the right honorable the Prime Minister and myself on the 29th May, 1950.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 June 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500606_reps_19_208/>.