20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question to the Minister for Health arises from the fact that persons who axe old enough to qualify for the age pension but who continue to work, as they are being encouraged to do by this Government, are not entitled to medical benefits if they fall sick. Such elderly people are liable tobe unable to work again if they become sick. Will the Minister amend the appropriate regulations so that persons over the pensionable age who are endeavouring to keep at work will be eligible for the medical benefits that are provided for age pensioners?
– The situation of such persons is being carefully examined by the Government with the object of making medical benefits available to them and also to men and women in receipt of superannuation pensions approximately equivalent to the age pension.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the conciliation and arbitration machinery that was set up under the National Security (Coal Mining Industry Employment) Regulations will shortly cease to be available for the settlement of disputes in the coal industry. If so, is the Minister in a position to advise the House of the Government’s intentions in this matter ?
– As the honorable member has indicated, part of the machinery for the settlement of disputes in the coalmining industry was established under certain National Security Regulations. The validity of those regulations as they apply to the coal-mining industry is now under attack. The matter is rather complex and the Government has given a great deal of consideration to it. I propose, with the permission of the House, to make a statement on the subject at a later stage so as not to take up time that is available for questions.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service read of the decision of the miners’ federation to continue its opposition to the mechanical extraction of pillar coal? In view of the importance of this decision, which will affect coal production in future years, particularly in New South Wales, has the Minister decided to take any action in regard to this matter?
– I have seen reports of the decision of the miners’ federation. I very much regret that at this important meeting of the federation a decision hostile to the extraction of coal by mechanical means was made. This decision could have serious effects on the industrial economy of this country. It will affect, particularly, the production of gas coal, much of which will have to be extracted ‘by mechanical moans from the pillars. This matter should not become Mie subject of a party dispute in the political sense. I am glad to say that the Minister for Mines in the New South Wales Government has repeatedly insisted on the necessity for extracting pillar coal by mechanical means. There cannot be any reasonable doubt regarding the safety of this method’ of extraction which is extensively used in other countries and which was recommended by the Coal Industry Tribunal. That recommendation has received the support of departmental experts of the Mines Department in New South Wales. It is apparent that the forces inside the miners’ federation whose objective is to retard our economy are still dominant in the federation.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman has gone outside the scope of the question.
– I only wish to say that, as the resolution on . this subject was reached by only nineteen votes to seventeen, I hope that it may be possible to arrive at a reasonable basis of discussion on this matter between the representatives of the Joint Coal Board and the more responsible elements in the miners’ federation.
– hy leave - I wish to refer to a question raised by the honorable member for Robertson on the arrangements the Government has in mind in- regard to industrial machinery for the coal-mining industry. In accordance with the agreement recorded in the preambles to the Coal Industry Acts 1 946, of the Commonwealth and New South Wales, the Government has sent, for the concurrence of the New South Wales Government, a bill, the broad purpose of which is to extend the jurisdiction of the Coa] Industry Tribunal so as to cover all disputes in the industry, whether they be interstate in character ot affect New South Wales only. The present industrial machinery springs from two different legislative sources. The
Coal Industry Acts gave to the Coal Industry Tribunal jurisdiction over all interstate disputes and intra-state disputes in New South Wales that affect the miners’ federation. The National Security (Goal Mining Industry Employment) Regulations gave to a system of reference boards jurisdiction over all disputes in Australia affecting the craft unions, whether interstate or intra-state. Outside New South Wales these regulations also apply to intra-state disputes affecting the miners’ federation.
It was always recognized that the National Security Regulations could have but a limited life. The question of the machinery that should be provided to deal with industrial disputes covered by the regulations has engaged the attention of successive Australian governments for some time. Many discussions have been held with the New South Wales Government and with representatives of the employers and the unions. These discussions were commenced by the Chifley Government. The validity of the regulations has now been challenged in theHigh Court, and a decision respecting the industrial machinery to take the placeof that provided by the regulations hasbecome a matter of pressing urgency. Weheld a series of discussions with representatives of the owners and the unionsin the industry, and the New South Wales Government. Following these thepresent Government decided that the plan which appeared most practicable would1 be for the Commonwealth to vest in theCoal Industry Tribunal, established? under the 1946 legislation, jurisdiction in respect of industrial disputes of an interstate character affecting the craft unions,, and for the State of New South Wales to vest in the tribunal jurisdiction im respect to industrial disputes within New South Wales affecting the craft unions.. That is the jurisdiction possessed by thereference boards under the regulations. The result of this would be to give theCoal Industry Tribunal jurisdiction in. relation to all interstate coal industrial’ disputes and those affecting New SouthWales alone. I should mention here that since 1947 Mr. Gallagher, who i9 theCoal Industry Tribunal, has also been chairman of the Central Reference Board! under the regulations.
A draft bill has been prepared after discussions with all concerned in the ^dustry. This bill has been submitted to the New South Wales Government for its approval under the inter-governmental agreement to which I have referred. Representatives of the owners and the unions were informed what would be done. This draft bill is, substantially, in similar terms to one to which Mr. McGirr’s Government agreed in 1949 at the request of the Chifley Government. To judge from the discussions which have been held recently with, the mining industry unions, I think it can be said that they may be expected not to disagree with this bill except in one particular, and that is, the degree to which the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should extend to the enforcement of awards and orders of the Coal Industry Tribunal.
The Government desires to introduce this bill into this Parliament during this sessional period. If the bill is not passed during the current sittings it will not be possible to put into effect the plans that have been discussed with representatives of the industry. And, as soon as the National Security (Coal Mining Industry Employment) Regulations cease to have effect, the <:raft unions in the coal-mining industry will revert to the jurisdiction of the normal Commonwealth and State industrial tribunals. We are dependent upon a speedy and favorable reply from the Government of New South Wales if we are to carry through the plans discussed with all concerned. As the New South Wales Government has been fully aware all along of the issues involved, it should not have any difficulty in letting us know its views.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Coal-mining Industry - Industrial Machinery - Ministerial Statement. mud move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. James) adjourned
– I direct to the Treasurer a question which relates ito the serious situation that has arisen in the building industry because of the Government’s action in restricting credit for building purposes. Is it a fact that builders and intending home purchasers are being asked to obtain their financial accommodation outside the banking system, from insurance companies, &c, as a result of which the loans are dearer and the negotiation of them is more complicated ? Is it further a fact that every person who wishes to borrow more than £5,000 must obtain the permission of the Commonwealth Bank Board before being able, to do so? In view of the fact that houses are so urgently required to accommodate workers who are being asked to increase the production of coal and steel, will the Minister explain to the House why those restrictions artbeing imposed?
– I respectfully direct the honorable gentleman’s attention to the speech that I made in reply to the budget debate, in which I gave a good deal of consideration to and explanation of the general problem of housing and housing finance in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Supply or the Minister for Defence Production whether, in view of the fact that it has been found necessary to use thousands of tons of Oaklands coal to maintain production in the Mulwala munitions and fertilizer factory, the Government will consider making a grant to the local council so that it will be able to improve and seal the road over which this coal has to be taken between Oaklands and Mulwala.
– I am not sure whether this matter comes within the province of the Minister for Defence Production or the Minister for National Development, but I shall draw the attention of the appropriate Minister to the honorable gentleman’s question who will let him have a reply.
– In view of the reported performance of a Single Pass soil stabilizing machine imported by the Government for use by the Royal Australian Air Force in aerodrome construction, can the Minister for Air make the machine available for inspection and demonstration to main roads boards and local government authorities who might then be able to decide whether the machine would be of use in the reconstruction of our damaged country roads?
– The Royal Australian Air Force has recently imported a soil stabilizer from the United States of America. The machine can be used for the construction of roads or air strips and will make possible the construction of a strip of road a mile long and 20 feet feet wide in a little less than eight hours. It was produced by an American corporation known as the P. and H. Corporation and full details about it can be obtained from that corporation, or from Waugh and Josephson Limited, who are its local agents in New South Wales and Queensland. I think that the suggestion of the honorable member has great merit, and I shall recommend to the Air Board that the machine be made available for inspection at Williamtown within the course of the next few weeks. I shall also endeavour to have it made available for inspection at the local government conference when it meets in New South Wales next year.
– Will the Minister for Immigration say how many immigrants have entered Australia from the United Kingdom, Europe and other places since this Government came into office? What was the growth of population by natural increase in the same period?
– I cannot offhand give the honorable member precise figures in relation to that matter, but I can tell him that, since the end of the war 560.000 or 570,000 new settlers have come to Australia. During that period there has been a movement from Australia of people who have left the country permanently. At the present time that movement averages about 20,000 persons a year. This year the Government will have attracted more British settlers to Australia than has been the case in any other year in Australia’s history. I shall obtain the figures regarding immigration from Europe and supply the honorable member with the table for which he has asked.
– -Will the Minister for Immigration say whether it is a fact that a Chinese millionaire from Singapore, who collaborated with the Japanese during World War II., is now operating a chain of restaurants in all the capital cities of Australia? Has he applied for and obtained permits from the Minister for the admission into Australia of Asiatics to work as cooks and waiters in those restaurants?
– I have no personal knowledge of the person to whom the honorable gentleman has referred. If the honorable member will supply me with the name of the person, I shall cause inquiries to be made into the matter that he has raised. The rules relating to the residence in Australia of Chinese citizens are well known to all honorable members. I am not aware that there are any Chinese in this country at the present time who have not complied’ with those rules.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in view of the disturbed state of affairs in Egypt, the vital importance to Australia of the Suez Canal, and the murder of British subjects in Egypt, what he has done or is doing in regard to Australia’s intervention in this matter?
– Some little time ago I indicated to the House in a special statement our view on the position in Egypt and the nature of the opinions that we had expressed about it. in particular, to the Government of Ununited Kingdom. Since then we have been kept very closely in touch with developments. I cannot at the present stage add to my previous statement anything that would be useful.
– In view of the enor mous losses of stock and property that have been suffered by primary producers as a result of the disastrous bush fires in the north-west of New South Wales will the Treasurer say whether action can be taken to authorize the Commissioner of Taxation to refrain from collecting provisional tax in the current financial year from those who have suffered such heavy losses.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the plight of people who have suffered from bush fires will not be aggravated by any injustice meted out by the Taxation Branch in respect of provisional taxation. If the honorable gentleman will put his question on the, notice-paper I shall give him an amplified answer later.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the persons who were responsible for the preparation of a message that was broadcast and published under the title of “ The Gall “ on Remembrance Day have held a series of secret meetings in the dining hall of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, Melbourne. Is it not also a fact that the Prime Minister is fully conversant with the activities of this organization and its real purpose, which is to employ all means available to it to keep Labour from obtaining political power in this country ?
– Some of the gentlemen who prepared the “ Call to the Nation “ which was published in the press are known to me and, indeed, to most honorable members. The chief sponsor of “ The Call “ was LieutenantGeneral Sir Edmund Herring, who occupies a deservedly high position in the public life of this country. I do not know whether the people concerned have met in the dining hall of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank in Melbourne. I <io not even know if there is a dining hall in that building. If the honorable member for East Sydney believes that there is some sinister and secret political maneuvre behind this matter, T direct his attention to the fact that when “ The Call “ was broadcast it instantly received warm and encouraging support, not only from me as Prime Minister, but also from my distinguished and learned friend, the Leader of the Opposition.
– Will, the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that 150 highly trained customs officers have been dismissed in accordance with the Govern ment’s policy of retrenchment, and that such dismissals have caused a serious congestion of cargoes on the Australian waterfront ?
Conversation being audible.
-Order! There is too much conversation taking place in the House to-day. It affords an excellent example of the state of affairs about which the honorable member for Wilmot complained so eloquently last night.
– If what I have said is a fact, will the Government give consideration to the immediate re-engagement of these former customs officers in order that the irritating delays now occurring in clearing goods from our wharfs may be lessened?
– I am not aware that the statement made by the honorable member is fact, but I shall refer his question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and ask that he be given a suitable reply.
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether there is any truth in the report that permits to enter into Australia are being sought on behalf of Japanese pearl divers so that they might work pearl beds in north Australian waters? In view of the disastrous experience that Australia has had in regard to Japanese agents operating under the guise of divers in those parts prior to the last war, will the Minister give an assurance to this House that no such permits will be issued? Will he also give a direction that other diving labour which has always been available is to be used in this industry?
– I welcome the honorable member’s question because I recently noticed a statement in the press to the effect that I have authorized the entry of certain Japanese immigrants into this country. That is completely false. The only approval given to the entry of Japanese has been that given to certain business representatives to come here on short-term tourist permits. The matter raised by the honorable member has been referred to me by representatives of the Broome Pearl Shellers Association, who have claimed that suitable skilled labour is not now available to them in sufficient quantities. Certain statements have been made to the effect that the industry is liable to collapse unless Japanese labour of the type available in pre-war days be provided. I felt that the claims were sufficiently serious to warrant investigation, but I do not propose to discuss the matter with Cabinet until the facts have been ascertained. “When the facts are before me I shall determine whether there is any basis for the claims of the association, and I shall then ask Cabinet to express a view on what should be done about the matter.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health, relates to the scheme under which milk is distributed to school children free of charge. In many parts of Australia, especially those where the average rainfall is less than 10 inches, it is virtually impossible to maintain dairy herds and, therefore, milk is not available for distribution to children. There is also a great shortage of powdered milk in those areas. Will the Minister consider the desirability of arranging for fruit juices to be issued to school children in those districts as a substitute for milk? Such juices are exceedingly nutritious, and their consumption by school children would assist the fruit industry.
– Under the legislation that authorizes the distribution of free milk to school children, it would not be possible to distribute fruit juices. An effort is being made to ensure that ample supplies of powdered milk shall be available in places such as those to which the honorable gentleman has referred. Investigations are being conducted with a view to ascertaining the best methods of using powdered milk. I shall be pleased to give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion on fruit juice, where it is not possible to obtain milk.
– Since the 30th June, Australian holdings of foreign currency have fallen by nearly £134,000,000. Will the Treasurer say whether it is the view of the Government that there is a danger point below which this country’s holdings of foreign currency should not be permitted to fall ? If so, what is the figure that has been determined ? Is the Government formulating any policy for arresting the fall in our foreign currency holdings ?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised is being kept constantly under review. The Government has formulated its policy with respect to it and it will be discussed with other subjects at the forthcoming conference of British. Commonwealth finance Ministers.
– Can the Minister for Supply inform the House of the present position of copper supplies in Australia ? Is he aware that the activities of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited in Tasmania are being seriously curtailed by the shortage of coke supplies ? In view of the importance of adequate supplies of copper, can he do anything to remedy that shortage?
– I think that the honorable member asked me a question some weeks ago on the matter that he has just raised; and, while I was absent from the sittings recently the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Yarra also asked questions about the same subject. There has been fresh developments recently, and with the leave of Hip House I shall make a statement on the matter to-morrow.
– With respect to the request bv the Queensland Government to the Commonwealth to make available financial assistance to it for the purpose of developing the Burdekin Valley, has the Treasurer read reports that were published recently in the Brisbane newspapers, the Telegraph and Courier-Mail^
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot found a question . upon a newspaper report.
– In view of the widespread hostility that has been aroused among the people of north
Queensland as a result of the Government’s failure to honour the election promise that the Treasurer made in respect of this matter, will he say once and for all whether or not this Government is prepared to assist the Queensland Government in the development of the Burdekin Valley?
– The question that the honorable member has just asked is based on wrong premises. However, any proposal the Government of Queensland or any other State government may put to the Commonwealth for assistance will receive every consideration provided that the proposal is based on sound economic grounds.
– Has the Minister for Territories read reports of the discovery of a silver-lead deposit in the aboriginal reserve in Arnhem Land? Did the prospector concerned have a permit to enter upon the reserve? Will he be permitted to carry out raining operations in that area?
– A few weeks ago a prospector named Brennan reported that he had discovered a silver-lead deposit at a spot about 25 miles north of Mainoru station in the Northern Territory. Upon investigation, it was found that the deposit was about fifteen miles inside the boundary of the aboriginal reserve. This boundary has never been surveyed, and unless the prospector had a map and made the requisite observations he, probably, would not have been aware of the fact that he was within it. As the result of his report, the Director of Native Affairs in the Northern Territory, acting in accordance with the provisions of the Aboriginals Ordinance of the Northern Territory, granted a permit to him to return to the scene of his find with a geologist. Subsequently, they brought back specimens and, following enter examination of those specimens, the Director of Native Affairs, acting again in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance, granted a provisional permit to the prospector and one assistant to return to the site of the discovery. That permit can be revoked at will by the
Director of Native Affairs. It applies to a restricted area which is in arid and unpopulated country. No aborigines are living in the vicinity. The decision that will be made, if the workings at the scene of the discovery prove that there is a substantial deposit, will depend, of course, upon the facts which are presented, and the recommendation which is made at that time. But I assure the honorable member for Darling Downs, and the House, that the interests of the native peoples will be adequately safeguarded within the intentions of the ordinance.
– Did the Prime Minister inform the Liberal party convention earlier in the week that Russia was depending upon inflation in the democracies in order to win the cold war for it? In view of the extent to which inflation has run away since the present Treasurer has been in office, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the internment of the right honorable gentleman for the duration?
– I am greatly indebted to the honorable member for Yarra for having asked an extremely humourous question. If he is interested in the speech which I delivered to the Liberal party convention, and if I find that a note of it has been taken, I shall send him a fair copy of it with my compliments.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In view of the increases in the basic wage of 13s. a week in August and 14s. a week in October, and their effect on dairying production and manufacturing costs within the dairying industry, can he state when the next review of dairy production costs will be made? Has he had an opportunity to confer with the representatives of the dairying industry since his return from abroad, where he undertook negotiations in the light of overseas export prices and Australian costs for the disposal of the Australian export surplus, for the purpose of stabilizing the dairying industry?
– The honorable member for Lyne, and other persons who are concerned in the dairying industry, are doubtless aware that a few months ago I had consultations with the representatives of that industry. Onbehalf of the Commonwealth, I then proposed to the State governments a plan for the stabili- zation of that industry for a total period of ten years. Difficulties which were advanced by some State governments, I may state with perfect fairness, made it impossible to bring that plan to finality, and an arrangement was made only for the present financial year. I shall again confer with the representatives of the dairying industry as soon as possible after Christmas, when 1 have had an opportunity to discuss the situation with Cabinet. In due course, the future relationship between the dairying industry and the governments of the Commonwealth and of the States will be considered. The objective of this Government is to sustain the industry, to encourage its expansion, and to get the maximum volume of production of dairy products for domestic use and for export.
– In view of the hard ship which is being experienced by the Australian wool-manufacturing industry, which will involve the dismissal of hundreds of skilled workers during the Christmas season, I ask the Minister for Supply to arrange for the letting of large contracts with Australian manufacturers for material and knitted goods in order to keep the defence forces supplied, establish a stockpile of those essential goods, and maintain employment in, and the efficiency of, that Australian industry.
– Large contracts are being let to manufacturers in this country, especially for clothing for defence purposes. I do not carry the relevant figures in my head, but I can supply them to the honorable gentleman if he desires to obtain them. I think that he may be under a misapprehension about one aspect. The Contract Board of the Department of Supply is not a general contracting section for all departments. It contracts primarily for the defence forces and the Department of Immigration, and, therefore, it is not competent for the Department of Supply to take the action for which the honorable gentleman has asked.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government is prepared to appoint an independent tribunal on the lines of the British Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission to investigate and report to the Parliament on the extent of monopoly control of Australian industries, the nature of the restrictive practices indulged in by such industries and other related questions, such as the effect of monopolies on the high cost of many articles manufactured in Australia?
– The honorable member will appreciate the fact that his question relates to a very extensive matter. All I can say, therefore, is that I shall give consideration to it.
Mr.FALKINDER.- I ask the PrimeMinister whether there have been any further developments in relation to reparations for prisoners of war arising out of the draft Japanese peace treaty? If not, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House when definte information on this matter may be made available ?
-I cannot recall offhand the nature of the last information that was supplied on this subject. Therefore, I shall have a check made and, if additional material is available, I shall be happy to give it to the House.
– I refer to the aerodrome at Armidale which was, I understand, constructed seventeen or eighteen years ago, on the advice of the Department of Civil Aviation, at a cost of approximately £10,000. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that some time ago his department took over that aerodrome from the local municipal council. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the aerodrome is not now considered to be safe for passenger planes of types larger than the Avro Anson? Has his attention been drawn to the fact that East- West Airlines Limited, a company that operated from this aerodrome, has discarded its Avro Anson aircraft on the ground that they are too small for its purposes. Is he aware that, as the company now operates only Lockheed Hudson aircraft and expects soon to be using D.C.3 aircraft, Armidale is without an air service? In view of the serious inconvenience that is being caused by the lack of safe landing facilities at Armidale for aircraft of the larger types, can the Minister give an assurance that the construction of at least one landing strip suitable for large aircraft will be commenced at an early date?
– I think it is correct to say that the Department of Civil Aviation, at the request of the local governing authority, took over the aerodrome at Armidale. It may be that the aerodrome cannot accommodate aircraft of the larger types such as those that are now being used by East-West Airlines Limited. It is a matter for regret if Armidale is without an air service for that reason. The Government has had to impose a limit upon work on aerodromes throughout the country in order to curtail expenditure and to ensure that the best possible use shall be made of our resources. At the moment, I can hold out no hope that the aerodrome at Armidale will be improved.
– by leave - Cabinet yesterday considered its policy on civil aviation after a close study of the existing financial circumstances of the two main commercial airlines in Australia - Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the Australian National Airlines Commission, otherwise known as TransAustralia Airlines. At the outset, I wish to remind the House of the policy declaration on civil aviation which appears in the 1949 joint Opposition policy speech, on which the present Government was returned to office. The relevant portions of that declaration are as follows : -
In civil aviation, we shall maintain arid expand full and developing air services. So far from having less need of trained ai crews and ground and engineering staffs, we will have more and more need of them, in the public interest. We are still only at the early stages of air transport.
As for the Government airlines, which were designed by the Chifley Government to be monopolies (and failed to be so only because of a High Court decision), we shall put them on to a true competitive basis, with no pre ferences either in cheap capital or dollar expenditure.
Though the future of their operative stall* is assured, because Australia needs them, the form of their future management and control will be considered in the light of results am) circumstances.
Against this background, the Government has decided to attempt to secure the retention of the major airlines in competitive service to the Australian community.
It is no part of the policy of th, Government to foster either a government monopoly or a private monopoly on the major air routes. trans-Australia Airlines has been successfully and efficiently established, and having secured a substantial share of the public goodwill, we consider it desirable that its competition should continue, so long as that competition is fair. Quite frankly, the Government would .regard it as unfortunateif either Trans-Australia Airlines or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, its major competitor, disappeared from the airlines business, since such an event would create either a straight-out government monopoly or a private monopoly, to each of which this Government and, we believe, the public are in principle opposed. Whenever a government goes into competition with private enterprise, its competition can easily become unfair and oppressive. It can make losses and survive. It oan find capital - an important item in an industry in which new types of aircraft are being steadily evolved and in which, therefore, the problem of re-equipment and modernization assumes large financial proportions. If the government competition succeeds, private enterprise given away to a government monopoly. Such a result should, we believe, be avoided.
The Government, having laid down the principle of the desirability of competition, has therefore authorized a Cabinet committee to work out promptly ways and means of securing fair competition, having regard to such matters as mail and other government traffic, air route charges, rationalization of services, and charges made to the public; and to discuss these matters with the airlines affected. Whatever is done will attach predominant importance to the safety of and service to the public. It is intended that the practical measures to be adopted will be operative before the new year.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong).by leave - The statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has made will re-assure the public mind in some degree but not completely. I think it can be said with justice that the statement has been elicited from the right honorable gentleman as a result of the strong representations that have been made by the Opposition, and perhaps also as a result of the fact that a small minority of liberal minded .members has been prodding the Government from the rear. Although the statement may be re-assuring in its first part, some portions of it give rise to anxiety. For instance, the Prime Minister referred to the rationalization of services. What does- he mean by “ rationalization “ ? The dictionary that is made available in this chamber for the use of honorable members states that “ rationalization “ means -
Re-organization of an industry or group of related industries on a rational basis by means of amalgamations, common selling agencies, price-fixing agreements, and control of output, Sui.
– It must be an American dictionary.
– It is the one that the Government provides for the use of honorable members.
– We did not provide it. We succeeded to it.
– That is the interpretation that the average man would place upon the word. The Prime Minister referred to a statement that he made in his policy speech of 1949, but I recall statements that he made in previous policy speeches in which he expressed his belief that transport, water conservation, electricity and other such projects should be controlled by governments. I do not know whether he has changed his view since then.
The Labour Government endeavoured to set up what the right honorable gentleman now describes as a monopoly only because a growing monopoly was already in existence. When that Government found that it had to compete with private enterprise it competed fairly. Does the Prime Minister know that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited requested that advice or directions be issued to employees of private enterprise not to travel on TransAustralia Airlines services long before the Labour Government issued an instruction to everybody employed on government business to travel by those services? The action taken by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited gave rise to tinLabour Government’s action.
– Oh !
– The Treasurer appears to be disturbed, but he knows that Trans-Australia Airlines brought funds to the Treasury coffers, not by extra taxation, but by proper competitive means. I fear that the rationalization to which the Prime Minister referred will lead to conditions the effect of which will be the reverse of that indicated b’y the right honorable gentleman. It may lead to the reduction of air crews and aircraft maintenance staffs as a result of reductions of air services. The Labour party believes in giving service to the people whether or not the service is profitable. The Trans-Australian Airlines organization has developed much of the outback country of Queensland, for instance. Such operations may not have produced profits, but Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has avoided operating on any but inter-capital city air routes unless it has received a subsidy foi such a service.
The Labour Government that established Trans-Australia Airlines stipulated that the organization should compete with private enterprise on a fair basis. Government supporters laugh, but they cannot laugh off the profits that have been made by Trans-Au3tralia Airlines, although once they sneered at the idea of the organization ever making profits.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask honorable members to accord to the honorable member for Maribyrnong the fair hearing that they accorded to ‘the Prime Minister. Some heat may develop over this issue, but let us remain calm and collected in this House.
– I have very little time in which to say all that 1 should like to say. I merely emphasize that the Prime Minister’s statement was reassuring in the first part but of very doubtful quality in the second part, and that no indication was given of what the right honorable gentleman meant when he referred to “ rationalization “. We can only accept the dictionary definition and, having that in mind, I Warn the Government and tell the people that, when the Labour party is returned to power in the not-far-distant future, it will restore Trans-Australia Airlines to the status it held previously. I point out that public opinion, as illustrated by the results of gallup polls, if such can be considered accurate, is quite clearly that the public wishes Trans-Australia Airlines to be retained as a ‘government airline. If there is to be a monopoly, then, as far -as the Labour party can achieve that result, it mil be a government and not a private monopoly, towards which we consider the present Government is rather favorable.
Already Trans- Australia Airlines has paid a vast sum of money for route charges, though Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Proprietary -Limited .a-re not paying ‘one -cent under that heading. We consider ‘that, until the matter df route charges has been finally determined by the High Court, the Government should relieve Ta-ans- Australia Airlines of route charges, ‘because it is unfair that TransAustralia Airlines should have to pay such charges while the other major airlines do not pay them. The Government, by doing so, woul’d allow Trans-Australia Airlines to work on ‘the same ‘basis as that -on which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is working. It would -provide fair competition. I’f it had been working on that basis Trans-Australia Air-lines would h’a’ve shown a profit of more than £1,’000,’000 in the period in which it has been in operation. No other airline has done as well as that. I can make that statement with some feeling of satisfaction. It is well known that Trans- Australia Airlines and Qantas Empire Airways Limited are paying heavy air route charges although private enterprise airlines, towards which the Government is kindly disposed, are being allowed to escape from the payment of such charges. I know that this is a matter which has finally to be’ dealt with by the High ‘Court, but, -in the meantime, the Government should suspend the charge on Trans-Australia Airlines. I hope that the Government will give favorable consideration to that suggestion. If it is prepared to do so, at least it will show that it believes in what we interpret to be rationalization of the industry. The Government, by acting as it is doing at the present time, however, is placing Trans-Australia Airlines in an entirely false position in spite of the wonderful opinion that the people have of it and of the service that it renders. It cannot be denied that as far as safety of operations and excellence of service is concerned, Trans-Australia Airlines merits the complete confidence of the people. Any attempt by a committee of the Cabinet to interfere in any way with it will, I am certain, rouse a great deal of resentment among the people.
Whilst I am satisfied with the ‘early part of the Prime Minister’s statement, I >am not satisfied with the -latter part of it. I have not time to traverse all the matters covered in the statement, but I assert that the Labour -party’s definite policy in relation to civil .aviation has been completely justified. The Government has mot interfered with TransAustralia Airlines adversely so far, but if rati ona ligation -of the air industry means that it intends to do so, I venture to suggest that some honorable members opposite disagree with the Government’s policy ‘and if it came to a vote they may cross the floor ‘of this House when a vote is taken -on it. I hope that the ‘Government will suspend the proposed rationalization by taking notice of the general opinion of the people and ‘of many honorable members from all parties in this House that Trans-Australia Airlines is one of the fittest airlines in the world.
– On behalf of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and myself I lay on the table the following paper : -
International Labour Organization - Thirtyfourth Session, Geneva, June, 1951 - Reports of the Australian Government, Employers’ and Workers’ Delegates.
In the interests of economy I do not propose to move that the reports be printed, but duplicated copies of them will be made available by the Clerk of the Papers to honorable members who require them. At a later date I shall inform the House of the action taken or proposed to be taken in respect of the conventions and recommendations adopted by the conference. This procedure has been the practice of the United Kingdom Government, and I consider that it is the course which should be followed here also.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That Standing Order 104 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of the year.
Report op Public Works Committee.
.- 1 move -
Ti,at, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 191.3-1047, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - Tlie proposed extensions to the telephone exchange building at Lismore, New South Wales.
The extensions are required in order to provide additional equipment, area, for extensions to the automatic telephone facilities serving the Lismore area and also to provide for the expansion of trunk-line services. The proposal which was examined by the committee provides for the erection of additions to the rear of the site occupied by the existing exchange building and comprises the con struction of a basement and four floors. In recommendation No. 4 of the summary of conclusions which is contained in its report of the 30th November, 1950, the committee recommended a slight rearrangement in the details of the third floor plan. This aspect of the matter has been examined by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Department of Works and Housing and the plans have been amended to incorporate the committee’s suggestions. The estimated cost of the proposal as approved by the committee is £138,000, and I recommend that the approval of the House be given for the work to be put. in hand.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to this proposal even though at one stage it entertained suspicions because the work was to be carried out in the electorate of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). The Public Works Committee has reported favorably on the matter and the proposal is in accordance with the policy of the Labour party to encourage decentralization.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - Erection at Bathurst of an automatic telephone exchange and carrier building.
I hope that nasty insinuations will not be made in connexion with this proposal, because, whatever the Labour party may have thought about the extensions to the exchange at Lismore, it can hardly make the same comments in regard to the erection of an exchange at Bathurst. The Postmaster-General’s Department proposes to install automatic telephone facilities at Bathurst, and the building, which will also be a carrier station for the underground trunk line cable from Sydney to Orange,, will house the necessary equipment. The proposal was fully explained to the House when my predecessor recommended that the project be referred for examination by the committee. The estimated cost then stated to the House was £187,600, but between the time of reference and the actual taking of evidence by the committee the plans of the project were amended to eliminate provision for the future construction of an additional story. A decision was also made to replace the full air-conditioning plant previously proposed by mechanical ventilation plant only. These major and other minor variations reduce the estimated cost of the proposal to £132,635. In recommendation No. 7 of its summary of conclusions, the committee requested that further consideration should be given by the welfare section of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the location and planning of toilets. The committee’s recommendation was examined by the department and taken up again with the committee, which has now agreed that the building, as planned in that respect, should be approved. I therefore recommend that the approval of the House be given to the construction of the building at an estimated cost of £132,635.
– I have not any great objection to the Government’s proposal which will make possible an advance of the amenities of civilization in the country. However, I protest against the Government’s failure to complete works of a similar character which were commenced in city electorates four or five years ago. I find no fault with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) for arranging the construction of big extensions to an exchange in his own electorate. But for economic reasons I consider that the construction of exchanges should be completed in those areas where there is the heaviest demand for their services before new ventures are commenced. That would enable the Government to recover more quickly the cost of the erection of such buildings.
, - The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) evidently considers that any project which is intended for a country district is not entirely justified.
– I consider nothing of the sort.
– That is the suggestion inherent in the honorable member’s remarks. He . referred to “ big “ extensions to the Lismore exchange. The expenditure on the erection of this exchange was unanimously recommended by the Public Works Committee and for £132,000 it is at present hardly possible to build a four-roomed cottage. At any rate, it is not possible to construct any building of an extensive character for £132,000. As Postmaster-General, I have not favoured the city or the country. I have endeavoured to ensure that the requirements of both have been reasonably met as ‘far as the. resources at the disposal of the department would permit. Huge works have been undertaken in Melbourne and Sydney and in every other metropolitan area. I think that such works are even being undertaken in the electorate of the honorable member for Dalley, but according to the honorable member, every project in his electorate should be completed before construction is commenced anywhere else. The construction of exchanges at Lismore, and at Bathurst, which is in the electorate of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), will not be commenced for some little time for the Government has to call for tenders and observe other formalities in regard to contracts. I anticipate that it will be three or four years before the exchange is completed at Lismore. In the meantime, the other works that I have mentioned are being proceeded with as fast as circumstances will permit. Operations have not ceased on any work in city areas. Such work is continuing although it is quite true that their completion may have been delayed a little owing to the lack of necessary equipment for installation in the buildings. It should be understood that the building of the telephone exchanges in question cannot be proceeded with immediately. However, it is necessary that they be built. They have been favorably reported upon by an all-party committee, and the honorable member need not fear that anybody’s interest will be neglected.
– I wish to say a few words in answer to the criticism that has been offered by the honorable member for Dalley. The Public Works Committee, in dealing with allsuch matters, investigates the extent to which the proposed works might interfere with other building operations. That was done in relation to the works proposed for Lismore andBathurst. The committee found that the building of those exchanges would not in any way affect building operations in Sydney or in any other part of New South Wales. The material and the labour necessary for the construction of the Lismore exchange can be obtained wholly in the district of Lismore without interfering with housing or other building activities in the district. The honorable member should’ know what he is talking about before he rises to criticize a decision of the Public Works Committee.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring ina bill for an act to provide for a Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.-by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to reconstitute the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts. The Public Accounts Committee was established by legislation in 1913 and it continued to function until 1932, when it was suspended by act of parliament as a depression economy measure. That act provided that the committee could be reconstituted by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament.
The matter of reconstituting the committee has been examined on several occasions, but for various reasons the government of the day has decided against the proposals submitted. The AuditorGeneral, in his 1947-48 report, in advocating the removal of the suspension imposed by Act No. 58 of 1932, referred to the rapid increase of Commonwealth revenue and expenditure since pre-war years and expressed the view that the need for a more detailed survey of expenditure was now much greater than it was during the period when the Public Accounts Committee functioned, from 1913 to 1932,
The Government has fully examined the matter and has reached the conclusion that the reconstitution of the committee would be a wise proceeding. In reaching this decision, it took into consideration the substantial growth in Commonwealth expenditure in recent years and the necessity of imposing as much check as possible on the tendency to further increases.
Although the committee could be reconstituted by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament, it has been decided to repeal the old act, to bring ina number of new provisions and to redraft some of the existing provisions. As in the case of the act which it will repeal, the bill provides for a committee of ten members, three of whom are to be members of and appointed by the Senate, and seven of whom are to be members of and appointed by the House of Representatives.
The duties of the committee as laid down in the existing act were -
In addition to those duties, which have been retained in the present bill, the committee will be required to examine each statement and report transmitted to the Parliament by the Auditor-General in pursuance of the Audit Act. Provision is made in the bill for the committee to take in private, if so requested by a witness, evidence whether oral or documentary which in its opinion relates to a secret or confidential matter, and such evidence may notbe disclosed without the authority of the witness.
The bill makes provision for the appointment by the committee of sectional committees to report to the committee upon such matters with which the committee is concerned as the committee directs. The number of sectional committees is limited to two, and each sectional committee is to consist of three or more members. A departure made in this bill is for the payment of allowances as prescribed by regulation. This is desirable to avoid the necessity for amending the act in the event of an adjustment becomng necessary in the rate of allowance payable to members.
The provisions remaining in the bill are substantially the same as those included in the existing act. The expenditure in meeting allowances and cost of travel is limited under this bill to £5,000 in any one financal year.
I commend the measure to honorable members who, I am sure, will concur in the need for the reconstitution of the committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1937-1947.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947 to provide that members of the Public Works Committee shall receive such allowances as are prescribed. At present the emoluments payable are fixed under the act. The disadvantage of this is that when changing circumstances warrant an adjustment in the rate of allowance it is necessary to amend the act. In view of the difficulty in obtaining the passage of an amending bill on every occasion when an adjustment in the rates becomes necessary, the Government considers that the act should be amended to provide for payment of allowances at rates to be prescribed. As it is anticipated that increases will be effected in the rates currently payable it will be necessary to increase the annual appropriation. The limit of expenditure in any one year has, therefore, been increased from £3,500 to £5,000. I am sure that honorable members will agree that prevailing conditions make the amendment necessary and I commend the measure to their favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McBride) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill foran an act to amend the Defence Act 1903-1950 as amended by the Defence Act 1951.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the validation, until the 31st October, 1952, of collections of customs duties under Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 1, and Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals No. 1, which were introduced during this sessional period. As the Parliament will be rising at an early date, it will not be practicable to afford honorable members an opportunity to debate the individual items during the present series of sittings.
For the information of honorable members, I mention that Customs Tariff Proposals No. 1 and No. 4 relate principally to duty variations consequent upon recommendations of the Tariff
Board. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 2 cover increased duties on revenue items, and Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3 relate to concessions that were agreed to at Torquay under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The amendments to the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) and the Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) are consequential upon the alterations made in the four customs tariff proposals to which I have referred.
Honorable members will be afforded an opportunity to debate the proposed duties before the expiration of the validation period.
.- The Opposition does not propose to delay the passage of this measure. The assurance by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) that the House will be given an opportunity to debate the proposed duties is satisfactory to honorable gentlemen on this side of the House, provided that it be honoured. I point out that the Government does not necessarily follow the recommendations of the Tariff Board. It follows them- when that course suits its purpose, and it departs from them when it thinks fit to do so. I do- not say that that is a bad principle. I emphasize the fact that the Government does not always implement the recommendations of the board only because some honorable gentlemen opposite, when they were in Opposition, severely criticized Labour administrations for not slavishly following the board’s recommendations.
I direct attention to the fact that these duties will remain in operation until October, 1952. The action of the Government in hastening into recess will mean that tariffs and excise duties that may adversely affect Australian trade and business activities will be agreed to by the Parliament, although they will not have been discussed adequately. We accept the assurance of the Minister that, during the next sessional period, there will be a full-dress debate upon all the items in the schedules to the bill. If we insisted upon debating the items seriatim now, the Minister would wield his hidden axe and we should be prevented from discussing them. Therefore, we accept the lesser of two evils.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has assured the House that the items contained in the schedules referred to in the bill will be discussed later. I believe that they warrant more careful scrutiny than they will receive during this debate. The commitments into which Australia has entered under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are involved in this matter. I understand that not very long ago a conference of representatives of countries which are parties to the agreement was held at Torquay. The purpose of the agreement is that reciprocal arrangements shall be made by the contracting parties with the object of reducing the level of tariffs. No report has been submitted to the Parliament about what occurred at the Torquay conference. We have no information about the undertakings that were given and received by the Australian representatives.
I join with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in urging that, when the Parliament re-assembles after the forthcoming recess, honorable members shall be given an opportunity to discuss the tariff situation. In connexion with tariffs, we are now in what may be termed a transitional period. I suggest that the Government give consideration to doing something similar to that which was done in 1929, when a. body of experts upon tariffs, having gathered all kinds of information, presented what was, in their opinion at any rate, an authoritative statement upon the role of the tariff in the Australian economy. I suggest that the time is ripe for a further evaluation of the role of the tariff in the Australian economy. Hundreds of millions of pounds are involved, but regard must, be had not only to the revenue that is derived from tariff duties, but also to this country’s trade with the United Kingdom and with the rest of the world. Matters of that kind are too important to receive the summary treatment that they are now receiving. I urge the VicePresident of the Executive Council to give an undertaking that the House will be given an opportunity properly to discuss the commitments into which Australia has entered under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and that honorable members will be supplied with full information upon the matter in order that they may be in a position to assess the implications of those commitments.
– in reply - I have listened with much interest to the representations that have been made to me by honorable gentlemen opposite.
– Will the Minister take any notice of them?
– I shall take more notice of them than was taken of the representations that I made when I was in the unhappy and unfortunate position that is occupied now by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) of sitting in opposition. It is a case of different times, different views. I remember that when the honorable member for Lalor was sitting on this side of the chamber as representative of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and when I had the unhappy duty of leading for the Opposition of the day in respect of matters pertaining to customs, I used to plead with the honorable gentleman to give to the then Opposition an opportunity to discuss the tariff schedules on each occasion that a validation bill was introduced. Invariably, the honorable member gave that assurance, but he did not arrange for such a debate to take place. I cannot recall one occasion during the whole of the period that the present Government parties were in opposition on which a debate took place on tariff schedules. However, on this occasion, I shall return good for evil. I assure the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who is a new member, that his appeal has not fallen on deaf ears. I should hate to shatter his belief in the veracity of Ministers of this Government. I assure him that the Government will arrange for a debate to take place on the schedules referred to in this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the validation until the 31st October, 1952, of collections of excise duties under Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1 and Excise Tariff Proposals No. 2, which were introduced earlier during the current session. The first set of proposals cover variations of excise duties mainly for administrative purposes, whilst the second set covers increased duties that have been imposed for revenue purposes. The bill is complementary to the Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) which the House has just passed. The assurance that I gave with respect to that measure covers this measure also.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 15th November (vide page 2140), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Chair has no objection to the procedure that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has suggested that the House should follow. I simply point out that on a number of occasions recently we have got into difficulties because of the fact that Ministers, in the course of second-reading speeches, have gone far beyond, the scope of the measures that they were introducing. Ministers can facilitate the passage of measures by confining their second-reading speeches strictly to the scope of the measures with which they deal. If they traverse a wider sphere, it is very difficult for the Chair to deny to other honorable members the same degree of liberty; and I do not propose to do so. I should like to be supplied with a copy of the Minister’s second-reading speeches in respect to the measures now before the Chair.
– They were confined strictly to the subject-matters of the respective bills.
– Of course, each bill will have to be dealt with separately in committee.
.- The Opposition will agree to the passage of these measures. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in his second-reading speech on the main bill pointed out quite properly, that the Wool (Contributory Charge Bill (No. 1) and the Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill (No. 2) are complementary to the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill. <Such a variety of definitions has arisen in respect of contributory charges, assessments and wool tax under these measures that they involve thorough consideration on the part of honorable members who wish to state with clarity the issues to which they give rise. The Minister has stated that the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill 1951 is one of three bills, the purpose of which is to grant exemption to certain classes of wools from the contributory charge that is now being used to collect moneys for wool use promotion. This bill proposes to amend the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Act 1945-1950 in order to exempt from the contributory charge manufactured wool, including wool tops, wool noils, wool waste, skin wool, wool on the skin, or dead wool. I gather, from the Minister’s second-reading speech, that the reason why he desires to exempt those particular kinds of wool, or wools in the process of manufacture, from the operation of the contributory charge is that the Wool Tax Act 1945 is applicable only to shorn wool, and the Government wishes to ensure that pending the re-introduction of the wool tax, no wools which have been exempt from that impost will pay the contributory charge. That policy is in contrast to the situation which has operated under the Joint Organization, or its Australian subsidiary, the Australian Wool Realization Commission.
The Minister pointed out, very properly, that the Lyons Government imposed a wool tax in 1936. That action was probably taken at the request, and with the consent of, the graziers’ organizations of Australia. The levy was at the rate of 2s. a. bale, ls. a fadge and 4d. a bag on all wools which were delivered into store in this country. The reason for the imposition of that tax was that, in those days, the Australian wool industry was labouring under grave disabilities in respect of price levels. There- fore, it was desirable to publicize and endeavour to popularize the use of wool in the manufacture of clothing by every possible means which were available to governments, because the national economy was largely dependent upon the welfare of the wool industry. That charge was levied under the Wool Tax Act 1936, and the wool-growers of Australia, not withstanding their serious economic plight at that time, contributed annually to an amount of approximately £300,000.
– What was the rate of tax?
– It was 2s. a bale, ls. a fadge and 4d. a bag. The wool industry and the national economy benefited greatly from the expenditure of the money that was collected from that wool tax from 1936 until 1945. The Wool Publicity Board, which was a most capable authority, expended that money wisely and well. Indeed, its work proved so beneficial that when the Joint Organization was established, the Curtin Labour Government decided to continue the levy of 2s. a bale on wool-growers, but resolved, in the interests of convenience, to adopt a different method of raising it. The money, instead of being collected through the medium of the Wool Tax Act 1936, was to be obtained as part of the contributory charge which was levied under the Wool Realization Act 1945 that established the Australian Wool Realization Commission. This tax was imposed for the purpose of financing the administration of that body, and its associated senior partner, the Joint Organization. That charge was varied from time to time. The original rate was 5 per cent, on the value of the clip of each grower, and from the proceeds there was set aside an amount equivalent to that which would have been raised under the Wool Tax Act 1936 at the rate of 2s. a bale. But almost simultaneously, a decision was made by the Curtin Labour Government to provide, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, an amount equivalent to the money which was collected from the contributory charge. In other words, the Commonwealth began to provide 2s. a bale for every 2s. that was collected from the wool-growers. A proportion of that money was allocated to the Wool Use Promotion Fund and the Wool Publicity and Research Fund. I am happy to say that such moneys are expended wisely and well, and the results are proving of immense benefit to the woolgrowers of Australia. When I make that statement, I refer to the operations of the Australian Wool Board, and the research work in the wool industry that is being undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, with money provided from the Wool Publicity and. Research Fund. I sincerely hope that such good work will be continued, because Australia cannot afford to slip back into a minor place in the production of wool for the people of the world. Although wool-growers are enjoying conditions of great prosperity to-day, the Commonwealth proposes to continue to provide from the Consolidated Revenue Fund an amount of 2s. a bale for every 2s. that is subscribed by the wool-growers. Such moneys will be used to aid wool-growers, to assist, indirectly, the economy of this great Commonwealth.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, made an historical survey of taxes that have been levied on wool for the purpose of promoting its use, and for research, and, therefore, I hope that I shall be permitted to mention further action that was taken by the Curtin Labour Government to assist the wool industry. My remarks refer to the position in 1946, before the operation of the Joint Organization and the Australian Wool Realization Commission. The Central Wool Committee, as a result of its trading and acting as an agent for the Commonwealth in the sale of skin wools, and as the collector of drawback of subsidy on wools that were exported, accumulated £7,000,000. That amount was apart altogether from the proceeds of its operations as the handling agent in the wool sale scheme of the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government.
– Did not that money belong to the growers?
– The honorable m e]r.ber for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) should know, and admit, that more than £2,000,000 of that money was a drawback of subsidy that had been paid on wools which had been manufactured for use in Australia and for which the woolgrower had not been paid the full appraised price. When some of the cloth was exported, surely the Australian Government was entitled to recover the subsidy that it had paid only on the understanding that the manufactured wool would be sold and used in Australia. The sum of £7,000,000 was placed in a fund under the terms of the Wool Industry Fund Act 1946. The act specifically provided that the money should be used for any or all of the following express purposes : -
Application of the results of research.
Wool use promotion.
Regulation of marketing.
Stabilization of the price of wool in order to give temporary relief to the industry.
Discharge of any losses ultimately sustained under the wool disposals plan.
Fortunately, no financial loss was sustained under the wool disposals plan and the growers to-day are happy in the knowledge that they have the full amount of £7,000,000 intact for use in any or all of the other purposes that I have mentioned. The money remains the property of the industry at all times.
Had the scheme that was sponsored by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for the continuance of a form of joint organization control been approved by the growers, a portion of the nest-egg could have been used as backing for a reserve price scheme. That was even suggested by some of the growers’ organizations. In the circumstances, I am glad that the Minister has set aside the money to be used solely for the welfare of the industry. When the 1946 legislation was debated in this House, the Minister and other honorable members who were then in Opposition were extremely critical of its provisions.
– And rightly so !
– The honorable member has been sitting on the Government side of the chamber for two years now, but neither he nor the Minister has made any move during that period to have any part of the sum of £7,000,000 distributed directly to the growers. His present inactivity is an acknowledgment that his former criticism was misguided, and I am prepared to prophesy that the Minister will not make any direct distribution to the growers from the fund. Wisely, in the light of his present responsibilities, he will ensure that the money will be retained in the fund to be used on a rainy day or, alternatively, to supplement the 4s. charge for each bale of wool that will be levied equally upon the growers and the Consolidated Revenue for the purposes of promoting the use of wool and of financing scientific research. It is tragic, incidentally, that scientific research has been considerably retarded, notwithstanding the financial provision that was made by the former Labour Government, because the scarcity of building materials and other difficulties have impeded the work of constructing schools and other institutions for which plans were prepared long ago.
The Minister has introduced the three measures that the House is now considering as a result of the necessity for financing the wool use promotion campaign by means of a tax levied on the basis that was laid down in the legislation of 1936 and 1945. The Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill is the kernel of the scheme. The other two measures are complementary. In addition to providing for the lifting of the tax on wool noils, tops and so forth, the three measures provide for the elimination of the 7¼ per cent. contributory charge that was levied in anticipation of ratification by the growers of the Government’s wool stabilization plan. I supported that plan, although it was prepared by an anti-Labour Government. Notwithstanding our efforts to convince the growers of its virtues, they would have nothing to do with the scheme and rejected it by a very substantial majority. In New South Wales, for instance, 27,000 votes were cast against the scheme and only 3,400 were cast in support of it. Apparently even my recommendations did not cut any ice with the growers.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) is “ anti-everything”, except in drought years or at other times when the primary producers are iu trouble, when be is a whole-hog Socialist. In normal periods, he prefers to risk the hazards of the markets and opposes even the schemes that are sponsored by the primary producers. I have heard him campaigning against measures that have been recommended by substantial majority votes of primary producers’ organizations. The honorable member is always out on a limb. He is a typical “ agin’ the Government “ man, and no doubt he helped to defeat the excellent stabilization scheme that was sponsored by the Government that he professes to support. His presence on the Government side of the chamber is extraordinary. I do not know why he sits there. He should have a seat in the central gangway so that he could fall into either political camp as the occasion suited.
Because the Government’s plan was rejected by the growers, it became necessary to introduce these three bills in order to cancel the contributory charge that was intended to finance the stabilization plan and in order to authorize the continuation of a levy, which will be known as a contributory charge, in place of the former wool tax. The authorities that will be charged with the expenditure of the money are highly efficient, as I know from my own observation. It is essential that their good work shall be continued and, because an amount equal to the growers’ contribution will be drawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, I support the bills whole-heartedly. My only regret is that the wool-growers had so little confidence in the plan that was submitted to them by the Minister that they kicked it ignominiously out the door, and for that act received the blessings of the honorable member for Riverina. For the sake of the wool industry, I hope that the honorable gentleman will never have cause to regret his campaign against the stabilization plan.
.- I have only a few observations to make in connexion with the three bills that the House is now considering. Because of the timely absence from the chamber of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), and in the hope that honorable members who are present will not betray me to him, I make the comment, for my own satisfaction, that these measures will return us to the status quo ante as it was in 1936. Honorable members no doubt recall that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has expressed his intense dislike of Latin tags and phrases. I hope I may be pardoned for having used that phrase, because it applies aptly to the three bills. In 1936, it was found necessary in the interests of the wool industry, if for no other reason, to establish a fund in order to promote the use of wool. At that time, the industry was said to be threatened by synthetics and all sorts of other dubious materials that were on the market. In fact, some of our best-informed economists imagined, or so I conclude from the vagaries of their deductions, that the end of the wool industry was in sight and that never again would it be a profitable industry. They prophesied that synthetics would obliterate it and said that the time had arrived to dispose of the whole of the Australian wool flock. Largely for the purpose of retrieving that situation, a wool tax was imposed in order to provide a fund with which to promote the use of wool in the best possible way and on the widest possible scale. [Quorum formed.’]
These three bills provide for a return to the state of affairs that existed, for all practical purposes, in 1936 when the wool tax was introduced. In 1939, when war broke out and it was found necessary to acquire wool in the interests of Australia and its allies, an organization was appointed to dispose of wool in a way that would provide a remunerative price for the producers. That acquisition scheme operated satisfactorily throughout the period of the war. At the termination of hostilities, of course, some other plan had to be introduced because, under the acquisition scheme, arrangements had been made to buy in quantities of wool if and when the market price fell below the reserve price. Because of that arrangement, when the scheme was terminated an accumulation of wool remained in possession of the organization at that time. A complementary organization had to be established not only to deal with current wool clips from year to year, but also to dispose of that huge accumulation of wool which, if I remember aright, totalled about 10,000,000 bales. The then Prime Minister and Government believed that it would take from fourteen to twenty years to dispose of that accumulated wool by a means that would not prejudice the market. It was found necessary in 1949, therefore, to alter the wool tax provisions to provide for a contributory charge that would, to a degree, meet any losses that might be incurred incidental to the subsequent disposal of that accumulated wool through the wool disposals plan. Fortunately, no losses occurred, and it did not take the expected length of time to dispose of the accumulated wool. The contributory charge was therefore unnecessary for the purposes for which it had been levied, and that fact was entirely due to the favorable circumstances of the wool industry.
In 1950, after two years of negotiations with the previous Government, woolgrowers expressed through their State organizations, and later their federal organizations, the desire that the general arrangements that had covered the industry right from the acquisition period in 1939 up to 1949 be continued. They could not be continued under the acquisition system, because the acquisition powers of the Government are restricted by the Constitution and could not operate for any sound reason, after the accumulated stockpile of wool had been disposed of. So the growers asked the Chifley Government for a wool reserve price scheme. Tentative proposals were submitted by the State growers’ organizations and by the two growers’ federations, and the proposals were amalgamated. The federations then produced a proposal for a wool reserve price scheme that they believed to be the best that had ever been submitted to any government. They then asked the Chifley Government for legislation that would, :.n the first place, allow the growers to 70te on a proposal of this kind, and, in the second place, put a wool reserve price scheme into operation in the event of a favorable vote being recorded. t was privileged to take part in the negotiations at that time, and I vividly recall that whereas there was a body of public opinion in favour of :he wool reserve price scheme, there was an even greater body of public opinion that believed that there should be no such scheme unless the growers were first consulted and allowed to express their opinions in a ballot. When the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was speaking he forgot to mention that both he and the Chifley Government, of which he was a member, were opposed to the holding of a ballot. They believed that, the growers* State organizations having expressed a majority decision of their members to the federations, and the federations having expressed a majority opinion to the Government, all that was necessary was to bring down legislation to inaugurate a. wool reserve price scheme.
That was the position in 1949, but the Government was changed at the end of that year. The new Government, faithful to its undertaking to the democratic people of this country, immediately assured the wool-growers that no wool reserve price scheme would be introduced without the growers having been consulted and without a ballot of the growers having been held. The primary producers, including the woolgrowers, had had bitter experience of schemes of this kind before, when tlie honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government. As a direct result of that experience, public opinion became hostile to the proposition for a wool reserve price scheme, and the woolgrowers finally rejected the proposal. T venture to say that had any government other than a socialist government been in office, and had any Minister other than the honorable member for Lalor been in charge of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture at the time, the experience of the years under acquisition and of the years during which the accumulated stockpile was being disposed of, would have been entirely different and the consensus of opinion that favoured a wool reserve price scheme of some description would have remained constant. That it did not remain constant was due to the wretched demonstration of socialization by stealth that had been given by the Chifley Government in relation to other industries allied to the wool industry. 1 refer ‘particularly to the wheat industry. The people engaged in any industry who would wilfully subject themselves to the indignities that were thrust on the wheat industry could be considered wholly irresponsible. So no matter how perfect, in general terms, a reserve price scheme might be., and no matter how faithfully the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) carried out his undertaking to the wool-growers’ federations in the first place, to the State organizations in the second place, and subsequently to the community as a whole, it was inevitable that the scheme would be rejected. Because the present Minister wished to discharge the Government’s undertaking to the people in full, he carried out the promise that had been given that a wool reserve price scheme would be considered by the Government and that its terms would be submitted to the growers themselves for either approval or rejection. Subsequently the wool reserve price scheme was rejected by the growers, and in consequence of that rejection the contributory charge of 1 per cent, that had been levied to provide capital for the scheme, became redundant, and the amount so collected must now be refunded to- its rightful owners.
So I come back to my original point that these three bills, for all practical purposes, restore us to the position as it existed in 1936. They Will abolish the contributory charge that was levied in order to provide capital for the operation of the scheme. I take this opportunity to express my satisfaction that this point has been reached and that the accumulated stock-pile of wool has been disposed of in a way that has been profitable not only to the wool-growers and to our economy, but also to the economy of the countries that have bought the wool. I am also glad that the industry has been restored to its normal production level. With all respect to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I must also express my personal satisfaction that the wool reserve price scheme was defeated. I did not have any faith, in it, because I have an intimate knowledge of the growers’ federations, having been (i member of them ever since their inception, and having had 30 years day to day personal experience of the producers’ organizations affiliated with them. It is competent for such organizations to make certain decisions and it is just as competent for them to change their minds. They changed their minds in this instance because of the bitter experiences that the producers had had when the previous administration attempted to socialize all our major industries by stealth. As a result of that experience the growers took the first available opportunity to register a protest against such a policy, and so rejected the wool reserve price scheme. I hope that the wool industry will be allowed to remain free and unfettered by circumstances, and untrammelled by politics.
.- I agree entirely with the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in relation to the inadequacy, of the 2s. a bale levy for wool research, because I consider that the amount that we expend in Australia on wool research is pitifully insufficient. In 1945, the 2s. a bale levy produced about £300,000 at a time when the price we were receiving for wool was 15 1/2d. per lb. To-day we are receiving ten times that price for wool, but are still levying the same amount a bale for research. Last year we expended £336,000 through the Australian Wool Board and an equivalent amount through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on wool research, making a total of about £672,000 for research out of a wool cheque of about £636.000,000. I believe that such an amount for research is pitifully inadequate, especially when we consider the enormous and growing competition from artificial fibres overseas. I cannot agree with the honorable member foi Riverina (Mr. Roberton) that the wool industry has nothing to worry about in the future. Nylon, rayon, orion and various other artificial fibres are increasingly appearing in the American market. The Du Pont interests have spent more than 30,000,000 dollars in putting nylon alone on the market, and another 70,000,000 dollars in research on, and publicity for, that product. They aim at doubling in about three years the quantity of nylon that they are putting on the market. I consider that we need to take active steps to counter this development or we shall find ourselves in a position where wool, on the export of which this country mainly depends, will be completely wiped off the market. A glance at the relevant figures will show that the production of those substitutes is increasing at an enormous rate.
There is an enormous volume of research, publicity and promotion work to be done in the industry. I believe that the Australian Wool Board is doing an excellent job,, but how can it carry on with these very limited funds? The type of work being done by this organization is set out in a booklet that was issued recently by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The board has made investigations of problems that concern jaundice, external parasites, blowflies, nutrition, dry feeding and many other matters. How can that research be continued on this ludicrously small amount? In 1950 the board operated at a loss and its administration cost £25,000 more in 1950 than it cost in 1949. Therefore, it can be estimated that unless it receives an additional amount it will probably operate at a loss of over £25,000 this year. I ask the Minister to approach wool-growers’ organizations with a view to obtaining the assistance of the industry to increase the amount made available to the Australian Wool Board.
– This bill has been introduced for the specific purpose of carrying out a promise that was made to the electorates that are interested in growing wool. Some other governments that I could mention have not been so prompt to redeem promises. The wool-growers will’ receive their money within a very short space of time after this measure becomes law and I congratulate the Government on its introduction. When this scheme was first introduced I supported the Government’s proposal to give to the wool-growers an opportunity to determine whether they wanted such a scheme or not and I also supported the collection of the necessary finance. I make no apologies for having done that. I have been associated with two of the greatest primary producing organizations in my State and I possess documents in which those organizations made it perfectly clear that they wanted such a scheme to be established.
I have no time for socialization and I believe that one of the most potent devices that can be used against it is the free association of those engaged’ in industry. The troubled state of the world makes it necessary that a certain amount of legislation be drafted in order to make that association effective. We are passing from an old to a new age and must adjust ourselves to the altered circumstances and learn to work the new machinery just as people had to make adjustments when they passed from the feudal to the capitalisticera. When the growers made it clear that they wanted some form of organized marketing the circumstances were entirelydifferent from those that obtained when the ballot was taken. I have always observed that when there is plenty of feed nobody is keen on fodder conservation. That is the position in this case. The Government, by its action, drew about £45,000,000 from the purchasing power of the country and from large taxable incomes. Like the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) I have some Scottish ancestry and this action seems to me to have been a good piece of business on the part of the Government, which wished to protect the wool industry against a possible calamitous fall of prices. It was certainly good business for the wool-growers, of whom I was one at the time.
I have supported the proposal for organized marketing from its inception. I did not consider it to be a government proposal. It was a proposal which originated with the wool-growers. It waa probably the best scheme that could have been evolved on a national basis. The Government submitted it to the members of the industry as it had promised that it would do. It is for the wool industry to determine what it wants. The growers decided that they did not want a wool marketing scheme. The original legislation provided that if, by the 30th September, 1951, the growers had not accepted such a scheme, the money that had been collected would be returned to them at the earliest possible moment. During the years of my public life I have seen governments break their promises again and again and I want the growers and the public to know that this Government, having had its scheme rejected by the growers, has kept the promise that it made to them. If every government were as prompt to redeem itspledges as the present Administration has been there would be more confidencein government. Primary producers were probably influenced not a little in their decision to reject this scheme by their unfortunate experiences under a previous government which let them down too often.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the loth November (vide page 2140), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the hill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the loth November (vide page 2141), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a secondtime, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 2241), on motion by Mr. Menzies, through Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That thebillbe now read a second time.
.- The Opposition has no objection to this bill in principle, but would like to make a few comments on its general application. Some honorable members have points of their own which they would like to bring to the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
As the second-reading speech made on behalf of the Prime Minister mentioned, apart from amendments that were made to the act in 1945 nothing has been done to streamline the Public Service organization, which is growing rapidly. The most important amendment proposed relates to section 29 of the Public Service Act. which deals with the creation and abolition of offices and the classification of salary qualifications. The bill will not change present procedure, but will streamline the act so that matters which formerly had to be submitted to the Executive Council may in future be determined by the Public Service Board. That will save time and wear and tear on the administrative machinery. It will place the Public Service Board, which is a wage-fixing authority, in proper perspective. The Opposition hopes that the wages fixed by the board will have an upward trend which will be advantageous to whatever government is in office in the future.
Another time-saving proposal relates to conditions of advancement in certain categories of employment. This is a very complex matter and the Opposition is prepared to support any proposal which will make the existing procedure less cumbersome. The position in relation to the granting of leave for defence purposes has required adjustment for some time. I understand from conversations with the Public Service Board and other authorities that the act provides for the granting of leave only in time of war. Insofar as it will assist the nation in its defence preparation, such as the calling up of youths for training and the building of certain defence works, the amendment is in line with what the Opposition believes to be correct, and therefore we accept it.
The bill proposes that section 84 of the principal act shall be amended to enable the Public Service Board to appoint returned soldiers who have the necessary qualificationsbut who are not able to pass the medical test because of certain rigid rules. I applaud that provision. In my own experience and in the experience of many other honorable members it has become known to us that there are certain ex-servicemen who, although they are not able to fulfil the rigid requirements of medical officers, are quite capable of fulfilling more than adequately the demands that certain public offices would make upon their knowledge and experience. There is a young physicist in my electorate who is very anxious tojoin the staff of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I believe that he would make some contribution in his particular field of knowledge if he could join that organization. Unfortunately he has not been able to pass the necessary medical test, which is fairly rigorous, because of some defect in his eye caused by his war service. If this amendment will have the effect of allowing the Public Service Board todecide whether a man can do his job satisfactorily, even though he cannot pass a rigid medical test, then it will serve a useful purpose. Any measure that will increase the chances of employment of partially disabled exservicemen should be supported.
Proposed new section 8a is praiseworthy, and the Opposition agrees with it because it will streamline the. machinery of control within the Public Service.
I direct the Prime Minister’s attention to proposed new section 21 (1.), which indicates that there shall no longer be a twelve-monthly publication of the Public ServiceList. While realizing that this list is becoming as big as the telephone directory, we suggest that an up-to-date list be published at least every three years. We had intended to move an amendment to that effect during the committee stage of the bill; but if the Prime Minister gives the assurance thatI have asked for, we shall refrain from taking that action. We understand that the reason why the list will no longer be printed has relation to printing and publishing difficulties. The Opposition considers that the amendment proposed by the Government goes a little too far, and we ask the Prime Minister to give to us an assurance that the list will be fully compiled and printed at least once in every three years.
– The Government intends that the Public Service list shall be published whenever practicable.
– At the Prime Minister’s discretion ?
– Yes. I hope that the next list will be available in January.
– In that case the Opposition is agreeable to this amendment being made ; but it should be realized that if the period between successive publications is too long, the list will become more unwieldy than it is at present. In general we support the proposed changing and reshaping of the Public Service Act by this bill, and we believe that its streamlining effect will be of benefit to the Public Service Board and to public servants.
.- I am particularly interested in this measure because the efficiency of any government depends to a great extent on the efficiency of the Public Service. I regret that the Minister’s second-reading speech, which is embodied in about one page of Hansard, contains very little about the provisions of the bill.I hopethat whoever is in charge of the measure at the committee stage will explain in more detail what it proposes to do.
Governments come and governments go, but in the final’ analysis a great deal of government policy depends on the advice tendered by the permanent officials of the Public Service. Anybody who has noticed how similar is much of the legislation that is introduced by governments of different political colours knows that governments aremerely passing travellers and that it is the permanent Public Service, with its traditions and continuing policy, that largely determines how the country shall be governed.For that reason, it is particularly important that legislation that deal’s with the establishment of, and discipline and promotions in, the Public Service, shall be very carefully considered. Some of the provisions of the measure which have not been explained are disquieting.
Jit is provided that the Public Service
Board, when making changes in examination requirements for particular positions,, shall be able to do so merely by notifying such changes in the Commonwealth Gazelle. At present the board is required to take any such action by regulation. When a regulation is made or altered it has to be made available to honorable members and, has to lie on the table of the House for a certain number of days. During that time it maybe disallowed by the House. If this provision becomes law the Public Service Board will simply have to make an announcement in the Commonwealth Gazette, and that will end the matter. I am anxious to hear from the Minister the reason for this proposed change. At present, if regulations are to be altered notice of that intention must be published in the Commonwealth Gazette, and then certain safeguarding, actions must be taken. The bill proposes that in effect, a regulation maybe altered merely by publication of a notice in the Commonwealth Gazette. Moreover; I cannot see how Public Service administration will benefit from this provision. I suggest that it would be preferable to keep the system as it is at present and to allow conditions of ex- amination to be altered only by way of regulation. Then, any such alterations would be submitted to the House and be liable to disallowance by it. In any event, I suppose that the Public Service Board will have to consolidate its notices which appear in the Commonwealth Gazette because somebody will needto have a complete set of the conditions applicable to exemption. In that case why should the change be made?
Competitive examination is the basis of every sound civil service. Apart from the steadiness of their character, the major factor in thesurvival of the people of Great Britain in the crises that they have passed through has been the British civil service. I make bold to say that the reason for the soundness of that civil service lies in the system of competitive examination. Competitive examination is not virtuous because it enables the selection of the most meritorious candidates, becauseit does not do that in some instances. Its main virtue, and the strength that it has given to the British civil service system, lies in the impartiality of selection which it imposes. Anybody who has read the history of the American, French,or any civil service other than the British, will be impressed by the amazing difference between the steadiness, the impartialityand the incorruptibility of the British civil service and the civil services of other countries.
The Public Service of the Commonwealth is founded upon the British pattern, which is one of the most efficient, ethically correct and incorruptible civil services that the people of this globe have been fortunate enough to enjoy. Although in many respects the work of the Public Service can be criticized, I pay tribute to its impartiality and incorruptibility. The qualities of our Public Service have not been established by accident, nor is it of different clay or inherently more honest than other services. Oar impartial and’ incorruptible Public Service has been developed by the system of selection that we have established. It must be remembered that that system is based primarily on competitive examinations. That means not necessarily that the best candidate offering is selected for service, but. certainly that there is absolute impartiality in the selection of officers. Hinder such a system, the government of the day cannot reward its followers by giving to them positions in the Public Service. If a government wants to ensure continuity of its policy after it has been forced out of office it cannot do so under our present system because it cannot see that officers of its own selection shall be appointed to key positions.
Therefore, I am anxious about the provisions that relate to the announcements of changes in the conditions that are attached to examinations of candidates for entrance to the Public Service. Since the Prime Minister has announced that the Government intends completely to review the Public Service Act in in the near future, I hope that he will give particular attention to restoring the competitive examination system in someof the fields from which it has been withdrawn. For instance, I canperceive no reason why candidates for appointment as cadets in the Department of External Affairs should not be selected by competitive examination. Diplomatic cadets, perhaps more than any other group in the Service, should be so selected. We do not want persons to represent Australia overseas who have been appointed because of their Labour or Liberal sympathies or affiliations.
– Or because of their Communist affiliations.
– Yes, or because of that. Our overseas representatives should be appointed in an impartial manner and the only way in which that can be done is by a system of competitive examinations. Provision was made some years ago for the appointment to the Service, without examination, of university graduates. That was done at a time when many university graduates could not find employment. I suggest that that system needs close scrutiny. A vast number of university graduates has been taken into the Public Service without having had to pass a competitive examination and, in view of the opportunities for employment that are now available to university graduates, it is high time the Public Service reverted to a complete system of recruitment according to competitive examination. I see no reason why university graduates or anybody else should not be appointed in that way. Too many such officers have entered the Service by appointment without having passed an examination, and I do not think that that has been wholly to the advantage of the Public Service.
– Does the honorable member suggest that university graduates should again pass the leaving certificate examination?
– No, I do not. I suggest that there is no irrevocable law which requires that the educational standard shall be the leaving certificate standard. There is no reason why a competitive examination should not be held at university graduation standard, or any other standard. The Government should give serious consideration to my suggestion.. The system of straight-out appointment has not only inflicted a lot of hardship and injustice on persons who entered the Service through a competitive examination, but also destroyed in many respects the impartiality of selection upon which the incorruptibility and unbiased nature of the Public Service depend.
We note that under proposed new section 8a (1.) the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Public Service Board, is to be given power to declare that the provisions of the Public Service Act shall not apply to certain classes of officers or employees. A perusal of the Public Service Board’s reports of the last few years will show that there is a vast number of employees to whom the provisions of the Public Service Act do not apply. By means of a simple provision such as proposed new section 8a (1.) we can break down the whole of the efficient administrative machinery of the Public Service, and the safeguards which throughout the years we have found necessary to apply to the appointment and promotion of officers. Once again, I ask the Government to give consideration to the inclusion in the legislation that has been foreshadowed of further safeguards in relation to exemptions. I have a vivid recollection of the operation of the exemption provisions in the legislation that governs the Victorian Public Service. When the Victorian Government had a few sticky obstacles to surmount, it exempted from the provisions of that legislation the section of the Public Service concerned or the new activity in which it intended to engage. Whenever it wanted to appoint one of its white-haired boys to a position in a section of the Public Service, it exempted that section from the provisions of the legislation. There were no competitive examinations, and the rights of officers of the Victorian Public Service in relation to their employment were not sateguarded. I hope that this Government will include in the legislation that it has foreshadowed a provision similar to that which it was found necessary to insert in the Victorian Public Service Act, under which all exemptions from the provisions of the act are required to he reported to the Parliament of Victoria. On most occasions, a government’s reasons for desiring to make exemptions are not good, but I am prepared to admit that sometimes an exemption may be justified. It should be compulsory for the Government to report to the Parliament that the exemption from the provisions of th« act of a group of employees has been found to be necessary. The exemption provisions should not be such as will enable a’ government to evade the provisions of legislation that the Parliament has passed and, by so doing, control appointments to, and promotions and salaries in, the Public Service.
I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - who, I notice, is in charge of the bill - to say what has become of the terrors to which, he assured us, we should be subjected as a result of the activities of Communists. It is true that, as a result of the vote of the people at the last ‘ referendum, the Government has been deprived of an opportunity to secure the passage of legislation that it desires to place upon the statute-book of this country. But the Commonwealth has complete authority over the Public Service. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth Parliament is entitled to insert in legislation that it passes any provision in relation to the employment in the Public Service of subversive persons, whether they be Communists or members of other organizations. “When 1 have queried some appointments that have been made, even by this Government, I have been told that the Public Service Board is bound by the provisions of a statute in determining whether or not persons are fit to be appointed to positions in the Public Service. The statute provides that the board shall judge an applicant’s suitability on the basis of certain standards. Very rightly, the board has said that it can act only in conformity with the provisions of that legislation and, therefore, cannot take into account the political lean inn of an individual. It cannot take into account the fa,ct that he is a member of the Communist party, even though he might bo appointed to a position in which he would be able to endanger the security of this country.
I ask the Prime Minister why in this bill the Government has not gone as far as its constitutional power over its servants would permit it to go. If nothing in that regard has been done in this bill, and it would appear that it has not been done, I suggest to the Prime Minister that consideration be given to the matter before the bill is sent to the Senate, or at any rate when the legislation that has been foreshadowed is under consideration. I hope that, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) promised in his second-reading speech, the right honorable gentleman will explain the clauses more fully when the bill is in committee.
.- The fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is in charge of this bill, quite apart from the fact that the Public Service is under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department, is an indication of the significance that we should attach to it. This is one of the most important measures that has come before the House during this sessional period because, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has said, it goes to the very roots of the integrity of the Public Service. The machinery that we devise to control the Public Service is a measure of the efficiency of the Public Service and also of the system of government as a whole.
I suggest to the honorable member for Yarra that there is nothing sinister in the proposal that alterations of the conditions and subjects in relation to examinations shall no longer be made by regulation. I have had considerable experience of such matters. There is something to be said in favour of specifying conditions and subjects in regulations, but the manner in which examination subjects and conditions change make it desirable that there shall be a flexible method of dealing with such matters. I believe that the method of notifying alterations in the Gazette will provide ample safeguards and also will enable people concerned with examinations to know what is required of them. I do not think that anything will be done in a holeandcorner manner. People who wish to take examinations, whether for entry to the Public Service or for promotion in it, will be in touch with schools, colleges and other institutions, and will know what is required of them. There is nothing sinister in this proposal.
I think that the honorable member for Yarra, in dealing with the competitive examination system, paid too much attention to written examinations as an expression of the competitive system. The competitive system can take many forms, one of which is the written examination. There may he competitive interviews. The honorable gentleman knows that very frequently a written examination is supplemented by another form of examination that is as competitive as the written examination. I have had experience of both methods. It has been my privilege to assist the Commonwealth in the selection of university graduates for positions in the Public Service. I assure the honorable gentleman that in the selection of those graduates there has been competition. The number of university graduates who wish to enter the Public Service is not always so large as to make the competition as real as one would like it to be, but competitive interviews and the scrutiny of applicants’ qualifications, especially qualifications of the kind that university graduates are expected to possess, does introduce a measure of competition. Appointments are not made in a hole-and-corner manner. From my own experience, I am quite convinced that the methods that have been adopted have ensured the integrity of the Public Service and the selection of graduates of a good type.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said in his second-reading speech that it was the intention of the Government to review the Public Service Act as a whole in the light of developments since 1945. Those developments have been, in the main, the result of an increase of the size of the Public Service. “When arn organization reaches the size of the Public Service, entirely new methods of handling the various problems that arise must be adopted. As far as I can see, this measure will enhance the authority of the Public Service Board. That tendency is inevitable. If we establish an institution to control a section of government, we must mist that institution, but the result is that, more and more, the control of the matters handled by the institution is taken from the Parliament. In this instance, I have always regarded that as being desirable,, but there is a stage at which we must review the purposes for which we established the institutions and assess the degree to which they are ministering to or detracting from parliamentary government.
Although this bill will enhance the authority of the Public Service Board, honorable members will notice that there has been a move in the direction of delegating power to a number of special officers. That process of delegation has gone quite a long way. The kind of delegation of power that has seemed to me to be necessary is in respect of appeal? in connexion with promotions. Both in the making of promotions and in the hearing of appeals, there is a streamlining of the provisions of the Public Service Act which seems to me to be highly desirable. An .examination of the reports of the Public Service Board for the last two years reveals that the board itself has dealt with a large number of appeals. It appeared to m,e that the board, after it had heard appeals, had very little time left in which to do anything else. This bill will make provision for the delegation of power over a wide field. I entirely agree with that provision.
There are one or two matters of drafting to which I should like the Prime Minister to direct his attention. There is an illustration, of what I mean on page 5 of the measure. In proposed new section 31, the indicative mood is used instead of the imperative mood. I have noticed that tendency in many of the bills that we have had before us. There is nothing in this measure that should cause the honorable member for Yarra any apprehension. The competitive system is safeguarded. It is necessary to make provision for exemptions from the act and regulations, but I think there will be ample safeguards against abuses of that provision. Exemptions of this kind are necessary if we want an efficient, or at any rate an elastic, method of recruiting for the Public Service. I do not think that any difficulties will occur as a. result of conditions relating to examinations being published in the Gazette and not in the form of regulations.
If the Public Service Board believes it to be necessary to review the whole of the Public Service Act in the light of developments since 1945, the Prime Minister would be fortified in any changes to he made if, in addition to seeking advice and assistance from the board, he sought the advice and assistance of an external authority that could offer a detached opinion. The right honorable gentleman has appointed a special committee to review parliamentary salaries. The organization of the Public Service is far more important than is that matter. In the interests of the community as a whole, it is important that we shall be convinced of the complete integrity of the Public Service and be assured that the system of organization and administration is the most satisfactory that can be devised. The Prime Minister will be wise if he does what he suggested three years ago should be done, if I did not misunderstand him; that is, seek the advice of an external authority. Such advice would be of assistance not only to the Parliament but also to the whole of the people. I repeat that the method of independent review would be highly desirable as a means of examining the nature and organization of the Public Service. I support the bill.
.- The provisions in respect of the Promotions Appeals Committee could be more favorably amended from the stand-point of employees. With a view to maintaining harmony in the Service, our main object should be to ensure that promotions shall be made fairly and that appellants against promotions shall receive fair treatment. At present, when an officer is promoted and another officer appeals against the promotion, the Public Service Board sets up an appeals committee which consists of a. chairman, a representative of the department concerned and a representative of the Service unions to which one of the parties to the appeal belongs. If, for instance, a third division officer in the Postal. Department appeals against the promotion of a clerk, who belongs to a different union, a representative of the union of which the senior officer is a member is appointed as the employees’ representative on the committee. That is an anomaly which should be remedied by providing that the third member of the committee shall be a representative of the union of which the appellant is a member.
When an appeal against a promotion is lodged, the board is obliged to forward to the appeals committee particulars of the employment record of the appellant. That report is furnished confidentially to the committee and its contents are not made available to the officer to whom it relates. In such circumstances, the board could furnish to the committee a report that was unfavorable to an appellant, who would have no knowledge of that having been done. Such a procedure is unjust. An appellant should be entitled to know the contents of any report concerning himself that may be furnished officially to the committee. A report unfavorable to an appellant could be based on allegations which the appellant, if he were given the opportunity to do so, might be able to refute completely.
Provision is made for the granting of leave to officers for specific periods up to twelve months for the purpose of undertaking special studies. The Public Service Board, in certain circumstances, has discretionary power to grant leave for indefinite periods. The Government should take this opportunity to liberalize those provisions in respect of officers who resign from the .Service for the purpose of contesting a parliamentary election. At present such an officer who does not re-apply for his position within a period of two months forfeits all his Service rights, including his seniority. I suggest that no such limitation should be imposed in respect of an officer who succeeds in securing election to the Parliament. For instance, if I should be defeated at some future election, I shall have lost all my Service rights. When I resigned from the Service my seniority number was just over 5,000, which is a fairly high seniority rating. If I should be defeated in the future, I shall have to take my place at the bottom of the list, which is fairly long, and, incidentally, below the 10,000 public servants whom the Government recently sacked. Provision, should be made to reserve to an officer of the Public Service who successfully contests- a. parliamentary election all his
Service rights, including seniority, in the event of his being defeated at a subsequent election.
– I support the bill. I should not have participated in this debate but for certain remarks by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) which, I believe, should command not only the attention but also the approval of the House. He suggested that provision should be made with the object of preventing Communists from infiltrating the Public Service. That is an important matter, because, undoubtedly, there is a degree of Communist infiltration of the Service at present. That is apparent in various forms. I do not intend to mention any names, because it is not my intention to make any statement in this House that I am not prepared to make outside it. In this instance, although I have a reasonable suspicion it does not warrant my citing any names. The honorable member for Yarra correctly pointed out that at present the Public Service Board and, indeed, any government department or authority, is not in a position to inquire into such matters. In view of the statutory duties with the discharge of which they are entrusted, one could scarcely blame them for not undertaking such inquiries.
However, I emphasize the danger of this infiltration. We know that members of the Communist party are Russian agents. They are our enemies and they are working for our downfall. We also know that one of the most effective ways in which the Communist party can operate is for its agents to infiltrate government departments. The Communists have followed that procedure in other countries. Indeed, it has been the secret of their success in many countries. Is any honorable member so simple minded that he imagines that the Communists are not engaging in a similar process in Australia? Of course, they are; and the Government should take steps to remedy the position.
I do not propose at this juncture to examine in detail the steps that might be taken for that purpose. Other countries have taken very drastic steps in that respect. For instance, governments of some countries require all their employees to make a declaration that they have not been members of the Communist party or of any Communist front. The Government might do well to take a similar step in order to meet the problem in this country.
Let us not run away with the idea that no danger exists in this respect. Honorable members opposite should be jus as concerned as are supporters of the Government to solve this problem. Another fact that should concern members of the Opposition just as much as it concerns supporters of the Government is that owing to the degree of Communist infiltration of the Public Service much suspicion has been aroused that is not justified. Activities which, perhaps, are described as militant may in many repects be innocent and non-Communist in character. Consequently, there is a danger of confusion arising in the publicmind in this matter. However, as things stand, and in view of the degree to which Communists have infiltrated the Public .Service, we have no means now of clearing the innocent except by convicting the guilty. It should be the concern of honorable members opposite, perhaps even more than of supporters of the Government, that action shall be taken along those lines.
The principle that the honorable member for Yarra enunciated, and that I support, is of such importance that it should not be implemented under this measure, which is merely of a machinery character. I should be prepared to support bv my vote in this House the introduction, after due and proper consideration, of a measure designed not only to prevent the recruitment of Communists for the Public Service but also to expel Communists already in the Service. I believe that when such action is taken - the honorable member for Yarra correctly said that the Commonwealth has such power under the Constitution in spite of the unfortunate result of the recent referendum - it will be effective. It must be the responsibility of the Government to take such action: and it should be effective in that, first, it will convict the guilty; and, secondly, it will not harm the innocent.
Such action, will require the utmost cooperation of all sections of the community.’ Many people who voted against the Government’s referendum proposal to ban the Communist party salved their reputations, if not their consciences, by claiming that they were opposed to the Communists but that the Government should deal with the Communists in some other way. Those members of the Opposition - perhaps all of them - who are willing to stand by their word can reveal themselves as anti-Communists by cooperating with Government supporters in dealing effectively with at least Com- .munists who are members of the Public Service. Honorable members opposite will be judged by their deeds in this respect. This is not a matter that can be dealt with lightly. It is one in respect of which effective action can be best assured by co-operation between members of the Government parties and of the Opposition.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) appears to be suffering from a Communist phobia. He has spoken about the infiltration of the Public Service by Communists. As other individuals naturally do, Communists accept jobs wherever they happen to be available. Indeed, in some instances training in the Public Service is partly responsible for the making of Communists. I remind the honorable member that apart altogether from the rejection of the Government’s recent referendum proposals, the Public Service Board possesses power to deal effectively with any Communist who is a member of the Public Service and who acts in a manner that is detrimental to the good government of Australia. The honorable gentleman, if he will examine the provisions of the act, will find that the Government, or the Public Service Board, may take action against a Communist, who is employed in the Public Service and is considered a danger to the peace, order and good government of Australia. When such action is not taken against a suspected Communist, speeches of a general kind about communism do not get us very far. The honorable member for Mackellar, if he knows that a public servant is acting in the manner he has sug gested, should bring the matter to the notice of the proper authorities, and action should be taken against such a person under the Public Service Act.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) in his second-reading speech, indicated that a . complete review of the Public Service Act will be made at some future time, and that a consolidation bill will be introduced which will embody the original act and the numerous amendments that have been made to it in the interim. I consider that such action is essential. The act has not been thoroughly reviewed since 1922, and, in the intervening years, many amendments of various kinds have been passed by the Parliament. As a result of such _ piecemeal methods, the act is becoming exceptionally difficult to understand, and to administer. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has stated that the amendments proposed in this bill are necessary and urgent. I have had an opportunity to study the majority of them, and I do not object to them, although the reason why some of them are required is not clear to me.
The time is overdue for a definite step to be taken in respect of exempt officers and employees in the Public Service. Such .persons include temporary and casual employees. -As the numerical strength of the Public Service has increased over the years, and doubtless will continue to increase as the Commonwealth progresses, the number of exempt temporary and casual employees is growing at a much greater rate than should be the case. The Public Service is a permanent organization,- and the first objective of the Public Service Board, acting under the direction of the government of the day, should be to ensure that as many permanent positions as is possible shall be filled by permanent officers who are prepared to make the Public Service their career. Such men will produce a much more efficient public service than has been known in the past, and is known at the present time. The Estimates of expenditure, which were considered a few weeks ago by the Committee of Supply, disclosed that at least 50 per cent, of the officers in the various departments are employed in only a temporary capacity. In only a few departments are the majority of the officers permanent public servants. I realize that a new department, such as the Department of National Development, must engage, at its inception., a large number of temporary employees, but such a condition does not apply in long established departments such as the Department of Trade and Customs, the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of the Interior and the Attorney-General’s Department.
The employment of so many temporary and casual officers in the Public Service is, in my opinion, evidence that the Service is not being efficiently administered. In the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the turnover of employees, as temporary officers, is greater at present than has been the case at and other period since federation. Consequently, the efficiency of the Postal Department is gradually but surely becoming impaired. I consider that the efficiency of that department to-day is as low as, or even lower than, it has been for many years. The explanation for such a condition of affairs is that steps have not been taken to recruit permanent officers for the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Action should be taken immediately to recruit permanent staffs for departments that have been in existence for many years. I do not consider that there would be any danger of the Public Service becoming overloaded with permanent officers. I realize that nearly every department must carry a small staff of temporary employees, but I find that positions that were created 20 or 30 years ago have been filled with a succession of temporary employees. That is why various departments are not giving such efficient service as this country is entitled’ to expect from them. I do not blame the employees themselves for the existence of such a condition of affairs, because those who come and go do not get the opportunity to become efficient in the performance of their duties. A person may become a permanent officer of the Public Service by passing a qualifying examination. I suggest that such examinations be held at more regular intervals than has been the practice for some time. I am eager to see a much greater number of classified positions filled by permanent officers than is the case to-day. That matter should receive the urgent consideration of the Government.
I welcome quite a number of the proposed amendments. The provision in respect of furlough is satisfactory, and the amendment to section 84 of the principal act in relation to the permanent appointment of returned soldiers is a step in the right direction, but the Public Service Act itself should be brought up to date. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the original act has been amended at least once a year in the last 28 years; sometimes, it has been amended two or three times a year. The act, and the numerous amendments to it, should be consolidated without delay.
Earlier, I stated that the reasons for some of the proposed amendments are not clear. I remind the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in his secondreading speech, stated that a full explanation of all the amendments would be given in committee. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will Honour that promise, because I confess that I am somewhat hazy about a few of the proposals. I find it necessary to remind the Prime Minister of that promise because, after several Ministers had given similar assurances in their secondreading speeches, the bills with which they were concerned were taken as a whole in committee, and honorable members were not given an explanation of and the reasons for the amendments.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not refer to proceedings in committee.
– I was obliged to refer briefly to proceedings in committee in order to remind the Prime Minister ofthe assurance that was given bythe VicePresident of the Executive Council that a full explanation of the amendments that are being made by this bill would be given to honorable members in committee. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will keep that promise, because I require enlightenment upon a number of matters .
– I wish to refer briefly to a section of the Public Service that may have been overlooked in this debate. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has directed attention to the large number of public servants who are temporary officers. For a considerable time, I have been receiving representations on bel l alf of persons who have been working in the Public Service in a temporary capacity for a number of years. They have given great satisfaction to their departmental heads, but, because they lack the necessary qualifications, they have not been given the status of permanent officers. Doubtless, many honorable members consider that the Public Service should consist of persons who have passed a specific examination, or who possess special qualifications that justify their appointment. I understand that a person who seeks appointment to a permanent position in the Public Service must have passed the leaving certificate examination, although that condition is waived in respect of ex-servicemen, who are required to possess the intermediate certificate.
I make a plea on behalf of persons who have filled positions in the Public Service satisfactorily for a number of years, but are not eligible for permanent appointment because they have not passed the leaving certificate examination or do not possess special qualifications. The Government should ensure that such persons shall be given a fair deal without delay. I have been obliged to advise quite a number of men to leave their positions in the Public Service while they have opportunities to obtain satisfactory positions with private enterprise because, as temporary public servants, they do not know from week to week whether their services will be retained. A man who has filled a temporary position in the Public Service satisfactorily for a few years should be given the status of a permanent officer.
I know perfectly well that a man who does not possess suitable qualifications cannot be appointed to a high position, and” I am not referring to such a class of person. However, I know that many of the most brilliant men in the professions barely “ scraped “ through their examinations, while other men, who gained high marks in examinations, occupy only moderate positions in private enterprise. I make that plea on behalf of the considerable number of men who have informed me that they have been penalized in the Public Service because they have not gained the leaving certificate or do not possess special qualifications. They are quite capable of filling many positions in the Public Service as permanent officers, but, unfortunately, they have been pushed aside.
– in reply - Several matters, particularly those raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), deserve consideration. Some honorable members have suggested that the Public Service Act is in need of review. I inform them that the Government has that matter in hand. Two other points that have been mentioned indicate that some honorable gentlemen are under a misapprehension. The proposal in relation to the promotions appeal committees is merely to increase their number in order to facilitate procedure. I am sure that every one will agree that such is desirable. The purpose of another amendment is to relieve the Executive Council of an intolerable volume of paper work, purely formal business, and technical matters of detail. In truth, much of that work has not been done, and I think that the purpose of this amendment is to put regular what has frequently been irregular.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement) -
– I move -
That clause 2 he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ 2. - ( 1 . ) Sections one, two, three, sixteen and twenty of this Act shall come into operation on the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent. “ (2.) Section fifteen of this Act shallbe deemed to have come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one. “ (3.) The remaining sections of this Act shall come into operation on such respective dates as are fixed by Proclamation.”
The effect of this amendment is simply to alter the date of the commencement of the provisions from the 1st January, 1952, to the 1st January, 1951. The Government indicated earlier in this year that it proposed to make an alteration in respect of furlough. Because of circumstances beyond the control of the Government, the necessary legislation, which includes clause 15 of this hill, and the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1951, was not introduced earlier, and in the light of that promise it would be unfair to employees who retire or have retired during this year, if they were deprived of that benefit. Under this amendment, the provision is to be deemed to have come into operation on the 1st January, 1951, and, therefore, the whole of this calendar year will be covered.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 20 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 2241), on motion by Mr. Menzies, through Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition approves of this measure because, as the second-reading speech made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated, it provides for the correction of an anomaly in relation to furlough for employees of the Public Service. Briefly, the problem has been that those employees who became eligible for furlough after they had rendered service for twenty years, found that they were inhibited by an arrangement that credited additional furlough only in respect of every completed period of five years. Thus, a man who had served for, say, 24 years, was granted no more leave than accrued to a man who had served for only twenty years. The Opposition approves heartily of the removal of this anomaly. Several of its members wish to discuss other anomalies individually but, as a party, it supports the bill.
.- I approve of the amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act for which the bill provides. However, the act contains other weaknesses that may cause injustices, and, with a view to avoiding them, I ask the Government to give consideration to my representations. At present, the act merely provides that an employee may be granted furlough if he has complied with the conditions that are specified in it, not that he must be granted furlough. I believe that furlough should be granted as an unqualified right. As the act stands, a man who has given loyal and efficient service for twenty years may, if he happens to make a slight slip, be deprived of furlough. He should have an absolute right to it, and I ask that the act be so amended that it will achieve that purpose.
I point out that furlough accrues only after an employee has rendered twenty years of continuous service. The furlough legislation of at least one of the States provides that benefits shall become due after ten years of service. Incentives are very important in these days and that is a non-financial incentive that might well be extended to employees of our Public Service with good results. The period of leave to which an employee is entitled after twenty years of service is six months. Some employees take advantage of that leave to rest and reinvigorate themselves, but many others use it for another purpose. They allow furlough to accrue until they retire and then draw an equivalent lump sum in cash in lieu of leave. By this means they are enabled to complete such projects as the building of a house, for instance. I remind the House of the fact that many employees of the Public Service give more than 40 years of service. In fact I have known of cases in which the total period of continuous service has exceeded 50 years. However, furlough rights do not accumulate beyond a period, of 40 years. The act should be liberalized in order to allow a man who has given 50 years of service or more to be credited with additional furlough for the extra period of loyal and efficient service beyond 40 years. I hope that the Government will heed my comments and later take action to give effect to my suggestions.
– I wholeheartedly support the bill; but, like the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa)., I consider that the Government should make the grant of furlough to an employee after twenty years of service mandatory rather than permissive. The fact that an employee has been engaged continuously for a period of twenty years indicates that he has been efficient and loyal. Therefore, he should not be obliged to pass any sort of test to determine his eligibility for furlough. I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to consider an amendment of the act that will ensure that every employee of the Public Service who completes a period of twenty years in that capacity shall be entitled to six months leave as a right instead of as a privilege. This bill relates to temporary employees of the Public Service, and the House has already dealt with another measure that relates to furlough for Public Service officers. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, no provision has been made for officers and employees of government instrumentalities, such as the Commonwealth Bank, Trans-Australia Airlines and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. I ask the Prime Minister to inform the House whether all such officers and employees will be covered by provisions similar to those that we are considering now. They are entitled to furlough. I have in mind particularly the officers of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission who, I understand, have made representations to the Government on this subject. I sincerely trust that they will not suffer from any discriminatory treatment. They should be placed on the same footing as Public Service officers and employees.
– Most of the points in relation to furlough that I have in mind have been discussed by the honorable members who have already spoken in this debate. Therefore, I shall be brief. I should like to obtain information about the situation of officers and employees of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, who were mentioned by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson). Such officers are not dealt with either in this bill or in the bill that we have already debated. The Government may intend to introduce a third measure to provide for their interests, but I cannot let this opportunity pass without speaking on their behalf lest their interests should be overlooked. Representations have been made to me from time to time on behalf of persons employed by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, who were originally employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) may be aware of their circumstances. They were induced by superior officers and others in the Postal Department to leave that organization and continue their work as employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. After having served that body for a considerable time, they again became public servants as employees of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission while continuing to do the same class of work. As a result of those changes, they may be deemed not to have given continuous service for the purpose of calculating their eligibility for furlough. They fear that such an injustice will be done to them. The Government may have this matter in mind, but the officers concerned have not yet had any response to the representations that they have made on the subject. I hope that they will not be treated unfairly and I ask the Prime Minister to tell the House whether another bill to deal with these persons will be introduced at a later stage. A great deal of anxiety will be allayed if he will give an assurance on this point. I appreciate the provisions of the bill as it stands, and I am sure that those employees of the Public Service who will be affected by it will be pleased with its terms.
.- The bill has the approval of the Opposition because it will enable various employees of the Public Service who complete more than twenty years of service before their retirement to obtain extra periods of furlough to which otherwise they would not be entitled. This Government, of course, is pledged to the denationalization, desocialization, or whatever else it may be termed, of government undertakings. It has had no more success with this aspect of its policy than it has had with any other project since it has been in office, but we must not ignore its intentions. Notwithstanding its decision in relation to Trans-Australia Airlines, which was announced to-day, pressure will be brought to bear upon it to dissolve that organization in due course and to allow private enterprise to monopolize the field of civil aviation. Therefore, we may assume that, when a suitable opportunity occurs and the pressure is severe enough, the Government will yield. The employees of this important undertaking, and of similar instrumentalities that the Government is pledged to denationalize if and when the occasion arises and sufficient members of the Cabinet summon up enough courage to defy public opinion, should be protected. Provision should be made to make payments to such persons in lieu of furlough should they be forced willy-nilly to accept employment under private enterprise. It. would be most unjust to deprive them of any furlough rights if the organization that employed them were sold to private enterprise. An employee who had served for all but three months, one month, or even one day of the qualifying period for furlough might be forced, to forgo his right through no fault of his own. I consider that since the Government’s policy is to sell national enterprises to private enterprise and to re-establish the private entrepreneur in those fields from which Government undertakings have ejected him at the moment, in justice to such employees the Government should insert a provision in the legislation, when it reaches the Senate, whereby employees of government undertakings who must transfer to private enterprise in order to retain their jobs, shall be paid in full up to the day of the transfer, in lieu of the furlough to which they are entitled. That is only fair and reasonable and I ask the Prime Minister to have such a provision inserted in the bill.
– in reply - I am completely unmoved by the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) and, I must say, singularly little moved by the remarks of the two honorable members who preceded him. It is marvellous with what energy honorable members opposite spring to the charge in relation to matters to which they might have attended during their own period of office. The fact is that this is a bill to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. The principal act was passed in 1943, when honorable members opposite, or at any rate some of them, were in office. At that time, of course, they did not have the benefit of the support of the present honorable member for Yarra but they had the benefit of the support of another very distinguished right honorable member for Yarra. They brought in a bill for an act in relation to Commonwealth employees’ furlough, and the interesting thing about the matter is that if they will give themselves the trouble of studying that act they will find that it provides that where the period of service of a Commonwealth employee is at least twenty years, the approving authority may grant him leave of absence. We have repeated in this bill the very words that were used in the’ act. But apparently, although they were admirable and appropriate words in 1943 when honorable members opposite were in office, they are most objectionable words in 1951 when they are out of office.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has already spoken in the debate.
– It depends on who uses the words.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) was a member of this House at that time, but didhe contend then that the provision ought not to be that the approving authority “ may “ grant leave of absence ? Of course he did not, because the Government that he supported knew that if the word “ shall “ had been used it would have found itself at the very instant at which the qualifying period terminated, called upon to provide furlough to the employees concerned. It is not always administratively convenient to do so. So the Prime Minister and government of the day very sensibly worded the act to say that furlough “ may “ be provided. Everybody knows that that does not mean that an employee can be arbitrarily denied furlough. That has never been the case. It merely means that there is a certain degree of sensible discretion about when furlough will be granted.
– Will the Prime Minister repeat his statement that aCommonwealth employee has never been denied furlough ?
– I should like to hear of an occasion when a Commonwealth employee had been denied his furlough. If there is any such case it has not occurred since I have been Prime Minister. If the honorable member knows of sucha case he must square it with his new-found colleagues on the Opposition side of the House. Of course, the whole argument about the words “ may “ and “ shall “ is asold as the hills and is about as pointless asan old hill, because it has been going on, if I may say so, since before the first edition of May was published.
– It has been a beanfeast for lawyers, too.
– I daresay it has. If I remember correctly, the honorable member also has produced some beanfeasts for lawyers. I am glad that my memory has not entirely collapsed in relation to this matter.
Another point that was raised concerns employees of Amalgamated Wireless ( Australasia) Limited and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. I agree that some points in relation to that matter have yet to be worked out. I hope that it will not be said that a government that has produced this amendment - which is, by concession, a just amendment, and in respect of which I propose to move a further amendment to make the provisions of the bill operate as from the beginning of this calendar year, so that nobody will be under any disability - is unaware of the problem in relation to postal employees who were transferred to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and then to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. It is a very difficult problem, and I remind the House that it did not emerge for the first time when we came into office, because the Overseas Telecommunications Commission was established by our predecessors.Up to the time that they went out of office they had not found it possible to solve that problem by amending the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. On the other hand, we propose to deal with the problem.
– That is what I wanted to know.
– I thought that there was no mystery about it. It is not a very easy problem. It is easier to state than it is to resolve. We have adhered to the principle of long-service furlough and, by this bill, have given to it an extension and a point of justice superior to anything that has happened before in the history of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-two.
Amendment (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to-
That the words “ come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-two “ be left out, witha view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment: report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 2242), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now reada second time.
.- This bill seeks to replace the existing control of the importation and distribution of tea in Australia. It is well known, or should be, to both this Parliament and the people, that during the war, and right up to the present time, all tea imported into Australia has been imported under the authority of the Australian Government by virtue of the powers given to it by the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act and the regulations made under that act. Probably the ordinary householder does not realize that every 1 lb. of tea that comes to Australia by virtue of the powers exercised under that act is imported by the Commonwealth and under its authority. Probably householders also do not appreciate the fact that some of that tea has this year been imported at a price of 2s.8d. per lb., some of it at a price of 4s. per lb., and some at 6s. per lb., and that in order to keep down the cost of living the Commonwealth has subsidized the price of all tea to the consuming public to the average amount of 2s. 6d. per lb. That is a very substantia] contribution towards keeping down the cost of living. The subsidy policy was inaugurated by the Chifley Government during the war.
The measure seeks to give statutory authority to the Government to import tea, purchase it and release it to distributors under legislative authority which none of us can conceive would be challenged in the High Court in any circumstances. It is well known that the Government is entitled, under the Constitution, to control imports and exports. It is recognized that because of the nature of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act and the regulations that have been made under it, some person interested in the tea trade could challenge the constitutionality of the act and the regulations and possibly succeed in having them declared invalid. In place of the tea controller, who is the existing authority that con trols the importation and distribution of tea, the bill seeks to establish an authority composed of the following : -
The person who is to be chairman of the board will be nominated by the Government, and rightly so, and the officer of the Department of the Treasury will, of course, be concerned with reporting to the Treasurer in respect of the cost of the subsidy. I have no doubt that the representative of the tea trade will be a wholesale distributor. I suggest that if the board is intended to be well-balanced, it is lacking in one very important respect. It will have on it no representative of the employees who are engaged in the tea trade. During the period of office of the Curtin and Chifley Governments they were very particular to ensure that representatives of the workers in the particular industries concerned should have a place on practically all the statutory boards that were established.
– Hear, hear !
– I am glad to have the plaudits of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton).
– That was only sarcasm. I was thinking of something else.
– I should think your mind ought to be on your work.
– Order ! The honorable member will address me.
– I was delighted to have the plaudits of the honorable member in respect of my belief that a representative of the workers in the particular industry concerned should have a place on a. statutory board. Such a policy was applied by Labour governments, and I know from my own experience, as a Minister in the Chifley Administration, that, from time to time, when it was suggested that representatives of the employees should be appointed to such boards, the other members of the proposed boards were not keen on the suggestion; but after the authorities had been constituted, and representatives of the employees in the industries concerned had been available for consultation and participation in the deliberations and the decisions of the boards, they were found to be of great assistance indeed. In every case that I know of, those men because of their practical knowledge of their industries, contributed to the harmony that was necessary if sound decisions were to be reached. When the honorable member for Rivonia said, “ Hear, hear “, he probably had in mind the fact that a member of the Fuel and Fodder Union became a member of the Australian Wheat Board, and that subsequently, upon the decease of that very valuable member, a representative of the Flour Mill Employees Union took his place. I arn sure that the Treasury representative, the flour milling representatives, the representatives of commercial interests and the representatives of financial interests on such bodies as these have a very high opinion of the employee representation. In the case of threatened industrial disputation the employee representatives, because of their practical experience and knowledge of the outlook of employees, have been able to tender, advice which has had a very desirable effect on the decisions of authorities.
The decision to appoint an employee representative to such an authority would remove a suspicion in the mind of employees and the consuming public that those who deal with the marketing of a particular commodity behind closed doors may engage in nefarious practices deleterious to the welfare of the people. Such a representative is able to act as a watch-dog, not only in the interests of the employees concerned but also in the interests of the consuming public. Since the policy of making such appointments has been applied I do not know of any complaint having been made against it. The Government would act wisely if it appointed a representative of the employees engaged in the tea trade to the proposed board. I think that the union concerned would be the Storemen and Packers Union, with which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has had a close association. I consider that the presence of a representative of that union on this authority would be of great benefit. I suggest that that is an improve-, ment which the Minister may see fit to make in the constitution of the board. 1 do not ask him to accept an Opposition amendment to the bill on this matter, but I do ask him to give effect to the suggestion by proposing an appropriate amendment himself. The Minister, who has only recently received his portfolio, is doing a good job, and 1 am sure that he would be willing to adopt a practice which experience has shown to be of benefit to all concerned.
The proposed authority will have the right, under this bill, to purchase tea in all parts of the world. It will exercise wide powers which, if the personnel of the board were not of very good character or noi very intelligent-
– It will be.
– It might or might not be. Surely honorable members appreciate that there will be opportunities to abuse the power that will be conferred on this authority under the bill. . Only a limited number of people in Australia has been ‘ engaged in the importation of tea. The proposed Tea Importation Board will be vested with authority to make purchases or to have purchases made on its behalf, and to allocate to wholesalers a specific quantity of whatever tea may be available to it. At times such authorities become subject to the blandishments or inducements of people who are powerful in the trade concerned and the powers of this authority could be abused to the detriment of normal trade practices. The authority might allocate to a particularly powerful tea wholesale firm an unduly large proportion, of the tea available for distribution. I do not speak without knowledge of such, matters. When somebody wishes to enter the wholesale distribution of tea trade theproposed controlling authority might refuse him supplies of tea becausehe might not consider that the board should make allocations to new merchants. Notwithstanding that the applicant’s financial standing and capacity to distribute effectively are beyond question the controller may not consider that a person who wishes to enter the trade for the first time should receive any tea whatsoever. Under those circumstancesthe proposed board could be faced with a most difficult problem. The Government professes to believe, in free enterprise. It professes to believe in the right of young Australians ito show their initiative and enterprise. I understand that it believes in the right of a young Australian to commence a business in a small way and expand it until he reaches the millionaire class if he is capable of doing that under this so-called system of free enterprise.
After the last war I experienced an occasion on which authorities which had controlled the war-time distribution of certain materials refused to grant an allocation to new manufacturers. A gentleman who controlled such an organization said to me, “After all, these people did not participate in that trade during the war “. I said, “ I recognize that during the war-time period you did a remarkably efficient job. During the war it was necessary to confine distribution of this product to those people who were engaged in the trade prior to the wai’. But I would suggest that possibly you, like Sir MacPherson Robertson, the confectionery manufacturer, started in a back yard the great business that you have built up. Do you, as a supporter of free enterprise, now recommend to me in a peace-time era that somebody who now wants an allocation of this commodity should not be allowed to- start in business in the comparatively small way in which you commenced ? “ He replied, “ I have to admit that I started with even smaller premises than would occupy a back yard. I started in the home in which I lived “. That gentleman is to-day one of the greatest commercial magnates in Australia. I warn the Government of the difficulties that will confront it when people of good repute desire to enter the tea distribution trade in competition with the existing distributors. There may be a tendency to follow wartime practices and prevent capable men from rendering a service to the community.
The Opposition supports this measure, which has been introduced by a government which, prior to the last general election, strongly advocated the abolition of all controls. Two years after its advent to office, the Government has introduced a measure to provide not only for control of the distribution of tea, but also the fina’n’cial sinews to enable a representative of the Government to tour the world to its four corners in order to purchase that commodity. Surely that is -a confession of the incompetency of private enterprise in a post-war period.
In justification of this proposal it has been stated that this great system of private enterprise is not prepared to accept the financial risks involved in this activity. In other words, private enterprise is prepared to accept financial responsibility only when no hazards accompany it. “When there are hazards, the members of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party are prepared to let the Government accept them. They then wish to practise socialization because they want to place the financial burden on the shoulders of the people. The circumstances which apply to the distribution of tea apply with equal force to the purchase of jute. Because of the great financial hazards involved, the wheat merchants and other private traders are not prepared to undertake the risks involved in the purchase of supplies of jute. The Government has had to accept the financial responsibility of sending its representative to the jute market in India in order to buy bags of the Various types required by Australian industries. The people of Australia are required to accept the financial hazards and risks involved. This state of affairs has been endorsed by a Government that prattles about the benefits of private enterprise and its complete infallibility. The moment a financial hazard appears the supporters of the Australian Country party and Liberal party become outright socialists and say that in respect of tea and jute the risks of purchasing are too great for private enterprise.
– Order ! The honorable member is straying from the measure before the House.
– I think that I have outlined adequately the attitude of the Opposition. We urge that the workers be represented on any tea control authority. We press for fair play and free enterprise so that those competent to distribute tea in Australia shall share in the distribution of Government imports of tea when they are available. Tea is consumed by almost every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth. Both Labour and non-Labour governments have seen fit to grant substantial subsidies in respect of tea. The Chifley Government initiated ihe subsidy principle. Very few people realize that on every pound of tea consumed the Australian Government provies a subsidy of 2s. 6d. and that it may have to provide a higher rate of subsidy in the future. I support the principle of subsidy because after all the greater a person’s income the more he pays in respect of the subsidy, and the larger the family the greater is the benefit obtained from the subsidy.
In this connexion it should be remembered that large families are of the greatest benefit to Australia. I often wonder whether people appreciate the contribution made by tea to the development and welfare of the nation. We all have heard of billy tea. In the pioneering days of Australia the men who rendered a great contribution to our development were the nomad shearers and farm workers. They were called swagmen in their day and generation. Now, because of better conditions, the swagmen are an extinct race. Such men travelled the outback, and by virtue of certain circumstances which I shall detail, they were particularly free from disease.
– Order ! The House is not dealing with health matters.
– These men always carried a tea billy. When they came to a waterhole, even though the water was stagnant, they filled the billy with water and proceeded to make tea. By virtue of the fact that one cannot make tea without boiling water, they had te boil the water, which sterilized it and killed any disease organisms that it might have contained. Therefore, through being tea-drinkers they avoided the necessity of having to drink tainted water. They invariably remained in good health and were consequently always available as an effective labour force in the outback. It has been said that frequently while on the track a man had a she-dog with him. In due course the dog had pups and, when tea was not in process of being made f.791 these pups were carried in the billycan. They were sold when the opportunity to make a sale arose, and so their owner made a few extra shillings. In view of all those circumstances it can be said that tea is a commodity which deserves well of any Australian government. It deserves to be substantially subsidized, and the Government should see that fair play shall be observed by the board among the distributors of tea.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) seemed to derive some satisfaction from what he thought was an ejaculation of approval on my part. He i3 under a grave misapprehension. It was not an ejaculation of approval, it was an ejaculation of surprise. When an honorable member rises to address himself to a bill which deals with tea, and then talks about wheat, jute, pups and other things, it is surely an indication that he leads a charmed life in this blessed place.
. -It seems that the essential part of this bill is clause 11 (1.), which reads -
Subject to this suction, the importation of tea into the Commonwealth by a person other than the Board, except with the consent in writing of the Minister or of the Board, is prohibited.
That indicates that there has been an approach to “ rational “ buying - to use the words of the Government. That indication is made clear when one examines the statistics that relate to the importation of tea into Australia. The last statistics readily available refer to the year which ended on the 30th June, 1950. Those statistics indicate that during that year 54,733,000 lb. of tea was imported into Australia. Of that quantity, about 35,000,000 lb. came from. Ceylon, and about 17,500,000 lb. came from India. Tea plays as large a part in the economy of Ceylon as wool does in the economy of Australia. The producers of tea, like the producers of wool, are in a very strong bargaining position because of world shortages. If the normal law of supply and demand were left to fix the price of tea, that price would be much higher than it is now.
I am all in favour of the system of bulk buying which enables the people of
Australia to obtain this very essential commodity more cheaply than would otherwise be the case. ‘Statistically, every person in Australia consumes about 7 lb. of tea each year. Tea is imported according to a system of rational buying. The proposed tea authority will collect tea from wherever it can be obtained, and nobody else, except a few specified persons, will be able to import tea except with the consent in writing of the Minister. As we now have a system of rational buying, we should see to it that we have a system of rational distribution. All brands of tea cost about the same price - ls. lid. per i lb. Packets of tea bear different labels, but the tea in the packets seems to taste much the same. It is certainly not so good as it was some years ago. Whether or not there is any difference between the tea in the different packets I do not know, but perhaps the distribution of tea has become like the distribution of potatoes or eggs - there is not the same variety as there was in the past. However, there seems to be much competition on the part of tea distributors to convince the public that their own particular brand is better than all others. This intensive advertising adds to the ultimate cost of the tea.
The cost of the 54,733,000 lb. of tea that we imported in the year ended the 30th June, 1950, was £11,828,000. The landed cost of the tea was, therefore, about 4s. per lb. The subsidy paid by the Australian Government, according to the budget, was £7,750,000, so that by the time the tea was consumed by the people there had been added to the import cost a further sum of £7,750,000. That sum is n Unburn bie to the costs of distribution from the bulk buying centre to the individual consumers. That indicates that in a modern community such as ours, a most important economic problem is involved in the distribution of goods to individual consumers. Distribution costs are sometimes ignored when Government supporters try to establish that only wages add to costs in this country. The cost of distributing tea amounts to about two-thirds of the initial landed cost. If the cost of tea were not subsidized, the people would have to pay about 7s. per lb. instead of 3s. lOd. per lb. for it.
I agree with the honorable member for Lalor that a subsidy distributes the burden of cost over the people more fairly. The subsidy is raised from the general revenue which is collected from all tax-payers according to their ability to pay. It then benefits people according to the quantity of tea they consume. Therefore, the larger families get the greater benefit. Many economic lessons can be learnt from the tea industry. Private enterprise has departed, to a large extent, from the tea distributing industry. There is now a ganging-up by producers to get the maximum prices for their products. It is regarded as good business for the wool producer in Australia to get the best price possible, and for the tea producer in Ceylon to get the maximum price for his product. That state of affairs has to be overcome by constituting a bulk purchasing agency to import tea. That is rational buying, and it should lead to rational selling.
There does not seem to be much difference between the various brands of tea, and perhaps the Government could investigate the profits made by distributors. If the Government buys in bulk in order to supply cheaper tea to the people, distributors should not be allowed to make profits out of proportion to the services that they render. All the risks of buying have been removed from the distributors who once did their own buying. They know in advance the price that they will have to pay, and perhaps they should not now be entitled to the same margin of profit that they had in the past when they had to make provision for unforeseen contingencies. To-day they run no risks. Perhaps that is another good reason why there should be a trade union representative on the proposed tea. authority. Such a representative would represent not only the employees but also the average consumers.
The first function of the tea distributor, that of importing his goods, has now gone. He no longer needs to have a retinue of representatives travelling round the world to arrange for the purchase of his requirements. He is merely a distributing agent and all that he is now doing is putting the tea in various packets and calling it by various names.
– I stall address myself briefly to a matter that I consider to be relevant to the bill, especially as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is in charge of the measure. I suggest that it would be to the advantage of Australia if the Government were fully to explore the possibility of encouraging tea-growing in the territories of the Commonwealth. In a small nursery in the central highlands of New Guinea, I saw 1,000 tea plants that appeared to me to be extremely healthy. I believe that tea-growing in the territories would be of great advantage to this country. Tea produced in the territories would not compete with other Australian primary products, but the expansion of a tea-growing industry there would bring wealth to the natives and others employed in the industry and, by increasing the wealth of the territories, would obviate the constant and ever-increasing drain upon our national revenue that is involved in the discharge of our obligations in respect of the territories. “We must decide whether we shall continue to pay a subsidy in respect of tea imported from other countries, or direct our attention to the production ot that commodity in territories that require development. “While we do not produce any tea in the areas under our control, we shall continue to be held to ransom, as it were, by being compelled to pay a subsidy in respect of imported tea. I suggest to the Minister that my suggestion be considered by himself and his officers.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. “Pollard) upon a speech that was well suited to this subject. It was a speech that cheered but did not inebriate the House. It is probable that never before in the history of tea-making has so much warm water been poured upon so small a quantity of leaves. The honorable member for Lalor suggested that the membership of the board should be extended to include representation of employees of the tea trade in Australia. I shall make two comments upon that suggestion. First, the functions of the board will be limited to the procurement of tea overseas, its importation into Australia and its sale to wholesalers in Australia. The board will be empowered to do many things that will have a broad appeal to Australian tea drinkers, but at no stage will any body of employees in particular be affected by its operations.
I am aware that members of the Storemen’s and Packers’ “Union enjoy their cup of tea as much as does any one else in this country, but they are not the only people in Australia who enjoy drinking tea. The claim that could be made for members of that organization, as tea drinkers, to be represented on the board, could be made with equal force on behalf of bridge players, housewives, and other sections of the community. The second comment that I wish to make upon the suggestion that the membership of the board should be extended is that the previous board, which was established by a Labour government and which exercised precisely the same functions as those which it is proposed shall be exercised by the new board, did not have among its members a representative of the employees as such. Broadly speaking, the membership of that board was much the same as that which is proposed for the new board. The argument of the honorable member for Lalor has been refuted by the practice of his own party.
The honorable gentleman said that the powers and functions of the Tea Control Board would give to it great power over the tea trade, including power to decide which wholesaler should receive tea. Any such power was possessed by the board which the proposed new board will replace. If the honorable gentleman’s argument is followed to its logical conclusion, it will be seen that it amounts to a proposition that, although a board appointed by a Labour government can be trusted to act honestly and fairly, aboard appointed by any other government cannot be trusted to do so. I am sure that the honorable gentleman does not seriously believe that to be so. It is certainly not a proposition that the people of Australia would endorse.
– The previous board was a war-time emergency board.
– That is so, but it performed the same functions as those which it is proposed shall be performed by tlie new board. The fact that it was established by a Labour government did not cause its probity to be suspected. 1 suggest that the fact that the new board will be established under the provisions of a bill introduced into the Parliament by a Liberal-Australian Country party government will not bring that board under suspicion. “We must admit that there is a capacity for honesty on both sides of politics.
The final horror of socialism was presented to us by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who suggested that rationalization of the purchase of tea should be extended to the distribution of tea. The honorable gentleman wants to reduce us to a dread state of uniformity in which every one will have to drink the same kind of tea and will not have a chance of indulging his own taste or fancy. If the full horrors of socialism were ever exposed to the people of Australia, they were exposed in the honorable gentleman’s proposition that there should be rationalization of tea distribution and that every one should drink exactly the same kind of tea and should have no choice even in regard to the colour of the packet on the grocers’ shelves.
The suggestion made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), although not strictly relevant to the bill, is extremely interesting. For some time experiments in the cultivation of tea have been in progress in New Guinea. Seed was imported and this year, for the first time, tea seedlings will be distributed by the Department of Territories in New Guinea for commercial planting, and commercial plantings will take place. Already some honorable members, including myself, have had the pleasure of drinking tea grown in New Guinea. It is a pleasant and palatable draught. If commercial plantings of tea in New Guinea meet with success, we hope that an expanding tea-growing industry in New Guinea will make a significant contribution to ensuring for Australia constant supplies of tea.
. -I am wondering what will be the price of tea-
– Order. This billdoes not deal with the price of tea. TheCommonwealth has no power in respect of prices.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for having told me succinctly what I wanted to know. The board will purchase tea overseas, bring it to Australia and sell it to wholesalers. What will happen to the tea when it has been sold to the wholesalers? It is clear thai the wholesalers will not be allowed to re-export the tea unless they pay a duty upon it, but will the persons who purchase tea from the board be able to dowhat they like with that tea in Australia ? Will they be able to withhold it from thepublic if they cannot obtain the price that they want for it? I know that the intention is that the Commonwealth 3hall pay a subsidy upon imported tea in order that people throughout Australia may be able to purchase tea at a reasonable price. I want to know whether the board, having sold tea, will have the power to say what the wholesalers and retailers shall do with that tea, and toprescribe the price at which it shall besold.
– What about prices control ?
– If the Minister in charge of prices in one State decides that a certain price is reasonable, and the Minister in charge of prices in another State decides that another price is reasonable-
– They do not do that.
– The Commonwealth cannot direct the States to fix a certain price for tea.
– The States are responsible for prices control.
– I suppose that honorable members opposite who represent constituencies in New South Wales have been more caustic in their criticism of the New South Wales Government onthe ground that it has not discharged itsresponsibilities in regard to prices control than have any other persons.
– Quite right.
– The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) says, “ Quite right “. He said a moment ago that the States are responsible for prices control, yet he concurs in the criticism of the New South Wales Government by members of his party for allegedly not having discharged its responsibilities in relation to prices control. I do not agree with that criticism. I believe that the New South Wales Government is trying to discharge its responsibilities to the people of New South Wales in the best way in which it can do so and that it would be prepared to ensure that retailers and wholesalers shall make only a certain profit upon tea sold to them by the board. The proposal is that we shall authorize the board to import tea and to sell that tea for less than it has paid for it, but there is nothing in this legislation which provides that the retailers shall sell that tea to the people of this country at the correct price.
I realize that this measure is disliked by honorable gentlemen opposite because it makes provision for a form of socialistic control in connexion with the importation of tea into this country. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) stated that the bill will remain in force for only one year unless otherwise ordered. I am aware that anti-Labour governments do not like legislation of this type, but, as this Government has gone some way along the path of controlling a commodity on behalf of the people, it should insert in the bill a provision that would enable the board to exercise some control of tea that it has sold to wholesalers and retailers in order to ensure that the tea shall be sold at a p roper price. I know that this Government has no power to fix the price of tea, but that objective could be achieved indirectly. Let me use the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to illustrate my point. The Commonwealth has no power to build houses in the States, but it has said to the States that it will make available money for the construction of houses if the States will agree to comply with certain conditions.
There should be a provision in this bill that would give to the board power to control tea after that tea had left its possession. I agree with the honorable member for Lyne that there is an obliga tion upon the States to ensure that the price of tea shall be fixed. We can only assume that the States will do that, but we have no assurance that they will do it.
The Minister for Territories has informed us that a start has been made with the production of tea in the territories. We should do our utmost to produce our own requirements, and I am pleased with what the department has done in that respect. However, until’ such plans are brought to fruition, Australian tea consumers will be at the mercy of overseas suppliers. The hoard will be obliged to pay the world market price. Consequently, the Government should enable the board to ensure that the community shall really reap the benefit of this measure. That could be done under the regulation making power. The Government adopted that principle in respect of the Hospital Benefits Bill which the House passed last evening. It should take similar action in this instance in order to enable the Tea Importation Board to ensure that all tea that is imported shall be sold at a reasonable retail price.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) effectively exposed the inconsistency of supporters of the Government who accept every opportunity to advocate the abolition of all controls and the supremacy of the law of supply and demand. It is interesting to note that the Government, in its efforts to keep down the cost of living and to check inflation, has embodied in this measure the very principles that it has criticized the Labour party for upholding. This measure is socialistic in principle. Consequently, I can understand why so few supporters of the Government have spoken on it. The bill is designed to keep a check on the price of tea in an indirect way by implementing Labour’s policy of providing effective controls over the importation and distribution of essential commodities. Members of the Opposition are proud of the fact that the Government is now emulating the example that Labour Governments have set in that respect.
.- 1 should like to explain for the benefit of the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr.
Thompson) why so few supporters of the Government have spoken on this measure. It is a simple bill and, already, honorable members opposite have delayed its passage unnecessarily. Those honorable members have claimed that the Government has been obliged to introduce the measure because private enterprise has failed in this sphere. It must be obvious that private enterprise would not import tea and retail it at 2s. 6d. per lb. less than the landed cost. As the Government provides a subsidy in order to stabilize the retail price of tea, the responsibility devolves upon it to control its importation and distribution.
– Why does the Government subsidize the retail price of tea?
– I, certainly, do not support the principle of price stabilization subsidies because, ultimately, the consumer pays the subsidies indirectly in taxes. The sooner the Government can see its way clear to cease purchasing tea from overseas and to leave that activity entirely to private enterprise, the better will it be for the community. However, for as long as the Government subsidizes the retail price it is bound to arrange for tlie purchase and importation of tea.
.- I understand that the primary objects of this measure are to stabilize the importation of tea and, by the provision of a subsidy, to stabilize the retail .price of tea. For that purpose it is proposed to set up a board to acquire tea overseas and to control its distribution within Australia. The composition of the board is interesting. It will consist of a chairman - who, I take it, will be an independent person - an officer of the Department of the Treasury, a representative of the tea trade and the tea controller. However, clause 14 provides that members of the board shall not, except in the performance of their duties or with the consent of the Minister, directly or indirectly communicate, or divulge, information that they may acquire in consequence of holding their official positions. That means that the person who is appointed to the board as the representative of the tea trade will not be able to give to the trade any information, or guidance, with respect to matters that relate to the supply and distribution of tea. In addition, he will be the sole person among those directly interested in the tea trade who will be in the “ know “. Thus, he will be placed in a particularly advantageous position.
– In what way?
– As a member of the board he will have access to all inside trade information that he desires to ascertain, and under clause 14 he will have the advantage of not being permitted to divulge such information to any one else who is engaged in the trade.
– How could that be of benefit, to him?
– If such information could not be of benefit to him or any one else, why must he be bound to absolute secrecy? I have not the slightest doubt that the appointee will be a person who knows something about the tea trade and is actively engaged in it.
– The honorable member is assuming that the representative of the tea trade on the board must be some one who is actively engaged in the tea trade; but that, does not necessarily follow.
– He is to be “a representative of the tea trade “. Therefore, he will be actively engaged in the tea trade or, at least, will know the ins and outs of the trade. Otherwise, his services would be of no value to the board.
– The honorable member would not appoint a representative of the horse-shoe trade to a tea board.
– The point I make is that the appointee will be a representative of the tea trade. If, as a member of the board, he will not gain any information that will be of value to him from a trade standpoint what is the need to bind him to absolute secrecy concerning any information that he may acquire in consequence of holding his official position? However, whilst he will be bound to secrecy in that respect he will not be prevented in any way from using, to his own advantage, inside information that he may obtain as a result of his membership of the board.
– If there is no open market for tea, how could he gain any advantage from a trade standpoint?
– Order ! The debate is getting completely out of hand. I ask honorable members to restrain themselves.
– I shall not be in order in discussing the experiences of other boards, some members of which have been known to use to their own advantage inside information that they obtained in their official positions. The Minister’ should explain the point thai I have raised. It would be useless to appoint to the board a representative of the tea trade on such conditions that that individual would be given a tremendous advantage over others who are engaged in that trade. First, he would be given the opportunity to ascertain movements within ‘ the trade. If such knowledge and information is not valuable to somebody, why should he be bound to secrecy? The only conclusion that I can reach is that some of the operations of that board can be used to the material advantage of individuals. The Government proposes to appoint to the board a member of the tea trade. As he will have an opportunity to learn all the secrets of the business, he is to be bound to secrecy. The Government is giving to him a close preserve of the knowledge that he may gain, as a member of the board, to use to his own advantage.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) floundered badly and wasted the time of the House in his attempt to convince the people that this bill is not soundly based in the interests of the country. Obviously the Government, when it establishes a board to control an industry, acts wisely when it appoints to that authority at least one person who has a practical knowledge of the business. In this instance, the Government proposes to appoint a representative of the tea trade to the Tea Importation Board. Another member of that board will be a representative of the Treasury. His function will be to safeguard the financial interests of the country, and to supervise purchasing conditions. The other two members will be the Tea Coe- troller, and a representative of the tea trade. As there are so many grades of tea, and as supplies of that commodity are obtained from various parts of the world, a person who has a practical knowledge of the trade must be appointed to the board. The proposals in this bill are completely satisfactory, and the honorable member for Dalley merely tried to cause confusion in the minds of the people.
The Government proposes to appoint a board to acquire tea from various overseas sources at the most advantageous prices to this country. When supplies of tea have been landed in Australia, an average price will be struck, and the Government will pay a subsidy for the purpose of reducing the cost of tea to consumers. When the tea is in the hands of the wholesale trade, the Ministers in charge of prices control in the several States will be able to follow the price through the trade channels and ensure that the public shall be protected against exploitation. This bill is sound in principle under existing conditions. Government supporters advocate the policy of private trading, and I hope that we shall revert to that system as soon as tea becomes more readily obtainable. Meanwhile, the procedure that is envisaged in this bill must be adopted while the Commonwealth is paying a subsidy to reduce the price of tea. to the consumers. I support the bill.
.- I am somewhat reluctant to remind Government supporters that they are supporting a measure of socialization, or nationalization. Psychiatrists refer to a conflict between the inner desires of people and their actions. If we are to believe the protestations of honorable (members opposite during a general election campaign, this Government wishes to remove controls, and restore the system of private trading. Psychiatrists state that when a conflict occurs between an inner desire and the actions that a person is forced by circumstances to take, a mental conflict results, which leads to all sorts of peculiar aberrations. That seems to be the explanation of many of the aberrations that, unfortunately, affect the present Government. This bill, obviously, is a measure to continue the controls that were imposed by a Labour Government in wartime in relation to the supply of tea to Australian consumers. I venture to say that even the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) would not be prepared to deny that statement. Quito obviously, this bill is a measure of socialization and of control. The honorable member for Flinders, and other honorable members opposite, were elected on the basis of a. promise to remove controls. They gave to the people during the general election campaign in 1949 a pledge that if they were elected to office, they would not re-impose or continue controls. Foi1 the sake of their own mental health, Government supporters should resolve that conflict between their desires and what they really think, and what they are really doing.
– What is the honorable member arguing about?
– I am complaining because this Government, which was elected on the basis of a pledge that it would abolish controls, proposes to impose a control in respect, of the tea trade.
– Order ! 1 ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the bill, and not to mind about honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House.
– I must deal with the persons who are responsible for the introduction of this bill. Obviously, if the members of a Government have almost continuously to introduce legislation that, is in direct conflict with their political philosophy, those mental conflicts about which the psychiatrists speak will be set up. and will cause honorable gentlemen opposite to take all sorts of peculiar actions. At least those conflicts provide some kind of explanation for the peculiar actions of Government supporters in the past.
But, remarkable as the bill is as evidence of this Government’s failure to remove the controls, it is not so remarkable as is the absence of a provision to require the Tea Importation Board to report to the Parliament upon its activities. I should have thought that such stern anti-socialists and decontrolled as are supporters of the Government, would say, “Well, circumstances that we are not prepared to face compel us to reintroduce a measure that was taken by a Labour government to control the tea trade; but, at least, we shall compel the Tea Importation Board to submit to the Parliament a complete report upon its activities, and disclose the sources from which it has purchased tea, the prices that have been paid for it, and the retail price.” I say quite frankly that many people consider that there is not rauch difference between the various brands of tea that they buy, other than in the quantity of condy’s crystals that they are expected to consume with them. Evidently large sums are expended upon advertisements for various brands of tea. Why that is so, I do not know. Whether or not the advertising signs that are so conspicuous are a relic from the days of pre-control, I do not know; but if they are a relic of those days, 1 see no earthly reason why this Government should permit the wholesalers of tea to expend money upon advertising their -particular brands.
– How could wholesalers be prevented from advertising brands of tea?
– This Parliament could prevent them from doing so by passing the requisite legislation.
– And by withdrawing the right of wholesalers to claim advertising expenses as an allowable deduction for the purposes of taxation.
– Even if legislation were not effective in such a matter, the. Government would have sufficient implicit pres- sure under this bill to force the wholesalers to bow to its wishes. If they were not prepared to “ play ball “, the Government could take the obvious course of retailing one government brand of tea. Tea appears to be in the same category as tennis balls and electric light globes, which are displayed before the public in all sorts of guises, and under various names. Yet all tennis balls are made by the one factory, and are of the same standard. The same- remark applies to electric light globes. However, large sums are expended in advertising the qualities of one brand of tennis ball compared with those of another brand, or of one brand of electric light globe compared with those of another brand. Yet there is no difference between the various tennis balls, between the various electric light globes, or, for that matter, between the various brands of tea. The Government should pay attention to the fact that the advertising expenses that are incurred by some wholesalers of tea are completely unjustified in view of the standard of the tea that is sold to the public of Australia. The Government should take firm measures to prevent the addition of another penny to the cost of 1 lib. of tea as a result of adding advertising charges to the cost of distributing it.
Clause 5 (2.) provides that the Tea Importation Board shall consist of -
Four persons are specified, if I read that sub-clause correctly. Yet clause 8 (4.) provides -
In the absence of the Chairman and his deputy from a meeting of the Board, a member elected by the members present shall preside.
I assume that if two of the four members of the board are absent, only two members remain at the meeting. Yet clause 8 (2.) provides -
At a meeting of the Board, three members form a quorum.
– A definition of “ deputy “ appears in clause 7.
– Clause 7 (1.) reads as follows : -
The Minister may appointa person to be the deputy of a. member of the Board.
– He could be a member of the tea trade.
Mr.Rosevear. - He could even be one who mixescondy’s crystals in the tea.
– Obviously, there is a conflict between the provisions that I have quoted. Iask the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is in charge of the bill, to give careful consideration to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that a representative of the trade unions be appointed to the board. I should also like to know why a representative of the biggest trade union of all - even though, unfortunately, it is not organized to the degree that it should be - should not be appointed to the board. I refer, of course, to the housewives union. Dear old ladies, in season and out of season, produce their teapots, put in a spoonful of tea, and make their “ cuppa “. Above all others, they are entitled to be represented on the Tea Importation Board. After all, they are the persons who mostly make and drink the tea. In view of the quality of the tea that has been sold to them lately, they are definitely entitled to representation on the board.
-We all are becoming bored with the honorable member’s speech.
– I regret that members of the Australian Country party are not in favour of the proposal that a representative of the housewives should be appointed to the Tea Importation Board. If I remember correctly, the women’s section of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party was repeatedly assured by Government supporters that, under a non-Labour government, it could rest assured that the views of the housewives would always receive the most sympathetic consideration. During the general election campaign in 1949, dozens of circulars were addressed to mothers and wives in my electorate, stating that the Liberal party would always sympathetically consider the views and problems of women. I think that the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) made a particular point that the housewives, above all other people, could rest assured that they would have representatives on the various government committees that were appointed to deal with their problems.
– He wooed all the wives.
– I know that the honorable member for Isaacs wooed all the housewives in a political sense in his constituency.
– And he misled them.
– He misled a sufficient number of them to ensure his election to this House. However, my task at the moment is to ask the honorable member for Isaacs, through you, Mr. Speaker, to live up to the pre-election promise that he gave to the housewives.
– Order! I wish that the honorable member would deal with the bill.
– And not with the peccadilloes of the honorable member for Isaacs.
– I suggest that the appointment of a representative of the housewives to the Tea Importation Board is particularly germane to this bill. All that I am trying to do is to convince the Government, in my own imperfect way, that it should live up to its pre-election promise to give representation to women upon various boards and committees. Why should not those persons, who, more than any body else, are concerned with tea, be represented on the board? The housewives make and drink the tea.
– The honorable member has said that before.
– I shall repeat it.
– Order! I warn the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) that he must not repeat his statements; otherwise he will be guilty of tedious repetition.
– If it be your function, Mr. Speaker, to decide whether or not an honorable member is guilty of tedious repetition, I suppose that I may not repeat that statement. But it is news to me that it is a function of Mr. Speaker to determine whether or not an honorable member is guilty of tedious repetition.
– Order ! That is a function of the Speaker, and I shall not allow it to be discussed.
– Then I can discuss neither that nor what I said previously. At least I assume that I can again suggest that the Government should provide, before the bill finally leaves this House, for representation of the women of the community on this board above all others. It made a promise to that effect, and we are entitled to ask it to honour that promise. The board will be of particular importance, because tea affects the household budget of every family to a large degree. Its cost, notwithstanding the subsidy, is very high. For that reason alone the Government should provide for the appointment to the board of a representative of the consumers so that they may have an opportunity, through that representative, to make sure that the board shall buy tea in the most favorable market. If I know my bureaucracy, the board may operate efficiently at first, but it is likely to settle down into a groove and continue to buy tea from the same sellers by force of habit without exploring the possibilities of obtaining it more cheaply elsewhere. The present poor quality of tea also makes the appointment of a representative of the consumers advisable. The gravest dissatisfaction must be experienced by every tea drinker in Australia to-day. I do not know how many tea drinkers there are on the Government side of the chamber, but I believe that none of them can be satisfied with the quality of the tea that is sold to us at present. I hope that thy Government will take notice of what I have said and take steps to ensure that a housewife shall be appointed to the board.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be a Board to be known as the Tea Importation Board. . . (2.) The Board shall consist of -
.- The considered opinion of the Opposition is that the Tea Importation Board, for the establishment of which this clause provides, should include a representative of the employees of the tea trade, but the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is in charge of the bill on behalf of the Government, has said that he will not agree to such an appointment. While studying this subject, I discovered in another clause a provision which, in my opinion, provides a very good reason why the tea trade should not be represented on the board in any way. Clause 14 provides that members of the board and its employees shall sign a declaration of secrecy. Obviously the Government would not have included that provision in the bill unless it believed that circumstances might arise in which the board would obtain information which, if made available to anybody engaged in the tea trade, would be of distinct advantage to that person.
– ‘In what way?
– -That is not for me to say. It is sufficient for me to point out that the Government and its advisers believe it to be imperative, in the public interests, that no member of the board shall be a free agent and that there shall be a requirement of secrecy.
– Is that not a general practice in relation to such boards?
– “No. I refer the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) to the Australian “Wheat Board as an example. “When I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I asked the Australian Wheat Board to keep secret certain negotiations that were then proceeding between the Australian Government, the board and the United Kingdom Government, but the present chairman of the board, who was then an ordinary member of it refused to accede to my request. He said that he had a duty to the wheat-growers and would not be bound to secrecy, and he walked out of the meeting of the board. “No provision is made for the making of declarations of secrecy by members of the Australian Wool Board or the Australian Meat Board-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! The honorable member’s remarks do not refer to the clause that is underconsideration.
– I was asked to provide information and. I have provided it. I could provide much more if I were reallowed to do so. Obviously the provision in. relation to secrecy would not be included in clause 14 unless the Government considered it to be essential. It fears that knowledge which would be of value to persons interested directly in the tea trade will come into the possession of the board. A member of the tea trade appointed to the board would, in the normal course of his business and without being corrupt or doing anything morally wrong- -. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) has just made a rude and sarcastic noise.
– Order !
– He is a very superior person.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor will obey the Chair.
– I did not hear you, Mr. Chairman.
– You heard me all right, and I ask you to apologize to the Chair.
– I did not hear you.
– I ask you to apologize to the Chair.
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to accept my assurance that I did not hear you.
– I want your apology.
– I did not hear you.
– Will you obey tha Chair ?
– I did not hear you.
– I ask the honorable member finally to obey the Chair and apologize.
– I shall do so, but I was so intent on dealing with the rude noise-
– I cannot believe the honorable member, because I roared at him. He is aggravating the offence now.
– I was simply making an explanation to you-
– Well, proceed to deal with the clause.
– I thought that the honorable member for Mitchell was very rude, and I was intents-
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I cleared my throat-
– Order! Sit down. I ask both honorable members to cease interjecting and cross-firing. Neither of them has taken any notice of the Chair. Unless this discussion is related to the clause, I shall deal with the honorable member for Lalor.
– I did not make any interjection. I did not speak. How can you ask me to cease interjecting?
-I asked the honorable member to cease cross-fixing. The honorable member must discuss the clause or I shall deal with him..
– The Minister for Territories - a very good Minister who came to this Parliament with very high motives and,. I believe, with a desire to show an independence of thought and action-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to move an amendment. May I do so?
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- On behalf of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (c) bo left out.
I do not wish to recapitulate at length the arguments that I have already advanced on this subject; but, in my opinion, which is fortified by experience. I believe that tlie smaller a board is the more effective it is likely to be. The Government proposes that the Tea Importation Board shall consist of four members. One will be the chairman. Another will be an officer of the Department of the Treasury. For obvious reasons, the Treasury must be represented on a board that will have the responsibility of buying tea for the whole of Australia. A third member will be the Tea Controller,, who, I assume, will have some knowledge of the tea trade although perhaps he may not be directly connected with it. The Government proposes that the remaining member shall be a representative of the trade. Three members should be sufficient. The function of the board will be to buy tea for Australia and to regulate its sale. Therefore, a large board is not necessary. However, if the Government intends to have & fourth member in any event, that member should represent the consumers, especially in view of the provision for secrecy that is embodied in clause 14.
Obviously a representative of the tea trade, even if he1 gave his services as a member of the board free of charge, would not be human if he did not use informa tion that came into his possession at meetings of the board to his personal advantage or for the benefit of the trading interests that he represented. That is why I contend that three members would be sufficient. However, if the Government insists that the board would not be efficient with fewer than four members, I consider that the fourth should be an appropriate representative of consumers. Such a representative would be able to guard the public interest and would have much less to gain personally from any special knowledge that he acquired than would a representative of the trade. It is idle to say that a man whose business interests are perhaps exclusively involved in the tea trade would not make use, to his own advantage, of secret information that he obtained as a member of the board. Government supporters may object that I am drawing the long bow. But why is there any need for secrecy?
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the secrecy provision. That is contained in another clause.
– That is true ; but I consider that an incidental reference to that aspect of the case is important because of the duties that it will impose on members of the board subsequently. However, if you, Mr. Chairman, rule that it must be absolutely ignored at this stage, I shall content myself with saying that I believe that no individual who is personally interested in the trade - and I take it that “a representative of the tea trade “ would be some one who was personally interested in the trade - should be in a position to obtain inside information that would not be available to the rest of the trade, and then subsequently be committed to secrecy. That would mean that the Government would be giving a personal capital value to a job that it was asking a man to perform on behalf of the whole community.
.- The Opposition’s case in respect of this matter is like the title of one of Shakespeare’s plays in that it is “ much ado about nothing “. As far as I can see, honorable members opposite cannot make up their minds about what they want in relation to the proposed board. I think that we can ascribe much, of what they have said to-night to the fact that some of them had an excellent dinner this evening. I oppose the amendment because I consider that the Opposition is not sincere in relation to it.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has said that the Opposition is riot sincere in relation to this amendment. The Opposition has advanced its reasons for the submission of the amendment. .
– Order! There is no point of order involved. The honorable member for Gwydir has merely expressed an opinion. The language that he used is not unparliamentary, and he may proceed.
– I am sorry to have offended the susceptibilities of honorable members opposite. The fact that I have done so shows that my statement was very near the mark. We have one member of the Opposition suggesting that we should have a representative-
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss the merits or demerits of members of the Opposition. He must keep to the clause.
– Honorable members opposite have expressed various opinions in relation to this clause. One wants a representative of the employees, or of the trade unions, on the board. I ask them to say where they would find their representative of the employees. Would be be a member of the Storemen and Packers Union, or a member of of tlie grocers’* organization who sells tea over the counter? Honorable members opposite have expressed no opinion in that direction. The proposed appointment to the board of a representative of the tea trade is wise because people engaged in the tea trade are used to buying tea on the overseas markets. I take it that the appointment will not be made in a haphazard manner. The person so appointed will undoubtedly be somebody who has the confidence of the tea trade. The Government is hardly likely to select for appointment somebody who has not the confidence of the tea trade. It is unworthy of the honorable member who made the suggestion to imply that that person would have an undue advantage over his competitors, because I am quite sure that the person appointed would have the confidence of the trade, otherwise he would not be appointed by the Minister.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and I point out to the Minister (Mr. Hasluck) that the Opposition is supporting this measure because it really wishes to make it effective, and to put ii above criticism. We have moved the amendment to provide that the board shall not have a representative of the tea trade on it, because a later clause provides that absolute secrecy in regard to the board’s proceedings shall be maintained. Therefore, it is not desirable to embarrass the representative of the tea trade on the board. I suggest that it is of no particular advantage for us to move for the deletion of a particular part of this clause, unless we also put some helpful and constructive proposal to the Government. I appreciate fully that it i* desirable that the Tea Controller, notwithstanding his extensive experience’ during the war and since, should have at his call some technical and practical advice from the trade. I suggest that that need would be met by a provision for the insertion of which the Minister himself can move if he accepts our amendment, to the effect that the board may call in for consultation, from time to time as desired, a representative of the tea trade. Such a provision exists in other acts of this Parliament, and enables the chairman of an authority to send for experts in a particular trade to tender advice on particular problems. If the Minister accepted my suggestion the proposed board would then be in a position to conduct its business in secret, calling for advice from time to time from a representative of the tea trade who, after tendering the advice, would withdraw from the meeting. The board would then have the advantage of the advice whilst the secrecy of its proceedings would still be maintained. I make that as a constructive suggestion. The Opposition supports the measure, but I point out that the adoption of our amendment will not make the position 100 per cent, foolproof, by virtue of the fact that we have not moved to deprive the Government of the prerogative to appoint a chairman of the board. Under the terms of this clause the Government will have the right to appoint “ a person “ to be chairman of the board, and obviously, if it so desires, it may appoint as chairman a person who is engaged in the tea trade. However, after the criticism that has been voiced to-night I think it would be very unwise to do so, and I hope that it will not do so.
The Opposition has, in fact, moved that there be no representative of the tea trade on the board, in view of the provision that is contained in clause 14. As an alternative constructive suggestion we ask that the Minister insert a provision in the bill whereby the board may call in persons engaged in the tea trade for consultation in connexion with problems that arise. I make that suggestion, and support the amendment, in a desire to be helpful and not in a desire, as the honorable member for Gwydir has implied, to be destructive or unfair. “We desire, in the interests of the public, to make this an effective measure. I hope that the Minister will see the logic of the suggestions that we have advanced, and will appreciate that we have not moved that the chairman of the board himself shall not be a representative of the tea trade, although I sincerely hope that he will not be. The board will include a. representative of the Treasury, who can be trusted to look after the pounds, shillings and pence, and the Tea Controller, who has had wide experience. The Government is proposing to establish an authority which may control this great and important business for very many years, and is relinquishing all the practices and policies that operated during the war and post-war periods. The personnel of the existing controlling authority may not have been perfect, but as far as I know it operated very efficiently. The Minister’s assertion that we did such and such in war-time, is entirely irrelevant to the question of what should be done now in relation to the establishment, by this Parliament, of an efficient, foolproof and effective board for the control of tea. I can assure the
Minister that no party politics is involved in our criticism or in our amendment, which I appeal to him to accept. I also appeal to him not to appoint a tea trader as chairman of the board, but to rely on the experience of the present Tea Controller. I ask him also to insert in the bill a provision that will enable a representative of the tea trade to be called in from time to time for consultation by the board.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harbison) put -
That the question be now put.
The Chair having declared that the question had been resolved in the affirmative,
– The Opposition requires a division.
– I had declared the result of the vote before I heard any “ Noes “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Eosevear’s amendment) stand part nf the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. E. Adermann.)
– If the honorable member who is now causing a disturbance continues to do so, he will be asked to stand up and will be placed on hi”; honour to admit having done so. I shall not permit an honorable member to cause such a disturbance. If it is repeated, I shall take corrective action.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clausebe agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 6 to 13 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 14 (Secrecy).
.- Clause 14 provides that before entering on the performance of his duties under this bill a member of the board or an employee of the board shall sign a declaration of secrecy in accordance with the form approved by the Minister. No employee or member of the board, except with the consent of the Minister, may directly or indirectly communicate or divulge information which comes to his knowledge as a consequence of hisbeing such a person. This clause will place the representative of the tea trade on the board - or the chairman if he is appointed from the tea trade - in a most invidious position. At some time he must come into possession of information, knowledge of which, because he is engaged in the tea trade, will place him in a most embarrassing position. He will not be able to divulge such information to members of the tea trade whose representative he is. Obviously, information of an advantageous nature will come to him and he will be placed in the invidious position of being able to enjoy that advantage over other members of the tea trade. I suggest that the Minister arrange for the amendment which the Opposition proposed to this bill to be made in another place. Alternatively, if he still refuses to take any further action-
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr.c. F. Adermann.)
Majority … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill - by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 2246), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill provides for the refund of certain subsidies. The Opposition is in complete agreement with its provisions and therefore supports it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 16th November (vide page 2243), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– We pass from tea to beer. The Opposition regards this as another measure in the series of measures by means of which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) seeks to implement his budget proposals. This is probably one of the measures that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had in mind when, in a pre-view of the Government’s financial proposals he described the Government’s projected financial legislation very appropriately as a “ horror budget “. As we pass from one measure to another in this long series of bills to impose indirect taxation, we realize that the huge sums that are being raised by the Government more than justify the Prime Minister’s description of the whole of the budget proposals. In fact his statement appears now to have been something in the nature of a gross understatement. The levying of excise on beer or anything else seems to be an easy way of extracting money from the pockets of the people. However, it is not a satisfactory or a fair way because the burden is thrown disproportionately on different sections of the people. In the case of the excise on beer, strict teetotallers pay no tax at all for the upkeep of the nation or the maintenance of services for which the budget proposals in general arc designed.
It is. interesting to note that there was a tax of 3d. a gallon on beer in the year 1913-14. Then came “World War I. and the Government decided that an increase of the excise on beer would be one way in which the war effort could b» financed. Accordingly the excise on beer was increased to 6d. a gallon. In subsequent years, the levy was increased, until at the outbreak of World War II. it was 2s. a gallon. The excise was 2s. a gallon during the first part of the depression, although half way through the depression it was reduced to ls. 9d. a gallon. In the second Menzies budget introduced after the outbreak of “World War II., the levy was increased to 2s. 9d. a gallon. In 1941, the Curtin Government raised it to 3s. a. gallon. During the worst period of the last war, when it was necessary for us to marshal the full financial, physical and material resources of the nation, the excise was raised to 4s. 7d. a gallon. From 1942 to the present, it has remained at that figure. This Government will raise it by this measure to 7s. 2d. a gallon, which is a most extraordinary increase and one that is completely indefensible by any criterion.
It is objectionable from the working man’s viewpoint because the average working man does not drink whisky; he drinks beer. In my own electorate, as in other capital cities, there are many hotels, and a large proportion of the people patronize them. No hotel would open its doors for more than half an hour a year if it had to depend on my patronage, or on that of many other members of the Parliamentary Labour party. But we represent many people who want to be able to buy beer, and who object to being required to pay a tax of 50 per cent, of the cost of every glass of beer that they drink merely to help the Treasurer balance his budget-
– There could not be a better way of doing it.
– If the honorable member believes that he should move an amendment to this measure to increase the excise on beer to 100 per cent, or 150 per cent, of the cost. I appreciate the opinions .of the people in our community who say that beer should not be drunk by anybody, but beer is being drunk. As beer-drinking is not regarded as a crime, it should not be taxed as if it were a social offence.
The Treasurer proposes to raise no less than £50,000,000 by this measure. The amount raised last year by the same right honorable gentleman from this source was £37,000,000. Even that was a considerable increase of the amount raised through the last budget of the Chifley Government. The amount that will be raised this year is nearly £20,000,000 more than the Chifley Government obtained from the same source during its last year of office. When we were raising £33,000,000 from the excise on beer, members of the Government parties who were then in Opposition demanded that we should reduce the excise. Since they have assumed office they have changed their tune and have increased it. This year everybody has been staggered by the amount of the increase. The amount of money that will be raised this year by way of beer excise will be more than two arid a half times the amount that was raised in 1911 by the entire budget of the late Mr. Andrew Fisher. For the first time in our history provision was then made for the capital expenditure of our defence programme to come from revenue rather than from loan funds.
I do not know whether the Treasurer will obtain the amount that he estimates he will get, I do not even venture to guess what he will raise; but I know that a large sum of money will be raised that the right honorable gentleman has no justification for raising by this means. This is a 56 per cent, burden on those who drink beer. If we were to tax every frivolity or social activity in the. same way we should be very humourless people and would lead a very gloomy existence. As I said a moment ago, my tastes, certainly in this regard, are very modest, but I know that many people prefer to have their drink as part of their ordinary routine and that they do not want to read books, buy gramophone records or do any of the things from which I derive my amusement. Tt is natural that the modest luxury of the great mass of the people who consume liquor should be exploited as a source of revenue by a government that would rather raise revenue in that way than by increasing taxes upon incomes.
– They will not have a crack at the brewers.
– The Government is attacking the working man by this means. The consumer will pay not only the increases of duty but as much again to the breweries which, in order to cover their additional costs, have had to increase the price of beer. The purchase of an 11-oz. glass of beer, for which a man or woman must now pay ls., represents a gain to the Treasury of 5d. Of the, 9d. that is paid for a 7-oz. glass of beer, 3-ifd. goes to the Treasury, and of the 5d. that is paid for a 4-oz. glass of beer, 2£d. goes to the Treasury. That is the position in Victoria, where the Treasurer takes ls. 2 1/2d. of the 2s. 4d. that is paid for a bottle of beer. If the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) contends that it is immoral for people to drink, he must agree that it is immoral for the Government to raise revenue from drink and use it for the purpose of balancing the budget.
I do not know whether the Treasurer realizes how unpopular this measure is with the people. If he still believes that, after the introduction of his horror budget, he has any popularity left, he would be disconcerted if he heard the protests that are being made by groups of average Australians in liquor bars throughout the Commonwealth. The right honorable gentleman may feel that he has no responsibility to the lowly people who use the ordinary public bars and that he should look after the interests only of those in the higher income group. He proposes to raise this huge sum of money, not from the directors of associated banks, the members of graziers’ federations or the wealthy people generally, but from the workers. Soon, the workers will not have the wherewithal to buy even necessaries of life. It may be that, by the imposition of this form of tax, the Treasurer will in actual fact deprive the Treasury of revenue that he believes will be raised by it.
Perhaps the Government hopes that later, probably before the next general election, it will be able to reduce the excise duty upon liquor, but I do not think that that is likely to happen, because its action in increasing taxes of all kinds as an antidote for inflation has, in the opinion of the Labour party, only accentuated the inflationary trend. The Government, having taken this step, will be forced to increase the duty again next year. That will not only be unfair but also will cause a great deal of discontent. On the Treasurer’s own estimates, there could be a substantial falling-off in the consumption of liquor this year without the revenue derived from excise duties upon liquor falling below that of last year. That reduction of consumption, if it occurs, will not be caused by lack of spending power on the part of the wealthy interests in the community. It will be a reflection of the impoverished state of the average working man, who is at this time and always the most unfortunate victim of the evils of inflation.
The Treasurer has calculated that his surplus, which will be derived in part from the excise duty on liquor, may enable the Government to keep in power for a little longer without the country becoming insolvent, but there are many reasons for believing that the Government will have to expend the money that it is raising by this and other forms of tax. I advise the Treasurer to reduce these duties because if he does not do so he will be unable to raise the other money that he hopes to raise. In Victoria, the reduction of the State loan allocation is already having a serious affect upon the employment market. In 1939, the last pre-war year, the excise duty upon beer was1s. 9d. a gallon. In that year, collections were approximately £7,000,000. Now they have reached the colossal figure of £53,000,000, based upon a duty of is. 2d. a gallon.
– That is in respect of beer alone?
– Yes.When the Labour party was in power, many demands were made upon it to reduce the duty upon liquor, but we were unable to do so then. We reduced other forms of taxes, and I am certain that had we remained in office we should have reduced the duty upon liquor either last year or this year. Certainly we should not have increased it, as this Government has done. The paradox is that these increases are being imposed by a government that was elected on a promise to reduce excise duties and all other forms of tax. I think it is fair to say that during the course of debates upon other financial measures honorable gentlemen opposite have admitted that the Government has caused to go haywire the stable economy that the Chifley Government left to Australia. I am certain that if a general election were held now on the issue of taxation generally, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who is so immaculately attired to-night, would be smiling from this side of the chamber.
I should not be doing my duty to the great mass of the people if I allowed this legislation to pass without protest. I do not believe that the Labour party would be doing its duty if, having opposed every other financial measure that the Government has introduced, it did not object also to the passage of this legis lation, not only by its voice but alsoby its vote. The Treasurer has it in his power to mitigate the hardship that is being caused by these increased excise duties, and he should do so at the earliest possible moment. If he does not, he will bring nearer the day when the Labour party will be in power. Then the Labour party will do what it has suggested to the Treasurer to-night that he should do.
.- The object of these increased excise duties is not to promote temperance or abstinence but to raise money. The increases will not promote temperance or abstinence, even incidentally. The week-end after the new rates of duty were imposed upon the beer drinking and liquor consuming section of the community was a record week-end for cases of drunkeness in every capital city of Australia. Unfortunately, the people who are prone to drink too much liquor drank concoctions that gave them a bigger kick for less expenditure. As a result of the increase, the polios in the metropolitan area of Melbourne were kept particularly busy.
Any government that imposes increased excise duties upon liquor or upon any other commodity has a vested interest in increased sales of that commodity. The greater the excise duty upon a gallon of beer, the more gallons does the Government wish to be consumed. That is only natural. Despite the fact that these increases give the Government a vested interest in the increased consumption of liquor, those who were responsible for them have, as it were, ostentatiously adjusted their haloes, and posed as benefactors of the community. They certainly are not benefactors of the community. I hope that Ihave destroyed any foundation of righteousness upon which the Government may seek to justify the imposition of the increased excise duties.
I believe that a government such as this imposes excessive duties and taxes upon liquor and other commodities that are in general use in order to obtain vast sums of money from the ordinary people in the community and, by so doing, make it possible to reduce the taxes that are paid by those who are best able to bear the burden of taxation. The principle upon which all honest governments seek to base their taxation proposals is that taxation shall he imposed in accordance with ability to pay. That principle is not followed if, irrespective of income, people are required to pay taxes upon tobacco or drinks, or are taxed on each occasion when they go to the pictures, an opera or a church. None of those taxes can be justified. Under this measure, the rate of excise on neer which was 3d. a gallon in 1914, is to be increased to 7s. 2d. a gallon, whilst the rate in respect of a bottle of beer, which is retailed at 2s, 4d., is to be increased to ls. 2£d., which is more than half the retail price of the article taxed. Thus, a labourer, or a worker in heavy industry, who customarily takes home a bottle of beer to enjoy with his evening meal will be penalized, whereas his next-door neighbour who is, perhaps, a teetotaller, will not be obliged to contribute an equivalent tax in respect of beverages that he may consume with his meals. No one will object to a labourer or a worker in a heavy industry refreshing himself with a drink of beer with his evening meal. It is customary for many such workers when on their way home to purchase a bottle of beer at the local inn. I remind honorable members that in ancient days the greatness of England was founded upon its inns. Wellington said that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields at Eton. It could be said with equal justification that it was won in the inns of England. The Government cannot possibly justify this exorbitant impost upon beer. It is levying it solely as an expedient means of raising additional revenue. ‘ The imposition of excise duty, possibly, presents the easiest way of extracting money from the community. That system has the additional advantage that the burden of the impost falls most heavily upon the average citizen to the advantage of the wealthy sections of the community which Government supporters represent. I again emphatically protest against the imposition of these exhorbitant rates of excise. Such action is manifestly unjust. I make that protest as one who will not contribute one penny to the Government’s coffers by way of excise duty on alcoholic beverages.
.- 1 support the protests against this measure that have been voiced by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). One of the objects of the bill is to amend section 26 of the Beer Excise Act in order to provide for new methods for the return of beer excise stamps. Apparently, breweries and those who earn their living in the brewing trade must forever remain at the tender mercies of the Government. Whilst 1 hold no brief for the breweries, 1 say emphatically that of all organizations that are obliged to furnish returns in respect of excise duty they have established the best reputation for accuracy. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will admit that such returns invariably are accurate to a penny. In addition, the breweries have won a reputation for conforming absolutely to the provisions of the pure foods legislation in the production of beer and ale. I oppose this measure not in the interests of the breweries but because it will unfairly penalize an industry that is of great economic value. Beer is regarded as a necessity by the great majority of Australian workers.
Figures have been cited in this debate to illustrate the degree to which excise duty on beer has been increased. ft would appear from those figures that whenever the Government seeks to raise additional revenue it immediately select? for such additional impositions beer ann tobacco which are consumed by the majority of workers in this country. It is now proposed to increase the excise duty on beer from 4s. 7d. to 7s. 2d. a gallon. That is an increase of 56 pe> cent, of the rate of excise. Whether or not the Government approves of the fact, it must admit that 98 persons out of every 100 who partake of beer and ale do so in moderation. A 7-oz. glass of ale is retailed at 9d. and of that price the breweries receive l.ld. and the publican 3.4d., whilst the Government extracts in excise duty 4.5d.; or 50 per cent. An 11-oz. pot of ale is retailed at ls. Of that price, the brewery receives 1.4d. and the publican 4.6d., while excise accounts for 6d. or 50 per cent. A bottle of ale retails at 2s. 4d. Of that price, the brewery receives 9d. and the publican 4.6., whilst the benevolent Government receives in excise 1s. 2.3d. A dozen bottles of ale are retailed at 28s. Of that price, the brewery receives 9s. and the publican 4s.8d., whilst the Government receives in excise 14s. 4d., or over 50 per cent. A 9-gallon keg of ale is sold to the publican for £4 4s. ; and of that price the brewery receives only 19s. 6d., whilst the Government receives in excise £3 4s. 6d. The honorable member for Melbourne indicated the increases of excise duty on beer and ale that have occurred sinceWorld War I. At the beginning of 1914, the rate was 3d. a gallon but later in the year is was increased to 6d. a gallon. During subsequent years, the rate was increased as follows : - 1917, 7d. ; 1918.1s. ; 1920.1s. 3d. and1s. 9d. : 1929, 2s.; 1940, 2s. 9d.; 1941, 3s.; and 1942, 4s. 7d. The rate of excise was reduced on only two occasions. In 1929, it was reduced from 2s. to 1s. 10d., and in 1930 it was reduced from 2s. to1s. 9d. It is now proposed to increase the rate to 7s. 2d. a gallon. I remind supporters of the Government, and particularly members of the Australian Country party, that the brewing trade is a valuable customer for many primary products and that but for that fact many primary producers would be much worse off than they are to-day.
– That is not true.
– Order ! Who referred to “Hilly billy corner”?
– I did.
– The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I shall cite figures in respect of aggregate collections of excise tax in order to indicate the value of the brewing industry as a contributor to the coffers of the Government. In 1938-39, the excise that was paid by the brewing interests of the Commonwealth amounted to £7,288,579. In the period 1939-46, which included World War II, the total was £119,543,611. In the post-war period from 1946 to 1949, excise on beer yielded £86,096,738. But those figures, vast as they are, pale into insigni ficance compared with the sum that has been paid by the brewing interests of the Commonwealth since this Government has been in office. In that period of two years, the amount has totalled £123,744,673.
– Then Government supporters are not the stooges of the browing interests ?
– That interjection by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) is not fair. It does not necessarily follow, because I defend the right of the average worker to his drink that I am a stooge of the brewing interests. Honorable gentlemen know perfectly well that the honorable member for Melbourne, the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) and even my humble self are not proponents of the art of excessive drinking. But we are proponents of the art of logical thought. Therefore, it seems to me inequitable that 98 per cent. of the working people of Australia, who regard ale as a necessity, and do not abuse it but use it frugally and properly, shouldbe subjected to such an impost. They are always the target for an onslaught by this Government whenever additional revenue is required. The excise on beer certainly swells the Government’s revenues. I shall show that the Government has no need to nationalize, or even to consider the nationalization of, the breweries. This year, the Carlton and United Breweries will make, according to estimates, 42,000,000 gallons of beer, and will act as a tax gatherer for the Commonwealth and, in that role, will collect £15,050,000. The Ballarat Brewing Company, which will produce approximately 3,500,000 gallons of beer this year, will collect for the Commonwealth in excise an amount of £1,250,000. Nearly all that money will be extracted from the workers. Yet this Government cheerfully disregards any suggestion that inferior wines should be taxed, and states that the Australian wine industry must be assisted. Half the liquor trouble that, is caused in the community is due to the consumption of inferior wines, or, as it is called in most inter-suburban electorates, “ cheap plonk “. The Government, if it performed its duty in the interests of morality and decency, would impose a severe charge on inferior wines and would not subject ale, which is the drink of the working man, to heavy excise. But the Government takes refuge in anonymity, and because the increased costs which are represented by excise are passed on to the consumers, the workers, brewers and publicans share the contumely. If justice were done, that contumely would be directed against this socalled benevolent Government that graces, or rather disgraces, the treasury bench.
I endorse the statements by the honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Burke to the effect that this burden of excise on the ale that is consumed by the workers is iniquitous, unfair and inequitable. Reference has been made to such matters as new methods of accountancy, and the necessity to prevent the occurrence of a leakage in respect of excise stamps, but the protestations of the Government in that connexion are only a pretext. Its desire, obviously, is to wheedle as much as possible out of an uncomplaining and unvociferous working class.
– Tuck the bottle into your shirt, “Jos”.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) makes a similar remark again, he will be asked to leave the chamber.
.- Members of the Opposition have discussed tea and beer in a most learned manner this evening. I am not sure whether they are more confident when they discuss tea than when they discuss beer. But they have carefully avoided any reference to the fact that the Government requires additional revenue for defence, social services and repatriation benefits, and, therefore, is obliged to collect from the community a considerably larger sum by way of taxation than was received in the last financial year. During the budget debate, no Opposition member proved that the implementation of the financial proposals of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did not spread the burden fairly over all sections of the community. The Government does not derive any pleasure from measures to increase taxes, but it has a definite responsibility to place the defences of this country in order and to stabilize the economy.
The consumption of beer has increased by approximately 70 per cent. since 1939, and the production of that beverage has increased by a similar figure, yet, during the same period, the production of essential goods has remained stationary, or has increased only slightly. The output of basic materials is insufficient to meet the demand for them. Therefore, we must admit that Australian production is, for the timebeing, out of balance. People who consume ale should be prepared to make a contribution towards national defence preparations. They should realize that if this country is not adequately defended, they may not have the pleasure of drinking beer in a few years’ time.
Some Opposition members claim that the brewing of beer creates demands for the products of various other industries. I recognize that fact, but I point out that those industries can make a valuable contribution to the production of commodities that are more essential than is beer. Large quantities of barley are required for the brewing of ale. Some of the attention that is given to barleygrowing might well be diverted to the production of wheat, for which a tremendous demand exists. The increased excise on beer has been imposed for two reasons, first, to raise additional revenue, and, secondly, to reduce the demand for beer. The result of the Government’s policy in that respect may be to direct production and labour into more useful channels. The Government is acting courageously in the implementation of its budget proposals, and is endeavouring to spread the burden equitably over all sections of the community. I am confident that those of us who enjoy a glass of ale are prepared to pay the additional excise as a contribution towards national defence in order that we may long have the pleasure of drinking beer.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) agreed to - .
That the question be now put.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Question put -
That thebill be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to speak very briefly about the acoustics of this chamber.
– Order! I cannot hear the honorable member for conversation.
– I wish to speak about the acoustics of this chamber. It has been very noticeable to-night that honorable members sitting on the back benches on occasions could not hear honorable members and Ministers who were speaking at the table in the centre of the chamber. It was also noticeable that you, Mr. Speaker, and the Chairman of Committees also had difficulty in hearing what was said in the centre of the chamber. I admit that at times there was noise from both sides of the House, but I believe also that the acoustic properties of the chamber were at fault. I noticed to-night, as I have noticed on previous occasions when the proceedings of this House were not being broadcast, that there seemed to be a reverberation, perhaps from the microphones although presumably they are “ dead “. This acoustic disturbance makes it extremely difficult for many honorable members to hear what is being said at the table. I suggest that the experts make an examination of the trouble to determine whether the trouble can be eliminated.
– Speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 30th October, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) brought under my notice the case of an exserviceman who had been retrenched from the employment of the Repatriation Commission in Sydney. The honorable member, during the course of his remarks, stated that he had taken the matter up with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), and had received the following reply:-
In carrying out the decision of the Government in regard to reduction in the Public Service, my department acted in accordance with instructions issued by the Public Service Board and in selecting those employees to be retrenched the practice followed was to retain, within any group or class of employment, the efficient employee in preference to the one who was less efficient or unsuitable for any particular type of work.
The honorable member said that the reply was in direct conflict with what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had said would be the order of priority in retrenchment, which was that the last persons to be displaced would be disabled exservicemen.
The Minister for Repatriation has advised me that the statement of the Prime Minister on the 2nd October, as reported on page 183 of Hansard of that date, indicated that the order of retrenchment was as follows: -
Women over the compulsory retiring age (65).
Males over the compulsory retiring age (65).
Single women and widows.
Persons qualified for permanent appointment, but not so appointed.
Relatives of deceased soldiers.
Female ex-members of the Forces.
Married men without family.
Married men with family.
Male ex-members of the force’s.
The Minister for Repatriation has pointed out that almost 100 per cent. of the male employees of his department are exservicemen. It followed, therefore, that any retrenchments from the department would affect the employment of exservicemen. In giving effect to the Government’s decision, full cognizance was taken of the principle of preference in the Re-establishment and Employment Act, but it was obvious that any reduction of a staff so fully employed as that of the Repatriation Department made it essential that those retained should be the best available. In selecting those employees to be retrenched the practice followed, therefore, was to retain, within any group or class of employment, the efficient employee in preference to the one who was less efficient or unsuitable for any particular type of work.
.- The reply from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) does not satisfactorily conclude this matter. He has said that practically 100 per cent. of the employees of the Repatriation Department are ex-servicemen, so his statement establishes that there are some persons employed by that department who are not ex-servicemen. How the heads of the department determined that the man to whom I referred was the least efficient employee in his section is beyond me, because in actual fact, he was employed in his position for about five years. He would not have received his annual increments each year unless he had been efficient, because the payment of annual increments depended on the reports of the officers over him. This man was given no opportunity to prove whether or not he was the least efficient employee in his section. I inform the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Bland), who has attempted to justify the action of the Government in dismissing a disabled ex-serviceman, that this man was actually in the Yaralla Hospital at Concord under treatment for war disabilities at the time of his dismissal. The first notice that he received of his dismissal reached him after his discharge from the hospital, when he received a message that a letter awaited him at the William-street post office in Sydney. That letter contained his dismissal notice. Thu Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has said that the Government’s policy of retrenchment merely amounted to transferring labour from one position to another and that if men were retrenched from, the Repatriation Department or any other government department they would be able to find a vacancy among the 160,000 jobs that are available and for which labour cannot be found. The Government’s retrenchment policy is not merely for the purpose of saving expenditure, because the Government is budgeting for a huge surplus this year. The Government has been telling the public that all it is doing is transferring surplus labour into other avenues of employment. My complaint is that not only has it sacked and unjustly victimized a disabled ex-serviceman, but also that it has not found him alternative employment. That man is still looking for a position. How can the Government argue that by dismissing this man it is helping to increase production and assisting the war effort?
This is not an isolated case, but is merely one of a number that has been brought to my notice. I know of other cases of men who have been dismissed who have not been found alternative employmien t. The Government talks much of pre ference to returned soldiers. Surely it has some obligation to provide for disabled exservicemen. Speeches in this Parliament will not help ex-servicemen and their dependants. What they want is practical support and fair treatment, which they are not receiving from the Government. What I want the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) to do is to ask the Minister for Repatriation to obtain from the section officers under whom this man worked a report on his efficiency, because I have been told that this man, who was a records clerk, has never had his work queried. No report or file has ever been sent back to him because of his inefficient handling of it. So it is quite evident that the ground on which he was declared to be inefficient was not in respect of the quality of his work but because he has war disabilities and has lost time at work through having had to go to a repatriation hospital for treatment. It is on that ground only that the Government can claim that, he is less efficient than the other men who work in his section. It took the Government a long time to find out that the man was inefficient because, as I have said, he was working in that particular section for about five years and was, I believe, the employee with the longest service in that section. I wish ft*, Minister for Repatriation to obtain ra&h a report in order to determine whether the man’s section officers are prepared to say straight out that he is inefficient. If there is no position now available in the Repatriation Department for this disabled ex-serviceman, I wish the Government to indicate what it now proposes to do about giving him alternative employment, which the Government declared it would provide every person displaced under its retrenchment policy.
If the Minister ana the Government do not act in this matter I propose to interest ex-servicemen > organizations in it because, as I have said, it is not the only case of this kind that I know of. The Government is always boasting about the number -of ex-servicemen who are sitting in the Parliament as its supporters and it. seems remarkable that those ex-servicemen should be prepared to permit another ex-serviceman to be subjected to victimization by the very Government of which they are supporters. I am not satisfied with the explanation of the Minister for Repatriation and I am quite certain that many honorable members, even among Government supporters, will consider that this man is being unjustly treated. I ask the Minister to take the whole matter back to the Minister for Repatriation for a further review and to confer, if necessary, with the Minister for Labour and National Service about it. I believe that if the Government is not prepared to return the man to his former position, to which I believe he should be returned because he has been trained for the work, then it ought to find him another position which will be suitable for a man with his war disabilities. I hope that this matter will be acted on immediately, because I know that the Government proposes to close the Parliament for some months at the end of next week, and once the Parliament has been closed the Government will consider that that is the end of the criticism in relation to the matter, and it will do no more about it. I assure the Minister that I shall be back here next week expecting to hear that some action has been taken to place this man and others who are similarly affected in suitable employment.
– I wish to bring before the notice of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the case of a person in my electorate who is suffering considerable hardship because of the operation of the National Security (Enemy Property) Regulations, in the hope that he will try to take some remedial action. The case may be unique, or it may be one of half a dozen such cases. The facts are briefly that Hermann Schmitt arrived in Australia from Germany in 1928 and, with another German who came out to Australia with him, he established a furniture manufacturing business in Albury. In 1935 he married an Australian and had two children who, as they were born here, are both Australian subjects. Unfortunately he did not take out naturalization papers. In 1938 he completed training an apprentice and decided to take his wife and family for a trip to Germany in the following year, mainly because his mother was ill there, but also for the sake of paying a visit to the country of his birth. The war broke out while he was in Germany and, being a German national, he was conscripted by the Germans. He worked first with the German civil construction corps, and then was engaged in interpreting work. During his work as an interpreter he was successful in assisting some of our prisoners of war, including airmen who had been shot down. When the war was over he undertook work, first with the Canadian Army and then with the American Army and as he showed them that his case was bona fide he received a clearance from the American Army authorities and from the Australian Department of Immigration, and returned to Australia. He asked me to have his property cleared from the operation of the National Security (Enemy Property) Regulations. I believed that the matter would be quite straightforward, until I received a letter recently from the Attorney-General which said in part -
Advice has now been received from the Delegate of the Controller of Enemy Property that, according to information before the Controller, Mr. Schmitt is a German national. As he was resident in Germany during the war, he was an enemy subject for the purposes of the National Security (Enemy Property) Regulations and his property became subject to the provisions of those regulations. The position under the regulations was not altered by Mr. Schmitt’s subsequent return to Australia.
Moreover, under the Paris Agreement on reparations from Germany, which came into force on 24th January, 1946, Australia is required to retain and liquidate German enemy assets within its jurisdiction at that date and to charge the value thereof against its reparation share.
It appears that Mr. Schmitt’s assets must be dealt with accordingly, and the Controller of Enemy Property regrets he is not in a position to release them from control.
That is the position at the moment. This man is in that position because of a slip. I understand that he had the required naturalization papers in his office and for some reason did not go any further about becoming naturalized. He was eleven years in Australia before the war, has an Australian wife and children and yet, because of the operation of the regulations, he has been told that everything that he has worked for in the last 23 years has been confiscated. The position is further complicated by the fact that in 1935 his wife bought out the other person who shared the manufacturing business with him, with the result that she owns one-quarter of the business. Of course the Controller of Enemy Property has no jurisdiction over her share of the property. But has he the power to liquidate a business of which only threequarters is owned by Mr. Schmitt? I have talked the matter over fully with Mr. Padman, who was formerly Mayor of Albury, and with many other residents of Albury who are prepared to say that Mr. Schmitt was not a nazi sympathizer and was never heard to voice any antiBritish sentiment. I hope that the Treasurer will take the matter up and try to rectify it.
– I naturally know nothing about the case that the honorable gentleman has mentioned, but I shall take the matter up with the Controller of Enemy Property. The honorable gentleman will realize, of course, that we are not free agents.We have certain obligations under the Paris agreement, as the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) pointed out in the letter that the honorable gentleman has read.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has raised the subject of the acoustics of this chamber. During the life of the Nineteenth Parliament this matter was thoroughly investigated in my presence by the responsible people. It is possible when no honorable members are in the chamber to sit in any part of it and hear a quiet conversation that is being carried on in any other part of it. I can assure the honorable gentleman that, from the two or three hours that I spent with other responsible people in testing the acoustics of the chamber, the quality of the acoustics is a matter that rests in the hands of honorable members themselves. If honorable gentlemen will persist in holding private conversations such as were held to-night while debates were in progress - a practice to which I have often had cause to call the attention of the House - there is nothing that can be done to improve the acoustics. If the acoustics are to be controlled I can assure the House that it will be only by the self-control of honorable members themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Science and Industry Research Act - Third Annual Report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, for year 1950-51.
House adjourned at 11.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Trea surer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s questions is as follows : - 1 to6. None of this information is compiled byany Commonwealth department or authority.
Mr.Keon asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of dollars was earned from Australian exports (a) direct to the dollar area and (b) indirectly through the United Kingdom or any other country in the sterling area, in each year since 1946 to date?
What amount of dollars was spent by Australia in each such year?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Further details may be obtained by reference to the bulletin issued by the Commonwealth Statistician - “ The Australian Balance of payments 1946-47 to 1950-51 “, a copy of which is available in the Parliamentary Library.
Government Loans and Finance.
a asked the Treasurer, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. A loan of £11,789,759 sterling will mature in London in September, 1952, and one of £10,796,065 sterling in February, 1954. In, both c– there are options of earlier redemptions and those options are now available to the Commonwealth. Both loans represent States’ debt, not Commonwealth debt.
Whether any of this debt will be transferred to Australia will be determined in consultation with the States concerned, and the Australian Loan Council, when steps are being taken to deal with the loans.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511121_reps_20_215/>.