20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister tell the House, if possible before the Par- ‘liament goes into recess, whether he and the Treasurer have been able to consider the case of the well-known musical society, Musica Viva, and the desirability of giving aid to it in order to enable it to continue its activities? I mentioned this matter on a previous occasion. I trust that the Prime Minister will be able to make a positive announcement in respect of it before the House adjourns for the recess.
– Although . I hope that I shall be able to make a statement on the matter to which the right honorable gentleman has referred, I .cannot definitely undertake to make it within the period he has suggested but I shall have something to say about it within the nest few days.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to one that has just been asked by the Leader of the Opposition ‘ concerning the future of the Musica Viva Society. Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the fact that this society is now the only notable group regularly engaged in the performance of chamber music in the eastern States, and possibly in Australia ? Consequently, if it is allowed to disband, the Australian Broadcasting Commission will probably be obliged to form another such group in order to fulfil its obligation to present balanced musical programmes, and it could only do so at a considerable cost and probably at a lower standard than that maintained by the Musica Viva Society. Will the Prime Minister consult the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on this subject and bear in mind the widespread requests for help to be given to this very meritorious group to save it from disintegrating?
– Earlier to-day the Leader of the Opposition asked me a similar question, and of course I thoroughly appreciate the interest in .this matter of the honorable member himself. As far as I know, the Government has had no communication from the Musica Viva Society. We therefore have no detailed information of any description about the position of the society, so far as I am aware. I have indicated that the Government will give consideration to such material as it has before it, but I think that it may not be inappropriate to say that the music lovers of this country have themselves some responsibility which is quite independent of the responsibility of the Government.
– The Premier of South Australia would not correspond with me upon such a matter, and I have not received any communication from him about it. He may have communicated with the Government, but I have no knowledge whether he has done so. I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware thai the Government’s direction to the War Service Homes Division to sell all homes occupied by tenants is causing great hardship to persons who have occupied these houses, in some instances foi periods up to twelve years ? Is he aware that war service homes that were valued under the contract for sale as far back as 1931 at £797, and upon which no rebate is at present owing, are now being revalued to be sold in accordance with the Government’s direction at £1,774? Wil) he take immediate steps to prevent the exploitation in this manner of homehungry ex-servicemen who are being asked to purchase homes at a price that is nearly £1,000 in excess of their original economic value ? Will he also take appropriate action to protect tenants who have take 11 great care of war service homes that they have occupied for long periods?
– I have no knowledge of the particular cases to which the honorable member has referred. The accepted practice in the division is similar to that which is normally followed in ordinary commercial life. I shall be pleased to investigate the matter that the honorable member has raised and will let him have a reply. Each of these cases is considered on its merits. If the honorable gentleman will furnish further information about the cases that he has in mind, I shall be pleased to examine them.
– The Prime Minister will doubtless recall that he requested honorable members, who attended the allparty meeting that was addressed by Lieutenant-General Sir Horace Robertson, to maintain the strictest secrecy about any of the statements which the LieutenantGeneral might make, and that such an assurance was given. Does not the right honorable gentleman consider that it is evidence of a most regrettable and disgraceful breach of confidence that any statements, distorted as they are, should appear in a newspaper and be attributed to honorable members who were present at that meeting?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s question is apparently based upon a statement that has appeared in a newspaper.
– I understood that the honorable member for Corio asked me how it could happen that a statement could he made in a newspaper about a private meeting of members of the Parliament. I agree with the opinion of the honorable gentleman that such a happening is deplorable. I think that it was originally suggested by the honorable member for Wilmot that a meeting should be held in order that Lieutenant-General Sir Horace Robertson could offer views, make a report, and be entirely intimate with members of this Parliament 1. myself was asked at a certain stage whether the meeting was to be open to the press, and I ventured to reply - I think with the approval of honorable members - that it was not open to the representatives of the newspapers. I considered that members of this Parliament, who have their own particular responsibilities, would be glad of the opportunity to hear, without any inhibitions, the views of a distinguished serving soldier about this most important campaign in Korea and matters which are associated with it. As honorable members who were present at that meetingand most of them were - will recall, I indicated at once that LieutenantGeneral Sir Horace Robertson was under no control on this matter, that he was to state his own views, that he was not present to expound any government policy, and that any honorable gentleman who wished to ask him a question would, within the limitations of time, receive an answer from him. The great advantage of such a meeting is that honorable members, who occupy positions of peculiar responsibility, should be able to hear things which are not necessarily matters of public statement. I am perfectly certain that 99 per cent, of the honorable members who were present at that meeting full recognized that fact, and attached value to it. It is a great misfortune that there should be even one honorable member who, in those circumstances, was so little aware of his duty, not to the Government or myself, but to the other members of the Parliament, as to furnish a somewhat sensational and distorted report of a speech which, I am sure all honorable members who are present will agree, was one of the greatest frankness and value.
– My question is addressed to the Vice-President of th, Executive Council, in his capacity as responsible for the arrangement of the order of the business of the House. Upon what principle, if any, does the honorable gentleman determine the speed with which a private member’s motion shall be considered, and whether or not such a motion shall be put to a vote of the House? My question is prompted by the facts that a vital private member’s motion upon aborigines was delayed for months and subsequently lapsed and that an impor tant motion upon soil erosion has been delayed for months and has not yet been voted upon, while a motion, not of comparable importance, of which notice was given only yesterday is to be discussed and voted upon to-day. Is the determining factor not the public importance of a motion but its value for party propaganda purposes?
– Doubtless the honorable gentleman is aware that I was appointed only recently to discharge the duty to which he has referred. One of the motions he mentioned was on the notice-paper and was dealt with before I assumed this duty. The subject of soil erosion was discussed in the House during a private member’s day by the honorable gentleman who placed the motion on the notice-paper. The principle upon which I act is the urgency of a motion, in the light of Government business.
– Some weeks ago, I. asked the Minister for Immigration a question relative to persons who broke the implicit agreement, which is associated with the issue of a passport, by going behind the “ iron curtain “ and to other countries to which the passport was not applicable. The Minister indicated that he was considering methods to overcome that difficulty. Can he now inform me whether he has contrived any means by which the tactics to which I have referred can be circumvented in future?
– The honorable member raised this matter with me some time ago and I intimated then that the Government had given some consideration to it. There has been a delay in giving him a precise answer because decisions on such matters, after discussion with the appropriate authorities in Australia, must be conveyed to our officers overseas. I shall ascertain whether before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess, I can give the honorable member a full official statement on the policy that the Government proposes to adopt in the future. This Government, like every other government in the British Commonwealth, recognizes that we must keep uppermost in our minds the right of our fellow citizens to travel freely to all parts of the world, subject only to the requirements of national security.
– In view of reports that Russia is increasing its already substantial fleet of submarines and is developing a chain of submarine bases in the Pacificwhich would constitute a grave menace to Australian shipping in the event of war, can the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Air assure the House that the Boya! Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force are being, adequately trained and equipped to cope with this type of warfare ?
– The first immediate priority of the Royal Australian Navy in the unfortunate event of a third world war would be to engage in anti-submarine protective work. “With this fact inmind, both the Navy and the Air Force authorities have established a joint anti-submarine school at Nowra, where officers and men are at present in training. Most of the programme of the Navy is devoted to anti-submarine activities; I think that it would becorrect to say that at least two-thirds of its preparations are directed to that end. I give the honorable member a positive assurance that the Navy and the Air Force are co-operating to the limit of their ability in order to cope with thi* problem and that our construction programme has been planned to provide for the maximum of anti-submarine preparations. Whilst I have heard that the Communists are establishing antisubmarine bases in Hainan, I have not heard that they are establishing a chain of bases in the Pacific area. However, 1 assure the honorable member that the problem receives constant attention and that there is close co-operation between, the Navy and the Air Force.
– By way of explanation of a question that I addressto the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I quote the following statement that a farmer has made in a letter to me regarding cornsacks : -
I wanted a bale and was told I could not get it unless I had 900 acres of wheat in.
The letter goes on to say, “ one has to have cornsacks for farms “. I ask the Minister whether the supply of cornsacks is adequate for the harvest, whether it is necessary for a farmer to have a certain acreage under ,crop before he can purchase cornsacks, or whether farmers can purchase cornsacks for general farming requirements ?
– Prom the official estimates that have been made, I am able to say that there is an adequate supply of cornsacks available for the harvest, and I think that there is no doubt that that is so. It is necessary, however, for a person who seeks to buy cornsacks to prove to the satisfaction of the authorities his own need for them whether they are required for wheat or other grain, or for potatoes or any other valid purpose. The reason is tha t last year certain people who anticipated shortages of cornsacks, or an increase of prices for them, bought thorn for speculative purposes, and hoarded them. This action deprived other people of their needs. The only test that is applied in relation lo the purchase of cornsacks is that a person who requires to purchase them shall establish the validity of his need for the number of cornsacks that he wishes to purchase. That requirement having been complied with, the cornsacks are available for purchase.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you will take steps to see that answers to questions that are placed on the notice-paper are furnished expeditiously by the departments concerned, and that when the Minister receives the necessary information from a department he will convey it expeditiously to the House. The reason that I ask the question is that some months ago I put a question on the notice-paper, addressed to the Minister for National Development, in relation to the possible abandonment of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. No answer has been given to that question up to date, although a number of other questions that I placed on the notice-paper, which required the compilation of a good deal of statistical information, have been answered. It seems that some Ministers take advantage of the fact that they are under no definite time limit in respect of furnishing answers to questions on notice, and leave them until the last day of the session when the required information is supplied. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you will take action in respect of this matter ?
– The honorable gentleman is asking me to do something that is completely outside my powers and responsibilities. Ministers are not obliged to answer questions unless they choose to do so. If they choose to answer questions, it is for them to decide when the answers will be given. I know, from my own study of the notice-paper, that some questions have been on it for some considerable time, but that is the responsibility of Ministers. It is not my responsibility, and I quite certainly do not seek any control over it.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. A few weeks ago the honorable member for Moore made the excellent suggestion that copies of questions asked upon notice should be distributed from week to week. That procedure, which is now being followed with great success, is of educational benefit to honorable members. In view of that fact, will you consider discussing with the President of the Senate whether he could arrange to have distributed to honorable members questions that are asked upon notice in the Senate?
-I undertake to comply with the request that the honorable member has made.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. On the 27th October, the new premises of the New South Wales Bush Nursing Association’s cottage hospital at St. Alban’s were opened. Early in October an application was made to the Postmaster-General’s Department for the transfer of the telephone from the old premises to the new premises. Up to date no action has been taken on that request. Will the PostmasterGeneral do everything in his power to have that transfer effected, because of the urgency of the matter.
– I am not acquainted with the circumstances of the case to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall have inquiries made and if it is possible to give effect to his request, it will be done.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that more than 4,500 postal employees have been dismissed under the Government’s scheme to reduce the Public Service by 10,000 employees ? Is it proposed that any additional postal employees shall be sacked under this scheme? Can he inform me what delay has occurred in the installation of new telephone services as a result of the dismissals of linemen and technical staff under the scheme?
– It is quite correct that, in accordance with the announced policy of the Government, a considerable number of postal employees have been retrenched, the number being 4,500 as the honorable member has said. It is not proposed to increase that number. We have narrowed the number of staff down to those persons who can be gainfully employed in accordance with the materials and resources at our command. The dismissals of staff would not have had a very great bearing on the delay in the installation of telephones. The moat potent reason for that delay is the shortage of cable and materials which is not affected by the retrenchment policy.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether he intends to issue licences for oats to be exported this season ? In view of the shortage of fodder which has been aggravated by the drought and bush fires in Queensland and northern New South Wales, will the Minister ensure that ample stocks of oats are held before licences for export are issued ?
– The answer to the question of the honorable member is “ Yes “. In accordance with customary practice, export licences for oats will be issued this season, but the quantity permitted to be exported will be dependent on the volume of oats harvested and the prospective demand for them. It has not been the practice to issue licences for the export of oats except after consultation by the officers of my department and I with the respective State Ministers for Agriculture and the officers of their departments. During my term of office and, I think, during that of my predecessor, no–” export permits have been issued which have not had the approval of the State governments which have taken into account the prospective needs of their areas. However, it is not reasonable to expect the grower of oats to hold hit commodity unsold against the contingency that some graziers may .need fodder at a later date. Graziers should protect themselves by making their own purchases of oats if they do not grow them.
– In explanation of a question which I address to the Prime Minister I desire to point out that the promoters of entertainments and other public functions held in order to raise funds for charity must pay entertainment tax if their expenses exceed 50 per cent, of the gross proceeds of the function. In view of the increasing cost of presenting entertainments in the country will the Prime Minister consider introducing amending legislation in order to permit a greater percentage of expense to be incurred in the conduct of entertainments for charity without payment of tax.
– The matter raised by the honorable member is one of Government policy and is therefore outside the standing order relating to questions.
– In view of the lack of provision in the free medicine formulary of several important life-saving commodities, will the Minister for Health give consideration to providing free cylinders of the life-saving gas oxygen? A person living in my electorate requires four cylinders of oxygen each week to maintain life, and that costs £3. I ask the Minister to assist that particular case because it concerns an invalid pensioner whose total income is only £3 a week.
– The Pharmaceutical Benefits Act makes no provi sion for such commodities.
– There are many unoccupied beds at the Prince of Wales’ Hospital, Randwick, because patients were transferred from there to another repatriation hospital. Will the Minister for Health make representations to the Repatriation Department with the object of making the Prince of Wales Repatriation General Hospital building available to the New South Wales Government to relieve the shortage of hospital accommodation in Sydney?
– About six months ago, I took this matter up with the Repatriation Department and the New South Wales Department of Health. The Repatriation Department announced its willingness to make three wards in the Prince of Wales Repatriation General Hospital available to the New South Wales Government for the purpose that the honorable gentleman has mentioned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the series of mishaps that have occurred to Trans-Australia Airlines Convair aircraft in the last few weeks, in two of which several honorable members of this House were involved, is the Minister satisfied that these aircraft are sufficiently airworthy to warrant continuance of their flight schedules? Will the Minister confer with his department on the advisability of temporarily withdrawing these aircraft from service for the purpose of a thorough overhaul? Furthermore, will he agree that a strong case exists for protecting, not only the travelling public from undue risk, but also the electorates from a series of unnecessary by-elections and the Opposition from unnecessary diminution of its numbers.
– I hope that there will not be any unnecessary by-elections, particularly in the electorate of Richmond. So far as the airworthiness of aircraft is concerned, not only of Convairs, but also of all aircraft of all aircraft companies, the Department of Civil Avia tion exercises a specially vigilant, supervision and inspection. Consequently, any aircraft permitted to fly has been subjected to the most rigorous tests as frequently as it is (possible for our limited staff to perform them. It should be remembered that Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and I draw no distinction between those concerns, have very fine engineering services. I have inspected the services of both organizations. At Essendon, Trans-Australia Airlines has one of the most comprehensive aircraft servicing installations in the world, where meticulous attention is given to every detail of the organization’s aircraft. After a machine has flown for a certain number of hours it is completely overhauled. So far as human ingenuity can do so the utmost care is taken to ensure that no risks will be incurred by the travelling public.
– Has the Minister for the Army received any complaints about conditions at Ingleburn camp in New South Wales? I refer particularly to the provision of amenities and conveniences, and the. general comfort of the troops. Is the Minister satisfied that conditions at Ingleburn are comparable with those at other camps such as Enoggera and Wacol ? Will he cause investigations to be made with a view to ensuring that troops stationed at Ingleburn camp shall be provided with the amenities and comforts that they were led to expect would be provided when they were asked to enlist?
– It has been my privilege and pleasure to inspect Ingleburn camp on a number of occasions. Apart from a special construction that the Department of Works and Housing has been unable to complete, because of shortages of man-power and materials, I am satisfied that conditions at Ingleburn camp are as good as those in other military camps in Australia, all of which I have visited. If the honorable gentleman will inform me of the matters that he has in mind, I shall be happy to inspect Ingleburn camp personally with a view to ascertaining whether they should be the subject of further consideration. The desire of the Government is that conditions in all military camps in Australia shall be of a uniformly high standard.
– I refer to the disastrous bush fires that recently raged through French’s Forest on the north side of Sydney Harbour. Will the PostmasterGeneral investigate the possibility of making cables and other equipment available for the installation of telephone fire alarms in the district of Balgowlah, which is peculiarly subject to the possibility of bush fires?
– I shall consider the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, but I point out to him that the Postal Department has received innumerable applications for the provision of telephone facilities, for purposes just as important as that to which he has referred, with which it is unable to comply.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the fine work that the National Theatre Movement is doing in Victoria by providing opportunities for young Australian artists to develop their talents and by promoting public interest in ballet, the opera, and the theatre generally? As the movement wishes to maintain its ballet and opera groups on a full-time basis, with a view to touring the whole of Australia, including provincial towns and cities, at regular intervals, is the Government prepared to grant a reasonable subsidy to it to enable it to achieve this highly desirable objective?
– The remarks that I have already made in respect of the Musica Viva apply ito the National Theatre Movement. I have had the opportunity of receiving certain representations on that matter and I have told the House that the Government will give due consideration to them, but I believe that it would be a grave misfortune for the arts in this country if it were thought that they depended entirely upon government patronage.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service recently said that, as a result of the challenging of the National Security (Coal MiningIndustry Employment) Regulations in the High Court, legislation had been prepared to take’ the place of the regulations and that a draft copy of the bill, which has not been presented to this House, has been forwarded to the Government of New South “Wales with the object of securing the concurrence of that Government in the matter of having complementary legislation enacted by the State Parliament. Has the State Government yet replied to the communication from this Government? Has it rejected the proposed legislation, or does it propose to enact complementary legislation, as it did in 1946? If it has rejected the bill, will the Minister make a statement to -the House to explain what will happen if legislation is not enacted to replace the regulations?
– The honorable member’s questions cannot be answered easily in a few words. Therefore, if the House will give rae the necessary permission, I shall make a statement on the subject at the end of question time. At this stage, all I shall say is that the Government tried to impress the urgency of the matter on the Government of New South Wales, that our draft bill has been communicated to that Government, that we have since been in touch with it by urgent telegram to ask for a reply, and that we have pointed out that the measure that is now before it is substantially in the same form as that which was agreed upon between it and the Chifley Government. I shall supply the honorable member with further details later, but I want to impress upon this House and those interests that are directly affected that this Government has done all that could reasonably be expected of it in order to bring the matter to finality. All that is holding us back at the moment is the absence of a decision by the New South Wales Government.
– by leave - Earlier, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr.
James) asked a question in relation to certain projected legislation affecting the coal-mining industry and industrial tribunals that relate to it. The position, briefly, is that the Government is still without any advice from the New South “Wales Government on the amendments to the Coal Industry Act that it proposed to submit to the Parliament during the current sessional period. Our draft bill was forwarded to the New South Wales Government on the 12th November, that is, more than a fortnight ago. That may not seem to be a very long period, having regard to the relationships that exist between governments. However, the real point is, as 1 stated in this House last week, and as we pointed out to the New South Wales Government at the time, that this draft bill is substantially in similar terms to a bill to which Mr. McGirr’s Government agreed in 1949 at the request of the Chifley Government. Honorable members will recollect that another draft bill dealing with some of the matters with which it is proposed to deal in the measure that we are anxious to bring before this House was submitted to the New South Wales Government in March last. 1 pointed out that that matter was one of urgency, and I am certain that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) will recall certain arguments that he advanced in one of our courts to the effect that amendments of the arbitration legislation in 1947 had brought into question the validity of decisions made by the Coal Industry Tribunal since that time. In our legislation we hope to remedy that position as well as other matters that were covered by that legislation.
Notwithstanding our efforts to get a reply from the New South Wales Government, we have no record of having received a reply since March of this year. We do, however, hold a letter signed on behalf of the Premier of New South Wales on the 17th July, in which he inquired what we proposed to do in relation to the 1949 bill which was agreed upon between his Government and the Chifley Government.
– What was that bill?
– It was substantially in the same form as the one that we now wish to introduce.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) says “substantially” in an inquiring tone; but I believe that the Government is entitled at least to know what the views of the New South Wales Government are. We have been waiting virtually since March of this year to ascertain what that Government proposes to do.
Honorable members will appreciate that, in these circumstances, the New South Wales Government must accept the responsibility for the present delays that have occurred in Sydney. I repeat that the issues involved in the bill that the Government now desires to introduce have been under the notice of the New South Wales Government for a long time. I remind the House, particularly members of the Opposition, that if the bill that we desire to introduce now is not passed this session, the craft unions in the coalmining industry will return to the jurisdiction of normal arbitration tribunals. Officials and members of the craft unions concerned must realize that if this happens the fault cannot be attributed to the Australian Government. They should not be misled by statements that have been made by certain officials of the miners’ federation in relation to the bill.
The provisions of the bill that relate to the constitution of the local coal authorities are in terms that were agreed upon in the discussions with the unions concerned. The draft bill - I emphasize this point because I understand that a certain amount of propaganda on the part of spokesmen of the miners’ federation has suggested that the contrary is the case - does not require the Coal Industry Tribunal to be guided by decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That matter was discussed earlier with them. Their opposition was noted, and in the draft bill that we submitted to the New South Wales Government that matter was taken into account and no provision was made that the Coal Industry Tribunal should necessarily be guided by decisions of the court.
– The Government proposes to amend the 1947 Coal Industry Bill ?
– Does that measure apply to craft unions?
– No ; but the right honorable gentleman will appreciate that they have been covered by certain National Security Regulations which are now under challenge in the High Court. I cannot go into details about the prospects in those proceedings, but, in view of constitutional considerations, we require to cover this position adequately. Mr. Gallagher acts as the Coal Industry Tribunal in relation to the miners’ federation and also in relation to certain disputes in New South Wales that affect the craft unions; but outside that State he acts under regulations as the chairman of a board of reference. The purpose of our bill is to enable him to act as the Coal Industry Tribunal in relation to not only the miners’ federation but also the craft unions. That is the principal purpose of the hill, and I gather that the opposition that is being maintained by the miners’ federation and also, in consequence, by the New South Wales Government - although this is supposition because we have not received any advice from that Government - is duc to the fact that our legislation provides that decisions of the Coal Industry Tribunal shall be enforceable in the same way as are decisions of conciliation commissioners.
– Does the Minister think that he should make statements that are based on pure supposition?
– It is common knowledge that it is likely that this House will rise this week. We advised the New South Wales Government to that effect by telegram a week ago.
The honorable member for Hunter has asked me to tell him the position and I am now endeavouring to do so to the best of my ability. not merely in the light of information that has been gained from press reports, but ako information that has reached us from other sources. It appears that the aspect which is causing some hold-up in this matter is the fact that the decisions of the Coal Industry Tribunal in relation to the miners’ federation and the craft unions would be enforceable in the same way as the decisions of the conciliation commissioners are now enforceable under our arbitration legislation. I make no apology on behalf of this Government when I say that we regard that as an essential aspect of this matter. If the decisions of appropriate tribunals are to be enforceable in relation to the rest of industry, I know of no good reason why decisions which are made in relation to the miners’ federation and the craft unions which are associated with it should not be enforceable in precisely the same way.
– The Minister is referring to the provision relative to contempt of court?
– That is so, and to the other provisions which were discussed by this Parliament earlier this year. But I point out that if the draft bill, which we have submitted, does not become law, the craft unions will- be back under the conciliation commissioners and the New South Wales Industrial Commission. The decisions of those tribunals are, of course, fully enforceable under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Act.
– What about the local coal authorities?
– They are covered at the moment by the National Security Regulations, which are under challenge, and it is highly doubtful, as I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will appreciate, whether they can be maintained indefinitely without legislation from this Parliament and the Parliament of New South Wales.
– The presiding officer of the Coal Reference Board is one and the same as the Coal Industry Tribunal.
– In practice, that is so. In substance the coal authority has been the same thing, because there has been, under the tribunals established by the regulations, a representative group of employers and employees, with Mr. Gallagher, sitting as the chairman of the Coal Reference Board. He sits as the industrial tribunal in relation to the miners’ federation. Under our legislation, the substance would not be changed from the position which exists, broadly, at the present time. If this Government were an entirely free agent, it could proceed along the lines which are indicated in our draftbill ; but, as the Opposition is aware, we have certain obligations to the Government of New South Wales. The act provides that weshall not amend our legislation without seeking the concurrence of the State government. We have sought that concurrence, and all that we can say at the moment is that, until the Government of New South Wales gives us a decision of one kind or another we are unable to proceed in relation to the legislation which we otherwise would submit to this Parliament.
– by leave - This matter has arisen because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), in reply to a question by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), has made a lengthy speech, the object of which is to put pressure upon the Government of New South Wales. Some Government suporters have interjected, “ Hear, hear ! “ I remind the House that, under the relevant statute, this Parliament cannot amend the existing law without the consent of the Government of New South Wales. The Minister sought that consent last March but, according to his own statement, he did not remind the Government of New South Wales of the necessity for it until pearly a week ago. Nothing happened in the meantime–
– That is not so.
– Has this Government made a request to the Government of New South Wales in the meantime?
– Our officers have been in touch with the Government of New South Wales frequently throughout that period.
– I gather from the Minister’s statement that he accepts the position that this Parliament cannot amend the act without the consent of the Government of New South Wales. He cannot use this Parliament in order to bring pressure upon the State Government to give its consent. It is perfectly true that the Minister succeeded in persuading this Parliament to agree to the bill which embodied the provision in relation to contempt of court, under which it is possible for the full court of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to impose severe penalties, including imprisonment for a period of twelve months, on persons who commit breaches of awards. He now wants the Parliament of New South Wales, which probably disagrees with him as much as the Opposition in this Parliament disagreed with him on that bill, to accept such a proposal in relation to an industry in respect of which it is quite unnecessary. The output of coal this year is a record. I submit that the practice which has been adopted by the Minister is quite improper. He must obtain the consent of the Government of New South Wales to his proposal, and he should not use this House as a forum in order to get it.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is undesirable that any person not an Australian should have any substantial measure of ownership or control over any Australian commercial broadcasting station, whether such ownership or control be exercisable directly or indirectly.
The need for a motion of this kind arose only recently, because, so far as I am aware, no Australian commercial broadcasting station was until then under any substantial measure of overseas ownership or control. The story that changes that position began in the middle of 1949, when London interests, known as the Bartholomew interests, acquired all the ordinary shares in the Argus and Australasian Limited and subsequently issued more ordinary shares to themselves. By such a device, they acquired, through a subsidiary known as Argus Broadcasting Services Proprietary Limited the control of three broadcasting stations in Victoria, which were 3SR Shepparton, 3UL Warragul and 3 YD Warrnambool. Then, on the 9th August, 1951, the same Bartholomew interests acquired the holdings of Broadcasting Associates Proprietary Limited, which controlled station 2GB Sydney and also Macquarie Properties Limited. By that purchase those interests acquired absolute control of the following licences : - 2CA Canberra, 2GB Sydney, 2LF Young, 2MG Mudgee, 5DN Adelaide, and 5RM Renmark. They acquired half-control of station 2 WL “Wollongong and some substantial measure of ownership, falling short of control ownership, in 2HR Hunter River, 2LT Lithgow, 2PK Parkes, and 3AW Melbourne.
I invite honorable members to examine the background of those transactions. The Bartholomew interests are extremely wealthy London interests, although the source of their wealth continues to be a little obscure. They publish, in the main, two London newspapers and own two companies the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Pictorial. Those, two companies are interlocked by 23 per cent, shareholding, one in the other. Each company has seven directors. Four of the directors in each of those two companies are common to both companies. They are Mr. Bartholomew, Mr. King, Mr. Coope and Mr. Cooke. Those two groups, the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Pictorial, formed a dummy company which was known as Australasian Nominees Limited, and, through it, they bought the Argus newspaper. The Argus is controlled by a board of four, consisting of Mr. Bartholomew, who is the head of the Bartholomew group, Mr. Elliott, who is a member of the board of the Sunday Pictorial in London, Mr. Patience, a Sydney solicitor, and one other. But I direct attention to the fact that, in the report of the chairman of the Argus organization on the 25th August, 1949, Mr. Elliott and Mr. Patience were officially described as representing the London interests. Three of the four members of the board are thus representatives of the Batholomew group. That group exercises complete control, first, because it owns all the ordinary shares and, secondly, because three of the four board members are its nominees.
The next event was the formation of another holding company known as M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited. It is not clear what, the initials M.P.A. represent, but they are generally thought to stand for Mirror-Pictorial-Argus. This company’s first function was to carry the financial loss of the Argus and to provide the extra money that the Argus’ needed for expansion. It lent an amount of £566,000 to the Argus. I imagine that, in all probability, this paper was no longer a normal commercial venture because the Argus, instead of showing profits, had been sustaining losses which last year alone amounted to- £122,000. This venture is now being bolstered up with moneys that are being fed to it by the Bartholomew group in London through its subsidiary, M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited. Thereare five directors of the subsidiary - Bartholomew; Cooke, who is one of the directors common to both of the London firms; Patience, the Sydney solicitor who has been described officially as a representative of the London interests; a Mr. Mclntyre, whom I understand tobe a partner of Mr. Patience; and an accountant who holds no substantial interest. Thus, M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited is completely under the domination of the Bartholomew interests. As I have said, this company on the 9th August, 1951, bought complete ownership rights of Broadcasting Associates Limited and Macquarie Properties Limited for £287,000. By that means it obtained control of the whole of what is known as the Macquarie network.
The Macquarie network consists, not only of stations that I have named as being in its ownership, but also of a number of ‘ other co-operating stations that are bound more or less closely to it, perhaps with some freedom of policy and some freedom to break away, but generally under the control of the network because of the nature of their commercial association. Those other stations are, 2M”W Murwillumbah, 3CV Maryborough, 4BH Brisbane, 4BU Bundaberg, 4GY Gympie, 6IX Perth, 6MD Merriden, 6WB Katanning, 7HO Hobart and 7LA Launceston.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) must remain silent. I am not going to allow the debate to degenerate into a display of unseemly levity. If honorable gentlemen do not conduct themselves with propriety inside the chamber, I shall promptly deprive them of the right to remain in it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker.
– I call the honorable gentleman to order. He must resume his seat.
– I did not speak.
– Order !
– Those stations form a part of the Macquarie network. In addition, no fewer than 41 other stations have some loose co-operating association with the network. Furthermore, there is a measure of co-operation, without any ownership or direct control, with 3UZ Melbourne, which broadcasts the Argus news and which, to some degree, is under the executive direction of a Mr. Warden, who was lately associated with the Bartholomew or Argus group. The Bartholomew group, therefore, controls, in one way or another, one-third of the Australian broadcasting system, a measure of control which, I suggest, no foreign or overseas group should be permitted to exercise.
Opposition Members. - A British group !
– An overseas group ! Even that is not the end of the story. Not only has the group invested an amount of nearly £1,500,000 in the Argus and its publications, but also it has a large sum which, according to its chairman, is available for investment in Australian newspaper ventures. It is well known that the group tried to buy, for example, the interests of Truth and the Daily Mirror and that it is negotiating for the purchase of other newspaper properties.
This is not & normal commercial venture. It is an attempt by an overseas group, even if it be a British group, to gain control of Australian public opinion. Nothing like this has happened in Australia, for many years at any rate. In the early years of Australia’s history, news was supplied to Australians only through a newspaper called the Sydney Gazette, which started publication in 1803 and which was supported entirely by the British Government. That situation existed until approximately 1824, when my great-grandfather, in partnership with Mr. Wardell, founded the first free newspaper on the Australian continent - the Australian. That journal was the focusing point for the Australian sentiment that led to the establishment of the New South Wales Constitution and ultimately to the establishment of the Constitution on which this House rests. Although that newspaper had its struggles, particularly against Governor Darling, from 1825 onwards it championed the cause of Australianism, which was a proper cause to champion, and the fundamental idea that, although we are loyal to Great Britain and constitute a part of the British Empire, we should preserve our Australian identity. It is essential that public opinion and the organs through which it is able to find expression should be free from overseas control, even British control. Just as, 100 years ago, we asserted our identity as a people with independent parliaments and just as that identity was largely founded on a newspaper that could focus public opinion, so to-day we must preserve that identity and those liberties. We do not want colonialism to return, even by the back door! Just as democracy is founded on the axiom that the ballot-box gives an honest reflection of public opinion and fails to work if the ballot-box can be tampered with, so also will democracy fail to work if the organs of public opinion can be tampered with and manipulated by overseas interests.
The present transaction, if it is completed, will bring about some degree of domination of one-third of the Australian broadcasting system by overseas interests, which already dominate an important newspaper and are attempting to extend their own empire on Australian soil.
Our relationship with Great Britain is based on loyalty, but our loyalty can express itself only if we retain our national identity as a people. Nothing is more calculated to destroy the ties of loyalty than is overseas interference in matters that should be the concern of Australians and of nobody else. This concept was well expressed by Kipling in a poem in which he referred, I believe, to the relationship which existed between Canada and Great Britain. He wrote! -
A nation spoke to a nation,
A throne sent word to a throne, “ Daughter am I in my mother’s house.
But mistress in my own.”
That is the concept which differentiates the system of empire from the colonial system that preceded it. I believe that if we do not stand firm and stop this transaction from being completed we shall sooner or later have a return to that old colonialism. This is not a question of whether or not there should be any investment in our economy by Great Britain or other countries. Indeed, generally speaking, we wish to have such investment, and would encourage it. But thi3 matter has nothing to do with the general subject of investment. Anything which touches public opinion and the way in which it is expressed should be sacrosanct from outside interference in the same way as the ballot-box should be sacrosanct from manipulation. We cannot brook any interference with public opinion even though we wish to encourage British investment in our general commercial life. The reason is that our general commercial life is set in the frame of public opinion so that we must avoid any interference “with public opinion by overseas or foreign interests. I have said “ overseas interests “, and in this case they are British interests, but let this House take warning lest foreign interests, in the proper sense of the term, follow up a move such as this. I do not like to remind the House of what has happened in other countries and in other times, but I do remind it that the fall of Prance, and the rotting of the soul of France, were due to the fact that Nazi and Communist agencies gained control of the Parisian press in the years before the last war. That kind of thing must not be allowed to happen in Australia, and the time to stop it is now.
This Parliament has a direct responsibility in relation to radio broadcasting, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will forgive me if I quote certain words that he uttered in this chamber on the 2nd June, 1942. According to Hansard, volume 171, at page 1879, he said -
Broadcasting is siu.-h an all-pervading agency that, in its effects for good or ill, it cannot he compared with the daily press. People may refuse to buy a newspaper, or may read only portions of it, and then throw it away. But broadcasting enters right into the centre nf the family. A wireless station can send its message, into the domestic hearth, and every member of the family will hear it.
That is one of the reasons why we should pay to the control of radio even greater attention than we do to the control of newspapers. Another reason is that every radio channel is, in its way, a monopoly, and we should scrutinize such monopolies with particular care. The third and overwhelming reason is that this Parliament has a constitutional power and a constitutional responsibility in relation to radio broadcasting. We have no such power in respect of the penetration of the Australian press by foreign or overseas interests. That is a matter for the States and not for us. But control of broadcasting is committed to the charge of this Parliament. What powers have we in relation to it? Section 49 of the Australian Broadcasting Act gives to the Minister disciplinary powers of suspending, revoking or cancelling any licence for a commercial broadcasting station, when there has been a breach of the act or when he considers it advisable in the public interest to take such action. It may well be that the transactions that I have ref erred to do constitute a breach of the act. That is a debatable point, and a matter on which honorable members may form their own opinions.
Quite apart from the question whether the transactions constitute a breach of the act, the Minister has power and responsibility to act if it is in the public interest for him to do so. In these matters it is overwhelmingly in the public interest and in the interests of the Australian nation for him to act. It is true that section 6k of the act gives to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board the right to advise the Minister, but the Minister is not in any way dependent on this advice. He is quite free to act whether the board advises him or not. In this case there are two reasons why the board is perhaps a little reluctant to give advice. The first is an incidental reason. One of tho members of the board, who was appointed by the previous Labour Government, was Mr. Olive Ogilvy. He has just recently retired from the board to take over the position of managing director of the Macquarie broadcasting interests and is, perhaps, the man most intimately concerned in this whole transaction. The board may well feel some reluctance to intervene in the affairs of their late colleague. That, however, is a minor reason. The more fundamental reason is that in a matter such as this is the decision should not be made by any arbitrary body or any board without reference to the people’s representatives in this Parliament. In a major matter such as this is the only people who should determine it are the members of this House and of the Senate, to whom is committed the charge of protecting and fostering the interests of the people. An important principle like this should not be left for decision by any board, how.ever unbiased it may be. The decision rests with us in this Parliament. If we pass this motion we shall show to these people that Australia means business. It will then be for the Minister to negotiate with them-
Mr. Fitzgerald interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) must cease interjecting. He is usually a very orderly honorable member.
– The Minister should negotiate with those interests to ensure that this overseas control shall be broken and to make with them what arrangements he can for the transfer of those interests into Australian hands again. Nobody suggests that the licences should be cancelled out of hand or that property rights should be. disregarded. What we want to do is to let the Minister know that during the negotiations with these people so that this wrong that has been done to the Australian community can be cured, there stands behind him the power of this Parliament. We want him to know also this Parliament’s opinion of what is really in the public interest. I do not believe that the large and arbitrary powers that are reposed in the Minister by the Australian Broadcasting Act, which was passed in 1942, should in fact, be exercised by the Minister without an expression of opinion from the Parliament. In fact, it might well be that whatever is done in this matter could best be done by statute. In the meantime, let there be negotiations and let there be given to those people a warning that this House and the Australian people mean business and will not tolerate what they are proposing to do. I should support an amendment to the act, if any should be brought down, to curtail the arbitrary powers of the Minister, because I do not believe that they should be exercised without the concurrence of both Houses of the Parliament. Nor do I believe that the commercial broadcasting stations should be left without any security of tenure, as they are now, or that they should be dependent on the whim of the Minister of the day. L believe that we require to amend the. act to give them security of tenure and to make certain that that security of tenure is not interrupted except by a vote of both Houses of the Parliament. That is a problem for the future - perhaps for next session. But the present position cannot be allowed to remain. The water must not be allowed to flow under the bridge indefinitely. Notice must be served now upon these people by this House that what they have done is antiAustralian and will not be tolerated by the Australian people.
Honorable members will notice that I have used three important expressions in my motion. First, I have mentioned a “ substantial measure of control “ - not absolute control, perhaps, but any substantial measure of control whether exercised by ownership or in any other way. I have worded the motion in that way as to prevent any legal quibble from being successful. Secondly, I have mentioned “ direct or indirect control “. I chose that phrase because it is necessary to avoid the dummying which has characterized the transactions that I have described. Thirdly, I have used the word “ Australian “. By “ Australian “.I mean a person who is a bona fide resident in the Australian community and, of course, that includes any British person who comes here with the intention of living permanently amongst us. I say these things as one whose family connexion with Australia is as long as that of any honorable member of this House. In the interests of Great Britain and in our own interests we must preserve the identity of the Australian community. We should not permit interference in our internal affairs any more than a daughter brooks her motherinlaw’s interference in the domestic management of her house. We want to have the closest possible ties with Great Britain, but this action of the Bartholomew interests is designed not to strengthen but to sever those ties. We do not want them to be severed. We are loyal to Great Britain and the Empire and that loyalty can best be expressed by us as Australians with our Australian identity. The glory of Great Britain is certainly a glory of the past. Whether it be a glory of the future only time can tell. Looking to the past, we share with pride those traditions of British glory. For the future, it may well be that British glory will lie in the British nations overseas. It may well be that we shall take up the running just as a son will take up the running from his parents. What I wish to say may, perhaps, best be summarized by quoting two lines that were written some time ago by my great-grandfather, who expressed a wish that -
May Australasia float with flag unfurled,
A new Britannia in another world.
.- I second the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) very eagerly because the matter before the House is of tremendous importance. The acquisition of a large network of Australian commercial broadcasting stations and the purchase of the interests of the Argus and Australasian Newspapers Limited must occasion some considerable concern to those who have given any real thought to it. There are extremely serious if not sinister, implications in this far-reaching transaction. There have been moves connected with it which, to say the least, are highly suspect. The action which has been taken by the overseas interests concerned constitutes as great a threat to honorable members of the Opposition or sections of them, as it does to honorable members on this side of the House. This huge combination of major newspaper and radio organizations constitutes a threat to the existence of a free Australia and, for that reason, transcends party politics and personal issues. It is a tremendous propaganda medium in the making. Propaganda conditions the mind. If subtly applied, it follows a long-range plan. Honorable members on both sides of the House should view this huge monopoly of newspapers and broad- casting stations as a threat to the freedom of this country.
When I first raised this subject in the House by way of a question to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) piously asked what objection there was to British capital coming into this country. The same question was asked from the Opposition side of the House to-day. But let us examine the position closely and find out just how British this alleged British capital is. M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited is a company which was incorporated in Victoria, in 1949. Its 866,500 shares are held equally by or on behalf of Daily Mirror Newspapers Limited and Sunday Pictorial Newspapers Limited, two public companies which are registered in England. M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited has purchased the whole of the interests of the Denison Estates Proprietary Limited including the vast Macquarie radio network and other radio interests. Attempts are also being made to take over the Sydney Sun and attempts have been made to purchase other newspapers in this country. This infiltration of Bartholomew interests into a vast section of the Australian press and commercial broadcasting bodes evil for the Australian way of life. Mr. H. G. Bartholomew, chairman of the Daily Mirror group of interests, is vicechairman of M.P.A Productions Proprietary Limited, the company that now controls the Argus newspaper and the Macquarie network and other radio interests. Several other directors are common to both organizations.
No doubt honorable members will recall some of the articles and cartoons that appeared in the Daily Mirror during 1941 and 1942, which incited discontent and rebellion against the war effort. One cartoon depicted a distressed shipwrecked seaman on a raft in mid-ocean. The caption to the cartoon read, “ The price of petrol has gone up a penny “. The suggestion was that British seamen were risking and losing their lives in order to enable oil companies to make bigger profits. This cartoon was the culmination of many similar scurrilous cartoons and articles. It was the culmination of a spate of anti-British and anti-war effort propaganda. Mr. BE. G. Bartholomew, who controlled the newspaper which published those cartoons and articles, now has a controlling interest in newspapers and radio stations in Australia. The cartoon to which I have referred was the subject of u question which was asked in the House of Commons. At page 1,666 of volume 378 of the Parliamentary Debates of the Mouse of Commons, Mr. Spens is reported to have addressed a question to the then Home Secretary, Mr. Herbert Morrison, in which he asked whether it was considered that such propaganda was calculated to discourage seamen and all classes of readers from serving the country in its time of need. He certainly thought so and requested preventive action. Mr. Herbert Morrison, who was a Labour member of the British Parliament, stated that the cartoon was only one example, but a particularly evil one, of the policy and methods of a newspaper intent on exploiting the appetite for sensation, and with reckless indifference to the national interest and prejudicial effect on the war effort. The Daily Mirror had repeatedly published scurrillous misrepresentations, distorted and exaggerated statements and irresponsible generalization. He then said that such insidious attacks were inexcusable and that they created a spirit of despair and defeatism. Mr. Morrison further said that the Daily Mirror had already been warned officially.
Later, during the debate that followed. Mr. Morrison said that certain articles in the Daily Mirror had caused British army authorities grave concern as they were calculated to undermine confidence and discipline. He then expressed the view that reasonable criticism on specific points was one thing, hut general violent denunciations manifestly tending to undermine the army and depress the whole population was another. So much for the opinion of Mr. Herbert Morrison about the organization that now threatens press and radio channels in Australia. The overt or disguised incitements to refrain from helping the war effort by poisoning the springs of national loyalty were, to say the least, traitorous, if not treasonable. Yet these are the people who have taken over the Melbourne Argus and Australasian. These are the people who have acquired the Macquarie radio network. These are the people who were negotiating to take over the Sydney Sun. In assuming control of the Argus and Australiasian they have also taken over its subsidiaries. Those subsidiaries are the Australian Post, the Argus War Report, the Australian Turf Register, Woman’s World, Australian Farm and Home and Tour Garden. All these newspapers are now exposed to the threat of the same evil influence that pervaded Great Britain during the last war.
The same persons who are interested in those newspapers have now acquired the huge Macquarie broadcasting network, and other radio stations, and I propose to give a list of the. stations that are concerned so that honorable members opposite can take stock of the position. It has been said that the notorious Hearst press of the United States is closely tied up with the Bartholomew interests. Repeated questions asked of Mr. Morrison in the House of Commons failed to elicit a denial of that fact. I shall now detail the broadcasting stations that are involved in the acquisitions of this company in Australia. The honorable member for Mackellar gave the House a list of the radio stations directly concerned. I propose to give a list of the broadcasting stations that co-operate with the Macquarie direct network. These stations broadcast the Macquarie programme as and when directed and are ‘known officially as co-operating stations.
There are 21 direct stations and 44 co-operating stations concerned in this transaction. Therefore it will be seen that almost the entire broadcasting system of Australia is involved in this plot.
The co-operating stations in Victoria are 3BA Ballarat, 3BO Bendigo, 3MA Mildura, 3SR Shepparton. 3WB Warrnambool, 3UL Warragul and 3GL Geelong.
The New South Wales co-operating stations are 2AD Armidale, 2KM Kempsey, 2KA Katoomba, 2WG Wagga, 2AY Albury, 2GN Goulburn, 2TM Tamworth, 2MO Gunnedah, 2BS Bathurst, 2DU Dubbo, 2BH Broken Hill, 2QN Deniliquin, 2GI” Grafton, 2BE Bega, 2RG Griffith, 2HD Newcastle and 2XL Cooma.
In Queensland the co-operating stations are 4CA Cairns, 4BL Charleville, 4LG Longreach, 4MK Mackay, 4MB Maryborough, 4EO Rockhampton, 4GR Toowoomba, 4ZR Roma, 4WK Warwick, 4TO Townsville and 4AY Ayr.
I am glad to say that there are no cooperating stations in South Australia. In Western Australia, the stations that co-operate with the direct stations of the Macquarie network are 6AM Northam, 6GE Geraldton, 6KG Kalgoorlie, 6TZ Dardanup and 6CI Collie.
In Tasmania the co-operating stations are 7BTJ Burnie, 7AD Devonport, 7DY Derby and 7QT Queenstown.
That is a very impressive list of radio stations and indicates the widespread nature of the network that may be influenced by the Bartholomew interests. It must be remembered that all these cooperating stations work in conjunction with the 21 direct radio stations and are dispersed throughout the States of Australia. It will be realized how powerful a weapon has been forged when the words of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) about the effectiveness of radio are considered. He said -
The all-pervading power of radio to .penetrate the public mind is beyond all other forms of propaganda.
In the light of the record of the Daily Mirror during war-time in England, honorable members should ask themselves for what purpose this great network has been built up in Australia?
– Most of the stations that the honorable member has mentioned broadcast John Henry Austral every day.
– I have no doubt that they do broadcast programmes of entertainment. Naturally they would do so if they wanted to earn income; but I suggest that this radio network could be used as a powerful medium for the spread of propaganda in the same way as the Daily Mirror was used in Great Britain. It is not in the public interest for any organization to have control of such a vast radio network and of so many newspaper channels. The record of the Bartholomew interests in Great Britain is decidedly unBritish and it is most likely that their record in Australia will be decidedly 1111A,ustralian. This House has a duty to see that such a great medium for the dissemination of news and propaganda should not be in the hands of any person or organization outside Australia. Even if an organization such as this were in the hands of an Australian we should ensure that he had resided here for some considerable time and that a suitable check had been made of his bona fides. The broadcasting medium is too influential to be in the hands of those who might prove to be disloyal to Australia and its interests.
– This is one of the most extraordinary motions ever to be put before the Parliament. A perusal of the motion will show that it has nothing to do with the Bartholomew interests. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) has realized the force of the argument that he knows will be advanced against it. The motion is anti-British and is directed against the investment of British capital in Australia. Therefore, the honorable member for Bass has argued that the Bartholomew interests have proved to bc un-British.
But the motion relates not to the Bartholomew organization, but to any British investor. It refers to “ any person not an Australian It covers investment in the form of either direct ownership and control of broadcasting companies or substantial shareholdings in such companies or groups of companies. If the Times of London wanted to have interests of that kind in this country, this motion would apply to it.
– Of course it would.
– The motion would apply- to any British organization that wanted to invest capital in an Australian commercial broadcasting station, irrespective of whether the organization was approved by the honorable member for Bass.
The real purpose of the motion is concealed. Why do the proposer and seconder object to the investment of British capital in this form of Australian enterprise? They have not objected to the investment of British capital in Australian shipping and airline companies, which render services that are vital to the nation. It is well known that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is controlled largely by British shipping interests. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not object to that form of investment, but they object to British investment in Australian commercial broadcasting companies. The reason for the objection was disclosed by the honorable member for Bass, who does not object to those organizations being used for propaganda purposes if the propaganda is in his favour. He does not object to chains or groups of newspapers when they are opposed to the Australian Labour movement, but he takes the view that, if one newspaper proceeds to give the Labour party a fair deal, it should be dealt with, although not by law. If these overseas investors are breaking the law of the land, let the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) enforce the law. The object of this motion i3 to alter the law retrospectively. The Bartholomew organization, rightly or wrongly, has bought shareholdings in Austraiian companies. Does the Government propose to rip up the documents in relation to those transactions? There is no answer to that question. The Government would not dare, and probably has not the constitutional power, to do so, even though it would like to do it. Instead of saying, “We stand by the principle that was enunciated by the Postmaster-General and we apply it in future”, the Government has adopted the circuitous device of a private member’s motion, the purpose of which is to prevent the utterance in Australia of any political opinions of which it does not approve. That is why I say that this is a most improper motion.
Government members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask honorable members on my right to give a fair hearing to the Leader of the Opposi tion (Dr. Evatt). If they are not prepared to do so, I shall have to take action against them. I do not want to do that, because Christmas is coming.
– Let rue examine closely what is involved in this preposterous motion. It is not limited to the Bartholomew interests. It applies to any British investors, even to those who would be considered to be desirable from every point of view. Broadly speaking, and subject to one condition that I shall mention, the policy of Australian governments, both Commonwealth and State, should be, and always has been, to encourage British investment in this country. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) referred to a very distinguished Australian in the person of his greatgrandfather, who founded an Australian, newspaper. I venture to suggest that the capital that was put into that newspaper was British capital, because the honorable member’s greatgrandfather brought British capital to this country.
The figures that show the degree to which capital from overseas has been invested in -this country are very impressive. At the 30th June, a total of £337,900,000 was invested in Australia by other countries. United Kingdom shareholdings in Australian companies were £88,400,000. Inter-company accounts owned by Australian subsidiary companies to parent companies in the United Kingdom, which represent British capital invested here, amounted to £36,300,000. The assets of Australian branches of United Kingdom companies were of the value of £127,000,000. The total United Kingdom investment in Australia amounted to no less than £251,700,000. The United States of America had a total investment of £48,200,000, and other countries, including Holland, of £33,000,000. The aggregate of the capital invested in Australia at that date by other countries was no less than £337,900,000. Between 1947 and 1950, the paid-up capital in Australian companies held by shareholders in the United Kingdom increased from £64,300,000 to £88,400,000, that held by shareholders in New Zealand increased from £9,800,000 to £10,100,000, that held by shareholders in Canada remained at. £3,500,000, and that held by shareholders in the United States of America increased from £22,000,000 to £28,700,000. The aggregate increased from £105,400,000 to £137,600,000.
The reason for the increase is. that, when the war ended,, this country sought capital, investment from overseas. The policy of the Chifley Government was to attract to Australia capital from the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The then Opposition approved of that policy. Because it was considered that during the war years there’ had been a lack *f capital investment in Australia, capital investment from overseas was encouraged, so much so that we made an agreement with the United Kingdom for the avoidance of unfair double taxation. The relevant bill was presented to the Parliament and was agreed to unanimously. Its object was to encourage investment in Australia from the United Kingdom. Investment by United Kingdom citizens or companies in Australian enterprises is welcomed, subject only to the condition that the people of Australia shall be protected bylaw against the possibility of exploitation by unfair trade practices or by monopoly practices. That should apply to all capital that is embarked in this country whether it is overseas, or Australian, capital. Subject to that condition, it is a help to Australia to have overseas capital. Undertakings that are expensive must be supported by adequate capital. The sham of this proposal is revealed when we examine anologous enterprises. I refer to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is one of the two airline companies with great interests in this country. Substantial British capital is indirectly embarked in that company, and, to a large degree, it is contributed by British shipping companies. There is no objection to it on that score; but the Parliament controls the operations of airline services and under the general law it deals with any exploitation of the people through such services. Dutch, British and American capital is invested in oil companies in this country. What objection can there be to such investments?
That capital is of value1 to the country so long as the Parliament protects the community against the unfair employment of it.
The honorable member for Mackellar referred to the radio as a medium of information or propaganda. What are the film interests in this country ? Surely, they are more decidedly propaganda, media than are radio broadcasting organizations. What is the true origin of the capital that is invested in the Australian film industry? It is true that we have Australian companies, but they are representatives of overseas companies. Again, the same principle applies. There is no objection to the investment of overseas capital in that way so long as the laws of the country prevent it from being used unfairly. Subject to that condition, the investment of overseas capital should be encouraged.
The late Mr. Chifley, when his Government was in office, encouraged the establishment of hundreds of enterprises in this country,, especially from Great Britain and the United States of America. I refer, for instance, to. the Courtauld organization.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman is getting away from the terms of the motion, which reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is undesirable that any person not an Australian should have any substantial measure of ownership or control over any Australian commercial broadcasting station,, whether such ownership or control be exercisable directly or indirectly.
The motion does not refer- to general investment of overseas capital.
– I am pointing out that there is a recognized practice under which overseas capital is encouraged to come to this country; and, no doubt, under that practice these particular capital investments took place. In respect of radio broadcasting companies, such capital was encouraged to come here, in a sense, at the general invitation of the Government just as the Chifley Government, in 1946, encouraged the investment of overseas capital in Australia. The Parliament is entitled to control the employment of capital in the country. It makes laws on how it should be used.
That practice should not be abused. Subject to that consideration, overseas capital should be encouraged. However, the motion before the Chair is not designed to uphold that principle. The motion is not genuine. It attempts to rip open and destroy a particular transaction that has been completed and as a result of which new rights have been acquired.
– How does the right honorable gentleman know that?
– I have taken the word of those who have engaged in research in respect of this matter, Apparently, the transaction has been completed. That being so, it would be completely unjust and improper to interfere with it. Such interference “would constitute a complete repudiation of a transaction that has already been entered into and is past and done with. The real object of the honorable member who submitted the motion and of the honorable member who seconded it is to frustrate the establishment of broadcasting interests in this country that might give a fair <leal to the Labour movement. Indeed, supporters of the Government wish to establish a monopoly of propaganda for the cause in which they believe. They are not entitled to succeed in that respect. At present, during general election campaigns and at other periods they are used to conditions under which radio broadcasting stations give to their political broadcasts a colour adverse to the Labour movement. They are not used to having propaganda dished out to them.
– The object of the mot-ion U to ensure a greater measure of protection for Australian interests.
– No ; its object is to protect the precious political interests of the Government parties, and the honorable member knows that to be so. I ask the House to examine the motion carefully. Honorable members opposite do not object to British capital. Indeed, they would welcome British capital in this instance if they thought that the new interests would ensure that propaganda would go their way. Why do they fear this investment of British capital? The fact is that the same interests already control the Melbourne
Argus. That newspaper has given a fair deal in its news and editorial columns to the Labour movement. Honorable members opposite do not like that.
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order! If honorable members do not maintain silence, I shall take action to ensure that they shall do so. ‘
– Your intervention, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, shows that Government supporters can dish it out but not take it. The House should reject the motion, Honorable members who read it will see that it is directed against British interests of a particular character. The proposition that it conveys is completely untenable from the standpoint of the Parliament. Therefore, it should be rejected.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has worked up what I must describe as a synthetic passion on this matter. The truth - and it has already clearly appeared from the other side of the House - is that the Opposition is entirely beguiled by the fact that the particular group from overseas that has set out to purchase these wireless broadcasting stations is one that runs a newspaper of the most violent Labour kind and, therefore, honorable members opposite believe that this is an attack upon their friends. Of course, I entirely understand their view in that respect. It is a very spirited thing, indeed, to defend one’s friends, and I am delighted to think that honorable members opposite should be doing that; but, in the course of doing so, they have, I need hardly say, completely falsified the issue. The Leader of the Opposition devoted a great deal of time to defending the investment of overseas capital in Australia. I was very interested to hear that defence.
– Investment of British capital..
– No, not, only British capital. But honorable members opposite must settle that matter, as they must settle other matters, among themselves. The Leader of the Opposition defended investments from overseas with great spirit. I was very glad to hear him do so, because while governments that he supported were in office I had no clear recollection of honorable members opposite being so violently attached to the investment of overseas capital in Australia as they now appear to be. But the problem is not whether there should be overseas investments in Australia. This Government believes that Australia has a shortage of capital expressed in terms of real things. Therefore, it is in favour of the overseas investment of plant and man-power and investments of all kinds that will be productive for Australia. But this motion has nothing to do with that problem. It is directed to the question of whether people who are not Australians, wherever they may come from, should secure a substantial control over some form of internal propaganda in Australia.
– Why does not the Government prohibit the importation of all books and make a good job of it?
– If the Government did that, it would cause no hardship to the honorable member. But the question is - let honorable members opposite face up to it - whether the Government should permit or even encourage a state of affairs in which the most intimate form of propaganda known to modern science that is being conducted in this country, one that is going into every home and is reaching every man, woman and child in this country, should be in the hands of people who do not belong to this country. That is the real question. It is extremely interesting to hear honorable members opposite going allBritish to-day. Such an attitude on their part has all the charm of novelty, and we note it with great interest.
– Do we not spring from the British race?
– Yes, we do; and I am delighted to think that at last honorable members opposite are proud of that fact. We are proud of it, but we believe - and this is the starting point of this argument - that broadcasting has an intimate and pervasive quality - I adopt the words that the Leader of the Opposition used - which marks it out from all other forms of propaganda.
– That is why the right honorable gentleman hates to lose it.
– Lose what?
– Broadcasting facilities.
– I am glad to hear that rather sinister remark from the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser); but if he is trying to introduce some issue about party broadcasting stations, he should know that for every one that the Government parties have the Labonr party has five in this country. If he does not know that, he should devote his apprentice days in this Parliament to learning a few things about public affairs.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! There is too much noise.
– Still, it is only noise. Let honorable members opposite test this matter by carrying it to its ultimate result. Suppose that it turned out that by reason of this much-defended overseas investment of money, every broadcasting station in Australia fell into the hands of people who were not .Australians.
– Nationalize them.
– I shall come to that point later; but I shall take this point first whether or not the honorable member likes it. Suppose that all broadcasting stations in Australia, were in the hands of people who were not Australians, would honorable members opposite, view that state of affairs with satisfaction? If they would do so, let them tell the people of Australia that that is their view. Of course, the moment I say that, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), following the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), says, “ That is easy ; let us nationalize them “. It is a pretty rum argument that we should say piously to overseas investors, “ Please bring in your money, and when by its use you have become established in a wireless broadcasting undertaking we shall nationalize your undertaking”. That is what I call the most perfect socialist argument. It is singularly dishonest, but it ha3 a robust quality. Let overseas investors bring in their money, and then nationalize their undertaking ! Honorable members who say that, believe that the Government should own all the broadcasting stations. That remark seems to command a greater measure of support than does any other among honorable members opposite. Why, I wonder, are they encouraging British capitalists - because that is what they are?
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 108.
That the time for the debate be extended.
– Honorable members opposite say, “ Let us nationalize the broadcasting system”. Therefore, I put to them the question, “ Why support this capitalist investment from overseas if you intend to take it away ? “ Why does the Labour party support a growing capitalist monopoly? Is the answer to that question “ Because one monopoly is just as good as another “ ? Is that the view of the Labour party? Or is its attitude influenced by the fact that it will be easier to take over the control of broadcasting stations if they are in the fewest possible hands? Is that the real policy of the Labour party?
– It is the Bellamy theory.
– The only Bellamy whom I remember is the Bellamy who made veal pies in the House of Commons. If the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) wishes to remind me of a veal pie, I must say that it is a perfect description of the policy of the Labour party on the present issue. Opposition members say, “ Let us have one veal pie, and we can eat it at one sitting”. In other words, they will be able to nationalize broadcasting more readily if the control of stations is in a comparatively few hands.
– That is a poor one.
– I have certainly said enough to dispose of the tawdry arguments that have been advanced on behalf of the Opposition on this motion, even though honorable gentlemen opposite appear to have changed their place in the last few minutes. Broadcasting in Australia, as in any other country, is not merely an instrument of entertainment and for the dissemination of news. As honorable members know, it is a powerful instrument of propaganda.
– We have discovered that fact.
– No member of this House, and, for that matter, nobody in Australia has the slightest objection to propaganda on every conceivable issue that is directed from Australians to Australians. We are a grown-up people, we have all the sturdiness of our inheritance, and we are quite prepared to hear the other man’s opinions. The result is that, wherever we listen in to broadcasting stations in Australia, we hear the most conflicting views on political issues. I, who of all men am the least disposed to political controversy, have heard myself described over the air in the most genealogical terms from those stations which, curiously enough, belong to the Labour party, and I do not mind because I consider that we should have the freest possible exchange of opinion outside this House, just as we have in it. But just as the opinions that are expressed in this chamber are put forth by Australians on Australian issues, so the opinions that are given over the air should not be the instrument of propaganda for people who have no connexion with Australia.
– The right honorable gentleman advocates the placing of an iron curtain around Australia in relation to the dissemination of information.
– I wish that the honorable member for Lalor would not refer to the Iron Curtain, because such a remark will only get him into trouble with one of his colleagues at the drop of a handkerchief. The honorable gentleman should avoid that subject. Let me confine my attention to the real issue, as it is expressed in this motion. Should we allow this peculiar and intimate form of publicity and propaganda to fall into the hands of people who have no duty to Australia, who are not Australians, and who come from outside Australia?
– They are Britishers.
– I say plainly and definitely that if this proposal came, not from the present group, but from the most hoary collection of conservatives in
Great Britain, I should still oppose it, for the very good reason that it is not an investment in steel, metals or minerals. It is an investment in something that comes right home, and has a profound effect upon current thinking. Therefore, the Government, having considered the terms of this motion, agrees with it, and hopes that it will be carried. That statement means that, against the background of such an expression of parliamentary opinion, the Government will have to consider, in the light of these developments, whether it will deal with them by Executive act or by legislation.
– Retrospective legislation.
– No. The Leader of the Opposition i3 wrong. Legislation that deals with a current licence is never retrospective. The right honorable gentleman is completely confusing his terms. Had he examined the Australian Broadcasting Act, he would know that every licence is granted for a period not exceeding one year from the date of issue.
– That is correct.
– Therefore, whatever provision this Government introduces into the Parliament to alter the Australian Broadcasting Act will operate prospectively, even though its effect be to have a bearing upon some commercial transaction that is already passed. I do not undertake to say whether we shall deal with this matter by Executive act or by legislation. On the whole, I should think that this will come before the House in legislative form; but, certainly, against the background of a motion of this kind, the Government will be able to produce legislation which will, I believe, accord with the general view that will be expressed in this House and in the Senate. Such a view is that, with all our outlook on the rest of the world, all our willingness to co-operate with the rest of the world, and all our desire to secure benefits from the rest of the world, we are determined that public opinion in this country shall not be made the subject of attack from outside Australia if we can prevent it.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indulged in a good deal of play acting when he was not endeavouring to charge the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) with having falsified the issue in this debate. In my opinion, the Prime Minister is guilty of the greatest act of falsification that has been known in this chamber. He is perfectly well aware that this Government has allowed the commercial broadcasting system of Australia to fall into a condition in which it has become the open prey for interests such as the Bartholomew group. The only reason for the submission of this motion is that the Bartholomew group does not see eye to eye politically with the right honorable gentleman. He also spoke about the possibility that every commercial broadcasting station in Australia would fall into the hands of groups of other than Australian interests, but he knows that his Government allowed such a position to be created less than seven months after it had assumed office. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick), who read the names of all the stations that the Bartholomew group has taken over, revealed his complete ignorance of the fact that the Government which he supports is responsible for such a situation.
– Does the Labour party want to “ cop the lot “ ?
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) probably has not sufficient intelligence to understand the reports that have been submitted to the Parliament by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The Prime Minister revelled in the part of a play-boy while he tried to conceal the failures of his Government, which are a disgrace to the Parliament.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron).- Order! The honorable member must not make such statements.
– The Leader of the Opposition was accused, during your temporary absence from the chair, Mr. Speaker, of having falsified this issue, and, therefore, we should be permitted to .state the facts in language that is equally strong. The Prime Minister said that the Government sup-, ports the motion. Such a statement, when it is made shortly before the Parliament rises for the Christmas recess, is an admission of the Government’s failure to meet its responsibilities. A bill should have been introduced weeks ago to deal with the position that has arisen. But what has happened ? The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has submitted a motion which can be construed to indicate that this Parliament is becoming anti-British in its outlook. Obviously, the purpose of the motion is to prohibit a British group from participation in the dissemination of news from broadcasting stations. In my opinion, that is an un-Brit’ish act, which illbecomes the honorable member for Mackellar, who is the great grandson of a great Britisher. It is unworthy of the support of a man who occupies such a high political office as that of Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister said that the Labour party had been beguilled in respect of the attitude of the Argus newspaper, and the honorable member for Bass stated that this Government did not control the press. Such statements have only one meaning. The press and the radio, so long as they say the things that suit this Government, may go on their merry way. The transaction regarding the Macquarie network, which was discussed by the honorable member for Bass, was made possible by the lethargy of this Government. The relevant facts are published in the second annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I agree that such transactions should not be allowed. This Government, if it were honest, would introduce legislation to prevent the control of Australian commercial broadcasting stations by overseas interests. A motion of this kind can be construed only as a motion of censure upon the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony)., who administers the Australian Broadcasting Act. He must have been aware of the tie-up of 44 stations, about which the honorable menu ber for Bass complained, and it was his duty, if a danger of syndication of broadcast news existed, to direct the attention of the Parliament to the matter. The opportunity for him to do so arose in June, 1950, yet this House has not discussed the matter until to-day. The Government is branded by this motion as an
Administration that is capable of adopting any principle that suits its own miserable political ends.
Reference has been made to business relations between newspapers and broadcasting stations. A visitor who was not aware of the situation could be excused for concluding that the tie-up between the Argus newspaper and broadcasting stations was unique. The facts are that at the 30th June, 1950, newspaper companies or companies and persons that are substantially interested in newspapers, owned nineteen of the 102 commercial stations throughout Australia and held shares in 25 other stations before the Bartholomew group turned its eyes towards this country. The honorable member for Mackellar is well aware that the tie-up between the newspapers and the broadcasting stations suited the Government and himself during the recent referendum campaign on communism. The Government, and the honorable gentleman, were very pleased to provide the money that was required to defray the cost of propaganda broadcasts over the Macquarie network and from other stations. The PostmasterGeneral must have known of the plans of the Bartholomew group because the arrangements for the purchase of the stations were made some time ago. This motion should not have been introduced at such a late stage of the present parliamentary period. Only one construction can be placed upon it. The purpose is to place in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral a big stick that he may wield during the recess against a company that is taking control of a network, in the existence of which this Government acquiesced while it was broadcasting the sort of propaganda that suited the Government. Therefore, the Opposition is not falsifying the position. We are fearful of the results that may flow from this motion. The Postmaster-General knows as well as anybody does that, since the formation of the United Nations, Australia’s broadcasting systems have been kept closely in touch with world organizations, such as Unesco, that have been established by the United Nations. Imagine what will happen in the councils of the United Nations if this motion is adopted. Foreign members of that body will say, “ Here is a member of the British Commonwealth declaring that it does not trust its British brethren to operate commercial broadcasting”. Any honorable member who votes in support of the motion will help to brand this country as a disloyal member of the Empire. The Prime Minister said that broadcasting licences applied for periods of only twelve months. But he knows also that, if the Macquarie network tomorrow broadcast any propaganda that was not in the best interests of the people, the Postmaster-General would have the power to take control of the offending stations out of the hands of the owners and operators.
The Government would not support the motion in the dying hours of this sessional period, if it had any confidence in the Postmaster-General, unless its ulterior motive is to provide him with an excuse to use his statutory power while the Parliament is in recess in order to achieve its party political ends. “Why should an anti-British motion be introduced at this stage of the sessions ? The obvious answer is that it will provide the Minister with some measure of justification for the use of his powers under the Australian Broadcasting Act for the advantage of the Government parties. If the danger to Australia is as great as the Prime Minister would have us believe it is, this House should remain in session next week and deal with the matter at once. Instead of passing a disloyal motion, it should enact legislation to deal with the situation. I am not concerned about the welfare of the Bartholomew group or any other group. But I am concerned because, according to that great exponent of free liberalism who spoke earlier, the Government would have no objection if, for instance, that leading Australian Communist, Mr. Hughes of the Federated Clerks Union, became the agent for the investment in Australia of the funds of the Bartholomew group or any other great financial organization. That would be all right, according to the Government, because Air. Hughes is an Australian. The Government’s support of the motion represents the greatest admission of weakness that any Australian government has ever made. In its view, apparently, an
Australian may propagate all sorts of objectional doctrines without interference.
The Government had no objection to group control of broadcasting stations and newspapers until the Bartholomew organization came on the scene. That was because the controllers of broadcasting stations and newspapers generally saw eye to eye with it on political issues. But now there is an intruder on the hunting grounds of the Liberal party, and a counter-attack has been launched by the honorable member for Mackellar under the direction of the playboy who leads the Government. The action of the Government in lending its support to the motion will be construed throughout the world as the first sign of a schism in the unity of the British Commonwealth. 1 am astonished that the motion was submitted by a back-bencher. If the words of the Prime, Minister were true - and until now we have not had reason to doubt his truthfulness although his sincerity has been questionable at times - the Government should never have left the task to. a relatively insignificant supporter. As the motion has the backing of the Government, it should have been presented by the Postmaster-‘General as the Minister who is in charge of broadcasting in Australia. If the Postmaster-General, because of his own lack of courage, has induced a backbencher to provide him with an excuse for exercising restrictive powers over a broadcasting organization that is inimical to the Government, retribution will surely follow in his footsteps.
The Australian Broadcasting Act embodies safeguards against the dangers of which the honorable member for Mackellar spoke. The honorable gentleman is not ignorant of that fact. He referred to sections of the act in order to demonstrate the nature of the powers that are reposed in the Postmaster-General. He must have known that his arguments were so shallow as to be incapable of withstanding close examination. He contradicted himself when he declared that a Minister should not be vested with the powers that are specified in the act and that amending legislation should be passed. This resolution will go down in history-
– That is what wc intend !
– It will certainly go down in history, but it will be in a different category from that which is intended by the Government and it3 supporters. It will be remembered as the first un-British resolution ever adopted by an Australian parliament. It will be classified as a shameful attempt by a weak-kneed Government to instil strength into a Minister so as to enable him to commit an act behind the back of the Parliament that the Government is not game enough to commit on its own behalf. The very wording of the motion is shallow and almost meaningless. According to the arguments of Government supporters, the Government would be prepared to give control of broadcasting to Jack Hughes, but not to Bartholomew. They should be ashamed of themselves. I would not trust many native Australians any more than I would trust the Bartholomew interests. Some of those Australians may be in the ranks of the Government at present. The Government believes that Australia is menaced. Therefore, if it bc sincere, its duty is to barricade the door against the threat, not to support an un-British resolution. Let us examine the m’otion. If we did not know the educational background of the honorable member for Mackellar, we might be excused for thinking that it had been drafted by some “mug”-
– Order !
– The motion is -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is undesirable that any person not an Australian should have any substantial measure of ownership or control over any Australian broadcasting station, whether such ownership or control be exercisable directly or indirectly.
Before the Bartholomew interests ever invested any money in this country, 32 broadcasting stations were tied up with the press of Australia. The Government now contends that the investment of English funds in such a commercial organization is dangerous to the country and represents an intolerable transgression of the British way of life. The motion could have been framed so as to name the Bartholomew group or any other group, Communist or other.
Why did not the honorable member for Mackellar specify the ^Bartholomew group ? The reason is that the honorable gentleman and his colleagues know that there is no difference, from an Australian point of view, between the Bartholomew group and the Liberal group. The Liberal group is fighting to retain control of the big financial interests of this country. I never dreamed that, in the first two years of my membership of this Parliament, I should witness an attempt to convert this chamber into an arena for a fight between opposing financial groups for the right to control commercial broadcasting.
The honorable member for Mackellar said that the Bartholomew interests were disloyal to the British Commonwealth. If he was sincere, surely he does not suggest that the Postmaster-General should negotiate with those interests behind the back of the Parliament! That is not the way to deal with any threat to Australia. The proper way to do so is to introduce legislation to safeguard the nation from the danger that is supposed to threaten it. The Government should have the courage to introduce legislation’ to protect the people against, not only the Bartholomew group, but also any other group that may endanger their well being. After all that the playboy had to say against such groups-
-Order! I warn the honorable member that he will not be allowed to continue in that vein.
– I withdraw the expression out of respect for your opinion, Mr. Speaker.
– Withdraw it properly.
- Mr. Speaker will decide what I must do. We have only one Speaker in this chamber, thank goodness. It is a tragedy and a disgrace that pressure groups should be permitted to turn this chamber into a rostrum in order to argue over the control of finances in the British Empire.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. All the noisy epithets that sprang so easily to the lips of the honorable member for
Blaxland (Mr. E. Ja.mes Harrison); have only, served to give.- point to the fact that; this motion: is aimed, at a: pressing, novel and’ serious danger to the integrity and. freedom of the; broadcasting system, of Australia. It is directed to. the danger of a major section of the commercial broadcasting stations of Australia falling; completely under the control of a. group, of individuals who are no.t Australians, who owe no loyalty to Australia and who are resident abroad. Any observer of thepolitical scene in this House sees some extraordinary reversals of form and opinion, but I did not expect, when I first came to this Parliament, to see the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in the role of the- defender of British, capital. That role ill becomes, him because it fits so uncomfortably on his shoulders, particularly in - view of his known attitude in the- past and his frequent expressions of it. However, I suppose that he has been forced to some such shift by the evident discomfiture of the Opposition.
It is plain that honorable members opposite are seriously divided concerning the correct approach to the matter. The whip is cracked and. the dissident voices are silenced. It is plain that there is no substantial agreement among honorable members opposite on this issue. The only way in which the Leader of the Opposition can justify his defence of British capital in this instance is to suggest that the danger to which this motion directs attention is no greater than the- danger that is inherent in- the investment of British capital in any commercial enterprise in Australia, and that is plainly not the case. We need, and we welcome, the investment of British capital in Australia, just as we welcome British citizens who come here to settle. But there is an essential difference between the investment of British capital in ordinary commercial enterprises and its investment in an industry which controls an important source of Australian information and propaganda. Capital from abroad invested in agricultural enterprises, secondary industries and transport services or in ordinary avenues of commercial activity, increases our capacity to expand our indus- tries and enterprises, and puts, us in a better position to extract, the wealth that lies- in our country. We welcome.- it. But we can control it. We can. dictate.- the terms, on which such capital, may be invested and. on which the dividends- may he taken out, of this country. We can control wages, hours, and conditions of labour, and all other matters pertaining, to the- investment of either. British or foreign capital in Australia. We can control what it: takes, from, us - and generally it seeks to ‘ take from: us only- its legitimate dividends. But investment, in a chain o£ broadcasting stations can take from us, something far more important, than, dividends. It can. take from us the capacity to inform.,, instruct and mould, our own. public opinion.. That is- a matter which, must remain in Australian hands.
Our ideas, our- sentiments-, even, our habits and aspirations, can be affected by the news, information and amusement that are conveyed to us- through the broadcasting services-. More important still, our own and our children’s moral and mental development can be very greatly affected by what we hear broadcast. It is right and necessary to insist that the control of our broadcasting services shall remain in Australian hands. The- honorable member for Blaxland objects- to this, motion, which is in general terms, bceause, he claims, it is aimed at a single group, of investors. He argued, by some process that I could not clearly follow, that general motions of this sort should not be supported because they constitute an attack on the activities of a single group of people. The fact is that the activities of the Bartholomew group are impinging for the first time on the Australian broadcasting system. They point for the first time in Australian broadcasting history to the danger of the control of our broadcasting stations passing out of our hands, and to the danger that could follow if we allowed our broadcasting stations to be controlled from abroad. The warning is underlined by the fact that the activities of the group elsewhere have come under very serious criticism, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) has pointed out.
I remind the House of the Labour party’s past policy on broadcasting. In 1942, the Australian Broadcasting Bill that it introduced to control the activities of broadcasting stations revealed its policy. The measure provided that no substantial number of stations should fall into the hands of any person or group of persons. That provision is contained in section 53 of the act, which reads - (1.) A person shall not own, or be in a position to exercise control, either directly or indirectly, of, more than -
The policy of the Labour party, quite clearly revealed in that act, was that there must be a limit to the number of broadcasting stations that may be controlled by any one individual or group of individuals. The reason for that provision is quite clear. When the Labour party was in office it realized the enormous importance of the broadcasting services to Australian life, and it determined that they should not fall into the hands of a single individual or a group. It was plain to the Labour party at that time that a mere legal restraint in respect of the number of stations that could be controlled by a single person or group would not prevent effective control being exercised over an even larger number of stations than is permitted by that section. It is very easy to see how that can be done and, in fact, has been done in the past. A commercial broadcasting licence can be held by a company the shares of which are ordinarily saleable on the stock markets, and it is very difficult for the Government, the Minister or anybody else to say at any given moment precisely who exercises the control of that company. Another expedient can be, and frequently is used. The licence for a broadcasting station can be held by a holding company, the shares in which are held by another company, so that technically the ownership of the station does not vary from year to year although, the real control of the station being held by the shareholders in the second company, it may be passed from one group to another without the immediate control of the station being legally affected. Consequently, the wording of the section was deliberately made wide. It used these words -
A person shall not own, or be in a position to exercise control, either directly or indirectly. . . .
The word “ indirectly “ was used in order that subterfuges of the kind that I have mentioned might be avoided, but it was plain that even that provision of the act was not sufficient to ensure that control of a number of stations would not fall into the hands of a few persons. Section 49 of the same act therefore gave to the Minister discretion to revoke any licence if he considered it to be in the public interest that he should do so. It is quite plain, therefor, that the policy of the Labour party at that time was to ensure that the broadcastig services of Australia should not fall into the hands of any one individual or group of individuals and the then Minister was given very wide powers to carry out that policy. If the Labour party was at that time determined that monopolistic control of radio stations should not be permitted, how much more important would it have considered the pursuance of that policy if there had been any suggestion that the control of Australian radio stations might pass out of Australian hands, and how much more strongly would it have insisted that that control must remain in Australia? In view of those facts I ask the House to realize that this pseudo defence of British capital, which is a new line for the Opposition to take, merely indicates that that is the only ground that the Opposition can find on which to oppose this motion.
I suggest that the motion is not only in accordance with the Government’s policy, but is also in accordance with the policy of the Opposition and with the opinions of the Australian people - that the broadcasting services of this country, with their enormous capacity to influence Australian opinion and to determine Australian sentiment, shall not he misused. There will be a very grave danger of their being misused if they pass into the control of persons resident outside Australia. I have often criticized the Opposition in the past for what I have described as its narrow nationalistic viewpoint. It is astonishing to me that honorable members opposite find themselves able to criticize the proponents of this motion for what they describe as an anti-British motion. The honorable member for Blaxland, moving from one shift to another to find a ground for opposing the motion, which is apparently not inconsistent with his own views and those of his party, was forced, accompanied by sympathetic but meaningless noises from the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), to describe it as absolutely anti-British. I have never heard such nonsense advanced in this House before.
– How do you plead, guilty or not guitty?
– It is interesting to observe that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), as a member of the parliamentary committee of which Senator Gibson was chairman, which investigated the broadcasting services of Australia, decided to announce, in amplification of the finding of the committee, that the whole of the broadcasting system should be nationalized. I know the pride that he takes in this House in his own consistency in matters of policy, and I shall be interested to hear him explain just how he reconciles the belief that the broadcasting system should be nationalized in the interests of the people with statements that control of broadcasting stations should be allowed to pass into the hands of people outside this country. When the Labour party was in office it provided the machinery for carrying out what was plainly its policy, namely, that there must be no monopolistic control of Australian broadcasting stations. How much more enthusiastically should it then agree to the principle that we have enunciated to-day, which is that Australian broadcasting stations must be controlled by Australians. We live in a troubled world in which the techniques and use of propaganda have been developed to a degree that was never previously dreamed of. Propaganda has been made an instrument of national purpose and no single instrument of pro paganda is as important as is the broadcasting service. This House must express its view to-day on an important question of principle which is: Should Australian broadcasting stations be controlled by Australian citizens who have all the responsibility of Australian citizenship to guide them, or should they be controlled by a small group of people, resident abroad, whose only legitimate interest in Australia is commercial?
The honorable member for Blaxland has suggested that the Government and the Minister have resorted to some subterfufge in having allowed this motion to be submitted by a private member. I assure the Opposition that it originated among private members who spent considerable time and energy in securing the acceptance of their viewpoint to the degree that enabled it to be submitted. Let honorable members opposite place no faith in any belief that in this matter private members are acting at the instance of the Government, because that is not so. This Parliament is the guardian of the interests of the people, and it is our plain duty to warn the Government and the nation of the possible consequences of allowing a major part of Australia’s broadcasting system to pass out of Australian hands.
.- One’s capacity to be shocked in this House diminishes as the years go on and I did not think I should be able to sustain a severe shock from the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). But the utter cynicism of his motion has deeply dismayed me because it is obvious to everybody who is not a political “ babe in the woods “ that-it can only be described as “ phoney “. The motion rests upon two well-defined and observable premises. The first is that we must resist the establishment of a monopoly in propaganda. The second is that we must get the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) out of trouble. The pious platitudes voiced by honorable members in the past have now gone by the board in order to blacken the name of an organization which is new to this country and which has had the temerity to invest money in Australia.
Honorable members opposite have eaten their own words during this debate to such an extent that they are entitled to a job in Wirth’s circus. The honorable member for Mackellar propounded his Australianism, but forgot to tell us that he was educated in England. He spoke of his new-found devotion to Australia, but the circumstance that made him pin the Australian flag to the mast is that some one is trying to “ horn in “ on Australian interests which have had a monopoly of 21 broadcasting stations and 44 subsidiary stations. I have not heard any pious platitudes expressed previously about the Macquarie network. Apparently that organization was acceptable to Government supporters. Suddenly, it occurred to them that to be Australian is not to be monopolistic. According to them the ownership of 21 radio stations and 41 associated stations by Australian capital does not subject the Australian community to the danger of subjugation by propaganda. The arguments put forward from the opposite side of the House are so superficial that a child could see that this debate had been forced on the Government.
The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) “ let the cat out of the bag “. He said that it was appropriate that this matter should be raised by private members who have been listening to the current gossip in Sydney and Melbourne. If high drama and a great deal of publicity could have been imparted to this case the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would have taken the brief himself instead of leaving it to a junior who is usually not even allowed to carry the brief bag. The “ hogwash “ which Government supporters have poured out on the subject of liberty has nothing to do with the case. Opposition members know to their cost how liberty is subverted by propaganda on behalf of the Government. During :I949, British capital was heavily used in order to destroy the Chifley Government because of its banking legislation. Then freely flowed the word from pole to pole. But circumstances alter cases, and since a tiny voice may be raised in a general and democratic way in support of the Labour movement, the new broadcasting and newspaper interests have been accused of subversion. It has been alleged that they will create all sorts of dangers and destroy Australian initiative. I have never known the Liberal party to be worried about where capital came from. Its newborn conscience is so much “ poppycock “.
The honorable member for Mackellar has presented his argument in a way that is most distasteful to Opposition members because it reeks with insincerity. There is no substance in his proposition that this development represents a threat to Australia. If this organization which will operate 21 broadcasting stations and 44 associated stations occasionally says a word in favour of the Labour party I consider, as a journalist, that it will be a result of the balance of fair reporting and nothing else. For the last 50 years the balance of fair reporting has been lost and it is time that it was restored. It is utter nonsense to allege that the acquisition of these interests represent a danger to this country.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) decided to ignore the question of whether a non-Australian company should be permitted to own a group of broadcasting stations. He launched a diatribe against the Daily Mirror and its associated publications in England. All newspapers, because of the nature of their activities, become involved in court actions at some time or other. The Daily Mirror aroused the British people to action during the war and destroyed the influence of the “ Colonel Blimps “ by means of a rugged form of publicity which helped the war effort. The only real crime of this newspaper organization, in the eyes of the honorable member for Bass, is that it might disseminate Labour propaganda. That prospect is enough to give him a turn. If he examines the situation more carefully he will see that he has been used as a tool and that the prepared propaganda that was handed to him did not ring true. The lampooning of the English press in which the honorable member engaged did not assist the House to analyse the facts of this matter. I noticed with regret that there was more than a tinge of anti-semitism in the remarks of Government supporters. They did not use the word “ Jew “, but it was obvious that the name “ Bartholomew “ worried them. Why did they not voice their fear that this organization might refuse to become a tool of the Liberal party? It is disgraceful that the Government should have engaged in this propaganda.
The Prime Minister presented the most atrocious case. He fished for interjections and refused to deal with the issue. He is quite capable of debating brilliantly, but he was not on the wicket and did not want to; otherwise he would not have permitted the irresponsible honorable member for Mackellar to submit this motion. Not very much .can be said in rebuttal of the Prime Minister’s statements because he merely used an occasional interjection to score the sycophantic laughter “and giggles which may always be expected to follow his remarks, but which are no indication of the strength of his jokes. “When Labour was in office, the present Opposition members endeavoured to have some of the more horrible programmes on B class stations terminated. Screaming, horrific serials, crime and murder stories and stupid money quizzes are of no value to the community. Government supporters have asked why the Labour Government did not take action in regard to matters of this nature. In doing so they have paid an eternal compliment to the Opposition by implying that the Australian Labour party is the essence of government and its mistakes “will always be theirs. The Labour Government had a war on its hands and a period of reconstruction followed. Because the Labour party had no money to rebut the “ John Austral” series of lies, it was defeated at the general elections. Does the Government contend that there is nothing questionable in its complete misuse of the propaganda medium of B class stations in that way? While the Labour party was able to spend pounds the Government parties were able to spend thousands of pounds on propaganda.
The arguments of Government supporters have no validity and they are .shockingly insincere in asking the Parliament to debate this matter as if it were some threat to the nation. Government supporters have asked why the Opposition is so suddenly in love with British capital. We have never attempted to keep British capital out of this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) pointed out that we attempted to encourage it here for the development of the country. To state the position in the crudest possible terms, the only reason why honorable members opposite are squealing is that their own racket is being spoiled by the intrusion of newer, and indeed, fairer interests. Consequently, they are capable of making all sorts of scandalous inferences with the object of instilling in the minds of the people the conviction that something dreadful will happen as a result of the transaction that has been mentioned. What could be more dreadful than the programmes of the B class radio stations? Government supporters have, in the past, prated about free enterprise. Here is an opportunity to give full scope to an enterprise in broadcasting which would state both sides of the case.
Having presented an appallingly bad case, Government supporters revealed the unenviable position in which the PostmasterGeneral has been placed. He had agreed to the acquisition of these broadcasting stations and the matter would never have been raised again had not little private whisper journals published in Sydney canvassed it on behalf of some owners of broadcasting stations who had an axe to grind. Coffee-shop conspirators talked about this matter until it reached the ears of the little group of Liberals who initiated this debate. They then approached the upholder of all spurious causes, the honorable member for Mackellar. As I have said, the Postmaster-General has approved of the transfer of ownership of the stations and, except for the execution of the usual formalities, it is an accomplished fact. If this motion is intended to extricate him from the position in which he has placed himself, it indicates that he has failed in his duty and should resign. If what Government supporters have said is correct the PostmasterGeneral, by approving this transaction, has permitted subversive influences to gain control of a large part of Australia’s broadcasting system. If the PostmasterGeneral has “ pulled a boner “ it would not be his first. Let him take the consequences. If this motion has been devised as a means of enabling the PostmasterGeneral to introduce by the back door legislation that will absolve him from blame it is contemptible. When the honorable gentleman was asked a question on this matter in the House recently he skated over it. When a further question was asked on a second occasion he still declined to give the information sought. On the third occasion on which an inquiry was made he finally stated the position. The interests that have bought the stations will not quietly submit to action against them by the Postmaster-General. The only effective way of taking action against them would be by the introduction of legislation in this House. They would take action in the highest courts in the land.
– Dr. Evatt would defend them.
– That may be so ; and they would have a splendid advocate. The Postmaster-General has so far taken no part in this debate. No doubt he is completely disgruntled because the honorable member for Mackellar has attempted to take the . whole matter out of his hands. Perhaps our gentle invitations will ultimately bring him into the debate. The honorable gentleman has failed in his duty if the charges of his colleagues have any substance. If they are not true then he has a mere rabble behind him who give him no support. In either event, he should rise forthwith and protest against the presumption of those honorable members who sit behind him.
The honorable member for Mackellar has made considerable use of the word “ Australian “ for party political propaganda purposes. The Labour party has been charged in this House with having a rabid Australian approach to all problems. We have been told that our attitude has been unfair and indelicate, and is offensive to people outside this country. We have always adopted an Australian attitude towards all national matters because we have believed that that attitude was for the general benefit of the community. We have been derided- and scorned for our attitude. However, the political new
Australians on the Government benches have risen here to-day for the sake of wealth and filthy lucre rather than for patriotic reasons. It has seemed to me that they have been chagrined because somebody has cornered the very lucrative business of propaganda and they have been left lamenting.
It is quite horrible to think that the Government has such a low view of the intelligence of the Australian people that it believes that there is a grave threat to them because some organization is attempting to gain control of a broadcasting network. I suggest that the people prefer to hear both sides of any argument. If the Government were to conduct a gallup poll - I know that it would not do that because gallup polls are rather unpopular with it at the present time - or if it held a referendum, which are anathema to it now, it would find that most Australians believe that everybody is entitled to a “ fair go “ ; that both sides of an argument should be presented. It is also a fact that, when both sides of any political question are put fairly to the electors, the Labour view always prevails because it is invariably the more reasonable. I am sure that the general public believes that the broadcasting stations should he controlled in such a way that both sides of all questions may be put fairly before the people. The honorable member for Mackellar and his supporters are merely “ flogging a dead horse “ in submitting this motion, and it is quite clear that the honorable member himself does not care a tinker’s dam-
– Order ! The honorable member must not use that word.
– I point out for your information, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that a tinker’s dam is a small receptacle in which the tinker puts his spirits of salts. It has nothing to do with another word which might describe the state hereafter of the Government.
The honorable member for Mackellar told us the illustrious story of his grandparents. I agree that that story is illustrious, and in fact is now a part of our history. But he should remember that British capital was used by his ancestors to develop his own family fortunes, and, incidentally, to advance Australia. It is most extraordinary to find honorable members on the Government side stating that the use of British capital for the development of this country is obnoxious and traitorous. Perhaps honorable members on the Government side, having been chided for their antipathy to British capital, will say that they did not mean us to view the matter in that light, and that they did not like the name Bartholomew “.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am happy to support the motion before the House. I support it for reasons that are far removed from those that actuate honorable members opposite. The attitude of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mir. Wentworth) reminds me of the old adage that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. The honorable member is to be congratulated because his vigilance has been so keen that he has been able to determine that this important public matter should be aired in a public forum. I am not concerned about the Bartholomew group, as such, or any other financial group. I cannot say whether the principle of gaining control of an organization such as this will be a menace to Australia or will not. However, 1. do say that the whole matter warrants the most serious and careful consideration of this Parliament if the interests of the Australian people are to be protected. There is a definite principle involved which has been completely glossed over by honorable members opposite. On the battlefield, of international affairs the tongue is mightier than the sword. There is a relentless cold war for ultimate supremacy being waged in the world to-day by opposing ideologies. If the Australian viewpoint is to prevail in Australia we must be aware of all the weapons that may be used against us. We can lose the battle only if we are unaware of or indifferent to those weapons.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the Bartholomew group is a Communist organization?
– At the end of my speech, if the honorable member will listen to me, he will know a lot more than he knows now. I believe that if war broke out to-morrow the Government would resume control of our broadcasting system, and of all means of disseminating news. That would be tantamount to closing the stable door after the horse had gone. It would be equivalent to doing too little far too late. Honorable members opposite have said that no government can legislate to protect itself against everything that may do damage to it. I say that every government must take action to protect the country against those, whoever they may be, who are inimical to its best interests. It is shameful to hear honorable members opposite, who claim to be so intensely Australian, acquiescing in a principle that could apply equally to some Russian group that wanted to buy our broadcasting system, as it does to some British group. Would they agree wholeheartedly with the Russians buying all our radio stations? I want to expose the hollow sham of the alleged Australianism of the Australian Labour party before I finish my speech.
It is, said that the founder of the Rothschild family fortunes, Baron Rothschild, once said that, he cared not who occupied the parliamentary benches or who made the laws of the country as long as he controlled the banking system. With how much greater force can that principle apply to-day to the means of publicity. Who controls the means of publicity may be said to be a long way towards controlling the country. The greatest power in the world to-day is the power of propaganda, and the greatest means of wielding this power is broadcasting. The Opposition believes that this great means of propaganda need not necessarily be controlled by Australia. According to the Opposition, anybody can control it for his own interests and profit. No matter how many divisions of soldiers we had they would be of no avail to us if the fibre of our people had been’ weakened beforehand by propaganda. We can see the effects of propaganda throughout the world to-day. I direct honorable members’ attention in that regard to the Middle East, Asia and parts of Europe.
To-day, one of the great powers of the world is very active in having its doctrines disseminated among all peoples. The power of propaganda and the use of propaganda machines are clearly seen in the world to-day. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) essayed the task of demolishing the arguments that have been advanced by Government supporters. He performed the extraordinary feat of talking for eighteen minutes without mentioning the terms of the motion. He talked of the principle of British investment, and of everything except broadcasting.
– The honorable member was temporary chairman of the committee during the time that the Leader of the Opposition spoke. “Why did he not call the right honorable gentleman to order ?
– I did stop the Leader of the Opposition, and tell him what were the terms of the motion before the Chair. I told him that the motion raised the question of whether or not it was in the best interests of the Australian people that the broadcasting system of the country should be controlled by outside interests. The accusation that honorable members on this side of the chamber are actuated by unworthy motives in bringing this matter forward, is mere eye-wash. That charge was levelled only because it happened to suit honorable members opposite to try to develop thereby an argument that might be used in the next general election campaign. I do not accept the view that honorable members on this side of the chamber have an inferiority complex. Honorable members opposite have suggested that, and have also claimed that we are incompetent and are incapable of managing our own affairs and that we must import from other countries people who will, among other things, spread our propaganda for us.
The Leader of the Opposition began his speech by saying that this is one of the most extraordinary motions ever to be submitted to this Parliament. I shall try to show that the right honorable gentleman’s reaction to it was still more extraordinary. The Labour party has always claimed to be intensely Australian.
– That is why it is called the Australian Labour party.
– Exactly. I have always believed the Labour party to be an Australian Labour party, but to-day we have learned that that very admirable political quality will permeate it only as long as it pays party political dividends. When a pro-Australian policy will not do so, the Labour party abandons it. The Labour party, which claims to be intensely British and which gibes at the Government parties for being, as it alleges, antiBritish, is a party which, when it was in power, scrapped the British passport that gave to Australian citizens the right to travel to any part of the British Empire and substituted for it an Australian passport, with the result that now we have to obtain visas if we want to travel to any part of the Empire other than Great Britain. This intensely British party supported a political party in Great Britain, one of the leaders of which said that the disintegration of the Empire was necessary to ensure the success of socialism. Because the Labour party believes that the investment of the Bartholomew group is an investment in socialism that will redound to their advantage in a general election, they are prepared to subordinate the interests of Australia to the interests of that group or any similar group.
One of the sweetly innocent young members of the Opposition disclosed the Labour party’s attitude when he said that honorable gentlemen on this side of the House were supporting the motion only because they knew that control of an Australian broadcasting network by the Bartholomew organization would sound the death-knell of this Government. The Labour party is concerned, not with the interests of the Australian people, but only with its own interests. I am amazed that honorable gentlemen opposite, who belong to a party that has always claimed to be Australian and to have fought for Australian ideals, are prepared to acquiesce in the purchase by overseas interests of the whole or a substantial part of a broadcasting network in this country. In this instance, British interests are involved, but they could be Russian or Chinese interests. The principle is the same, whatever interests are involved. Honorable gentlemen opposite have acquiesced in that action, not because they believe it to be in the best interests of this country but because they believe that it will be in the interests of the Labour party. One is ashamed to be a member of this Parliament when a group of honorable members put their party political interests before the interests of their country.
The nature of the preparations for a war determines the outcome of the war. The education of the people to accept the need to defend themselves is one of the most potent factors in defence preparations. Broadcasting networks can be used for that purpose, but honorable gentlemen opposite are prepared to hand over an Australian broadcasting network to - there is no need now for camouflage - a socialistic group overseas. It is a socialistic group; otherwise, the Labour party would not support it. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not care what form of propaganda that group will disseminate, provided that it will serve the interests of socialism. Their action brands the Labour party as anti-Australian.
– What attitude would the honorable gentleman adopt if it were a conservative group?
– I should oppose the purchase on principle. Honorable gentlemen opposite are facetious about this matter, because they cannot conceive that a person may have a mind that rises above party politics. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that he would oppose the acquisition of this network by conservative interests. So should I. If we cannot manage our own broadcasting system and disseminate our own news and views, we are becoming demoralized as a nation. I am not concerned about whether this group owns the Melbourne Argus. That newspaper has changed its political tone, but it has reframed the motto -
I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list.
During the last few months, it has interpreted that motto in a very flexible manner. The Argus describes itself as the “fair play newspaper”. We expect a newspaper to express its views in leading articles, and to present the news fairly. The Argus gives a very decided twist to the news in order to make it accord with its views. That is done by headlines. In a newspaper that is opposed to the democratic system, the news will be similar to its views.
This is a matter that should transcend party politics, but, in the view of some honorable members, it does not. Their minds cannot rise above party politics. The education of the Australian people to an appreciation of the need to make preparations for the defence of this country is a task for our own people. The Australian viewpoint must prevail over viewpoints or ideologies imported from other parts of the world. I support the motion because I believe that we have a right to challenge the authority of any organization outside this country to disseminate the news and views that are necessary for the education of the minds of the Australian people.
– What about banking and shipping?
– I shall not evade those issues. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has referred to banking. During the last two or three years, the Labour party has received a very extensive education in what the Commonwealth can and cannot do in relation to banking. We are discussing broadcasting now. The attitude of the Labour party is that, because the acquisition of this network by overseas interests will redound to its advantage, it should agree to the acquisition, and that the effect upon Australia is a matter of secondary importance.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
.- The motion that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has submitted is, in the opinion of the Opposition, sheer nonsense. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who endeavoured to extricate his supporters from the difficulty that they had made for themselves, did not succeed in putting the case for the Government in any better light than that in which the honorable member left it.
– The Prime Minister made a very fair speech.
– Simple minds are easily impressed; but to the intelligent members -of the House, -who are mostly seated on your left, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s speech “was entirely unsatisfactory. What is the object of the motion? It seeks to stop a group of English people from buying an interest in the Australian broadcasting network.
– - Hear, hear!
Me. .CALWELL. - The honorable mem ber for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who has expressed approbation of that .statement, is supported by all honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. .Kekwick) worked himself almost into a frenzy when he was telling the House of what he claimed to be the evil intentions of these British interests. He read out from a list the names of 44 stations which, he said, co-operate in the Macquarie network, and he claimed that that network controls 21 stations. It was not the Bartholomew group, or any other English group, that established the Macquarie network. That network was established by Sir Hugh Denison, of the Sydney Sun, and the other major commercial network was established by the Melbourne Herald interests over which Sir Keith Murdoch presides. If it is wrong for the Bartholomew group to have a direct, or an indirect, control over 65 stations, was it not equally wrong for the Denison interests to exercise a similar control? Supporters of the Government, who have suddenly developed a British hate, did not discover anything wrong in the Macquarie network when it was .under the ‘Control of their capitalist friends.
– The great imperialist !
– Nobody will ever mistake the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) for a .great democrat. The truth of the matter is that every .Sunday night throughout the year, the Prime Minister, or one of his Ministers, speaks for ten minutes over the Macquarie network.; but supporters of the Government now say that that network is a monopoly and that it should be destroyed. If it is a bad set-up, why did honorable members opposite allow it to be established?
– :The honorable member’s statements are not facts.
Mt-. CALWELL; - I was a member -of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee of which Senator Gibson was chairman, and I was .the first .chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee .on Broadcasting. So, I have probably forgotten more about .the matter than the honorable member has ever known. No member of the Opposition desires to :avoid facing the facts. If .supporters of the Government say that .a monopoly is a bad thing, it is bad whether it is controlled by British, or Australian, interests. If the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) threatens to introduce legislation because he has been prodded in that direction by Government backbenchers, let him introduce a measure that will destroy the present monopoly in broadcasting. Whilst there is no control by one group of each individual station, there is multiple ownership and control of a number of stations. There are 103 commercial broadcasting stations in this country.
– One hundred and two.
– Officers of the Postal Department nave informed me that there are 103 and, probably, they would know more about the matter than the Postmaster-General knows.
– Order ! I .ask the honorable member to address .the Chair.
– Of those 103 commercial broadcasting stations, 31 are operated by persons who have no substantial interests in other stations, and twelve are operated by persons who have substantia] interests in two stations. The remainder are operated by persona who have interests in three, or more, stations. The Melbourne Herald interests, about which we have heard nothing from supporters of the Government in this debate, and its .associated newspapers, -have interests in ten other stations.
– Rubbish !
– Those figures lave been supplied to me by the Postal Department. The truth of the matter is that over the years a few people have controlled a number of stations. The Bartholomew group has decided to acquire newspapers as well as radio broadcasting interests in this country. In this matter, the Labour party stands where it has always stood. Members of the Opposition advocate unequivocally the nationalization of broadcasting. But if the Government intends to maintain the present system, we see nothing wrong with allowing a reputable group of British people to bring their money into this country for the purpose of buying interests in radio broadcasting organizations.
– Reputable ?
– If supporters of the Government do not want British capital to be invested in radio broadcasting organizations here, why do they support the investment of such capital in banking and shipping organizations in this country? Honorable members opposite have not previously spoken about the iniquity that is perpetrated by British capital in Australian affairs. But they have now made this attack upon British interests in respect of broadcasting. The list of 44’ stations that the honorable member for Bass attempted to lead the House to believe would come under the control of the Bartholomew group was incorrect. For instance, he included in that list station 2HD, which is a Labour station, and also stations 2KM and 2KA, which are owned and operated by Lang. A creature named Paddison, who is associated with Lang, has probably prepared the brief for honorable members opposite and has collaborated with them in this matter.
The Bartholomew interests are not decidedly a.nti-British. One may dislike them for one reason or another, but the people associated with them in Great Britain and those who are operating with them in Australia are reputable citizens. Let us have a look at the Australian board that will control those interests in this country. Does anybody say that Alderman Crick, who was formerly Lord Mayor of Sydney, is not a good Australian, or that Mr. Charles Munro, Mr. John Patience or Mr Olive Ogilvy - who was a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - are not good Australians? Those gentlemen are better Australians than are many of the persons who exercise monopoly control over other stations in the
Australian broadcasting network and who happen to be Australian-born. I am satisfied that the Murdoch interests in this country are not to-day, and never have been, very pro-Australian. Sir Keith Murdoch, by his scandalous conduct as a visitor to Gallipoli during World War L, proved himself to be decidedly anti-British. Supporters of the Government who are prone to talk about persons being antiBritish might read Sir Ian Hamilton’s comments upon Sir Keith Murdoch in volume 2 of his Gallipoli Diary.
The present set-up in broadcasting is that the Denison family, of Sydney, who are roaring tory supporters, sold their interests to Munro, Crick and Ogilvy, who in turn sold them to British interests. The Postmaster-General must have approved of that transfer from’ the Denison interests to the Munro-Crick interests. He will now have to withdraw that approval, in which event he will be guilty of repudiation, or he will have to act like you, Mr. Speaker, acted and put those stations off the air. You will, no doubt, recall the occasion when you closed down station 2KY; and it did not resume broadcasting until you allowed it to do so. If supporters of the Government have radio broadcasting stations dealt with in that fashion, they will set a precedent; and they will not be able to blame a future government that may follow it. The Macquarie network, which honorable members opposite now regard as an awful institution, was the medium through which the voice of “ J ohn Henry Austral” was heard over the air in this country every night, with the exception of Sunday nights, for two years before and during the general election campaign in 1949. And at midnight on polling day, the 10th December of that year, “ John Henry Austral “ died ; but he still has a lot of deputies in this House. The tories of Australia were able to project over the air a hate campaign against the Labour party, not because British capital had bought up radio broadcasting stations, but because the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) had brought £100,000 of British capital to Australia to finance the Liberal party in this country.
– That is not true.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council may deny the truth of that statement ; but my authority for it is not a Labour man but Mr. Eric White, who was publicity officer for the Liberal party at that time.
The motion before the Chair threatens to reduce the Parliament almost to a shambles. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) said that Government back-benchers had forced the Government to sponsor it, that those honorable members had held a pistol at the head of the Government. The PostmasterGeneral could have refused to sanction the transfer of the Macquarie network to the Bartholomew interests. If he had done so, no need would have arisen for this motion; but he either wanted to be pushed on by those backbenchers or was afraid to take action without the approval of the Parliament. And what will the decision of the Parliament be? It will be merely that of the tory reactionaries, who in this the Twentieth Parliament are, for the time being, in a majority in both chambers and control the destinies of Australia.
The honorable member for Mackellar lias completely debunked the idea of Cabinet control. The Government is sheltering behind its majority in this House; it is certainly not leading its supporters as it should do. Of course, the honorable member for Mackellar struck a pose. He said that “ Australia means business “, that we must see that “ these overseas interests shall be broken “, and that the Parliament must ensure that “ this wrong shall be righted “, Those are histrionic expressions, and, in uttering them, the honorable member struck a histrionic attitude. Is there anything wrong with British capital? That is the question before the House. The Labour party says that there is nothing wrong with British, American or any other capital, provided that it is used in Australia for the purpose of earning a fair profit and of advancing Australian interests. We object to foreign capital only if it be used to exploit the Australian people. But if radio broadcasting is to be dealt with in this way because it is a medium of influencing public opinion, what about films, newspapers and other media that can be utilized for that purpose? I have a haunting suspicion that supporters of the Government would not raise any objection at all if the Rothermere Beaverbrook or any other British conservative group sought to acquire the interests that the Bartholomew group has acquired. Yet the Labour party is being attacked because a group has bought an interest, not in the whole network, hut in one or two stations. That group has also bought into a newspaper, and may even buy the Sydney Bulletin and a number of other newspapers. Government supporters believe that if there is a fair presentation of the opinions of the Labour party over the broadcasting system and through the newspapers, the days of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party will be numbered. They have a fear complex. They favour monopoly control provided it is their monopoly. They believe that if somebody else comes in to take a section of control over some forms of opinionforming media, such a group must be stopped.
One Government supporter said that we must prevent interference by overseas interests with Australian public opinion. What a grandiloquent phrase! Opinion in this country has always been subject to interference by persons overseas. Some people in other countries have frequently tried to mould opinion in this country to suit their own interests. The great-grandfather of the honorable member for Mackellar was a man who, in his day, fought against attempts to control opinion in Australia, but his descendant as not so forthright in his Australianism as he proclaims. Everything is satisfactory so long as the opinion is his way, and the interests are serving those that he represents. It would be all right if an Australian group were to establish a company to take over the Denison network. If Sir Malcolm Ritchie, the former federal president of the Liberal party, who is a very wealthy man, were to join with the present federal president of that party, Mr. Anderson, who is the chief accountant of the Shell Company of Australia Limited, Government supporters would see nothing wrong with that form of control over radio broadcasting stations. We would be told that the Shell Company of Australia Limited was either an Australian company or a reputable British company. The truth, of course, is that the Shell Company of Australia Limited is only a section of the AngloDutch Petroleum Company Limited, and when we think of the Shell Company of Australia Limited, we think of the shades of Sir Henri Deterding, Sir Basil Zaharoff and other persons of unhappy memory. The Anglo-Dutch company is a part of a foreign empire. Radio broadcasting in Australia to-day, no matter what any government may say and regardless of the laws that are laid down, is not always controlled by the people who own the broadcasting stations. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) knows perfectly well that Colgate-Palmolive Proprietary Limited, and many other businesses which have big advertising contracts to offer, establish their own business networks and their own extra-legal control.
– Hence the control over the operating stations.
– But no government has taken control over them. The honorable gentleman knows better than anybody else that one of those groups of companies took a contract away from the Macquarie network because it was not able to use that group of stations in the way that it wished to use them. If there is to be an investigation of the radio broadcasting set-up in Australia, let us have one of two things - either straightout nationalization, so that we shall follow the British system, or a system that will prevent anybody from having an interest in more than one broadcasting station. That would be preferable at present and under existing circumstances. But if the Government tries to defend the existing set-up, yet protests when the Bartholomew group. buys into any section of the radioroadcasting field, honorable members opposite are only humbugging themselves, and are trying to humbug the people.
I hope that the Minister will inform the House of his intentions in this matter.
If he has prepared a bill to deal with the present situation, let him introduce it now. The Parliament can meet next week, and deal with the bill before the Christmas recess. The Labour party wants to settle this issue. We shall stand up to it and shall stand the Minister, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party up to it. We shall not let them “ get away “ with humbug at any time. The House has devoted four hours today to a debate on this subject, because the Government is afraid of its own supporters on the back-benches in a matter that has proved a mare’s nest.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I could follow the example that has been set by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and be facetious on this serious subject by directing attention to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) , who now proclaims that members of the Labour party are wholly British and in favour of the Union Jack, replaced “ The British Grenadiers “ as the prelude to the broadcast of the national news with “ Advance Australia Fair “.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear !
– Nobody complained about that action. But I point out that Opposition members, who now declare that they are completely British, insisted, when they were in office, that we were hearing too much about Great Britain. They adopted that attitude during a period in World War II. when we were most urgently in need of the assistance of that country. It also strikes me as remarkable that people who, throughout their political lives, have spoken of the evils of international financiers, should now spring to their defence. I agree that there is a place for international finance in the industry, the development, and the affairs of this country, but I contend that there is no place for international finance^ or for interference by extra-Australian sources, with the opinion moulding media of Australia - if I may use the words of the honorable member for Melbourne. Opposition members who speak of the necessity to encourage the investment of British capital in Australia, fail to remember that it would be impossible for Australian capital to use even one of any of the frequencies in Great Britain, New Zealand and South Africa, and, I think, in Canada and the United States of America. Radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom is completely under the control of the Government. No commercial broadcasting stations operate in that country. Therefore, the United Kingdom Government has complete protection over the homes, as it were, of the listening public of that country.
The honorable member for Melbourne said that the Labour party stands united in its opposition to this motion. I should like him to give to the House some information about the section of the Labour party to which he referred. The subject-matter of this motion was raised for the first time in this Parliament by a member of the Labour party. On the 30th October last, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) asked me this question :
– Is the honorable gentleman quoting from Hansard of the current session?
– No. The honorable member for Yarra asked me the following question: -
Is the Postmaster-General aware that overseas newspaper interests have recently purchased a chain of broadcasting stations in New South Wales? Is there any bar to overseas interests controlling those broadcasting stations? If not, will the Government give consideration to the introduction of legislation to prevent overseas bodies of any sort from controlling the means of public information in Australia?
To my knowledge that was the first reference to the matter that was made in this House. Yet, the honorable member for Melbourne stated that members of the Labour party are unanimously opposed to this motion. It is evident that some members of the Labour party are even more far-sighted than is the honorable member for Yarra, and I am sure that if .they were free to express their opinions, they would ask whether the Government is taking any action to avert this danger, which, apparently, is swiftly moving into the Australian radio broadcasting field. The honorable member for Melbourne said that I, as the Postmaster-General, apparently gave permission for the transfer of the shares-
– Either the honorable gentleman gave such permission, or he did not give it.
– I shall deal with that matter. This transaction took place towards the end of July last. I was completely misinformed by those persons who were engaged in the transaction in the first instance.
– Did that happen on the occasion of the function at Romano’s ?
– Yes. I, as the Postmaster-General, was invited by the retiring member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to be his guest at that function.
– How much champagne did the Minister drink?
– I did not drink as much as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) would drink without reciprocating. However, I was informed that the purchasers of the Denison interests were Mr. Charles Munro and Mr. Crick, of Sydney. There was not the slightest suggestion that any interests other than Australian were to be involved in the transaction. A day or so after that function, the following news item appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph under the heading “ Film Men Buy 2GB”:-
A group of film men yesterday bought the controlling interests in radio station 2GB.
Head of the group is Mr. Charles B. Munro, who has extensive film exhibiting interests throughout Australia.
He bought 32,234 shares in 2GB’ from Denison Estates Proprietary Limited, which previously held the controlling interest.
The press announcement proceeded to state that Mr. Olive Ogilvy, a former member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, would become the managing director of 2GB and of an associated company, Broadcasting Associates Limited. Mr. Ogilvy is the son-in-law of Mr. Munro. That was the information that was given to me at that time, but it was completely inaccurate, because Mr. Munro, as far as I can ascertain, has not a share in the new organization. The whole of the shares, so I have learned, are held by the London newspapers, the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Pictorial. The first intimation that I had officially of the acquisition of the shares by the English company was received about three months later - on the 24th October to be precise - when the chairman of the new group, Mr. Patience, wrote to me as follows : -
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board suggested that I report the details of the transaction to you as it affects the shareholding in Broadcasting Associates Proprietary Limited . . The purchase has only just been completed and I am now writing to acquaint you with the salient details.
I shall not read the whole of the letter that I wrote to Mr. Patience, but I make it clear to the House, and to the public, that from the commencement of this business, I have indicated to those persons the Government’s disapproval of the transaction. I wrote to Mr. Patience, as follows: -
It does not appear from your letter that you are seeking my approval to this transaction, which, indeed, you indicate has already been completed.
It was necessary to obtain my permission. The letter continued -
In order to remove any doubt, this letter is not to be construed in any way as an approval to the transaction or any part of it. I also desire to make it clear that the Government cannot accept the position which you appear to take that such considerable changes in the structure of Australian commercial broadcasting must be automatically accepted because they are not, or may not be, contrary to any express provision in the Broadcasting Act 1942-1950.
Thus, the position of the Government has been clear since I was first notified of the transaction. The law confers certain specific powers upon the PostmasterGeneral, and I remind the House that it was passed during the regime of the Chifley Government. That Government did not enact those provisions just for fun. The act provides -
The Minister may, by notice in writing, suspend for such period as is specified in the notice, or revoke and determine, any licence for a commercial broadcasting station on the ground that -
he considers it advisable in the public interest to do so.
I have informed the purchasers of the stations that their broadcasting licences will not necessarily be renewed automatically merely because they went over the head of the Government in carrying out the transaction. The position was stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this afternoon when he said that the situation could be dealt with either by Executive act under the terms of the provision that I have quoted or by the enactment of new legislation.
The problems that arise from the acquisition of broadcasting stations by outside interests and by diverse interests have engaged the attention of the Parliament from time to time over a long period. The act provides, in fact, that no organization shall have a controlling interest in more than eight commercial stations in Australia, but all kinds of devices are resorted to in an attempt to overcome that aspect of the law.
– By Australian capitalists !
– By all sorts of individuals. The principal device is to form a holding company to buy the lease of a station so that, as in this instance, it will not be necessary to apply to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or the Postmaster-General for a permit. The danger of foreign control of broadcasting stations is recognized by every government in the world. Restrictions are imposed on transfers of licences and shares for specific reasons. In Australia there is room for only a limited number of broadcasting stations. We have been allocated about 120 frequencies under the international arrangement that governs the establishment of broadcasting stations, and when those frequencies have been allotted it will not he possible to establish a single additional station in this country. Most of the frequencies have been allocated already and most of those that remain are reserved, in major areas of population at any rate, for national stations. Not many new commercial stations can be established. Therefore, the owners of existing stations have a virtual monopoly. They can disseminate without competition any sort of propaganda that they choose to broadcast. It would be most dangerous to allow an overseas group to gain a monopoly of commercial broadcasting in Australia merely because it has sufficient money to buy the available stations.
I shall not discuss the motives of the group that has gained control of the Macquarie network, but I point out that the interests of overseas organizations, whether British or foreign, invariably diverge, in some respects at any rate, from those of Australia on various important issues. Our interests in general are inclined in one direction, but in relation to certain matters associated with trade, for instance, they are not identical with those of other countries. “For that very good reason it is necessary that we should be able to prevent any overseas interests from infiltrating the homes of hundreds of thousands of Australians. No other propaganda medium is so effective as is radio broadcasting. Propaganda from that source seeps into the house day and night. The average housewife listens to the broadcasts whenever she is at work in the home. She hears all sorts of statements, at least in part, and they have an influence on her mind. The importance of this fact is best evidenced by the action that was taken by the members of the Opposition when they were in power to ban the “ John Henry Austral “ broadcasts. The Labour Government outlawed all broadcasts that purported to dramatize any current political event. I do not quarrel with that action; I merely point out that the Labour party realized the power of such propaganda. That party considered it to be- of such importance as to warrant the enactment of special legislation. But the party that was fearful of that danger is cheerfully prepared now, because it suits its political purposes to do so, to permit overseas interests to dominate this field of communications.
In my opinion - and I have good reasons for expressing it - no Australian organization, person or company, apart from the Munro group, was given an opportunity to invest in the Macquarie network. I venture to say that, had it been known generally that the Macquarie network was available for purchase, many Australian organizations would have been prepared to invest their money in it, not for political purposes-
Opposition Members. - Oh!
– Investors are not always guided by political .considerations. Their main concern is to obtain fair returns from their investments. The Government would have been glad if any Australian organization had purchased the Macquarie network. “When I was told that Mr. Munro and his associates intended to buy it, I was quite agreeable to the transaction. I could see no objection to it, although, as the honorable member for Melbourne is well aware, I strongly criticized the appointment to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of the gentleman who was to become chairman of directors of the organization.
– And the Minister ended by kissing him.
– I ended by treating him decently when I became PostmasterGeneral. I did not carry grudges over from the time when I was a member of the Opposition. The importance of keeping impartial the broadcasting system of Australia is best demonstrated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Successive governments have acknowledged that representatives of both opposing political factions in this Parliament should be appointed to the commission. I took great care, when vacancies occurred on the commission not long ago, to re-appoint the Labour nominee, Mr. Anderson, who is a member of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council.
– But the Minister got rid of Mrs. Kent and appointed Dame Enid Lyons in her place.
– This Government does not approve of everything that the Labour Government did. It is necessary to have an impartial dissemination of information over our broadcasting system.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
T8. 40]. - Two very important and entirely separate issues arise in this debate. The first is the purpose that is implicit in the actual wording of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The second is the real purpose, which was disclosed in the speeches of the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member who seconded the motion. The real purpose, as distinct from the ostensible purpose, is to use this Parliament as an instrument to aid one powerful outside financial group in its efforts to strangle another powerful outside financial group.
The ostensible object set out in the motion is of extreme importance to the Parliament. Placed on its highest level, I define it as an attempt to facilitate the promotion of a truly Australian viewpoint and sentiment and to prevent the perversion of Australian thought and aspirations in the interests of any other country, British or foreign. That, I believe, is a fair statement of the highest interpretation that can be placed on the ostensible object of the motion. Provided that the object is pursued in accordance with democratic concepts and not in a totalitarian way, it should command the support of every member of this Parliament. It is an objective to which the Australian Labour party has always loyally adhered, although honorable members on the other side of the House were not conspicuous champions of it before to-day.
– Is the honorable member going to vote for the motion?
– No, and I shall tell the House why I shall not do so. If some great sea change had finally affected the thinking of members of the anti-Labour parties so that, for once, they were prepared to be proud of their own country and not of every country but Australia, the proposal that is now before the House would be worthy of general acceptance.
Let us consider briefly the importance of the ostensible object of the motion. We need to develop Australian patriotism, to fan the flame of Australian enthusiasm, to encourage a -moral sense of responsibility to the nation. The press, broadcasting, and films could be of much greater assistance than they are in the achievement of those results if the .financial groups which control those instruments of public information would permit them to ,be used correctly. If an alteration of the constitution of those groups would permit progress to be made towards the achievement of those objectives, there would be a commanding case for such an alteration. This motion, however, is too restricted to provide for any such change. It proposes no alteration of the financial control of the press, of the film industry, which is largely foreign in its make-up, or of commercial broadcasting.
Nevertheless, no matter how weak and ineffective the motion might be in these respects it is .still worthy of consideration if the carrying and implementation of it would achieve any of those ostensible objects. We do need Australian independence. We ought to have the proud independence of a partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations. We ought to be able to formulate and express a truly Australian policy. We ought to he able to differ even with Great Britain in our viewpoint on British Commonwealth matters. We ought to be proud to belong to the British Commonwealth of Nations, and prouder still to be Australian, first of all things. The greatest enemy of these splendid aspirations of the Australian people has not been overseas control of commercial broadcasting in this country. It has ‘ been the deliberate policy, fostered and encouraged in this country right up to to-day by the antiLabour political parties, which are composed of Australians. They are the parties which have consistently maintained, and have endeavoured to develop, the attitude of colonial inferiority among Australians. They are the people who, from time to time in the last SO years, have advanced the proposition that we should be the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the industrialists of Great Britain. They are the people who have consistently said until very recently that Australia should have no foreign policy except that which is dictated by Downing-street. They are the people who have in turn declared that Australia should not have a navy of its own, that no Australian government bank .should be conducted, and that no Australian secondary industries should be operated. They are the people who a few weeks ago sold on the stock markets of the country the Government’s shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia)
Limited, which controls various commercial broadcasting stations, and placed no condition on that sale that the ownership of the shares was to pass into the hands of Australian citizens. So until this particular issue of the Bartholomew group’s interest in the Macquarie broadcasting network arose, the Government parties had no interest whatever . in the development of Australian ‘ patriotism and true Australian aspirations. If we look for the real sappers and weakeners, the opponents of Australian nationhood, we shall find them on the Government benches, and the fact that they will vote for this sham motion to-night will not affect the truth of that statement.
– Why did the people elect us to office?
– Because they were deceived, and very largely through monopoly financial control-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must come to the motion.
– I am suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that the people were deceived through monopoly financial control of commercial broadcasting stations operated by the financial groups which the Government is endeavouring to save by this motion. This motion has not been brought in for any academic purpose. It has been brought in in the crowded closing hours of the session with the single aim of preventing a British financial group from obtaining a substantial interest in the Macquarie broadcasting network. The fact is that the adoption of the motion would not, and could not, achieve any of the objects stated by honorable members opposite who have advanced in support of it the argument that adoption of it would tend to assist in the development of Australian sentiment and broadcasting truly Australian expression of views over commercial broadcasting stations. It would not do so, because, in the first place, many British citizens, even among those who have recently arrived in this country, are better Australians than are some people who have spent their whole lifetime in Australia. Australian citizenship is no guarantee of patriotism or loyalty to Australian principles or -aspirations.
In order to obtain proof of that statement we have only to consider the activities of some Australians who control means of propaganda, either press, film or broadcasting, and use them to the detriment of the best interests of the Australian people. In the second place, it could not succeed because capital has no nationality or patriotism and, because of its very nature, could have neither. Capital located in Australia can be employed just as injuriously to Australian interests as can capital brought into Australia from overseas. Thirdly, it could not succeed because any Australian who manages a broadcasting station or, for that matter, a network of stations, and will be permitted to do so under the terms of this motion, can frame the policy of his station, if he so desires, to attract the rich advertising contracts that are available to Australian commercial broadcasting stations from foreign corporations - not merely from British corporations, but also from foreign corporations. The manager of such a station or network, even if he were born in Australia, had spent every day of his life in Australia, and was financed solely by capital the owners of which reside in Australia, can set aside the best interests of Australian culture and development in the conduct of his station for the profit that he gains by selling commercial programmes to the representatives of foreign corporations which can deny him the finances that he requires. That is actually happening every day in Australia, and there is nothing in the terms of this motion to prevent it from continuing to happen.
The ownership of a network or of one station whether it be British or Australian, would in no way affect the purchase time for talks or plays of a kind that we hear over commercial stations, which sap and weaken our highest national aspirations. Whether the capital invested was British or Australian would not affect the presentation of low-grade, and sometimes debasing, programmes wholly provided and paid for by the representatives of foreign companies which operate in Australia and which have absolutely no interest in Australia except the exploitation of Australians, but are allowed, and will continue to be allowed, to buy broadcast time and to use it to put on the air programmes of their own . composition. Whether the capital in the station or network was British or Australian would not affect the provision of finance to the owners of it by banks or other financial institutions that are located in Australia but have overseas capital and overseas directorates, and are able to impose their controls on the policy to be followed by the owners of the station as a condition of financial assistance being granted to them.
The carrying of this motion would in no way affect the presentation of foreign films, which have such a tremendous influence on Australian propaganda, or the publication of foreign comic strips, which openly glorify the way of life of another country and teach young Australians to grow up to be good little Americans. It would do nothing whatever to stem .the betrayal of Australian interests which occurs every day in sections of the Australian press in every capital city. All those things show the insincerity of the proposer and seconder of the motion, because they are making no attempt to attack the real evils in this country that stand in the way of the development of national patriotism and the highest national aspirations. The motion does none of these things. It is not intended, and never was intended, to do any of these things. It is not intended to promote Australian patriotism, to develop an Australian viewpoint or to foster Australian sentiment. It does not touch the fringe of that problem. It clearly could have no effect in that direction. It uses that ostensible object, which it clearly could not achieve, as a mask and a cloak to conceal one specific object, which was made perfectly plain in the speeches of the mover and seconder of the motion. That one object - and there is no other - is to prevent the Bartholomew financial group from obtaining a controlling interest in the Macquarie broadcasting network.
– Hear, hear !
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) says “ Hear, ‘hear ! “. He agrees that that is the sole subject of the motion, although, of course, the Bartholomew interests are not named in the motion and although the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), from his place at the table, declared that the motion had no specific relation to the Bartholomew interests. But the PostmasterGeneral, with his usual frankness, has admitted that to be the truth. The motion has been presented deliberately and solely in the interests of another rival financial group.
The presentation of the motion to the House was preceded by the most intensive lobbying on behalf of that group both in Canberra and in other capital cities. The reason why the honorable members who proposed and seconded it are prepared to take a step that is calculated to benefit one financial group and to disadvantage another financial group has not, of course, been stated by them to the House. Nevertheless, just as their purpose is clear, their reason for seeking to achieve that purpose is equally clear. They wish to support a monopolistic financial group which has used in the past, and would continue to use in the future, if able to do so, all the methods of publicity and propaganda that it has at its command for the purpose of defeating the Australian Labour party. That is the reason why they wish to support that financial group and wish to attack the rival financial group, which, up to tho present at any rate, has shown no disposition to make itself the servant of the Government in attacks on the Labour party. The motion is therefore in effect - and the notice given by the Prime Minister of his intention to take further action either by Executive action or by legislation if this motion is carried supports my contention - the expression of a political conspiracy in the interests of one financial group directed against another financial group, which would defraud those interests that have purchased a financial share in the Macquarie broadcasting network. From that point of view this is one of the most shocking and disgraceful proceedings ever presented to this House for its consideration. The only useful thing which the proposer and seconder of the motion have achieved - and they have achieved it accidentally - is that they have directed the attention of this House and, 1 trust, of the public, to the dangers that tire possibly inherent in control by private capital of any form of broadcasting in this country.
Finally, viewing the case as it has been presented by Government supporters, I should like to ask whether Great Britain is, after all, a friend or an enemy of Australia. John Bull has always been presented as a personage with the liveliest feelings of affection for and interest in this young British country. The good old Liberal slogan that we used to hear over the air and see on every hoarding was “ Tune in with Britain”. The new Liberal slogan is, “ Tune Great Britain out “. That slogan, of course, is being presented to the people at the very time when forces all over the world are attempting to tune Great Britain out. This Government is allying itself with forces that are eager to kick Great Britain now because they think, quite wrongly, that Great Britain is down.
.- One cannot help but be impressed by the versatile imagination of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). He has looked into his crystal hall and has seen many more motives for the presentation of this motion that actually exist. It seems to me a pity that he did not turn his journalistic talents into the short-story field, in which he could have made some real contribution to our literature. However, I am glad that he has in some respects a very lively appreciation of the motives that have prompted Government supporters to submit this motion.
It has been suggested that the motion is aimed directly at one financial group. It is true that this situation came to the fore because of the intrusion of an overseas company into the Australian commercial broadcasting field through the recent purchase of shares in the Macquarie network, and that the possibilities inherent in the situation have forced us to examine the control of broadcasting in Australia and to submit this motion. If the whole of our legislative process is to be frozen then this Parliament might as well close up and go out of business. But surely it is our duty to make a continuous review of matters such as this and when the danger inherent in the purchase of these shares is brought to the notice of the Government, surely it would be guilty of a dereliction of duty if it failed to take the necessary steps to prevent its occurrence. There are two possible reasons for such a venture as that which is under consideration. One is that it is purely a commercial enterprise. The other might be one of which some honorable members opposite are very well aware. Great industrial development in this country is being aided by British capital. That may mean that there will be an upsurge of absentee ownership. There may be some evils in such a development but this is not the time to discuss that possibility.
I suggest that the two elements of the Opposition represented by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should confer with each other. This afternoon, in justification of the Opposition’s stand on this matter, the Leader of the Opposition made a long and very impressive but hardly enlightening tirade on the extent of British holdings in this country. The” honorable member for Eden-Monaro suggested that the people who had been mentioned by his leader were guilty of exploiting this country by their operations. This is another situation in respect of which honorable members opposite find themselves in different camps. If British capital is to become established in Australia, surely we can ensure that it shall not develop into a monopoly. Surely the Australian people have the right to decide whether they will use the services of British companies. There are all the elements of competition to keep this situation under control. But an entirely different picture is presented by the advent of British capital into commercial broadcasting which, for technical reasons, is a government supported monopoly. Perhaps it is a partial monopoly; nevertheless, it is a monopoly. It operates very peculiarly in the public domain and for that reason the Government has a peculiar responsibility to ensure that it shall be administered in the best national interests.
Broadcasting is a most powerful medium of propaganda and it behoves the Government to ensure that it shall not fall into evil hands. We cannot tolerate this power in the hands of anybody who may be ill-disposed towards this country. Australia is only now laying the foundations for its cultural advancement. We have to develop the Australian sentiment and this country’s future will best be served if we reserve this field to Australian capital and Australian entrepreneurs. If this is purely a commercial venture the worst that can be charged against Government supporters is that they are overcautious. If we are being over-cautious our motive is to guard the national interest. We must be careful to ensure that what began as a commercial venture to serve the public shall not become a protected monopoly that will serve merely private interests. It seems to me that this is a mild method of bringing about a very desirable situation and of preventing the dangerous intrusion of overseas interests.
In 1944, when the present honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) held a portfolio, he had a difference of opinion with the Sydney press on the question of war-time censorship. For a couple of days the Sydney newspapers were not distributed in the streets of Sydney. When the Daily Telegraph criticized the Minister’s administration, he sent officials to ensure that trucks should not distribute editions of that newspaper. The honorable member accused Mr. Justice Starke and Mr. Justice Rich, of the High Court, of being prejudiced in favour of the press. Yet the honorable member has criticized the attitude of Government supporters to the motion before the House. I have always abhorred political bias in newspapers, but it would be futile to imagine that such bias could be eliminated. When a great organization of broadcasting stations falls into hands which control a section of the press, it becomes necessary to examine the situation carefully in order to ascertain what the result might be. The new control of the Macquarie broadcasting network will bring the whole network under the control of the London Daily Mirror and the Sunday Pictorial. Those newspapers are owned by separate corn- panies, but so close is their association that ‘ they have been linked in recent announcements regarding their acquisition of their new interest. On the 19th March, 1942, the Home Secretary informed the House of Commons that for some time past the Daily Mirror had been publishing matter which, in the opinion of the Government, was calculated to foment opposition to the successful prosecution of the war and that consequently he had warned the publishers that if they continued to offend he would order the suppression of the newspaper under the powers vested in him. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) accused Opposition members of failing to trust their British brethren. I trust that Opposition members will excuse me from having fraternal feelings for anybody who could earn in war-time the sort of comments that I have quoted. If the same interests aim to control a great section of the broadcasting industry in Australia the matter must be carefully examined.
Section 53 of the Australian Broadcasting Act stipulates the limits of the interest which any individual or company may have in the Australian broadcasting industry. Such interest is limited to one capital station in any one State, to four capital city stations throughout Australia, to four stations in any one State, and to eight stations in all. In passing that act, the Parliament attempted to prevent the development of a single control of the industry. The interests that have purchased the Macquarie network will exercise control, direct or indirect, over many more than the maximum number of eight stations mentioned in the act. The word “control “ when used in connexion with the broadcasting industry does not lend itself to easy definition. In the Macquarie network there is a great group of cooperating stations which were cited by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick). It is not to be supposed that these stations are under the financial control of the Macquarie broadcasting network. They are freely co-operating stations, but many of them, due to bad licensing procedure in earlier years, found themselves in a position of some- economic difficulty and have been obliged to maintain the best possible relations with the source of their business. So these stations are almost irrevocably tied to the Macquarie network in the absence of any similar organization. There is not the slightest doubt that these stations would be required to assist in any misuse of the broadcasting industry by those who controlled the Macquarie network.
Naturally, any misuse of broadcasting facilities by this or any other group would not be obvious, even to the stations that participated in it. No departure from the principles of free speech is involved in this motion. Section 61 (2.) of the Australian Broadcasting Act provides that a licencee shall publish a schedule of advertising charges and make his services available without discrimination. If there has been any departure from the provisions of that section, it has been on the part of the broadcasting stations which the Labour party acquired during its period of office. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that we cannot undo something that has been done. Nobody will know better than the right honorable gentleman that when a worse state of affairs than that which we are discussing developed in the United States of America in relation to the Standard Oil Company the Government of the United States of America had no difficulty in breaking up that organization under its anti-trust legislation. But the Government must not allow a similar position to arise in Australia. We are forewarned what could happen and we shall be unwise if we do not pass this motion and so preserve the freedom of the Australian broadcasting industry for the Australian people. There is nothing wrong with a proposition which seeks to protect an industry such as the broadcasting industry which operates in the public domain and is a government-sustained monopoly. Organizations which influence public opinion and which can be of service to the country in cultivating national pride and culture should he reserved to purely Australian control. Under these circumstances, I support the motion wholeheartedly.
Motion (by Mr. Wilson) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion(vide page 2915) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee
Act 1013-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - The erection of a building at Highett, Victoria, for a dairy research laboratory.
In support of its decision to proceed with this building, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has stated that the manufacture of dairy products is one of Australia’s major industries, but that, due to the lack of laboratory facilities, itis not possible to allocate the number of technical officers required to carry out research into the industry problems which the dairy research section of the organization is being continually asked to investigate. In addition, the existing laboratory premises used by the dairy research section are urgently required by the Division of Industrial Chemistry of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in that division’s research into minerals utilization.
I hope that the committee, in spite of what the Commonwealth Scientific and industrial Research Organization has said, will contact the Victorian Minister for Agriculture or the Victorian Department of Agriculture and ensure that the work that is proposed to be done in this building will not overlap or duplicate research work that is already being done for the dairying industry in two Victorian dairy research colleges. One college is in the eastern district and the other in the western district of the State. The reason for my reference of this matter to the committee is that I am not sure whether the proposed research work will be different from work that is already being done by the State colleges.I desire the committee to investigate that matter. I also desire it to inquire into whether the special work which, it is proposed, shall be done could not be done more economically and not less efficiently at the two State colleges. In this connexion it is worth nothing that the estimated expenditure is £122,000.
It is proposed that the building shall be constructed with brick walls, corrugated fibro-cement roofs and concrete floors. The estimated cost of the project, as I have just said, is £122,000, which figure includes an amount of £27,000 for highly specialized engineering services within the building. I understand that the Australian Dairy Produce Boardhas undertaken to provide up to £20,000 towards the cost of the laboratory.
I table the plans of the proposed building and recommend to the House that the project be referred to the committee for investigation and report.
.- The Opposition supports the motion. I had intended to raise a point that has been raised by the Minister for “Works and Housing (Mr. Kent Hughes). It is well known that theVictorian Department of Agriculture has established a school of dairy technology, I think it is called, at the Werribee State Research Farm, and that there is another school in Victoria which deals with the technical problems of the dairying industry. But it may well be that in States other than Victoria there is a Jack of facilities for the conduct of dairy research work and the study of dairy technology. If that be so, and provided there is no overlapping of the work of the two schools in Victoria, there is ample justification for the proposal that has been advanced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
I doubt the necessity for some of the work that is now being done at schools and colleges in the States. I admit that I am not fully informed upon this matter, but I think it would be well if the Public Works Committee gave consideration to it. I understand that soon the school of dairy technology at Werribee will be used, to a large degree, to train men in what may be called the simple straightforward work of manufacturing cheese, butter and other milk products. I believe that such training could well be undertaken by butter and cheese manufacturers on their own premises and properties, and that the Victorian schools should devote their attention to the highly scientific problems in which the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is interested. There are good reasons why the Public Works Committee should investigate fully this proposal to expend £122,000 upon a building at a time when labour and materials are urgently required for housing purposes.
I remind the Minister that some research work on behalf of the dairying industry is being done now. The Chifley Government made provision for a grant of £250,000 a year to be paid to the industry for expenditure upon research and investigation, and the grant is still being paid. The money is allocated between the States. A large proportion of it is expended in the field on pasture work, &c.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Beale) 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 Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949, so as to provide quick and effective machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes and for the making of awards for persons employed on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme. The principal act provides that nothing in it shall prevent the making of an industrial award or agreement under any act in relation to officers or employees of the Snowy Mountains Authority. But the circumstances in which the work of the authority is being carried on are such that no suitable machinery, either Commonwealth or State, is available for the handling of industrial disputes in which the authority may become involved.
The employees of the authority belong to a wide variety of callings. Normally, both the employees and the authority, as their employer, would use the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the settlement of industrial disputes. Although, under the principal act, the authority is not denied approach to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the approach cannot be made unless a genuine interstate industrial dispute exists or is pending. The work of the authority at present is completely in New South Wales, and at no time will more than a comparatively small part of it extend across the border into Victoria. More than twenty unions have employees of the authority among their members. Most, but not all, of those unions have federal registration. Each and all of the federal unions may be engaged in, or might create, an interstate dispute affecting the classes of workers for which they cater, in which event they would have access to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the settlement of the dispute, but the authority is not in a position to approach the court.
The Public Service Arbitrator has a statutory jurisdiction that is wide enough to embrace the authority’s own employees, but not the employees of contractors of the authority. Moreover, federal registration is a prerequisite for the exercise of the Public Service Arbitrator’s jurisdiction. As the authority is a body established under a law of the Commonwealth, neither it nor its employees come within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales or of the wages boards of Victoria. Pending the provision of appropriate industrial machinery, the authority has been observing three Commonwealth awards and seventeen awards of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales, although it is not bound by them.
The main object of this bill is to provide for all employees of the authority, and for the authority itself, ready access to one industrial tribunal for the settlement of industrial disputes and for the making of awards. The tribunal selected for this purpose is a single judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In this respect, the provisions of the bill are similar to the provision that is made under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949 for a single judge of the court to exercise jurisdiction in the stevedoring industry.
Persons employed by contractors and sub-contractors engaged by the authority work side by side, to a large extent, with employees of the authority. A considerable amount of construction work will be carried out by contract. For the sake of industrial harmony, it is very desirable that, in such areas as may be specified where those conditions apply, the jurisdiction to settle industrial disputes shall be vested in one tribunal. The bill provides for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to exercise that jurisdiction.
The main purpose of the bill is found in clause 7, which provides that a new Part IVa. - Industrial Matters - shall be inserted in the act. This part defines contractors, sub-contractors and employees, and also the specified area in which the court will have jurisdiction to settle industrial disputes affecting persons employed by such contractors and subcontractors. As I have said, the bill provides that a single judge of the court shall exercise the powers of the court under this measure. It is provided that, in exercising the powers of the court, the single judge shall have regard to any order or award of the full court in respect of standard hours, basic wages for male3 and females, annual leave, sick leave and long-service leave. The bill provides for the application of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to matters that arise under the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Act in the same manner as the Conciliation and Arbitration Act applies to matters that arise under that act. Similar provision is contained in the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949.
The persons employed by the authority comprise officers, temporary officers, and temporary and casual employees. The principal act does not define a temporary officer, or a temporary or casual employee. The bill defines a temporary officer and an employee, and provides for temporary officers the same privileges in approaching industrial tribunals as are enjoyed by officers. In effect, the bill will preserve to officers and temporary officers access to the Public Service Arbitrator, as well as to other industrial tribunals.
The fact that the persons employed on: the Snowy Mountains scheme are drawn from many different industrial unions, are working more or less side by side in a rather isolated area, and are, in many instances, living under camp conditions, makes it specially desirable, in the Government’s view, that industrial relations throughout the scheme shall, as far as possible, be under the control of one authority, and be prescribed by som.eth.iiig in the nature of an “ industry award “. That is what the hill aims to accomplish.
In introducing the measure, the Government is endeavouring earnestly to provide for the greatest efficiency and harmony between the authority and its employees. The authority has conferred with representatives of the Australian Workers Union and the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council. The union representatives with whom the authority has conferred have urged strongly that appropriate industrial machinery for the Snowy Mountains scheme shall be established at the earliest possible date.
– The Opposition has no objection to this bill. It notes that the Snowy Mountains Authority has conferred with representatives of the Australian Workers Union and of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council. This proposal is in the nature of an experiment. It is an attempt to bring groups of trades in a special area under a jurisdiction comparable with the jurisdiction that is exercised under the Stevedoring Industry Act by a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the person of Judge Kirby. The Government’s case is that there is such overlapping of awards that it will be simpler for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to act, and for its jurisdiction to be exercised by a single judge of the court. We accept that proposition, and are prepared to allow the bill to pass.
I desire to raise a point in connexion with recreation leave and sick leave, in respect of which I shall move an amendment in committee. My attention has been directed to it by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). The Opposition considers that the legislation should state specifically that the court, if dealing with recreation leave and sick leave, shall extend to employees treatment not less favorable than that which is extended to them under the existing Public Service Regulations. I do not think that the court would treat employees less favorably, but the acceptance of the amendment that I have foreshadowed would give security to the employees in relation to those two important matters.
– We cannot direct the court in an act of Parliament.
– We can specify a minimum. Under the Public Service Regulations,’ there is a statutory minimum. We wish that position, to be maintained. The bill could state that every employee shall been entitled to retain his rights under the Public Service Regulations. That would preserve an existing right.
– This bill proposes to establish a single judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as a tribunal for the settlement of industrial disputes and the determination of industrial matters associated with officers, temporary . officers and employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. At the same time, it aims to preserve the right of officers and temporary officers to approach the Public Service Arbitrator, if they so desire. The need for some tribunal of that kind in respect of the Snowy Mountains project has been recognized for a considerable time and representatives of all the unions that have members employed on the project have been interested in obtaining some appropriate tribunal to deal with the industrial affairs of the project as a single industry. Such inquiries as I have had an opportunity to make since the measure was introduced in another place, indicate that officials of those unions will generally be satisfied with this measure. Climatic conditions in much of the area that is covered by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority’s activities are very severe in the winter months. Many of the men must necessarily work in isolated areas and under conditions, particularly in winter, which make their lives rather unattractive and, therefore, deserve the very best recompense in the form of pay and conditions that can be given to them. Over twenty unions have members employed on the project, but approximately 60 per cent, of the authority’s employees are members of the Australian Workers Union.
As the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) stated in his second-reading speech, the authority has been observing three Commonwealth awards and seventeen awards of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales, without having been obliged to observe them. Therefore, so far as I can see, its employees have not had the opportunity to obtain legal redress if they believed that the authority’s observance or interpretation of the provisions of any one of those twenty awards was incorrect. In those circumstances it is not remarkable that industrial disputes have occasionally occurred between the authority and its employees. Indeed, in all the circumstances, it is remarkable to me that more disputes have not occurred. In that respect, I pay tribute to the common sense and reasonableness of the union officials on the job and to the Commissioner, Mr. Hudson, and the industrial officers of the authority.
I support the view that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has expounded. He has submitted that the Government should agree to an amendment of clause 7, which requires that the judge who is to be appointed under the bill - I have heard the name of Mr. Justice Wright mentioned in this respect - shall have regard to the orders and awards of the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court with respect to standard hours, the basic wage, female rates of pay, periodical leave with pay, sick leave with pay and long-service leave with pay. Generally, this legislation is modelled on the Stevedoring Industry Act. But that act does not contain that particular provision. Under paragraph (d) of proposed new section 24e the court will be required to pay regard to the orders and awards of the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court with respect to periodicals sick leave and long-service leave with pay. If this provision is retained in the bill as drafted, employees of the Snowy Mountans Hydroelectric Authority are likely to be placed in a worse position than they are in at present. I understand that at present all employees of the authority have the right to go before the Public Service Arbitrator. In any event, officers and temporary officers of the authority have that right and it has been stated, although I understand that some doubt exists upon the point, that all its employees have that right.
– All members of unions that are registered with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have the right to apply to the Public Service Arbitrator.
– If they did that now, before the passage of this measure, they would obtain sick leave and annual recreation leave on a far more liberal basis than the Full Court would award. They would obtain a minimum of twelve days’ sick leave annually on full pay and three weeks’ annual leave on full pay from the Public Service Arbitrator. But if the single judge, whom it is now proposed to appoint as a tribunal to deal with these employees, is obliged to pay regard to orders and awards of the Full Court he will not be able to award to those employees more than a fortnight’s recreation leave annually or one week’s sick leave on full pay. Thus the bill as drafted will place those employees in a worse position than they are in at present in that respect.
– They could still go to the Public Service Arbitrator.
– The point that I am trying to make is that, whilst that right will be preserved in respect of officers and temporary officers of the authority, it will be taken away from employees of the authority.
– Did those employees ever have that right?
– Whilst the Public Service Arbitrator can make awards, he cannot settle or adjudicate on disputes.
– But since the object of this measure is to promote content and harmony among employees who are working in a special area it would be a bad thing if in one important and material respect they were given cause to feel that their conditions had been worsened compared with those that they have been able to obtain up to date. The single judge should not be obliged to grant, as a minimum, conditions that are worse than those that the Public Service Arbitrator would grant.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
After Part IV. of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted: - “ Part IVa. - Industrial Matters. : 24j. . . .
– I move -
That, at the end of the clause, the following section be added: - “ 24k. Nothing in this Act shall -prejudice the right of any employee who is or becomes entitled to any benefit or advantage under the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations in respect of annual recreation or sick leave, and any award made under this Act shall, in respect of such matters, accord to such employee treatment not less favorable than that provided for in such Regulations.”.
The first part of the amendment gives to employees the right that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) emphasized in his secondreading speech; and the second part of it stipulates that the court shall pay attention to that fact. It may be argued that a direction cannot be given to the court on this point, but I believe that the first part of the amendment answers that objection and guarantees continuance of the existing rights of these employees.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment, which is designed to give a right to employees with respect to recreation and sick leave which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has suggested they enjoy at present but which, in fact, they do not. I am instructed that these employees are working in respect of such leave under awards, or decisions, of State tribunals. If the Government accepted the amendment it would give something additional to that which these employees enjoy at present. The right honorable gentleman has admitted that this legislation is more or less in the experimental stage, and that the last word has not been said upon it. However, the bill represents a genuine attempt to bring order out of disorder. The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment at present. There is no reason whatever to suppose that the judge who is to be appointed as a tribunal to deal with these matters will not take every factor into consideration and will not give justice and satisfaction to the employees concerned.
.- I . hope that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) will give further consideration to the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has submitted. The clause as drafted will oblige the judge who is appointed to deal with matters that affect employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to observe decisions of the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in respect of four matters. They are the basic wage, standard hours, female rates of pay, and the periods of annual leave, sick leave and long service leave with pay. The decisions of the Full Court in respect of such matters are to be regarded as standard determinations. Whilst it might be said that those standards might well be taken as a basis in respect of employment by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, I pointed out at the time that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill that was passed some time ago with the object of transferring to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the sole right of determining the periods of periodical leave, sick leave and long service leave with pay, would be likely to give rise to anomalies and to cause conflict. The very reasons that have been advanced for the establishment of a special tribunal to deal with industrial disputes among employees on the Snowy Mountains scheme are, themselves, reasons why the judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should not be required absolutely to follow the decisions that may be made by that court in respect of such matters. The very nature of this scheme places it in a class apart from works for which standard provisions have been made by the court.
– The Snowy Mountains scheme is not the only scheme that is being undertaken in Australia.
– It is the only scheme of its kind.
– Because of the cold climate ?
– Partly because of the cold climate, and partly because of such factors as the time that it will take to complete and the isolated conditions under which the men work. The Kiewa scheme in Victoria is a similar undertaking, and because of the prevailing conditions, special provisions have been made in respect of annual leave and sick leave for the employees on that job. The Kiewa scheme will take a number of years to complete and the men who are engaged on it work under isolated conditions which, in many respects, are similar to those on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Therefore, it is advisable to grant discretionary powers with respect to certain matters to the judge who will hear the claims of employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The amendment will confer upon him such discretionary power.
– Nonsense. The amendment will direct the judge in certain respects.
– This bill proposes to appoint a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to adjudicate in disputes in which employees of a Commonwealth authority are involved. In my opinion, the constitutional limitations that prevent the court from acting except in interstate disputes do not apply to the circumstances that are now under consideration. What is desired in respect of the Snowy Mountains undertaking is the continuance of the good relations that have existed in the past, and the establishment of uniform conditions in order to prevent discontent and the replacement of a number of industrial awards with one industrial code. In those circumstances it is desirable that discretionary power be vested in the judge. The bill directs him on one matter, yet the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) objects to the amendment on the ground that it will direct him on another matter. The bill instructs the judge that he may not alter certain things. Such a limitation will arouse a sense of frustration among employees who seek a determination from him. If it be wrong for us to suggest that he be granted a discretionary power, it is equally wrong for the Government to provide that he may not deal with certain matters.
– The amendment, if it be adopted, will give rise to an anomaly.
– This bill also will give rise to an anomaly. Discretionary power should be vested in the authority that is appointed to adjudicate in industrial disputes, otherwise undesirable conditions will be established. The Minister for Defence evidently does not realize what are the implications of some of the arbitration legislation. Under this bill, directions are to be given to the judge in respect of several matters, all Of which are important in industrial disputes. The Opposition has proposed that, instead of six directions being given to him, that provision be qualified by the granting of discretionary power that will enable disputes to be dealt with in a spirit of conciliation. If the Minister for Defence is determined to have trouble among employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, he is going the right way to achieve his objective. Evidently the Minister is unable to accept a proposal that is made in good faith for the establishment of better industrial relations. I emphasize that the Leader of the Opposition has submitted this amendment in good faith in the hope that we may be able to establish the very conditions which, I feel sure, the Government desires to establish. It is not helpful when the Minister for Defence derides a proposal that has been made in good faith, as though, it was intended to undermine the whole structure. I urge the Minister for Supply to give further consideration to the amendment, because I sincerely believe that its adoption will help to maintain good relations between the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and its employees.
.- The Opposition supports this bill in principle, and accepts practically the whole of its provisions, but directs attention to a matter that will definitely lead to industrial disputes between the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and its employees. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), in his second-reading speech, said that the bill preserved to officers and temporary employees of the authority access to the Public Service Arbitrator as well as to other industrial tribunals. The majority of the awards that have been made by the Public Service Arbitrator provide for the granting of three weeks annual leave, and for sick leave. If those provisions are not specifically included in an award, the Arbitrator states that the conditions of the employees to whom it is applicable shall be those provided under Public Service Regulations. Some of the persons who are engaged on the Snowy Mountains scheme are Commonwealth officers and employees. Other em:ployees are engaged by contractors. The Commonwealth officers and employees are permitted to approach the Public Service Arbitrator for the purpose of obtaining an award, and I know, from many years’ experience, that the conditions in respect of ‘annual leave and sick leave that are applicable under Public Service Regulations will be granted to Commonwealth officers and employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Other employees will be obliged to apply to a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a determination on annual leave and sick leave. The Minister objected to the amendment that has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on the ground that its acceptance would involve giving an instruction to the judge. However, I point out that under the bill as drafted the judge will be instructed about what he may do and may not do. If he can be given instructions about his powers and functions in one respect, he can be told of his limitations in another respect.
We know that Commonwealth officers and employees of the authority will be granted specific periods of annual leave and sick leave. Other men who work side by side with them on precisely the same jobs will be obliged to approach the judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a determination on such matters, and may be granted different periods of annual leave and sick leave. If one employee is entitled to three weeks annual leave and another employee who works beside him on precisely the same job is entitled to only two weeks annual leave, discontent will inevitably result. The proposal that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition is sensible and reasonable. The amendment, if it be embodied in the bill, will reduce the possibility of the occurrence of industrial disputes among employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Uniformity in respect of industrial conditions should be achieved, wherever that is possible, on that undertaking. There is no need for a real argument about this matter. I appeal to the Minister to recognize the wisdom of the proposal that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition. Acceptance of the amendment will not involve giving anything away, or interference in any respect with the legislation to which those employees are subject, but it will assist to maintain industrial peace in the Snowy Mountains area.
– I do not suggest for a moment that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has not spoken in good faith. I also express the hope that he considers that the Government has introduced this bill in good faith.
– Yes, I believe that the Government has introduced the bill in good faith.
– This amending legislation is necessary because the matter for which it provides was overlooked in the original act. When I make that statement, I do not challenge the good faith of the Labour government that introduced that legislation. Experience has shown that the present system, under which seventeen or eighteen awards bind various workers, cannot be continued. We wish to obtain, uniformity, and that is the purpose for which this bill has been introduced. However, the Government considers that the super-imposition of this amendment upon the provisions of the bill would tend to create a degree of anomaly in relation to other industries and occupations. The honorable member for Bendigo contended that employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority are entitled to special consideration because they work in a cold climate and in an isolated area. Many men in other occupations, such as workers at the guided weapons testing range, might use similar arguments. The Government has brought down this bill, after discussions with union representatives in an atmosphere of general goodwill, in order to obtain better conditions for the men and to establish a reasonable degree of uniformity in our arbitration system. Time may show that a further amendment is necessary. In that event, the Government will introduce appropriate legislation. I am one of those legislators who, from experience with the law, are unwilling to over-legislate. I believe it to be wise to state only the bare legislative needs in any measure until further needs arise. Trouble of all sorts is avoided by that means. The Government takes the view that this bill is adequate for the time being and, in the circumstances, it will not accept the amendment.
– The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) correctly stated that the trade unions were consulted, but they certainly did not express a view contrary to the proposal of the Opposition in this amendment. The Minister simply stated in his second-reading speech that the organizations wished to have an authority appointed for the Snowy Mountains area. Therefore, to say that numbers of the men who have vested rights are willing to have those rights thrown into the melting pot when at present they are regarded as settled, would be to draw an extraordinary inference. It is true that the area in which the bill will be effective is limited, but why should an act of Parliament permit the circumscription of existing rights in relation to leaves? The Opposition considers that this is an important matter and that the Minister should have accepted the amendment.
Question put -
That the amendment (Dr. Evatt’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Transferred Officers’ Allowances Act 1948.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. McBride do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this short bill is to grant allowances to former State officers transferred to the Commonwealth at federation. Their pension rights which originated under State law are preserved to them by section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution, and entitled them to retire on the pension which would be permitted by the law of the State, if their service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of their service with the State. The majority of the officers concerned were transferred to the Commonwealth service from the Western Australian State service, and their pension rights flowed from the Western Australian Superannuation Act of 1871. These pensions are on a more liberal basis than those payable under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, and are payable without contribution by the officers. Late in 1947, the Western Australian Parliament passed legislation to increase the pensions payable, under the Western Australian act of 1871, to its own retired officers by 25 per cent. but so that the pensions, together with the increase did not exceed £360 per annum. Officers whose pensions exceeded £360 per annum did not participate.
Although the Commonwealth was not under any legal obligation to increase the pensions payable to former State officers transferred to the Commonwealth, nevertheless it was considered that there were moral grounds for similar action by the Commonwealth. Accordingly the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Transferred Officers’ Allowances Act in 1948, so that former State officers would be placed in the same position as they would have been in had they remained in the State service.
The Western Australian Parliament has now passed further legislation to increase the pensions payable to its own retired officers under the 1871 act, and the Government considers that former State officers transferred to the Commonwealth should be granted allowances on the same lines. The increases are as follows : -
I commend the bill to honorable members.
.- The Opposition supports the bill which is consequent on the transfer of officers from the Western Australian service to the Commonwealth service at the time of federation. At the time of the transfers, the pensions to which the affected officers were entitled as a matter of right were estimated in relation to their estimated salaries at the date of retirement. Due to the rapid increase of costs and prices and consequently of salaries that has occurred since federation the salaries that it had been estimated the officers would be earning at retirement were far less than their actual salaries at retirement. In consequence two adjustments have been made by act of Parliament to do justice to those transferred officers. On each occasion the Western Australian Parliament has passed an act which gave effect to the increase for public servants who had remained in the employment of the Western Australian Government. Also on each occasion the Commonwealth Parliament has followed suit, as in 1948 and as is again proposed now. This bill only does justice to State servants who transferred to the service of the Commonwealth and completed their service on far higher salaries than had been anticipated at the time of their transfer. On the last occasion that an increase of these pensions was granted by act of Parliament, a ceiling was fixed above which increases would not he provided for. That practice is to be followed again in this measure. There is an element of injustice in that procedure, because those persons who retired on higher salaries than the average did not obtain the full benefit of the increase of pensions that was granted. That position resulted from the fact that these were not pensions for which they had subscribed,but pensions to which they were entitled as a right. The bill will give justice to persons who have rendered long service to the Commonwealth and, as it follows legislation passed by the Western Australian Parliament, the Opposition agrees to its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1950, as amended by the Superannuation Act 1951, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [10.38]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this short bill is to increase the pensions payable under section 57 or 58 of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act to former State officerstransferred to the Commonwealth at federation. Their pension or gratuity rights, which originated under State law, are preserved to them by section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution, and entitled them to retire on the pension or gratuity which would be permitted by the law of the State, if their service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of their service with the State. Statepension rights do not carry widows’ and children’s benefits, so when the Commonwealth Superannuation Act came into existence in 1922, provision was made therein for former State officers to be given the opportunity of exchanging their State rights for new rights under section 57 of the Commonwealth act, which included widows’ and children’s benefits, the new right’s being the actuarial equivalent of the State rights. Pensions payable under section 57 of the Commonwealth act, are therefore similar to pensions payable under section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution. The majority of the officers concerned were transferred to the Commonwealth service from the Western Australian State service, and their pension rights flowed from the Western Australian Superannuation Act of 1871. These pensions are payable without contribution by the officers, and although reduced by a certain amount to provide for widows’ and children’s pensions, are still morefavorable than those to which contributors to the Commonwealth scheme are entitled. Section 57 pensioners did not participate in the increases granted in recent years to pensioners who were contributors to the Commonwealth scheme.
Late in 1947 the Western Australian Parliament passed legislation which had the effect of increasing the pensions payable, under the Western Australian act of 1871, to its own retired officers, by 25 per cent., but so that the pensions together with the increase did not exceed £360 per annum. Officers whose pensions exceeded £360 per annum did not participate. Although the Commonwealth was not under any legal obligation to increase the pensions payable to former State officers transferred to the Commonwealth, nevertheless it was considered that there were moral grounds for similar action by the Commonwealth. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Superannuation Act in 1948 which granted certain increases of pensions, so that former State officers would be placed in the same position as they would have been in had they remained in the State service. The Western Australian Parliament has now passed further legislation to increase the pensions payable under the 1871 act to its own retired officers, and the Government considers that former State officers transferred to the Commonwealth should be granted increases on the same lines, with one-half of the amounts in the case of widows.
The increases are as follows: -
I commend the bill to honorable members.
.- The Opposition supports thisbill for the same reasons as it supported the Transferred Officers’ Allowances Bill. The bill will give a benefit to ex-members of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is necessary to point out that although the Commonwealth, as the Treasurer has said, is under no legal obligation in the matter, it certainly has a moral obligation to these former officers. It was estimated at the time of the transfer of the officers concerned to the Commonwealth service that they would he earning certain salaries at retirement, and their pensions were based on that estimate. As a result of the growth of Commonwealth responsibility and rising prices, especially in the last few years, their earnings increased and at retirement were far higher than was originally estimated. It must be remembered that this increase is not something that is granted merely because of the generosity of governments, but that it is the discharge of a moral obligation to those men who transferred to and have had long and honorable service with the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a certain sum of money into the National Debt Sinking Fund.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my budget speech I stated that, after meeting expenditure from Consolidated Revenue, it was estimated that there would be a budget surplus of £114.500,000 in the financial year 1951-52. I then indicated the Government’s intention that this surplus should be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund. The purpose of this bill is to provide for the appropriation of the surplus from Consolidated Revenue to the National Debt Sinking Fund, and to give effect to the Government’s intentions as indicated in my budget speech.
The bill provides that the National Debt Commission shall apply these special receipts in the re-purchase and redemption of debt. It is also provided that until such time as the receipts are applied in this manner the commission may invest these moneys by purchasing Commonwealth securities on the market or by subscribing to new loans. This will enable the giving of such direct or indirect assistance to the Loan Council borrowing programmes as may be necessary to fulfil the Commonwealth’s undertaking to the Loan Council. Honorable members will recall that in my budget speech I explained that the Government had agreed to accept responsibility for ensuring that the States gained access to loan funds for their works and housing programmes during 1951-52 up to the amount of. the approved programme of £225,000,000.
The bill will not in any way alter the provisions of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-1950 insofar as they relate to the normal receipts of the sinking fund and the purposes for which they are applied. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom BURKE’ adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty upon the production of wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McEwen and Mr. Holt do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for a bounty on stock feed wheat, sold by the Australian Wheat Board during the next two years. Its purpose is first, to ensure that wheat-growers will obtain a fair price for wheat sold as stock feed, and that they will not be forced to subsidize other industries by providing them with cheap feed at the growers’ expense; and secondly, to ensure adequate supplies of stock feed wheat for the pig, poultry and dairy industries, at prices which the industries can reasonably be expected to pay. Consumers will benefit from the amount proposed to be paid by the Commonwealth. It will keep the price of feed wheat considerably below the export price, for the pig, poultry and dairy industries and consumers will receive the advantage of this in the food that they buy from those industries.
The bill is necessary to bring into effect the Commonwealth’s commitments in a scheme which needs both the cooperation of all Australian governments, and complementary legislation of Commonwealth and State parliaments. The complementary legislation has already been introduced in some State parliaments, and action is being taken in the others to introduce it immediately. I have been advised that the necessary measure has been passed by the Parliaments of Queensland and South Australia. All the Australian governments have agreed on a common plan to meet difficulties which gravely concern each one of them. Those difficulties cannot he overcome hy isolated action, and cooperation is needed because of the widespread range of the wheat industry in our Australian economy. The need for action arises from a situation which has developed gradually over the years. The wheat industry is now carrying a burden which must, in justice to our wheatgrowers, be removed.
In the latter war years, and since the war, a price has been paid for all wheat sold in Australia which does not bear any fixed relation to the export price. Within limits that situation is reasonable, but as the years have passed there has been a great disparity between the local price and the export price. There has also been a steadily increasing demand for stock feed wheat in Australia, and a failure to develop the production of the feed grains which normally should supply the demand for stock feed in Australia. The result has been unfair to wheatgrowers, and harmful to our agricultural economy. As time went by, wheat growers found themselves supplying ever increasing quantities of wheat for stockfeed at low prices. There was a great overseas demand for that wheat for use as food, yet here in Australia the wheat had been used as stock feed. By using the wheat as cheap stock feed the production of our feed grains has been hampered, and the balance in our economy between wheat and coarse grains has been disturbed. I have been advised by the officers of my department whom J. requested to make investigations that wheat constitutes 84 per cent, of the total grains produced in Australia, leaving a balance of only 16 per cent, of coarse grains for stock feed and other purposes such as malting. In Canada wheat constitutes only 54^ per cent, of total cereal production. In the United States of America it constitutes only 23-J per cent, of total grain production, and in the Argentine 67 per cent. There is obviously an unbalance as between the grain industries in Australia. With the consent of honorable members I shall incorporate in Hansard a short statistical table on this subject.
The reduction in wheat acreage in Australia in recent years clearly demonstrates the need for a greater incentive to wheat production. Australia has a commitment, under the International Wheat Agreement, to supply 88,000,000 bushels of wheat for export each year during the remainder of the life of the agreement. That quantity is needed from Australia, by the importing countries for food, and it is within Australia’s productive capacity; but the full use of our food producing capacity must be encouraged if Australia is to supply its share of the quantities required overseas. This measure will add to our capacity to supply food by encouraging greater production of wheat and by encouraging greater production of feed grains, which will replace wheat for stock feed, and so allow a greater proportion of our wheat to be used for human food.
The plan which has led to the introduction of this bill may be summarized briefly. It is intended to ensure a price of I6s. Id. bulk a bushel for stock feed wheat sold in Australia. The States, by an amendment of their respective Wheat Industry Stabilization Acts, will provide for a price of 2s. a bushel higher than the guaranteed price during the 1951-52 season. In the 1952-53 season the price is to be fixed on the same basis, but with a maximum of 14s. a bushel. This special price will apply to wheat for the pig, poultry and dairying industries. The Common wealth will meet the difference between the price mentioned and 16s. Id. a bushel during the two years, for the quantity used for pig, poultry and dairy feed, up to a limit of 26,000,000 bushels annually. The price to be fixed by the State governments for other stock feed wheat will be 16s. Id. a bushel. It will be observed that the outcome of this arrangement will be that the wheatgrowers will receive 16s. Id. a bushel for all wheat used for stock feed, whereas the three named industries will obtain their wheat at a lower price.
The necessary provision to enable the. Australian Wheat Board to pay the freight on wheat delivered to the principal port in Queensland, and also in Tasmania, will be embodied in the State legislation. This action by the board will then be a condition precedent to the maintenance of the higher prices for feed wheat. The States will co-operate with the Commonwealth and with the Australian Wheat Board in the administration of the plan. This co-operation will be directed particularly to the policing of the arrangements for the cheaper wheat to be supplied only to the three named industries. The Commonwealth and State Governments have agreed to join in an endeavour to increase the production of wheat, and of other feed grains.
It will be seen that the plan is intended to give an incentive to production, and to a more balanced production, of wheat and feed grains. It makes provision for meeting the needs of the pig, poultry and dairying industries, and for the Commonwealth to provide a. substantial payment to enable the necessary adjustments to be effected smoothly. The bill provides that the bounty shall apply to stock feed wheat sold by the Australian Wheat Board from the 1st December, 1951. It will apply for two seasons, and so will cover the 1951-52 and 1952-53 wheat seasons, which is the remaining period, of the present Wheat Industry Stabilization Act.
A limit of 26,000,000 bushels for each of the two seasons has been set as the quantity of stock feed wheat on ‘ which the bounty will be payable. That is a reasonable limit, and it was determined after discussion at a conference with State Ministers for Agriculture. In fact it was the quantity of wheat used for stock feed purposes last year. Besides the fact that the quantity agreed on is reasonable in the light of the consumption of feed wheat to date, there is the fact that the Australian and State governments, by their joint action in this matter, are providing a stimulus to the production of other feed grains. Those feed grains should, from now on, provide a growing proportion of our needs because their production will not be restricted by the uneconomic competition of cheap wheat. 1 wish to emphasize the point that the needs of our stock feeding industries will be provided by adequate wheat for feed, and by the encouragement of increased supplies of other grains. In fact the varying and frequently conflicting interests of all the primary industries concerned have been weighed carefully so that the legitimate interests of each one will be guarded.
There is an additional protection against shortage of supplies arising from alterations to the legislation of the States. The State Ministers for Agriculture have agreed that the feed wheat may be supplied at 16s. Id. a bushel, bulk, if any of it is needed in addition to the 26,000,000 bushels mentioned. That price .will also apply to any feed wheat at all which may be needed for sheepfeeding. It is the unanimous opinion that graziers are not entitled to cheap wheat for sheep feed. Consequently, under State laws, the special feed wheat price that will be imposed by the States will not apply to wheat used as sheep feed. Neither will the Commonwealth bounty apply to wheat fed to sheep.
The rate of bounty per bushel is fixed in the Wheat Bounty Act. The starting point is the guaranteed price for the 1951-52 season, which is determined in accordance with the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act. That price was proclaimed to-day as 10s. a bushel. Under the State legislation it is intended to empower the Australian Wheat Board to charge a price for stock feed wheat which will be 2s. a bushel higher than the guaranteed price. The .Commonwealth will then pay to the board sufficient to bring its return up to 16s. Id. a bushel. The rate of bounty may be found by adding 2s. to the guaranteed price for the season, and subtracting the result from 16s. Id. That rate will apply to the 1951-52 wheat crop which is now being harvested. For the 1952-53 season, which is a year ahead, it is intended that the price of stock feed wheat shall not exceed 14s. a bushel. During that season the stock feed wheat price will be either 14s., or an amount 2s. above the guaranteed price for 1952-53, whichever is the less. The amount payable by the Commonwealth will then bridge the gap between the feed price and 16s. Id.
The intention is that the price of feed wheat should be raised to the export price adopted as the basis of the International Wheat Agreement. This would cause hardship to feeders if the change occurred too quickly, and so a period of two years has been provided in which the adjustment will be made. That period will give producers in those industries time to obtain other grain supplies and will give growers time to produce the feed grains required. The intention of this bill is to provide the necessary time for adjustments to be made, and to ensure that during the adjustment period the wheat-growers will get the return to which they are entitled.
The proposals made by the State Ministers for Agriculture included the provision of wheat for Tasmania, and for Queensland during a period of shortage of wheat, at the price which applies to the principal port in each of the other States. It will therefore be the responsibility of the Australian Wheat Board to provide the wheat and to meet the cost of the freight on the wheat to the State concerned. This payment will not re duce the amount guaranteed to growers under the present stabilization plan, but will be a deduction from the much greater amount provided for them by the increased price.
There will be a provision in the legislation of each State that the State moy suspend the approval for the increased stockfeed price. Should that happen, the stockfeed price would fall by 2s. a bushel to the lower guaranteed price because of the action taken by the State. The Commonwealth bill provides that the bounty will not be payable while the suspension is in force. It is intended that the bounty shall be paid to the Australian Wheat Board. It will then bc treated as part of the proceeds of the current pool, and will be distributed to growers as part of the payment received by them for the wheat that they deliver to the pool. Provision is made for the payment of bounty to be made at convenient times. The intention is to meet the convenience of all parties by making the payments so that they can be incorporated with the normal advances from the pool.
It is only necessary to add that this problem has been one of grave concern to all Australian and State governments for some time past, and particularly during recent months. The method proposed for meeting it has been evolved after a series of conferences between State and Commonwealth Ministers. Those Ministers meet regularly in the Australian Agricultural Council to discuss Australia’s agricultural policy, and the present plan is one example of the value of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. Wheat-growers agreed to the present price provisions as part of the stabilization plan that they accepted. The acceptance was accompanied by a statement from wheat-growers that they would press for revision of parts of the plan which related to prices. The pressure for revision kept growing in intensity as time went on, and in Mardi of this year I met the representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The conference was in compliance with the stated policy of the Government to consult with primary industries on matters concerning their welfare.
The Government had stated in its policy declarations that its policy was to extend the guaranteed price plan for wheat and certain other commodities if the industries producing those commodities so desired, and on terms to suit themselves. For that purpose I consulted with the Australian “Wheat Growers Federation and asked that organization to consider the matter and to inform me of the terms which would be acceptable to the wheatgrowers for the- purpose of stabilizing the industry. I informed the federation that I would place its proposal before the Government. The Australian Wheat ..Growers Federation presented a proposal -which contained seventeen points.- -In respect of sixteen of the points, the . Government was able to inform, the- Australian wheat industry that it .accepted either finally or in principle .each one of them. However, it. had.. to :inform the industry that the seventeenth point, which related to the price of certain feed wheat, was not within the constitutional competence of the .Commonwealth to determine. I promised to bring this matter before the Australian . Agricultural Council, and, therefore, to “the notice of the State Ministers for Agriculture. Only the State governments can resolve the matter of stock feed prices.
The whole matter was put to the State Ministers, and out of their deliberations finally emerged this legislation, in which, notwithstanding the allegations of many wheat-growers and politicians that the Commonwealth could fix a stockfeed price, it is -finally and clearly established that the State governments recognize that they alone can resolve that problem. Out of our discussions a decision emerged that the State governments would prepare certain legislation. That legislation is now before the State parliaments. The State Ministers asked me to negotiate with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation on their behalf. My departure overseas left to my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator MeLeay), the conduct of further negotiations with the growers’ representatives and with the State Ministers. After meeting the growers representatives, the Minister placed a plan before the State Ministers for Agriculture. The Com- monwealth was prepared to agree to this plan as a method of providing the necessary incentive for wheat-growers and safeguards for the feeding industries and for consumers. Five of the State Ministers did not agree to the proposal, but agreed to submit it for consideration to their governments. On my return another conference was held at the request of the State Ministers for Agriculture, and, after a full discussion, the State Ministers put forward a proposal which was accepted.
In accordance with that proposal State legislation is designed to establish the higher price for stock feed wheat, contingent on the Australian Wheat Board, in effect, bearing the cost of freight necessary for wheat shipped to Hobart and Brisbane to meet the needs of the importing States. The Commonwealth will provide a bounty for the benefit of the pig, poultry and dairy industries, and through these industries for the benefit of Australian consumers. It is the consumers who will receive the benefit of the expenditure now proposed for the approval of this House, through the food that they buy.
The Australian Government has been able to take the steps which have resulted in the co-operation of all Australian governments in meeting a problem affecting them all.- With confidence I ask honorable members to endorse its action.
Question stated -
That the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for a later hour this day.
– I ask that the debate be adjourned to to-morrow. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) desires to speak on this measure which, is an important one on which the Opposition feels keenly. We object to the degradation of parliamentary standards which would occur if we were forced to embark on a debate on a measure like this after midnight.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot argue the merits of the bill. The question relates only to the time of the resumption of the debate.
– The Opposition will not have time to consider the measure while the Parliament is sitting. I suggest theat it would be completely unreasonable and against all precedent to resume a debate of this importance at a later hour this day, which would mean, of course, in the early hours of the morning. I feci it necessary to put on record my view of the subject. We shall divide on the question if the Government will not give way.
– As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is well aware, the Government has a certain programme of work to get through. My desire that the debate shall bc adjourned to a later hour to-night is for precautionary purposes only. There is no intention on my part to go on with the bill unless the Government runs out of business. If that happens the Government must be able to proceed with other bills the consideration of which has not yet been completed.
– I ask the Vice-President, of the Executive Council to reconsider the matter. The question should not be decided on the basis of whether the Government will run out of business in the early hours of Thursday morning. The Opposition desires an opportunity to consider this bill. In the long run, no time will be lost if the ordinary procedure is followed and the debate is adjourned until to-morrow.
– The Opposition’s request is a reasonable one. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) knows that for two years the wheat-growers of Australia have been asking the Government to honour the promises that it has made in connexion with the wheat industry. He knows that when he was a member of the Opposition he was a critic of the current wheat stabilization legislation. The Minister delivered a long second-reading speech upon this bill, which is a most complicated one. Apparently he expects the Opposition in a short space of time to digest the contents of that speech, contrast these proposals with the existing act and consider the effect of the proposals upon the dairying industry, the pig-breeding industry and. other industries, as well as upon the general economy of Australia. The proposals involve the payment of a subsidy of about £12,000,000 a. year. It would be utterly impossible for me or any other member of the Opposition, in a brief period of time, to give adequate consideration to the proposals. The adjournment of the debate until a later hour this day would be unfair, unreasonable and a traversy of parliamentary procedure. Surely it is not suggested that even the Minister, with his knowledge of the wheat industry, could make an adequate contribution to the debate after having considered the bill for so short a time. I suggest, in all seriousness, that the attitude that the Minister has adopted is an attitude of cowardice.
– Order ! That remark is completely out of order and must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. The Minister is not prepared to allow the Opposition an adequate opportunity to examine this measure. He has been in trouble over the wheat industry ever since he became Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Now he wants to dodge-
-Order! The honorable gentleman may not debate the merits of the bill.
– The fact that the Minister wishes to rush off to his farm is not a reason for why the Opposition should not have an opportunity to study this measure properly.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has talked a lot of nonsense. No one knows that better than he does. He knows that the proposal to adjourn the debate upon this bill to a later hour this day has nothing to do with me. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is manager of the business of the House. The honorable member for Lalor knew that he was talking utter trash when he suggested that I wanted to run away from a debate on this measure.
– I have listened with great interest to the remarks that have been made. I am a reasonable man. Having consulted with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I am willing to agree that the debate be adjourned to to-morrow.
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Debate resumed from the 27th Novem ber (vide page 2788), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This very important bill marks a new stage in the history of the universities of Australia. For the first time, we have placed upon a definite basis the conditions under which the Commonwealth, for a fixed period, will make grants to the States for payment to universities by State governments. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pointed out in his secondreading speech, the object of making the grants to the States is to avoid direct grants by the Commonwealth to the universities. The Opposition supports the bill. We welcome the provision that the Commonwealth grants shall be used, not for capital expenditure but for current activities. Some of the money will be expended upon research work, but I am afraid that most of it will be used by the universities to meet increased costs. The Opposition would like a greater and more significant financial contribution to be made to research, especially scientific and medical research. I am especially pleased that in the grants there is some recognition of the value of residential colleges within the universities. For the first time, the Commonwealth has done something which shows that it recognizes the value of thy work that they are doing, not only for the States but also for Australia as a whole.
I do not propose to analyse the figures which the Prime Minister cited. The maximum grant possible over the period of three years that commenced twelve months ago will be over £1,000,000. The States must qualify for the grants. The conditions of qualification take into account the amounts the States give to the universities and the amounts the universities charge in the form of fees to students. While recognizing the importance of the step that has been taken and giving full credit to the Prime Minister for his initiative in this matter, I point out that the report on which this bill is based was presented approximately twelve months ago. The scheme for giving financial assistance to the universities has, to some degree, been outrun by events, due to rapid increases of costs. Some universities are faced with a very serious financial position. In the view of the Opposition, there should be a further investigation of this matter by the Commonwealth next year. From my survey of the figures, it appears that it would be impossible to alter the amount that is called the first level grant, or the basic grant, without disturbing the relative position of the universities, but something might be done in connexion with the amount that is called the second level grant. If the grant made to a university by the State plus the fees charged to students by the university reached a certain level, the total amount of Commonwealth aid could be greatly increased. I asked the Prime Minister, during his second-reading speech, whether he could help the Opposition by giving an estimate of how the scheme will work out in practice. He has been good enough to do so. He has pointed out in a communication to me that it appears to be certain that in 1951 each university will receive from a State government a grant sufficient to enable it to qualify for the Commonwealth grant. That elucidates a matter that puzzled me when the bill was introduced. The position for 1952 and 1953 is by no means so certain.
The Opposition welcomes every positive proposal for assisting educational institutions. The Labour party, when it was in power, was associated with a considerable degree of assistance to the universities through the benefits that were provided for by university students under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, which is now drawing to a close. I direct attention to one matter that should be taken into account by the Commonwealth in future. Under the 1946 alteration of the Constitution, this Parliament has power to provide benefits for students without the intervention of the States. It should be possible at, the appropriate time for the Commonwealth to exercise that power and to make grants, not only to university students but also to other students in their march to the universities. When we make Commonwealth grants to universities through the States dependent upon State grants, we must bear in mind that the States have to approach the Commonwealth not only every year but almost every quarter for money. I should like grants to be made by the Commonwealth direct to students under the power bestowed upon the Parliament by the alteration of the Constitution in 1946.
– I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in supporting this measure. It is good that in a year of a record budget, the Commonwealth Parliament should be doing something more to help universities. Both the Curtin and the Chifley Governments were universityminded. The fact that there is a national university in Canberra now is proof of the interest that the Labour party has taken in the universities. The Australian National University is a monument to a number of men, including Mr. J. J. Dedman.
– The Labour party conceived the idea of a national university, but it was left to another government to bring the scheme to fruition.
– We conceived the idea. We started the Australian National University and appointed a number of professors. Unfortunately, we were not permitted by the electors to finish the job. I compliment this Government upon what it has done so far in that connexion. If the La bour party were in power, probably it would have done more. All of our universities are struggling for existence. The days when private benefactors gave money while they were alive or left money after their deaths to establish chairs in universities or to meet maintenance costs appear to have gone forever. We ought to do more as a people for our universities and for our medical schools in particular. The Government should provide aid, particularly in respect of preventive medicine in which sphere very little, or nothing, is being done at present. The Government expends huge sums of money for war purposes but it never thinks of helping re search laboratories in our universities. I suggest that it should grant £250,000 each to the Melbourne and Sydney Schools of Medicine and a corresponding sum to every other university which has a chair of medicine. I have discussed this subject with Professor Wright and Professor Cotton, who are professors of physiology in the universities of Sydney and Melbourne respectively, and they have informed me that provided the requisite finance was made available much could be accomplished in research laboratories and in the pathological departments of public hospitals to discover the reasons why so large a proportion of people now die from rare diseases. Apart from the work that is being done by the Walter and Eliza’ Hall Trust, which is attached .to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, nothing worthwhile is being done in that sphere. That work has been endowed by a private bequest, but as in these days such institutions cannot expect to receive large private bequests, it is necessary for the Government to do what it can to assist research in the sphere of medicine. At present, the Government finances the School of Health and Tropical Medicine within the University of Sydney, but its contribution in that respect is, indeed, small.
Many experts who simply cannot afford to engage in research on ‘tin miserable pittance that is now paid to research workers have been driven into the sphere of curative medicine. If they were paid a reasonable salary as research workers, they would be prepared to employ their abilities in striving to help humanity by preventing disease from spreading.
– The honorable member is aware that under the bill substantial provision is made in respect of research ?
– Yes ; but I urge the Government to provide a more generous measure of assistance. Perhaps, the Prime Minister might ask me why the Government of which I was a member did not provide more assistance in that respect; and such a query would be perfectly legitimate.
– I have not said anything except that I believe that the bill is a good bill. I gather that the honorable member is supporting it.
– I am supporting it, but I emphasize that in the future all governments, including this Government, will have to do more in the field of medicine than has been done in the past. I shall not permit this measure, which provides for the expenditure of £800,000, to be rushed through without indicating ways in which I believe such expenditure could be incurred with more benefit to the community. Whilst the Prime Minister may prefer to help lawyers and engineers, I am more’ concerned about other aspects of university education.
Sitting suspended from 11.35 p.m. to 12.5 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday, 29 November 1951
– Honorable members generally appreciate the assistance that the Government is providing under this measure in respect of university education. About three weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether the Government would provide funds to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that would enable it to give to university students opportunities to gain practical experience during the coming Christmas vacation before they enter their respective callings. I refer particularly to students in biochemistry who, unless such facilities are provided for them, will finish their courses next year. The only other organization in which such students can gain practical training is the Parke Davis organization, but the latter, because of technical obstacles, cannot engage such students except in such work as filling bottles and the like. I point out that up till last year, students in biochemistry enjoyed the advantage of gaming practical training in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization during their vacations.
– I fully appreciate the four principles that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) enunciated in his second-reading speech. The first of them was that the Government, in making this grant, laid down no conditions except to specify the basic use to which it should be applied.
I approve of that attitude on the part of the Government. The second principle was that the Government does not desire to take control of university education, from the States. It is wise for the Commonwealth to leave under the control of the States this most important aspect of education and to confine itself to providing financial and other assistance which it is best fitted to give. The third principle was that this aid is based upon the States accepting a reasonable share of responsibility. That principle might be applied more generally in relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. The fourth principle was that the Commonwealth accepts joint responsibility with the States for maintaining a progressively high standard of university education.
It is said in certain quarters that the Government is expending too much upon university education. All research into that aspect clearly indicates that only a limited proportion of the members of any community is capable of really benefiting from university, or higher technological, education. Experience in scientific circles throughout the world indicates that no nation is so rich in talent that it can afford to neglect any aspect of higher education. It is also said in some quarters that there is too much university education. I admit that a country can have too much of the wrong kind of education. At the same time, one of the most important requisites in our democracy is that we shall avoid education of the kind that was fostered in Nazi Germany which was based on the principle that it was sufficient merely to give people scientific education of the highest standard. No nation can live by bread alone. We must accept the dictum that, was enunciated by Dr. Burchard, when speaking recently in the precincts of this House, that it is not sufficient that man shall be educated to certain high level; he must also, for ethical reasons, use his powers to the fullest degree.
I have checked comparative figures of expenditure in respect of education in 1947. In that year, the Associate Professor of Humanities at the University of Melbourne made an unflattering comparison between what Australia was doing in this respect and what was being done in other countries. He pointed out that whereas in Australian universities there were 90 students to each professor, the number of students to each professor in universities in other countries was: Great Britain 45, Canada 44, New Zealand 57 and South Africa 36. He also pointed out that in the faculty of the humanities there were 46 professors in the University of Toronto, compared with ten in the University of Melbourne. I am glad that the Government has done much financially to. reduce that disparity. Figures for 1948, the latest that are available, show that we had 159 university students to each professor and 2,247 lecturers to 32,453 students, or an average of 204 students to each professor. I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this measure and upon its appreciation of the fact that a real partnership can be developed between the Commonwealth and the States without the Commonwealth intruding upon spheres of State control. On a scroll at the entrance to the Library of Congress at Washington thirteen main occupations are listed. The first two of them are agriculture, which is the means by which man ensures his basic existence, and education, which is the means by which he develops the mind in the body that is sustained by the food of the earth. And at the bottom of that scroll are listed war and finance. If we are to save the world from the cataclysm that now threatens it, we must realize that we cannot neglect, except at our peril, either agriculture, if we are to ensure the physical strength of our nation, or education, particularly in its highest sphere from which ultimately all real leadership flows.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23rd November (vide page 2681), on motion by Mr. McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this bill, but I should refer briefly to two matters. The first is the power that is taken in clause 19 to make regulations in respect of the prohibition of the use of words, or groups of letters that are descriptive of a part of the forces, or of bodies associated with the defence of the Commonwealth. Provisions of the kind were included in the National Security Regulations, and in subsequent regulations. Such a provision is important and necessary.
Some of my colleagues have asked me to obtain from the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) a clarification of proposed section 35a, which relates to native forces that may be raised in a territory of, and governed by, the Commonwealth under a trusteeship agreement. The proposed section provides that such native forces shall not be required to render service except as is permitted by the Charter of United Nations. The territory to which that provision refers is that of New Guinea, which is now a trust territory, but was formerly administered under a mandate. Under the terms of the mandate, it was forbidden to use the territory for the purposes of defence. It is not usually appreciated that under the terms of the present trust, power is given to the trustee - that is to say, Australia in this instance - to fortify the territory, and, in order to ensure that the trust territory shall play its part in the maintenance of international peace and security, volunteer forces, facilities and assistance from it are expressly contemplated. The purpose of proposed section 38a is merely to insist that any native forces that may be raised in the trust territory shall be within the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations; that is to say, they shall be volunteer forces. Therefore, the proposed section goes no further than the obligations and the rights that are defined in the Charter of the United Nations, and, by implication, in the trust.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, agreed to, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 27th November (vide page 279S), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
T,’!it thu bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition offers this bill to the Government on a pitchfork. Its purpose is to increase the stevedoring industry charge. The Labour party, when in office, originally fixed a charge of 4£d. a man-hour, but in October,’ 1949, that Administration had done such a good job, and had established such a large fund out of which attendance money and moneys for similar purposes had been paid, that it was able to reduce the charge to 2-Jd. a man-hour. The Government now wishes to increase the amount to 4d. a man-hour. Obviously, it is progressing backward.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated, in his second-reading speech, that the Government requires this money in order to meet higher costs. The present rate of 2£d. a man-hour will yield £435,000, and the extra charge of 1^-d. a man-hour will provide an additional £130,000, making a total of £565,000 for this year. I do not know why the Government requires the increased amount, unless its case is based on the fact that wages have risen substantially and the cost of living has increased in consequence. Probably the Government does not wish to have to make such admissions. Perhaps the amount that is paid in attendance money at the higher rates is substantial, or mismanagement by the stevedoring industry of the available labour on the waterfront, which causes many persons to be idle and increases the payments of attendance money, may have made heavy demands on the fund. Either one of those factors, or a combination of them, has caused a large raid upon it. Perhaps the Government is admitting, by implication, that it has failed to put value into the £1. I started on that note at the beginning of the present sessional period, and I think that it is well that J should end on it.
– It is a false note.
– No, it is a true note. The Government, if it cannot manage the affairs of the waterfront better than it has managed them to date, should resign. The proposed rate of 4d a man-hour is only a preliminary increase - a kind of provisional rise. Six months hence, the charge will be 6d. a man-hour and the Parliament will bc asked to vote more and more money because the cost of living will go higher and higher until the crash occurs. In the spirit of not wanting to oppose the bill, because the Government must have additional money, but not wanting to be identified with the increased charge, Opposition members try to keep as far away from the bill as they can, and, therefore, we offer it to the Government on a pitchfork.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has attempted to be facetious in his handling of this simple measure, the purpose of which was clearly explained by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his second-reading speech. I am not aware of any developments that justify the statement of the honorable member to the effect that control of labour by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has been inefficient. If I recall the facts correctly, that authority was established by the preceding Labour Government, of which the honorable gentleman was a member, and I think that it may be claimed that there has been a steady improvement in recent months in the discipline that has been enforced on the waterfront and in the handling of cargoes in the principal ports of the Commonwealth. . Indeed, I had occasion recently to commend the waterside workers for the way that they handled a number of vessels that had come into the port of Melbourne, and I think that it is correct to say that in other ports, such as Brisbane, commendatory references
Iia ve been made recently to the men who handled the cargoes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Bland, New South Wales.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance - 1 95 1 - No. 6- Public Hall.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - E. A. P. George, G. R. M. Grant, J. F. Hamilton, W. J. Laurie, L. Matveyeff, G. G. Reed, F. W. Smith, V. S. Thompson.
Repatriation - G. E. McDonald.
House adjourned at .12.33 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions ir are circulated : -
Royal Visit to Australia.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Prime Minister. upon notice. -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The respective values of the main commodities and commodity groups entering into Australia’s import trade for the three months ending September, 1951, were -
;Wight asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Full details of expenditure for the period of operation of the 1947-49 act are not available but it is known that substantial amounts were expended on Marine Works in all States except South Australia. Complete figures for Tasmania are unavailable but information furnished indicates that, of the funds made available £500 was allocated in that State for aerodrome works in 1949-50. In that year the State of Western Australia also expended approximately £500 on aerodrome works. No expenditure on aerodrome works is included in the figures shown for the other States over the years 1947 to 1950. Most States still held, at the time of expiration of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, substantial balances of funds which had been made available under that act, and during the year 1950-51 the States of Victoria and Western Australia expended portion of these funds on “ Other works connected with Transport”. Neither of these States allocated funds to local governing authorities and the expenditure was confined chiefly to marine works.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for
National Development has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Adaminaby dam site hasnot been abandoned as unsuitable.
Mr.Ward asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What -proportions of the debt represent expenditure upon war, war and defence preparations, repatriation, works and other purposes?
– On the 22nd November, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) asked me a question concerning charges payable in respect of the 100,000,000 dollar loan from the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development. I now desire to inform the honorable member that the charges payable on the 1st September, 1951, in respect of this loan amounted to f A.239,200, comprising commitment charge of £A.154,360 and interest £A.S4,840.
s. - On the 31st October, 1951, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) asked the following question : -
In view of the great shortage of hospital accommodation in Sydney for seriously ill people, will the Minister for the Army consult with his colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, in order to arrange for the investigation of the report that a number of wards at the Randwick Military Hospital are vacant, and to ascertain whether such vacancies can be used to meet the needs of urgent civil cases?
As promised, I have taken the matter up with the Minister for Repatriation, who has provided me with the following reply : -
The matter raised by the honorable member in regard to the Prince of Wales Repatriation General Hospital, Randwick, has been the subject of correspondence between the right honorable the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales. It has been the desire nf the Repatriation Commission to concentrate the patients in the Repatriation General
Hospital, Concord, but this has been impracticable in view of the restrictions on theconstruction of buildings even for institutional purposes. The Commonwealth Government offered to make available to the State some wards and other accommodation. The ways and means of meeting the needs of both the Commonwealth and State authorities have been considered from time to time. On Friday, the 23rd November, 1951, the matter was discussed in Melbourne at departmental level between senior officers of the State Government and representatives of the Repatriation Department. It seems likely that based on these discussions, further proposals will lie presented which may lead to the utilization of the vacant accommodation in the best interests of the civilian sick.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Questions of this kind, affecting very many individuals who move only in accordance with their duty, cannot be answered without great time and labour. If the honorable member seeks a detailed return, he should move accordingly.
Y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he in a position to furnish a reply to the personal representations made by representatives of those industries which will be vitally affected by the Government’s decision to close the Finsbury plant in South Australia?
– The answer to thi* honorable member’s question is afollows : -
The normal function of the Commonweal:! foundries and rolling mills *at Footscray an.i Finsbury is to produce brass strip for the manufacture of -brass cartridge cases. To assist industry and keep a nucleus of skill for war production at both places, commercial production of brass sheet and strip has benn permitted since the last war. Stocks o; recovered or fired cartridge cases have been used as a basic metal for this purpose. These stocks are practically exhausted. It would mot bc in the public interest to use in cun .. …. production at government factories government stocks of virgin copper mid zinc which may be required for ammunition production. It will be appreciated that Commonwealth-owned stocks of critical -strategic materials must be conserved in the interest of defence preparations. The rolling mills at Footscray ceased accepting commercial orders in May, 1951. The Finsbury mills will cease commercial production at the end of January, 1952. The commercial customers of the government rolling mills have been aware of this possibility for some time.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511128_reps_20_215/>.