20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and - read prayers.
– I direct to the Minister for Territories a question regarding the impending retirement of Colonel Murray, the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea, and . a recent statement of the Minister in which he paid’ a tribute to Colonel Murray for his services. I hare been informed that Colonel- Murray recently made a public statement that he is willing to continue his duties in the position of administrator. I ask the Minister, whether, if that public statement, which was reported to me indirectly, has been made and is true, he will reconsider the matter of the appointment of a successor to Colonel Murray.
– I have no know- ledge of whether or not such a statement has been made. The decision in regard to the termination of the appointment of
Colonel Murray was made after due consideration, and I think that the time has passed when it could be reconsidered.
– I have a question for you, Mr. Speaker. I desire to know whether, in view of the opinion that you expressed recently regarding the positions of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries in this House, and the conflicting opinions on the matter that have since been expressed by other authorities, including the Attorney-General, you will state if there is any action that you, personally, the Government, or the Parliament may take to have the matter submitted to the High Court for clarification ?
– I rise to order. Tn view of the fact that an item concerning this matter is already on the notice-paper, is the honorable member’s question in order ?
– I consider that it is in order for the simple reason that the honorable member is asking whether I, the Government, or the House, have the right to approach the High Court on a certain matter, and that consideration is not referred to in the statement that was laid on the table last week. I have not examined the position, but I shall endeavour to do so over the week-end. However, I know of the House of Commons precedents that are contained in May’s Parliamentary Practice, which include one particularly interesting case in which the House of Commons by resolution remitted the difficult problem of law to the Privy Council for solution. The Privy Council reported back to the House of Commons and, as, a result, a very distinguished member of that chamber found himself facing the electorate.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House of the progress that is being made in the procurement of defence equipment for the services. Has there been any lag in such procurement; and, if so, is such lag being overtaken ?
– The Minister for Defence is the appropriate Minister to answer general questions on defence, but I am able to inform the House on the matters that come within my own department, which is concerned with the procurement of equipment and supplies for the defence services. I think that it is accurate to say that when this Government came into power, there was something in the nature of a lag in defence preparations. Indeed, the Government took the view that the defence preparations which had been undertaken up to that time were quite inadequate. Since then, we have taken special measures to step up defence measures, and I shall give some figures - I think I can remember them accurately - that reflect the developments in’ the last three years. The placement of defence orders within my department in 1949-50 was at the rate of £1,100,000 a month. That figure rose to £3,250,000 a month in the following year, 1950-51, and to £3,500,000 a month in the six months ended the 30th December, 1951. For the early months of 1952, the average monthly figure was £6,500,000. Those orders come into my department only if one of the client departments, which are the services, ask for them; the services do not ask for them unless there is a stepping up of defence preparations. Therefore, it may be said that the figures do, in their own way, reveal quite strikingly the great increase that has taken place in defence activities since this Government has been in power, and the vigour and success with which we have pursued defence measures.
– Recent reports from the Northern Territory indicate that, due to the rationing of aviation fuel, TransAustralia Airlines has been obliged to cancel some of its flights from Adelaide to Darwin. As the Minister for Civil Aviation is aware, parts of the Northern Territory north of Alice Springs are almost completely dependent on aircraft for transport and other services. Will heassist the people of the north by ensuring that petrol will be made available toTrans Australia Airlines to enable it to maintain this essential service ?
– I have answered anumber of questions recently about the curtailment of air services as the result- of the rationing of aviation fuel. TransAustralia Airlines and every other airline have been compelled, by circumstances over which neither .the Government nor the airline companies has control, to reduce by 35 per cent, their normal consumption of aviation fuel. Many districts and interests have been inconvenienced by the reduction of air services, and I have no doubt that the effect has been felt severely by the residents of the Northern Territory. The curtailment of services has been inescapable, but it is hoped that it will not be of long duration,
– In view of the answers that have been given by the Minister for Civil Aviation to questions asked in this House regarding restrictions on the use of aviation fuel, can the Minister state whether any restrictions of that nature will be imposed on airline companies which are transporting carcass beef by air from inland abattoirs to Wyndham ?
– The manner in which cuts in the use of aviation fuel will be imposed is entirely one for the airline companies concerned. They are endeavouring to. apply the cuts with a minimum of inconvenience to the public in general. I presume that in view of the importance of the project for transporting beef by air in the area that has been mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, that service will be given a high priority by Australian National. Airways Proprietary Limited, which is the company responsible for it.
– Will the - Minister for External Affairs discuss with his., colleagues in Cabinet, and also with his colleagues overseas,, the desirability of incorporating compensation clauses in theultimate treaty of peace with Germany, having due regard to the findings of the Owen tribunal in 19-50 to- the effect that Germany had failed to honour its obligations under international agreements, and had been guilty of acts of ‘ lawlessness ?;
– I do not suppose the honorable gentleman wishes me to reply offhand t©i a matter of such consequence, but I undertake- to have it adequately examined.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister for the Army a question about the closing of a factory operated by David Jones Limited in the Kurri Kurri drill hall and the resultant locking out of employment of 70- daughters of miners. The Minister informed me, in the course of his reply, that David Jones Limited was willing to vacate the Kurri Kurri drill hall. I have since received the following telegram from a representative of that business house : -
David Jones Ltd. anxious to retain tor production purposes Kurri drill hall Adequate work available for continued production Army demands vacant possession by 9th July, 1952 - C. Wood, Assistant Factory Manager, David Jones Ltd..
Therefore, the information that theMinister received must have been incorrect. Will consideration now be given to allowing the premises at Kurri Kurri to continue to be used as at present, and to- utilizing, the Abermain drill hall, which is 3 miles away, for the- purpose of training soldiers?
– Nothing tb at the honorable member has said, alters what I. have already indicated to him. That is, that the Kurri Kurri drill hall is urgently needed by the expanding Australian Army. Last Thursday I undertook at question time to “have a thorough examination made of the alternative suggestion of the honorable member. Special, officers from Eastern Command are now examining, it. The repeated asking of questions cannot possibly help the position. I want this matter to be thoroughly examined because I am- endeavouring to help the honorable member., who does not appear to be- assisting, hisown case. There; is no doubt that David Jones Limited, on request from, the Army, agreed to vacate the drill hall’, and T am very glad they are able to do so.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. By way of explanation may I’ indicate that many representations have been made to me to the effect that the usefulness of Hansard is diminished by the length of time takento print and deliver it. I ask the Treasurer whether anything can be done to expedite the printing and delivery of
Hansard so that it will not be out of date by the time honorable members receive it?
– The honorable member knows that representations have been made, and efforts have been exerted, to expedite the printing and delivery of Hansard. There are various obstacles in the way of more expeditious delivery, including the general pressure that there is on the Government Printing Office. However, I shall have the matter further examined to discover what can be done along the lines desired by the honorable member.
– My question has reference to the unhappy plight of the residents of Glen Davis, whose future has been blighted by a decision of this Government. Is the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to make a further statement about the future of the shale oil industry at Glen Davis? “Will he inform the House whether the Government has received new offers by private enterprise to continue this undertaking, which is a valuable adjunct to our defence establishments? In view of the very great hardship that would be endured by residents of Glen Davis should the industry be closed down, will the Government defer the date of closure to permit interested parties to make offers for the enterprise as a going concern?
– I gave some information about this matter to the House yesterday, and since then a letter from one interested party has been placed on my desk. I have not yet had an opportunity to examine it carefully, although it has received consideration from the officers of my department, I shall ascertain whether I can make a statement before the House rises to-morrow covering that aspect and others that have been raised by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform me whether an age pensioner is entitled to assistance for burial expenses incurred in respect of his deceased wife? If not, will the Minister consider this matter with a view to rectifying the anomaly?
– There is no provision in the social services legislation for the payment of the funeral benefit in respect of an age pensioner’s wife. The funeral benefit is paid on behalf of the pensioner himself. However, the suggestion implied in the honorable member’s question has considerable merit, and I shall be very pleased to consider it with a view to having the legislation amended appropriately.
– In view of the fact that a large number of immigrants from Great Britain and Europe are young married couples, will the Minister for Social Services consider the possibility of making available to the widows of British immigrants the benefits of widows’ pensions under the social services legislation?
– Under the Social Services Consolidation Act, the residential qualification for a widow’s pension in five years. From time to time, sad eases come to my notice concerning immigrants from Great Britain and other countries following the death of husbands. The suggestion by the honorable member for McMillan that the Government should consider some reduction in the residential qualifications for such cases is a very good one.
– Has the Minister for Social Services information to give the House on any recent approach that may have been made to the United Kingdom Government regarding reciprocal: social services benefits? The honorable member for McMillan has already pointed out one avenue for reciprocity in the matter of widows’ pensions. Has the Minister knowledge of any other anomalies which exist? Can he hold out any hope that any agreement will be reached on the subject ?
– I cannot attempt to forecast any decision that may be reached on the matter that the honorable member has raised because it will rest largely with the United Kingdom Government. When I was replying to the honorable member for McMillan, I might have pointed out that many immigrants whose husbands die after their arrival in this country are contributors under the national health insurance scheme in Great Britain and are entitled to receive benefit from that source. My department acts as the agent of the British Government in making such payments. However, the whole matter of reciprocity with Great Britain in this matter has been under discussion for a number of years. The Treasurer, when he was abroad recently, discussed it with the United Kingdom authorities and another Minister, who visited Great Britain last year, also discussed it with those authorities. At present, the DirectorGeneral of Social Services, Mr. Rowe, is abroad and he will have further talks with them on this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to the Minister’s astonishing and slanderous statement under privilege-
-Order ! The honorable member cannot proceed with language like that.
– Then I omit the word “ slanderous “ and refer to the astonishing statement by the Minister that there is a nest of traitors in the Public Service in Canberra. Has not the right honorable gentleman’s broad and generally unsubstantiated statement done injury both to the security of the nation and to the prestige of the Public Service? What is he doing about the nest of traitors that he speaks of so glibly, considering that he has wide and sweeping powers under the Public Service Act and under the Government’s security powers ? Finally, do these traitors merely exist in the highly excited mind of the Minister, and was his statement merely a medium of publicity designed to build up the waning fortunes of an already defeated Government?
– I do not think that my statement was deserving of the peculiar adjectives that the honorable member has cooked up, doubtless for party political purposes. I am entirely without remorse for anything that I felt called upon to say yesterday in the course of two observations on this matter. The factsspeak for themselves. Leaks occasionally occur from various places in Canberra,, and one of them was under examination yesterday. I do not know whether the honorable member condones a leak of that sort. I hope very much that he does not condone it, and, indeed, that his party does not do so. The matter must be taken seriously. I do not think that any party political back-chat across this House can diminish the seriousness of the leak that we discussed yesterday, which, clearly and admittedly, came from a public servant. It is not the only one that has occurred in Canberra, and I think that, in broad terms, my statement yesterday was accurate. I explained to the House the nature of the action that was being taken on this leak and other leaks, and I said that he matters were under close investigation but that the disclosure of details would be against the public interests.
– I ask the Minister for Defence Production whether the Government is taking any action to help to increase the production of sulphuric acid in Australia. If so, will there be any increased use of the various deposits of pyrites that exist in Australia? I ask these questions because of the increasing use of sulphuric acid and its importance in the manufacture of superphosphate.
– I assure the honorable member that the Government’s interest in this matter has passed beyond the stage of consideration and has entered the field of definite practical efforts-
– Turn round! We cannot hear what the Minister is saying.
– Order! Ever since prayers were read this afternoon, there has been a hubbub of conversation on both sides of the House, and, on two or three occcasions, I have had difficulty in following the trend of questions. Everybody would benefit if honorable members would maintain silence during question time.
– The Government has made a practical attempt to solve the problem that arises from the shortage of sulphuric acid. The honorable member knows that supplies of elemental sulphur to Australia have been restricted. The Government is aware of the importance of sulphuric acid, particularly in relation to the manufacture of superphosphate and to its use for defence purposes, and it has made arrangements with sulphuric acid manufacturers to convert their plants in order to make use of pyrites. The Government has established a committee to deal with this matter, and has made arrangements with manufacturers that will result in a greater production of sulphuric acid and, subsequently, of superphosphate.
– The Treasurer has stated repeatedly that the Australian Loan Council decides the sums of money that will be raised by loans, and also determines the rate of interest that will be paid in respect of those loans. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether it is a fact that the Loan Council, at its last meeting, decided, by six votes to two, that it was necessary to raise £247,000,000 by loans during the next financial year? Has the Government decided that approximately £180,000,000 shall be raised? If so, does the right honorable gentleman still maintain that the Loan Council controls public borrowing in this country and determines the rate of interest paid in respect of loans ?
– The honorable gentleman has based his question upon a false ‘premise. The decision of the Loan Council was that the amount of £247,500,000 should be borrowed for the 1952-53 loan programmes. The responsibility of this Government, as the agent of the council, is to endeavour faithfully to raise that sum of money. I do not know from where the honorable gentleman has got the figure of £180,000,000. The Commonwealth has generously undertaken to contribute £125,000,000 of the desired £247,000,000.
– I refer to a recent announcement by the PostmasterGeneral that three new low-power national broadcasting stations and power increases for four existing “A” class stations are planned for South Australia. Can the honorable gentleman say, first, when the projected station at Renmark will be established, and secondly, when the proposed increase of the power of station 5CK will be made? In view of the difficulty of obtaining good reception of broadcasts from station 5CK that is being experienced by listeners in the Upper Murray district of South Australia, will the Minister give priority to the needs of this important district?
– I realize the importance of good radio reception in the areas to which the honorable gentleman has referred. In an endeavour to improve reception in those areas, authority has been given for the increases of power that he has mentioned. I am not in a position to say when the increases will become effective, but I shall ensure that there is as little delay as possible.
– Can the Minister for the Army indicate if, and when, the benefits enjoyed by returned service personnel of World War II. under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme will be extended to servicemen who return from Korea ?
– I am happy to say that men of the 1st Battalion and the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment will enjoy the same benefits under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme as returned servicemen of World War II. I believe that applications are being received from anybody who wishes to apply and that in the next two or three days, decisions will be reached on the applications that have already been received.
– Recently, representatives of the Department of the Army inspected the immigrant holding centre at Mildura in order to ascertain whether it is suitable for the housing and training of Army personnel. I ask the Minister for the Army whether those officers have reported to him on the subject? If so. was their report favorable? Will that centre be occupied by Army personnel?
Can the Minister supply details about the matter to the House ?
– Shortly after the termination of World War LT. important immigration activities were developed in Australia, as a result of which the Army lost the use of a considerable number of buildings that it had used during the war. I am happy to say that as a result of discussions my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, whose co-operation I am glade to acknowledge, has arranged that a portion of the camp at Mildura shall be made available to the Army in the next few weeks. In consequence, I shall be able to establish an officers’ training school for junior officers of the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps. I expect the course of training to take at least 22 weeks. The number of persons who will be trained at the school will be about 50, with staff of a similar number.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Was the Australian Government consulted on the subject of the tanker boycott on Persia ?
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! It is impossible to hear the question,
– Will the Minister for External Affairs state whether the Australian Government was consulted on the subject of the tanker boycott on Persia? Was the boycott imposed by companies as a purely commercial decision, or was the Foreign Office involved ? Was any opinion transmitted to Great Britain by the Australian Government?
– The Government was informed on what was proposed. I cannot say whether action was taken by government decision or through the companies. I must admit to having no comment to make, because I have a peculiar dislike ±o making comments on matters on which one has no constructive ideas.
– Some considerable time ago, experiments were undertaken at Broken Hill with :a view to establishing radio telephone services to connect people in isolated areas with the .telephone exchange at that centre. I understand that those experiments were successful. Can the Postmaster-General inform the House when such services will be provided?
– As the honorable member has said, experiments have been carried out for some time from Broken Hill with the object of determining whether radio-telephone services could be successfully established in that district for the benefit of persons in isolated areas. Those experiments were substantially successful although many inconveniences are inherent in the” radiotelephone which is not so satisfactory as the ordinary telephone. The department is taking all possible steps to obtain adequate supplies of the requisite equipment with a view to installing those services, and as soon as such equipment is obtained we shall go farther ahead with the project.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air with respect to the Royal Australian Air Force station at Uranquinty, which, at the conclusion of the recent war, the previous Administration allowed to deteriorate alarmingly, and which has recently been reopened as a flying training school. In order to ensure that the standard of amenities and facilities to be provided at that station shall be up to that of those which are provided at permanent Royal Australian Air Force stations, will he endeavour to have urgent repair work there undertaken and completed as soon as possible ?
Mi: McMAHON. - As the honorable member has said, it is only in recent months that flying activities were recommenced .at the air force station at Uranquinty las a basic training school. Consequently, it is only within the last few weeks that plans have been submitted to me in respect of repairs to :be undertaken at that base. I have authorized the (expenditure of fr.om £40,000 to £50,00.0 for that purpose, and I have referred the plans to the Department of Works and Housing for completion. That department has assured me that it will push ahead with the first phase of the work as rapidly as possible.
– “Will the Treasurer consider granting as a concession for income tax purposes expenditure incurred in fares to and from places of employment? I point out that approximately 90 per cent, of workers in metropolitan areas expend from £10 to £30 annually for this purpose. I believe that the right honorable gentleman would agree that such expenditure could be regarded as an equitable concession. If he is of that opinion, will he agree to my request, which would conform to the Australian Country party’s policy of decentralization?
– The honorable member has raised a matter of policy, and it is not customary to deal with such matters in answer to a question. The subject will be considered in due course.
– Is the Treasurer aware that companies are not forced to pay provisional tax as are farmers, professional men, workers, small businessmen and others ? If so, can he advance to the House any valid reason why that special privilege should continue to be extended to companies ?
– As a result of legislation that was passed during the Chifley Government’s term of office, a pay-as-you-earn system was introduced to provide for the payment of tax, at the source of income, by wage and salary earners. A system of provisional tax payments was introduced in respect of other taxpayers, except companies, which are on an altogether different basis from other taxpayers because of the very nature of the method of taxation that has always been in force. In order to alter the concession that had always previously existed, provision was made in the last budget for a method of pre-payment, to the extent of 10 per cent, of the taxes that are imposed on companies.
– I ask the Treasurer why the Government taxes, as income, pensions that are received by United Kingdom war widows in Australia ?
– Such taxes are imposed in accordance with the law as it stands, and until the law is altered the position will remain as it is. Indeed, the present position was that which obtained during the period when the honorable member’s own party was in office.
– Does the Minister for Air agree that an insufficiency of suitable powered aircraft available to aero clubs for training purposes is fast depleting the reserve of pilots by destroying the interest and enthusiasm of potential young fliers? In order to overcome this deficiency, in :a valuable adjunct to air training generally, will the Minister give earnest consideration to recommending the provision of financial assistance to glider clubs, taking as an example the far-sighted policy of generous subsidization of glider clubs in West Germany, where, in twelve months, ‘750 such clubs have been established with a membership of more than 35,000 persons?
– I agree that the greatest encouragement should be given to the activities of glider clubs, but I do not agree that the enthusiasm of young men in relation to joining the air force is waning. Some months ago I asked the Air Force authorities to give detailed consideration to the subject of glider clubs, and. they have advised me that they do not consider that training by glider clubs makes any notable contribution to training for powered aircraft. Consequently, I was not in a position to recommend that the Government give glider clubs any kind of subsidy. However, as that matter comes more within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Civil Aviation than it does within my jurisdiction, I shall take the opportunity to discuss it with him, and I shall ask him to communicate with the honorable member if he considers that some subsidy should be granted.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that, because of the virtual absence of shore-based radio beacons, thousands >of lives are jeopardized every day in ships that sail round Australia’s coasts ? Is it a fact that there are only three such beacons on the southern coastline of Australia, and that Australia’ has the most poorly equipped coastline in the world in respect of navigation appurtenances ? If those are facts, what action does the Government propose to take in relation to the matter?
– The problem to which the honorable member has referred does not come within the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy, but falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Shipping. I do not think that thousands of lives are jeopardized in the way that the honorable member has stated. We have a singularly accident-free record on the Australian coast and to my knowledge we have had no accident due to the fact that we have only three radio beacons on our southern coastline. I shall, however, refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport’ and shall see that the honorable member receives a fuller reply than I have given him if the Minister considers that one is warranted.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say whether it is a fact that the British Government has lent the Royal Australian Navy a light fleet carrier? If so, what is the name of the carrier; when is it expected to arrive in Australian waters ; how long will it be on loan to Australia; and will it be manned by Royal Australian Navy personnel? Will the Minister also say when H.M.A.S. Melbourne will be delivered to Australia ?
– The honorable member has asked a number of questions which should, in fact, have been placed on the notice-paper. However, I shall do my best to answer them in detail. The light carrier to be lent to the Royal Australian Navy is H.M.S. Vengeance. About onethird of its complement will be Royal Navy personnel and the remainder will be Royal Australian Navy personnel. The Australian part of the complement is now being collected and will be sent to England probably about next October. H.M.A.S. Melbourne is undergoing some changes in English ports. The main change being made to it is in connexion with an im proved type of catapult apparatus. Finance has only recently been made available. In due course, H.M.A.S. Sydney will be sent to England to have the new type of catapult apparatus to be installed. I have answered all that 1 can remember of the honorable member’s series of questions, but I shall personally read the Hansard report of his questions, and if I have omitted an answer any of them I shall interview him personally and see that he receives any further information that I can give him.
– by leave- Yester.day. the member for Herbert asked Mr. Speaker a question, which was, in part, as follows : -
Are you aware that telephone lines from this House to places outside are being tapped? Is that being done with your authority If not, will you investigate the matter, and discuss with the Postmaster-General, or whoever is the appropriate authority, the steps that should be taken to ensure that this practice shall be discontinued?
Mr. Speaker discussed the matter with me, and I, in turn, took it up with the Director-General of Post and Telegraphs and the appropriate officers of my department. As I said yesterday, I have no knowledge of any tapping of telephone lines from this House. However, a periodical check is made of the traffic offering by the authorized and routine technicians of the Postal Department, in order to ascertain the loading on the lines serving Parliament House, and whether they are adequate to handle the traffic offering successfully. Such a check has been in progress during the last few days, and it has involved the attendance of technicians in the switch room at Parliament House. These checks are routine to all the larger installations throughout the Commonwealth, and the persons employed in doing them are the regular officers of the department. The check may have given rise to the suggestion that the parliamentary system has been tapped, but the fact is that there is no listening in at all. I have discussed the matter with the honorable member for Herbert, and I feel, and I think that he agrees with me, that the facts which I have mentioned may have been the basis of his question.
– I ask the
Minister for External Affairs whether any Persian oil is now available for purchase by other powers ? If so, is there any arrangement for the acquisition of Persian oil by the Soviet Union? Is any Persian oil being sold to the United Kingdom Government?
– I should think that the answers to the three questions asked by the honorable member would be definitely “No”, but I shall check on the matter and supply him with more precise information.
– Will the
Minister for External Affairs inform me whether the Government regards Cocos Island as a vital area of great strategic importance to Australia, and as eminently suitable for a naval and air base? Is it true that the British Government has offered to transfer to Australia full sovereignty over this important island, and that Australia is, in fact, at present constructing an air base there? If so, why is the Government hesitating to accept this generous British offer to transfer complete possession of Cocos Island to Australia?
– I believe that Cocos Island has a definite strategic importance to Australia, particularly from the point of view of an air base of consequence centrally placed in the Indian Ocean. The sovereignty of the island is now being considered, but it is not an entirely easy matter. Certain aspects of it must be subjected to a good deal of negotiation, which my department has had in hand for the last nine months. However, I hope for an early and satisfactory conclusion of them. The matter of sovereignty alone does not entail any payment, but the construction of an air field, and all the appurtenances of a modern air base, involve great expenditure.
– It is not a gift, either.
– The cost of the construction of the airfield is to be borne entirely by Australia.
– What about the land ?
– The transfer of sovereignty is not a matter of payment. Actually, the productive land surface of the island is under lease to a certain person, whose family has had the lease for many years. Negotiations must proceed with the lessee in respect of the taking over of that part of the land which is to be used for the airfield and for ancillary services. That is one set of the negotiations. The other negotiations are in respect of the conditions of nationality and otherwise under which sovereignty will pass in due course from Great Britain to Australia.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed erection of a Dairy Research Laboratory at Highett, Victoria.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Debate resumed from the 27th May (vide page 821), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read, a second time.
.- As the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has explained, the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure, which total £9,596,829, relate to the financial year 1950-51. The right honorable gentleman, when he made his second-reading speech, gave only a scanty explanation of the need for this supplementary appropriation. His failure to supply complete details highlights the criticism made yesterday by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), that the accounts presented by the Government are meaningless. The honorable gentleman expressed the view that a clear system of accounting should be adopted, and that complete information about proposed expenditure on supplementary appropriation should be given to the House.
– My criticism was also directed to previous governments.
– I have no doubt, about that fact, but the honorable member’s criticism was equally directed to accounts presented to the Parliament by the present Government. The Treasurer made the following statement in his second-reading speech: -
The amounts set out were expended out of a general appropriation from revenue of £15,000,000 made available to the Treasurer to meet expenditure which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared.
He proceeded -
The Supplementary Estimates detail the items under which the additional amounts were expended bv the various departments.
I contend that the Treasurer, through his omission to supply adequate information, has treated the House in a most cavalier manner. He also stated -
Full details of the expenditure for 1050-51, which includes these increases, are set out in the Estimates and Budget Papers for 1951-52. Details are also included in the Treasurer’s financial statement for 1950-51 which was tabled earlier this session for the information of honorable members.
If honorable members are to have a proper appreciation of the financial requirements of the Government, such statements should have been brought together by the Treasurer in his secondreading speech. The right honorable gentleman should also have given satisfactory reasons for the increases of expenditure. Full details are required of those matters by honorable members collectively, and by some individual members, who may doubt whether the money has been expended wisely. The Treasurer has pointed out that, in accordance with custom, an amount of £15,000,000 is appropriated as an advance to the Treasurer for the purposes of covering varying items which may arise from time to time, of making provision for emergencies, and of generally giving flexibility to the system of government financing. However, the
Treasurer is not absolved from the obligation to give the fullest details of the way in which the Advance to the Treasurer is finally expended. This system of financing is somewhat more loose than is the general system of government financing, and that factor is an additional reason why a complete explanation should be given to the House of the expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer.
The Treasurer also pointed out that ordinary departmental expenditure had risen by £8,606,000, expenditure on business undertakings by £461,000 and expenditure on territories of the Commonwealth by £530,000. The right honorable gentleman, when he had given that information, made the following statement : -
Any further details of the various items of expenditure will be available at a later stage.
Ordinary financial procedure requires that the details shall be given by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech. I consider that he has fallen into a slovenly way of presenting financial bills to the House. Perhaps he has become so accustomed to handling many millions of pounds that he believes that honorable members are not entitled to seek information about the appropriation of any amounts less than £10,000,000. But even £5,000,000 or £7,000,000 is a considerablesum in anybody’s language. I claim that the Government has treated the House in a most cavalier fashion. It is idle for Government supporters to interject that the Treasurer has merely followed on this occasion the practice adopted by his predecessors. We are discussing this bill, and I contend that the information that has been given by the Treasurer about the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the financial year 1950-51 is scrappy indeed. We have been invited to search other documents to obtain information, and then to correlate it and discover why the appropriations should be made. The Treasurer has said that if we want further information it will be given to us at some other time and, perhaps, in some other place. I suggest that that is not the way in which national finances should bc handled, and I think that the honorable member for Moore, for once in his parliamentary career, might be commended for drawing attention, ashe did yesterday, to the lack of information given in the Government accounts now before the House. The particulars of the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure are contained in84 pages of printed matter.
– I thought that the honorable member said that he had not been given enough information.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I said that we had not been given enough detail. I enjoy therare occasions upon which members of the Government laugh with some degree of confidence, because they are indeed rare. Invariably, the Government has no confidence in itself, because it is so often wrong. Honorable members on this side of the House do not make statements unless they know what they are talking about, which is often contrary to the attitude of honorable members on the Government side. The Treasurer has told us that there is certain information in the documents before the House to-day, that there is further information not yet published, and finally, that there is other information that he will give us at some other time and perhaps in some other place. The84 pages of particulars before us which detail various departments and various increases of expenditure, merely give the minimum of information. What would the honorable member for Moore make of the following item which appears in the division devoted to the Joint House Department, “Staff Clerk- (a) £470”. Honorable members want to know whether expenditure such as that, in the various departments for which extra money is sought to be appropriated, are justified. The situation has not been clarified at all by lack of details in the accounts before us.
– Does the honorable member want a photograph of the clerk concerned?
– As a matter of fact the Treasurer will need a very highly coloured photograph of himself to place before the electors at the next general election, if he hopes to remain in office. Through his own actions, and sometimes through his lack of action, he has come to be looked upon as the big bad wolf of Australia.
It will be difficult for him to alter that impression and to convince the people that he should not be considered in that way. The Opposition has been given no information upon which to make a reasoned judgment on whether this bill should be agreed to. Not only have we been denied detail, but also the whole of the Parliament has been denied it. Honorable members on the Government side should be as insistent as are honorable members of the Opposition about this matter, because the Government has a duty to justify the large increase of expenditure detailed in this appropriation measure. We also notice that the expenditure of the Public Service Board has increased. Government policy has been to reduce the size of the Public Service. We understand that it carried out this policy by dismissing 10,000 public servants. Yet expenditure on the service is increasing.
– Does the honorable member favour the payment of the increased basic wage?
– I refer the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) to item C “ Other Services “ of the Supplementary Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, as shown at page 8, “Recruitment advertiseing, £5,069 “. While the Government’s policy is to reduce the size of the Public Service - and if it gives effect to its election promises it will continually reduce the size of the Service - it is still expending large sums of money to recruit additional staff. I suggest that the stupidities of this Government are fully apparent in the items to which I have drawn attention. There is a. vast expenditure on all sections of the Public Service, but all the information that the Parliament has given about the matter is a line or two of type in this measure. I suggest that the Government has not justified the Supplementary Estimate.?. According to the Treasurer’s own statement, the information that will justify it may be found in three separate documents. Firstly, the document before us, secondly, the Estimates and Budget Papers for 1951-52, and, thirdly, the very long statement that the House, after considerable debate, referred to the Printing Committee for decision on whether it should be printed. I suggest that that is not the way in which national business should be transacted. There is no reason why the Government should not put more information before the Parliament whan it seeks an appropriation of about £10,000,000. When the issue is in relation to an advance of £15,000,000 to the Treasurer, there is all the more reason why the House should be very careful in its scrutiny of the accounts that are put forward, lt should be given the reasons why the money should be appropriated. We have all heard comments about the Advance to the Treasurer. We have heard that this advance can cover up various appropriations and various payments. My mind goes back to the latter yeai’3 of the last Menzies Government when an expenditure was made, presumably under the heading of Advance to the Treasurer, which resulted in the downfall of that Government.
– That is not true.
– I merely assume that such expenditure was made.
– Post hoc propter hoc.
– Perhaps so, but I remember the matter clearly.
– It was from the same secret fund that was administered by the Chifley and Curtin Governments.
– The Treasurer appears to be touchy about this matter. An inquiry was held into the affair, and I know nothing about it other than that fact. However, I do know the findings of the body of inquiry and I can quote them from memory if necessary. That incident highlights the danger that lies in a bulk appropriation, and in the passing of a measure such as this without the closest scrutiny. I suggest that all these items should be very closely scrutinized. The Treasurer would do himself more justice if he made a full statement to the House of the reasons for the additional expenditure, and if he justified the expenditure just as is done in connexion with the general Estimates, department by department, in committee.
– The appropriations are shown under departmental headings. The honorable member should read the bill.
– No explanation has been made of the reasons for the increased expenditure. There has been nojustification of expenditure which hasincreased by about £10,000,000.
– Perhaps it is because of inflation.
– Rising prices could be the cause of it. The Govern ment’s inability to halt the increase of the cost of living would probably be responsible for the increased expenditure. I suggest that the Government should tell us the facts. Why cannot the Treasurer tell the Parliament why these vast additional sums of money are required for the period contemplated in the measure. The Opposition demands detailed information on the appropriation that is to be made for each department. The Treasurer cannot speak at this stage without closing the debate, but other Ministers can provide us with the information in the meantime. They have a duty to justify the expenditure. I notice that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is present. One large item of additional expenditure relates to Australia House. This may have been incurred as a result of the house-cleaning in which the honorable gentleman indulged when he was Resident Minister in London. He may be able to justify the expense on the ground that he has put Australia House on a proper footing, but I have noticed that the present High Commissioner for Australia in London, Sir Thomas White, claims that he has been responsible for most of the renovations that have been carried out at Australia House.’ However, the Opposition will be satisfied if the Vice-President of the Executive Council makes an explanation. The public, also, is entitled to be reassured that the substantial sums for which the bill provides do not arise from extravagance. The Government should give a guarantee that a close watch is being kept over the nation’s finances.
The total sum proposed to be appropriated is almost £10,000,000, and the various items that constitute that total should be discussed in detail. A large sum of additional expenditure has been incurred by the Department of -Trade and Customs, for instance. Did that extra expenditure foreshadow the introduction of import licensing? If not, was it caused by a rapid growth of imports? A full explanation is required. If a growing import trade necessitated a vast expansion of the staff of the Department of Trade and Customs, surely that growth warned the Government that a flood of imports was entering Australia and justified the taking of corrective action before the flood eventually reached the record peak to which it rose? The House and the country are entitled to be informed on such matters. I have made these remarks with the object of persuading the Government to justify the proposed appropriation, as it must do if it is properly conscious of its responsibility to the people.
. -The bill provides for certain essential supplementary appropriations for the services of the Crown for the year 1950-51. An examination of the Appropriation Act of that year and of this bill discloses one grave deficiency. It is not necessary for me to enlarge upon the devotion of every member of this House, and of every other citizen of Australia, to the Royal Family. Yet I notice that no provision has been made, either in the Appropriation Act 1951-52 or in this bill, for that institution that we hold so dear. I consider that on this occasion, when we look forward to the coronation of our young Queen, it would be appropriate for Australia to make some contribution towards the institution of the Crown. This bill provides for the services of the Parliament and for the instrumentalities of the Crown, but it contains no reference to the Royal establishment. Australia, as a nation within the British Commonwealth, should be prepared to play its part in maintaining the Commonwealth by making provision for the Crown as well as for the Parliament and the Public Service, I ask the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to pay earnest attention to my remarks on this subject when he gives consideration to other appropriation measures in the future. I shall not say more because L” know that this is not a party political issue in any sense. Devotion to the Queen herself, and to the institution of royalty, is common to every member of this House and to every other Australian.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 27th May (vide page 821), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not propose to discuss this bill. The Government has made abundantly clear that it will neither give information to the Opposition nor allow debate. The Opposition, therefore, does not propose to make the way clear for another closure to be applied by the Government and will leave the bill without discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the report of the Standing Orders Committee, dated the 21st May, 1952, be adopted, and that the Standing Orders of the House be amended as recommended by that committee, viz. : -
Omit Standing Order No. 48, insert the following new standing order: - “ l06A. A Member may propose to the Speaker thata definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion. Such a matter may be submitted to the House only after Petitions have been presented and Notices of Motion given and before the Business of the Day is called on. The Member proposing the matter shall present to the Speaker at least one hour before the time fixed for the meeting of the House a written statement of the matter proposed to be discussed; and if the Speaker determines that it is in order, he shall read it to the House. The proposed discussion must be supported by eight Members, including the proposer,rising in their places as indicating approval. The Speaker shall then call upon the Member who had proposed the matter to speak.
At any time during the discussion, a Motion may be made by any Member ‘ That the Business of the Day be called on ‘ and such Motion shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate, and, if agreed to, the Business of the Day shall be proceeded with immediately. A Motion in any other form will not be in order.
In the event of more than one matter being presented for the same day, priority shall he given to the matter which, in the opinion of the Speaker, is the most urgent and important.”.
Consequential amendments -
Standing Order No. 49, omit the Standing Order, insert the following now standing order: -
Adjournment of House. “49. A Motion for the adjournment of the House may be moved only by a Minister.”.
Standing Order No.62, after “Privilege “ insert upon a matter submitted under Standing Order No. 106a”.
Standing Order No.87, after paragraph (g) insert the following paragraph: - ” (ga) Motion that the Business of the Day be called on (Standing Order No. 106a) ; “.
Standing Order No. 92, omit “Motion for Adjournment to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance (under Standing Order No. 48) - “, insert “ Discussion of definite matter of urgent public importance (under Standing Order No. 106a)-“.
Debate resumed from the 21st May (vide page 616), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) introduced this bill last week. I made a few observations upon it then and the House was good enough to permit me to have an extended time to continue my speech. In the meantime, the Opposition party has met, and it will support the bill, as I indicated that it would when I addressed the House previously on it. Further examination of the bill shows that it is, in effect, an amendment of the Atomic Energy (Control of Minerals) Act passed by the Parliament at the instigation of the Chifley Government in 1946. It does not alter the law substantially. Under the legislation of 1946, the Commonwealth became the owner of the materials which form the base for atomic energy. That measure made provision, in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth, for the control of materials which are or may be used in the production of atomic energy and for other purposes. The substance of the act, under section 6, was to give to the Commonwealth power to take all substances from land, whether alienated from the Crown or not, which are necessary for the production of atomic energy, including uranium, - thorium and other substances. The owners of those substances had their’ rights converted into a claim for compensation. My impression last week was that the bill now before the House did nothing that was not implied in the (original act. By clause 5 a new section will be inserted in the act. The new section will be section 13a. Section 13 of the original act provides that if the Minister is of the opinion that any of the requisite substances can be obtained from any land, the Minister may by order served on the person appearing to be in possession of the land, provide for the compulsory vesting in the Commonwealth of the exclusive right, so long as the order remains in force, to work those minerals and do other things to work them. As the Minister has stated fairly, the bill sets out to prescribe in detail the nature of the actions which may be taken under that power. Instead of relying on the original section 13, the new section 13a states the position in detail. That, in my opinion, is all that the bill does, but it is none the less important.
After full consideration, the Government has accepted the view that the ownership of the substances which are mentioned in the bill should remain vested in the Commonwealth in trust for the people of this country. It would not be right to interfere with such a law, and the Government proposes, in effect, to confirm and adopt the action taken by the Chifley Government. The matter is treated as bearing directly on defence, but another aspect of atomic energy must have an effect of tremendous importance upon the future development of Australia. That is in connexion with the use of atomic energy for peaceful development, and for use in connexion with the production of fuel. It is quite clear from reports that have been prepared in the UnitedStates of America and Great Britain that atomic energy and its utilization for fuel and power purposes could transform problems associated with fuel and power throughout the world. The entire international situation could be affected by that aspect of atomic energy. At the moment, defence tends to become the supreme factor, but it cannot remain supreme, and from an Australian point of view it is very important that the Government should tell the House the degree to which Australia will be safeguarded in the provision of compensation for available raw materials, not only for defence purposes in Australia but also for the development of atomic energy in relation to power and fuel. I do not think there is much dispute about that.
I come now to another point that is of equal importance. The Minister has told us of an arrangement that has been made by the Government with respect to these materials. The House is entitled to know more about that arrangement than it has heard so far from the Minister. I ask him to inform us whether that arrangement has been made with the American Government or the United Kingdom Government, or whether it has been made with a private profit-making concern abroad. The Government should, as far as possible, give to the House information that will show whether the future development of these resources in Australia will be completely safeguarded and that the agreement will not necessarily mean our parting completely with our right to utilize and develop these important materials.
– I have already indicated that such safeguards exist.
– The Minister has indicated in a broad way that that is the position; but I can see no reason why the House should not be given a little more information. For instance, what proportion of these materials will remain available to Australia? The arrangement, in itself, may be of very great value to Australia not only for defence purposes, but also from the standpoint of Australian development. “We should have more information about that point than has so far been given to us. I ask the Minister, when he is replying to the debate, to place the House in possession of sufficient information to assure it that that aspect has been considered and that Australia’s interests shall be completely safeguarded.
Summing up, it seems to me that all that the bil] does is to elaborate and clarify and, perhaps, to re-state, the powers that were provided under the act that was passed during the regime of the Chifley Government. One can infer from that fact that in the view of this Government, the Chifley Government’s legislation was completely justified. Considerable emphasis has been placed upon the development of these resources, particularly in South Australia. The Chifley Government and the Government of South Australia acted in the closest co-operation in evolving early plans for the development of these resources; and I believe that such cooperation has had an important bearing upon the activities of the South Australian Government in connexion with this project and other projects that are allied to it. I have emphasized the need to provide adequate and effective safeguards from Australia’s standpoint for the utilization of atomic energy not only for defence purposes, but also in the interest of our development. I again ask the Minister to consider whether the House cannot be more fully informed about the aspects that I have raised. The Opposition supports the measure.
– Like the leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), I support the bill. However, I do not share his view that under the act that was passed during the regime of the Chifley Government everything is working out to the best possible advantage. The introduction of this measure affords an opportunity to make a constructive review of the whole position in respect of the development of our uranium resources. This is, perhaps, the most vital subject that has yet come before the Parliament. It is vital from an international stand-point. As Mr. Churchill said some time ago, the atomic preponderance of the democracies safeguards them from Soviet aggression and is the greatest contributing factor towards the maintenance of peace. That preponderance is bottle-necked upon uranium supplies, which are of vital importance to us from not only an international but also a national stand-point. There is an unlimited world market for uranium at an excellent price. Development of our uranium resources offers, perhaps, the only quick means by which we can rectify our present position in respect of overseas balances and ease existing import restrictions. 1 am not satisfied with the progress that has been made in the development of Australia’s uranium resources. If I should appear to be critical, I hope that my criticism will be constructive. Although we cannot exactly estimate the extent of our uranium resources, much evidence is available to show that they are substantial. I shall present two arguments in support of that view. The first, of them is that we have made a very promising find at Bum Jungle, which is in one of the few parts of the Northern Territory that are accessible. It would be straining coincidence rather too far to assume that the most accessible part of the territory is the only place where substantial uranium deposits exist. Secondly, a large proportion of the surface occurrence of the world’s oldest, or preCambrian, rock is to be found in Australia; and it is in such rock that uranium is most likely to be found. As honorable members know, Rum Jungle is situated approximately 00 miles south of Darwin. The find is 1 mile from a railway, and is within a couple of miles of one of the biggest operational airstrips in Australia. It is also only 7 miles from the dam from which Darwin derives its water supply. In addition, the area is one of the few freehold patches in the Northern Territory and, consequently, is one of the few parts of the territory that have been subjected to proper examination. Many years ago, the area was worked sporadically for copper, but such work was abandoned. Then a local prospector happened to receive a copy of a small but excellent pamphlet that had been issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral. Resources. That pamphlet contained coloured illustrations showing the appearanee of uranium. After studying the pamphlet, the prospector sent specimens to the bureau, where, upon analysis, they were found to contain uranium. That happened about three or four years ago. Subsequently, only limited interest was evinced in the find. In fact, Australia nearly lost the benefit of the discovery by default. After a prolonged delay, a certain amount of developmental work was undertaken and, as a result, the find was proved to be of considerable value. Honorable members will recall that British and American experts, who visited this country some months ago, expressed themselves as delighted at the prospects that the find at Rum Jungle offered. Of course, we do not yet know whether the deposits will be found to bc. substantial, and whether they- will be proved to be one of the biggest uranium fields in the world. All we can say at the present stage is that the find appears to be remarkable.
The Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources, in its pamphlet on radio-active mineral, stated -
It is n rather striking, though unexplained fact, that most productive uranium lodes and veins have been found in regions occupied by very old (pre-Cambrian) rocks.
Australia is one of the few places in the world where pre-Cambrian rocks appear on, or near, the surface. The situation is thus summed up in Professor Sir Edgeworth David’s monumental work on Australian geology -
Rocks belonging to the Pre-Cambrian Group are found in all States of the Commonwealth, and are estimated to occupy an area of not less than half a million square miles, of which more than 60 per cent, lies in Western Australia. Indeed, this State is so dominated by these rocks that it may be described as constituting a veritable “ shield “, comparable with those of Scandinavia, Laurentia, Manchuria, peninsula India, Brazil and Antarctica.
The occurrences of pre-Cambrian rocks, particularly the older pre-Cambrian rocks in Australia, are remarkable. So it seems worthwhile for us to make an intensive search for uranium on this continent. It does not, of course, follow that all pre- Cambrian rocks are uranium-bearing. One would expect to find uranium, together with other metals, along lines of the junction of old pre-Cambrian sediments and old igneous intrusions. There are in Australia many thousands of miles of such lines of junction which have never had any adequate geological examination. The field is wide and the prospects are bright. Owing to the low relief of the Australian country, particularly in “Western Australia, there is not much actual rock outcrop. Nevertheless, in most places the soil and vegetation are thin. Those factors reduce the difficulty of prospecting and increase the relative importance of pre-Cambrian prospecting. Compared with our opportunities, the prospecting and development of Australia’s uranium resources have been disappointing, to say the least. In fact, the exploration for, and production of, uranium, have been disappointing in all respects. I consider that the reason for that fact is that the Government has made the mistake of following too closely the policy that was laid down by its Labour party predecessor. Our fault is that we did not break away from the Labour party’s policy. 1 shall deal with three of our fundamental errors in relation to the -development of uranium. First, we have laid too much stress upon secrecy. ^Secondly, we have regarded the production of uranium as a government monopoly. Thirdly, there is a number x>£ detailed imperfections in the act and the regulations made under it, to which I “hall .refer later at greater length. I shall deal with those three errors in the order in which I have stated them. Everybody knows that security is a good thing in its proper place. We all believe that valuable information which can be concealed from the enemy without loss to ourselves should be concealed. But an excessive and inordinate policy of concealment may lead to the destruction of the very things which it is meant to conceal. The Government’s policy of inordinate hush-hush has had something of that effect. I point out that the position in Australia in respect of secrecy on uranium diners considerably from conditions in the United States of America, where, for example, although no overall figures are published in respect of uranium production, full information is made available about the location and layout of the various uranium mines and the geologic districts in which uranium may be found. For instance, the JanuaryFebruary issue of the Engineering and Mining Journal, which is published in America, gives a description of American uranium mines in fairly full detail. I see every reason to believe that although we are impeding ourselves, our production and our prospects by this inordinate secrecy, we are not concealing the details of our production from our Russian enemies. Analogously, in 1945 and 1946 the United States of America believed that the details of the manufacture of the atomic bomb were unknown to Russia. Subsequent spy trials in America showed that Russia was well informed on the matter and that some, although not all, of the secrecy that had been maintained was unjustified. We should keep our sense of proportion in this matter because, as a result of this irrational secrecy two things are now happening. The first is that prospectors are not being given the information that would help them to conduct their operations with the greatest efficiency. The second is that there has been an attempt to play down the importance of our uranium. Now, whatever other effect that may have, one effect it has already had is that it has diverted attention away from Australia’s possibilities in the field of uranium production and so has reduced our potential. In 1946-47 the United States of America was making the same mistakes as we are making now, but it learned from them and changed its attitude. We also should learn from its experience.
I come now to the second error. We are trying, absolutely without reservation, to make everything connected with the production of uranium a government monopoly. I realize and have said so in the House before, that the control of uranium must be nationalized as a prelude to its being internationalized. There is no possibility of separating the war-like uses of uranium from its use in peaceful power plants. There must be, unfortunately, control of uranium, but that fact should not preclude us from using, in the production of uranium, the skill and resources of private enterprise, which we can then bring inside the framework of nationalized control. In fact, here again we can learn from the United States of America, where the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission has sole control of uranium but draws a great deal of its supplies from large numbers of private contractors and, in fact, is on the open market to a considerable degree for the purchase of uranium. It also takes great care to try to encourage private interests to produce uranium. But, because of the nature of our 1946 legislation, which seems to have been designed to discourage anybody except the Government from producing uranium, we have left private enterprise and its resources entirely outside this vital field. That policy is wrong, and should be reversed forthwith.
I come now to the imperfections in the act and the inadequacy of the rewards for the discovery of uranium that are provided thereunder. I shall deal first with the hindrances to prospecting that now exist. I have listed five main points in relation to that matter. The first is, that there is considerable confusion between Commonweatlh and State authorities in relation to the matter. Honorable members will recall that, under section 6 of the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act, the Commonwealth took possession of all uranium in the territories as from September, 1946. They will also recall that under section 12 of the same act the Commonwealth took control of all uranium in the States, the control to be effective upon notice duly served upon the land-owner. Some States interpret section 6 as applying, not only to Commonwealth territories, but also to the whole of Australia. In consequence, they do not issue licences, or recognize the pegging of leases, for the mining of uranium. They say that that is solely the Commonwealth’s business. But the Commonwealth does nothing about it ! In some, although not in all, of the States, there is no easy way to peg a uranium lease, simply because of the existing confusion between the Commonwealth and the States, which has been allowed to continue.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the distribution of uranium be controlled?
– I shall come to that matter in a moment. I intend to make some constructive suggestions about it. The second consideration is that the conditions of reward for the discovery of uranium, which were published in 1948 during the preceding Government’s term of office, are that no reward shall be paid for a strike within 15 miles of any known strike. A circle with a radius of 15 miles contains 450,000 acres.Such an area would admit of, and require,a great deal of prospecting. The policy in that respect is altogether out of proportion, because obviously the areas that are most worth prospecting are near’ known finds. Under the present conditions, however, there is neither point norhope of reward in prospecting them. So nobody prospects them. I cite the Broken Hill field as an example of the’ compact nature of some metalliferousareas. The Broken Hill area has been.i prospected for 50 years. Hundreds of’ millions of pounds worth of metal has; been taken from it, but all the rich strikes at Broken Hill have been within about 4 miles of the original strike. The provision in relation to a radius of 15 miles is either an anachronism or an absurdity.
The third point is that the wording of the reward provisions is obscure. Nobody is able to say whether £1,000, £2,000 or £3,000 should be paid to certain persons who have discovered uranium. In fact, the relevant department itself is in doubt upon the matter. A more important point, however, is that the reward is calculated on the ultimate capacity of the mine. This causes delay all along the line. The procedure is that, instead of a reasonable reward being paid for the discovery of uranium, a small pro forma reward is paid. I understand that only a small token payment has yet been made to the discoverer of uranium at Rum Jungle, although there can be little doubt that he is entitled to a reward of £25,000, which is laid down as the maximum reward. One would have thought that, had the Government wished to encourage prospecting for uranium, it would have made some prompt and spectacular payments of rewards. Instead, this absurd penny-pinching policy has been allowed to continue. Delay must be avoided, and payment must be prompt.
The fifth, and most important point, is that in other mining ventures the prospector looks to the reward that he will receive by obtaining some title over his discovery. That is not so in relation to uranium. If the prospector makes his discovery in the Northern Territory he will have no title, because the possession of uranium passed to the Crown in December, 1946. The position in the States is that under section 14 of the Commonwealth’s legislation the prospector can obtain compensation in respect of a title that is established. But, as I have already said, in some of the States he can establish no title. Because of the confusion that exists between the Commonwealth and State authorities, the States do not permit the pegging of uranium leases. As a result of the confusion, no mining prospector knows whether his lease will be taken away from him without compensation. Is it not obvious that prospectors will be discouraged under such circumstances? And they have been discouraged. Private prospecting for uranium is only one small f raction of what it should be. It is miserably inadequate. Honorable members are well aware that, with respect to prospecting, uranium is in a different category from other metals. Zinc, copper, gold, silver and lead have been valuable, and have been sought for a long time; but uranium was of no value, and was merely a scientific curiosity until 1945. Then, suddenly, it became the most important metal in the world. All prospecting for uranium must be new prospecting, because no old prospector looked for uranium before 1945.
I offer a number of suggestions in order to remedy the present situation. The first is that a conference of Commonwealth and State mining authorities should be summoned immediately to clarify the present position, and remove the existing confusion. Perhaps there are constitutional difficulties to be overcome. I have no doubt that if the Commonwealth’s approach to the matter is attractive and :o-operative, the States will do what is necessary for them to do in the defence of Australia. Legislation can, and should, be passed to remove any constitutional doubt, because in the matter of uranium time is of the essence of the contract. There should be no delay. Time is running on.
My next suggestion relates to the present conditions governing the award for the discovery of uranium. No money is payable if the fine? is within 15 miles of a known strike. That absurd radius should be reduced to approxi- mately 1 mile. The base reward itself should be increased and an amount of not less than £5,000 should be paid promptly and without argument for a workable strike. If the workable strike is, say, more than 25 miles from the nearest registered strike, an additional £10,000 might well be paid - again promptly and without argument.
– What is the definition of a workable strike?
– It is not difficult to determine whether or not a strike is workable. I suggest that the prospector should be given the benefit of any doubt that may arise about the value of a strike. Under the existing act, the Minister is empowered to make payments at his own discretion in respect of a strike. that he considers unworkable. That wise provision should be interpreted generously. I also urge a re-orientation of outlook. Prospectors of uranium must be maintained in the field, and that requires a complete overhaul of the existing administration. Most important of all these considerations is the matter of title. The suggestion that I am about to make should apply to the territories of the Commonwealth and te the States, although some agreement may be necessary with respect to the latter. A prospector should be permitted to peg for himself an area the size of which may vary from 10 acres, if it is within a mile of a strike, to 100 or 200 acres if it is outside 100 miles of a known strike. Within such areas, prospector? should have exclusive and assignable mining rights, subject to one provision, as follows: - If the workings are not developing at the rate the Commonwealth considers adequate, or if, for convenience of working, it is necessary to amalgamate adjoining claims, the Commonwealth should take over such rights for working by itself or its agents or assigns; provided that in such cases compensation should be the subject of mutual agreement and should be paid in a lump sum, or should be assessed on the basis of 2^ per cent, of the gross value of the mineral recoveries. That is the standard under the original South Australian act.
Beyond the regulations are amended as I have suggested they should be, the Commonwealth should take positive measures for the encouragement of prospecting for uranium. Uranium ores are radio active, and their presence may ho detected by instruments that are sensitive to rays. These are known as Geiger counters. The simpler form, which is equipped with headphones and costs between £30 and £40, registers the rays by a series of audible clicks. A Geiger counter fitted with a rate meter costs a little more than £100. This superior form has a rate meter that gives a measurement of the comparative strength of the radiation. For some purposes, the scintillometer is preferable to the Geiger counter because it gives a quicker response. It costs between £500 and £1,000. I believe that the Government should immediately order no fewer than 2,000 Geiger counters, and perhaps 100 or 200 scintillometers, and offer them for sale at a cheap price. If the instruments were ordered in bulk, they could be manufactured cheaply, and would be available for the prospecting campaign, which, I hope, will sweep Australia.
It is true, of course, that the operator of the Geiger counter and the scintillometer requires some skill, and I consider that the Commonwealth should organize, in large cities and mining centres, special classes in uranium prospecting. Local geological advisers should be stationed in various promising areas to help prospectors, and arrange for the immediate inspection of any strike. Local information, maps, and air photographs should be made available, subject to certain security precautions, to inspectors on the spot, and adequate finance should be made available for genuine prospectors for uranium, to equip them initially, and to maintain thom in the field. The Commonwealth should intensify its efforts to complete the aerial radiometric survey of selected areas. For that purpose, small low-flying aircraft are generally more useful than larger aircraft. At least ten helicopters should be obtained immediately from overseas, and the resources of the defence forces should be mobilized to assist in this most vital of all defence measures.
The drilling programme should be immediately stepped up. At present, only ten or twelve drills are in operation in various uranium prospects in Australia.
That number should be substantially increased. In the United States of America, as a matter of routine, all drillholes, whether they have been put down for water, oil or minerals, are logged for radio-activity. A specially designed Geiger counter is lowered down the hole and a radiometric check is taken. That practice should be adopted in Australia, and checks should bc made of new bores as well as of existing bores in promising areas. There is scope in selected areas for the profitable extension of the practice of costining, that is, stripping off the mantel of earth in trenches. For that purpose, special earth-moving machinery must be employed, and I believe that Australia may obtain it from the United States of America.
I pass now from prospecting to mining operations. At present there are various hindrances to private mining. In that respect, the position here is in complete contrast to that existing in the United States of America. I shall discuss briefly the main barriers in Australia. The first is the nature of the present act and the regulations, which seem designed to discourage private mining at every point, and to concentrate all development in the hands of the Government. The second is the difficulties with respect to the title to mining leases for uranium. I have already dealt with that aspect in my remarks on prospecting. The next point is the unsatisfactory price that is offered by the Commonwealth for uranium, namely, 17s. per lb. The United States of America buys uranium on a sliding scale of prices, which are set out in the January number of the Mining Journal. Probably the average price for uranium in America is at least 200 per cent, higher than is the Australian price.
Again, except under a special arrangement, the Commonwealth will not buy ore of a grade lower than 5 per cent. The United States of America buys ore of grades down to one-tenth of 1 per cent, of uranium. That fact is particularly important because the nature of this metal is such that it sometimes cannot be concentrated by mechanical or even floatation means. No natural ore, except in small pockets, can be expected to be of a grade as high as 5 per cent., and mechanical concentration, or even concentration by floatation, is often impossible. The primary process is to leach the whole of the ore. But a leaching plant is most expensive. Prospectors, if they are bound by the 5 per cent, requirement, cannot develop any small deposits. For all those reasons, the private mining of uranium in Australia is virtually nil.
For the encouragement of uranium mining, the following measures seem desirable : - The provisions of the act and regulations, especially those relating to mining titles, should be revised. The purchase price of uranium should he increased from the present figure of 17s. per lb. to not less than 50s. per lb. The minimum standard grade of acceptable ore should be reduced from 5 per cent, to not greater than one-fifth of 1 per cent. Even that minimum would be twice the standard minimum figure adopted by the United States of America. Adequate finance should be arranged for private mines in promising locations. [Extension of time granted.]
I thank the House for its courtesy. The scope of government operations at Rum Jungle and elsewhere could be extended. It may be desirable, as a general but not an invariable practice, to arrange for private firms with mining experience to act as contractors in government uranium mines. In these various matters, we can learn from the experiences of the United States of America, and we can draw on that country for our requirements. One fact that should not be overlooked is that we must await the results of prospecting before any big development in mining can take place. As the Minister has pointed out, we do not yet know the scope of the deposits at Rum Jungle. The full development of that strike must await further exploration. However, sufficient is known about Rum Jungle for some courageous anticipation. The drilling programme should be drastically accelerated. The geological and physical survey of the surrounding area and the aerial radio.metrical survey should be accelerated. Work on the provision of accommodation, power, and amenities should now be in train on the assumption that
Rum Jungle will be a big project. I emphasize that time is of the essence of the contract. In the development of our uranium deposits, it is much more important to save time than it is to save money.
I should like to suggest a few ancillary considerations that are worthy of attention. The present staff of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics may have to be increased, in order to cope with the uranium programme, and in that matter the Commonwealth should act in co-operation with the mining departments of the States. The Commonwealth has unlimited authority, and is not bound by any constitutional impediment in the Northern Territory, where, to date, the most promising uranium prospect exists. It is the mainline policy of the Communists to prevent the production of uranium in Australia. Therefore, the Commonwealth should forthwith take such measures as lib within its power to remove the Communists from the Northern Territory.
Finally, the development of uranium in the Northern Territory may cause us completely to re-orientate our ideas about the urgency of the north-south railway line, and its route. That matter should be examined by the proper authorities, and finality reached upon it without delay. No longer should we tolerate any delays in the development of our uranium deposits. I hope that the Minister will be given a power of appropriation so that he may have a free hand, to take, without delay, any action that is necessary in connexion with the mining of uranium. We must realize our responsibilities. I do not believe that what has been done is good enough, and I do not share the complacency of the Leader of the Opposition, and perhaps some members on the Government side, who are uncritical of the present situation.
.- The House should regard itself as deeply indebted to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for hi? outstanding speech. In order to deliver such an informative address, he must have undertaken considerable research into the subject. However, his passing reference to the relationship between the development of our uranium deposits and our trade balances is in line with press comment, to the effect that the sale of uranium will enable us to earn dollars. I cannot imagine a more trivial consideration underlying the development of uranium than the idea that it is just another item of trade to assist to extricate us from our temporary disabilities. I think that the honorable member’s speech had implicit in it the idea that the utilization of uranium should be determined by the highest political considerations. It is along those lines that I wish to discuss this subject.
Unfortunately for Australia, the apparent deposits at Bum Jungle are rather vulnerably placed, and may be considered to be more vulnerably placed than they were in 1942, having regard to the increased range of aircraft and other military advances since that time. It seems quite clear that research in connexion with the utilization of uranium is so expensive, and requires such large teams of research workers, that Australia must collaborate with overseas governments. There has been a tendency to think of the United States of America in this regard. T do not know the view of the Govern- in out-
– Our arrangements have been made with the British and American Governments.
– That may be so, but the conceptions that underlie the Government’s policy have never really been clarified, and there is a general tendency in this country, particularly on behalf of the press, to look automatically towards the United States of America. “We have recently seen that British atomic military research has caught up to American research and appears to be well advanced in connexion with the industrial application of nuclear physics. I recently read a news item concerning the use of uranium as fuel by the British research station at Harwell, and in Brasseys Naval Animal articles have been published in which it has been stated that United States research has reached a stage where ;a submarine driven by atomic energy (reactors is to be tested. This sub marine vessel possesses great underwater speed, and an indefinite cruising range. This single research vessel is alleged to have cost 40,000,000 dollars. That leads us to the conclusion that in disposing of our uranium, if we do dispose of it to foreign governments, one should not consider relieving our sterling balances or obtaining dollars, but should look upon our uranium as a very valuable bargaining commodity from the stand-point of our defence development.. What we should get in return for our uranium is not currency but defence. I hope that that is the underlying assumption in the Government’s dealings with this important substance.
Concerning the international implications of uranium, I should like to refer honorable members to the position of the United Kingdom. There has been a tendency, because of the overwhelming military power of the United States of America, to believe that America is the most important country in the world and is the main defensive force on the side of the western powers. Therefore, it is said, if we are to choose our allies, we should give priority to the United States of America. I believe that that is a mistaken viewpoint, because the United States of America and the United Kingdom cannot be dissociated in this regard. If America is to intervene effectively in Europe - and Europe still matters profoundly - it can do so only through the United Kingdom. Consequently, the defence of the United Kingdom, which might be highly vulnerable in an atomic war, should be of profound concern to this country and to all the other countries that are members of the western bloc. The United Kingdom, if it is to be maintained as a bulwark against aggression, should be very strong in the new weapons of war. If it is not, and if it should be destroyed, it would be most unlikely that any D-Da.y attack could be launched from New York to the continent of Europe. The channel of American intervention in Europe must be the United Kingdom. The defence of the United Kingdom against aerial attack may be strengthened by the existence in Britain of an abundance of uranium. We tend to think of uranium in relation to atomic bombs, but it i3 equally probable that with the progress of research, antiaircraft shells, equipped as they were in the closing stages of the last war, with radar time fuses which exploded them when they reached the proximity of an aeroplane, will come into general use. Such anti-aircraft shells, made of uranium, would certainly prevent squadron flying by hostile aeroplanes.
We tend to think of atomic weapons as instruments of attack on civilian populations, but it is probable that they will revolutionize civil defence. I hope that the Government will recognize that the defence of the United Kingdom is of the utmost importance, that the United States of America must be considered in conjunction with the United Kingdom, and that all international agreements on the subject of uranium should fully safeguard the position of the United Kingdom.
.- It is gratifying to know that the debate on this measure has brought forth two speeches such as we have just heard. They both were full of constructive ideas. I believe that the discovery of uranium in this country might quite well alter the future position of Australia in its relation to the rest of the world. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) indicated, we all have a vision of the application of atomic energy to civilian purposes, the development of cheap power and all that that implies, greatly improved productivity and standards of living, and a world in which everybody will live in amity and goodwill. That is a vision that is so attractive that I do not believe that any effort to translate it into reality would be too great. However, in order to achieve that reality there are two basic requirements. The first i3 that it is necessary to have stocks of uranium. Secondly, we must convince the world that it is preferable to live in peace and amity.
We have no accurate knowledge of the quantity of uranium available to us or to our potential enemies, but when we make a discovery of uranium deposits in this country we should use every possible endeavour to develop them to the greatest possible degree. In that way we shall help to preserve the peace of the world. It is clear that the indications are that world tension is such that we have little hope of a lasting peace. In fact, the only practical application of atomic energy to date has been in the construction of weapons of war. In the present state of the world that is understandable, nevertheless it is very deplorable. Atomic weapons are being developed, as was indicated by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), in the tactical field. We have been in the habit of supposing that in any future war great atomic bombs will be dropped on centres of population and industry. That is a horrifying thought, and people have been very disturbed to think that such a destructive war could become possible. I do not believe that atomic weapons, if used at all, will be used for that purpose. Information has been made public that atomic tactical weapons have been developed, and I think that it is reasonable to suppose that atomic energy as applied to warfare will have much the same effect on strategy and tactics as had the invention of gunpowder in earlier days, and the later development of those explosives whose action was founded on molecular disintegration. It seems to me that the prospect of the development of atomic energy is not only one that should provide us with visions of prosperity, but also one that must be accepted with grave resonsibility. There is no doubt that as many prominent citizens, including the Prime Minister of Great Britain, have said, the possession of overwhelming quantities of atomic weapons by the United States of America has saved us from a third world war. I believe that to be literally true.
There is no scientific secret about atomic weapons. Both the eastern and western groups of nations are fully aware of all the scientific and mechanical requirements for production. The atomic race is well under way. The only major controlling factor is the availability of the basic material uranium. If we and our allies should possess a preponderating supply of uranium, we should be in such an advantageous position that we could hope to maintain world peace. If we produced a predominance of uranium in the Western world we could make it so unlikely that any potential aggressor would win a war that he might abandon all thought of making the attempt. Therefore, it is our responsibility to develop our resources to the utmost of our ability, and at the same time to recognize the implications which large uranium resources will have ou our strategic position. In recent wars Australia has not been of very great strategic importance, because it is a nation of small population and resources. We could contribute relatively little in fighting man-power, stores and equipment. Geographically, we are outside the main strategic orbit, and to date there has been very little incentive to any hostile power to occupy our country. There was very little advantage to be gained by invading Australia because such an invasion would have had very little effect on the result of the wars. However, having regard to the importance of uranium, and supposing, as I do, that vast uranium resources in this country are awaiting development, that old strategic conception has disappeared. Australia will become an important strategic consideration in world councils. That implies that we have had thrust on us an aggravated defence problem. Standard strategy envisages denial as well as acquisition, and it would be an obvious act of war for an enemy to attempt to deny to us and our allies the use of the uranium that this country produces. Therefore, we must look very seriously to our local defences. That implies a review of our air defences and all their expensive ancillary appurtenances, such as radar and strategically placed air strips. It is of no use to discover uranium deposits unless we are able to protect them in the event of war. Our problems of sea communications also are aggravated. Clearly, we shall not be able to process our uranium and convert it into weapons. Certainly, if we could do so, we could not use all the weapons ourselves. Our allies must have a share. That means that we must preserve our sea communications so that we can ship uranium to them. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has pointed out, the development of submarines in recent years has made the protection of our sea communications a matter of increasing difficulty. “We are faced with a further local defence problem, which involves a review of our coastwise naval forces. The contribution to peace that an abundance of uranium would make possible could be so effective that no effort to protect the asset and make the best use of it would be too great to attempt. I believe that, with the discovery of rich uranium resources in Australia, we have been given an opportunity to play a big part in the preservation of peace in this world.
– I join in the discussion of this bill, which deals with the control of atomic materials, for the reason that has induced other honorable members to speak on what the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) has properly described as an historic occasion. This is the second measure to provide for the effective control and development of atomic materials that has been submitted to this Parliament. It will improve upon our first fumblings and will bring a little nearer to the light our plans for the conservation and development of Australia’s uranium deposits. My knowledge of this subject has been gained as a result of my deep interest in what is one of the miracle minerals of the earth. “Unfortunately, its miraculous nature includes the bad as well as the good. The predominance of the good will depend upon the uses to which it is converted. One could almost imagine oneself living through a chapter of The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, when one hears the ordinary man in the street talking of atomic warheads, guided missiles, radar and all the fantasia of which we read, as boys at school, about wars of the future. But time has moved rapidly, and fantasy has become fact. The fact is that uranium has become the key material of war.
The discovery of deposits of uranium in the Northern Territory and elsewhere in Australia has completely changed the potential importance of Australia in an unsettled world. It is known that the deposits at Bum Jungle in the Northern Territory are extensive. The work being done at Radium Hill in South
Australia, which is being energetically hastened by the South Australian Government in conjunction with this Government, is extremely interesting. Little has been said yet about the discovery, during the regime of the Chifley Government, of distinct traces of uranium in the Harts Mountains, a region that is much less vulnerable than are the open spaces of Rum Jungle and Radium Hill. We may reasonably suppose, in view of the rapidity with which the finds have followed each other, that other uranium deposits are on the verge of discovery in Australia. Therefore, the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar on the subject of quick surveys and the provision of facilities for prospecting are of great importance. The honorable gentleman talked about the pre-Cambrian rock strata in Australia and the geological age of the continent, which is almost incalculable. Australia has lost, during its long geological history, many precious materials, such as oil, that are to be found in newer countries. The only surviving minerals appear to be those “f i> hard and an enduring nature. There may be an element of natural justice in the fact that, amongst the minerals that have survived, is this miracle substance of uranium.
My chief concern is that we should not fall into the fatal error of wasting this invaluable asset, as we have wasted other important natural resources. Soil erosion in Australia is an inheritance from the pioneers. Poems and sagas have been written about the dogged courage of those men. They may have had courage, but many of them were completely ignorant of the value of the soil. They did not realize that its richness could be dissipated and that the producer should return to the ground much of the wealth thai lie takes from it. Because of that ignorance, we have suffered tragically from soil erosion, aggravated by wind erosion, which has completely changed the character of our land. We have not invoked the aid of science in the past, and 1 feai- that we may fall into the same error now because of the loud “ whoopees “ that have reverberated round the world as n result of our discovery of uranium. Urn n in in is essential to the waging of atomic warfare. We are told we must have , it if we are to give the quietus to Russia. Therefore, it has become a top news item, and we are somewhat like the boy who, having unexpectedly discovered a treasure, wants to sell it at once at the nearest pawnshop. But we must not trade it for the civilized equivalent of tomahawks and axes, as we have done with our natural assets in the past. Warnings have been issued by both statesmen and scientists that this treasure must be jealously guarded. I agree with the intention of the Government, as expressed in this bill, to foster further investigations and to tighten regulations for the control of uranium. I agree also that our uranium must be made available to our allies. However, the method by which we make it available to them should be carefully considered. No matter how close this may bring the Government to socialism - and it has rubbed shoulders with socialism more than once in the last few months - our uranium must never become the plaything of the entrepreneur. It belongs to the nation. I am sure that every man and woman in Australia considers that uranium, if nothing else, should be nationalized for the sake of the nation and its future development. Already there are strong rumours that the eagles are gathering in the hope of gaining control of this valuable raw material, which is in short supply all over the world. I hope that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) will prevent any exploitation of Australia’s interests.
We may be mistaken in our belief that uranium is in desperately short supply. 1 understand, from my study of reports of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations, that the deposits that have been discovered in the Congo, Colorado, Russia and elsewhere are sufficient to meet the needs of both the East and the West in the immediate future. The use of uranium is still in the experimental stage, and, therefore, even though rapid progress has been made, the development of atomic energy from this source has not yet reached the assembly line stage. Many optimistic forecasts of the possible uses of uranium will probably be dissipated by the hard facts that will be produced by scientific experimentation. However, as the situation stands, we have an extremely important asset. Every Australian considers that the Government has a duty to conserve that asset and use it to the best advantage. Our uranium should not be exported in its raw form but should be processed here. The difficulty of establishing plant for that purpose should not bo insuperable, because I understand that the first process of concentration is not extremely complicated. “We should waste much of the value of this rich find if we allowed the untreated ore to be exported. In the past, we have been completely prodigal with our mineral wealth. “We have torn it from the ground without regard for consequences. Unless we take care, our first fine hopes for the use of uranium may remain unfulfilled. We have wasted our gold, for example, until we have reached the stage at which only infinitesimal traces of it are to be found where rich deposits were previously located. Under such conditions, production becomes uneconomic as a result of high operating costs and the great distances from sea-boards and rail-heads.
We must listen to three voices on the subject of the development of our uranium resources. The first voice is that of the Government, which speaks on behalf of the nation. The Government is the complete and absolute custodian of our uranium. The second voice is that of our allies, who need this essential material in order to produce atomic energy. The third and most important voice is that of the scientists, who say that we may lose the full value of this asset if we consider it merely in relation to defence. The Australian continent has a fertile fringe surrounding an inner desert of varying degrees of aridity. Perhaps the wise use of atomic energy may enable us to develop the dry heart of the nation to our advantage. We must not overlook the peaceful applications of this miraculous mineral. If this gift is to be used solely for destruction, it will be a gift of the Dark Angel and will lead us not to pence but to total destruction. “We should hoard uranium, and not use it extravagantly for war-like purposes because the future prosperity of this potentially great nation may depend upon its application to peaceful purposes.
I shall conclude by referring to the opinions of two members of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney. Mr. A. B, Penfold and Mr. F. El Morrison. Referring to a statement on the use of uranium by a doctor of science, these gentlemen declared -
We concur in Dr. Mellor’s opinion that our precious deposits of uranium should also be conserved. We should in no circumstances export the ore, but undertake the processing of it here, and permit the export of uranium 235 or plutonium in strictly controlled amounts.
They expressed that view although they were fully aware of the urgency of the demands of our allies for access to our deposits. Then they turned from consideration of the war-like uses of uranium, which are uppermost in the public mind, to the prospects for its peaceful use, and they stated these conclusions -
The use of uranium as a source of power need not be deferred for 10 years if we apply ourselves as assiduously to that problem as we do to its use for military purposes. It is quite possible that the period could be shortened to five years or even less.
In view of the deteriorating situation with regard to coal supplies, we should look ahead and realize that uranium may bc substituted for coal in our power plants when it becomes feasible to release it in the form of electrical power, notwithstanding the fact that there is the question of relative costs to bc considered.
There is another factor - that of public health - which should ensure the highest priority being given to the problem of using uranium as a source of industrial and domestic energy.
They pointed out that many of tha illnesses that afflict city people are caused by fumes given off by manufacturing plants that use coal as fuel. Scientists envisage that with the use of uranium in industry, factories will be clean and our cities completely free of the fumes and smoke which are the cause of bronchitis, asthma, and other complaints which have reached the stage of being virtually occupational diseases in industry.
On the evidence so far available, this country is one of the “Big Five” in regard to uranium deposits. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to protect the valuable asset that has come so suddenly into our possession. I agree with everything that the honorable member for Mackellar said about the need to accelerate surveys and the payment of rewards for the discovery of uranium deposits. I believe that, for a long time, we shall be one of the principal suppliers of uranium to the world. We must debunk the sensational stories that have been circulated about who will get our uranium. We must discourage the belief that another nation which assisted us by building a railway, a wharf, or some other installation in the north of Australia, could, as it were, use that assistance as the thin edge of a wedge to obtain concessions in regard to our uranium.
I am sure that I speak for the whole of the Labour movement, and for the people generally, when I say that our uranium deposits must not be conceded, wagered, or frittered away. The Australian people have a right to enjoy any benefits that may be derived from those deposits when the war clouds have lifted and we can devote the whole of our energies to the development of this country. Our uranium deposits may be a guiding star which has risen above our horizon. Uranium may be the mineral for which we have been waiting. The discovery of uranium deposits in Australia may mean that we shall become so prosperous that we shall be able to support a population, not of 20,000,000, but of 50,000,000. As onlookers in this matter, we do not know the extent of the uranium deposits in this country, or what will happen to the uranium that we produce. We do not know the secrets of the Atomic Energy Commission. But we do know that the main task of the Government is to conserve this wonderful asset and to ensure that it shall remain in our possession for all time.
.- I do not think that any member of the Parliament, or indeed any Australian, considers that we should treat our uranium resources as an article of commerce. Uranium is far too essential to the welfare of this nation, and probably to the peace nf the world, for any thought of that kind to enter our minds. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) made a very good point when he said that the discovery fi large deposits of uranium in Australia has increased our defence responsibilities, because now we have a duty to protect them. Reference was made to the vulnerability of the deposits near Darwin, and I agree that we should be happier if they were farther south.
I want to emphasize the need to continue the search for further deposits of uranium. There is good reason to believe that Australia is more likely than any other continent to have fairly large deposits. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) quoted from Sir Edgeworth David’s work on Australian geology, and reminded us that in this country there are about 300,000 square miles of pre-Cambrian formations, in which uranium is found mostly. Most of that area lies in the northern part of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. I appeal to the Government to use every possible means at its disposal to encourage the search for this very valuable mineral. The man who discovered the deposits at Rum Jungle has received only a small token payment, and he will not receive another payment for a long time. Prospecting in the Northern Territory and in the north of Western Australia is an arduous and difficult job, and, unless big rewards are offered for discoveries of uranium deposits, it is not likely that prospecting in those areas will be undertaken very vigorously.
I remember that in, I think, 1938, .1 accompanied a man who was searching for wolfram about 140 miles from Alice Springs. He told me that he thought it was worthwhile to live the arduous and difficult life of a wolfram prospector because he was earning about £1,500 a year. But now such a sum would not be an inducement to men to engage in prospecting in remote parts of the country, unless they knew that they had a chance to win big rewards. I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Mackellar that, when any appreciable deposit of uranium is discovered, a reward of up to £5,000 should be paid without delay, and that, subsequently, further payments should be made upon a royalty basis or a percentage basis. The search for uranium will not be conducted vigorously unless large rewards are offered. As the honorable member for Mackellar pointed out, Australia does not pay well for uranium. We buy it for 17s. per lb., and insist upon a minimum grade of 5 per cent. The Americans pay 1^ dollars per lb., plus a good many bonuses, and have fixed the minimum standard grade of ore at .1 per cent. We should pay more generously than we do.
I think we should adopt one of the American methods of encouraging the search for uranium. The Atomic Energy Commission in America has appointed a large number of agents, who are authorized to acquire uranium ore from prospectors and to pay for it immediately. The Americans do not insist that uranium ore shall be sent to the American equivalent of cities such as Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney. American prospectors are supplied with a list of persons who have been licensed by the Atomic Energy Commission to purchase uranium ore and to pay for it. A prospector who finds a deposit of uranium ore in America can either work the deposit himself or arrange for it to be worked by somebody else, but he is permitted to sell it only to agents of the Atomic Energy Commission. If we adopted the American practice in that connexion and also paid rewards for discoveries promptly, we should do much to encourage prospecting for uranium in Australia. It is absolutely essential that we should encourage prospecting, because it is possible that there are other uranium deposits in this country. I close on the note that our first task is to discover where our deposits of uranium are. We can talk about their development and the disposal of uranium later.
– It seems to me that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) agreed that, if anything should be nationalized in the interests of the people, it is our resources of uranium. The uranium deposits in this country are a treasured national asset. I do not think the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has told us clearly what the Government intends to do with uranium that is produced in Australia, but all parties in this Parliament are prepared to state unequivocally that it must not be traded away. I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that we should try to produce uranium in Australia rather than send uranium ore to other countries. I regard the discovery of a uranium deposit at Rum Jungle as a fortuitous circumstance. I understand the view of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) to be that it is rather unfortunate that a deposit should be situated so near to Darwin. I agree that it would be rather difficult to defend if other nations cast covetous eyes upon it.
Uranium may be the source of supplies of power that will be of great advantage to us, and perhaps will enable us to reach an advanced stage of development many years before we could expect to reach it if we had to rely only upon electric power produced with the use of coal or water. The enormous potentialities of our uranium deposits render it necessary that the House shall agree unanimously upon the use to which they should be put. The honorable member for Parkes cited opinions expressed by scientists who have studied that problem. I think that we should take some notice of those opinions.
The Opposition believes that this measure is completely justifiable, but we say that we should be given more information about the arrangements that this Government intends to enter into, or has entered into, with the United States of America and the United Kingdom in respect of uranium. Some members have a mania for security. I realize that in this matter security is essential, but I point out that it will be to the disadvantage of this country if security measures are taken to an extreme limit. Uranium is of tremendous value to us. It may be of even more value than are our coal-fields or our sources of hydro-electric power. No one will deny that the discovery that has been made so far may be the forerunner of further discoveries, because the geological formation of over 500,000 square miles of this country is of such a nature that it is likely that further deposits of uranium exist. I hope that, for the sake of Australia, we shall find a great deal more uranium. I trust that the Minister, when he replies to the debate, will be able to assure honorable members that the Government intends to use our uranium deposits in a manner that will be to the best advantage of Australia. The Government has not yet stated clearly what it proposes to do. We are entitled to receive that information.
This measure is designed only to make arrangements which the Government considers to be necessary for the control of a very valuable mineral. But what is to be done in association with other nations which would be deeply interested in Australian uranium deposits is of grave concern to honorable members on both sides of the House. I hope that honorable members will be informed of the Government’s intentions.
.- The bill that is before the House is an important one. Uranium will rival petrol as the source of power for use in both peace and war. Australia is fortunate in having large deposits of uranium and the Government should be sure that the rights of the people in this valuable metal shall be safeguarded. We must be sure that Australia shall not get into a position similar to that in which Persia was placed when that country’s oil was developed by foreign nations. The use of atomic energy is almost entirely concentrated now on warfare, but it can be used also to provide power and for other peace-time purposes. I hope that we =hall see the day when uranium will be used in Australia for the development of power. Honorable members, as representatives of the people, should make the best use of the country’s natural resources. The largest known uranium deposits are near Darwin, and nature seems to have safeguarded most of our metals by placing them in remote places. Had they been handier, they would have been exploited earlier. Murder and other crimes were associated with the early exploitation of oil, and history may repeat itself in the development of uranium unless care is taken to avoid such a contingency. The Parliament should try to ensure that Australia’s deposits shall be kept in the possession of the nation for the use of its people in war and in peace.
– in reply - The Government is indebted to honorable members on both sides of the House for an interesting debate, for the constructive observations that they have made, and for the tone of the debate. Every honorable member who has spoken on this bill has been helpful and constructive. Anxiety has been expressed by several honorable members on both sides of the House concerning the Government’s intentions in regard to the exploitation of uranium. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has stated, I cannot be expected to go into details, but I can say that the Government intends to accelerate the exploitation of Australian uranium deposits as far as the national resources will permit that to be done. The Government proposes, having done that, to make some of the uranium available to our allies. Indeed, with that end in view, the Government has entered into arrangements with Great Britain and the United States of America. Under the agreement, these countries will obtain some uranium ore from Australia. I also repeat the assurance I have already given that the Government will do nothing that will unduly deplete Australia’s uranium resources. The Government has taken steps in the agreements it has made and in other ways, to ensure that Australia will retain sufficient uranium for its future defence and, in particular, for future industrial needs.
In the limited time at my disposal, I shall direct myself to answering the points that, have been raised by honorable members. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that the amendments to the 1946 legislation, which are contained in this bill, are really unnecessary and that the measure makes no real change in the existing law. He is quite wrong. I do not pretend that it makes wide or sweeping changes,. nor do I contend that it will not be necessary to bring down fresh legislation from time to time and possibly to overhaul the whole matter by introducing entirely new statutes. In referring to the 1946 legislation, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) used the term “ fumbling I shall adopt that word also, but not in a critical sense, because the act of 1946 was a tentative piece of legislation and certain difficulties have been revealed only by the passage of time. The need has now arisen to provide the Commonwealth with direct powers to go to the Northern Territory in particular and initiate mining operations there, either directly or through some corporation on its behalf. Therefore, the Government has introduced the small
Amendment in proposed new section 13a, so that the Australian Government will be able to set up some agency to get the uranium out of the ground with the least delay. That is all that the Government pretends to have done. It does not pretend to have brought down in this legislation a code that will be sufficient to deal with all the possibilities that may Arise in the exploitation, mining and refining of uranium in, say, the next ten years. As atomic developments progress, no doubt additional legislation will be necessary. I emphasize that the future of Australia’s uranium resources have been and are being safeguarded by the steps that the Government has taken and will continue to take. A tripartite agreement has been signed by the Australian Government, the South Australian Government and a combined agency representing the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America for the sale of South Australian ore. That agreement embodies the principle of the protection of Australia’s interests.
– Why was it not brought before the Parliament?
– That was not necessary. The Government has also made arrangements for certain small amounts of uranium from mines in the Northern Territory to be sold. What has been done in the Northern Territory i3 only small, because the degree of development is much less in that area than in South Australia, where the Premier, Mr. Playford, has shown close interest in this matter. I pay a tribute to Mr. Playford for his enterprise and his vision in seeking to develop the uranium deposits that were found in South Australia years before the deposits were discovered in the Northern Territory. He had in view, not only the needs of defence; indeed, as Premier of South Australia he was not concerned primarily with defence. He had in view the industrial needs of South
Australia. That State is short of coal, and technical advice given to Mr. Playford led him to believe that if he could develop uranium deposits for the production of industrial power he might be able to establish an atomic pile that would replace its diminishing coal power resources. I hope that his enterprise will be rewarded by the results yielded. The Australian Government hopes to do the same sort of thing in due course, but at the moment it is concerned with preliminary development and with getting the uranium, out of the earth.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made a valuable speech. I am not in agreement with everything that he said, and, indeed, could express considerable disagreement with him. He said that no compensation would be payable for uranium that was discovered in the Northern Territory. I do not think he could have meant that. Two things were provided in the legislation of 1946. One was that uranium became the property of the Commonwealth. The other was that when uranium became vested in the Commonwealth, compensation would be payable as was provided in section 14 of the act. The honorable member for Mackellar spoke of delay in this matter. I have been Minister for Supply for two years.
– Too long.
– Sometimes, when I consider the volume of work that I have to do, I agree that two years is too long. But in that time the. Government has done much in this field. We have been in consultation with the British Government on this matter for some time. The Government has been deeply concerned about the acquisition of “ know how “ in atomic matters. Knowledge in that field is not yet completely delineated. In fact, it is a highly erudite, field, and the Government has been engaged in collating information. Although we know theoretically how to make an atomic pile, ten years may have elapsed before one is made in Australia, because, if I may draw the analogy, we are in much the same position as James Watt was when he discovered steam coming from a kettle. Many years passed from the time that Watt discovered the. power of steam until steam trains were running on rails. Theoretically, we know about atomic piles, but many years of research lie ahead before it will be possible to apply the theory successfully to modern machinery and power. Between theory and applied science lie long years of research and labour. The Government has conducted lengthy negotiations in respect of this matter. It has proved the existence of a substantial uranium deposits in the Northern Territory. It arranged the visit of the British and American atomic experts who came here recently.
– The previous Government made provision for the payment of rewards.
– That is so. This Government has paid rewards. One honorable member said that the amounts were trivial. The Government has paid a reward of £1,000 to Mr. White, a resident of the Northern Territory, and other rewards will perhaps be paid in respect of further discoveries of uranium deposits.
– That amount is very meagre.
– That may be so; but the Government would be unwise to rush in and, perhaps, prematurely, pay larger rewards. The Government has given widespread publicity to the search for uranium and has encouraged prospectors in that direction. It will continue that policy. Having regard to the fact that the Government, since it assumed office, has been able to exercise real power for a period of only fifteen months, I must repudiate the allegation that it has caused delays that have hindered the search for uranium.
It has also been alleged in the course of this debate that the Government has veiled its activities in secrecy. That is not true. Secrecy, of course, must exist in respect of the scientific processes associated with the treatment of uranium for atomic purposes.
– The Government hai kept secret the quantity of uranium that it has undertaken to sell.
– That is so.
– The people are entitled to that information.
– It will be given to them at the appropriate time. The Government has not observed secrecy in any way that would retard the development of uranium deposits. Some honorable members have said that the Government has made a monopoly of the development, of these deposits. After all, the Government bore the expenditure that was involved in the employment of mineralogists and geologists who were required to do the preliminary work. We must recognize that the pioneering spirit of the prospector is not so much in evidence to-day as it was half a century ago. In any event, one could not expect that many persons would be sufficiently equipped technically to prospect for a mineral like uranium. If any defectsare revealed in this legislation as a result of experience, they will be promptly rectified.
The honorable member for Fremantle’ (Mr. Beazley) said he hoped that theGovernment would not develop our uranium deposits merely on a tradingbasis. Nobody has suggested that thesedeposits should be exploited as a means of earning more dollars. The Government’s primary concern will be to utilize uraniu.ni in the interests of the defenceof not only Australia but also Great Britain and our allies in the free world. At the same time, we should be unwise toignore the value of uranium from thestandpoint of industrial development.. If, incidentally, the sale of it will enable us to increase our dollar earnings, that will he all to the good ; but the Government will not act in any way that will’ be detrimental to the defence interestsof Australia or those of our allies. We shall develop these resources “in the interests of our economy generally if wecan do so without prejudicing defence. In this matter we have not forgotten our kinsmen in Great Britain.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr.. Bostock) made a useful point when hecommented upon the possible changes that may take place in defence organizationas a result of the remarkable development that may occur in the Northern Territory. I agree entirely with hiscomments in that respect. Some honorable members have expressed anxiety about the possibility that the Government will simply rip uranium out of the ground and denude the country completely of this valuable asset. In keeping with the policy that it has employed from the very start in developing our uranium resources, it will continue to ensure that this great assets shall not be dissipated.
The discovery of uranium deposits in the Northern Territory has opened up an exciting prospect for Australia. I deprecate statements that have been made on this matter by certain honorable members. Nevertheless, in what is called our arid north, embracing some of the most unattractive land in Australia, we now find suddenly within our grasp substantial supplies of a mineral which a few years ago was practically unheard of and was considered to be valueless. This development promises to change the face of our economy and it represents a contribution of incalculable value to the defence effort of this country and that of our allies in the free world. I have gained the impression from this debate that honorable members generally have been touched by the sense of excitement and drama. All of us, regardless of party affiliations, are anxious to ensure that the greatest benefit shall be obtained for Australia in the development of our uranium resources. I again assure the House that the Government will develop those deposits wisely and to the advantage solely of the nation and in the interests of our allies. In the near future, the Government will enlist the aid of private enterprise for the purpose of mining uranium in the Northern Territory, particularly at Rum Jungle, by the most efficient means.
– Order ! The Minister said that before.
– It is anomalous that a Minister should be called to order in this way. I was informing the House of the Government’s view with respect to a certain point that has just been raised, and that I had not mentioned previously, by saying that the Government will not permit our uranium deposits to be exploited to the advantage of private interests. Whilst we shall enlist the aid of private enterprise in mining uranium, we shall retain complete control and ownership of this valuable asset.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 745), on motion by Mr. McEwen through Mr. ERIC J. Harrison -
That the hill bc now read a second time.
.- This is a small measure- of three clauses and is designed to provide for the payment, through the Australian Wheat Board, to the growers of wheat of the 1949-50 season, of certain moneys held in the Wheat Stabilization Fund. Although the measure is short, however, it is of much more importance than it appears to be on the surface. Because of the payments to wheat-growers authorized by it, it is of vital interest to them. But it is. after all, part and parcel of the 1948 wheat stabilization legislation that was supported by all the State parliaments and was agreed to by a majority of the wheat-growers in every State. When that legislation was before this House no member of any party voted against it. It is historical, inasmuch as it established, for the first time in Australia’s history in peace time, a scheme for the organized marketing of wheat sold both at home and abroad. It was naturally of great importance to Australian consumers of wheat and wheat by-products, and also to consumers of wheat in other parts of the world. That scheme has operated successfully since the 194S-49 season and, indeed, it applied to the 1947-4S wheat crop. The federation of which the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) was a member advocated the casting of a “ Yes “ vote by wheat-growers, but reserved the undoubted right to endeavour to have the plan amended to provide that a higher price should be paid for wheat consumed in Australia as stock feed. As time has passed, some discontent has arisen among the wheat-growers, largely due to the fact that overseas prices for wheat have remained buoyant, and it .has been accentuated because, at the 1949 general election, the parties now in office, to which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) belongs held out to the wheat-growers, as an election bait, the promise that if they were returned to office they would pay to the growers the difference between the return from wheat sold in Australia at homeconsumption prices for stock-feed purposes, and that derivable from the overseas parity price. Unfortunately for the wheat-growers, and perhaps ultimately for the people in general, that promise has never been honoured. Two years have elapsed since it was made, and the Minister has advanced various excuses for the failure to honour it, as well as a number of reasons why it should not be honoured. I shall deal with that matter anon. The growers have become thoroughly sick of the whole procedure, and lately, under very heavy pressure from them - the wheat-growers have a strong organization and do not like weaknesses in Ministers-
– The honorable member did not get on very well with them when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– At least, I always dealt honestly with them. Lately, under pressure, and after two years of dissatisfaction on the part of the growers with the Government’s failure to honour its promise, the Minister, seeking a way out, concocted an amendment to the plan, and was successful in inducing the State Ministers for Agriculture, when they were assembled at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, to agree with him. I do not wish to go into the history of the whole matter, but, briefly, the new idea was that, in order that the Government might evade its responsibility in respect of its election promise, if the State governments agreed to raise the price of wheat sold for stock feed by 2s. a bushel, with a ceiling of 26,000,000 bushels to be affected, and if, in addition, the wheat-growers would pay, through the Australian Wheat Board, the freight on wheat sent to Tasmania and Queensland during a season of short supply, the Commonwealth would pay a bounty of 4s. Id. a bushel to the growers. As is usually the case with the Minister, that was a very cunning move, and in due course legislation was introduced into this Parliament to give effect to the Commonwealth’s part of the agreement.
– The Minister was in London at the time the legislation was introduced.
– I said that the legislation was introduced to give effect to the scheme, but I did not say whether the Minister was here or in London at the time of its introduction. The honorable member should listen to me more carefully. In my second-reading speech on that occasion, I stated that it was a halfbaked plan, and also pointed out that it involved coercion of the States because, if they did not agree to increase the price of wheat for stock feed they would be held to blame by the growers for having deprived them of the subsidy of 4s. Id. a bushel. The Western Australian Government introduced the necessary legislation. But the legislation failed to pass. A crack appeared in the stabilization plan for the first time, and the plan, which had been working successfully, began to go to wrack and ruin. The result was that while stock feed wheat was sold in Western Australia for 10s. a bushel, the price in all the other States was 12s. a bushel. Subsequently, and recently, because of the fact that the Australian Wheat Board, on which the growers have a majority of representatives, refused to pay the freight on wheat shipped to Queensland and Tasmania-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is the honorable member in order in discussing freight charges in connexion with a bill that deals merely with the refunding of amounts that were collected in tax on the No. 13 wheat pool?
-I consider that the honorable gentleman is so far in order. I took the precaution to read the speech that was delivered on behalf of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) last week, and with very great respect I, as one experienced in the wheat industry, should say that few subjects connected with wheat were not touched on in that speech. In any event, this is a bill which proposes to pay, out of taxes already collected, a certain sum of money, and it is a very old rule of the Parliament that, before money is voted, grievances have a eight to be aired. This is a fairly wide bill, as far as I can see.
– I do not wonder that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) is concerned about my remarks, because he represents a big wheat-growing constituency, and the growers in it are deeply concerned at the possibility that this plan will be ultimately ruined. Under the terms that were arranged between the State governments and the Commonwealth, it was provided in the State legislation that if the freight was not paid by the Australian Wheat Board on wheat shipped to other States the State concerned would be entitled to suspend the legislation under which it had increased the price of wheat by 2s. a bushel. Queensland suspended its legislation, and immediately, under the terms of the arrangement, the 4s. Id. bounty paid to all the wheat-growers of Australia ceased. So, for the first time in the history of this successful plan, a very serious situation has arisen. I understand that the Minister has communicated with the board and has suggested that it should pay the freight, which would involve a payment by it of approximately £1,000,000. The amount that the wheatgrowers would receive if the freight were paid by the board would be between £6,000,000 and £S,000,000. The board is adamant, however, basing its stand on principle. I shall not blame the board. The villains of the piece are the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Government of which he is a member, because of the promises that they made to the wheat-growers in 1949. Now the Minister finds himself in an impossible position, because from time to time both when in office and during the passage of the 1948 legislation through the Parliament, he ha3 been caustic, as have been also other members of the Australian Country party, about the insistence by the Labour administration that, in connexion with such marketing schemes, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should be the protector, not only of the wheat-growers but also of the people who were providing the backing for the scheme, .and also because it insisted that the Government should have final authority. Soon after the Minister assumed office he said that he would not direct the Australian Wheat Board to do anything. But he now finds himself in the position that, unless he directs the board to give effect to an agreement that the Commonwealth and the States entered into, the board’s stubbornness will result in the wheat-growers being deprived of a subsidy of 4s. Id. a bushel for wheat sold for stock feed in Australia.
The parties opposite had promised that if they were returned to office the growers would be recouped in respect of concessional sales. Wc know that the Minister believed in a ten-year plan. He did not want a five-year plan. He said that if a non-Labour government were returned to office there would be a ten-year plan. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in his policy-speech at the 1949 general election -
In particular, we support a long-term stabilization of the dairying industry for ten years (by subsidy where the price is not raised)-
I shall have something to say about that matter later - and believe that the wheat stabilization scheme should operate for a similar period. Homeconsumption .prices should be periodically reviewed, and losses on concessional sales recouped.
That left in the air the question of who was to recoup the growers for those losses. But let me remind the House of the following words which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) used in a letter to the New .South Wales Wheat Growers Federation : -
The difference between the export value of the product consumed in Australia, other than for human consumption, and the price determined by the Government for the sale to other primary industries for production purposes shall be paid out of Consolidated
Revenue to the board controlling the marketing of the industry. This provision is to keep down costs to the consumer and to prevent increased costs to other industries without loss to the industry concerned.
That promise was never honoured, although the Minister and the Government, as a result of having made it, won many votes at the 1949 general election which they will never again receive. The Minister, when challenged from time 10 time to give effect to the promise has indulged in a lot of hocus-pocus and word-spinning manoeuvres, and has talked unintelligently about the States being the only authorities that could arrange for higher prices for stock-feed wheat. Last November the Minister introduced legislation to amend the wheat stabilization plan in order to give effect to a new agreement with the States. Of course, that agreement was two years late, and the speech of the Minister on that bill confirmed my belief that his earlier statement had been humbug. I remind honorable members that he had said that because of constitutional difficulties the States were the only authorities that could pay the additional money. He knew that such a statement was humbug; and in his speech on the amending bill he revealed, probably unconsciously, that what could be done was largely in line with the preelection promise of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in 1949 because on the 28th November last, when introducing the amending bill, he made the following statement: -
The Commonwealth bill provides that the bounty will not he payable while the suspension is in force.
That is, if the States suspended the payment of the increase of 2s. a bushel to the wheat-growing industry. The honorable gentleman proceeded - lt is intended that the bounty shall be paid to the Australian Wheat Board.
The growers have been aware of the fact that this form of payment could be made. For some months now, the Commonwealth had paid the bounty of 4s. Id. a bushel to the Australian Wheat Board in respect of concessional wheat sales. Bounties of this type could have been distributed to the wheat-growers two years ago in conformity with tho pre-election promises of the
Liberal party and the Australian Country party in 1949. During that general election campaign, I did not make a promise similar to that made by the Minister. AH I was prepared to say to the electors, on behalf of the Labour party, was that I realized that some anomalies might have arisen during the operation of the plan, and that the Chifley Government, if returned to office, would review those amonalies. I made no other promises, because I realized the difficulties of the wheatgrowing industry, and recognized the Government’s obligation, not only to the wheat-growers, but also to the Australian taxpayers. The Minister has now discovered that this bill is two years too late, and that the refund is too little. Perhaps the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who has condemned the plan from the outset and tried to have it defeated, will claim that stabilization has been .a failure. He has always been consistent in that respect. My reply to such a claim is that when the plan was introduced in this Parliament no political party represented in this chamber called for a divison on the bill. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), who was a member of the Opposition at that time, even accused me of having stolen the stabilization plan of the Australian Country party. So the plan is your baby as well as mine.
– Order ! Will the honorable gentleman address the Chair? There are no babies in this chamber.
– I sometimes think that there are. The Postmaster-General said of me on that occasion -
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture interjects.
As you, Mr. Speaker, are aware, it is not unusual for me to interject -
Hu is the greatest Minister for Commerce that Victoria has ever produced!
A nice compliment -
He is a gentleman who, having been defeated at every turn by the wheat-growers of Australia when trying to fasten upon them a stabilization scheme of his own concoction, and having been challenged in this House by members on this side, both as to the merits and the validity of the scheme, delves into the files which were left by myself and Sir Earle Page respectively, when we were Ministers for Commerce, and extracts an old plan which we placed before Cabinet in 1040. The Minister l hen claims that this is his new stabilization plan - the “Pollard wheat plan “. Every bit of that plan has been taken direct from the secret documents left in Cabinet when we went out of office. lie was envious, because he claimed that lie and Sir Earle Page were the originators of the plan. I do not care who advances that claim. The fact remains that it has been a great example of organized wheat marketing, and has freed growers from the domination of the merchants £ have given briefly the background of stabilization plans, and have traced the parlous and horrible position to which the Government and the Minister have brought -the great wheat-growing industry of Australia. I believe that their real intention is to cause dissatisfaction and disgust among wheat-growers, so that, when another poll is taken in the not-distant future, they will be so heartily sick of having been messed about for two years by the Government that they will be inclined, without submitting the scheme to keen examination, to vote against the continuation of stabilization. If they do so, they will place themselves again in the hands of the wheat merchants of Australia, and, indeed, of the world.
The Minister’s second-reading speech contained some obvious defects. It told the House that provision was made for the refund to wheat-growers of G 5,250,000 from the No. 13 pool, and an additional £12,000,000 from the 1950-51 pool and a part of the 1951-52 pool. It then stated–
An amendment to this legislation towards the end of last year made it possible for the Australian Wheat Board to secure an increased price for wheat used for stock feed in all Australian States except Western Australia. The tax collected on exports of wheat from No. 13 pool has been held in a trust fund on behalf of the wheat-growing industry, and it is now proposed to repay it to growers through the Australian Wheat Board as a payment from the pool early in the new financial year. This is in accordance with the declared policy of the Government, and its understanding with the wheat industry that amounts in excess of the requirements of the stabilization plati would not be held in trust.
The ministerial statement that this bill has been presented to the House at the earliest possible moment is inaccurate. From the financial standpoint this legislation could have been presented quite safely and the money refunded to the wheat-growers, six months ago. The speech said -
The fact that this bill is being presented to the House at the earliest possible moment is evidence of the Government’s intention to stimulate increased primary production and to give every possible help to Australian wheat-growers in the production drive.
I repeat that this refund may be described as “ too little too late “. It will not satisfy the wheat-growers. I urge the Minister to mend his ways, and to attempt to restore the confidence of those who are engaged in the great wheat-growing industry. At the moment, they are savage. They are not savage with me. They have always known where I stand. They arc savage because false promises were made to them during the general election campaign in 1949. If there is one thing that Australians do not like, it is humbug. They do not like people who do not keep their promises or who resort to word-spinning in an endeavour to delude a section of the community into believing that they are unable to honour their promises. Wheat-growers do not like the Minister who introduced a bill only a few months ago to authorize the payment of a bonus, when he, by devious ways, had earlier conveyed to farmers the impression that the money could not possibly be paid. I hope that the Minister will have a change of heart at an early date. To show how annoyed the wheatgrowers are with him, I shall read a passage from the issue of the Wheatgrower of the 23rd May last. It is as follows : -
The minister asks wheat-growers to accept the loss of £1,000,000 from broken promises, or we will break our promises further and you will lose £8,000,000. The main reply of wheat-growers to that shabby offer will not be in words, it will bc in wheat, or rather in lack of wheat.
That is the Unfortunate position.
– The Labour party, including the honorable member, supported the Minister’s proposal.
– I wanted the wheatgrower to receive the bounty of 4s. Id. a bushel; but I told the Minister and the honorable member for Riverina, who heartily opposed the plan, that it was a half-baked scheme. I feared then that the plan would break down. It broke down for understandable reasons. I believe that if the wheat board does not come to heel voluntarily, the Minister if he really believes in his amended plan, should issue an instruction to it, in accordance with his authority under the Wheat Stabilization Act, to pay the freight to Queensland and Tasmania. In those circumstances, the Queensland Government would review its price so as to include an additional 2s. a bushel, and growers would again receive the subsidy of 4s. Id. a bushel under the plan adopted by the Parliament late last year.
– Does the honorable member advise that action?
– The adoption of that kind of action is entirely the responsibility of the Minister. I suppose that he wants the amended plan that he introduced late last year to functhat he introduced late last year to function smoothly, and the growers to continue to receive their bonus of 4s. Id. a bushel. Therefore, he must either induce the Australian Wheat Board to pay the freight, or instruct it to do so. It might be claimed that the validity of such an instruction would .be challenged in the High Court of Australia. Be that as it may, no wheat-grower would challenge it.
– Some wheat-growers might challenge it.
– I do not think so. Poultry-farmers might challenge it. I do not think that any State government would challenge it. Legislation relating to the wheat industry has been challenged on occasions in the past. However, the Minister, if he were to issue such an instruction to the Australian “Wheat Board, would show that he was “ game “ to back to the last ditch an act which he believed, although I do not so believe, represented the honouring of a promise that the Government and he himself made to the wheat-growers during the general election campaign in 1949. I hope that the Minister will have a change of heart, and that henceforth no policy will be adopted by the Government that will deter wheat-growers at a later stage from voting for the continuance of a great stabilization scheme, with any amendments that may be necessary.
For the first time in the history of Australia, this scheme has taken the growers out of the hands of the gambling wheat merchants and others. The growers receive the full return for their crop with the exception of wheat for home consumption. I know that Government supporters moan about the fact that growers are obliged to sell wheat in Australia at a price below world parity, but I remind them that many governments, regardless of their political views, provided a homeconsumption price and bounties amounting to millions of pounds for the wheatgrowing industry in years when the price of wheat was as low as 2s. and 3s. a bushel. The plan was designed to protect wheat-growers against a repetition of such unfortunate circumstances. Fortunately, prices have been payable. Farmers have had until recently a sense of security that they had never before enjoyed in the history of the industry.
.- When this bill was introduced, I deluded myself into believing that it would pass without comment, because it is no more than a simple machinery measure. But, having listened with astonishment to all that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) had to say, I must confess that it is necessary for some one who has an intimate knowledge of the history of this matter to inform the House to the best of -his ability of what happened at the time that the honorable member for Lalor spoke about, and what the circumstances are that have rendered necessary its introduction. In spite of all that the honorable member for Lalor said that might be interpreted as being a commendation of me - which, with all due deference, I consider to be probably correct - all that he said about everybody else and about the bill itself is untrue, as I hope to be able to demonstrate.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I take exception to the statement of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) that all I said about the bill is untrue.
– The honorable member for Lalor takes exception to the statement made by the honorable member for Riverina that all he has said about the bill is untrue. I think that the honorable member for Riverina might withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw the word “ untrue “ and substitute the word “ incorrect I say that what the honorable member said about the bill is, in my opinion, incorrect. In 1945, after some months of negotiation, the then Australian Government put a proposal to the accredited wheat-growers’ representatives at a conference that had been convened in Sydney by the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. That gentleman is now my very good friend, “Wee Willie Scully - if I may so call him with respect. Mr. Scully convened the conference and put a concrete proposal for wheat stabilization before the accredited representatives of the wheat industry. This scheme had been prepared by the then Government down to the last detail, and copies of it were handed to the growers’ representatives. Before the representatives had had time even to read the copies, the Minister rose and said, “ Before you look at the last word of tha Government’s proposals, I want you to hear what the chief of the Department of
Commerce and Agriculture has to say, and what the economists have to say about the future of the wheat industry”. 1 remind honorable members that this conference was held in December, 1945. The then chief of the Department o,i Commerce and Agriculture was a Mr. McCarthy who, I believe, is still a dignitary of that department. In December, 1945, he had just returned from an international wheat conference that had been held in Washington. Mr. Scully said that Mr. McCarthy had returned to Australia a few days before me with the very latest information about the future of the wheat industry.
Mr. McCarthy, who was reporting direct from Washington, then rose and. said to the assembled representatives of the wheat industry, “ It is the considered opinion, and I subscribe to it, that in the course of the next few weeks or the nextfew months, we shall see the most calamitous fall in wheat prices that the world has ever seen “. Then he turned to me, mentioned my name, and said, “ You will remember when we were selling wheat at 23. and ls. 6d. a bushel, but all the portents are that in the course of the next few weeks or months we shall be selling wheat at immeasurably lower prices than, that. We shall be selling it at pence a bushel, and begging importing countries to buy it wherever they may be found “. That was the introduction of the Australian Government’s 1945 wheat stabilization scheme. Mr. McCarthy was followed by the economists, who supported him in all that he had said. At that time the price of wheat was about 4s. 6d. a bushel. After we had heard the chief of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and after we had heard the economists’ doleful predictions, the Minister asked us to take away our copies of the Government’s proposals and examine them on their merits in the light of the predictions that we had heard. He then asked us to come back after we had read the proposals and inform him of our attitude to the scheme. We took away the details of the scheme and examined them.
In the fullness of time the conference was resumed and for the second time the Minister opened the proceedings by calling on us to express our opinions of the Government’s proposals. When my turn came to speak - and I was representing the largest, the oldest and the most reputable wheat-growing organization in the Commonwealth - I said that I had examined the Government’s proposals and that as far as I was concerned personally, and as far as my organization was concerned, those proposals could not stand up to any examination worthy of. the name. I said that my organization would have nothing whatever to do with the Government’s scheme; and I had listened to the doleful predictions of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and of the economists - all of whom I had known for periods of up to twenty years - that I had always found them to be wrong, and that I was quite confident that they would be wrong on that occasion also. The other representatives then expressed their views for or against the Government’s proposals. Some of the views depended upon the representatives’ political affiliations. The scheme then presented to us provided for a stabilized guaranteed price of 4s. 8d. a bushel, for the unlimited selling of wheat by ministerial direction for political purposes at any price and in any quantity, for the unlimited selling of wheat for human consumption and for the unlimited selling of wheat for stock feed at prices that would destroy the growers’ equity in their own product.
Had that scheme been accepted, the wheat industry would to-day be tied hoof, hide and horn to a price of 4s. 8d. a bushel for every bushel of wheat sold in this country and every bushel of wheat sold by ministerial direction. Export parity would have been received for the balance. Fortunately, the growers, in their wisdom and experience, paid no attention to the predictions of the department and of the economists, and rejected the Government’s proposals. It is remarkable that while the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the economists were making their predictions in December, 1945, about the catastrophic fall that could be expected in wheat prices, wheat prices began to rise and rose continuously week by week, month by month, and year by year until they reached the unprecedented peak of 20s. 6d. a bushel. The price has remained at about that figure ever since. So much for the predictions of the economists and so much for the information that was gleaned by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture from the International Wheat Conference held in Washington. But for the fact that the wheat-growers’ organizations at that time saved the Australian people and the wheat-growers from the folly of a credulous and uninformed Australian Government, the wheat industry would to-day be tied to an abomination - I can. call it nothing else.
When the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the then socialist Government was demoted, the honorable member for Lalor became Minister in his place. Then a second scheme was put forward to stabilize the wheat industry. That was largely on the same line3 as the previous one. In the meantime the growers had been informed of the Government’s intention, and they made certain demands on the Government. In consequence of those demands the proposed wheat price was raised from 4s. 8d. a bushel to 5s. 2d. a bushel and was related to the cost of production. A formula was then worked out to determine the cost of production in each year, and the guaranteed price was to follow that formula up or down. Attempts were made to restrict the selling of wheat for political purposes by ministerial direction, but those attempts failed. Attempts were made to stop the senseless practice of selling unlimited quantities of wheat for stock-feed purposes at prices that destroyed the growers’ equity. Those attempts also failed. Attempts were made to ease the position so far as wheat for human consumption was concerned, but they failed, and finally the stabilization scheme came into force. That arrangement provided for a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel and for the unlimited concessional selling of wheat for all the purposes that I have mentioned* It also provided that realizations in excess of the guaranteed price should be shared as between growers on the one hand and the Commonwealth on the other hand. Really for the word “ Commonwealth “ I should substitute the words “stabilization fund” up to 2s. 2d. a bushel, because the export parity and subsequently the International Wheat Agreement price has been considerably in excess of the guaranteed price at all times. From time to time the growers have been called upon to pay the tax of 2s. 2d. a bushel into the stabilization fund.
This is the last year of operation of the wheat stabilization scheme. The growers will determine whether it shall be continued or terminated. It has been the practice of this Government to make refunds of taxes from time to time, and only a few months ago, in December last, it refunded the tax collected by one pool. Now, in this bill, it proposes to make refunds from another pool. That is consistent with the promises that this Government made in regard to the wheat tax. The first Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for the purposes of wheat stabilization, Mr. Scully, may have acted n innocence. The second, the honorable member for Lalor, may also have acted in innocence. However, my observations and experience of the stabilization scheme have convinced me that it represented the first serious attempt at socialization in Australia. It preceded the attempt to nationalize the banking system.
– Order ! I shall not allow any discussion of the. nationalization of banking in this debate.
– I have finished with the subject, Mr. Speaker. The idea behind the stabilization scheme was to socialize the wheat industry, and, but for the vigilance of the Opposition at that time, the intelligence of the growers’ organizations, and the consistent fight that has been waged ever since, the industry would have been socialized long ago.
The present Government parties, when they were in Opposition, made certain promises to the wheat-growers. They undertook to correct some of the injustices that had been perpetrated by the socialist government, and, since they have been in power, they have done so. The time has come for me to enumerate some of their actions. As soon as this Government gained power, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture solemnly promised that concessional selling of wheat for political purposes by ministerial direction would cease forthwith. Not one bushel of wheat has since been sold by ministerial direction. Is that not the faithful dis- charge of a most important promise? The Minister also promised that the concessional selling of wheat for stock-feed purposes would be discontinued as soon as it was possible to do so. That promise has been carried out, subject to certain qualifications and reservations that 1 shall discuss. That also represents the faithful discharge of a promise made to the growers and others who are dependent upon the wheat industry. For years, unlimited quantities of wheat had been made available for stock-feed purposes at prices that consistently depressed the average price that was paid subsequently to the lowly men and women who produced the wheat. This Government was eager to correct that entirely unjust set of circumstances, which had been imposed upon the. industry by the socialists. Therefore, it entered into negotiations with the State governments. It would have been politically impossible, of course, for the Government to correct the injustice by means of a single act or series of acts. That fact is not generally appreciated. It had to obtain the consent and approval of at least a majority of the State governments that were involved in those manipulations.
Negotiations were initiated soon after this Government took office. Finally, the problem was resolved by the Australian Agricultural Council. At this stage I point out, in fairness to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, that he was then absent in London. The Australian Agricultural Council agreed that, if the States would raise the price of wheat used for stock feed to 12s. a bushel from the existing rate of 10s., to which it had risen progressively over the years from 5s. 2d. a bushel, the Australian Govern-‘ ment would pay a subsidy in order to bring the total to the maximum rate under the International Wheat Agreement of 16s. Id. a bushel. That looked like good business to the Minister who was then acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He is, if nothing else, a most astute business man. The Australian Agricultural Council also suggested tentatively that, if the State governments were to raise the price from 10s. to 12s. a bushel, the wheatgrowers should be asked to pay interstate freight charges on wheat shipped to
Queensland and Tasmania. I can appreciate the predicament of the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. That seemed to him to be a reasonable and legitimate proposal, and he referred it to Cabinet in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Presumably, the suggestion met with the disapproval of Cabinet, and it was referred back to the Australian Agricultural Council. However, the council insisted that the wheat-growers should pay those interstate freight charges. The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture did not know, as every well-informed man in the wheat industry knew, that this was merely a manoeuvre by the governments of the socialist States. They had decided that, if they could persuade the Australian Government to agree to the imposition of this additional injustice on the growers, New South Wales would demand the supply of 8,000,000, 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 bushels of wheat and would expect the growers in other States to pay freight on it. The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture did not know that the same shabby trick had been perpetrated by the socialists during the regime of the Chifley Government. That Government imposed, a similar condition on the growers, but they protested successfully against it, and, since that time, the Australian Government has paid freight charges on wheat shipped interstate. That is why I said that the statement by the honorable member for Lalor that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had entered into the arrangement for the payment of freight by the growers was untrue. I withdrew the unparliamentary expression, but the fact remains that the statement was incorrect.
There has been an accumulation of money in the wheat stabilization fund, and the duty of this Government is to make refunds to the contributors to the fund, who are the wheat-growers. This bill provides for the payments to be made. I hope that subsequent pools will be liquidated as rapidly as possible in this way. I hope also that the experiences of the wheat-growers since 1945 in connexion with the attempt to socialize their industry by stealth have made them aware of the hazards that will beset them if ever they accept a stabilization plan that will transfer control of the industry to any government. I say now, as I have often said during my 30 years as a wheatgrower, that men and women who are competent to grow wheat, are also competent to sell it to the best advantage through their own organization. I believe that, had grower control been retained, all the unfortunate events that occurred under stabilization, many of which involved transactions that approximated dishonesety, could have been avoided.
I refer finally to the obnoxious New Zealand wheat deal that was entered into by the socialist government, the facts of which were denied week after week and month after month until they were disclosed by the other party to the agreement, the New Zealand Government. But for the fact that the New Zealanders had a sense of honesty, the truth would never have been made known. The wheatgrowers were ensnared in that deal as a result of the dubious tactics employed by the socialist government of the day.
– As the representative of an electorate in which wheat-growing is an important industry, I wish to speak briefly on this bill. I shall limit my comments because, unlike the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), I shall confine my attention solely to the subject of the bill. I can forgive the honorable member for Riverina for his discursiveness, because it was necessary for somebody with wide experience of the wheat industry to expose the inaccuracy of the statements that had been made by the honorable member for Lalor. It is pleasing in these days of high taxation to consider a measure of this kind. The promise that was made to the wheat-growers must be honoured. They are entitled, under the terms of the original agreement, to the refund that the Government now proposes to make to them.
I have always favoured stabilization of the wheat industry because I consider that, when the growers know what prices they will receive for their product over a period of years, they can plan their operations for the future effectively and use their land to the best advantage instead of adopting methods that would ultimately ruin their properties, although, on a short-term basis, they might appear to be financially sound and productive of high returns. Notwithstanding the objections of a few growers to the stabilization scheme, I believe that the industry as a whole has benefited from the protection that it has afforded. This bill provides for the refund to the growers of the payments that were collected from them for the purposes of the No. 13 wheat pool. It was never necessary to retain in the fund more than enough money to make the stabilization scheme effective. The Government has seen that, under present conditions, it is possible to make a refund of payments to this pool on the “first-in first-out “ principle. I am certain that all honorable members will agree that that is the fairest method of making repayments. The wheat-growers’ organizations all approve of the principle that, when it is possible to make a refund, it should be made from the oldest unfinalized pool. Payments to the stabilization fund are made, as far as is practicable, by those who will actually benefit from the fund. The wheat-growing industry is one in which considerable changes occur each year. Old growers drop out, and new ones come in. When growers drop out, they should receive a refund of their payments to the fund, in preference to those growers who stay in the industry.
The provisions of this bill are in keeping with the provisions of the 1948 legislation. In order that I may prove that to be so, let me quote from the secondreading speech on that measure delivered by the honorable member for Lalor, who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. A report of the speech is to be found in Hansard, volume 198, at page 1447, In the course of the speech, the honorable gentleman made several points. The extract that I wish to read begins at the sixth point, and is as follows : -
The tax shall apply when the export price is higher than the guaranteed price, and shall be 50 per cent, of the difference between the two but shall not exceed 2s. 2d. a bushel.
It will be noted that, on this occasion, payment is to be made through the Australian Wheat Board. This method of payment is in line with the normal methods by which growers are paid for their wheat, and I see no reason to depart from it. This sum of £15,145,000, with accrued interest, together with the £13,000,000 that was repaid last December, will help wheat-growers by providing them with ready funds to meet the daytoday expenses that must arise in this year’s wheat-growing activities. I commend the bill to the House.
.- It seems that the Opposition has run out of speakers upon this measure. So far, the proposition advanced by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, has not received the vocal support, at least, of other members of the Opposition. Honorable members must decide for themselves whether the reason for that lack of support is that honorable gentlemen opposite do not support the proposition, or that they know nothing about the wheat industry. I believe that, despite what the honorable member for Lalor said to-night in condemnation of the Government, when the vote on this motion is taken he will not even call for a division, and will support the bill.
The purpose of this measure is to return to the wheat-growers money that they contributed to a fund for the stabilization of the wheat industry. They will receive, not a present from the Government, but a refund of the money that they paid into the No. 13 Wheat Pool at the rate of. 2s. 2d. for each bushel of the 1949-50 wheat harvest. Last December, this Government refunded a substantial sum from the No. 12 pool. In seven months, approximately £28,000,000 will have been returned to the wheat-growers.
I have always supported the stabilization of the wheat industry. I criticized very strongly the stabilization scheme of the Chifley Government, because I believed that, in many respects, it would not serve the best interests of the wheat industry. But I believe that this is an excellent bill, which should receive the support of every honorable member of this House. It remains to be seen how the Opposition will vote upon it. In my opinion, after this repayment has been made sufficient money will be left in the wheat stabilization fund to ensure the stability of the industry. The whole of the payments that were made to the fund in respect of the 1950-51 harvest and all the payments that have been made so far in respect of the 1951-52 harvest, will be available for that purpose. I hope that, before long, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), having consulted representatives of the wheat industry, will present to the Parliament a new wheat industry stabilization scheme, upon which the Australian wheat-growers will be asked to vote. I believe it to be more necessary now than it was five years ago to have a fund to ensure the stability of the wheat industry. Five years ago, the price of wheat was rising, and America had begun to give assistance to Europe. To-day, there is a possibility that there will be a change of government in America, that American aid to European and other countries will, to some degree, be suspended, and that the price of wheat will fall. Therefore, it is necessary that there should be a fund upon which the wheatgrowers can draw if the price of wheat falls below a certain level.
The wheat industry stabilization scheme that was formulated by the Chifley Government was based upon the Principle of ministerial direction. I ave always advocated strongly that the wheat industry of this country should be controlled by ‘ the producers. Every farmer in my electorate holds that view also. Producer-control is one of the planks of the wheat-growers’ platform. But when the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, producer-control of the in- dustry disappeared from the scene. It is true that, at that time, some of the members of the Australian Wheat Board were, at any rate nominally, representatives of the producers. The Minister often asserted that a majority of the members of the board were wheatgrowers’ representatives. But when an issue arose, such as the sale of wheat at concessional prices, which was vital to the political tactics of the Chifley Government, he immediately issued a ministerial direction, and producer-control went by the board. The Chifley Government did what it wanted to do, irrespective of the view of the wheat-growers. The Minister’s word was supreme. The honorable member for Lalor is trying to force the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to issue a ministerial direction. If the Minister were to do that, the honorable member would say, “ When you were in opposition, you criticized ministerial direction, but now you have given a ministerial direction to the board “.
At the present time, there is a deadlock upon the question of whether the wheat-growers of this country should pay freight charges upon wheat sent to Queensland. Owing to a drought, Queensland has not enough wheat to meet its requirements. If, owing to a drought, Queensland is short of wheat and needs to import it,- the wheatgrowers should not be required to pay freight charges upon such wheat. 3 understand that the Minister is negotiating with the Australian Wheat Board, representatives of the wheat-growers’ organizations and representatives of the States in an effort to break the deadlock. This Government has shown its good faith by agreeing to pay a subsidy of 4s. Id. a bushel upon at least 26,000,000 bushels of wheat. I ask honorable members to contrast that with what the Chifley Government did during its term of office. Members of the Labour party are saying now that wheat for stock feed should not be sold at concessional prices, and that the wheat-growers should be paid for such wheat a price at least equal to that paid for wheat under the International. Wheat Agreement. But when the Labour party was in power, Australian wheat-growers were forced to sell wheat for stock feed at the homeconsumption price, notwithstanding that no valid argument could be advanced in favour of such an action. A great injustice was done to the Australian wheat industry then.
I wish the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture every success in his negotiations. I hope sincerely that he will not issue a ministerial direction to the Australian Wheat Board. I do not think that he will do so because he has always insisted that there shall be producercontrol of the wheat, industry. Let us have producer-control. I believe that, on the Australian Wheat Board, representatives of wheat-growers can discharge their duties in a manner that will meet the requirements of the industry and ensure its continued prosperity.
– in reply - T do not wish to speak at length upon this measure, or to raise controversial issues in dealing with legislation which is in itself non-controversial. This very simple bill is designed to enable the Government to pay back to the wheatgrowers money that was collected from them in 1949-50 for the purposes of a stabilization fund. The Government, in making provision for the repayment of that money, has acted in conformity with its policy and with that which was followed by the Labour party when it was in office. As the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) has pointed out, for the first time two payments to wheat-growers, totalling almost £30,000,000, will have been made within a period of eight months. I thank the honorable member for Riverina for having spoken in my defence.
– Does the Minister agree with the honorable gentleman that the stabilization scheme is an example of socialism ?
– I agree that those who formulated the scheme were socialists and were actuated by socialistic motives. I have no doubt about that at all. The. honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), appealing to the desires of the wheat-growers, referred to the sum standing to the credit of the stabilization fund, and said that more money could be refunded to the wheat-growers than is now proposed. I do not think he has read the newspapers during the last few weeks, because I am certain that he wishes the wheat industry stabilization scheme to continue. We all hoped that the scheme could continue upon the firm basis of a renewed International Wheat Agreement which would ensure that Australian wheat-growers would, over a number of years, receive a certain price for wheat exported from this country. But during the last two or three ‘weeks, negotiations for a renewal of the International Wheat Agreement have broken down, and the agreement may not be renewed. If that should occur, the wheat industry stabilization scheme could be continued only if a stabilization fund were in existence. The honorable member for Lalor is now agreeing with me and, apparently, is contradicting the statement he made earlier that it is necessary to retain a substantial sum in the stabilization fund. That is our purpose. We shall negotiate further with the wheat-growers during the next few months. I have already told the wheatgrowers that if the stabilization scheme is renewed, they will have an opportunity first to assist in formulating a scheme and, secondly, to express their views upon it. Another stabilization scheme will not be established except by the decision of the growers. The Government has given an assurance also that if such a scheme is inaugurated, it will be willing to do what the Labour Government was unwilling to do under the present scheme, and will provide for a calculated maximum amount for a stabilization fund. Incorporated in the scheme, also, will be provision for the automatic repayment to the growers of all tax collections in excess of the agreed maximum stabilization fund. That will provide protection for the wheat-growers against the Government withholding excess amounts of the wheat-growers’ money.
That is all that I wish to say about the bill. But in the course of the debate honorable members have raised the issue of interstate freights. That matter has been the subject of considerable controversy and currently it is a matter of real importance to wheat-growers. I think that I can usefully give the facts and have them placed on record. Before the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were elected with sufficient numbers to form the Australian Government, honorable members who support those parties referred to concessional sales in terms which invariably were perfectly clear. We showed clearly that we were referring to the kind of concessional sales that were imposed on the wheat industry by the Labour governments during the war years and in the immediate post-war period. In those years, the Government declared by its own edict, that wheat was to be sold locally for human consumption at 5s. 2d. a bushel, to gin distilleries at 3s. lid. a bushel, for pig feed at 3s. 4d. a bushel, to the United Kingdom at 5s. 6d. a bushel and to Chile or some other nation at 7s. 6d. Those prices, which were fixed by Government decision, were lower than the realizable value of the wheat. They were described by supporters of the present Government as concessional sales which were made at the cost of the wheat industry.
– They were subsidized.
– .That is not correct. The only subsidy that was paid was 6d. a bushel on wheat for pig feed. No subsidy was paid on wheat which was sold to gin distilleries for 3s. lid. a bushel.
– It was not wasted.
– That was the context in which honorable members who support the present Government used the term “ concessional sales “. Since I have been in office, I have been present when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was interviewed by a high commissioner who argued, for reasons which appeared to him and his government to be convincing, that Australia should sell wheat to one of the British Commonwealth countries at less than its realizable value.
– Was that New Zealand?
– No. It was a country that was short of food. The Prime Minister, said that he would examine’ the suggestion and that possibly the Government would do as it was asked, but if it did, the Government would make up to the wheat board the difference between the concessional price and the realizable value of the wheat, in accordance with the terms of its policy declaration. In the broad instance to which I have referred, it would guarantee to the wheat board the full price that the wheat board would have realized had it sold the wheat to the best advantage under the terms of the International Wheat Agreement. To-day there are two prices for wheat. One is an international price which is determined by international agreement. The Australian Wheat Board, with a majority of members who are wheat-growers, and assisted by skilled advisers, sells according to its own judgment. It is not hampered by the Government, and is not advised by it. It sells to the best advantage within the terms of the international agreement. But only one law determines the selling price for sales within Australia. That is the law that is contained in the statute-books of the six States. Nothing in the Commonwealth statute-books provides for the establishment of a selling price for wheat or any other product. Constitutionally, neither the Australian Government nor the Commonwealth Parliament possesses the power to fix prices. When this Government came to office, the selling price of wheat in Australia in the terms of the statutes of the six States and broadly negotiated by the former Minister for Commerce was 6s. 8d. a bushel whether it was for human consumption or for stock feed. To-day the selling price is 10s. a bushel for wheat designed for human consumption.
– Under the scheme that the Labour Government arranged.
– 1 proposed to say that. The price of wheat for human consumption was decided in the terms of an index figure at 10s. a bushel, but as the outcome of negotiations that I have conducted on behalf of the Government with the six State governments, a higher selling price is provided on the statute-books of five of the States. The wheat-growers desired that they should receive a higher return for the wheat that they sold to other industries. The majority of the growers have constantly recognized that they receive certain advantages from the
Australian economy and from the Australian taxpayers. They know that they have enjoyed certain guarantees. In recognition of those advantages, they are willing to sell wheat for human consumption in Australia at’ a price which represents the cost of production plus a reasonable margin of profit. But when their product is sold for use in another industry such as the poultry or the pig industry, they see no justice in being required to sell their wheat as a raw product at a price that is lower than the return that they would otherwise receive. There is logic in that contention. In recognition of that logic and so as to stimulate the production of wheat by gaining a higher over-all return, I have negotiated with the representatives of the wheat-growing industry and with the six State governments for more than two years in an endeavour to get a higher return for wheat-growers through an adjustment of the local selling price. That is something that this Parliament has no power to do.
– But the Government paid a bounty Quibbler!
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor has already spoken. Mr. McEWEN - The six State governments agreed that there should be a variation of what was required by the fiveyear plan in the interests of the wheatgrowers and of the Australian economy. They agreed with the Australian Government that if the wheat-growers were to get the international price for stock-feed wheat, which was sold for 16s.1d., three parties should contribute. The stock feeders themselves should pay 2s. a bushel above the human consumption price, and the Australian Government should pay the major part of it amounting to 4s.1d. a bushel. On this year’s budget, that proportion was estimated to cost the Government £5,300,000. As the wheat-growers were estimated to receive £8,000,000 more this year out of the increased price, the Australian Government believed that it would be a reasonable business bargain if the growers paid the inter-State freight on wheat. The six State governments agreed with that.
– And the Australian Wheat Board ditched the Australian Government.
– One of the State parliaments - the Western Australian Parliament - ditched its own government. An interesting point which must not be overlooked is that the legal authorities considered that none of the seven parliaments had authority to impose a condition on the AustralianWheat Board. So legislation has been drafted by the legal authorities in a form which deliberately gives an option to the Australian Wheat Board. It states, in effect, that the Australian Wheat Board may sell wheat for stock feed in Australia at 10s. a bushel as is provided for by the law of 1948, but that if the board elects to pay the interstate freight on wheat, it may sell the wheat for 12s. a bushel.
– Poor old Australian Wheat Board.
– If the Australian Wheat Board elects to pay the interstate freight, it can enjoy the privilege of charging 12s. a bushel compared with 10s. Then the board becomes entitled to a Commonwealth subsidy of 4s.1d. a bushel. That is the position of the law as it stands for the sale of the current harvest and the next harvest. The Australian Wheat Board elected to pay the freight, but the wheat-growers’ representatives, who are members of the AustralianWheat GrowersFederation, believed, for motives that I can clearly understand., that a dangerous principle was being established. They believed that once the principle was established, they would be obliged, as a custom, to pay interstate freight. They realized that if a crop failed on one side of Australia, the cost to the wheat-growers of transferring hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat from one side of the continent to another would subtract substantially from their returns. As a gesture of principle, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation asked its members on the Australian Wheat Board to decline to pay the freight, although they knew that they would lose 6s.1d. a bushel by doing so. The Australian Wheat Board, taking its advice from the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, ceased to pay the interstate freight from, I think, the end of April. Acting in accordance with its authority, the Queensland Government isued a proclamation which suspended the right of the Australian Wheat Board to charge 12s. a bushel in Queensland. The effect has been to terminate the Commonwealth subsidy in all States, because the Constitution provides that a subsidy that is provided by the Commonwealth shall be made available commonly throughout the Commonwealth. With the full and considered authority of the Cabinet, I have informed the Australian Wheat Board - I have said this publicly also - that the Government regards the freight payment arrangement as a part of a temporary business bargain of great advantage to the wheat-growers, but that the Government has as strong an objection as the growers themselves have to either they or the Commonwealth paying interstate freight on wheat as a continuing arrangement. Our objection, in part, is that such an arrangement is not defensible on grounds of equity. But we object to it also on practical economic grounds. If there is an engagement by either the growers or the Commonwealth to pay interstate freight on wheat, a state of affairs is immediately established that permits any State government to become indifferent about whether sufficient wheat is produced in the State concerned to meet its own requirements. If that position occurs, as it has substantially occurred this year in New South Wales, the necessity arises to transfer by means of an inadequate, run-down transport system, whether it be rail, shipping or road, hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat. That would be physically impossible in the existing circumstances. Even if it were physically possible to do that, the task would be economically indefensible. Consequently this Government is as opposed in principle as are the growers themselves to a continuing arrangement for the payment of freight either by the Government or by the growers.
I shall place that view before representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and the Australian Wheat Board in conference next Friday. I shall point out to them that whilst no principle is at stake in this matter, because the Government agrees with their view, they should realize that the board’s decision can deprive the growers in respect of this year of a net amount of £3,500,000 and that they can be reimbursed that amount only by an amendment of legislation by State governments whose parliaments, at the moment, are not in session. In those circumstances, it will be bad business for the growers if the board adheres to such a decision. I trust that the board will recognize that there is at stake not a principle but a business arrangement that will last, at the most, in respect of the sale of one and a half harvests. I believe that in the interests of the growers the board will reverse its’ decision and re-establish the payment of freight for the balance of the current year. If it does so, I shall recommend to the Government that it introduce legislation that will re-entitle the growers concerned to the bounty that would have become payable in respect of the period between the times at which the board made its two decisions. However, this matter, although of great interest, is not related to the bill. The measure itself is not controversial.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 786), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which consists of 19 clauses, pretends to confer considerable benefits upon the taxpayers. However, whilst it provides benefits for some primary producers, in reality it deprives taxpayers generally of benefits that they enjoy under existing legislation. It gives no general relief in respect of taxes. Despite the promises that the Government parties made during the general election campaigns in 1949 and 1951 that they would reduce taxes, this measure does nothing to lighten the burden of the ruinous and excessive taxes which the Menzies Government has piled . on the Australian people. It is interesting to note that when this Government assumed office the amount of taxes levied in 1949-50 was of the order of £504,387,000. In its first year of office, it increased .that burden to £718,570,000, whilst in this financial year the burden has reached the extraordinarily high total of £957,300,000. Despite its promise to reduce taxes, it has actually increased them during its two years of office by the enormous sum of £403,000,000.
– Allowance must be made for the increase of population that has taken place in recent years.
– The matter is one, not of increased population but of election promises. Supporters of the Government can make in due course their alibis and explanations to the electors concerning their failure to reduce taxes. They will have to talk fast if they are to explain to the satisfaction of the electors why, within a period of two years, and in spite of their promise to reduce taxes, they have increased total taxes by £403,000,000.
The bill proposes to give some relief and, therefore, the Opposition will not oppose the motion for the second reading of it. But that does not mean that we agree with the measure as a. whole. It contains two clauses which we shall oppose by voice and by vote at the committee stage. It might be well if, at this juncture, I stated the Opposition’s objections to those clauses. The first of them is clause 6, the object of which is to repeal section 57a of the principal act in order to give effect to the proposal contained in the last budget, which the Opposition opposed and voted against, to abolish the special depreciation allowance in respect of property acquired within seven years after the 30th June, 1945, as from the 30th June, 1951, instead of as from the 30th June, 1952. To the degree that the special depreciation benefit has been taken from the primary producers of Australia they are the losers. The Opposition will vote against the repeal of that section. We believe that the Government should allow the benefit conferred by the Chifley Government in 1947 to lapse at the end of June of this year.
The second clause to which the Opposition offers very strong objection is clause 17. That clause relates to the provisional tax on estimated incomes, and provides for the imposition of penalties upon taxpayers who underestimate their incomes. The Opposition does not disagree with the proposal that taxpayers shall be allowed to assess their own incomes, but it objects to the introduction of penalty provisions of the kind that make their appearance for the first time in this bill.
– There has always been provision with respect to penalties.
– But not penalties of the type that the Government proposes to impose under this measure. Previously, there was no self-assessment of income tax. The Opposition does not object to that innovation, but it objects to penalties of the kind that the Government now proposes to introduce. Briefly, under clause 17, the obligation is thrown upon a taxpayer whose income is 20 per cent, more than that of last year, to tax himself; and-, if he does not do that, he becomes liable to a penalty. Any taxpayer, who wishes to do so, may assess his tax, and if the assessment that he makes is within a margin of 20 per cent, of his actual taxable income, nothing will happen to him; but if his estimate is outside that margin, he will have to pay a penalty amounting to 10 per cent, of the tax short-paid on the amount outside the margin. The Opposition opposes the introduction of any penalty into legislation if it is possible to avoid doing so. Why cannot the Government introduce a system of self -assessment without attaching penalty clauses to it? The bill provides that the Commissioner for Taxation shall not be bound to accept an assessment that is made by a taxpayer, and that he may alter such an assessment in any way .that he wishes; but this Government can think only of more penalties, more controls, and .’more restrictions. The people want the Government to reduce .taxes; but it does not propose to do so. This particular penalty is in the -same category as the onus of proof provision that the Government inserted in other legislation. Taxpayers will be penalized, not necessarily for doing something wrong, but for doing something that does not turn out to be right. Very few taxpayers can afford to take advantage of the provision. The odds are all against them.
– The odds are all in their favour, and the honorable member knows it.
– The odds will be very much against the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) if he tries to explain the matter. There is a number of weaknesses in the existing tax laws, and we wish to offer some objections to them. We consider that there are, in many instances, weaknesses of administration, and we wish to make some helpful suggestions which we hope the Treasurer will ultimately adopt. I realize that it may not be possible to amend the present bill, because it is a complicated piece of legislation, but the Opposition hopes that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will give consideration to making the amendments, of the nature that we shall indicate, when he brings down the tax bills during the next budget session.
Clauses 14 to 17, which deal with the self-assessment of provisional tax, will probably be found to be unwieldy and will be found to operate unfairly. We believe that they will provide a harvest for accountants and lawyers. Most accountants have already too much work to do. and will not be able to help the taxpayers through the maze of complications that this legislation will cause.
– They will help them more than the honorable member will help the Government.
– I am under no obligation to help the Government. I think that most of the lawyers who will probably become involved do not know as much about the tax laws as the accountants do. We do not offer any great objection to the other clauses of the bill, but we wish to put our point of view regarding clauses 2 and 12. We agree that any income from pyrites should not be considered as contributing to the percentage of income that decides whether a mining company shall qualify for ex emption from tax on the basis that 40 per cent, of its income is derived from the production of gold. We consider that gold production should be encouraged, because gold is the one exportable material that can always help us out of our financial difficulties. We offer no objection to the provision in clause 3 in regard to insurance recoveries on losses of live-stock. The Government has acted wisely in dealing with insurance not merely in regard to fire, but also in regard to floods, pests and other considerations.
– Then the Opposition does not object to the clauses in relation to the exemption of pyrites either?
– I have said that ii does not. We consider that receipts of insurance payments should be allowed te be shown over a period of five years, instead of one year, the year in which they are received, as at present.
I turn now to the matter of depreciation allowances dealt with in clause? 4. and 5, under which special treatment is to be given in relation to expenditure on certain buildings and structural improvements used for agricultural and pastoral purposes, which is to be allowed to be written off over a period of five years, at a flat rate of 20 per cent, of the initial cost in each of the five years. A building might have a life of 30 or 40 years but, under this provision, its cost will be cancelled out in a period of only five years. We do not object to that. Something has to be done to encourage farmers to build houses on their farms, in order to assist in an increase of the production of food, and unless something like this is done we shall not attain such increased production. I have dealt with the discontinuance of the 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance as from the end of last June, instead of its having continued to operate until the end of June of this year. I consider that if the Government had permitted the 40 per cent, depreciation allowance provision to remain in force until the end of this financial year, it would also have helped the farming community, which to-day is finding it difficult to pay its tax obligations, in relation to both ordinary tax and provisional tax, or both combined. The position, as honorable members opposite know from the complaints that they have received, is that the rural population feels much aggrieved about the tax practices of the Government.
The Opposition would like to make lorne observations in respect of clauses 8 to 11, which deal with leases, because the tax law in respect of leases is not satisfactory. One particular provision in division 4 of the act, sections 83 to 88, is that - . . any premium or consideration in the nature of a premium, received in connexion with the grant assignment or surrender of a lease, shall be included in the recipients assessable income. The amounts are so included because, however described and however paid, they are in effect rent paid in advance or commuted rent.
I refer the Minister to page 16 of the explanatory memorandum that has been issued by the department in connexion with this bill. The idea of commuted rent would appear to the Opposition to be morally dubious because of the rent control legislation in force in the various States. It is on the concept of increments over and above the normal rent of premises that a difference of opinion of what constitutes goodwill arises. Goodwill is divided between personal goodwill and local goodwill, which is to some degree adumbrated by the definition of premium in section 83 (1.) of the principal act which refers to - goodwill . . . attached to or connected with land a lease of which is . . .
The purport of the amendments is to regard a weekly tenancy as being a lease of two years’ duration and to provide that any amount paid for local goodwill may, at the option of the taxpayer, be written off over the two-year period. The old thorny problem about what is local goodwill as distinct from personal goodwill has still to be determined, and possibly never will be determined. But a number of people are suffering an injustice because of the department’s attitude about what is local goodwill and what is personal goodwill. The attitude of the department is to treat all goodwill as local goodwill. “We consider that back-door methods are being employed, om’ te unwittingly, by the department, which makes the tax on goodwill a capital gains tax. If a man sells a house, he can obtain the whole of the benefit from the sale. It is never suggested that a man who buys and sells a house should be taxed upon the profit he makes, and it would be argued, if he were so taxed, that it would be a capital gains tax. Yet, on the subject of leases, there is a tendency to make the tax a capital gains tax. On the one hand, the tax accountants and other people who specialize in tax law have endeavoured to make as much of the increment that is gained when a business is sold appear as personal goodwill. The department, on the other hand, regards the increment as being- local goodwill. There has thus been a battle of wits between the two parties. This dilemma does not appear as yet to have been resolved and the legislation now before us will not resolve it. The effect of the legislation, however, will be to favour people who bought businesses after the 1st July, 1951, because they can claim a deduction of goodwill pair! over a two-year period for so much of the goodwill as is local. Alternatively, they can defer claiming a deduction until such time as they sell the business, when the purchase price will go to offset the selling price. Therefore, such a person, who is fortunate in regard to the time of sale, will receive a benefit which other taxpayers do not get. There has been a good deal of criticism about this matter from a number of organizations that are engaged in retail trade. One body which gives expression to the views of the people connected with small businesses is the Victorian Federation of Retailers Associations. That body has circulated members of Parliament on the subject of the taxation of goodwill. I do not think the department will disagree with the contention of that body, which is expressed in these words -
A person conducting a business in premises owned by himself can receive payment for goodwill and not be taxed on the amount so received if he sells the freehold at the same time. On the other hand, people who conduct their businesses in premises for which they pay rent are considered liable for taxation on an v amount they receive as payment for goodwill.
This is a most unfair interpretation of the Taxation Act, as it is definitely a sectional tax arid in no circumstances can goodwill or appreciation of goodwill logically be considered as income. It is definitely capital and any tax levied on the realization of a capital asset is a capital levy.
Recently, it was stated in a daily newspaper that the Government proposed to amend a section of the Taxation Act to allow persons who pay money for the purchase of goodwill of a business to deduct the amount so paid over a period of two years. If this amendment is passed and the purchaser of a business so -deducts the amount paid he must expect that, when he sells the goodwill of the business, he will be taxed on an amount equal to his actual income for the year, plus the amount he received’ for goodwill.
The letter goes on to state the case of the widow of a businessman in a provincial city who had sold the goodwill of his business for approximately £15,000. After the husband’s death, the widow received a. tax assessment for about £11,500. We say that there is no equity in such a proceeding, and that the law should be so amended as to prevent a recurrence of any such treatment.
– It is confiscation.
– It amounts to confiscation. There is no politics in this matter. As a matter of fact, most of the people who are complaining about this particular form of taxation are not supporters of the Labour party, although we advance their claims in the hope that the Government will do justice to them. The tax authorities regard as taxable the profit from goodwill in connexion with the sale of businesses on leasehold, and a number of cases has been referred to the Taxation Board of Review, and some to the High Court, but the position has not been thoroughly clarified except in respect of the individual cases concerned. Only an amendment of the law can determine the whole principle. As I said earlier, I know that the position is difficult. I know that it is hard for anybody to determine precisely what is local goodwill and what is personal goodwill but a person who owns a freehold property and sells the goodwill of his business, should not be free of tax in respect of the amount that he received for that goodwill while at the same time a person who sells a business which was in respect of premises of which he had a lease has to pay tax on the goodwill.
– That provision has been in the act for a long time.
– The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who is an accountant, has a knowledge of the difficulties and also the injustices. I hope that a way will be found out of those difficulties. As the honorable gentleman has stated, that provision has been in the act for a long time, and the only questions that have to be determined by the Taxation Branch are, first, that consideration in the nature of a premium must have been paid for goodwill; secondly, that goodwill must have been attached to the business premises; and, thirdly, that a lease of the land, or premises, must have been granted, assigned or surrendered. The central problem is to determine whether the goodwill is attached to the premises; that is to say, whether it is local goodwill as against personal goodwill; and the responsibility of showing that it is personal goodwill rests upon the taxpayer. I suggest that such a provision is not fair.
– The onus of proof again.
Mi-. CALWELL.- I am glad to have the helpful observation of the honorable member for Petrie. The present legislation does not clarify this particular issue. In fact, it is probably impossible to achieve much clarity, as each case is decided individually according to its own circumstances. However, what the legislation does is to give some option to the buyer of a business with a weekly tenancy after the 1st July, 1951, to elect whether he will claim a deduction of local goodwill, as determined, over a period of two years, or claim an offset of the purchase price of the goodwill against the goodwill realized, should he subsequently sell. Whether he exercises this option will depend on whether or not he intends to retain the business indefinitely, or to sell it within a reasonably short period at an enhanced figure. It seems that the purpose of the amendment is only to give to holders of a weekly tenancy rights somewhat equivalent to those of holders of leases of a definite duration. It must be repeated that the legislation does not resolve the difficulty of determining how much of the premium is local goodwill.
There is another matter to which objection has been ta.ken from time to time by a number of citizens. I refer to the sale of a property in one financial year, and the sale of the stock in another financial year. If a man sold a property before the 30th June of one year, and sold the stock on the property in July of the same year, he would have to pay more in taxes than if he had sold the property and the stock in the same financial year. I cite the case of the sale that is advertised in Stock and Land on the 14th May, 1952. The property is situated near Goroke in Victoria, and I offer the advertisement to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) in the hope that he will ascertain whether the Taxation Branch can find a way out of the difficulty presented by this case. Examples have already been furnished to the Taxation Branch where, although the business has been discontinued and all the assets sold, the sale has been spread over two financial years. Such examples can be greatly multiplied. Why should a taxpayer who sells the whole of the assets of a business be treated differently in respect of the profit on the sale of live-stock from a taxpayer who receives an insurance recovery in respect of a loss of live-stock, or of a taxpayer who sells his live-stock in consequence of the compulsory acquisition of his land? The principle is the same in each case, and the operations should not be restricted to one financial year. The Taxation Branch, it is understood, claims that it is not practicable to amend this section.
I have discussed this matter with the Commissioner of Taxation, and also with the Assistant Commissioners, and I hope that when amendments of the taxation law are introduced later in the year, it will be possible to effect a simple amendment by inserting the words “ or in the next succeeding year “ after the word “income” in the second last line of section 160 (1.) («.).. The section would then apply where the whole of the assets of a business of primary production are sold in the year of income or in the next succeeding year, or are disposed of by sale or otherwise for the purpose of putting an end to the business. Unless an amendment to this effect is made in section 160, all those cases in which sales of the assets are made partly in one financial year and partly in the next year will be denied the benefit of the rebate given in respect of the abnormal profit by section 160. I hope that the Minister will give favorable consideration to the amendment that I have suggested.
The provisional tax system, or the pay-as-you-earn system, was established by law in this country on the recommendation of a parliamentary committee that had been appointed to investigate the matter. The members of that committee were the late Mr. Chifley, the late Senator Keane, Mr. Coles, Mr. Scullin, Mr. Spender, the present AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), and the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). The report of the committee, which was submitted to the Parliament on the 10th February, 1944, was unanimous, but the Parliament did not accept its recommendations unanimously. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Opposition at that time, Mr. Menzies, waged a long and strenuous battle against implementation of the recommendations. He protested vigorously about the 25 per cent, provision, but he was opposed in the debate by the then honorable member for Warringah, Mr. Spender. When a division was taken on an amendment proposed by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), Mr. Spender was absent, but the present PostmasterGeneral voted with the Labour Government of the day against it. The amendment was defeated by 40 votes to fifteen. The present Postmaster-General voted for the recommendation to which he had given hi3 assent, and the system of provisional tax became the law of the land in respect of the incomes, not only of salary and wage earners, but also of other taxpayers.
I should like to remind the House of some of the statements that were made by the present Prime Minister at that time, because they have a piquant relationship to the burden of tax at this moment. The right honorable gentleman is reported in Hansard as having said on the 17th March, 1944-
The Treasurer might accept au amendment to exclude from the operation of this bil schemes which were, in fact, established before the war. That would be ono practical way of dealing with it because, before the war, having regard to the rates oi taxation, there was no particular inducement to a man or a company to pay out a vast sum of money merely in order to reduce the income tax for which he or it was liable; that temptation has arisen since income tax became astronomical in its size.
If the rates of tax in 1944 were astronomical, I do not know what adjective we should use to describe the present rates.
– The rates are lower to-day than they were in 1944.
– We are receiving additional income to-day because of the increased national income.
– Government supporters may administer balm to their souls about the rates of tax, but I remind them that the present Prime Minister spoke in 1944 about the income tax being astronomical in its size, and not in the degree of its severity. He was dealing with the volume, not with the rates of tax.
– The maximum rate of tax in 1944 was 18s. 6d. in the £1.
– This year, many people are paying 20s. and 25s. in the £1. I produced evidence of that fact to the House recently. However, I shall not tease honorable members opposite much longer on that point.
– When we asked for a copy of the document in order to check the figures, the honorable gentleman would not produce it.
– I gave the document to the’ Treasurer, and an exact copy of it to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who raised the matter on the adjournment of the House the same evening. I never have anything to hide. The present Prime Minister also stated on the 17th March, 1944 -
Income tax in Australia is already at its highest level. It is at what has been aptly described as “ saturation “ point. Indeed, it was so described by the Prime Minister just before the last general election. If there was one thing that was made clear to Australia it was that there would be no increase of income tax. Is the tax going to stand at its present level? Is there no hope tn be given to mankind ? Of course there must be. Of course, when this war is over, people must he allowed to look forward to some full of the income tax rate, to some encouragement to believe that development and progress will be possible for them.
I ask the Minister for the Navy to refer his colleagues in Cabinet to that extract from the speech of the present Prime Minister eight years ago with a view to ascertaining whether the harassed taxpayers of Australia can be given welcome and necessary relief.
The provisional tax system having been adopted by the Parliament after it had been condemned by all members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, with the exception of the present Postmaster-General and the Australian Ambassador in Washington, Mr. Spender, has been continued by the present Government.
– The honorable gentleman would not expect an alteration of the old system?
– If the Prime Minister disbelieved in the justice of the system, I should expect him to amend it. I do not expect him to condemn it on one occasion and accept it on another occasion.
– He objected to the 25 per cent, impost.
– Honorable members, if they read the report of the speech of the then honorable member for Warringah, Mr. Spender, on the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1944, will find a refutation of all the arguments that had been put forward by his leader, and a complete justification of the view of the parliamentary committee.
– Does the honorable gentleman believe in higher taxes?
– I do not believe in high rates of tax. Actually I believe in low taxation as a measure to defeat inflation, but this Government believes that the way in which to defeat inflation is by increasing taxes. However, when in Opposition, members of the Government parties said that the way to defeat inflation was to reduce taxation. That is why the Government has so many electoral difficulties at the present time.
The Treasurer in his second-reading speech on this bill made some peculiar statements, particularly with reference to provisional tax. He said -
Provisional tax paid by businessmen and primary producers represents the counterpart of the weekly or fortnightly tax instalment deduction paid toy wage and salary earners.
That statement is not correct. Wage and salary earners are paid periodically, and actually receive the money in respect of which the tax is deducted at the source. Businessmen and primary producers do not invariably receive income continuously throughout the year, and are often called upon to pay provisional tax, although they have not, in fact, received the cash representing income.
– Not under this system, because they will not pay provisional tax until the expiration of at least nine months.
– I shall cite an example to illustrate my meaning. A primary producer, who is building up a flock of sheep or a herd of cattle, retaining the best of the flock and selling the culls, is taxed on the natural increase addition to his flock or herd each year, although he has not handled any money in respect of this notional income. Further, the generally accepted practice now is that wage or salary earners budget on the net amount that they receive from the employer, namely, the gross amount of salary or wage minus the tax. Consequently, no apparent hardship - I emphasize the word “ apparent “ - is caused to that class of taxpayer, assuming, of course, that rates of tax are not excessive. But businessmen and primary producers pay large sums in advance on income which is not known but is only estimated. It does not matter whether eight months or nine months of the year have passed; the total amount is still only an estimate. When the Treasurer said that provisional tax is not a payment required to be made in advance, he was stating something that is not a fact. Tax is payable in respect of the income of a year ending on the 30th June, and if tax in respect of that income is demanded and paid at any time from the 1st January to the 1st June in that year, such payment is, in fact, made in advance. In the case of provisional tax, the liability is not ascertained, but tax has to be paid on the basis of the income that was earned by the taxpayer during the previous financial year.
– The honorable member should have made his speech in 1944.
– I am considering the matter of provisional tax, and I am attacking the system under which this Government administers the tax and makes it obligatory on the taxpayer in the year in which he receives his assessment to find more money than he has earned in that year.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member will have a chance to disprove what I say. The bill under notice provides that the “ provisional “ taxpayer himself will receive with his notice of assessment a separate form explaining how to calculate provisional tax on his estimated income. I repeat that the Government’s methods of trying to relieve the taxpayer of some of his burdens will not necessarily work out to the advantage of the taxpayer. The average business man and primary producer will find great difficulty in making these calculations, particularly if his income is near the £4,000 average income mark, if he has what is known as tax-free dividends, or if there are any other complications in his assessment. This job should not be one for the taxpayer, it should be a job for the Commissioner of Taxation. The taxpayer should be allowed to endeavour to make the calculation if he wishes to do so, but he should not be penalized if he makes a mistake-
– There is a discretion.
– Yes, there is a discretionary power vested in the Commissioner to refuse to accept the taxpayer’s assessment. That should be enough protection for the revenue, instead of mulcting the taxpayer if he should make a mistake in the 10 per cent, on the amount of short-paid tax on the amount outside the margin so calculated. We say that that proposition is outrageous, and we are completely opposed to it.
– Does not the honorable member believe that there should he a discretion ?
– I do not believe in a penalty, and I think that I have made my position clear. I do not think that it is necessary to provide penalties because the Commissioner of Taxation can send the self-assessment back to the taxpayer with an intimation that he does not accept it. That should be enough. The taxpayer will not get the advantage of underestimating his income by £3,000 or £4,000 and then paying up in the following year, because if the Commissioner finds that something is wrong he can say to the taxpayer “ this is not good enough “ and amend the return. I suggest that the Government’s proposal will be hopeless from an administrative standpoint. There are many administrative problems involved in this measure, and the Treasurer has admitted that he will have to increase his staff in order to implement the new provisions about the self assessment of income. The Taxation Branch has not sufficient staff to seek out all the defaulters under the existing system that it would like to reach. I suggested once that every person who has sold property at more than a certain price since the war ended, and every lawyer and every estate agent who has dealt with such land transactions, should have their taxation returns examined in an attempt to discover where a lot of the “hot” money has gone. However, the Taxation Branch has not sufficient staff to do that. I am sure that a lot of outstanding taxes would be recovered for the Government if such an examination could be made.
Regarding clause 18, to which we offer most strenuous objection, the resentment of the wool-growers and their efforts to obtain relief have been justified by the Treasurer’s own statement that an amount of £50,000,000 is involved. Tn other words, if the proposal to defer 40 per cent, of the wool-growers’ provisional tax had not been adopted, the woolgrowers would have paid £50,000,000 more income tax than they should rightly have been called upon to pay at the time when that payment was demanded. The Treasurer would have got a forced loan from the wool-growers free of interest. Notwithstanding his estimate that 40 per cent, deferment will cover the declining income for the year ending on the 30th June, 1952, I am confident that 40 per cent, will not cover the loss of income, and that it will amount to between 50 per cent, and 60 per cent, of wool-growers’ incomes. I admit that what the Treasurer appears to be trying to do seems logical enough, but the means of implementation appear to be arbitrary and to involve considerable difficulty to the taxpayer who will have to estimate his income for a full year after only nine months of that year have expired. [Extension of time granted.] The new system will provide that for the most part the taxpayer will have to compile a trading statement to the 31st March. In most cases this will mean another job for the tax agents and accountants, and other people who compile taxation returns. Fortnightly or weekly deductions from wages are made on the basis of income actually earned and received, whilst provisional tax assumes that the income next year will be the same as it is this year. For the income year ended the 30th June, 1951, this is not true, because incomes received by primary producers subsequent to that time, that is from the 1st July, 1951, to the 30th June, 1952, were much less than in the previous year. This should have been obvious in October, 1951, when the last income tax amendments were made. This difficulty has been aggravated by the “ modified averaging provisions “, together with the fact that these provisions were made retrospective to the income period ended the 30th June, 1951, but no announcement of the intention was made until October, 1953. Taxpayers who had operated under the averaging provisions for twenty years were surely entitled to assume that they would continue unaltered. There are no anomalies in the provisional basis of assessment apart, perhaps, from the apparent anomaly in the first provisional assessment received by a taxpayer in that he seems to receive an assessment for two years at the one time, provided that there are no great increases or decreases of the income actually received from year to year. On the other hand, there is no logic about the averaging system, unless there are likely to be wide variations of the income received from one year as against that received in other years. If the income is comparatively stable, then the average income does not vary much from the actual income. So far as primary producers are concerned, the possible anomaly inherent in the pro- visional basis of assessment will occur in that the income receivable for the income year that will end on the 30th June, 1952, will generally be considerably less than that received during the year ended the 30th June, 1951. The logic of the averaging system was disturbed by the “ modification “ that was introduced in the previous amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act, and was made to apply retrospectively to income for the year ended the 30th June, 1951. l
This bill relates largely to provisional taxation and affects mostly wool-growers and primary producers whose incomes have fluctuated widely during the last few years. It is not a general tax relief measure and will give no benefit to salary and wage earners. Moreover, it does not cover the matter of leases and the sale of properties and stock over two financial years. The Opposition will expedite the passage of this measure, but it will certainly have something to say about clauses 6 and 18, to which it offers very strenuous objection.
– Honorable members will agree that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), because of the knowledge of finance that he has displayed, has driven another nail into the coffin of his hopes of becoming Treasurer in the next Labour administration. I tried to follow his arguments, but I regret that I was not able to do so, although I do not ascribe that to any lack of intelligence on my part. The honorable member did an injustice to the speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when he referred to the following portion of it: -
Provisional tax paid by businessmen and primary producers represents the counterpart of the weekly or fortnightly tax instalment deductions paid by wage and salary earners.
He built up a huge structure of opposition, using those remarks as his foundation, but then he promptly proceeded to knock down his edifice. In fairness to the Treasurer, the honorable member for Melbourne should have quoted the further remarks of the Treasurer in regard to provisional tax -
There are cases of genuine confusion. These have their origin in the fact that whereas reductions from salaries and wages can be made factual, an arbitrary basis has to be adopted for provisional tax because of the inability to determine a net income until after the end of the year.
Honorable members will see that the Treasurer said exactly what the honorable member for Melbourne said he did not say. The Treasurer also said -
Both in the case of wages and business income an adjustment after the close of the year is necessary but, in the case of wages, there is the actual net income each week upon which to base deductions, whereas with business income no such net income is calculable. This is why an all-party parliamentary committee recommended the basing of provisional tax on the previous year’s income.
Honorable members will perceive that, the Treasurer realized exactly what the honorable member for Melbourne said he did not realize. “We know that provisional tax was introduced in 1944, and that recommendations of the all-party committee were adopted. However, it was believed that provisional tax was an essential part of the pay-as-you-earn taxation scheme. Provisional tax is generally paid between the months of April and June in each year. I disagree with the statement by the honorable member for Melbourne that tax payments sometimes amount to 25s. or 26s. in the £1, notwithstanding the so-called proof that the honorable gentleman has produced.
The Government has been alert to prevent injustice arising from the payment of provisional tax at excessively high rates. It realizes that there is a difference between the Government waiting to receive money from the taxpayers, and taxpayers being obliged to wait to receive money from the Government. It foresaw the fall of wool prices after the peak had been reached in 1950-51. In that year, when wool prices rose almost daily during the course of the wool sales, the Government introduced its wool sales deduction legislation under which 20 per cent, of income derived from the sale of wool was set aside for the future use of the growers. That legislation met with a storm of criticism from honorable members opposite who, for the first time in their lives, found themselves allied with the wool-growers. They stirred up a wave of protest against the Government’s action, but later found, to their astonishment, that the initial resentment died away because the wool-growers found that the amounts set aside on their behalf under the deduction scheme were very useful when the time came for them to pay their provisional tax for 1951-52. The fall of wool prices in 1951-52 brought about a situation in which the growers were required to pay, under the provisional tax system, a greater amount than they had actually incurred in tax liability. But the Government again came to the rescue and granted a 40 per cent, deferment of provisional tax for the year. That deferment, which will be validated by this bill, will result in a loss to the Treasury of about £50,000,000 for the year. The Government took that action because it realized that the sharp decline of prices, following the steep rise in the previous year, would lead to anomalies and a certain degree of hardship unless it intervened. It also decided that taxpayers who had already paid provisional tax in excess of the amounts that they would have paid had they been granted the 40 per cent, deferment, should be granted refunds. Deferment of a greater proportion than 40 per cent, of the provisional tax may be granted upon application to the Commissioner of Taxation if the taxpayer is able to justify the concession by producing particulars of his financial position.
The Government’s actions have been consistent with justice and have reduced hardship to a minimum. Having listened to the confused remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, who aspires to the Treasurership should the Labour party ever regain power, one can imagine the bewilderment of primary producers if he were called upon to legislate for abnormal circumstances such as the Government was called upon to meet during this year. The Government has gone to a great deal of trouble in order to devise ways and means of preventing such difficulties from arising again in the event of sudden large movements of the prices of primary products. It has decided that, in future, provisional tax will be calculated by the Commissioner of Taxation on the basis of income for the previous year as has been done up to the present, but that, upon receipt of his assessment notice, a taxpayer may estimate the income that he will receive for the year and may calculate the provi- sional tax that should be paid on that estimate. He will then have the option of substituting his estimate for the amount of provisional tax assessed by the Commissioner. If his income has increased by more than 20 per cent, since the previous year, however, lie will be required to estimate his income for the year and pay provisional tax on that basis. The taxpayer will receive a separate calculation form with instructions for the calculation of provisional tax on his estimated income. I am confident that this system will be of advantage to him. We have already experienced the benefits of the selfassessment system that was introduced in respect of salary and wage earners last year. In Queensland, 97.5 per cent, of the taxpayers accurately assessed their tax for 1950-51 under that system. I am sure that the Commissioner of Taxation will provide an equally simple assessment form for primary producers in this instance.
The honorable member for Melbourne spoke of penalties that would be incurred if a taxpayer made a mistake in the assessment of his provisional tax. Had the honorable gentleman studied the bill carefully and interpreted it honestly he would have told us that the taxpayer will be allowed a margin of error of 20 per cent.
– He said that.
– But he did not fully explain the position. A taxpayer will be liable to a penalty if his estimate of provisional tax exceeds the margin of error of 20 per cent. This liability will apply whether the under-payment is due to an under-estimate or to the taxpayer’s decision not to furnish an estimate of his income. The Commissioner of Taxation will have power to remit the penalty wholly or partly if he is satisfied that the under-payment is due to circumstances of which the taxpayer could not be expected to have had knowledge when he adjusted his provisional tax.
– The honorable member for Melbourne also said that.
– No. He tried to arouse doubts in the minds of honorable members. The truth is that the Commissioner will have power to remit a penalty if lie is satisfied that the taxpayer could not have known of the circumstances that gave rise to his under-payment of provisional tax. Naturally, in order to prevent exploitation of the provision for a 20 per cent, margin of error, the Commissioner will be given power to reject any self-assessment and to substitute his own assessment for that of the taxpayer. Surely, neither the honorable member for Melbourne’ nor the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) is so naive as to suggest that nobody in the community will attempt to take advantage of this provision. We all know that some citizens try to evade income tax. Such unscrupulous persons will seize upon this provision in order to exploit it for their own gain unless the Commissioner has power to penalize them for having done so or to (eject their assessments. The provision is sound. The Government would be failing in its duty if it left the gate wide open for the benefit of unscrupulous taxpayers. As the representative of a rural constituency, I believe that the bill will be gratefully received and will operate in the interests of primary producers and business men generally.
I refer now to clause 2, which provides for the exemption of profits derived from gold-mining. Section 23 of the present act provides that the income derived from the working of a mining property principally for the purpose of obtaining gold, or gold and copper provided that the value of the output of gold is not less than 40 per cent, of the total value of the output of the mine, shall be exempt from income tax. That provision will be amended by clause 2 so as to enable gold-mining companies which have large deposits of sulphurbearing ore left after the extraction of gold, to account separately for the income that they derive from the sale of pyrites. The present provision has worked well up to date, but it would have an adverse effect on certain companies if it remained in force. I refer particularly to the circumstances of Mount Morgan Limited, from which the Government hopes to obtain about 200,000 tons of pyrites each year. The sale of that N quantity of pyrites at the present abnormally high price would immediately render the company liable to the payment of income tax on the whole of its profits, because the value of the gold output would fall below 40 per cent, of its total income. The Government realizes that this would place a severe strain on many companies and on Mount Morgan Limited in particular, upon which an entire town is dependent for its existence. Therefore, it has decided that income from the sale of pyrites shall be accounted for separately from the income derived from the sale of gold and copper and shall be subject to tax. The former exemption will continue to apply in respect of income from the sale of gold and copper, provided that the return from gold amounts to not less than 40 per cent, of the income from both metals.
I pay a tribute to the directors of Mount Morgan Limited for the way in which they have carried on with the production of pyrites during the last few years in order to supply an urgent national need. They have done so in spite of the fact that, until this bill was introduced by the Treasurer, they had no definite assurance that the exemption provision would continue to apply to their income from gold and copper. They took a risk in the interests of the national welfare, and they deserve full credit for their conduct, of which they have every reason to be proud. I am pleased to note that the terms of the bill are sufficiently flexible to enable such companies to claim special treatment in respect of certain works that are undertaken solely for the purposes of pyrites production. Until recently, pyrites, which are known as “ new chum gold “, had little value. Therefore, Mount Morgan Limited dumped its output of pyrites on a heap near the mine. However, now that pyrites have become important to Australia, it is necessary for the company to effect certain changes so that they may be dumped elsewhere. Mount Morgan Limited will have to install additional rail lines for this purpose, and this will involve a certain amount of capital expenditure. Under this measure, that expenditure will be a permissible deduction for income tax purposes.
I am very pleased with the provisions of this bill, which will ensure that the company will be able to proceed with the operations to which I have referred.
Consequently, there will continue to flow from Mount Morgan considerable quantities, not only of gold and copper, but also of sulphur, a mineral which is essential to all primary producers of this country who use superphosphate or sulphate of ammonia for various agricultural purposes. The measure is a recognition by this Government of the manner in which Mount Morgan Limited, hi particular, took the risk of undertaking to supply pyrites, although that might have disturbed the economy of the company considerably. I am certain that the provisions of this measure will be advantageous, not only to that company, but also to the country generally. I support the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Laverton Post OFFICE - Prospecting - Young Liberal Movement - Public Service - Canberra - Citizen Military Forces - Local Government Finance.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday I received a letter from the secretary of the Laverton local authority. Among other things, the letter stated -
It has come to the knowledge of the Board that the Postmaster-General’s Department intends to demolish the existing Post Office building. At a special meeting of the Board called to discuss the matter, I was directed to approach you expressing the Board’s concern at the proposed action in removing the building. It is the considered opinion of the mining and pastoral people of the district that the move is unwarranted, as they firmly believe that the town will eventually make a recovery.
The representations in that letter have been supported by the Honorable E. M. Heanan, M.L.C., and Mr. W. Marshall, M.L.A. I wish to enter my protest at the proposed action of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), to whom I indicated that I proposed to raise this matter to-night.
I believe that the Laverton district has a future, although I admit that it has not yet recovered from the effects of the last war. when men were directed away from the only mine that was then in operation. Subsequently, the mine became filled with, water, and it would be too expensive to put it into production again. In addition, in the days when there was full employment in this country, it wa8 difficult to persuade men to work in isolated out-back areas such as this, when more congenial work was available in large centres of population. It has been claimed by responsible men, who know what they are talking about, that the Laverton district has great possibilities. Therefore, the Laverton post office should not, under any circumstances, be removed, and the people of the district deprived of the amenities with which it .provides them. This Government has prated continually about the need for decentralization in this country. Every possible encouragement should be given to people who are game enough to go into 1he hinterland and unearth the wealth that is to be found there.
In addition to the possibility that the Laverton gold-mining industry will be revived, there are great possibilities that valuable minerals will be discovered in the Warburton Ranges. Many men with considerable experience of the backcountry believe that uranium may be discovered in the area. A sergeant of police, Sergeant Anderson, was stationed at Laverton for many years. Later, he was promoted and sent to Kalgoorlie. Immediately his long-service leave became due, he returned to Laverton, which is a jumping-off place for the Warburton Ranees, and he is spending his leave searching for the minerals that he claims he saw when he visited the ranges in his rapacity as a police sergeant in order to search for natives who had transgressed the law. Sergeant Anderson has great experience of the Warburton Ranges and of the Laverton area generally.
I intimated to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) that I intended to refer to this matter to-night. It is the responsibility of the Government to supply Geiger finders to local government authorities in areas where there are known belts of minerals, so that prospectors, instead of having to go to the expense of sending samples of minerals to big towns, may go to the office of the local roads board and put their samples under a Geiger finder to ascertain whether they are radio-active. If the Government supplied these instruments to local authorities, deposits of very valuable minerals might be discovered. Uranium has become one of the most important of the minerals that are to be found in this country. In the not too far distant future, it will play a very important part in the welfare of Australia and of other countries associated with us. I have been informed by the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources that the cost of a Geiger finder is approximately £100. If a number of those instruments were sent to mineral fields in “Western Australia, probably the advantages that would be derived would be out of all proportion to the expense involved.
I am glad that the Postmaster-General is now present in the chamber. I .have sent to the honorable gentleman the letters of protest against the proposed removal of the Laverton post office which I have received from members of the Western Australian Parliament. It would be disastrous if the Government, despite its much-publicized policy of decentralization, decided to curtain the amenities that are available to people in the backcountry areas. It is the responsibility of the Government to render every possible .assistance to those people. I appeal to the Postmaster-General not to remove the Laverton post office, and to the Minister for Supply to give consideration to the possibility of providing prospectors with facilities to test mineral samples.
I conclude by saying that the most well-known prospectors in Western Australia, the Capel brothers, are in the Laverton district. They have ‘prospected for gold all their lives, and have been most successful. They are searching for gold in the Laverton area. There is every possibility of a revival of industry in the district. I ask both the Minister for Supply and the Postmaster-General to do all they can to encourage the bighearted people of the back-country to remain where they are, and I appeal to them not to remove existing facilities.
[10.551. - The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) kindly mentioned to me earlier this even ing that he intended to raise the matter of granting additional assistance to prospectors. I assure him that I shall examine the practicability of providing facilities for prospectors in the districts that he has mentioned, with the object of making it easier for them to discover minerals. I do not refer only to uranium. I shall ask the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources to examine the suggestions that the honorable gentleman has made, and to see whether anything can be done along the lines that he has suggested.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) chose to refer to me, quite rightly, as a young Liberal from Queensland, and as a member of the Young Liberal movement.
– I rise to order. A standing order of this House states that no honorable member shall refer to any debate of the same session. I do not think that I need to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that we cannot permit honorable members to re-hash debates. The. honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) is clearly referring to a recent debate.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 69 covers the position to which reference- has been made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). It states -
No Member may apeak to any Question after the same has been put by the Speaker and the voices have been given in the affirmative and negative thereon.
I submit that the matter to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) desires to refer has been disposed of and, therefore, he is not entitled to refer to it now. The position is covered further by Standing Order 71, which reads as follows: -
No Member shall allude to any debate of the same Session unless such allusion be relevant to. the matter under discussion.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Perth is a sound one. In a debate on a motion for the adjournment of the House, reference cannot be made to debates of the. same session. One of the points raised by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) was not well taken. No vote was taken on the matter that the honorable member for Capricornia was opening up. I well remember that it was referred to in the course of a general speech on a Supply bill. The second point taken by the honorable member for Darling was taken also by the honorable member for Perth. It was well founded. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) cannot deal with a matter which was referred to yesterday.
– I rise to order. I wish to deal with a misrepresentation of myself.
– The honorable gentleman may deal with an alleged misrepresentation at any time. Although it would have been better had he done so soon after the incident occurred, there is nothing to prevent him from doing so now, but he must confine his remarks strictly to the matters in respect of which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– I rise to order. I submit that an honorable member may make a personal explanation only during the course of the discussion in which he claims that he was misrepresented, unless he has the indulgence of the House to make the. explanation at some other time. The honorable gentleman should now seek the leave of the House to make his explanation.
– I do not uphold that contention. Standing Order 63 states -
By the indulgence of the House a member may explain matters of a personal nature, although there be no Question before the House.
The question before the House now is -
That the House do now adjourn.
I am of the opinion that the honorable member for Capricornia is entitled to make a personal explanation, but he must not debate the matter.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Yesterday,, the honorable member for Brisbane claimed that I belonged to an organization known as the Young Liberal movement of Queensland, which encouraged Communists to join its ranks. I wish to state that I do belong to .the Young Liberal movement of Queensland, but that that movement does not welcome Communists in its ranks.. In fact, Communists cannot enter its ranks. The honorable member for Brisbane based his allegation upon an extract from the Brisbane Telegraph of the 10th May.
-Order! Is the honorable gentleman dealing with a misrepresentation of himself, or with a misrepresentation of the party to which he belongs? In a personal explanation, he may only deal with a misrepresentation of himself.
– In order to prove that I am not a member of a Communist organization, I want to give the background of the organization to which reference was made.
– The honorable gentleman may proceed.
– According to the Brisbane Telegraph, a young woman said at a meeting of the Young Liberal movement that Communists should be invited to join. That allegation was published on the 10th May. Subsequently, the young lady wrote a letter, which was published in the newspaper which shows whether this is a Communist organization or not.
-Order! The question is not whether it is a Communist organization, but whether the honorable member has been personally misrepresented in connexion with something that he has done.
– The young lady said -
Please allow me to clear up a misunderstanding regarding a report of the Young Liberals Convention . . .
– Order! The honorable member is clearly out of order.
– Recently, by way of a question, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) stated that very few members of the Public Service in the Australian Capital Territory were members of the Citizen Military Forces. The Director-General of Recruiting, Sir Horace Robertson, has also accused the young men of Australia of shirking their responsibilities in relation to military training. I do not think that the epithet “ shirker “, which had a currency in World War I., can rightly be applied to the young men who are serving the Australian Government as members of the Public Service in the Australian Capital Territory. If there are very few members of the Public Service in the Citizen Military Forces in Canberra, the reason is not far to seek. It lies in the niggardly attitude of the Government to the payments that are made to servicemen. Before World War II., the custom was to give members of the Public Service who enlisted to serve in the Citizen Military Forces, their Public Service pay while they were in annual camp, in addition to their full pay as a member of the Citizen Military Forces. During the war years, the number of men in the forces increased greatly, and the system was varied. The practice then was to make up the difference between their Public Service remuneration and their Army pay. After the war, the Government reverted to the previous system of allowing a public servant both his Public Service pay and his Army pay while he was attending camp. In 1951, following the introduction of the national service training scheme, another variation was introduced. The Government made up the difference of pay between the Public Service pay and the Army pay, on certain conditions. In January, 1951, those provisions were made known to all the government departments by a circular from the Public Service Board, which stated -
Departments should take into consideration marriage allowance, separation, living allowance (if any), district allowance, and deferred pay, hut are not to include clothing allowance, gratuity allowance or exchange allowance.
Pay in the defence forces is on a sevendayweek basis, including Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Service pay for a week will accordingly be reckoned as seven days at the daily defence forces rate of pay.
In August, 1951, that decision was varied, and the variation was contained in a Public Service Board circular, which stated - “ Total pay “ should be regarded as the sum of active pay and an amount representing the current value of rations, quarters, and clothing, plus, in the case of a married member, married and/or separation allowance.
To make that provision perfectly clear to departmental officers, the circular added that in the computation of pay, they should -
Add to the daily rate of active pay (as advised by the officer or employee himself), the current value of rations, quarters and clothing . . . The amounts representing the value of rations, quarters and clothing are as follows: -
Those were the rates which applied to unmarried members. The -rate was increased to 8s. 5d. a day for the Navy and Army from the 2nd November, 1951, and from the 1st November, 1951, for the Air Force. On the 2Sth February, the rate for rations, quarters and clothing was increased to 8s. 9d. a day as from the 8th February in the case of the Navy, and as from the 7th February in the case of the Air Force. A footnote to the notification added that the amount for the Army was unchanged at 8s. 5d. This Government claims to place great merit on incentives. Honorable members on the Government side are constantly stating that they favour the incentive system, but they have completely destroyed the incentive for young men to give up their time voluntarily for military service. The young men who volunteer for military training will be the first to go on active service in the event of war. The Government is acting in a niggardly fashion when it states that the clothing, rations and quarters that are provided for a young man while he is in an Array camp, shall be assessed and counted as part of his total pay.
In inaugurating its recruiting campaign, the Government appealed to big employers to facilitate the entry of employees into the armed services, and it asked them to make up the pay of employees who enlisted. I believe that big organizations have been making up the pay of such employees. The deduction of 8s. 9d. a. day for seven days a week is not a small one. It places young men, who are in the Public Service, in a difficult position if they volunteer for army service. There is now little difference between the Army pay, as it is assessed under that system, and the pay that personnel would receive as members of the
Public Service. Not every young man lives at home. Many are living in hostels, and while they are in camp they must pay room <rent and meet other commitments. They find that in serving voluntarily in the Army, they are suffering financial loss. I believe that the Government would be wise to review its attitude and remit the charge for food, rations and clothing, while a man is voluntarily serving the nation in a military camp. The rate seems to be fairly high at Ss. 9d. a day. Until recent years, the value of a soldier’s rations was assessed at ls. 1 1/2d. a day, but no doubt the conditions have been improved greatly. The Government will not encourage young men who are in the Public Service to volunteer for military service if they are treated in the fashion I have described. I suggest seriously to the Government that it should revert to the system of making up the pay of public servants while they are in camp without taking into consideration the value of the the food, clothing and quarters that are provided.
.- The matter that I wish to bring before the notice of the House is one of great importance to Australia and to this Parliament. It concerns the right and, perhaps, the duty of young people to take an interest in politics and, in particular, in party politics. Reference has been made in this House frequently to certain political elements and cells which exist within the Public Service. Those persons are interested in working for foreign communities and for foreign nations. I believe that if young people can be induced to take a direct interest in party politics to the extent that they will be working in the interests of Australia, they should be encouraged in every way.
– They should join the. Labour party.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) might be applied to what I might describe as the younger set of the Labour movement, or its equivalent in the Liberal party. If those young people take an interest in politics, the country must benefit ultimately. The more interest they take in politics, the more they will learn about the possible dispositions of political ideas or so-called ideologies which are introduced to Australia by foreign powers. A movement exists in this country which is of inestimable value from the educational aspect. It is known as the Young Liberal movement, and it is common to all States of Australia. At times it arouse a certain amount of comment and criticism, even from the parent bodies of the various States. Possibly, it might arouse comments and give cause for criticism from time to time from honorable members of the opposite side if they are prepared to misinterpret facts and make deliberate misstatements in this House. I do not know that they have done so, but I know that within fairly recent weeks a convention of young Liberals has been held in Queensland. In connexion with that convention, there has been definite and determined misinterpretation of statements that were made by some of the people who attended it.
– They passed a vote of no-confidence in the Australian Government.
– No. there was not a vote of no-confidence in the Government. A government which is truly democratic must expect to be criticized, not only by its own parliamentary members, but also by its party adherents. When a government is prepared to accept such criticism, and, moreover, to answer it. then the country has a reasonably good government in my opinion. What matters most in this instance is the thought, feeling and sincerity of these young people in putting forward their ideas, regardless of whether others may consider the ideas to be right or wrong. By expressing their opinions, they render a useful service to the community. I do not believe for one moment that any statement that any individual has made at a convention or gathering of young Liberals can reasonably be said to represent the view of either the Young Liberal movement or of the Liberal party as a whole. I should like to mention one criticism which, I believe, has been made. It was to the effect that a young lady had said at a meeting of young Liberals in Brisbane that she believed that Communists should be accepted as members of the young Liberal movement. I do not know whether she made that statement However, she, herself, has made the following reply to that allegation: -
Please allow me to clear up a misunderstanding regarding a report of the Young Liberals’ convention on May 10. Although I opposed a motion that new members should be recommended by a financial member, it definitely was not I who suggested thai “Communists should be invited to join the Young Liberal Movement to convert them “,
Such a statement is illogical and absurd. If they are Communists they could not possibly become Young Liberals unless they changed their whole conception of politics.
– Who said said?
– The lady’s name is Miss Iris Phillips. Her reply continued -
What I did state, however, was that filial loyalty should not compel children to follow the political beliefs of their parents - since every person is entitled to freedom of thought - and we should welcome any one including the sons and daughters of Communists to our ranks provided their present politics, their ideals and personal integrity were akin to our own.
I do not know who made the allegation to which that lady replied in those terms. However, I believe that she was wrong in one respect.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-! direct the attention of the Government, and particularly the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to the very difficult position in which some local government bodies find themselves at present because they are unable to meet their financial commitments under contracts that they have entered into in respect of developmental works. Whilst I have first-hand knowledge of only three cases of this kind, I have no doubt that many importing firms, as well as many other local government bodies, are experiencing difficulty in financing the purchase of materials that they have ordered. The three bodies which I have in mind are engaged in important developmental work in New South Wales, such as the laying of pipes, water reticulation and similar schemes. In order to carry out their responsibilities, they ordered large quantities of cement pipes from overseas. Towards the end of last year, they realized that they would not be able to honour those contracts and, consequently, they cancelled large orders. However, in respect of certain orders for cement pipes which had been shipped from continental countries, their responsibility to accept delivery still remain. The three councils to which I refer are the Central Tablelands County Council, the Byron Shire Council and the Eurobodalla Shire Council. The Central Tablelands County Council is involved to the amount of approximately £25,000 in respect of pipes that have been landed in Australia and for which it must pay upon the presentation of documents. As it has no funds available to meet that commitment, the pipes are lying on the wharfs in Sydney and the council is obliged to pay approximately £140 a day in wharfage charges. The Byron Shire Council finds itself involved to an amount of over £16,000 in respect of goods that are due to be landed in Australia, but it will not have funds available to take delivery. The Eurobodalla Shire Council has ordered cement pipes valued at approximately £45,000, and. a proportion of that order valued at £22,000 is due to be landed in Sydney shortly. That council has advised the company who made the contract on its behalf that it has no funds available to pay for the pipes, and therefore, is unable to take delivery.
Those three local government bodies are involved to the amount of approximately £63,000 in respect of cement pipes which they ordered in good faith and which the importer placed overseas on their behalf. In each instance the pipes have been manufactured and shipped to Australia. The burden will really fall upon the importer. As a result of the restriction of funds of local government bodies, he will not be able to find buyers elsewhere. Consequently, he faces financial ruin. The position that has arisen is bad from the viewpoint of the local government bodies concerned. They desire to carry out the works for which the goods were ordered. The position is bad also from Australia’s viewpoint. Manufacturers who have supplied orders in good faith to these bodies cannot obtain payment and, consequently, damage is being caused to Australia’s goodwill and prestige abroad. I urge the Treasurer to see if be can take steps with a view to extricating these local government bodies from their difficulty. It is most desirable that the works in question should be proceeded with. No further shipment of supplies will be delivered because the local government authorities have cancelled all their other orders. It may be possible for the Government to make a temporary advance to these bodies which could be set off as a contra against any payments which they may become entitled to receive in the future. I stress the seriousness of this matter, and urge the Government to give earnest consideration to it.
– The matter that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has raised is of the utmost importance not only from the point of view of the local government bodies concerned, but also of Australia’s prestige. I support the representations that he has made and urge the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to do all in his power to assist local government bodies, at least in such instances as those mentioned by the honorable member, so that they may obtain sufficient funds to pay for materials that they have ordered abroad in good faith for the purpose of carrying out projects that will be of value to the defence and development of this country. The headquarters of the Central Tablelands County Council is situated in my electorate, and I have maintained close contact with it over a considerable period. It is not improbable that litigation will result from the position that has developed. That would be unfortunate. Such litigation would not help the importer concerned to retrieve his position. It certainly would not help the unhappy local government authorities which ordered these pipes in the belief that having regard to the fact that the economic structure in this country in the past enabled them to enter into contracts of this kind, adequate funds would be. available to them to pay for such materials. For the ‘benefit of the Treasurer I shall read the following extract from a letter that I have received from the Central Tablelands County Council : -
During the financial year July, 1951 to June, 1952, Council was authorized to borrow up to a total of £220,000, but it has been possible to raise only £100,000, the whole of which latter sum has been made available through the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
It seems likely that a further sum of £30,000 will be forthcoming towards the end of June or early in July, from the same source, but the Bank has notified me that no further advances can be expected until at least the end of September, 1952, when the position will again be reviewed.
Borrowing from other sources has been constantly investigated on Council’s behalf but has proved an impossibility, and’ as the sums now in hand or likely to come to hand before the end of the year (including the amounts mentioned above) will fall short by nearly £20,000 of the total of commitment:! already incurred by the Council for goods supplied or services rendered, I had recently to issue directions for the cessation of all the contract works on the main District scheme. It is hoped that by very careful administration and the most effective utilization of what little credit is available, it will be possible to complete the major structural work at the Dam at Lake Rowlands, but even this will not be possible unless the anticipated further advance from the Bank comes to hand in June or early in July.
Should it be possible to complete the Dam the Council will then face an ironical position in that great quantities of water will bc impounded but it will be impossible to reticulate supplies to the various centres concerned.
I anticipate that the respective contractors will have withdrawn their works organizations within the next few days and at present it appears to be most unlikely that any resumption of works can be contemplated at least until 1953.
That statement brings into bold relief one of the unfortunate results of the Government’s disastrous economic policy. I sincerely trust that the Treasurer, as a member of the Australian Country party which, I hope, is interested in the decentralization of industry, the increasing of food production, the expansion of rural communities and the improving of the benefits available to people on the land, will come to the aid of the Central Tablelands County Council in the matter of the provision of pipes to carry water right through into the Darling electorate and Calare electorate and other distant western areas which urgently require it. The provision of the pipes would enable the county council to sell water and so obtain income that will enable it to continue its efforts to foster increased food production and to honour its obligations as a local government authority.
– Some aspects of the speeches of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) are astonishing to me, because this is the first that I have heard of difficulties in respect of the financial obligations that those honorable members have mentioned. I remind the two honorable gentlemen that local government authorities are State instrumentalities, and that it is the responsibility of the States to attend to the financial obligations and requirements of their local authorities, consistent with their capacity to do so. The two honorable gentlemen have stated that those local authorities entered, in good faith, into obligations that, in the light of present circumstances, they have not been able to meet. It is strange that any local authority or any responsible purchaser should enter into obligations without having some idea of the availability of the wherewithal to meet them. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the State Government concerned has never brought the matters to my notice in order that some solution of the problems might be found that would alleviate the position in which these local government authorities find themselves. However, despite that fact and despite the obvious desire of honorable members opposite to foist the responsibility for the position on to this Government, I shall investigate the matters raised and ascertain whether anything can be done to assist the local authorities concerned. I emphasize again that local authorities are State instrumentalities, and that the responsibility for their welfare is a State obligation.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 39.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 37.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, Nos. 35, 38.
Wool Products Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 36.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. - London -
n 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 : -
e 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 : -
y. - On the 14th May, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following question : -
Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that the vessel Lautoka, which is owned by W. E. Carpenter and Company Limited, is at present proceeding to Japan in order to have repairs effected whilst Australian shipyards are not working to capacity? Does the Government propose to take any action to protect Australian industry and Australian workmen against the unfair competition of cheap labour countries?
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply : -
I have had inquiries made regarding the vessel Lautoka which was reported to be pro ceeding to Japan for repairs, and have been advised as follows: -
The Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction in a matter of this kind. It is purely a question for the owners as to where the ship trades and where it is repaired. You may be assured this Government is doing everything possible to protect the local shipbuilding industry as evidenced by the orders that have been placed on Australian yards for new construction in recent months.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 May 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520528_reps_20_217/>.