20th Parliament · 1st Session
M>. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the . chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware . that discontent . exists among, the men employed in the uranium mines at Bum. .Jungle, owing to unsatisfactory housing conditions?’ Will the honorable, gentleman have investigated immediately the. complaints that have been made by the men, in order to avoid any industrial .disturbance to which the discontent might give rise, and which might adversely affect the work of vital national importance that is being undertaken at Bum Jungle?
– lt has been brought to my notice that there is some discontent among the workers on the Bum Jungle uranium field about housing conditions. From the information that has been supplied to me, it- is apparent that housing conditions there are unsatisfactory. “We have made ‘an attempt to meet the men’s complaints . by erecting prefabricated houses on the field,, but I understand that those houses have been subjected to criticism: The problem is not easy to solve. The Buin Jungle uranium field is developing rapidly. In those circumstances, it is inevitable that there should be some difficulty of this kind. I am sympathetic- with’ the men, and I intend to visit the area in July to see what steps can bo taken to alleviate or to remove the difficulties that are being encountered there..
– Has the -.Minister for Defence- Production any information to give the House, in addition - to that which the Acting Prime- Minister gave on the 20th May in- answer to a question ‘ that I directed to him, about .the investigations that have been made by. the security service ‘ regarding a- .woman employee of the. Department of Defence Production? .’’.’’’
-I do npt intend to discuss current activities of the security service in relation to any individual, ‘ But, because of the implications of the questions that have been asked -‘about this matter, I consider it necessary, in justice to the department and to the. officer concerned,’ to say that investigations which have been made show that there’ ‘is ‘ no evidence that secret information ov information of any other type has been sought or passed on. However, in the interests of the officer concerned, as well as of the department, it; has been decided that she. shall bc transferred to another position. I have made this statement in deliberate terms because T. do not want it to be misunderstood or misinterpreted by any one.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister. 1’ point out, by way of explanation, that the Minister for External Affairs has made a definite charge in this House that the Communist newspaper, Tribune, has published a signed article which contained extracts from a confidential document belonging to the Australian Government. In view of the fact that the publication of confidential documents is a serious offence under the Crimes Act, will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether the Government has consulted any of its legal advisors on the matter of taking proceedings against the Communist newspaper concerned, and the admitted writer of the article?- Is it a fact that the article was published nearly six months ago, and that no. action whatever has been taken by the Government, despite such a long lapse of time? Does the Government propose to leave the Communist newspaper and its contributor free from prosecution?
– I shall have the matters raised by the honorable member investigated.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House whether the Governor-General’s future engagements include the opening of a world congress of junior chambers of commerce which has been arranged for Melbourne on the 6th September next? If this is a fact, does it mean that the Governor-General’s term of office has been extended at least until after the 6th September next? As the GovernorGeneral has already held office for more than the usual term of five years, will his term of office finally expire this year? If not, when will it expire?
– I do not know what the settled engagements of the Governor-General happen to be, and I have no intention of hazarding a guess on what his future might be.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to a report from Queensland that 2,000 tannery employees in that State have been dismissed because of the shortage of hides or the withholding of hides by the merchants responsible in the hope that they will get an increase iri price? Can the Minister inform the House whether this is a responsibility of the Australian Government or the State Government? If it is a responsibility of the Australian Government, will he take action to have the position rectified as soon as possible? If it is a State responsibility, will he contact the Queensland Government to ascertain whether anything can be done to get the unfortunate people concerned back to work in this important industry?
– Having heard something of this matter, I had inquiries made through the Department of Labour and National Service. These indicated that ten manufacturers of boots and shoes in Brisbane have given a week’s notice to 1,072 employees, and that possibly 60 more may be given notice by another manufacturer. I am informed that the reason is the lack of deliveries of leather from the leather suppliers to the manufacturers. I am given to understand, also, that deliveries are being delayed because of a question of cost, which is to bc the subject of a conference with the StateMinister to-day. The honorable, member has asked me whether the Australian Government has a responsibility in relation to price. That matter is entirely within the jurisdiction of the State Minister who deals with prices control in Queensland, but after the conference to which 1 have referred has been held, I shall communicate with the State Minister in an endeavour to get information on the maintenance in employment of the workers concerned.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the recent report of the Council of the Australian National University which contained a statement that because of the long delay in the building of the John Curtin Medical Research School at the university, a well-known and world-famous pathologist has not yet accepted an invitation to become director of the school, and that his services may thus be lost to Australia? Is it a fact that the university council also expressed concern at the delay in the establishment of the school and commented that the nation will not only be poorer for the lack of those facilities, but that the National University would be set back in the advancement of learning in Australia for another 25 years? Ha? the Government any real intention of going ahead with this very important project? If so, will the Minister make an early statement to the House?
– I have not seen the statement and cannot vouch for its accuracy in relation to the development of the university, but if the honorable member will take the trouble to study the Estimates and budget papers he will see that much more is being spent each year by this Government, on the university than was spent on it by the Labour’ Government.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he will clear up a point which has caused concern to many people including myself. I gather from what I have been told and read that the Minister, in speaking in this House last week, made an unqualified statement .that taxation would be high for the rest .of our lives. I shall have an opportunity to check what the Minister said when the relevant issue of Hansard is published. Did the Minister say that taxation would be high for the rest of our lives?
– I am glad to have an opportunity to clear up the matter that the honorable member has raised, because, I am sure, it has not been properly understood. The reports, ‘particularly in their headlines, have given a wrong impression. I can deal with the honorable member’s question most simply and effectively by repeating the remarks that I actually made so that the words to which the honorable member has referred may be read in the context in which they were used. What I said was -
In these days of high taxation we all complain, but the cold truth of the matter . . .
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that questions that purport to be asked without notice should be asked without notice. This question has not been asked without notice. It is obvious that the Minister, who is now about to read a statement, has had an opportunity to prepare a reply to the question.
– I am not aware of the private negotiations, or arrangements, that may be made between Ministers and honorable members on either side of the House. The question to which the Minister is now replying is in order, and the Minister is entitled to make his own reply in his own way.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for a Minister to reply to a question that an honorable member has asked which arises out of a newspaper report ?
-Order ! I did not hear the honorable member for Fisher refer to a newspaper report.
– I made no reference to a newspaper report.
– I rise to- order. Is an honorable member in order in addressing a question to a Minister with respect to a matter which took place in the current session?
– I do not know of any standing order that would have the effect of preventing the honorable member from asking his question. We are not now debating a matter ; we are dealing with a question, and debatable matter should not be introduced in either a question or a reply.
– I rise to order. The Minister has clearly stated that he has been misreported. Therefore, should he not make a personal explanation instead of attempting to deal with the matter in answer to a question without notice ?
– The Minister claims that he has been misrepresented and he is entitled to make a correction; but the question that the honorable member for “Fisher has asked relates to a statement which was made in the House when he was not present and which was recorded in Hansard.
– The words that 1 used were -
In these days of high taxation we all complain, but the cold truth of the matter is that world circumstances and Australian public opinion combine to require policies to bc followed by this or any other Australian Government,- which involve the expenditure of prodigious sums of money. It is anticipated that £1,000,000,000 will be spent this year. If our policy demands the expenditure of £1,000,000,000, that sum will have to be raised, and taxation will be high.
A combination of circumstances make it inevitable that whatever government is in office and whatever relief can be given from taxation, the level of taxation will, on all previous standards, remain high for the rest of our lives. That is inevitable. We are confronted with the extraordinarily complex problem that the economic circumstances of this country necessitate an increase of production in the basic and primary industries, but the inevitably high scales of taxation have become a deterrent to increased production. We need the money, and we need . increased production. How are we to resolve that paradox ?
Those are the words that I used. I have quoted them exactly. I then proceeded to explain the extent and merits of the concessions that the Government had given to primary producers.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for a Minister to quote verbatim a statement that he made in a previous debate, when he is answering a question without notice?
– I should think that a Minister would be in order in doing that when answering a question of this type.
– I have given, I believe, an exact quotation of my words. I then proceeded to explain the extent and the merits of the Government’s extensive special tax concessions to primary producers. My statement shows clearly that any observation about high taxes for the rest of our lives is completely misleading if divorced from the words “ will, on all previous standards, remain high “.
– WM the Treasurer, when he is formulating .the next budget, give urgent consideration to the complete or partial abolition of the sales tax on goods that are day-to-day necessaries of the people of Australia?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that, when the budget is being formulated, all aspects of taxation and of our economic requirements will receive serious consideration.
– I . direct to the Acting Prime Minister a question that relates to the fact that Preston City Council in Victoria accepted tenders for two 500-K.V.A. transformers from the English Electric Company Limited, and for four 200-K.V.A. transformers from Industrial Engineering Export Proprietary Limited (England) on the 24th March, 1952, because no Australian tenderer could offer delivery of such equipment within a reasonable time. Import licences are urgently needed immediately in respect of both tenders. Will the right honorable gentleman take up with his colleagues the subject of granting the necessary import licences in this case of emergency, so that no serious industries dislocation will eventuate as a result of retarded delivery ?
– I shall bring that matter before the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is the appropriate Minister to deal with it.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services relates -to social services benefits extended to aborigines, particularly in Queensland. In what ways are aborigines treated differently from white people in relation to the -payment of social services benefits? Will the Minister inform me how payments of social service benefits to aborigines are made. In addition, is it true that in Queensland his department does not pay maternity allowances to aborigines? If that is a fact, will the Minister give the matter consideration?
– Basically, our policy is to pay pensions and other social services benefits to aboriginal people in exactly the same way as they are paid to members of the white population. There are some small qualifying factors but, broadly, the policy is not to differentiate between aboriginal and white people. Payments are made to aborigines by cheque or through a book, as it done in the case of child endowment, for example. It is not correct to say that maternity allowances are not paid to aborigines in Queensland. They are paid, but people in the islands of Torres Strait, which is a remote area, are paid maternity allowances through the Queensland Department pf Native Affairs. Speaking from memory, I should say that we pay 2,000 maternity allowances through that department and 1,000 direct to the mothers concerned.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question that relates to the facts that the legislation under which the Joint Coal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal were established, was complementary legislation that was passed by the parliaments of both the Commonwealth and New South Wales, and that the Minister has indicated to the House that the Prime Minister has written to the Premier of New South Wales asking whether the New South Wales Government would consent to an amendment of the legislation. Has a reply to that letter yet been received from the Premier? If so, does it signify the concurrence of New South Wales in the proposed amendments that have been outlined by this Government?
– I had a telephone discussion with the Premier of New South Wales yesterday on the course which the Commonwealth proposed to take in legislation affecting the coal industry during the present sessional period. It appeared quite impracticable, within the time available to us, for the New South Wales Government to consider the amendment to provide for the right of appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration against a decision of the Coal Industry Tribunal. However, there is some urgency to assure the position of the Coal Industry Tribunal, which has been revealed in litigation now before the’ courts. I explained to the Premier of New South Wales that I was quite prepared, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to proceed with the amending legislation which would make it clear that the Coal Industry Tribunal had power to deal with certain matters that were coming before it, and to defer the introduction of the legislation which related to appeals until the State Government had had ample time to consider the matter. We now propose to proceed with the legislation that is to assure the position of the Coal Industry Tribunal, and 1 have already given notice of my intention to introduce the necessary amending bill. I hope that the honorable member for Hunter will advise those foolish persons who have already taken direct action that they are fighting shadows at the moment. They are taking direct action against something that does not exist. Legislation will not be placed before the Parliament during the current sessional period to make provision for the right of appeal to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court against a decision of the Coal Industry Tribunal. Those persons who deprive themselves of a day’s pay in order to protest against such legislation are simply beating the air.
– The questions that .1 wish to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service concern the dismissal of 70 employees of the Coalcliff Colliery, on the south coast of New South Wales, at a time when miners are supposed to be in great demand. Is it a fact that Coalcliff is the mine that the Australian Government, through the Joint Coal Board, modernized at a cost of thousands of pounds, because of the neglect of the company that owns it? Will the Minister have inquiries made with a view to ascertaining whether the action of the company is dismissing the men was justified, and, if it was not justified, will he have them reinstated?
– The answer is “‘Yes’1.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that an immigrant committee, which met recently in Tasmania, expressed strong dissatisfaction with the allocation of immigrant labour to certain projects, regardless of their qualifications or aptitude for the work to which they were sent? Is it a fact that, in large immigrant camps or hostels, such as that at Bonegilla, it is the practice to draft, say, 100 men for railway work, or 50 men for fruit picking or some other kind of work, regardless of their suitability for such employment or of any special qualifications that they may possess? If such is the case, will the Minister institute investigations with a view to allocating immigrants to work which they are best qualified to do, and in the performance of which they will be most efficient and happy? In any event, will the honorable gentleman lay on the table, for the information of the House, a return showing the allocation of immigrants to various industries during the last two years, and their full qualifications?
– The remarks of the honorable member for Bass are certainly not in accordance with my own knowledge of the position. As far as I am aware, this is the first occasion on which he has brought to my notice any dissatisfaction about the placement of immigrants, or any charge that they have not been selected on the basis of their suitability to perform certain jobs. The officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service do their utmost to ensure that immigrants are placed in the positions for which their qualifications are best suited, having regard to the number of jobs offering, and the persons available to us. I have not had any complaints from employer organizations or trade unions about the matter which the honorable gentleman has raised. I have repeatedly told the House that all arrangements which affect immigrants in Australia come under the scrutiny periodically of two important advisory bodies, on which employer organizations and trade unions are adequately represented. 1 have not received any complaints about the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but any specific instances that he brings to my notice will be examined.
– My question relates to the new telephone exchange being built at St. Leonards, near Sydney. Will the Postmaster-General inform me when the building itself will be completed, what number of telephone lines will be made available and when the installation of equipment will be completed?
– The new exchange building will be situated at St. Leonards in the honorable member’s electorate of North Sydney, and it is expected that it will be completed about the end of this year. It will eventually have a capacity of about 10,000 telephone lines, but within a measurable time it is expected that about 4,000 lines will be made available. There will be a cut-over from other exchanges such as Chatswood and adjoining exchanges, but considerable relief will be provided for all applicants for telephones on the North Sydney side who have been waiting for some time for this service.
– A report has come to my notice that the Prime Minister is endeavouring to purchase tanks for the Australian Army in the United Kingdom. Is the Minister for Defence aware that in Western Australia Chamberlain Industries Limited has dismissed a large number of men from its tractor factory because of its inability to obtain orders for tractors? Has any inquiry been made into the possibility of such an enterprise manufacturing tanks for the Australian Army? Why does the Government wish to reduce the number of tanks .available to the United Kingdom in view of the fact that the United Kingdom has obligations to the European Army and we have not?
– It is true that we are obtaining a certain number of tanks from the United Kingdom, which it has agreed to supply us. It is also true that we are making inquiries about further supplies from that source. I have no’ knowledge of any inquiries having been made of Chamberlain Industries Limited to ascertain whether it could undertake the manufacture of tanks in this country. However, I have a vivid recollection of attempts having been made to manufacture tanks in Australia during the last war which were completely unsuccessful.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs give the House some information about the rioting that has been reported to have taken place in the prisoner of war camp on Koje Island? Have the prisoners who wish to be evacuated to North Korea or China been segregated from those who refuse to be returned, and, if so, is the rioting general to both groups or is it restricted to those who hope to go back behind the Communist lines? What proportion do the latter group bear to the whole? Is the Minister confident that a correct understanding of the incidents at Koje has been conveyed to the Australian people by press despatches from Korea, and, if not, could the services of the Australian representative in Korea be usefully employed to have the matter put into its proper perspective?
– -Koje Island is about 20 miles south-west of Pusan, the temporary capital of South Korea, and is occupied by a relatively ‘ large number of prisoners of war. A few months ago about 130,000 prisoners of war and about 30,000 civilian prisoners were on the island. Koje Island, contrary to popular understanding, is divided into about 30 compounds. Fanatical Communists are kept in certain compounds, less fanatical Communists in others, and more or less normal people in a third group of compounds. The recent disorders that have caused the military command in charge of the island so much trouble have occurred only in some of the compounds, which ave occupied by fanatical Communists. I believe that the honorable gentleman has correctly drawn the inference that the Australian public is not in full possession of the facts and is not aware that the disturbances have been confined to only a few of the 30 compounds. I undertake to arrange for
Australia’s representative on the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea to take a hand in the dissemination of the facts of the situation. Most of the prisoners of war held by the United Nations are on Koje Island, although some were transferred recently to other camps on the mainland.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether, under the Government’s health scheme for age pensioners, any limits or restrictions have been placed by the Department of Health on the number of daily or weekly visits by doctors to age pensioners who are seriously ill.
– No limitation has been placed upon visits to sick pensioners, but a committee of the doctors concerned is investigating the matter in order to determine whether visits are being made unnecessarily, thus causing increased expense.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that there is a grave danger that the blood transfusion service conducted by the Victorian Division of the Red Cross .Society will have to be discontinued because it is imposing too great a financial strain upon the resources of the organization? As the service is just as vital to the health of the nation as are the life-saving drugs and other drugs made available under the Government’s health scheme, will the Minister consider whether a grant can be made by the Commonwealth to the society to ensure that this worthy service shall be kept in operation ?
– About eighteen months ago, assistance was given by the Commonwealth to the Red Cross Society to enable fractionation of blood to be undertaken and blood banks to be established throughout Australia. The fractionation of blood has been done by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, without charge, and substantial sums have been expended upon the purchase of equipment and buildings for the organization to handle. Representations upon the matter were made by Sir John
Newman Morris, who is, as the honorable members knows, a most highly qualified doctor in Melbourne. The Commonwealth is always ready to consider requests that are made to it by the appropriate organizations for assistance in this connexion.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that ‘ tenders are being called by the Postmaster-General’s Department for conduit and associated engineering work in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne? Does the department intend to have this kind of work carried out in the future under the contract system? If the answers to both questions are in the affirmative, will the Minister tell the House what he proposes to do with the expensive excavation machinery that will be left idle? Where does he intend to place the trained employees of the department who normally carry out that kind of work ?
– I shall obtain the information that the honorable member seeks and will supply it to him.
– Can the Minister fur Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the position in respect of the extended five-year guarantee to the dairying industry? Will the new guarantee operate from the 1st J uly next ?
– Negotiations between myself, on behalf of the Government, and representatives of all sections of the dairying industry, I am glad to announce, were brought to a conclusion this morning when, by resolution, after a conference with me, the representatives of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the Australian Dairy Produce Board, and the equalization committee expressed unanimous approval of the Government’s proposals for an extended five-year guaranteed price plan. It is now contingent only upon the States transferring to the Commonwealth, for the period of the operation of the plan, the right to determine the ex-factory prices of butter and cheese. I shall communicate with the State governments this afternoon. I have no doubt that all of the States will agree, as two of them have already indicated, to transfer that power to the Commonwealth for the purpose of effecting the guarantee. I am confident that the new plan will commence to operate on the 1st July, for a period of five years.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In view of the fact that bush fires are the greatest menace that this country has to face, has the Minister directed the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to undertake considerable research into the manner in which fires start and the means by which they can be extinguished? Have experiments been carried out by bombing the scene of a fire, as has been done in the United States of America? Has the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization issued pamphlets upon how to make country homes as fire-resistant as possible? Is it making a concerted attack upon this menace ?
– The major part of the task of fire-fighting in Australia falls, I think quite naturally, upon instrumentalities of the State governments, but certain fundamental aspects of research into bush fires and grass fires in Australia may be said to be the function of the Commonwealth, through its instrumentality, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. During the last twelve months, I have had many discussions with senior officers of the organization upon this subject. I have directed their attention to certain fields of research, which, broadly speaking, include those that the honorable gentleman has mentioned. Incipient fires in the pin-point stage, especially in hilly or inaccessible country, can be dealt with only from .the air. As the honorable gentleman has said, to bomb, if one may use that word, the seat of a fire from the air, with some form of fire-deterrent liquid in containers that hurst upon impact, is an obvious method of combating a fire. It has been carried a long way in the United States of America. The efficacy of the method depends almost entirely upon the accuracy of the bombing. The Americana have used helicopters, which are very effective for this purpose. But, unfortunately, owing to the demands of the war area, helicopters are in very short supply in Australia, at the present time. When they are more readily available, I shall discuss with the Minister for Air whether the Royal Australian Air Force can, by such means, assist State government instrumentalities which are concerned with fire-fighting. I assure the honorable gentleman and the House that this matter has not escaped attention by any means. I shall endeavour to ensure that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, within the limits imposed by the resources of money and personnel available to it, will undertake fundamental research into this most important problem.
– Last Thursday, I promised to give further consideration to the use of names of persons other than Ministers or members of this House in questions without notice. I direct the attention of honorable members to the Standing Orders that cover this matter. Standing Orders 142 to 149 deal with questions upon notice. Standing Order 144. which sets out the general rules that shall apply to questions, states that questions shall not contain statements of facts or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated. Standing Order 150 reads as follows : -
Questions may be asked without notice on important matters which call for immediate attention. At the discretion of the Speaker, one supplementary question may be asked to elucidate an answer.
Standing Order 151 states -
Notice must be given of Questions regarding the character or conduct of individuals other than Ministers or Members of the House.
In my view, that precludes me from permitting any reference to bo made, in a question without notice, to a person outside this House,, whether the reference be a good one or a had one. I point out to honorable members that it is most undesirable that the forms of the House, and particularly its broadcasting facilities, should be used to give publicity, evil or questionable, about a man of good character, or to give publicity, good or otherwise, about a bad man of bad character. I think that the sensible way in which to approach this matter, is to conform to the rule that I have laid down, under which all questions which contain references to named individuals who are not Ministers or members of the House must be placed upon the notice-paper.
In my view, Standing Orders 142 to 149 deal specifically with questions upon notice, and Standing Orders 150 and 151 with questions without notice. I inform the House - I hope that this is the last occasion on which I shall have to do so, because this matter has arisen time and time again - that I now rule that I shall not permit any question that contains a reference to lie name of a person other than a Minister or a member of this House to be asked without notice. Such questions, once ruled out of order, are denied the right of re-broadcast. Therefore, if action is to be taken under Standing Order 101, it must be taken forthwith and in writing, and the question must be settled before anything else is done.
– Will your ruling be widened, Mr. Speaker, to include a question which contains the title though not the name of a person which, however, would clearly distinguish the identity of the individual ?
– I have permitted a question in which the title of an officer was mentioned and I believe that I must, do so because in such a case, the question is not directed not at the individual but at the holder of an office in, I think, nine cases out of ten in the Commonwealth.
– When a question does not involve the character or conduct of an individual, may honorable members assume that reference may be made to the name of the individual in a question?
– I have just ruled that honorable members may not make any reference to the name of a person in questions.
– Even though the question does not affect the character or the conduct of the person who is so named?
-I simply bar the use of names in questions without notice.
– You hare stated a rule regarding identification, Mr. Speaker. As far as I can recollect, the honorable member for Batman sought to strengthen his case in relation to identification by mentioning the “Regional Director of Employment in Victoria” and then, as an addendum, he added “ Mr. O’Heare “. That pin-pointed the identification. There was neither a good nor a bad .factor in it.
-The same thing happened with the honorable member for Moore. Had I not been reading a short document which it was necessary for me to read, it would have happened also in regard to the Leader of the Opposition when he mentioned the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea. I freely admit that I was in error on that occasion because I was studying a document and did not actually notice the occurrence until it was too late.
– Does this ruling apply to individuals who are outside the Commonwealth of Australia?
– It applies to all persons. Unless it is so, the rule can be evaded so .long as a person goes out of Australia. ‘To put it in the language of huntsmen, :such a person would then be fair game.
– I desire to inform the House that His Excellency the Governor-General in Council this morning approved of the Government’s recommendation for the establishment of the Department of Works, in lieu of the Department of Works .and Housing. The GovernorGeneral subsequently accepted the resignation of the Honorable W. S. Kent Hughes, M.V.O., O.B.E., M.C., E.D., M.P., as Minister of State for Works and Housing and appointed him to .be Minister of State for Works. Apart from the transfer to other departments of certain administrative functions relating to aspects of housing which had taken place since the department was created in July, 1945, it had been found that the words “ Works and Housing “ were confusing to the public generally, and created an impression .that the Commonwealth is directly responsible for all housing activities, including those controlled by the housing authorities .administered by State governments. In addition, the Minister and the Department of Works and Housing were receiving many inquiries daily regarding housing matters generally, including those which concern the Department of Social Services or the Department of National Development. There is no. alteration of the existing functions of the Department, and the change will in no way affect the responsibility of the department to carry out .housing projects for all Commonwealth departments as this class of activity will be adequately covered by the general definition of “ Works “.
– by leave - It is about three months since I last reported to the House on the international situation. I propose to-day to confine myself to certain recent events that affect Australian interests and Australian policy. Although one of the most significant happenings of recent times has been the coming into force of the Japanese Peace Treaty, I believe that any general comment on our future relations with Japan might well be left until the mood and the pattern of behaviour of present-day Japan begins to show more clearly.
I speak first, therefore, of Korea where our men are still fighting. In the protracted negotiations for a ceasefire, the United Nations representatives continue to be subjected to interminable time wasting, frustrations, slander, misrepresentation and blatant propaganda. Lot me remind honorable members shortly of the history of the United Nations intervention in Korea. It may be remembered that in 1950, by the overwhelming majority of 51 out of 59 nations, the United Nations decided to take action to repel armed aggression by the North Korean forces against the Republic of Korea, which we know as South Korea. Aggression was in fact repelled. This has quite certainly acted as a deterrent to aggression in other areas - for example in South-East Asia. I believe that, if the North Korean forces had been able to over-run South Korea without determined opposition from the international community, the experiment there would have been tried again elsewhere with probably more serious and more widespread results.
I believe that the United Nations have been successful in Korea and that the action taken has been well justified. Moreover Communist aggression in Korea has demonstrated to the free world what we are up against, and has stimulated the rebuilding of the physical strength of the democracies, which in the few years of optimism immediately following the end of the last war, we had allowed very largely to disintegrate. I believe that the democracies are now stronger relatively to a potential aggressor than at any time since the end of the war. The purpose of this rebuilding of strength, it need hardly be said, is not to prepare for war, but to deter any one with aggressive inclinations from making war, and I believe that we have gone a long way towards achieving this end. It is still just possible that we will get somewhere with international communism by negotiation, although the evidence to support such optimism over recent years is not. impressive, either in respect of Europe or the East. The Communists appear to be impressed with strength and with nothing else. Hence the efforts of all the democracies to strengthen themselves as rapidly as possible, although with some regard to the economic effects of overstraining their economies in the process.
A weapon of war that international communism has evolved and exploited in recent years is the so-called “ peace campaign “. The latest example of this is the current so-called “ Peace Conference of the Asian and Pacific Regions “ in Peking. In recent years, Peking has become a centre for Communist activity in East and South-east Asia. Following the “ Asian- Australasian Trade Union Conference “ held there in November, 1949, the Communistdominated World Federation of Trade Unions established in Peking an “Asian-
Australasian Bureau”. The members of this bureau, the purpose of which is to maintain contact with the trade unions of Asia, echo all the catch-cries of the international Communist propaganda machine. They accuse the United States of conducting bacteriological warfare in Korea ; they fulminate against “ foreign imperialists, feudal landlords and comprador capital “ ; they call for “ liberation of colonial and semi-colonial countries from oppression and exploitation of the foreign imperialists and their lackeys “.
Recently, as honorable members know, eleven leaders in Communist China issued invitations to “ peace partisans “ in a number of countries, including Australia, to attend a conference in Peking on the 28th May to prepare for a “peace conference of the Asian and Pacific regions “. It is clear from the terms of the invitation that this was yet another of the series of so-called peace conferences which have been held under Communist auspices and direction, in a number of European capitals during the last three years. I have since made some inquiries into the records of the persons in whose names the invitation was issued, and I am satisfied that this latest conference follows the pattern of similar conferences at Stockholm, Prague, Paris, Warsaw and elsewhere during the last two or three years. The principal Chinese sponsor, Kuo Mo-Jo, is a familiar figure at these Communistorganized gatherings. In April, 1949, he headed the Chinese delegation to the “World Peace Congress” at Prague and Paris, where he condemned what he called the “ criminal war-mongers headed by the American imperialists plotting for a new war “. He again headed the Chinese delegation to the second session of the “World Peace Congress” in Warsaw, where he attacked what he described as “ the aggressive war of the American imperialists in Korea “, the “ seizure “ of Formosa, and the “ wanton strafing and bombing of Chinese territory”. He concluded with the exhortation, “Down with the instigators of another war and the imperialist aggressors “. He was elected vice-chairman of the executive bureau of the World Peace Council. Last year he attended the meeting of the permanent committee of the World Peace Congress in Vienna and returned home with the Stalin Prize for Peace. That 13 the gentleman whose sinister embrace Dr. Burton has so lately and so willingly yielded to. The true nature of the conference at Peking is clear beyond doubt. It is a weapon of war; and I hope that this is well understood by the people of Australia. I shall not add to what I have already said about the folly of the half-dozen Australians who have allowed themselves to be duped into accepting the Communist invitation to go to Peking.
Reverting to Korea, on the military side in recent months there has been progressive strengthening of Communist forces facing the United Nations. At the conference table the Communists have rejected all the proposals made by the unified command in an effort to break the deadlock. The Leader of the Opposition asked me lately whether I could elaborate my recent statement on the subject of prisoners of war in United Nations hands in relation to the Korean armistice negotiations. He asked whether that was the only matter outstanding in the cease-fire negotiations. It is substantially true to say that the prisoners of war issue is the only outstanding matter of difference between the Communists and the United Nations negotiators. I think that it can be said that the other outstanding issues, the rehabilitation of airfields and the membership of the commission to supervise the armistice, would be rapidly resolved if agreement on prisoners of war could be reached. This prisoner of war problem is most difficult, since we must, at all times, have in mind the safety and welfare of our own troops who are prisoners of war in Communist hands.
I stated on the 8th May that the unified command had found 62,000 prisoners of war in United Nations hands to be so fearful of the consequences of a return to North Korea, or to China, that they would forcibly resist repatriation. It should be clearly understood that the prisoners of war in question had not merely expressed a preference for remaining in South Korea; it had also been established, after careful screening, that these prisoners were likely to resist repatriation by force. Written notices had been posted in the prisoner of war camps, and announcements were made over the public address system there, to the effect that all prisoners were to be interrogated by United Nations command personnel to discover which of them would want to be repatriated and which of them had compelling reasons for refusing repatriation. The great importance of the decision and the possibility of retaliation by the Communists against the families of those who did not want to be repatriated was emphasized. Pull stress was given to an official statement issued by the Communist authorities offering an amnesty to all returned prisoners of war, whatever their conduct had been in camp. Prisoners were then interrogated individually and privately by interrogators carefully selected by the United Nations command, and only those who’ expressed their determination forcibly to resist repatriation were excluded from the list of prisoners which the United Nations was prepared to exchange. The nature of the screening processes had been explained to the Communist negotiators and, in addition, the United Nations command had offered, following an armistice, to retain prisoners of war in custody and to permit the International Red Cross, or Joint Red Cross teams from North Korea and the United Nations, together with observers from both sides, to interview the prisoners who had said they would physically resist repatriation. An assurance was given that, if any additional prisoners were found who would not resist repatriation, they would be promptly returned to the Communists. That is how the matter stands. We are keeping it under close watch and will continue to look for possible ways of breaking the present deadlock.
The Leader of the Opposition also asked whether the channel of communications on those matters was the United Nations or the American Government. United Nations military operations in Korea and the present negotiations for a cease-fire are being conducted in accordance with the resolution adopted by the
Security Council, of the United Nations on the 7th July, 1950. In that resolution the Security Council recommended that all members providing military forces make them available to a unified command under the United States of America, and requested the United States of America to appoint the commander of such forces. The resolution further requested the United States of America to provide the Security Council with periodical reports on the course of action taken under the unified command. The position is therefore that the unified command is the agency of the United Nations designated to conduct, the Korean operation, and it reports regularly through the United States Government to the Security Council. In addition, as I have informed the House, information on the action taken under the unified command is provided daily to the representatives in. Washington of members of the United Nations with forces in Korea. The actual conduct of negotiations for a cease-fir© are essentially negotiations between commanders in the field and deal with purely military questions. They are conducted by the unified command. However, the governments of countries with forces in Korea are kept continuously informed and are consulted on all important issues. The Australian Government has, for example, been in continuous consultation with the United States Government on the outstanding issues in the armistice negotiations. We have availed ourselves’ freely of the opportunities to make proposals on the conduct of the negotiations. We made our latest proposal only this morning. If and when an armistice is concluded., the unified command will so report to the Security Council. Discussion of further steps towards a political settlement of the Korean question will then take place in the General Assembly. In order that the situation in Korea may bo reviewed promptly by the General Assembly, if circumstances require, the last session of the General Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to convene a special session when an armistice is notified. If there is an armistice, one of the clauses of the agreement which the General Assembly will consider is a recommendation that a political con- ference of both, sides be called, to consider a political settlement.
I turn for a moment from the truce negotiations to the political situation in South Korea itself, where, as honorable members will have seen from the press, events have recently taken a rather serious turn. I remind the House that the fundamental purpose of the United Nations in Korea, apart from resistance to Communist aggression, has been to bring into existence a state founded on genuine democracy. The aim of a United Korea has. not been achieved ; but there has at least been the promise that South Korea - or, as we know it, the Republic of Korea - was- firmly set on the democratic path. It had a constitution which provided for parliamentary government ; and it had held elections which the United Nations Commission had observed and pronounced free and democratic. Within the next few weeks, in accordance with the constitution, the Parliament, was due to elect a new president of the Republic of Korea. About two weeks ago there began in Pusan, the temporary capital of the Republic of Korea, against members of the Korean National Assembly, culminating on the 24th May in the proclamation of martial law, the arrest of a number of members on the orders of the President, Syngman Rhee, and the resignation of the Prime Minister. The circumstances’ in which the campaign began, and the nature of the charges made against the arrested members, suggest that Syngman Rhee is seeking to ensure his re-election as president. These developments have caused a good deal of concern to us and to the United States of America and other members of the United Nations. The United Nations Commission, of which Australia is a member, has communicated this concern to President Rhee, and has requested him to release the arrested members of Parliament and to rescind, martial law. Similar requests have since been made by General Van Fleet, United Nations field commander in Korea, without result, and efforts are still being made to persuade President Rhee to act in accordance with the constitution. Meanwhile, if the conduct of military operations against the Communists should, be hampered by internal disturbances arising out ‘of the present state of tension, consideration will have to be given to measures that might be taken to safeguard the position of the United Nations. I have sent a personal message on behalf of the Government to His Excellency Mr. Syngman Rhee whom I ‘had the opportunity of meeting when I was in Pusan. expressing the grave concern of the Australian Government at recent political events in South Korea and the hope that democratic processes will shortly be resumed.
I propose to table, for the information of honorable members, a report on the last .session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. This will describe, among other things, the attitude that the Government has taken towards a number of questions of world importance. By way of general comment, I may say that the Government has demonstrated its ‘full support for the principles of the United Nations organization. Australia’s active participation in the Korean war is sufficient evidence of that. Moreover, w.e have been consistent and generous supporters of the international work of relief and assistance that is conducted by and through the United Nations.
The United Nations organization has acquitted itself well in many fields. At the same time, it would be foolish not to recognize and discuss its deficiencies. One aspect in particular of the work of the United Nations causes misgivings to this Government and to some other Commonwealth and Western European members. I refer to the tendency on the part of a large Hoc of countries, more particularly the countries of Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, which constitute the great majority of the United Nations membership, to attempt to use the United Nations organization as a means of bringing collective pressure on other nations in respect of matters that are, in fact, of domestic concern and outside the scope of the United Nations Charter. More particularly this pressure is exerted upon those countries, such as Australia, that have responsibilities for dependent peoples and territories. The Government is careful to recognize and implement its international responsibilities as expressed in binding instru ments .such as the Charter and the Trusteeship Agreement, which governs the administration of New Guinea. At the ‘same time, the Australian Government will continue to oppose the use of the United Nations when its members seek to extend its functions beyond those agreed to ‘by the. signatories of its Charter,, by the invasion of the field of out own domestic responsibilities.
The Government recognizes that the aim of self-government among dependent peoples arises from sincere and widespread conviction in many countries. The sympathies of the Australian people are in ‘line with this aspiration. The Australian Government will, nevertheless, continue to maintain that the authority of the United Nations will be undermined if its members trespass beyond the limits of the collective authority entrusted to it. This is not necessarily n popular view within the United Nations, but it rs one which Australia Trill continue to hold.
While I am dealing with the United Nations, I might say a few words on the Government’s position regarding membership of the various United ‘Nations commissions and committees. The Government has approached this matter with a full realization of the desirability of supporting the activities of United Nations bodies, and with recognition of the important contribution that Australia can make in relation to many political, economic and social .subjects. We have membership in a substantial number of international bodies. The Government does not consider it desirable to seek representation on them all. Indeed, I am convinced that there are many good reasons for being selective and not too ambitious. In addition, there is much to be said for rotation of membership among some, or all, of the 60 members of the United. Nations. Certainly, the keen competition for election to many international bodies often causes resentment against a government whose candidacy and ambitions are pressed too frequently and too hard, particularly where other Governments have equal, or even better, claims for consideration. At the present time Australia is an elected member of fourteen commissions and executive committees established by the United Nations or its specialized agencies. In addition, of course, it is a permanent member of other organs, such as the General Assembly and the Trusteeship Council. In other words, we are playing a full and active part in the work of the United Nations organization, bearing in mind the limited number of qualified officers of the Department of External Affairs here and overseas who can represent Australia. We have also to consider the staffing of our normal diplomatic posts abroad, which is sometimes prejudiced by the necessity to attend an almost continuous series of international conferences.
I turn now to another matter. I am glad to be able to tell the House that we have now completed a most important phase in the development of our diplomatic representation overseas. I refer to the establishment of Australian diplomatic missions at Saigon and Rangoon, and the raising of the status of our post at Bangkok from a consulategeneral to a legation, which completes the chain of Australian diplomatic posts in all the countries of South and South-East Asia, an area in which we have a fundamental interest and, owing to post-war developments and circumstances, a new and special responsibility. The facts of geography link the fortunes of Australia with those of the countries of .South and South-East Asia. We may have been slow to realize that fact, but we have realized it now. The difference between our present knowledge and appreciation of the countries to our north, and that of only a very few years ago, is very great indeed.
The problems of the countries of South and South-East Asia area are twofold - their domestic economic problems and the problem of their military security. The standard of living of the 600,000,000 human beings who live between Pakistan and the Philippines is very low. In addition, the whole area is flanked on the north by Communist imperialism. I do not wish at this moment to discuss the military security problem that this situation presents for them, and, at one remove, for us. But the problem of helping the countries of South and South-East Asia to raise their living standards is one in which the democracies can, and will, help. Indeed, there is an obligation on us to do so, in their interests and in our own. Two developments are thus of special interest to Australia. One is the energy with which the governments of Asia, are themselves tackling their economic problems and mobilizing their own resources in an effort to improve the living standards of their peoples. The other is the awakening interest of the rest of the world in this vital area, and the substantial progress that is taking place in the provision of tangible aid, which we can rightly claim some credit for having stimulated.
The Australian Government will continue to lend its vigorous and sympathetic support to both those developments. In the past two years international aid to South and South-East Asia has been forthcoming at a growing rate. In the two years ending on the 30th June, the United States of America will have given economic and technical aid amounting to more than £A. 200,000,000 to countries within the Colombo plan area, in the form of outright grants or loans. The amount of American aid to Asia and the Pacific for 1952-53 has yet to be finally decided. Loans to South and South-East Asian countries by the International Bank exceed £A.50,000,000, and additional loan proposals of considerable size are in course of examination.
The United Nations and its specialized agencies are providing valuable technical assistance. Contributions for the first two and a half years of the programme for use in all regions totalled the equivalent of over £A.20.000,000, of which Australia contributed £A.270.000. From small beginnings, this work is now reaching its full momentum; and probably about one-third of all expenditure under the programme will go to South and South-east Asia. It is Australia’s policy to try to ensure that the Asian governments will receive at least a proper share of the United Nations aid available. Supplementing these governmental effort? are a number of non-governmental agencies, such as the Ford Foundation, which has very large funds at its disposal. This kind of private initiative is one which the Australian Government greatly welcomes.
In no other part of the world can such aid be more fruitfully employed.
The Colombo plan was conceived only a little over two years ago, and so is still in its early stages.I represented Australia at the meeting of the consultative committee of the Colombo plan in Karachi in February. Ten Asian countries were represented, together with the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand - the five countries responsible for the greater part of the aid to South and South-east Asia from all sources. The committee has the unique quality of enabling the point of view of giving and receiving countries to be freely stated and discussed in an atmosphere of friendly co-operation. The attitude of the Asian countries concerned in the Colombo plan is reflected in the remark of the Indian Finance Minister, Mr. Chintaman Deshmukh, at the Karachi conference lately, when he said -
The significance of such friendly assistance far transcends its material value.
Mr. FazlurRahman, the distinguished Minister for Economic Affairs of Pakistan, made the following statement : -
When the Colombo plan was first drawn up there might have been apprehensions that the assistance intended to be given under it would not be compatible with national sovereignty and aspirations.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the members of the plan work as members of a family, unified with the idea of helping each other, and in the spirit of give and take there is no feeling of superiority attached to the act of giving, or inferiority tainting the act of receiving.
At the Colombo plan conference at Karachi, the countries of the Commonwealth set out to plantheir aid side by side with the great aid given by the United States of America. Apart from contributions to technicalassistance, the United Kingdom will make a contribution of about £stg.300,000,000 over the six-year period of the programme, primarily in the form of releases of sterling balances, but also in the form of assistance to the British territories of South and SouthEast Asia. In the current financial year, Canada made a contribution of 25,000,000 dollars, and will give a further 25,000,000 dollars for 1952-53. I draw particular attention to the welcome and far-sighted generosity of the Canadian contribution, bearing in mind the geographical distance of Canada from South and South-East Asia. New Zealand has pledged £NZ.3,000,000 over the three years of the programme. Australia allocated £A.6,200,000 in the current year, as well as about £200,000 in technical assistance.
– How much of Australia’s allocation has been spent?
– Speaking from memory, I think that approximately £5,000,000 has been spent. I am confident that the Colombo plan represents a means of cooperation with Asian countries acceptable to honorable members on both sides of the House. It is a programme supplementing the activities of United Nations organization whose resources must be spread almost world wide. Australia is not alonein these efforts to give friendly aid to South and South-East Asia. Indeed, if we were, our Australian contribution towards raising the living standards of so many millions of people would be no more than a small gesture. As it is, the combined efforts of half a dozen countries represent something substantial by way of helping these Asian countries towards greater economic security, and demonstrating to them the fact that other democratic countries are concerned with their welfare.
The task of aid to Asia is a formidable one, which the free world cannot avoid by denying its existence. Australia’s part in all this, as I see it, is two-fold: first, to try to bring to this area the attention which it deserves from the free world; and, secondly, to show our own bona fides by providing a reasonable share from Australian resources. Other countries, with command of much greater resources than Australia, are liable to become discouraged if we show signs of leaving the whole burden of aid to them. I stress this point, which, I believe, will not be lost on honorable members. However, I realize that what we can do is largely determined by our own economic situation from time to time. We have substantial technical resources which can be organized for the benefit of Asian countries without imposing severe burdens upon ourselves. The amount of financial aid for capital development which we may be able to provide in any particular financial year, is a matter for consideration in the light of the great demands on our own resources and of the state of our external balance of payments.
When I reported to the House in February, I spoke about the. security pact between the United States of America. New Zealand and Australia. The pact came, into force on the 29th April, when instruments of ratification were de’posited by the three signatories in Can.berra. The House has already had an opportunity to. examine and discuss the security pact, and it is- not necessary for me to repeat the arguments. All that I wish to say about the security pact at thi moment is that the Government looks forward to an early meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the three countries concerned, which will constitute the first meeting of the Pacific Council envisaged hi the pact, and which will be the body through which the purposes of the pact will be achieved. The Prime Minister recently discussed with the President and the Secretary of State of the United States of America, in Washington, the question of the most appropriate time and place for this first meeting of the Pacific Council, which, it is hoped and expected, will take place within the next few months.
A few words should be said about West New Guinea, a subject which, happily, hm been quiescent for the past few months. Early in April, when I was returning from the Colombo plan conference, at Karachi, I called, at Djakarta and had the privilege of a talk with President Soekarno.. In the course of the interview, which was a long and a friendly one, we put to- one another frankly our respective attitudes of mind on the future of West New Guinea, and I, for my part, left him in no doubt about the strength of Australia’s feelings on this matter, and the reasons on which they were based.
Last week, I. gave the House details of Iws- agreements affecting Western Germany. The first of these agreements was the treaty establishing a European defence community, or European army, as it is commonly called. Among other things, it provides a means whereby Western Germany may be integrated into the Western European community,, and may share* the defence of the westernworld without the revival, of a German national army. The second agreement was- that which covered the new status of the Republic of West Germany, which is to be given full authority over most of its domestic and external affairs. These agreements do. not constitute? a peace treaty. It. has not been possible to draw up or. conclude such a treaty in the face of the obstruction of the Soviet Union,, which- has frustrated the efforts, of the- Western Powers: Attempts, by a United Nations commission to examine the possibility of holding free elections for a unified Germany have been rebuffed by the Soviet Union.. The whole involved pattern of events associated with post-war Germany presents clear proof, if proof were needed, that the Soviet Union is interested in doing business only on its own terms;, and those terras, mean, complete political and military advantage to the Soviet Union.
The two treaties affecting Germany require ratification according to the constitutional processes of the countries concerned. The chief problems of ratification appear likely to occur in the cases of France and Germ-any, and it is not possible at present to forecast the outcome of the complex political issues which are at stake in those countries. Australia is not directly involved in the negotiations on the German problem, but we have been kept constantly informed of all developments.
I wish to make brief mention of the ground covered by the recently created Foreign Affairs Committee of this Parliament which, in the ten weeks since its establishment, has already held six working meetings and. completed preliminary surveys of SouthEast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. It is now working on matters connected with the Far East. A great deal of background and current material has been made available to the committee, and officers of my department and I have been in attendance at its various meetings to- assist with information and to advise on our policy, and the -reasons behind it. Members of the committee themselves are in a better position than I to assess the value of the committee, but I feel sure that one of its major advantages will be the raising of the standard of debates on foreign affairs in both Houses of the Parliament, leading as a natural consequence, to a better-informed and more mature Australian public opinion on questions of paramount interest to the nation.
I should like to end this short review of our external relations with a more general observation. Australia is a young country. We evolved from a small settlement about 160 years ago to colonial status and then to self-government, which is, in itself, a comparative term. However, after 50 years of federation, and after active participation in two great wars, we are now, in fact and in the eyes of the world, an independent Australian nation under the British Crown. Our forebears, indeed the immediate forebears of many of us in this Parliament, have taken part in the building of this new nation. We are on our own feet, an autonomous British nation, with internal responsibilities to our own people and with external responsibilities to the British Commonwealth and to the democratic world.
Isolationism is a luxury that we cannot afford. Not long ago we rested comfortably under the protection of our Mother Country. To-day we are in the world and of it - in charge of our own affairs and obliged to sink or swim by our own efforts and with the co-operation of our friends. The business of our external relations is not the least important of our tasks. The task of diplomacy is not only to keep the country out of war, but also to ensure that, if war should unfortunately come, we shall have the aid of powerful friends. The means by which this end will be achieved, if it is to be achieved, will be the machinery of our relationship with other countries. Until the last war started in 1939 our relationship with the outside world was conducted through the diplomatic machinery of our Mother Country, Great Britain. We had no independent machinery of our own. In the short period of the last twelve years we have created an external affairs service of our own to enable us to deal direct with the countries that are of particular importance to us. This process of evolution has been so rapid that there are some people who are not yet sufficiently aware of the need for us to conduct our own foreign relations through our own machinery.
The reasons, if it is necessary to state them, are clear. First, that we can no longer ask Great Britain to carry the burden of protecting Australian interests in all foreign countries. In any event it would not be consistent with our situation in the world to ask Great Britain to do so. Secondly, we have inevitably evolved a view - or perhaps rather a difference in emphasis - of our own. on several aspects of foreign policy, arising from our geographical situation and otherwise, which it would not be right or proper to ask United Kingdom posts to express on our behalf.
This is not to be interpreted in any way as any important divergence of view between Australia and Great Britain on international affairs. It is a matter of common knowledge that this is not the case. The present position arises simply from the fact that Australia, in common with other self-governing British countries, has reached the stage at which it must have its own representatives overseas in countries that are of importance to it to act as its own mouthpiece and to protect its interests. There is no divergence of view in Australia from the simple fact that the democracies must preserve a solid front against international tyranny. The hard core of this grand alliance must continue to be the intimate and confident relationship between the countries of the Commonwealth and our friends of the United States.
I lay on the table the following papers : -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 4th June, 1952; and
United Nations - GeneralAssembly - Sixth Session, Paris, November, 1951 - February, 1952 - Summary Report of Australian Delegation. and move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11.30 a.m.
– As Chairman, I present the fourth report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That Standing Order 104 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this week.
Motion (by Mr. McBride) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the protection of special defence undertakings.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The first purpose of this bill is to make provision for the protection of the atomic weapon test that is tobe carried out at the Monte Bello Islands off the north-west coast of Australia. The fact that preparations for this test are already being made gives the measure an urgent character. It will be recalled that on the 19th February, 1952, a joint announcement was made by the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and Australia that in the course of this year the United Kingdom Government intends to test an atomic weapon produced in the United Kingdom, and that the test is to be conducted in co-operation with the Government of Australia. This announcement was followed by another made on the 15th May, 1952, in the following words: -
The test of the United Kingdom atomic weapon in Australia will be carried out at Monte Bello Islands off the north-west coast of Australia as a joint operation involving the three fighting services and the Ministry of Supply. The operation will be under the command of Rear-Admiral A. D. Torlesse, and the test wil be under the scientific direction of Dr. W. G. Penny, of the Ministry of Supply. Besides Her Majesty’s ships Zeebrugge and Narvik which have already sailed carrying a detachment of the Royal Engineers and stores, the special squadron will consist of Her Majesty’s ships Campania, flagship, Tracker and Plym. These latter ships are being specially fitted to transport the scientific staff and test equipment and are expected to sail in about two months’ time. Units of the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force will work with the special squadron in Australian waters.
The executive control of the project rests entirely with the United Kingdom authorities, and the policy on matters such as those relating to the presence at the test of observers, whether they be officials or representatives of the press, is entirely for the United Kingdom authorities to determine. The role of our forces which will take part in the test is mainly in the realm of logistics, and the principal responsibility for security has been assigned to the Australian authorities. For the sake of the security of this extremely important undertaking, the bill proposes that an area bounded by the circumference of a circle within a radius of 45 miles and centred on Flag Island, one of the Monte Bello group, shall be a prohibited area, and that no unauthorized person shall enter or fly over that area.
The Monte Bello group comprises three main islands, namely, Hermite, Trimouille and North-West Island. These are separated by a lagoon capable of harbouring small ships. The largest of the islands, Hermite, is about 6 miles long. There are many small islands in the group, and the whole, with Barrow Island, is situated on a coral reef about 100 miles north-east of Exmouth Gulf and 45 miles to the west of Cape Preston. The islands are barren and fairly flat. Recent surveys have disclosed no evidence that they have ever been inhabited by man, probably because there is no surface water after a period of drought. They are the home of a few birds and small animals. The plant life there consists mainly of spinifex and a few varieties of wild flowers. At times, in the past, the lagoon to which I have referred has been used as a haven by Japanese pearling fleets, but it has not been used for this purpose during recent years. Barrow Island, which is much larger than any of the Monte Bello group, lies to the south on the same coral reef. It is about 18 miles long and 6 miles wide. It is lowlying, the highest point upon it being about 270 feet above sea level. It, too, is barren and uninhabited. The circular area of a radius of 45 miles which it is proposed to declare a prohibited area also embraces several tiny islets near the Australian coast, but none of these is of any particular significance. The area extends into territorial waters in one or two places but does not include any portion of the mainland.
The reason for prohibiting this area is, of course, to protect from observation by any unauthorized person, whether he be on land, on sea or in the air, the activities being conducted in relation to the atomic weapon test. Incidentally, the prohibition will serve the purpose of closing the area to persons who otherwise might stray into it and suffer physical harm as a result of the experiment. The bill makes provision for the Governor-General to terminate the prohibition of the area as soon as it is safe to do so. The bill also makes provision for the declaration of restricted areas within which there shall be a control of aviation. It is intended to declare as a restricted area the area bounded on the east by the meridian of longitude 122 degrees east, on the south by the parallel of latitude 25 degrees south, and on the north-west side by the limit of the territorial waters of the mainland where they extend from a little below Carnarvon to just short of Broome. The reason for imposing this control in the present case - and similar considerations may arise in future cases - is that, in order that the prohibition of flying over the prohibited area may be effectively policed, the appropriate authorities will require to be given a measure of control over aircraft in the vicinity of the prohibited area. This control of civil aviation will be removed as soon as the interests of defence permit that to be done.
The prohibited area centred on the Monte Bello group cuts across the Mary Anne passage, through which a trading ship normally passes about once a week. However, ships engaged in normal commercial activities in the vicinity will be permitted to pass through this passage, and it is intended that there shall be a simple system whereby ships may operate in these waters under permit. By a similar system it is intended that there shall be no interference with the normal scheduled flights of civil aircraft over the area of the mainland which will become subject to restriction. By the same token, the operations of the Flying Doctor Service will be unhampered, and machinery will be set up to enable the granting of permits for charter and private flights made in the conduct of the ordinary affairs of that part of Western Australia.
In addition to the provisions made for the granting of permits to enter prohibited areas, the bill provides in detailfor the search of persons entering, within, or leaving a prohibited area, and gives power to appropriate officers to seize anything in respect of which there is reasonable ground for believing it to be evidence of an offence. The bill further provides a power to arrest persons reasonably suspected of having committed, or of being about to commit, an offence against it. The bill also provides that no action shall lie against the Commonwealth, a State, or any person acting in accordance with the measure, in respect of anything done in pursuance of it; but, if the Governor-General is satisfied that any action taken has been taken without reasonable cause, he may award compensation.
The bill renders the provisions of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1947 applicable to special defence undertakings. This is proposed in order to remove any doubt whether, as a matter of construction of the’ definition of “ approved defence project “ in that act, its provisions may be invoked for the protection of such undertakings. Cer-“ tain other machinery provisions, to which I need not refer at this stage, are also included in the bill.
The penalties provided for offences are severe. I make no apology for that; but
I invite the attention of the House to the provision which requires the consent of the Attorney-General to the institution of anyprosecution. This, I suggest, will afford a safeguard against the measure being applied without due consideration. The Government has thought it wise in preparing the measure to make provision for any similarundertakings that may require to be carried out, It is designed so as to cater for such undertakings, whether they are for the defence of Australia alone, or whether, as well as being for our own defence, they are for the defence of another country with which we are associated in preparing to resist international aggression.
Certain prohibitions and restrictions have already been made under existing legislation in respect of the atomic weapon test. However, it goes without saying that the existing legislation was not designed with this particular test in mind, and, therefore, it is not surprising that in some respects it is unsuitable for present purposes. It is not only desirable but also necessary that the limits of the authority given to protect an undertaking such as the one at present in contemplation, shall be expressed in specific and appropriate terms.
The public interest and curiosity which the present operation is exciting, and will continue to excite in increasing degree, will be readily understood. Some of this interest may be ascribed to natural inquisitiveness. but some is and will be nefarious. The House will, therefore, comprehend without difficulty the major importance of maintaining the essential secrecy of the test, and the fact that nobody should be in the vicinity without a legitimate reason. Although it will not be possible at any stage to make a detailed statement regarding the test, the Government has gladly made facilities available for it, and I assure the House that in no way will the interests of Australia be overlooked. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 34 of the Coal Industry Act 1946-1951.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act 1948.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946-1948.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have discussed this bill with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who has had considerable experience of the problems with which it is designed to deal. The honorable gentleman has indicated to me that the Opposition desires that it shall be passed without delay. I assure the House that it does not propose any major changes of policy, and that it is designed only to strengthen the administration of a very important section of our immigration programme.
The Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946, which came into operation on the 30th December, 1946. vested in the Minister for Immigration an overriding legal guardianship in respect of “ immigration children “, except those who come to Australia with their parents or other relatives, or arrive separately for the purpose of living with such relatives. In 1948, the act was amended to provide for the Minister for Immigration to act as the legal guardian of the estates of these minors; to have the power to place immigrant children in the care of private persons; and to give his consent before an immigrant child is permitted to leave Australia. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that immigrant children up to the age of 21 years, especially those deprived of a normal home life overseas, shall be given the care, training and supervision which they receive customarily from their parents or guardians. The act also protects the interests of minors who emigrate to this country on their own initiative.
Child and youth emigration to Australia is encouraged in every possible way by the Commonwealth. In addition to contributing towards the fares of immigrant children brought out by approved voluntary organizations, it assists these organizations to the extent of sharing certain capital expenditure with them, and making available child endowment payments and equipment allowance. Apart from the desirability of a uniform policy throughout Australia in regard to child immigrants, it is considered that, in granting financial aid, the Commonwealth accepts a responsibility which must continue after their arrival in this country. At present, nearly 3,000 children from the United Kingdom are being cared for by responsible voluntary organizations, including Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, the Fairbridge Society, the Northcote Farm .Schools, the Big Brother Movement and a number of religious organizations. The act does not cover only those children who are introduced by approved voluntary societies. It applies also to minors sponsored by friends or prospective employers. Before approval is given for them to come to Australia, full inquiries are made by my delegates, the officersincharge of the child welfare departments of the States, all of whom are performing a valuable sendee in ensuring that the children’s employment conditions and their accommodation shall be satisfactory.
During the last three years, a few weaknesses in the act, chiefly of a technical nature, have become apparent to officers with experience of the practical problems involved. It is proposed now to embody their recommendations in the act. Briefly, the proposed amendments provide, first, that the act shall apply to minors who come to Australia with or to join relatives under 21 years of age; secondly, that a certificate of an appropriate officer of the Commonwealth or of a State, declaring that a person is an immigrant child, shall be prima facie evidence of that fact; and thirdly, that the- Minister .shall have power to revoke. exemption orders, and to make exemption orders prior to the arrival of an immigrant child or of a class of immigrant children.
The first proposed amendment concerns section 4 of the principal act, which excludes from the guardianship of the Minister minors who enter Australia with, or to join their parents or relatives. Strictly interpreted, the wording of this section means that if two or more juvenile members of a family emigrated to Australia together, they would not legally come within the provisions of the act. The amendment is designed to rectify that position. The second proposed amendment also concerns section 4, and is intended to overcome administrative difficulties which have been encountered by the child welfare departments in the States. As to the third -proposed amendment, both my predecessor and myself have from time to time, exempted from the act certain classes of immigrant children, such as single men between eighteen and 21 years of age, who have come to Australia as “special project” workers. In some instances, it has been found that it would be desirable to assume guardianship of an immigrant child covered by the class exemption. As section 11 of the act is worded, however, the Minister has no power to do this. The problem has been overcome by redrafting section 11 to bring it within the scope of section 33 (3.) of the Acts Interpretation Act, which provides that where a power is given in an act to. make an order, that power includes a power to revoke, vary or amend, that order.
In the case of alien minors over eighteen years of age who come to Australia at their own expense, it has been the practice for suitable inquiries to be made by child welfare authorities before a landing permit is issued, and, if guardianship by the Minister is not considered necessary, to make an exemption order before the minor arrives, such order to become effective upon his arrival. Since some doubt exists as to the legality of orders made prior to arrival, section 11 has been redrafted to make the orders lawful. Honorable members will observe that the .amendments ase of a machinery nature. The provisions of the act which ensure the adequate care of immigrant children will remain unaltered. The proposed amendments are designed to eliminate weaknesses in the legislation, and to facilitate the activities of those who are directly concerned with the important matter of the welfare of immigrant children.
– The Opposition supports the bill. At present, minors who come to Australia to join other minors are not covered by the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act, and the bill is designed to remedy that defect. The provisions in relation to the certificate are evidentiary provisions, which will be useful, and those in relation to alien minors are designed to cover the legality of orders made prior to the arrival of such minors, in this country. The principal act was introduced by the Chifley Government, and was sponsored by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
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.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read .a second time.
This is the first of three measures designed to re-introduce the wool tax, which in its original form has been suspended since 1946, and to increase the rate of tax. It may assist honorable members in their consideration of the proposal if I review briefly the history of the wool tax since it was first imposed in 1936. In that year, following the initiative taken by the Australian Wool Growers Council for the imposition of a levy on wool for publicity purposes and for the establishment df a board to deal with publicity and research, the Australian Wool Board was established under the Wool Publicity and
Research Act 1936. The board, in addition to being charged with the responsibility for the publicity of wool in Australia and abroad, was empowered to take such steps as it considered necessary for the improvement of the production of wool in Australia, and the conduct of research into the production and use of wool. In order to provide funds for the board, a tax of 6d. a bale was imposed on all wool grown in Australia and shorn after the 1st July, 1936. This rate applied until 1945.
Out of the funds so provided, the board carried on its work in Australia, and also made its financial contribution to the International Wool Secretariat. [Quorum formed.’] The secretariat was established in 1937 by the Australian Wool Board, in conjunction with similar organizations in South Africa and New Zealand, for the purpose of carrying out wool publicity overseas on their behalf. Wool publicity activities were continued in the war period. In 1944, the government of the day decided that the time had arrived when a more intensive publicity campaign should be conducted. That Government also decided that the Australian Wool Board, which until that time had been responsible for wool research, should concentrate on publicity activities, and that other financial and administrative arrangements should be made in respect of research work on wool. Legislation was enacted early in 1945 to increase the rate of wool tax to 2s. a bale, to limit the Australian Wool Board’s activities to wool promotion, and to provide a government contribution for wool research equivalent to the amount raised from the operation of the wool tax. As a result of this and increased contributions from New Zealand and South Africa, the International Wool Secretariat was enabled to expand its promotion campaign. Subsequent agreement between the Secretariat and the American Wool Council to establish and operate jointly Wool Bureau Incorporated in the United States of America permitted the development of increased wool publicity activities in North America.
Late in 1945, the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa adopted the wool disposals plan as a means of disposing of the surplus wool accumulated during the war. The Australian wool industry’s share of the cost of operating this plan was provided from a contributory charge, which was collected from the 1st July, 1946, under the “Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Act and related legislation. In order to meet the convenience of all concerned, that act provided that, while the contributory charge should apply, the Wool Tax Act should remain in suspense, and further, that the 2s. a bale which would otherwise have been collected under the wool tax should be collected as a part of the contributory charge, and be paid to the Australian Wool Board. This arrangement has applied until and including the present wool season. However, by the beginning of the current season - 1951-52 - the wool disposals plan was virtually complete and the rate of the contributory charge was therefore reduced to one-eighth of 1 per cent. The objective was to raise only so much money as would have been raised had the wool tax continued to operate - that is, an amount approximately equivalent to 2s. a bale. As the principal purpose of the contributory charge now no longer exists, it is appropriate to dispense with the contributory charge altogether and to bring the wool tax into operation again to make provision for wool use promotion funds.
The primary purpose, therefore, of this bill and of two complementary measures that will be introduced shortly is to repeal the contributory charge legislation and to revive the wool tax. It is proposed to make the changeover at the 1st July, 1952, before the commencement of the new wool season. As the wool tax generally becomes payable when wool is received into store and the contributory charge is not payable until the wool is sold, it is inevitable that wool received into store by brokers and dealers before the 1st July, but not sold until, or after, that date, should escape payment of both the charge and the tax. If the wool tax operates from the 1st July next, only a relatively small quantity of wool is likely to escape payment of both the contributory charge and the wool tax. Some revenue - about £7,000 - will, of course, be lost to the Australian Wool Board as a result, but the recovery of this amount would not be worth the cost and the administrative inconvenience to the Government, the wool-selling brokers and the wool-dealers. The problem, of course, does not apply in the case of wool exported. Provision has been made in the bill for the exemption from wool tax of any wool on which contributory charge has been paid or is payable.
When the wool tax was raised to 2s. a bale in 1945, it was expected that it would yield an annual sum of about £350,000. However, actual’ realizations have usually been rather less than this. Further, as with other costs, the cost of wool publicity has considerably increased since 1945. Increasing costs in Australia and overseas have materially affected the Australian Wool Board’s finances.. This year, for example, it ha3 been necessary to draw on the Wool Industry Fund to the amount of £150,000 to meet the board’s deficit. At 3952 currency levels, the income from the wool tax at the rate of 2s. a bale will no longer provide adequately for even what might be regarded as a minimum wool promotion programme. The Australian Wool Board has proposed that next season the rate of wool tax shall be increased to 4s. a bale, with corresponding increases being made in the rate of tax on wool supplied in fadges, butts, and bags, and that in later years it shall be not less than 2s. a bale or more than 5s. a bale.
The two wool-growers organizations - the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation - which nominate representatives to the Australian Wool Board, have approved of these proposals. In a joint statement supporting the increase of the rate of wool tax, the chairman of the Australian Wool Growers Council and the president of the Graziers Federal Council of Australia said -
If the levy is not increased, and the expenditure of the Board is to be reduced, must of the reduction will have to take place in America, nml this would not be in the interests of the industry, because America is the borne of synthetic fibres, and a considerable amount of money is being spent in advertising those fibres. We must do all we oan to counter this activity … it is felt that now is the time to intensify, rather than reduce, the wool promotion programme of the Wool Board.
I strongly support those views, and, in passing, point out that the rate of 4s. a bale represents about. 0.22 per cent., of the average value a bale of wool between September and April in the current wool selling season. The second purpose of the bill and its associated measures, therefore, is to increase the rate of the wool tax to 4s. a bale for the 1952-53 season, and to fix upper and lower limits to the tax in future years.
I should mention that in approving the increased rate, the Australian “Wool Growers Council suggested that it be struck for one year only, pending their consideration of wool funds generally. They have pointed out that various moneys contributed by the wool industry and now administered by this Government - for example, the Wool Industry Fund and the Wool (Reserve Prices) Fund - should be examined with a view to determining whether, by the use of some of these moneys, the rate of the wool tax could be reduced below 4s. a bale.
It is for this reason that it is proposed, in complementary bills that will be introduced shortly, to apply the rate of 4s. a bale only until the 30th June, 1953, in the first instance. Provision is made in those bills for the rate of wool tax on and after the 1st July, 1953, to. be prescribed in regulations; and, before regulations are promulgated, for consideration to be given to any recommendations on the rate of tax that may be made to the Minister by the Australian Wool Board after consultation between members of the board and the wool-growers’ organizations which nominated them for appointment to the board. In this way the board will be in a position from time to time to recommend a rate of wool tax with full knowledge of the views of the wool-growers’ organizations on that point.
The Government would expect that the board’s recommendation on the rate of tax would be made not later than the 31et May preceding the wool year in which it is intended that the rate shall apply, thereby giving reasonable time for consideration of the board’s recommendation and for promulgation of the regulations prescribing the rate before the commencement of the new wool year. These arrangments will permit the rate to be varied from time to time according to circum stances and, in particular, for the position of the various wool funds to be. reviewed by the growers’ organizations and the Government prior to the commencement of the 1953-54 wool season. The Government’s review will necessarily include some consideration of the amount which the Government should pay in future to the Wool Research Trust Account. When the wool tax was increased to 2s. a bale in 1945, the government of the day indicated that it was prepared to contribute, for the purpose of wool research, an amount equivalent to the amount which the wool industry paid in wool tax. Provision, was made accordingly in the Wool Use Promotion Act, and annual payments have since been made to the Wool Research Trust Account from Consolidated Revenue. The credit balance in that, account now stands at about £900,000.
Whilst the Government does not propose to increase the amount of its contribution to the Wool Research Trust Account to the same amount as the receipts from the wool tax at 4s. a bale, it by no means intends to withdraw from the field of wool research. It is too important to the future economic welfare of our country. The proposal in the Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1952 to repeal section 15 (2.) of the Wool Use Promotion Act which provided for the existing arrangement is to remove a legislative commitment to continue to find research moneys equal to any receipts from the wool tax. The Commonwealth will continue to make a substantial contribution towards research, and though I am unable to state precisely at present what the Government’s contribution will be, it will not be an amount appreciably different from that produced from the present tax of 2s. a bale. By that I mean that it may be decided, as an alternative to a Government contribution determined by the amount of tax a bale, to have a fixed annual contribution of a specified amount; say, for example, £350,000. 1 expect that the decision will be made before the next session of the Parliament, in which ca?e a new provision will then be introduced in place of the existing section 15 (2.) of the Wool Use Promotion Act.
The Wool Tax Assessment Bill contains certain saving clauses consequent on the repeal of the contributory charge legislation and a consequential amendment of the Wool Realization Act. The bill also provides for amendments to the existing Wool Tax Assessment Acts which are designed to bring the machinery provisions of those acts into line with other more recent taxation legislation. The quarterly periods in respect of which returns of wool tax must be made are altered, and the time by which payment of tax must be made by woolbrokers and dealers is extended. It also includes a provision empowering the Commissioner of Taxation in special circumstances to grant further extensions of time. These provisions have been inserted to meet the position of wool-selling brokers who contend that, on the higher rates of tax now proposed, the provisions of the existing Wool Tax Assessment Acts would operate unfairly against them. I commend the bill to honorable members.
I wish to make it clear that the proposed increased tax on each bale of wool is to be imposed at the direct request of the> Australian Wool Board, supported by the request of the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. At my request, both of those bodies consulted their constituent organizations before making their requests to the Government. Therefore, this is a proposal by the growers that they should be taxed in a somewhat higher degree for the purpose of obtaining additional sums to spend in the interests of their industry.
– Do they realize that the Government’s contribution is to be reduced?
– Yes ; it has been made clear, not that the Government’s contribution will be reduced, but that it will not be appreciably increased.
– It will not be an application of the previous arrangement?
– Under the previous arrangement, in consideration of the growers contributing 2s. a bale, amounting to £350,000 a year, the Government contributed an equal’ amount. I am sure that my memory is correct when I say that the Australian Wool Board has stated explicitly that it does not expect the Australian Government’s contribution to keep pace with the proposed additional contributions by the growers. That i.» clearly understood.
Debate (on motion by Mr. POLLARD ‘ adjourned.
– I move -
That a tax be imposed on all wool produced in Australia which, on or after the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred and fifty-two -
That the rates of tax on wool received by a wool-broker or dealer, or exported from Australia, on or before the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-three, be as follows: -
In my second-reading speech on the Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1952, I explained that it is proposed to impose a tax on wool at a rate of 4s. a bale. The purpose of this motion is to initiate the preparation of two bills to impose this tax. The first bill will impose the tax on all wool produced in Australia and, on and after the 1st July, 1952, received into store by a wool-broker or dealer. The second bill will impose the tax on all other wool produced in Australia and exported on or after the 1st July, 1952. The motion sets out the rates of tax proposed to be applied on wool supplied in bales, butts, fadges and bags and the procedure to be adopted in determining the rates after the 1952-53 season.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 3rd June (vide page 1286).
– The Opposition has expressed its objection to the main purpose of this measure, which is to set up an elaborate system of appeals from conciliation commissioners for whose appointment provision was made by the Chifley Government in 1947. In my second-reading speech I endeavoured to explain how the new procedure will work. An appeal, or reference, may be made at any stage of the proceedings, in fact at any time right up to the moment before a conciliation commissioner gives his decision. In addition, if a point of law should arise in the course of the proceedings, it may be challenged to the Full Court of the Arbitration Court, and, ultimately, subject to leave being granted by the Chief Judge, to the High Court. Such a procedure will lead to a multiplicity of appeals. Applications for appeals will be made almost as a matter of routine. However, the Government has decided to apply this policy and even to extend it in respect of special tribunals such as that which deals with matters affecting employees of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project, the Public Service in respect of which an experienced arbitrator, with great legal ability, has jurisdiction, and other bodies such as the Stevedoring Industry Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal.
At this juncture I shall not refer to those matters in detail, but shall concentrate upon two points. First, I refer to clause 17, which repeals section 55 of the principal act. That section prohibits the court, or a conciliation commissioner, from including certain provisions in an order or an award. The court, or a conciliation commissioner, is still to be prohibited from inserting a certain provision in an order, or an award, but the Government has deliberately left the way open to the court, or a conciliation commissioner, to insert in awards a provision authorizing an employer to forfeit or to refrain from paying wages that may be due to an employee under a contract or an award and to impose a penalty upon an employee. In this respect clause 17 revives provisions which by common consent have been abandoned. It restores to the court, or a conciliation commissioner, in appropriate cases, power to authorize an employer to impose a penalty upon his employees. Under the old shearing award, an employer could penalize a shearer for alleged misconduct, or for negligence in shearing sheep whereby he caused damage. The employer was made the judge for the purpose of imposing the penalty in such circumstances. Under clause 17 of this bill, the court, or a conciliation commissioner, is to be given legal power to restore that authority to an employer. Why should a conciliation commissioner, or the court, again be given that power which the legislature previously removed? What is the purpose of this provision ? Who wants it? The Australian Workers Union, or the Australian Council of Trades Unions, has not been consulted about the matter. Neither of those bodies would approve of such a provision, which is reactionary, and which, in the past, led to litigation which poisoned the relations between employers and employees in many industries. Therefore, clause 17 cannot be justified. Seemingly, this amendment is very simple, because it repeals the present law; but the provision that it repeals prohibits the court, or a conciliation commissioner, from authorizing an employer to forfeit wages that are due to an employee or to impose a penalty upon an employee. Surely, the Parliament cannot be expected to revive such a provision.
The second clause to which I refer is clause 22, under which a new section is to be inserted in the principal act. The effect of this clause is to set out in the statute the rules in respect of admission to membership of an organization. Broadly, it provides that any person who is employed in connexion with an industry, unless he is of general bad character, becomes absolutely entitled to become a member of a registered organization. Seemingly, that provision is very plausible; but one must examine it closely. I emphasize that the rules of a registered organization are continuously running the gauntlet, as it were, because at present the court may discard any rule that it considers to be harsh or tyrannical. Let us suppose that in the opinion of the court the rules of an organization are unfair, or restrictive to such a degree that the court considers them to be harsh or tyrannical. Admission to membership of the organization may be too stringent. At present, the court can deal with such a matter; it can mould the rules of an organization in order to remove what it considers to be tyrannical and harsh. In the opinion of the Opposition, it is completely sufficient to give that power to the court. But, under this measure, the Parliament can say whether the rules of an organization are harsh or tyrannical, and to that degree the Parliament can set up its own standards and override the court. Such a provision is wrong. I can visualize dozens of instances in which this provision will cause industrial disputes of a most bitter character.
In addition, whilst under sub-clause (1.) the right of membership of an organization is given to every person who is engaged in the industry concerned, sub-clause (4.) denies that right to persons in respect of whom reasonable grounds exist for believing that they are members of an unlawful organization or that they advocate things that are prohibited under the Crimes Act. Do honorable members opposite support a provision of that kind? This does not deal with trade union officials.
Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I should like to be granted an extension of time in order to conclude my remarks on the point with which I am dealing. I do not wish to be obliged to take my second period at this juncture.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) from concluding his remarks without interruption.
– Order! The Minister’s motion is not in order. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to continue, he has no option but to take his second period.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period. I am dealing with sub-clause (4.) of clause 22. Let us consider this provision in relation to Communists, or alleged Communists, and militants, or alleged militants. The Government has never proceeded under the Crimes Act against the Communist party on the ground that it is an unlawful association. It is open to the Government to approach the High Court and seek a. declaration to that effect; but it has not done so. And, in respect of the provision in sub-clause (4.), it will not be necessary for the Government to do that, because not the High Court but the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is to decide an appeal of this nature. This kind of case will arise: If a person wishes to become a member of a registered organization and proves that he is engaged in an industry and is not of general bad character, he will be entitled, under subclause (1.), to become a member, but under sub-clause (4.) he may be debarred from membership if reasonable grounds exist for believing that he belongs to an unlawful association or advocates things that are forbidden under the Crimes Act. Such a provision is quite contrary to justice.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that such a person cannot join an organization, or that he is not entitled to join it?
– Sub-clause (4.) denies him the right that is to be given to every man who comes within the category prescribed in sub-clause (1.) .
– I thought that the right honorable gentleman was saying that he could not become a member.
– If he satisfies the requirements of sub-clause (1.) by showing that he is employed in the industry and that he is not of general bad character, prima facie he will be entitled to become a member; but sub-clause (4.) provides that nothing in sub-clause (1.) shall apply to a person coming within the class that is mentioned in sub-clause (4.).
– That does not mean that he will be debarred from membership of a registered organization.
– Well, let us say that he will he disentitled to membership.
– No; at that point the matter would he entirely within the discretion of the organization concerned.
– That would depend upon the rules of the organization. Subclause (1.) purports to establish rights for all persons who can satisfy its requirements. From that class are excluded people in respect of whom there is reasonable ground for believing that they are militants or Communists. That is the object here. I say that it is completely wrong, .and I ask whether, even if a person, individually, is a Communist, the policy of the Government is that he is not to be allowed to work at the calling to which he belongs. We have to trace this matter step by step. The clause goes further than an intention to deal with people who have been proved to be Communists. It seeks to deal with people in respect of whom there is “ reasonable ground for believing” that they are Communists, and those persons are not to enjoy the rights that every other citizen is to have under sub-clause (1.). I say that that is completely illiberal and wrong, and should not be accepted by the committee. The Australian Council of Trades Unions and other trade union bodies have not approved of it, and the Labour party also opposes it.
I shall sum up the two clauses. I cannot analyse many of the clauses in the time at my disposal. Clause 22 seems to me to be completely unjustified, and the Opposition is completely opposed to it. First, we say that the rules of an organization should be accepted as the guide. If they are harsh or tyrannical the court may modify them to a degree sufficient to make them reasonable and just. The clause is objectionable from the point of view that it will be an interference with the rules of an organization, which already are subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Sub-clause (4.) has the special vice to which I have referred. It will not even make factual proof necessary. It provides for “reasonable grounds for believing “, in which case we shall have all the paraphernalia of information, reports, innuendoes and suggestions, all to be used as sufficient to prevent a person from obtaining the benefit of even the first class of case. Clause 17 is another bad .clause. I submit that it is completely objectionable to restore to the conciliation commissioners or the court the power to permit employers to impose penalties or to order the forfeiture of wages that have been actually earned and that, in many instances, will be owed. It is proposed to restore that power to a tribunal, although for a long time it has not been possible to exercise it. Such a proposal is extremely reactionary.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has raised three matters with which I shall deal in order to clear up any doubts in the minds of other honorable members who may wish to speak on them. The first is the charge, repeatedly made during the second-reading debate, that the appeals system will inevitably lead to a multiplicity of appeals which, in turn, will cause serious delays in bringing issues to finality. I admit quite frankly at the outset that the success or the failure of this reform of the arbitration machinery will depend to a great degree on the Chief Judge himself. Quite clearly the Chief J udge will require so to order the business he permits to come before the court that there will be no undue congestion and delay of the kind that honorable, members opposite have suggested may occur. It is because we wish to avoid delays that we haveannounced, our intention to appoint at least two1 additional- judges so that there will be enough judges for two benchesof three judges each to sit at any one’ time. In addition to that provision,, we may rely on the good sense and discretion of the Chief Judge himself in relation to the business that will come to the court from the commissioners.. Quite apart from that, we have made it clear, that our intention is not to take away from the commissioners those matters that come more appropriately within their survey, and that relate to particular industries or sections of industry. The court will deal with matters on which either an appeal should lie, or which have been referred to it in the first instance, so that finality may be reached immediately in the consideration of it. These would be matters which raise large industrial questions and on which it is- desirable that there shall be a firm authoritative decision at the highest point.
– Would that include the Galvin award ?
Air. HOLT. - It could conceivably include the approach to the Galvin award that was so much criticized by honorable gentlemen opposite. I share their view, as I am sure Mr. Galvin himself does, that the question whether the state of the economy should be taken into account before a determination is given on the general question of margins, is one which might appropriately come before the Full Court for decision. Once the Full Court had given its decision on that general approach it would be fitting, and, I consider, convenient, for the individual commissioners to apply that guidance, and the ruling so given by the Full. Court, in cases concerning the particular industries that come under their jurisdiction. I consider that that, would be a- commonsense way ‘of going, about, that sort of problem, and. it is the kind of thing that we had in mind, when, we decided to establish this machinery. We shall learn from its. workings whether the fears that have been expressed by honorable members opposite will be borne out, or whether,, by a judicious selection on the part of the Chief. Judge or o£ any judge deputed by him to consider, these- matters, and by orderly arrangement of the business that will come beforethe two full benches, we shall be able to> deal expeditiously with cases.
– Would it be possible for two judges, perhaps the Chief Judge and one other judge deputed by him, to be considering appeals at the same time ?
– That would he- quite practicable, but clearly we should not want them both to be considering the same issue. Again, that is a matter on which, the general guidance of the Chief Judge would be required. I wish to point out to the committee that the danger of obstruction or delay is not one that relates solely to this kind of system. At the moment “we have a serious interrup-tion of work on the waterfront because the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, rightly or wrongly - I think wrongly, but we need not go into the details of that now - claims that delays have occurred in dealing with its general log of claims. I have received a good deal of written representation in recent times regarding an extension of the time of one of the conciliation commissioners on the ground that a matter before him is part heard and it is desired that it shall be completed before he retires from the jurisdiction. I am told, that that particular matter - and I say this without any intention of being critical of the commissioner or of any of the parties, because I do not know all that is involved in the case - has been on the stocks, as it were, for about four years. It will be seen, therefore, that delays can occur, either from good causes or from reasons that would justify criticism of one party or the other, the tribunal itself or the system. I have no serious fear that any of the difficulties which exist in that connexion will be accentuated by the measure. We hope that time will prove that once we get an authoritative determination on the kind of issue that arises in connexion with such an important matter as that dealt with by the Galvin award, we shall be much more likely to achieve a speedy application of the decision by individual commissioners to cases that are before them, than is the case at present, when there may be differences of opinion between conciliation commissioners. At present some commissioners may be either hesitant or doubtful about the course that they should adopt on the same kinds of problems as those on which other commissioners have made decisions.
The second point raised by the Leader of the Opposition was in connexion with clause 17. This is not a novel provision. The right honorable gentleman put his argument in such a way as to suggest that it was a remarkable innovation.
– I said that it was a reaction.
– If it is a reaction, it does not react very far in point “of time, because I understand that a similar provision was contained in the legislation prior to 1947, but was omitted by the right honorable gentleman when he made his own very far-reaching amendments to the legislation ,at that time. I remind the committee that action under this clause can be taken only after the court, or a conciliation commissioner, has so awarded. The effect of the clause is to enable an employer, in certain prescribed cases, to impose a forfeiture to be taken from the wages of an employee when that employee has, either by wilful act or by serious negligence, caused damage. Such a provision is perhaps best known in its application, under certain pastoral awards, to cases in which damage has been done to sheep in the process of shearing. It has been included in the class of case to which, in certain circumstances, this sort of provision should apply. I do not claim to know much about the practical working of the provision as it existed previously, but the advice that I have received is that it was a useful provision. An employer isentitled to some reasonable protection against either gross negligence or wilful damage. In some classes of industry an. employer who found an employee conducting himself in that way would simply give to him notice of dismissal, or to a warning that might later lead to dismissal if the offence were repeated.
– Will the Minister say what would happen in relation to a shearer who left a shearing shed before’ he had completed his contract ? If he had already shorn 2,000 sheep for which he had not then been paid, could the employer refuse to pay him for them ?
– Quite obviously, in my judgment, he could not; but I do not intend to deal with hypothetical cases. Such a case would come before the court or a conciliation commissioner for determination.
– Such a case has already happened.
– The honorable” member may make his own point on that. I am quite certain that if such a thing has happened it did not occur as a result of the operation of the bare facts that the honorable gentleman has stated to the committee. Before I should he prepared to state an opinion I should need to know, as would a conciliation commissioner or the court, the full facts on which any action of that kind had been taken. This provision has been inserted in the bill as a matter of policy. Honorable members may be as critical as they like to be, but the advice given to me is that it is a reasonable provision which has had some useful effect.
– But the jurisdiction will be given to the employer.
– The facts would first have to be laid before the court by the employer. I am also quite certain that, following a court award along those lines, if the representatives of the employees involved were able to show to the court or to a conciliation commissioner at any time that the award had been abused or improperly applied, the court or the conciliation commisioner would make a variation accordingly. However, I shall not debate that matter at great length. That is the position, as I understand it, and the provision has been inserted in the bill for the reason I have given.
Proposed section 83a, which the Leader of the Opposition also discussed, raises a matter of substantial interest to honorable members. One of its purposes is to guard against a growing tendency on the part of certain unions to give to themselves the monopoly of engagement of employees in their own sections of industry. I have always understood that Opposition members, like honorable members on this side of the chamber, do not wish to encourage the growth of monopolies. Opportunities, whether they be for the conduct of private enterprise or for seeking and obtaining employment, should not be restricted by any combined action on the part of a few to exclude the many from their ranks. Therefore, this provision has been inserted in the bill in order to establish that a man who is not of general bad character shall be entitled to engage in the calling that he chooses, provided he can comply with the proper trade requirements, and shall not be excluded from a calling merely because the executive of a union decides to close its books against the admission of additional members. The Leader of the Opposition grew indignant, not only about the matter with which I dealt a few moments ago, but also about this aspect.
– Yes, because the court may disallow certain rules made by a union. Why is the Minister not satisfied with that position?
– The right honorable gentleman is critical of this provision. If his words express the general attitude of the Australian Labour party to this provision, why has it not exercised its influence on the Labour Government of New South Wales on this matter? The provision to which the right honorable gentleman has objected has been taken direct from section 115 of the Industrial Arbitration Act (No. 2) 1940 of New South Wales. Presumably, if such a provision commends itself to the Labour Government of that State, because it has been in operation for twelve years, there is no powerful reason why it should not be accepted by this Parliament.
The Opposition has also taken exception to the fact that, having given entitlement in sub-section (1.) we have proceeded to provide, in sub-section (4.), that -
Nothing in this section applies to a person as to whom there is reasonable ground for believing that-
he is a member of an unlawful association within the meaning of subsection (1.) of section thirty a of the Crimes Act 1914-1950; or
he advocates or encourages, or has, within one year immediately before seeking to become a member of the industrial organization, advocated or encouraged, any of the matters referred to in that sub-section.
That is a complicated way of saying that, although a person becomes entitled under sub-section (1.), his entitlement may be rejected by a union if, in point of fact, he is a Communist. Opposition members claim that entitlement is given in subsection (1.), and is taken away, at least from certain persons, in sub-section (4.), and they assert that such provisions will lead to all sorts of unsatisfactory investigations and practices. I make it clear that the purpose of the Government is to ensure that those unions which have adopted a firm policy of excluding Communists from their membership shall not have foisted on them, as a result of our legislation, Communists whom otherwise they would reject. The proposed new section does not declare that a union must, reject the kind of person described in sub-section (4.). It states that a union, if it wishes to reject him on those grounds - which, incidentally, are challengeable before the court - need not necessarily accept him because he happens to comply with the requirements of subsection (1.). Unions already possess power to make rules the effect of which would be to exclude from membership persons who come within the terms of sub-section (4.) It would be absurd for us to give to unions power to make a rule to exclude such persons, and, by another provision, insist that they accept persons who were objectionable to them, in terms of their rules, which had received the sanction not only of the Government but also of the Opposition. If a union has no inhibitions regarding the matter, nothing in this legislation will prevent it from admitting to membership a person who comes within the definition that has been mentioned.
.- I am far from satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) of the three matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The effect of proposed section 55 is to permit the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and
Arbitration, or a conciliation commissioner, to insert in an award a provision that will enable an employer to impose penalties on his employees. No explanation has been given to the committee of the reason for the incorporation of that provision in the bill. Frankly, I regard the Minister’s explanation as most unsatisfactory. Many years ago, employers ‘were in the habit of winking laws and regulations governing the conduct of their employees, and providing a penal code for infringement of them. This abuse became so prevalent that nearly every colony in Australia inserted in its factories and shops legislation a provision compelling an employer to keep a record of all fines and other penalties inflicted upon his employees and the reasons why they had been imposed. Eventually, feeling became so strong against the system that the factories and shops legislation was amended so as to prohibit an employer from imposing any penalty on his employees. Yet this Government is attempting to revive, in 1952, a system that was discarded long ago. I know exactly how I, if I were a union official, should react to such a provision, which places the employer in the position of prosecutor, the jury that convicts, and the judge who imposes the penalty. The corollary to the present proposition is to permit unions to impose penalties upon unsatisfactory employers.
Proposed section 55 may definitely be regarded as a retrograde step in our history of industrial arbitration. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act makes provision for the inclusion of penalties in awards. If an employee is guilty of malingering or of inefficiency, he may be dismissed. Yet. in addition to all the provisions in an industrial award that may be applied to an employee who fails to carry out his duties properly, and in addition to the fact that the court is empowered impose fines and other penalties, the Government now proposes to authorize the employer to impose penalties on his employees. If the Minister wishes to stir up industrial trouble, he cannot adopt a more effective means of doing so. His proposal is bound to cause trouble in industry. I have always followed the path of conciliation and arbitration, yet I say frankly that if I were a union official, and if an employer were given authority to impose penalties upon members of my industrial organization for any acts of which they were supposed to be guilty, when the whole machinery of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was available to deal with the matter, I should certainly advise the men not to work under such penal provisions. I cannot understand why the Government wishes to alter the status quo. So far as I am aware, no body of employers has sought the change. I advise the Government to abandon proposed section 55.
– This provision was sought by the official representatives of the employers.
– That is news to mc. But even if the employers are seeking the amendment, it is wrong to place in their hands the right to judge whether fines or other penalties shall be imposed on employees. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who is interjecting, disagrees with my assessment of the position. The effect of proposed section 55 is to empower the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners to insert in awards a provision that will permit an employer, without reference to anybody, to impose a. penalty on h.i.« employees. If an employee is deemed to have committed an offence, such action as may be necessary should be taken by the court or a conciliation commissioner. The employer should not be allowed to exercise the power of punishment. I also point out that an employee has no right to appeal to a tribunal against the penalty imposed by the employer.
The Minister spoke at some length about proposed section 83a, which deals with the entitlement of persons to be members -of industrial organizations. I remind him that the Industrial Arbitration Act of New South Wales, to which he referred, does not include a provision similar to section 80 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which provides -
The Court may . . . disallow any rule of an organization which, in the opinion of the Court -
is .contrary to .law, or to an order or award ;
is tyrannical or oppressive;
Under that provision, a person who considers that he is not receiving a fair deal because his application for admission to a union has been rejected, may seek the protection of the court. In my opinion, proposed section 83a is not necessary.
The Minister also discussed the provision that will allow the right of appeal to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court against a decision of a conciliation commissioner. What happened in the court in respect of the Hours case and the Wages case? The hearing of each claim occupied approximately two years. Even the hearing of the metal trades case by Mr. Galvin occupied nearly twelve month=. Any big case before the court will occupy a considerable time.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has complained that he i3 not satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) of the reason for the inclusion of proposed section 55 in the bill. I regret that the honorable member should be in doubt about this because the position is perfectly clear. Under the .Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1.947, the courts were precluded, by section 55, from including in an award a provision authorizing an .employer to refrain from paying wages or to order the forfeiture of wages. The only awards in which such a provision has been inserted have been those in the pastoral industry. In some of those awards an employer was authorized to make deductions from the wages of an employee if sheep are negligently damaged by shearers. The honorable member for Bendigo will be interested to know that those provisions are still in the pastoral awards to which I have referred, and that the trade union movement has never sought to have them repealed.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) seems to indicate that the trade union movement has made some such attempt, but it is interesting to note that those provisions still remain in the pastoral awards. They have apparently been considered to be necessary for the successful working of the industry. The repeal of the former prohibition in section 55 will merely restore to the court, not to the employer, the power to include in an award a provision for forfeiture of wages if the court considers that to be necessary. The honorable member for Bendigo and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) have tried to establish that the Government is indulging in some dreadful, antiquarian, reactionary conspiracy; that it is adopting the methods of the nineteenth century and is making the employees jump at the crack of the whip of blood-sucking employers. Those honorable members have deliberately tried to ira plant in the public mind that idea of the Government. I bring it to their attention that if the blood-sucking squatter should seek unjustly to deprive the unfortunate shearer of his just wage by wrongly claiming that the shearer has cut some sheep, the shearer can sue the squatter at law for the recovery of his money. It is well to remember that in those circumstances the union and the enormous industrial power of the whole trade union movement would lie behind the shearer. It is just ludicrous that the time of this committee should be wasted by the honorable member for Bendigo ventilating the complaint that the Government is taking part in a reactionary conspiracy against employees. With all due respect to that honorable member, he has been talking egregious nonsense about proposed section 55, and I strongly suspect that he knows it.
Let us now turn to proposed section 83a. The Leader of the Opposition has said that this will cause a grave interference with the freedom of trade unions. All that the proposed section will do will be to enable persons of good character employed in an industry to obtain membership in the appropriate union for their industry. There is grave necessity for such a right. I refer the honorable member for Bendigo to the situation in the Moulders Union. I cannot speak for other States of the Commonwealth, hut
I know that certain foundries in Sydney, have been working at about 60 per cent, of their capacity because of the persistent refusal of the Moulders Union to admit certain employees in those foundries who may belong to other unions, so that they may operate mechanical moulding processes. This anti-elevation ban was allegedly imposed as a protest against the Galvin award, but it is really a reactionary attitude on the part of the Moulders Union against allowing into the union any men whose work will be limited to the performance of mechanical processes.
The most reactionary attitudes in industry to-day are adopted by certain unions, such as the Moulders Union. This ban has caused some Sydney foundries, particularly those engaged in malleable casting work, to work at about only 60 per cent, of their capacity. Malleable castings are of great importance in the building industry. That situation alone demonstrates the necessity for a provision such as that of proposed section 83a. The Leader of the Opposition also said that the provisions about Communists .or those who advocate communism, are dangerous. I direct attention to the irony of his objection to such a provision. In proposed section 83a we have sought to give to persons in a specified category the right to become members of unions, but we have said that no union shall be forced to take a man who is a Communist. The Opposition, according to its leader, is now objecting to a union being given the right to prevent a Communist from joining it.
The Galvin award has been mentioned a great deal in connexion with proposed section 14a, but that award is not the reason for the introduction of this section. The Galvin award is a symptom of the failure of the system established by the 1947 legislation. I had the interesting experience of listening yesterday to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). He said that I had lauded, praised and generally given approval to the Galvin award. If he will read the speech that I delivered during the secondreading debate on this measure, he will see that I did nothing of the sort.
– Does the honorable member disapprove of the Galvin award?
– I disapprove of the fact that a conciliation commissioner should be obliged, as Mr. Galvin was, to make an award which would have the effect of reducing the due proportion of margins for skill. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will read what I said during the secondreading debate, he will see that I claimed that greater margins for skill and greater encouragement for workers to undertake skilled occupations are vitally necessary in industry. The 1947 arbitration system has broken down to such a degree that a conscientious and serious conciliation commissioner, after a year’s hearing, has been forced to make an award that has discouraged tradesmen. That is the clearest evidence of the failure of the 1947 system. The system of appeals contemplated by this measure will enable some uniformity to be brought into our arbitration system. It will enable the Full Court to have some control over the whole arbitration system, and not only over the standard wage. It will provide one way out of the dilemma in which Mr. Galvin found himself. Mr. Galvin had two. alternatives. He could have made an award giving effect to claims that would have involved the Australian people in the payment of another £150,000,000 annually.
– That is not true.
– Then suppose that we reduce it by £50,000,000 and say that his award could have cost Australia £100,000,000 a year if the claims of the metal trades unions had been granted. In any case, an enormous amount would have been added to Australia’s annual wages bill. Mr. Galvin decided that in the existing economic circumstances of this country, he could not impose such a crushing additional burden on the economy. We all know that the increasing wages bill is one of the prime causes of inflation. Inflation destroys the value of wages and so the wage-earner himself suffers directly. Mr. Galvin decided that, in the interests of the whole community, he could not-
– He had no right to do what he did.
– If that argument is conceded, the conciliation commissioner must grant union claims without regard to the effect they may have on the nation as a whole.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In this discussion, the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) has side-tracked the committee. I wish to return to a. discussion of proposed section 55 and proposed section 83a. Those sections are the basis of the whole of our complaint against the bill, and prove that it is the work of amateurs. It is quite apparent that the true understanding in industrial matters, such as are dealt with in this bill, lies with the Opposition and not with the Government. On this occasion the Government has again displayed a complete lack of willingness to consult with trade unions, and has arrived at a decision that will cause not an amelioration of industrial troubles, but more frustration and strikes.
Let us consider proposed section 55. The honorable member for Evans said that we are not back in the days of Dickens. If the honorable member had a beard and was made up a little, he could well pass for one of the employers of those horrible days of imposition on employees. The honorable member’s attitude is that the employees are merely a rabble seeking some satisfaction, but that this is the best of all possible worlds, and the courts are doing everything possible for them. Lawyers are very prone to disputation about what one little word may mean. Therefore, considering how involved this measure is, the Opposition desires that the Government shall clarify its intentions. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) pointed out that the repeal of section 55 of the principal act could allow penalties to be imposed by employers on employees. That position has been made no better by the bland statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that this section was repealed at the request of employers.
– A number of employers.
– I ask the Minister to say whether the employers would make such a suggestion out of sheer good.heartedness or out of malice aforethought. The Opposition believes that it was done through malice aforethought.
The question that now arises is, if this provision has no significance for unionists, and members of the Opposition are not entirely babes in the wood, then what is the reason for it? The Government should consider the whole matter once again. Agreements that have been made by the Australian Workers Union have been mentioned, and it has been said that certain provision has been made in pastoral awards for the imposition of penalties upon those who cut sheep while shearing them. Those allegations will be replied to later by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). Proposed section 55 is dangerous, and the Minister should reconsider it.
The same may be said of proposed sections 14a and 14b. The Government is part-time libertarian in regard to appeals because it allows only a little appeal and only in certain circumstances. If a full-blooded appeal were to be allowed, the matter would be different, but this is merely a niggling appeal and is a tinkering with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The appeal is to be from tweedle-tum to tweedle-dee, and the whole proposal is quite ridiculous. There is a difference of opinion, but the balance of opinion is that the bill will not work because the essence of arbitration is simplicity. I have noted some of the references to arbitration procedure that have been made during this discussion. Honorable members have mentioned the Harvester award, the Powers 3s., the needs wage, the basic wage, wage averages, all houses “ A “ series, all items “ 0 “ series, secondary wages, margins, loadings and incentives. Where is the simplicity of our arbitration system now? The Government in the recent past has added a further theatricality to it by so amending the act that lawyers may appear before the court as advocates. The whole system is losing the elements of conciliation and arbitration and is assuming all the devious technicalities of the average law court.
Clause 17 is extremely dangerous and should not be left untouched or be allowed to pass without comment. The honorable member for Bendigo, who is an expert in industrial matters, has expressed his views with the greatest possible clarity and has adhered closely to facts. The Minister for Labour and National Service must be more of an amateur in industrial affairs than I believed him to be if he refuses to heed the warnings of the honorable member for Bendigo.
The Government and its supporters have argued that there is nothing wrong with clause 22, which provides for the insertion of a section to provide that certain persons shall be entitled to membership of trade unions. Apparently the Minister and his colleagues are only part-time democrats. They make all sorts of protestations about democracy, but they disregard its principles when it suits their convenience to do so. Under the terms of this bill, a suspected Communist may be prevented from obtaining a job, but a suspected fascist, apparently, will be allowed to do as he pleases. The Government should face the facts. The wording of the clause is evasive, and it will be difficult to interpret. The courts are already cluttered with disputes that arise from difficulties of interpretation. The Minister has said that he wants to clarify a certain interpretation because the Coal Industry Tribunal, under the existing law, is debarred from taking evidence. This is one more example of words in a legal document not meaning what they say.
– That law was enacted by a Labour government.
– The Minister does not rely upon the advice of the experts. He merely seeks to evade responsibility by blaming the Labour Administration for his own faults of omission. He say3, in effect, that anything that was enacted at the instance of the former Labour Government must be superlatively correct. We acknowledge his vociferous admiration of our works, but, unfortunately, the honorable gentleman fails to grasp all the facts.
Clause 22 is worse than the former “ red bill “ was. It will help to clog the sources of labour. Certain men are to be black-balled, and I do not know how the innocent will be able to obtain redress. Such issues are best left to the judgment of the trade unions, which exercise firm control over their members. What does the Government propose to do with the political cripples who will be debarred from membership of unions and, therefore, from the opportunity to obtain employment? Because of some political belief, distorted or otherwise, certain workers are to be prevented from obtaining jobs. Apparently the Minister proposes to provide them with social services benefits so that they will be supported by the taxpayers. What an absurd and stupid proposition!
– Clause 22 will widen the opportunities of workers instead of restricting them.
– The honorable member for Bendigo dealt specifically with this issue and I believe that he knows more about these matters than the Minister knows. Unfortunately, the Government will not consider our suggestions. We already know that, in preparing the bill, it ignored the workers who will be affected by it.
– That is untrue.
– At any rate, they were not fully consulted.
– They have been consulted periodically on these and kindred problems for months past.
– But only in relation to generalities. When they tried to point out the faults in the Government’s proposals, they found that the door was not opened to them. The Minister must agree that he has received strong representations on the subject of appeals. He has clouded the issue in the name of democracy. Appeals are to be made from a higher tribunal to a lower tribunal, and experts in industrial relations agree that the legislation will merely hamper the processes of conciliation and arbitration.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- References have been made repeatedly to the number of amendments that have been made to our conciliation and arbitration legislation- in the course of its history. The fact that so many amendments have been necessary indicates that it has not worked successfully. Our task is to strive continually to make the law effective and satisfactory to all parties. We are pledged to support the arbitration system. One of the greatest weaknesses of the system has been that parties to industrial disputes over the years have been able to declare that, if they disagree with the decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, they will resist them. The unions accept decisions of the court when those decisions meet their wishes. At other times, they frequently cause disturbances in protest against decisions of the court. That has happened many times.
– The practice is prevalent to-day. That situation can be remedied in either one of two ways. One method is to provide the means for an unsatisfied party to a dispute to appeal against the decision of an arbitration tribunal. The other method is to employ compulsion and to impose penalties upon those who refuse to comply with decisions of properly constituted tribunals.
Which method does the Opposition favour? We can follow the course of common sense and good judgment, or we can insist that arbitration decisions shall be enforced, subject to penalties, without appeal or redress.
– That is what the law provides now.
– Unfortunately, it does not operate. I believe that the correct method is to make provision for appeals to be lodged against unsatisfactory decisions. Under such a provision, neither the employers nor the employees will be able to use the excuse, in order to justify lock-outs or strikes, that they are dissatisfied with the decisions of the constituted tribunals. The use of coercive methods is contrary to the spirit of arbitration, and, unless the Opposition acknowledges that to be a fact, our arbitration laws will never work successfully. Arbitration cannot succeed if the employers or employees refuse to abide by the decisions of the court.
– It all depends on whether the decisions are just.
– The honorable member has confirmed my argument. He apparently supports the workers who say that, although they will submit their grievances to arbitration, they will abide by the decisions only if they consider that those decisions are just. That is a glaring instance of a weakness in the present system.
– Does the honorable member believe in unjust decisions?
– I believe in accepting the decisions of an arbitrator. I should not submit a grievance to an arbitrator if I had a pre-conceived idea of what was just. Persons who are charged under our criminal laws do not tell the judges that they will refuse to accept their decisions unless they consider them to be just.
– A man took that attitude recently in a criminal court.
– What happened to him?
– He was sentenced to death by hanging.
– The honorable member probably considers that strong penalties should be provided under the arbitration system. Apparently he believes that the law should use brute force.
I refer to clause 22, which provides that qualified persons shall be admitted to membership of trade unions. I deny the right of any organized body of men to withhold from any individual the opportunity to earn a livelihood. Under the present system of compulsory unionism, workers cannot obtain jobs unless they are members of unions. We must provide protection for the qualified, law-abiding worker of good character who wishes to obtain employment without becoming a member of a trade union. The restrictions that have been imposed by trade unions have had unfortunate results.
– I shall tell the honorable member. A few years ago, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in the Labour government of the day went to Western Australia and literally crawled to the unions and begged them to open their doors to ex-servicemen.
– Literally crawled ?
– Yes, literally crawled. Mr. Dedman appealed to the trade unions without avail. The unions declared, in effect, “ What we have we hold, and we shall keep the other men out”. They refused to open their ranks to new members. Under such conditions, it was of no use to train men for various trades because, unless the unions accepted them, they could not obtain employment. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) knows the part that I played in that controversy, and he will agree that I was not influenced by party political considerations.
The only regrettable feature of the Government’s proposal to open the doors of the trade unions to all qualified men of good character who wish to follow the trades of their choice is that the provision cannot be made to apply throughout Australia to all trade unions. That limiting factor is the only draw-back. The provision will be welcomed by all sections of the community because it will enable workers to follow the trades of their choice and will provide opportunities for the employment of our British kith and kin whom we bring to this country. I have personal knowledge of instances in which immigrants have been denied membership of trade unions although they are fully qualified as tradesmen and came to Australia for the purpose of following their trades. Such men have appealed to me because they have been debarred from employment in suitable jobs. As a result of this closed-shop policy of the trade unions, employers are frequently obliged to engage men because they hold union tickets although they may be entirely unsatisfactory as workers. The union ticket is the bread and butter of many Australians. The Parliament has a duty to protect every individual against unfair treatment by the trade unions. These powerful vested interests have no right to deny to any individual the freedom to follow the calling of his choice.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- Let me point out to honorable members again that, under a system of appeals, delays will be inevitable. The Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court took two years to hear the hours case, and two years to hear the basic wage case. Now, the Full Court has before it an application by the employers for an increase of working hours from 40 to 44 hours a week. It is expected that the court will begin to hear that case in July. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has lodged an application with the court for the grant of long service leave to employees in industry. That case will also be heard by the Full Court. Even if, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) indicated in his second-reading speech, two Full Courts were able to sit at the same time in the future because additional judges of the court had been appointed, for the next twelve months both courts would be fully engaged in hearing the hours case and the long service leave case. If this bill were passed and, consequently, it were possible for the Full Court to re-open the question of margins, a considerable time would elapse before that case could be heard.
I remind honorable gentlemen that Mr. Galvin took twelve months to hear and determine the margins case that came before him. If that case were to go to the Full Court on appeal, all the evidence that was presented to Mr. Galvin would be presented again to the court. Under the provisions of this measure, the court could hear further evidence. It is obvious that, if one court were dealing with the matter of hours and the other with the matter of long service leave when an appeal was lodged against Mr. Galvin’s decision, a considerable period of time would elapse before one of the courts could hear that appeal. I consider that those matters should be mentioned, because honorable gentlemen opposite seem to be under the impression that the Opposition, by claiming that under the proposed procedure delays will be inevitable, has raised only a bogy. All the evidence proves that delays will be inevitable.
I desire to direct the attention of the Minister to a peculiar feature of this bill. Glauses 5 and 12 make provision for appeals. If those clauses were agreed to, an extraordinary position would arise. Once some matters had been the subject of an appeal to the Full Court and had been decided by it, there would be no machinery that would permit those matters either to be re-opened by the Full Court or to be the subject of further consideration by a conciliation commissioner. Let us assume that the margins case eventually came before the Full Court, and that the court upheld Mr. Garvin’s decision. The ruling of the court in that case would become an instruction to every conciliation commissioner. No conciliation commissioner would depart from the decision of the court, because, if he did so, an appeal would be lodged immediately and his decision would be reversed. When a decision has been made by the Full Court, it remains in operation until such time as the court alters it. But, under the system that would operate if this measure were passed, the Full Court would be unable to review the decision that it made when it heard the appeal from Mr. Galvin’s decision. The functions and powers of the Full Court are limited to the matters of hours, the basic wage and long service leave. If the court made a decision on such an appeal, the decision would be adhered to by the conciliation commissioners, but no organization would be empowered to apply to the court for a review of the decision. In such circumstances the decision of the court would be, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, immutable. Once the decision had been given, there would be no means by which the issue could again be brought’ before a conciliation commissioner, or by which the decision of the court could be either reviewed or rescinded.
If this bill were passed, before very long it would be necessary for the Minister to introduce another measure designed to enable a decision of the court on an appeal to be reviewed by the court itself, on an application by the parties to the case, or for the issue to be remitted to a conciliation commissioner. A similar difficulty was experienced in Victoria, and the law of that State had to be amended to provide that an appeal tribunal could send a case back to a wages board, or that the parties themselves could approach the tribunal and apply for the case to be sent back to the board. These provisions of the bill, if they become operative, will cause a very serious position to arise. I suggest that the Minister reconsider them.
Clause 7 seeks to insert in the principal act a new section 16a. I agree with paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) of the proposed new section, but I do not agree with paragraph (b). It would be entirely wrong if the Chief Judge, in pursuance of the provisions of section 11 of the act, had the right,, arbitrarily, to transfer a conciliation commissioner from one group of industries to another. The Chief J udge should be charged with a duty to ensure that a conciliation commissioner shall deal with unfinished cases before he is transferred from one group of industries to another. Under the provisions of the proposed new section, the Chief Judge could transfer a conciliation commissioner when he was in the process of hearing a case. If that were done, the determination of the case would be delayed, and the parties would be involved in additional expense. In my opinion, the committee should reject paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) and also sub-section (2.) of the proposed new section.
The fact that the pastoral award contains an illegal provision that enables employers to impose penalties upon employees is not a good reason for saying that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be amended to bring that power within the ambit of the Full Court and the conciliation commissioners. [Extension of time granted.~ The provision in the pastoral award to which I have referred is, as I have said, illegal, and neither the Full Court nor a conciliation commissioner has power to insert such a provision in an award. But in any event, the principle is entirely wrong. An employer should not have the right to determine whether an employee has committed an offence, to assess the gravity of the offence and to determine the penalty that should be imposed. If honorable gentlemen opposite say that a worker, upon whom a penalty was imposed under that provision, could have thu matter reviewed by a court of petty session or by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, let me point out that no provision is -made in this bill for an employee to appeal against a penalty imposed on him by his employer. I think that clause IS should be rejected by the committee.
I turn now to clause 22, which seeks to insert in the principal act a new section 83a. A very dangerous position would arise if our conciliation and arbitration legislation contained a provision that would enable a person, who might not be properly qualified to do so, to become a member of a particular trade union. It is wrong in principle for any authority to say that certain persons must be accepted as members by a trade union. Such a provision could be tyrannical. The Waterside Workers Federation has been compelled by economic circumstances to limit its membership. Obviously, it would be undesirable if a branch of that organization in any port had many more members than were needed to meet the requirements of the port. If we forced it to admit more members, when its ranks were already overcrowded, the only result would be that less work would be available for each man and there would be general dissatisfaction in the industry. The Federated Storemen and Packers Union has a casual workers’ section, but, because casual work is limited, it has been compelled to limit the number of members of the section. It dare not admit to membership of the section men for whom work cannot be found. This proposed new section would be very dangerous if it were to be put into operation, because it could bc used by persons who desired to become members of the Waterside Workers Federation, the Ship Painters and Dockers Union, or the Federated Storemen and Packers Union, to the detriment of those employed on the waterfront. Men have been expelled from trade unions on the ground that they have been guilty of conduct not worthy of the organization. Such persons could take advantage of this provision .to get back into the union.
– Honorable members on the Government side of the House see the obvious need for this amendment. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1947 produced under the Labour Government a record number of stoppages, strikes and interferences in industry. Since this Government has taken office, few strikes have occurred. That is because this Government is unfriendly towards communism and because it brought in the recent ballot. The 1949 strike was the culmination of the effects of the policy of the Labour Government of the day. Under conciliation and arbitration commissioners, the most savage things had to be done to unionists by the Chifley Government. The whole country was thrown into confusion and hundreds of thousands of workers were put out of work by the terrible coal strike. It was the culmination of the system that was initiated by the Chifley. Government. Certain measures were piloted through the Parliament by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Honorable members on the Government side believe that appeals are essential. The Labour party itself has shown the need for them. In February, 1952, the Australian Council of Trades Unions and members of the Labour party opposed the Galvin award, which was established by the findings of Conciliation Commissioner Galvin under the 1947 act. The state of mind in which the Labour movement found itself was illustrated by the Australian Council of Trades Unions when it refused, on the 21st February, to accept the Galvin award and decided on direct action failing a re-hearing which, in effect, would have been tantamount to an appeal. By disagreeing with the findings of the Galvin award, the Opposition and the trade union movement have embarked on something that is similar to an appeal against the findings of the conciliation commissioner. Honorable members on this side of the committee believe that one of the main defects in the 1947 act is its failure to co-ordinate the findings of the conciliation commissioners. Some of the conciliation commissioners have said that they believe that their task is merely to have disputes settled. Conciliation Commissioner Findlay has stated -
It is not the responsibility of a conciliation commissioner to consider the effects of wage changes on a national economy as a whole. The conciliation commissioner’s duty is to settle industrial disputes. It would lie a complete contradiction of the requirements of the Arbitration Act to deliberately peg wages (i.e., margins) at the 1947 levels.
On the other hand, Conciliation Commissioner Galvin looked at the matter from a national angle and caused confusion. He said -
To grant the unions’ claims would have been to aggravate inflation, and inflation appears to me to overshadow every other problem.
Conciliation Commissioner Galvin believed that the matter should be considered in the widest sense. Therefore, in effect, he must agree with the view which actuated the Government in introducing this legislation. The Government believes that the conflicting statements of Conciliation Commissioner Findlay and Conciliation Commissioner Galvin are proof of the need for consistency in establishing a common rule of law, and that matters of such major importance should be referred to the court in the public interest.
So far I have concentrated on clause 17 of the bill. The other matter to which I wish to refer is clause 22, which seeks to deal with the principle of the closed shop. The closed shop developed in Europe under the guilds. Those guilds were composed of craftsmen who had a high sense of pride in their artisanship and their trades. Probably the closed shop would be a good rule in the old countries which are not expanding and which, in fact, are losing people to new lands. Closed shops are also to he found in the United States of America. Clause 22 seeks to open union membership to any persons who find themselves capable of being employed in certain industries. It is designed to enable unions to admit to their ranks men who desire a job. If the Opposition rejects the proposal and continues to support the closed shop system, it will be denying to men the freedom to seek congenial employment wherever they choose. The closed shop system which the clause seeks to abolish, takes away two freedoms of people who are outside the unions. If a union decides to keep out of its ranks people who are trying to gain membership, it is claiming power to legislate for outside people. Real freedom means that strong groups shall not have power to act against other people. If the motor drivers of Australia had the freedom to travel along city streets at 70 miles an hour, they wouldbe interfering with the comfort, safety and security of others. In this case, if the Government allowed the powerful trade unions the right to say that men should not enter the unions, it would be denying employment to those people. It would mean that all industries would be bound by the strong unions and compulsory unionism would come into effect, but employers would be forbidden to employ anybody except the members of unions. For their part, the unions would deny membership to persons, who, in effect, would not be able to get employment. That principle would destroy the freedom of a man to enter a union and seek a job that he wanted. It would deprive employers of the freedom to engage the men whom they required and were willing to employ. In the finish, some unions dominated by Communists would decide how many democratic Australians would be permitted into the unions and into avenues of employment. To honorable members on this side of the House and to the people of Australia, it is unthinkable that that sort of freedom should be denied to Australians. I give the strongest support to clause 22, which is suited to the needs of this country with its population increasing by more than 200,000 a year, because it seeks to keep open avenues of employment.
. - The speech that honorable members have just heard is one of the most peculiar that has ever been delivered in this chamber. I hope that the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) will learn a little about trade unionism and arbitration before he wastes the time of honorable members on matters of which he knows nothing. He has shown that he believes that the coal strike in 1949 was caused by the failure of the concilia-‘ tion commissioners to work efficiently. The honorable member did not even know that the conciliation commissioners who were appointed under the 1947 legislation had nothing to do with the coal strike. It was not a strike against decisions of the conciliation commissioners.
It was directed against a decision of Mr. Gallagher, whose appointment was not connected in any -way with the 1947 act.
– I did not say that at all.
– The honorable member did say so.
– I said that it was the culmination of the system and of the weakness of the government of the day towards communism.
-It had nothing to do with the culmination of the system and obviously the honorable member for Macarthur knows nothing about the matter. He has endeavoured to explain to honorable members the meaning of the term “ closed shop “. Apparently he has read a threepenny pamphlet issued by some out-of-date European union authority. The honorable member appears to visualize the closed shop as a kind of ice-cream shop with the doors locked. The term merely means the system under which everybody working in a shop must be a member of a union. In no country where the closed shop operates do the unions concerned prevent people from joining the union if they wish to do so. The opposite is the effect.
– Except in Australia.
– In every country, the term means that unionists insist on everybody who works in an industry joining the union. In any event, the point is unimportant, and need not be considered. The appeals system which the Government seeks to introduce gives to conciliation commissioners the right to provide in awards that employers shall be authorized to impose penalties upon their employees for disciplinary reasons. Under another provision strike-breakers and the like will be enabled to obtain entry to unions, even though the unions may consider that their admission would be detrimental to other members of the union. On the first point, in order to give the right of appeal against conciliation commissioners, the Government decided to give not one appeal but seven appeals. The first is under section 14a (2.), the second under 14a (3.), the third under 14a (5.), the fourth under 14b (2.), the fifth under 31a (2.), the sixth under 31a (4.) and the seventh under 31a (6.). All may be connected with the one matter. If each authority that deals with the seven separate appeals that are to be made possible by the bill takes as long to determine the appeal as Conciliation Commissioner Galvin took to determine the case that has caused so much trouble recently, seven years will elapse before a union can get a final decision on an appeal which may have originated before a conciliation commissioner. There would be nothing wrong with the principle of appeals if a system of appeals could be involved which would not impede the quick handling of disputes. What is wrong with the system of appeals proposed in the bill is that they unnecessarily impede the quick settlement of disputes.
– Does the honorable gentleman concede the principle of appeals from conciliation commissioners?
– I should always favour a system of appeals provided that the procedure was expeditious and would enable disputes to be settled quickly. But no such system of that kind has yet been evolved. The system that the Government proposes to set up under this bill will accentuate existing difficulties. My personal view is that a better way of getting from conciliation commissioners decisions that would be more in accordance with what people generally are thinking, would be to enable the conciliation commissioners at their quarterly meetings to review controversial awards made during the preceding three months. At such meetings, the conciliation commissioners, by majority vote, could pass judgment upon a particular decision of an individual conciliation commissioner. Alternatively, the Attorney-General could refer to the conciliation commissioners at such meetings any particular matter that he considered should be reviewed by them in the public interest; or, perhaps, the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could require the conciliation commissioners, when assembled at such meetings, to review a particular matter. Having made such a review, the conciliation commissioners should be permitted to determine by secret ballot whether the decision in question should be altered. I venture to say that had the sixteen conciliation commissioners been given an opportunity in that way to express their view of the Galvin award, Conciliation Commissioner Galvin himself would probably have voted against his award as he then would have seen the chaos that it had caused. I could not imagine that men like Conciliation Commissioner Finlay, Conciliation Commissioner Austin, or Conciliation Commissioner Blackburn would uphold the stupid decision that .Conciliation Commissioner Galvin gave in the metal trades case. One of the weaknesses of the Chifley legislation - it is well that we should cleanse that legislation of apparent faults - was that it provided opportunities for conciliation commissioners to procure advancement by giving decisions designed to please the government of the day rather than in accordance with their own conscience. Conciliation Commissioner Galvin is anxious to become Chief Conciliation Commissioner and he will not hesitate to do anything to that end even though it should mean casting aside his better judgment, or ignoring the justice of a claim in any respect.
The CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Adermann).Order ! The honorable member must not make personal reflections upon a conciliation commissioner.
– I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, under what standing order I am prevented from referring to conciliation commissioners.
– Order! The honorable member must obey the Chair.
– I shall obey the Chair, but the Chair should observe the Standing Orders. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to cite the standing order under which you rule that I shall not refer to conciliation commissioners in the way in which I am now doing.
– I rise to order. I submit that it is clearly out of order for an honorable member to make scandalous statements about any officer of the Crown who is carrying out judicial functions.
One of the misfortunes of the 1947* actwas that it obliged conciliation commissioners to carry out such functions. Con- sequently, conciliation commissioners areentitled to be protected by the Chair” against attack upon them in this chamber^
– Order ! The Chairis not obliged to cite a standing order in* respect of any ruling that it gives. I ask the honorable member to refrain from making personal reflections upon a conciliation commissioner.
– I propose to take the earliest opportunity to test your ruling, Mr. Chairman.
– Order! If the honorable member wishes to test my ruling he must take such action forthwith.
– At this juncture, I have more important matters . to deal with. I was alluding to one of the errors of the 1947 act. I repeat that a system under which references could be made to conciliation commissioners at their quarterly meetings would be effective and would not involve any delays in the settlement of controversial matters.
I turn now to the provision that will enable penalties to be imposed upon employees. In the bad old days, the squatters enjoyed the right-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose to talk about closed shops, or open shops. I shall deal with the subject of British freedom and justice, which can be more easily understood. I am sure that it is well understood by some honor able members opposite. The object of proposed section 14a, stripped of legal jargon, is simply to restore to a large section of the Australian people an inherent right that was denied to them under the legislation that was introduced by the Chifley Government, which this bill seeks to amend. Under the 1947 act no party to an industrial dispute had the right of appeal from a conciliation commissioner whose decision aggrieved them or was, in their view, unjust. Under that act, a right that is available to every criminal was denied to parties to industrial disputes. However, a notable feature of the major measures that were introduced by the Chifley and Curtin Labour Governments was the establishment of courts, or tribunals, to which were given complete dictatorial powers and against whose decisions no one had the right of appeal. For instance, during the regime of the Chifley Government, an act was passed which provided that the judgment of a court “ shall be final and conclusive “, “ shall not be subject to appeal to the High Court”, and “shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or called in question on any account whatever “.
– What Government was responsible for legislation of that kind?
– That provision was made in an act that was passed during the regime of the Chifley Government, and I have cited it in order to emphasize the nature of the amendments that are to be made under this bill. That legislation did not establish a closed shop; it closed the door to justice against any person who might feel aggrieved at the decision of the tribunal in question. It established a complete dictatorship. If this Government condoned such legislation, it would take the first step towards the establishment of the slave state.
– In what act was that provision inserted?
– It was inserted in the Banking Act of most unhappy memory. The Chifley Government’s motive was not of the purest when, under the 1947 act, it abolished the right of appeal from conciliation commissioners. It was obvious at that time that supporters of that government were of the opinion that if persons of the right type were appointed conciliation commissioners, their decisions, invariably, would favour the trade unions and, consequently, the right of appeal would be useful only in the interests of employers. However, two notable cases have arisen in which trade unions have been the dissenting parties. I refer first to the Galvin award in the metal trades case. The second case, which illustrates the danger inherent in the Chifley Government’s anti-British act of denying the right of appeal from conciliation commissioners, occurred in Victoria when the engineers objected to an award and simply refused to return to work. The union concerned pulled out key men in industry after industry. As neither party had the right of appeal, no steps could be taken to remedy the position that then arose as a result of legislation that was passed during the regime of the Chifley Government. The position became most dangerous when power house engineers were -about to be called out and, subsequently, the union concerned threatened to call out sewerage engineers. Such action would have caused pestilence and disease through Victoria. However, the Prime Minister of the day, realizing how desperate was the position, devised an expedient whereby the matter could be brought before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The effect of such action was magical. The engineers went back to work.
That is the kind of situation that this measure is designed to obviate. Many doleful predictions have been made that delays will be caused in the settlement of disputes under the system of appeals for which this bill makes provision. Such predictions are reminiscent of those that honorable members opposite made in respect of another bill that was passed recently to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It was then said that strikes would occur throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and that unprecedented industrial trouble would be caused. In fact, none of those predictions was proved to be true. The chaos that honorable members opposite predicted did not occur. On the contrary, that measure enabled many trade unionists to free themselves of the stranglehold of the reds by managing their own affairs instead of permitting such affairs to be managed from Russia. Honorable members opposite are sincere in the objections that they have raised to this bill because it is designed to give to trade unions the right of appeal from conciliation commissioners, whereas, when they were in office, they supported every major piece of legislation of the Chifley and Curtin Governments which denied that right. Such action, in itself, was most vicious, but, in addition’, those governments made provision for penalties of a kind that no one would ever believe a democratic government could possibly inflict upon any defaulter. Members of the present Opposition wept tears of blood because this Government provided in some of its recent measures for fines of a few pence. Yet, governments which they supported imposed penalties of fines up to £1,000 a day for every day that an organization or an individual continued an offence. That is the kind of legislation that this measure seeks to amend. I trust that the Government will continue to merit the gratitude of the trade unions even though it may not win the approval of honorable members opposite who merely pretend to represent the interests of those organizations.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) were completely irrelevant to the measure before the Chair. He cited the Banking Act and also legislation under which he claimed fines up to £1,000 a day were imposed upon industrial organizations. This bill does not seek to amend the legislation to which he alluded. Its object is to establish a system of appeals from conciliation commissioners which must, inevitably, delay the settlement of disputes and thus impede industry. That honorable member, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) know very well that employers take advantage of every opportunity presented to them to delay the settlement of industrial disputes by having recourse to litigation, and that such action disrupts industry and decreases production. I have no doubt that in advancing arguments that have nothing to do with the bill the honorable member for Gippsland believed that he was right. The trouble with honorable members opposite, how.ever, is that they ave suffering from the ignorance of which they accuse the Opposition. They do not know anything about this matter, because they have had nothing to do with the arbitration system. I and other honorable members on this side of the committee have had intimate associations with trade unions for a long time, and know the facts. The trade unions have always had available to them a system of secret ballots. Such. a system does not have to be forced onthem. That is why we object to legislation that makes it mandatory for trade unions to take steps that they have alwaysbeen able to take without compulsion.The argument advanced by the honorable member for Gippsland was absurd,and I am sorry that he advanced it. Itis just as well that the proceedings are: not being broadcast to-night, because people who understand the position, including some people who are closely associated with the honorable gentleman, would be rather disgusted if they heard the sort of statements that he has uttered.
I venture to suggest that the fallaciousness of the argument of the honorable member for Macarthur has been exposed by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who knows something about trade unions. It will surely not be denied that the honorable member for ‘ Bendigo, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), and I know at least something about arbitration procedure as a result of our experience. The honorable member for Bendigo has shown very effectively the possible consequences of this legislation. I do not say that the legislation will always be deliberately used by interested parties to cause delay, but the fact remains that the opportunity is to be given to unscrupulous people to use it time and time again in order to launch appeals against decisions in cases in which, in ordinary circumstances an appeal would not lie. I subscribe to the view that was advanced by the honorable member forHindmarsh, which, I understand, was his personal view, that a far better way of conducting a review of unsatisfactory decisions would be to have the conciliation commissioners meet together and discuss them. I understand that the conciliation commissioners now have quarterly meetings, but they probably only have a cup of tea together and make no decisions. Perhaps they are not even entitled to make decisions at such meetings. If any sort of review of decisions was to be provided for, it could have been provided for by meetings of the sixteen conciliation commissioners, at which they could decide on common action. We have the instance of Mr. Findlay, the conciliation commissioner who believes quite differently from Mr. Galvin. There are other similar instances.
The honorable member for Macarthur has contended that more strikes have occurred since the Chifley legislation was passed in 1947 than occurred before that time. He merely made an allegation, but did not produce one fact or figure to substantiate it. I deny his allegation, which I consider to be completely untrue. It i3 ridiculous of him to say simply that the 1947 legislation has been productive of strikes. The effect of the legislation has been otherwise, as is shown by a report made by a commissioner and also by a statement that appeared in a leading article in a newsPaper that cannot be said to favour the Labour party’s point of view. The article appeared in the Melbourne Herald on the 37th April last and read in part -
In its first six months, “ streamlined “ con ciliation dealt with about 500 industrial cases. In only five of these were the commissioners’ rulings flouted.
The honorable member for Macarthur entirely ignored that. I do not think that he could ever convince anybody who had given any thought to the matter that, his contention is right. I am sorry, as one of the people who were responsible for helping to frame the 1947 legislation, that, the Minister, who, I think, endeavours to be fair in his relationships with employers and employees, has been led into bringing down this bill. I am convinced that, ,as a result qf arguments that occurred probably within the Cabinet and his party, he has brought the bill down not of his own free will, but because he has behind him honorable members like the honorable member for Macarthur, who make foolish statements without supplying proof of their accuracy.
– Would the honorable memher agree that there are far too many strikes ?
– I think that there are always too many strikes. The strike method should be adopted only :as a final resort when other methods have failed. I said in my second-reading :speech- yesterday that I believe that a moral obligation rests on us to try to reach a better understanding between employers and employees. I speak as a person who was an employee for a long time, and was also a representative of employees. I strove to do my best to produce such understanding. I consider that the provision that will make it mandatory for trade unions to admit as members persons whom they might consider to be unqualified and undesirable for membership is ridiculous and tyrannical. Under this clause a trade union will have to allow people to become members even though it may already have more members than can find work in the trade concerned. I believe that trade unions should admit sufficient members to meet the extremities of work offering from time to time, but it is ridiculous to suggest that trade unions like the waterfront unions, whose members are engaged in work that fluctuates in volume, should have to admit more members than there will be work for.
I have no wish to traverse the points that have been emphasized by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I consider that he has expressed a point of view to which attention should be given. We have arrived at a state of affairs at which we could profitably discuss, with Government members who understand the needs of arbitration and the way in which it should function, the important problems that relate to it. We could get down to earth with them and try to reach the correct solutions.
Clause 17 appears to be tyrannical in effect. To allow an employer to enforce a penalty, as is provided for in the clause, is to allow one party in a case before the court to fine a man - because that is what it amounts to - without some arbitral tribunal having decided whether or not he is to blame. That is an entirely wrong principle, and I am quite sure, having heard the argument of the honorable member for Bendigo, and the arguments of other honorable members whom the Minister knows to be qualified to express an opinion, that the Minister must be very sorry that the legislation was brought down in this form. I am sorry to have to say that I believe that the legislation has been brought down at the dictation of the employers, who support the Government. In other words, the
Government brought the legislation down in order to satisfy the interests that were responsible, by misrepresentations, for putting it in office in the first place. The Government has introduced the legislation and it now knows, if it did not know before, but should have known, that the measure is completely distasteful to the trade unions, which have always been willing that arbitration legislation should be amended if thereby it could be improved. The Labour Government’s legislation in 1947 was introduced as a result of discussions with both the trade unions and the employers. In consequence, it functioned very well indeed. I do not wish to quote again and again statements that have been made, but the final paragraph-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The needs of truth, justice, and common sense compel me to contribute to this debate. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has been complaining of the statements of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who had the temerity to suggest that the 1947 legislation has led to greater and more frequent strikes than occurred before it was enacted. I believe that to be a plain fact. This is not the first or the second, but is the third time in the course of debates in this chamber that I have said that the 1947 legislation has failed. The strikes that have followed the Galvin award, and the dilemma in which the whole arbitration system finds itself as a result, provide the final proof of that failure. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has quoted from some newspaper in order to suggest that the system has worked beautifully. He also said that the report of one of the conciliation commissioners supports the newspaper’s view. Perhaps the honorable gentleman would like to hear the uncomfortable words of the Chief Judge. I shall quote the actual words that the Chief Judge used in his fourth annual report. Perhaps the honorable member for Maribyrnong will concede greater authority to the Chief Judge of the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court than to any one of the sixteen conciliation commissioners. The Chief Judgesaid in his fourth annual report -
Goodwill in industry and the continued and’ amicable operation of awards and orders made’ in settlement of industrial disputes cannot’ be said to have resulted from the present legislation.
If the honorable member for Maribyrnong were to make due allowance for the temperate nature of judicial statements he would be able to read a great deal into that simple sentence. What does the learned judge mean? He means that there has been a series of insoluble disputes as a ‘ result of the legislation. That is convincing evidence in support of my contention, which I repeat for the fourth time, that the 1947 legislation has failed. We might have hoped that, with all the wealth of experience in industrial affairs that resides in the opposite side of the committee - and I pay due weight particularly to that of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) - the Opposition would have adopted a more constructive approach to this bill. So far, however, we have had no recognition from it that the 1947 system has failed. In addition, honorable members opposite have not made any constructive suggestion about the kind of alteration that ought to be made to the system. Honorable members opposite, in general, seem to believe that the present system is all that can be desired. I propose to produce evidence to prove that it is not.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was the only honorable member opposite to admit that there might be anything wrong with the 1947 system. He even had his own suggestion for an improvement of it. The Government has found a moderate and temperate means for overcoming the worst faults of the existing legislation. The Government has been restrained in its approach to this matter. It has, in fact, leant over backwards in order to ensure that the creation of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), when he was Attorney-General in the Chifley Government, should not be dismembered any more than could possibly be helped. The right honorable gentleman should be grateful to the Government for having left so much of the corpse intact, but I believe that it should be given decent burial, and that we should make a new start. Although the bill represents a decent, respectable attempt at reform, the Opposition does nothing but condemn it. The fact is that arbitration must not only be quick; it must also be sure. There is no point in an arbitration system which produces quick results if those results are not good. The whole basis of the argument advanced by honorable members opposite is that there is nothing wrong with the conciliation commissioner system. Anybody who has studied its operation over the last five years knows that their belief in its perfection is complete nonsense. The conciliation commissioners have been charged with a duty that they cannot perform, because they have not the machinery to ensure that their orders and awards shall be carried out.
About six months ago, in the course of a metal trades dispute, the Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Morrison, called both parties before him, and asked them to explain their attitude to current wage claims. The president of the Metal Trades Employers Association stated the attitude of his association, and, in doing so, made an important observation on the operations of conciliation commissioners. I propose to read the latter part of his statement first, so that it cannot be suggested that his expression of opinion is an attack on conciliation commissioners as such. He said this -
This is not said in criticism of Conciliation Commissioners, who are, after all, instruments of the Act which created them and clothed them with the powers they now have. As individuals, I believe the Conciliation Commissioners are conscientiously striving to perform a most difficult task.
I am in complete agreement with that opinion. The Parliament and the country owe a great deal to the eighteen conciliation commissioners for their conscientious attempts to discharge their almost impossible tasks. The statement continues -
The handling of these disputes by Conciliation Commissioners has, in our experience, followed a general pattern, and I think I may fairly describe it as follows: - “ Each Commissioner has endeavoured to throw the onus for action back on to the employer. Each has drawn attention to the importance of the Conciliation Commissioner’s office to effectively deal with the dispute in hand. Each has reiterated the plea, ‘Well, what do you expect me to do ? ‘ Each has adopted the formula of requesting the parties to confer. In many cases the hearing has concluded with a statement by the Commissioner saying, ‘ I make no order, the case is adjourned sine die’”. In the many cases where the foregoing has not settled the dispute the Association’s officers have had great difficulty in persuading a Conciliation Commissioner to relist a dispute and in some cases we have had blank refusals.
The reason is that the conciliation commissioners have been charged with a duty which they cannot perform, because they have no power to do so.
– This bill does not cure that position.
– It cures it to this degree : A conciliation commissioner may make an award, which, if it is ineffective, may be referred by either party to the Pull Court. The award will come before the Full Court, and will be backed by the whole strength and jurisdiction of that tribunal.
The establishment of the conciliation commissioner system has not led to quicker arbitration. Indeed, it has caused, in many instances, a complete failure of arbitration, and a protracted hearing of jurisdictional disputes before the High Court. The claim advanced by Opposition members that the conciliation commissioner system has streamlined the arbitration system cannot be sustained.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The purpose of arbitration is to bring about industrial peace. “Whilst the right of appeal to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from a decision of a conciliation commissioner may be right in principle, the wisdom of incorporating such a provision in this bill depends largely on whether it will lead to industrial peace. The bill has been badly drafted. Its principal weakness was exposed by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who said that, had the proposals embodied in the bill been offered to him as an industrial leader 40 years ago, he would have accepted them with both hands. In making that statement, he gave to the bill its proper designation. It is 40 years behind the times. I have no doubt that, had any one been offered this bill 40 years ago, he’ would have accepted it. But time marches on. People have become more intelligent since those days. Education is more widespread now than it was in those times. Therefore, people, will not fall for a bill of this kind. The arbitration system has been established because the privileged classes and the unprivileged classes have been fighting for years to adjust their differences. That fight will continue, irrespective of the optimistic hopes of many people, until a fair and reasonable basis of agreement has been reached.
– Is not the basis fair and reasonable now?
– The interjection of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) amazes me. He is opposed to the fixation of the price, of wheat or of any other primary product. The only commodity that the worker has to sell is his labour. Members of the Australian Country party are in favour of fixing the price of the worker’s labour, but protest violently when it is suggested that the prices of the commodities that the worker requires should be fixed. A visitor to this chamber during a debate on the price of wheat or of any other primary product could be excused for thinking that the price of the blood of the honorable member for Lyne was under discussion. The honorable gentleman reminds me- of the old evangelist in the early days-
– Order!. I ask the honorable gentleman to relate his remarks to the bill.
– I was discussing the system of conciliation and arbitration when I was distracted by a rude and impertinent interjection. I am a quiet and peaceful man by nature, but I answer, in kind, any interjection that is directed at nic when I am addressing the. Chair. I have represented the Australian Workers Union for many years before the arbitration tribunals. Arbitration is definitely the point of contact between employer and employee, and has brought about a con siderable degree of industrial peace. Direct action was necessary before the establishment of arbitration tribunals, yet it was not so satisfactory to either employer or employee as the arbitration system has been.
Almost from time immemorial, the worker has been trying to get a reasonable share of the product of his labour. There is the land, and the labour applied to the land, which is the source of all our wealth. One honorable member has referred to a willing worker willingly taking a job with a willing employer. The worker who was starving during the financial depression had to take a job with any kind of employer, not because he was willing, but because he had to live. Many employers in those times took great care to get the maximum work from the employee for the minimum payment. Let there be no mistake about the attitude of the employer. He has always tried to get as much as possible for as little as possible. Arbitration has formed the point of contact between employer and employee. The price of a worker’s labour, which is the only commodity that he has to sell, is fixed, yet employers protest loudly at any suggestion that the prices of the goods and commodities required by the worker should be fixed. If the price of the worker’s labour is fixed, the price of every commodity that he uses and consumes should be fixed. Until such a basis is reached, the state of industrial peace that we all desire will not be attained. Every concession that has been gained by the workers has been wrung from the employers. I remember the days before the introduction of workmen’s compensation and unemployment insurance. A man, if he was injured in the mining industry, in which I was employed, died in the bush. No assistance was available to him. When an accident occurred, the employer was more concerned about whether his horses were injured than whether an employee had been hurt. However, conditions have improved since those days as a result of the efforts of the Labour party and the industrial unions. The principle of arbitration has been accepted. I was definitely in favour of direct action until members of the Australian Workers Union, by a two to one majority, decided to adopt the arbitration method for the settlement of disputes.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has had enough experience of parliamentary practice to know that, in the committee stage, he must relate his remarks to the clauses of the bill. He may not now make a secondreading speech on the subject of arbitration.
– As you have suggested, Mr. Chairman, I have had sufficient experience of parliamentaryprocedure, but other speakers have wandered all over the country–
– Order ! Will the honorable member obey the ruling of the Chair?
– Yes. I was merely following the example of previous speakers. I was astonished to find that, in committee, such digressions were permitted by the Chair and I assumed that a similar privilege would be accorded to me. However, I shall direct my remarks to arbitration. The first award of an industrial tribunal in Queensland was made under the Industrial Peace Act. That act, like this bill, was introduced by a tory government, and its principal provisions were penal provisions. The workers were to be punished if they did not obey the employer implicitly. This bill is nearly as bad as was the old Industrial Peace Act. For that reason, the Labour party is opposed toit. Opposition members are the custodians of the welfare of the workers of Australia, and, in that capacity, we shall do everything in our power to prevent the passage of this bill, because its effects will definitely be detrimental to the interests of the working man. I cannot understand, in view of the availability of the services of parliamentary draftsmen and industrial experts, why such a crude bill has been placed before the chamber. I do not suggest for a moment that the intentions of the Government and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) are not good, but they lack a proper knowledge of workers’ conditions, as is shown by the drafting of this bill. It will do the workers more harm than good.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. WARD (East Sydney) [9.140.- Mr. Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) - by leave - put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Senate’s amendment. - After clause 3 insert the following new clause : - “ 3a. Section twenty of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (a) of sub-section (5.) and inserting in its stead the following sub- paragraph : -
that value shall not be increased by more than one hundred per centum thereof for the purposes of all assessments of land tax to which this sub-section applies; and ‘;
by inserting after the word ‘value’ in line 1 of sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (a) of sub-section (5.) the words ‘ or the increased value ‘, and by omitting at the end thereof the words ‘ and that value shall be final and conclusive’;
by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (5.) all words after the words ‘the provisions of this Act’;
by omitting paragraph (c) of subsection (5.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
the foregoing amendments made by this Act to section twenty shall be deemed to have commenced in operation on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one.’ ; and
by omitting from sub-section (6.) the words ‘ One thousand nine hundred and fifty ‘, and inserting in their stead the words ‘One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one ‘”.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) proposed -
That the amendment be disagreed to.
.- Mr. Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. What is the amendment? We have not heard it.
– Copies of the amendment have been circulated–
– Mr. Chairman–
– Order ! Give me a. chance to read it. Unless honorable members remain silent when I am speaking I shall deal with them. That applies to the honorable member for Melbourne.
– I rise to order. You have admitted, Mr. Chairman, that you have not read the amendment. I assure you that no member of the committee has had a chance to read it. How can you put a motion to the committee when no honorable member has read it, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in Hitler-like fashion, has refused to read it?
– Order ! The honorable member will withdraw that term.
– I withdraw it. May I substitute “Stalin-like”?
– Order ! The honorable member will withdraw and apologize to the Chair.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– There is no point of order. I was dealing with the point of order raised by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), and I had intimated that copies of the amendment had been circulated. I was then about to read the marginal note., which is all that is necessary. The amendment relates to triennial assessments and alterations of assessments. The Treasurer had moved-
That the amendment be disagreed to.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has now moved -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
That the question be now put.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the amendment be disagreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Aderm ann.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) put -
That the resolution be reported.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) put -
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) put -
That Mr. Beale, Mr. McEwen and Sir Arthur Fadden be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to the amendment of the Senate.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– On behalf of the committee I bring up the following reasons: -
Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to the amendment of the Senate:
The amendments are diametrically opposed to the principle of the Land Tax Assessment Act which imposes tax on the basis of the true unimproved value of the land owned by taxpayers.
The amendments would cause grave anomalies between taxpayers. One taxpayer would pay tax based on the real unimproved value of his land whilst another would be taxed on the basis of a value considerably below its real unimproved value. Such discrimination between taxpayers would be indefensible.
I move -
That the committee’s reasons be adopted.
.- The Opposition wishes to discuss these reasons.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
– So far as I am aware, the proceedings are in order.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the committee’s reasons be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 29th May (_vide page 1093), on motion by Mr. ha8luck-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in his second-reading speech, said that the germ of the idea for -a composite company originated with the Chifley Government. It is quite true that that Government had considered for some time arranging a composite company for the development of the timber resources of the Bulolo Valley, but the proposals contained in this bill differ fundamentally from those that were considered by the Labour Government of which I was a member. Therefore, I shall trace briefly the history of the origin and development of this proposal. When I was Minister for External Territories in the Chifley Government, I recommended that a purely government company should be formed to develop these timber resources. That government adopted the recommendation; but subsequently, because it was anxious to develop those resources quickly in order to meet the needs of the Australian market, it appointed a departmental subcommittee which recommended that certain changes be made in my original proposal. That committee advised that there would be difficulty in obtaining the necessary machinery and staff and also in providing facilities for timber workers in the territory. However, Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, which was operating in New Guinea, already possessed power plant and hospital and recreational facilities for employees and also a timber mill the output from which could be used for the construction of houses to accommodate the workers and, therefore, it was in a position more readily to co-operate with the Government in the development of these great resources. Consequently, in order to obtain quick results, that Government compromised and adopted the recommendation of its departmental sub-committee.
When the Chifley Government was defeated at the general election towards the end of 1949, its negotiations with Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited had advanced to a stage at which sample logs had been sent to Canada to be tested and the only matter remaining to be determined was the control of the directorate of the proposed composite company. Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited was holding out to obtain that control, whereas the Chifley Government considered that the Commonwealth should retain it. It had proposed that any matter over which a dispute arose and which could not be resolved by negotiation was to be decided in favour of the Government. Provision along those lines is made in this bill, but the general conditions that are now offered to the company are considerably more generous than were any that the Chifley Government ever considered. That Government proposed that after a period of years the Commonwealth should have the option of acquiring the interests of Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited under this agreement. No provision of that kind is contained in this bill. On the contrary, the rights that are to be accorded to the company are to be granted to it in perpetuity. It is true that provision is made for the issue of permits to the company in respect of each ten-year period. Nevertheless, the Government may continue to issue such permits even after the lapse of 50 years, by “which time new timber will have matured. Consequently, unless the agreement is eventually cancelled, the Government will not be able to secure complete control of the industry. Such a step would no doubt involve the Commonwealth in payment of heavy compensation. That is a very great concession to give to the company, which, I admit, would have been placed in a privileged position to a lesser degree even if the Chifley Government had been able to complete its agreement. The only qualification that is now provided for in this respect is that if either party decides to sell its interest under the agreement the other party shall be advised of that intention and shall have the option of purchasing that interest. But I believe that the venture will prove to be so profitable that it will be most unlikely that the company will ever desire to give up its right under the agreement.
The Opposition approves of certain provisions of the agreement. For instance, we believe that wherever timber-getting work is undertaken, either in Australia or in the Territories, provision should be made for reafforestation. The regeneration of forests in Papua and New Guinea, as is provided for under this bill, would have been assured in the negotiations that took place between the Chifley Government and the company. Full credit for that provision must be accorded to Mr. McAdams, who is in charge of the forestry section of the Papua and New Guinea Administration. He is a competent officer and has always been concerned primarily with the preservation and exploitation of the resources of the territory for the benefit of the territory itself.
When the Chifley Government was negotiating with Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, the Australian market wa3 urgently in need of timber and timber products. However, the position has changed. The existence of the Australian industry will be threatened by the establishment of this company unless certain protective provisions are included in the agreement.
The industry in this country has been developed to a high state of efficiency and now employs approximately 40,000 workers, whilst approximately £3,000,000 has been invested in it. Australian timber mills have been developed and improved. The Chifley Government set out to develop the industries in the territory - in which respect that Government was vastly different from this Government - on the basis that such industries should be noncompetitive with similar industries on the mainland, in which rates of pay and standards of employment are much higher than are those that operate in the territory. The Chifley Government, after consultation with the ‘trade unions concerned, which co-operated with it, decided that the Australian market was not to be threatened with extinction by the influx into Australia of cheaply produced timber from the industry in the territory.
I shall mention other concessions that are to be given to Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited under this measure in order to show that this agreement is not identical with that which the Chifley Government sought to negotiate. With the exception of the provision for the formation of a composite company, no semblance of similarity exists between the two proposals. When the Chifley Government went out of office, it had actually discussed with the company a proposal to place a toll on users of the road from Bulolo to Lae. The construction and maintenance of that road are expensive items. I should say that its construction, which was undertaken for military purposes during the recent war and its maintenance have already involved this country in an expenditure of over £1,000,000. Although the road is only 97 miles long, it is estimated that its maintenance will cost £70,000 annually. Under the agreement contained in this ‘bill, the Government will meet that cost. Consequently, under that agreement, the company will benefit in this respect not only from its timber operations but also from its mining operations, for which purpose it will have free use of this road for the handling of supplies. Thus, under the agreement, Bulolo
Gold Dredging Limited will not be required to make a sufficient contribution to the development of the territory. Up to date, it has taken enormous wealth out of the territory. This agreement is far “.too generous to it. The Government is to construct two bridges on the road from Bulolo to Lae which now ends on the southern side of the Markham River, from which point transport to Lae is by water. I shall be interested to hear from the Minister what is the estimated cost of the construction of those bridges. It is clear that the company will receive valuable benefits out of all proportion to the contribution it will make to the development of the timber industry.
The Australian timber industry will be threatened with extinction as a result of the provisions that are made in the agreement with respect to customs duties. The Parliament should take steps to obviate that possibility. The Labour party believes in the establishment in the territories of industries that are necessary for their development and progress hut, at the same time, it has always insisted that the products of industries that are based on the employment of cheap labour should not be allowed to compete with Australian industries. Therefore, honorable members will be astonished to note that under the bill the Government proposes, in effect, to refund to the company in the form of a subsidy all collections of customs duty in respect of timber exported from the territory to Australia. Clearly, the Australian timber industry will not be greatly protected by that provision. The industry in the territory is much more favorably situated than is the industry in Australia. In the territory, mills are situated nearer to sources of supply, and even though the company will be confronted with transport difficulties it will enjoy so great an advantage through the employment of native labour that it will be enabled to flood the Australian market with cheap labour products. The Australian trade unions concerned proposed to the Chifley Government that, wherever possible, timber should be brought to the Australian market in the log whenever Australian mills were not working to capacity. Many employees are at present unemployed, and the union says it is quite prepared to support any proposal to develop the timber industry in the territory if the timber is to be brought to Australia in the log. They recognized that, in respect of the Bulolo Valley, the industry for the manufacture of plywood should be established in the territory itself because of transport difficulties. At the same time, however, it contended that the complete manufacture of plywood in the territory should be limited to meet local requirements only and that veneers should be exported to Australia to give employment to Australian workmen engaged in the plywood industry. The conditions and provisions that were discussed by the Chifley Government are completely different from those now being discussed by the present Government, because no provision for the protection of the Australian industry is contained in this agreement.
The question of taxation also arises. As honorable gentlemen are aware, no income tax is paid in the territories. Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited is paying tax on its gold production, but the contribution that it is making to the development of the territories is far out of proportion to the profits that it is earning as a result of its activities in the area. I consider that the Government has not given to the Australian industry the protection that it ought to be given. We have a very active timber workers’ union in Australia. The workers in the timber industry in Queensland are covered by the Australian Workers Union. Timber workers in Western Australia are covered by two State unions, and in the remainder of the States by the Australian Workers Union. As a result of the activities of those unions, conditions for workers in the industry in Australia have been greatly improved. The unions have thus helped to maintain what are known as Australian industrial standards. That situation does not exist in the territory, where native labour is available for payment of 15s. a month a head, with rations provided. That labour is much cheaper than the labour that can be obtained in Australia, where working conditions are much higher than they are in New Guinea. Some day in the future, no doubt as industries are developed in the territory, the Australian trade union movement will take a greater interest in the territory and will be able to protect the interests not only of the European workers, but also of native labour. That protection, however, does not exist at present, and so Australian workers require to watch very closely the operation of this agreement. Not only members of the Labour party and of trade unions can see the danger to the Australian industry that the agreement holds. Australian plywood manufacturers are also unanimously opposed to it, because they realize that it will mean the destruction of the Australian industry. It is true that the plywood manufacturers did not display as much interest as they might have displayed during the war period in helping the Chifley Government to develop the timber industry in the territory. At that time their mills were working full time, and they were able to dispose of all their production. In consequence, they were not interested to any great degree in extending their operations into the territories. They wanted conditions from the Labour government of the day which it was not prepared to concede to them. But now the Australian plywood manufacturers can see the dangers implicit in the agreement, to the Australian industry and the continued employment of Australian workmen in it. Therefore, I say that, whilst the Labour party recognizes the need for the development of the industry in the territory, it is not satisfied with the provisions in the bill and the arguments advanced by the Government for acceptance of it by the Parliament.
It is not correct to say that this is the same sort of agreement as the Chifley Labour Government would have entered into with this company. I have already shown how it differs in vital respects from any agreement that the Chifley Government would have entered into. To sum up, it can be said that the Chifley Government decided not to give the company the timber rights in perpetuity, and not to bear the full cost of maintenance of the road to Bulolo from Lae, or the cost of constructing bridges over two rivers. This agreement provides for more generous terms and conditions than were ever proposed by .the Labour
Government. Therefore, the Labour party will propose an amendment to the bill so that this matter may be further considered, and in order that employees and employers in the Australian industry will have an opportunity to have their views taken into consideration before the matter is finalized. I move, therefore -
That all words after “That” be left wit with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the proposals contained in the bill be referred to an all-party committee of members of this House for inquiry and report”.
If the Government agrees to the establishment of such a committee it will not mean the abandonment of this proposal to establish a composite authority. It will merely mean a delay in the implementation of the agreement, so that other aspects of the matter can be considered. In other words, not only the employees, but also the employers, will be able to ask the Government to include inthe agreement provisions that will ensure that the Australian, timber industry shall be protected against unfair competition as a result of the development of a timber industry in a territory in which an abundance of cheap labouris available. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
.. - I support the agreement which the bill is designed to make effective. For the benefit of those honorable members who are really interested! in the matter, I propose to outline, briefly, some of the major terms of the agreement, and I hope to be able to answer, limited though my knowledgemay be, some of the objections that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has raised. I wish to make it clear from the beginning that I do not agree with his amendment. An agreement has been made, between the Commonwealth and Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, for the purpose of harvesting the wonderful stands of timber in the Bulolo Valley that lie in close proximity to, and, in fact, that surround the site of the company’s operations. I stress the fact that the stands are located in New Guinea. As I have explained to the House on previous occasions, the Territory of New Guinea and Papua is divided into two parts. Papua is Australian territory but the mainland of New Guinea, New Britain, Bougainville and the islands of various archipelagos are held by Australia under trust to the United Nations. I ask the House to bear that fact in mind, because it is very important. The area covered by these timber stands is, according to the Minister’s statement, about 40,000 acres. L have seen these stands and have examined them as closely as was possible on two brief visits to the dredging company’s place of operation. They are in some of the wildest country that I have seen in New Guinea, and I am not without experience of New Guinea country. The timber is growing, strange to say, on the most precipitous slopes imaginable, in rough, bouldery country. In this connexion I refer to the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney on afforestation. I consider that replanting is almost impossible in the area in which the timber is growing. One of the first things that I did after reading the terms of the agreement was to approach the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and ask him about the plans for reafforestation, because I consider that it would be most difficult to undertake re-afforestation in the places where the timber is at present standing. I am pleased to say that I received an assurance from him that the plans provide for replanting, where necessary, in areas other than the actual places from which the timber is to be taken.
The estimated yield of the stands will be about 500,000,000 super, feet of timber. That is a tremendous amount of timber in. Australian terms, although it is not considered to be a great amount in Canada and other parts of the world, such as Scandinavia. It is a high-quality timber, and is to be harvested at the rate of 10,000,000 super, feet a year over a period of 50 years. The activities of the company will embrace logging, milling, peeling, veneer and plywood manufacture, but the Government will retain ultimate control over the general policy of the company, although the detailed management will remain under the control of the company, as would be the case if it were entirely a private enterprise. The board of directors of the joint company will comprise two representatives of the Commonwealth and two representatives of the dredging company.
The honorable member for East Sydney explained that the Government, under the present terms, cannot take over full control of this timber venture. I a3k him now why it should do so. If 1 were a director of this hard-boiled and most efficient company, Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, and found that one of the terms of the company’s contract with the Government was that the company’s interests in the venture would lapse after ten or twenty years, I would tell the Government to go and jump in the lake. Some people have asked why the Government should participate in this venture. That is a valid question, because the Government, and we who support it, do not generally support governmental participation in ventures in which private enterprise can do the job itself. The circumstances in New Guinea, however, are entirely different from those in Australia. Again I re-iterate that this territory is held by us under trust to the United Nations.
– It never should have been placed in trust.
– That may be so, but I consider that the fact that the Government is participating in this venture will protect us from criticism that maybe made against Australia, opportunities for which are definitely being sought by those who have no love for this country. That is an important point.
Another reason why the Government should participate in this venture is that it will thereby encourage the development of New Guinea, and promote confidence among people who have definite ideas about starting new ventures in the territory, but who consider that the future security of New Guinea is not altogether assured. I am interested in the future of New Guinea, as other honorable members should be, and I know of large firms in Melbourne that have become interested in certain developments there, but they consider that risking great amounts of capital in ventures in
New Guinea would be an unwise, or at least, uncertain action at the moment. I am sure that government participation of this kind will encourage such people to invest capital in New Guinea. For instance, I know of firms which are very interested in the growing of kenaf fibre in New Guinea. It has been proved that it can be grown most successfully there. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will agree with me that we were fortunate to obtain enough jute hags and wool packs from India for our primary products last season. The kenaf can ultimately take the place of jute, and, therefore, the development of that industry is most important. Prominent firms are becoming increasingly interested in growing on a large scale, coffee, cocoa and other products, but they also feel that the future of such a venture is uncertain. Government participation in this case is the most direct and simple way by which to ensure that the interests of both the territory and Australia will be served, and the needs of the Australian consumer met.
Reference has been made to the necessity to protect the Australian market against a flood of imports from the territory. I am confident that the Government’s share in formulating the policy of the company will ensure that Australia’s interests will be protected in every respect. It is not intended that the products of this venture shall flood the Australian market to the detriment of our local industries. The fact that the Government has a controlling interest in the policy of the company is a sufficient guarantee that the local market will be safeguarded.Would any government, through its own activities in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea be so unwise as to act to the great detriment of a firmly established industry in Australia? I am sure that it would not so act. Clause 5 of the agreement reads as follows : -
The assurance of the supply to the Australian market of plywood and other products similar to those of the Timber Company is fundamental to this Agreement.
Some persons may claim that it is a one-way arrangement. I have spoken with the chairman of the Plywood Industry Board of Australia about the matter. It seems that the Australian plywood industry would be most satisfied if it could receive supplies of veneer made from the hoop and klinkii pine. If I were a manufacturer, I should be fully content to be assured of definite and regular supplies of fine veneer at a most reasonable price for the manufacture of my plywood. New Guinea could probably provide considerable quantities of veneer. It is quite right that the company should manufacture plywood in the territory. We must look after the requirements of the territory in that respect, and I can see no harm in permitting the company to ship to Australia such limited quantities of plywood as would not be sufficient to upset the local market, and, where necessary, quantities of this very desirable veneer. From my own experience of the timber trade, I can assure the House that there is a ready market for the veneers overseas, particularly in Canada and the United States of America. Therefore, the Australian market need not be swamped with veneers from the territory, to the detriment of Australian manufacturers, because a market will always exist for them elsewhere.
It is hardly necessary for me to discuss the qualifications of Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited to do the job in New Guinea under this agreement. The honorable member for East Sydney was good enough to concede its capabilities in that respect. Any other firm which proposed to enter into the timber business in the territory would be confronted with tremendous difficulties. I shall mention quickly some of the facilities available to the company that are already established as a part of its going concern at Bulolo. The company has hydro-electric power. I have looked over this installation, and have seen where the water is drawn from the streams and runs, in races, or channels, round the mountain sides. Some of those races are many miles long. The water is carried down through shutes to the generating plants and turbines. All the available suitable water that can be used for the generation of power has been harnessed. It is a wonderful organization. The races round the mountain sides take six or seven years to set and become permanent in that country. There are turbines and generators, and power is distributed over a wide area. Bulolo is a splendid township which, strangely, is always referred to las a camp. Apparently, the mining term is applied to the settlement, but it is a township in every sense of the word. Bulolo is the show town of the territory. It is the first town to be completely rehabilitated since the end of “World War II. I do not think that any other town in the territory ha3 yet been completely rehabilitated. The houses at Bulolo are well built; indeed, they are quite the best-constructed dwellings in New Guinea. Gardens have been established, and many amenities, including a theatre, a hospital and recreation facilities, are provided. The most important consideration of all is that the company has great workshops which are capable of dealing with big engineering problems. One matter that I should not overlook is that the company has already established a small timber mill. I shall not make further reference to Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited other than to say that it is recognized as a most efficient company.
The honorable member for East Sydney referred to the proposal for the construction of a bridge over the Markham River He said that the Labour Government, in which he was Minister for External Territories, decided that the construction and the maintenance of the road which gives access from Bulolo to the port of Lae was the responsibility of the company. I cannot see any sense in that idea, because the road, which serves the company, also runs to Wau, and serves a number of other interests, including those of the Administration. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that the responsibilities of the Government, under the terms of the agreement, include the construction and maintenance of the road from the timber site to the port of Lae, and the construction of the bridge over the Markham River. The recommendation of the Administration is that the bridge should be placed at Markham Point, from which the road to Lae runs up to the Bulolo Valley round foothills of a most jagged nature. A long distance of the road is referred to locally as the Bends. Many of those bends will have to be straightened if heavy timber vehicles are to use the road. The sugges tion was made to me on two occasions when I was in New Guinea recently, and it has been made to me also in Canberra, that Markham Point, where the Administration’s experts consider the bridge should be constructed, is the wrong place for it. Local opinion is strongly in favour of a site at Kirkland’s Crossing, which is situated approximately 20 miles further up the Markham River. If the bridge were built there, the road would lead up the valley through splendid flat or gently undulating fertile land at Zenag, which has a wonderful future from the developmental stand-point. Only another 24 miles of road would need to be constructed, and I firmly believe that it would open up some most desirable land. I commend that suggestion to the Minister, and hope that he will ask the Administration’s experts to reconsider their views. The whole valley could be supplied with power from Bulolo. Such a development, in itself, would be novel in New Guinea.
All the authorities, and persons who think deeply on these matters, are agreed that the territory must be developed as expeditiously as possible. I have always considered that, in the past, Australia has regarded the Territory of Papua and New Guinea from a strategic rather than an economic standpoint. We should realize now, and I am sure that we do so in view of recent developments to the north of Australia, that those two interests must go hand in hand. I rega’rd this agreement as a definite step in the development of the territory, which is so urgently required, and I give my full support to the measure. I see no merit whatever in the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) said that he was interested in the development of New Guinea, .and expressed the hope that all honorable members were also interested in the matter. I fully agree with his statement. We all should be interested in the development of New Guinea, and I think that we are all interested in it. New Guinea, which is like a big umbrella over the north of Australia, is of vital significance to us from the defence standpoint. It has vast potentialities and resources. There are approximately 1,500,000 natives in the territory, and we have a great responsibility to them to improve their standard of living, and to bring to them the benefits of civilization, such as education and medical facilities. It is unfortunate that the administration in New Guinea has been compelled, because of lack of finance in recent years, to reduce the medical services that have been available to the natives. The native population should be innoculated
– Order! The honorable gentleman must discuss the bill, which is to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth and Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, with respect to the formation of a company to be known as Commonwealth-New Guinea Timbers Limited.
– I submit that we can consider this bill in its true perspective only if we examine the general background of the development of New Guinea. I desire to make some point3 briefly about the operations of Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited in the territory, and in order to do so, I must examine the expenses that .are being incurred by the administration, and make some comments on the revenue which should be obtained under the proposed agreement. In order to make those points, I must examine the expenditure that the administration incurs in New Guinea.
– Order ! I cannot accept the honorable gentleman’s submission. The purpose of this bill is to approve the agreement between the Commonwealth and the company.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I assume that I shall be permitted to discuss the economic potentialities of New Guinea. In doing so, I shall make a passing reference to the necessity to provide medical and educational facilities for the native population. That subject involves the general policy of the administration in preserving the agricultural plots of the natives, and. that involves the policy in respect of land settlement and land alienation. Much money is being expended upon the administration of those matters. I notice, from the relevant reports, that the Commonwealth made a grant of £4,549,167 to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in the last financial yearAccording to the way we speak about money in this Parliament that is not a-, great deal, but to the taxpayers it is a lot of money. They are contributing it to the development of New Guinea. If it ismoney for expenditure in connexion with the welfare of the natives, it is a very worthy and proper expenditure. However, we must consider whether we should get a return from the money that we invest in New Guinea, and if so, what it should be. New Guinea has vast natural resources and potentialities.. As the honorable member for Higinbotham rightly pointed out, many erops which cannot be grown satisfactorily in Australia are being developed in NewGuinea.
The production possibilities of NewGuinea should be very carefully considered by honorable members because a? big economic problem to-day is to. balance payments and to organize industry so that we shall export enough goods to pay for the imports of materials that are necessary to maintain our standard’ of living. It is most important that we should increase our production of the goods that can be exported, particularly primary products, and also endeavour toreplace with Australian-produced goods some of the goods that we are at present importing. Therefore, New Guinea can. make a very important contribution to thesolution of our economic problems. Aswell as timber, New Guinea can produce kunai fibre, which is a substitute for jute, cocoa, rice and coffee. If those crops can be produced in sufficient quantities to> satisfy the needs of Australia, we shall not have to import such items from foreign countries. New Guinea could therefore make a direct contribution to the development and welfare of Australia. I understand that there are difficulties about the type of labour needed toharvest tea, and that it may not be possible to produce in New Guinea all the tea that Australia requires. However, to offset that, we may cherish a hope that in the not-far-distant future, we shall be obtaining that all-important product of modern times, oil.
-Order! I have given the honorable member a lot of latitude. The leave granted by the House for the introduction of this bill was for the purpose of debating an agreement made between the Australian Government and Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited. The honorable member is straying outside the scope of the leave granted.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. If the natural resources of New Guinea are to be developed, commercial enterprises must undertake the task. Then we must consider the contribution those commercial enterprises should make to the revenues of the territory so that the Australian people will not have to subscribe more money than is necessary. We must also consider the return the people will get for the valuable privileges given to companies to develop’ New Guinea’s natural resources. Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited is a company incorporated in British Columbia, and its capital has been primarily subscribed by overseas investors. I agree with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Higinbotham that this concern has a very good reputation, operates in a very efficient manner, treats its employees particularly well and has a good all-round reputation.
I have not seen the area in which the company operates, as has the honorable member for Higinbotham, and I suggest to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) that it is most important that all honorable members of this House should have an opportunity of witnessing the operations of companies such as this one, which are carrying out work of great significance in our territories. The Minister has arranged for a small delegation of members of both sides of the House to visit New Guinea, and another small delegation to visit the Northern Territory. .1 consider that such visits should not be regarded by any means as pleasure jaunts, but as an integral part of the duty of honorable members to obtain an intimate and first-hand knowledge of our own territories. I hope that the Minister will give opportunities to all honorable members who desire to visit the territories to do so, in order that they may get to know the problems, possibilities and potentialities of the areas.
Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited is a very large company, with a capital of 6,000,000 dollars, which is divided into 1,200,000 shares of 5 dollars each, of which 1,000,000 shares havebeen issued. I draw the attention of the House to some of the financial affairs of this company to prove that it is not making anything like an adequatecontribution to the revenues of New Guinea. Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited has built up enormous resources, and the assets side of its balance-sheet shows that in current assets - that is, cash in hand and stores and supplies - it has 2,914,2S6 dollars. It also has an amortization fund of 3,420,522 dollars. In that fund is 819,730 dollars worth of Commonwealth bonds. On that investment the company pays Australian income tax of 18,546 dollars. The significant thing about these figures is that, with all its vast ramifications, it pays a miserable 18,546 dollars in Australian income tax. It draws the enormous income of more than 1,000,000 dollars a year in income from New Guinea, but makes an insignificant contribution toour revenues. The contribution that it does make comes only from taxation on its large investment in Commonwealth bonds. I suggest that that is a quite improper state of affairs. This large company, which has built up tremendous assets through its operations in the territories of the Commonwealth, which is controlled from overseas, and the capital of which is all foreign, is putting very little into this country. If the company is to be allowed to exploit our natural resources it should put something back into our territories, and into the Australian revenues, because our taxpayers are called upon to make a substantial contribution towards the development of New Guinea.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) pointed out that roads and bridges are to be built in the vicinity of the forest timber stands. Presumably the money for those works will come from Commonwealth revenue grants to the territory, or from the revenues of the territory itself. Australian taxpayers will be astounded when they learn that the Government intends to spend money in New Guinea to enable this large private company to exploit the resources of New Guinea and to take vast sums of money out of the territory. When I read the report of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea, I was interested to learn what revenues are derived from New Guinea by gold-mining concerns. Although the amount of gold won in New Guinea last year was 87,593 fine ounces valued at £1,356,962, the revenue derived by the Commonwealth from royalties amounted to only £67,844. Now Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited is to be invited to engage in another big commercial enterprise from which it will derive further enormous profits, but it will continue to contribute very little to our revenues.
Before this measure is allowed to pass, the Government should consider the general taxation policy regarding the territories of the Commonwealth. If the Government intends to encourage big commercial enterprises to take over in this way our natural resources, which are very valuable and which belong to the people of Australia and the territory, it must reconsider its general taxation policy in the territory and decide that such big concerns should no longer enjoy the amazing privilege of not having to pay income tax. This taxation anomaly has been allowed to exist for too long and it is time that it was remedied. Great commercial enterprises, no matter - where their capital comes from, should be taxed. The failure to tax these concerns is .intolerable and unjustifiable, and before the Government proceeds any further with this matter it should re-examine taxation in the territories and introduce legislation to impose taxes on these commercial enterprises. The Commonwealth committee on taxation that was set up last year by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) considered the matter of exemptions which certain companies, including Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, enjoyed, and stated that concessions of this nature are not justified because the Income Tax Assessment Act is an unsuitable place in which to make them. The committee then referred to the concession that taxpayers resident in Papua, New Guinea and Norfolk Island enjoy, and suggested that it be abolished.
I believe that the people desire that the Government shall review its taxation policy and formulate a sane and sensible new policy before it proceeds with this scheme. I suggest to the Minister for Territories that an allowance be made to individual taxpayers in the territories in recognition of the disadvantages of uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation and high costs of living to which they are subject. A zone allowance of £2,000 per annum for individual taxpayers would be reasonable. However, great corporations, such as Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, and Placer Development Limited, an international organization with tremendous capital assets which has a large shareholding in Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, should be placed on ‘ the same footing as companies that operate in Australia. The fact that these organizations make no contribution to the revenue constitutes a grave anomaly. It is one reason why the Opposition urges that the Government’s proposal in this bill should he further investigated. We should be prepared to reconsider the plan in a more favorable light if the Government removed the anomaly. We do not believe that a powerful corporation should have the right to take advantage of vast natural resources in New Guinea without making suitable contributions to its revenue that could be used for its development and the advancement of native welfare.
.- The purpose of the amendment that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has proposed to the motion for the second reading of this bill to approve the agreement between the Australian Government and Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited for the formation of a company to be known as Commonwealth-New Guinea Timbers Limited, is merely to delay the project by referring it to a select committee of this House, which would be tantamount to relegating it to the limbo of forgotten things. I cannot imagine that any company of the status of Bulolo Gold
Dredging Limited, having concluded an agreement with a responsible government, would be content to allow that agreement to be deferred pending the making of inquiries by a .select committee which, after devoting months to its investigations, might produce a negative recommendation. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) supports the amendment, I assume, though for some time I thought that he might support the bill straight out. I am pleased to know that he agrees that the development of New Guinea is a matter of vital importance, both for the purposes of defence and the general welfare of the territory.
The exploitation of the timber resources of the Bulolo area will require operations on a scale that we, with our knowledge of local timbers, cannot readily appreciate. The timber that was originally cut in the hinterland of New South Wales was chopped down with the axe, snigged with horses, dragged over a pit, and then sawed by two men, one operating above and one operating below the logs. That timber was used to construct many houses that are still standing. The evolution of the circular saw improved timber-milling methods considerably, and further development occurred gradually in the coastal regions where the timber is larger than the timber inland, so” that to-day many large saw-mills are in operation. However, these undertakings will be dwarfed into insignificance by the magnitude of the project that will be undertaken in the forests of New Guinea, which are well known to many honorable members. Some of us have seen timber felled there. I saw one tree 150 feet high with a girth of about 25 feet. What a tremendous task it will be to fell such timber, clean the tops, snig it, load it, drag it. to the mill and finally put it over the saw bench! The job will be beyond comparison with anything of the nature that is being done on the mainland. We must realize that this unusual operation cannot be gauged by ordinary standards.
Although the Opposition has refused to give its whole-hearted support to the bill, we know that the project will be accorded an enthusiastic reception in New Guinea. The people of the territory realize that the undertaking will be one’ of the most important developmental works so far launched in New Guinea. I know, from personal conversations that I have had with men who have lived most of their lives in the territory, that they heartily approve of the proposal to form a timber milling company. They know that Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited is a sound organization with vast resources that it can bring to bear on the project. I suggest that the honorable member for East Sydney has moved his amendment deliberately for the purpose of deferring action. During the last few years, since the debacle of Manus Island, millions of pounds have been poured into New Guinea without producing any worthwhile results. That waste must be stopped, and the establishment of the proposed company to undertake milling operations in the Bulolo district will stop it. The development of this work will enrich the territory and help to reinforce it as a bastion of defence on which we shall be able to depend in the event of war in’ the future. It is a commercial venture that will pay for itself. The honorable member for East Sydney obviously intends to obstruct the plan,, because most of the propositions that hehas submitted could be settled here and now. Many honorable members are well acquainted with conditions in New Guinea, and they are competent to deal with the honorable member’s proposalswithout further delay. He said that, when the original plan to develop and exploit New Guinea’s timber resources was prepared, the Australian timberindustry needed assistance, but that circumstances had changed. In fact, hedeclared that the development of this New Guinea undertaking would threaten theAustralian industry.
The Tariff Board’s report on timber,, which is dated the 29th November, 1951,. contains interesting information on this subject which flatly contradicts the statements of the honorable member for East Sydney. The board stated the followingconclusions in its report: -
The volume of imports has increased to a level exceeding that of the average of the threeprewar years, but the increase has not been at the expense of local production, which has also increased. Total available supplies still donot meet the demand, and the indications are- that imports could reach a much greater total without constituting a real threat to the Australian sawmilling industry.
The full effect of the widespread fires which have occurred and are still occurring in New South Wales and Queensland cannot yet be judged, but they must have an influence in diminishing Australian production.
On account of high overseas prices and high ocean freight rates the selling prices in Australia of imported timber, even when admitted at concessional rates under By-law, are substantially higher than the selling prices of local timber.
Those conclusions are supported by statistics that it published in an appendix to the report. The figures show that, in 1946-47, the first year in which active timber-milling was fully resumed after “World War II., Australia produced 1,049,000,000 super, feet of timber. The apparent consumption in that year was 1,159,000,000 super, feet. Production increased to 1,253,000,000 super, feet in 1950-51, but, over the same period, consumption increased to 1,613,000,000 super, feet. Apparent consumption per capita increased over the same period from 153 to 194 super, feet. There is no indication that the demand for timber is slackening. In fact, the complaints that we hear in this House from time to time about the shortage of houses indicate that the demand is increasing rapidly. A reliable authority on timber has warned us that the supply of timber available in Australia for plywood manufacture is diminishing rapidly. Already we are importing logs from Borneo, and, in these circumstances, a new source of supply will be generally welcomed. On the facts that I have stated, I cannot agree with the honorable member for East Sydney that the New Guinea venture will threaten the Australian industry. The, evidence indicates, on the contrary, that the Australian industry will welcome the availability of New Guinea timber.
The honorable gentleman referred to the proposed new road and assumed that it would serve only Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited. But anybody who is well acquainted with the territory knows that the road will serve Wau. I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) that the proposed bridge be constructed at Perkins Crossing, because residents of the territory hold the same view. The construe. tion of a bridge at that site will open up an area of rich country extending for 30 or 40 miles up the Markham Valley and into the Nadzab area and an area extending into the Ramu Valley and across the dividing range on the other side of it. The road is necessary for the proper development of the territory generally and not only for the area in which Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited is interested. The honorable member for East Sydney has told us that the previous proposition was that the company should build the road and, I believe, that a toll should be imposed which would have the effect of off-setting the cost of construction. I understand that the toll was to be 2s. 6d. a ton. Each year 10,000,000 super, feet of timber will be milled in this forest. It is improbable that all of that timber will be despatched by this road, but let us assume that it will be. If the toll were charged at the rate of 2s. 6d. a ton, the yearly revenue derived from the timber would be £2,500. That sum would be hardly sufficient to repair a small section of the road, and certainly it would not be sufficient to maintain the whole of the road in good order. Clause 9 of the ageement states - (1.) The Commonwealth will continue to improve the road between Bulolo and Lae until it is brought to a reasonably trafficable condition, and thereafter will continue to maintain the road in that condition. (2.) The Commonwealth will use its best endeavours to complete the building of the Markham and Mumeng bridges before the Timber Company commences the production of plywood.
I suggest that, as the road is necessary for the development of considerably more than the part of the country in which Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited is interested, it should be constructed in any event.
We cannot take for granted that cheap native labour will be used in this venture. I have been informed by residents of New Guinea that native labour is not cheap. It is true that such labour does not cost very much in terms of cash expended upon wages, but it is, in fact, an expensive form of labour, because it is necessary to bring the natives from different villages, to feed, house and look after them generally, to provide them with medical care during their period of employment, and to return them to their homes on the completion of that period. When the efficiency of native labour is taken into consideration, it cannot be classified as cheap labour. The protection of the Australian market was dealt with adequately by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson), who pointed out that clause 5 of the agreement states -
The assurance of the supply to the Australian market of plywood and other products similar to those of the Timber Company is fundamental to this agreement.
That article does not require amplification. The honorable member for East Sydney has suggested that this venture will affect adversely the interests of workers on the Australian mainland. If we accepted that point of view, we should have to say that we should not have anything to do with the development of the timber resources of New Guinea under any circumstances, because, whether they were developed by another company or by any other body, that development would adversely effect Australian workers. New Guinea is not our country. We are administering it as a trustee for the United Nations. We have accepted the responsibility of developing it. We are expending money upon it, and it is up to us to ensure that the Australian people will receive full value for that money.
– Our undertaking is to develop the country in the interests of the natives.
– I agree that we have a responsibility to the natives. I point out to the honorable member for East Sydney that if there be any proposition that is likely to lead to the development of the country in the interests of the natives, it is this one. Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited is established on the site. It has housing facilities, and is employing natives who are healthy, well fed and well looked after. It is, in every respect, all that a company with which the Government of this country engages in partnership should be. If anything will assist the natives of New Guinea, it will be the opening up and development of their country, the provision of amenities and a general improvement of their living standards. Without question, those objectives will be achieved by this proposition.
We have to decide whether we shall cast this agreement into limbo, or accept it and begin to implement it immediately. My firm conviction is that, taking every factor into consideration, this agreement represents an excellent opportunity for the Commonwealth to achieve something really worth while in New Guinea. I do not believe that any honorable member will dispute that Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, which is established on the site and has the necessary water rights and equipment, could go into operation immediately and produce results to-morrow. In those circumstances, would it be wise to put this agreement aside and say that it must be considered by a select committee, with the possible result that it would be rejected and another proposition advanced ? It has been suggested that the company is getting a very good deal from the Commonwealth. Unquestionably, this is a business deal. If the proposition that was advanced some years ago was not quite as advantageous to the company as this one, possibly the reason is that the company is now in a position to strike a harder bargain than it was then. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) has suggested that the company should be subjected to taxation and compelled to put some of its profits back into New Guinea. When one puts a proposition to another man, one says, Let us get together and see if we can thrash out something”. That is what has occurred in this case. Representatives of the company and of the Commonwealth have got together and have thrashed out this agreement, which is acceptable to both parties. Now, all that remains to be done is for the agreement to be confirmed by this Parliament.
This enormous project is too big to be undertaken by any other company of which we know that is operating in New Guinea at the present time. Probably it could be undertaken successfully only by Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited which, as I have said previously, is established on the site and has all the equipment that is required as well as the ability to operate it. I suggest that the agreement is reasonable and fair. It provides for the payment of royalties at the rates prescribed in the forestry regulations of the Territory of New Guinea, plus additional royalties upon timber of various types at the rate of 3s. 6d. and 4s. for each 100 super, feet. The company has undertaken to mill 100,000,000 super, feet of timber over a period of ten years. As I have already pointed out, clause 5 states that the assurance of supply to the Australian market of plywood and other products similar to those that will be marketed .by the proposed company is fundamental to the agreement. The project involves the intense development of a particular area, which will spread to other parts of the territory. If the company is allowed to commence work, I believe that all that the honorable member for Fawkner desires will be achieved. I strongly support the bill.
– I am very disappointed that an agreement of this kind should have been entered into by the Government. I do not know of any reason why the Commonwealth should not exploit the forests of New Guinea itself, on behalf of the Australian people and, more importantly, of the natives of that territory.
– The reason is that this is not a socialist government.
– Unfortunately, this is not a socialist government. Because it is not a socialist government the natives of New Guinea will not receive the advantages that would accrue to them if the project were undertaken by the Commonwealth. Under this agreement, at least 50 per cent, of the profits of the undertaking will go to Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, which is already a wealthy organization. It is not an ordinary company. It does not represent ordinary shareholders, and it cannot be said to be a public company in the ordinary sense of the term. It has a capital’ of 6,000,000 dollars, in 1,200,000 shares of 5 dollars each. It has paid dividends as high as 3 dollars a share a year. I have ascertained that a company called Placer Development Limited owns 125,000 five-dollar shares in Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited. Placer Development
Limited is no ordinary company. It owns 1,150,000 fully-paid one-dollar shares in Pato Consolidated Gold Dredging Limited, 615,000 fully-paid one-dollar shares in Asnazu Gold Dredging Limited, 2,000,000 fully-paid onedollar shares of Nechi Consolidated Dredging Limited, 64 per cent, of the issued shares of Rutherglen Gold Dumps Limited, 60,000 £A.l shares in Gold Dumps Proprietary Limited, 633,995 shares of one dollar each, being the entire issued capital, except five shares, of American Placers Incorporated, formed in April, 1937, in the State of Washington, United States of America, to deal with oil and mining properties in that country, and 19,995 shares of one dollar each in Placer Management Limited. Placer Development Limited owns, through a subsidiary company, all but five of the issued snares of Canadian Exploration Limited. The subsidiary company, American Placers Incorporated, has large shareholdings in the Coronet Oil Company and a host of other very wealthy companies in the United States of America.
As an Australian and a person who is charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights of the natives of New Guinea, I believe that this Parliament, if it approved this agreement, would do a great disservice to those natives and would betray the trust that has been placed in it to legislate on their behalf. If we approved this agreement, we would hand over the natural timber resources of New Guinea to the huge, wealthy companies that own and control Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited. The agreement that the Government proposes to make with Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited contains some interesting provisions. Clause 8 states -
In carrying out its operations, the Timber Company may employ such labour as may be conveniently and practicably employed having regard to local conditions and the availability of the different types of labour.
That simply means that the company will be given the right to exploit native labour of New Guinea, to pay whatever remuneration it likes subject to the observance of the territory ordinance.
– That ordinance protects the natives.
– To what degree ?
– What is the amount of remuneration?
– Order ! The honorable member will address me.
– It is set down in the ordinance.
– Can the Minister remember the amount that is set down in the ordinance?
– No, I cannot.
– I think that I can help the Minister’s memory, because his predecessor has informed me that the amount in the ordinance is in the vicinity of £1 a month, plus food and lodging.
– That was during his period of office.
– I am assured by the former Minister for External Territories that the amount that is set down in the ordinance now is in the vicinity of £1 a month plus food and lodging for a 44-hour week, and if the natives choose to work more than 44 hours a week, they are paid the magnificent sum of 6d. an hour as overtime. I understand that the Government has recently intimated unofficially - and I hope that thi3 is official, or can be verified later as being the official view of the Government - that it will offer no opposition to representatives of unions going to the territory and organizing native labour into unions in order that the miserable pittance that they are being paid can be increased and so that they may be placed on a decent standard. There is no reason why the natives of New Guinea should not be paid the same rate as Australian citizens for equivalent labour. We have no right, as custodians of the New Guinea territory, to exploit the natives or to rob their country of rich timber resources unless we compensate them adequately for so doing. If we apply that policy we shall have ourselves to blame if the natives revolt and decide that they should join some other force in the Pacific to try and get some independence for themselves. We cannot go on exploiting native people as we have done in the past. We should examine this agreement and ask ourselves whether it does, in fact, continue the kind of exploitation which has inflamed the minds of the native peoples throughout Asia and the Pacific Ocean countries. If this agreement does not give the natives concerned a reasonable degree of security and a reasonable return for their labour and for the natural resources that we take from them, it is a bad agreement and should never have been made. Clause 9 states -
The Commonwealth will continue to improve the road between Bulolo and Lae until it is brought to a reasonably trafficable condition, and thereafter will continue to maintain the road in that condition.
Honorable members must examine that provision more closely to understand its meaning. Does the Minister understand fully the consequences of clause 9? Does he realize that in addition to the initial cost of putting the road in proper repair, it will cost £70,000 a year more to maintain it? If the Minister does not realize that, he had no right to enter into the agreement. If he does realize it, he had no right to make the agreement, because it simply hands to the Bulolo company the initial cost of constructing the road or putting it in repair, plus £70,000 a year which the company should pay itself.
– This road serves other users. i
– What other users?
– The residents in the town of Wau and settlers in the area.
– Everybody knows that the town of Wau and the settled areas nearby are used only for the convenience of the company, so that does not mean a thing. Clause 9 continues -
The Commonwealth will use its best endeavours to complete the building of the Markham and Mumeng bridges before the timber company commences the production of plywood.
I do not know whether the Minister went into the cost of constructing the bridge over the Markham River. My information is that the Markham River, at the point where the bridge may be constructed, has a wide shifting outlet or delta. As a result, the cost of the bridge will be enormously high, and the cost of maintaining it to copewith the shifting of the river will be a great expense each year. Clause 10 states -
Subject to the legislation in force in and relating to the Territory of New Guinea, the Commonwealth will take all necessary steps and do all in its power to ensure the grant to the timber company of a permit under the Forestry Ordinance 1936-1951 and the Forestry Regulations of the Territory of New Guinea -
Conferring upon the timber company the exclusive right to cut and remove over a period of ten (10) years one hundred million (100,000,000) super. feet of Hoop and Klinkii pine and a smaller quantity, to be determined by the Administrator of the Territory (in this Agreement called “ The Administrator”), of cedar and secondary species of timbers from within an area or areas totalling fifteen thousand (15,000) acres of land owned by the Administration of the Territory andsituated in the Bulolo Valley in the district of Morobe in the Territory of New Guinea.
The Government should not hand over to any private company, or to any company that is owned partly by the Government and partly by private interests, the exclusive rights to cut and remove such an enormous quantity of timber as 100,000,000 super. feet of hoop and klinkii pine. The Government acted quite wrongly and against the interests of the native people andthe Australian people as well in undertaking to hand over to this wealthy concern such an enormous amount of timber. A subclause of clause 10 of the agreement states -
The Timber Company must not cut more than the following maximum quantities of logs of Hoop and Klinkii pines, namely:
twelve million (12,000,000) super. feet in any one year;
one hundred million (100,000,000) super. feet during the currency of the permit.
If there must be such an agreement, at least the provisions that I have mentioned are one good feature of it. If an agreement must be framed, I am pleased that the Minister has restricted the amount of timber that may be cut in any one year and during the currency of the arrangement. Again with that qualification, I believe also that it is a good provision which prescribes that the minimum and maximum quantities of cedar and secondary timbers to be cut by the timber company shall be determined by the Administrator. That feature of the bill must commend itself to honorable members who are forced to accept the measure in its present form. The agreement adds -
The Timber Company shall pay the Administration of the Territory royalties at the rate prescribed in the Forestry Regulations of the Territory of New Guinea together with such additional royalties as, subject to sub-clauses (vi.) and (vii.) of this paragraph may be determined by the Administrator in accordance with the regulations after consultation with the Timber Company.
It is rather a good thing that the Government has insisted upon the company paying royalties. I should have been much happier if the agreement provided that the royalties to be paid would be used for the benefit of the native population and for native welfare. There is no such guarantee. For all honorable members know, the royalties that are paid will go into Consolidated Revenue or will be used to benefit the people of the mainland and not the native population at all. Be that as it may, it is at least refreshing to know that the Government has not gone to the extent of allowing the company to cut the timber without paying a royalty. After five years, the company will be subject to a review of the additional royalties which are set. out in the bill to cover the. first five years of operation. I hope that whenever a government is fixing additional royalties, it will pay some regard to the real value of the timber. I hope that it will fix a commensurate royalty, and will make sure that the royalties so collected will be used for the. welfare of the native population and for the people generally in that area. Again with the qualification that if honorable members must accept the bill, I express the opinion that there are several other bright features in the agreement. One is the part of it which states -
The conditions as to replanting shall be as determined by the Administrator, subject to the Forestry Ordinance 1936-1951 and the Forestry Regulations of the Territory of New Guinea, after consultation with the Timber Company.
Clause 11 of the agreement states -
Tim ownership of the replanted forests will not be transferred to the Timber Company, but the Commonwealth will look favorably upon any proposals to enable the Timber Company to get greater assurance of continuity of operation and of the use of the yield of the replanted forest.
L’ should like to know from the Minister whether the term “ look favorably upon “ carries with it any binding obligation to continue the agreement when the replanted area is ready for cutting, and if so for how long. The Minister is strangely silent upon that point.
– I mentioned it in my second-reading speech.
– What did the Minister say in that speech? I did not hear it. Apparently the Minister cannot remember so I shall have to read it later. It may elucidate some points which are much in doubt. Clause 14 is, in my opinion, one of the gems of the whole agreement. It reads -
If Customs Duty is paid upon the importation into Australia of the plywood, veneers, logs and other products of the timber company, and is not remitted, the Commonwealth will pay to the timber company a subsidy upon the exportation of those products from the Territory for entry into Australia of an amount or at a rate determined by the Commonwealth from time to time, but the amount of subsidy paid shall not exceed the amount of CustOms duty paid and not remitted.
That is an amazing proposal. Under it Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited, the greater part of whose shares are owned by American and Canadian vested interests, will be given the right to have refunded to it all collections of customs duty in respect to goods that it exports to Australia. What is to prevent the company from importing veneers and plywoods from itself in New Guinea ? In that way it could return refunds of customs duty to the parent company and deduct the duty payable from the price at which it sold the goods in Australia. If that were done, no Australian competitor would be able to survive. The company’s mills will bo much closer to sources of supply than is the case with most mills in Australia. The company will also be able to employ native labour at wages which would be frowned upon in any Australian industry.
Clause 15 of the agreement also gives, rise to serious doubts. That clause reads - (1.) Subject to this clause, neither party to this Agreement will sell or transfer its holding of shares in the Timber Company or any part of it without the previous consent in writing of the other, or, without prior notice to the other, mortgage, pledge or charge its holding or any part of it. . . .
That provision may prove to be good or bad; but in any event, its insertion in this agreement indicates that the Government contemplates the possibility that it will sell its interest under the agreement to Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited. The Government has a rather poor record for safeguarding public ownership in undertakings of this kind. Consequently, I suspect that as soon as this venture begins to show a profit, the Government will be just as likely to sell its interest in exactly the same way as it disposed of its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and as it proposes to dispose of ships it now owns. It would have disposed of its interest in TransAustralia Airlines but for the public, protest that such a proposal evoked. It is time that the Government had its wings clipped when it makes special provision in advance for the handing over to private interest of public property in a profitable undertaking. I sincerely trust that the rumour that has been current in the lobbies this evening to the effect that the Senate will reject this bill-
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to proceedings that are pending in the: Senate.
– I sincerely trust that that rumour will be proved to be justified.
Thursday, 5 June 1952
– .Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Ward’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve the agreement made between the Commonwealth and Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited with respect to the formation of a company to be known as Commonwealth - New Guinea Timbers Limited, and for purposes connected therewith.
– The Opposition considers that it is a shocking agreement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill– by leave - read a third time.
Coal - Oil from Shale - Tobacco - Telephone Services - Me. Keith Bath - Life Insurance - Primary Production - Rail Transport - Security - The Parliament.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.I regret that I am compelled to bring before the House at this late hour of the night, a matter of urgent public importance which arises from the fact that miners at Glen Davis are staying underground in a mine, in foul air, in protest against the attempt of the Government to close down the shale oil industry. Is the Government’s intention to close down that industry another extension of its policy of replacing government competition by private enterprise? The Government sold its interests in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It then considered the disposal of the government airline, the government broadcasting system and the governmentowned ships, because it believed in free private enterprise. I have received the following telegram from Mr. G. W. Grant, the general secretary of the miners’ federation: -
All members miners’ federation in Glen Davis Mine on stay-in strike over closure. On the other hand received wire from Parkinson president of the southern district that 17 men paid off at Coalcliff mine despite Government statement that work is available for men at Glen Davis in other districts-
The Coalcliff colliery was controlled for a period by the Joint Coal Board. The telegram continues -
Any assistance you can render to support Glen Davis workers in their struggle to retain Glen Davis their homes and in the national interest would be appreciated.
I visited Glen Davis on several occasions, when the Chifley Government was in office, in an endeavour to increase the quantity of shale that was being mined for retorting. I got the men to increase production. Some Communists wanted to crucify Rowley James because I persuaded the men at Glen Davis to adopt the principle of extracting pillars by mechanization. Therefore I am in the gun. Do Government supporters know what happened to me recently? For the first time in 24 years, I have been opposed in the pre-selection ballot in my electorate to choose the Labour candidate to contest Hunter at the next general election. Honorable members opposite talk about fighting the Communists. You do not fight them as hard as I do. I put them on the knuckle.
I should like to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) some questions about the intention of the Government to dismantle the plant at Glen Davis. I attended a conference at which a proposal was submitted that the men should work the mine on a co-operative basis. However, the Government fixed the rental at £10,000 per annum, which the men could not afford to pay. I am convinced that the Government intends to close Glen Davis because it is not operated by private’ enterprise, but is a nationalized industry. During the last war, Glen Davis made a valuable contribution of fuel for our defence requirements. Did the Government believe that the miners could pay a rental of £10,000 a year out of their miserable wages? Yet you complain about the activities of the Communists!
-Order! Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– But Government supporters do complain about the activities of the Communists. I am the only one who puts them on the knuckle when it comes to a show-down. The Government, as the result of its decision to close Glen Davis, will strengthen the influence of the Communists with decent trade unionists. A number of miners have already been do”.vn the shaft at Glen Davis for 48 hours, and they propose to remain there until the Government reverses its decision.
Would men stay down a mine unless they had a genuine grievance?
The miners have attractive and comfortable homes at Glen Davis. ‘ Many of the men own their homes, and others are purchasing them with assistance from banks and other financial institutions. How could those dwellings be moved a distance of at least 100 miles to a place where the Glen Davis men could find other employment? The harsh decision of the Government confronts the men with a serious economic loss. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that the Government is prepared to ensure that the Glen Davis miners will be placed in the coal-mining industry. Is he aware that 70 men have been dismissed from the Coalcliff colliery ? The Government has already sacked some of the Glen Davis miners, but their mates have announced their intention not to dismantle the machinery, which the Government desires to transfer to the aluminium industry at Bell Bay, in Tasmania. The stand of the miners is supported by the Australian Council for Trades Unions. Does the Government consider that that body has any association with the Communists? The Glen Davis miners are fighting for the right to remain in their homes. Many of them, like you and me, Mr. Speaker, have attained an age at which they cannot bring themselves to make new homes. I urge the Governmentto. reconsider its decision.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– Statements appeared in the press recently about the fall in the price of Australian-grown tobacco leaf and the Minister for -Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in a reply to a question that was asked subsequently on that subject, said -
I have been informed that drought, lack of knowledge of growers and pest infestation are responsible.
The Minister may have thought that information to be accurate, but the fact remains that the manufacturers are responsible for the statement. It is not suggested that the reason for any reduction of the price of wheat, wool, or butter from time to time is the deterioration of the quality of the commodity. Some persons have arranged what is known as a buyers’ market for Australian tobacco leaf, and year after year attacks have been made on the local industry. I believe that the big tobacco monopolies want to prevent tobacco from being grown in Australia. Tobacco has been successfully grown at Mareeba on the Atherton Tableland, and in many other parts of Australia. It has been said that the quality of the leaf has deteriorated. I suggest that drought would not deteriorate the quality of the leaf although it would decrease the quantity of the crop. It has been said that the quality has deteriorated because of the lack of knowledge by the growers. Growers certainly do not lack knowledge of the tobacco- f rowing business because the Government as appointed four technicians who have had over 40 years experience in the industry to advise tobacco-growers. Moreover, seven senior agricultural officers devote a great deal of their spare time to advising farmers about tobaccogrowing, and there are two tobacco experimental stations in Queensland for the benefit of growers. Tobacco manufacturers also maintain technical advisers in Queensland to help the growers. With all those aids available, it is ridiculous to suggest that the growers lack knowledge. The growers themselves have gained personal knowledge over many years of tobacco-growing.
At one time an Australian Government decreased the duty on imported leaf and increased the excise on local leaf. The result of that action was that the tobacco industry was destroyed, and hundreds of people became insolvent. Therefore, I am perturbed by the criticism of tobacco-growing in Australia because the same thing may happen again. The secretary of the Queensland Tobacco Marketing Board, Mr. B. Cahill, has referred to the flooding of Australia with imported cigarettes that contain the rankest and cheapest type of tobacco that is grown in the British Empire. He said that Australia purchases great supplies of cigarettes that are made in India, Africa and various parts of Europe, which can hardly bc said to contain tobacco. Any honorable member who has had to smoke cigarettes such as those which have been flooding the market in recent years will agree, that the tobacco is unpalatable and tasteless. People bought them only because there were no others available.
Most of the tobacco manufactured in north Queensland is bought by local consumers and the demand exceeds the supply. I have been informed by the manager of a manufacturing concern that the quality of the leaf this year is equal if not superior to the quality of last year’s leaf. I am satisfied that the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited and other great tobacco monopolies of the world are again endeavouring to destroy this industry as they destroyed it previously. Tobacco-growers are producing a commodity that eventually may earn dollars for this country, and also save us spending dollars. Many fine farms and towns have sprung up because of the industry, and those interested have been looking forward to the day when local growers will supply the whole of the Australian market and establish an export market. Cartels have established buyers’ markets in wool and other products, and cartels to-day are forcing the price of tobacco leaf down beyond all reason. In the tobacco market a fall in the price of the leaf can occur in 24 hours. A statement similar to that made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture “that drought, lack of knowledge of growers and. pest infestation., have been responsible for the lower price of our tobacco has also been made by a Sydney manufacturer. The Minister’s statement was made without any investigation such as he would have made if the product under consideration had been wool, butter, wheat or any other primary product.
Manufacturers will naturally underrate the value of the article they have to buy. I believe that some smaller manufacturers intend to ask that a higher percentage of Australian tobacco leaf be incorporated with imported tobacco. That would be a further step against the interests of monopolies who do not want to see this industry established on a sound basis.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. Pearce having been called,
– I rise to a point of order. I rose previously so that I might follow the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) on the subject of the closing of the Glen Davis works. I announced that I intended to speak on the same subject, but I did not catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.
– I do not want this debate to get out of hand, and I endeavour to keep all matters together as far as possible. However, I cannot guarantee to see to-day everybody who was not called yesterday. The honorable member will get a chance to speak later, because I shall be happy to stay here until daylight if necessary.
– It is unfortunate that the previous honorable member for Leichardt is not present to-night to present a case for the tobacco-growers, because he understood that matter very well. The decrease of recent tobacco leaf prices mentioned by the honorable member for Leichhardt .(Mr. Bruce) refers to leaf grown around the Bundaberg district of Queensland. It is unfortunate that a suggestion should have been made against the tobacco manufacturing industry, because the whole of Australia is vitally interested in the growth of our tobacco industry. It is an industry worthy of the greatest support, mainly because of its emphasis on closer settlement. For instance, a dairy-farmer in Queensland requires about SOO acres in order to gain a living, but a tobacco-farmer can earn a comfortable living from 30 to 40 acres. I come now to the reasons for the fall in the price of tobacco leaf. No grower has suggested that the leaf offered was the best available from the Queensland crop. It was not. We must also bear in mind the fact that, during the early part of this year, Australia was flooded by English cigarettes. In January alone, I believe approximately 600.000,000 cigarettes were imported from England. The tobacco leaf that is being grown in Queensland is of very high quality. I have with me some samples of the first machine-made cigarettes, which contain 50 ner cent, of Mareeba leaf. Unfortunately I have not enough cigarettes to pass around amongst all honorable members, but those who have smoked them agree that they are good. I believe that by using 50 per cent. Australian leaf grown at Mareeba, Miriam Vale or Bundaberg, we could, if we had the necessary machines, capture the market in this country at present held by English cigarettes. If this great industry is to be fostered, the Australian people will have to cultivate a taste for Australian tobacco. If Australians can smoke some of the atrocious cigarettes that tome to us from overseas, they should have no difficulty in cultivating a taste for the good leaf that is grown in north Queensland. I have no doubt that the fall in price at the recent sales was a passing phase. I believe that if the Government were to insist that a larger proportion of Australian leaf be used in the manufacture of machine-made cigarettes, and if licences were issued for the importation of more machinery so that we could make cigarettes of the quality of the samples that I have before me, we should be doing the industry a great deal of good and be establishing many more people on the land. I do not know of any primary industry in Queensland that offers a greater measure of support to the community because, as I said earlier, tobacco-growers can earn a good living from a small area of land. An expansion of tobacco-growing would mean that a greater number of people could be established on a given area of country. I believe that the honorable member for Leichhardt was a little bit astray, as people of his political beliefs often are, when he said that the large companies had formed a cartel with the object of putting the tobacco industry in this country out of existence. I believe that the industry will progress, and that this Government will give it all the support that it merits.
.I wish again to bring to the notice of the Government the acute lack of telephone facilities in the electorate of Banks. In answer to a question that I asked in this chamber, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) said that if my estimate of the number of outstanding applications for telephones in my electorate were accurate, Banks must be the most prosperous electorate in Australia. That may be so, but there is no “ if “ about it. Recently I inspected at the General Post Office, Sydney, the lists of outstanding telephone applications in the metropolitan area. The figures shown were as at the 6th May and I shall cite some of them later. The Banks electorate includes the municipalities of Bankstown, Canterbury and Hurstville. Last year, 3,000 homes were built in those municipalities, and a similar number will be built this year. In addition, the industrialization which started during the war is still proceeding apace. That applies particularly to Bankstown, where at present some of Australia’s most modern industries and factories are being established. During the last ten years, the population of Bankstown has jumped from 40,000 to 80,000. Most of the industries that have been established in that locality are engaged on the production of defence equipment or of essential goods that are in short supply. There are tool-making establishments, and plants engaged on the production of building materials. Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited has a large tyre plant there and in addition, there is the De Haviland aircraft production factory and many subsidiary undertakings. Unfortunately, the industrial development is being seriously hampered by the lack of telephones, which, of course, are the lifelines of business. Some applications have been outstanding for ten years. It is interesting to compare the number of outstanding applications in the electorate of Banks with the figures for some blue ribbon Liberal seats in the metropolitan areas of Sydney. In the electorate of Banks, there are 1,093 applications outstanding at Bankstown, 3,237 at Hurstville, and 1,441 at Lakemba, making a total of 5,821. In the electorate of Mackellar, a blue ribbon Liberal seat, Manly has 201 outstanding applications, Dee Why 280, and Balgowlah 660, a total of 1,141. In Wentworth electorate there are 235 outstanding applications at Edgecliff, 500 at Vaucluse and 305 at Double Bay, making a total of 1,040. In Bennelong electorate there are 325 outstanding applications at Chatswood. Other figures are Lane Cove 104, and Ryde 998. The total for the electorate is 1,427. The figures for the electorate of Warringah are Cremorne nil, and Mosman 25. In Bradfield electorate Lindfield has 28 outstanding applications and Pymble 34, a total of 72. The PostmasterGeneral announced recently that a new telephone exchange would be built at St. Leonards on the north shore. He said that the new exchange would enable more applications for telephones to be granted and that the exchange would be able to handle 10,000 lines. The honorable gentleman said in the House to-day that the new exchange would be ready by the beginning of next year. There are only five outstanding applications for the St. Leonard’s exchange.
– What about the electorate of Reid?
– I am sure that the situation there compares unfavorably with the situation in the Liberal blue ribbon districts. There are only 3,705 outstanding applications in six of those electorates, compared with 5,821 in the electorate of Banks alone.
– My daughter wants a telephone.
– I am not astonished to hear it, because she lives at Hurstville, in a district where 3,287 unfortunate applicants have been waiting for years to obtain telephones. I should not like to think that these facts indicate a policy of granting spoils to the victors, and I ask the Postmaster-General to ascertain what is being done by the engineering authorities of the Postal Department in Sydney and to ensure that they are not concentrating on the favoured electorates that I have mentioned, to the detriment of the division of Banks. I have raised this matter, not in a parochial manner, but because many industries in the area that I represent urgently need telephone services in order that they may carry out efficiently the important work that they are performing in the field of production.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has raised a matter of the utmost importance, not only to the residents of the Macquarie electorate, but also to all other Australians. He discussed the closure of the shale oil establishment at Glen Davis and mentioned the fact that over 50 miners have decided to conduct a stay-in strike, not because of any desire to remain in the foul air of the mine, but because they want to demonstrate their faith in an industry which most Australians consider to be worthy of preservation. A time will come when this Government will be judged. I realize that anything that I may say now will have no bearing upon the situation because the Government, pledged to the cause of Mammon, has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the major oil companies, whose profiteering under the scheme of single-brand petrol stations it supports. Anybody who is acquainted with the history of oil and its exploitation throughout the world knows that oil and blood are intermingled. Oil provides the life-blood of a nation. This Government has disregarded the importance of the Glen Davis industry and has short-sightedly refused to mobilize our economic strength for the purpose of developing it so that it would be a bulwark for the nation in time of crisis. The 55 men who are in the mine at Glen Davis are good Australians. They are not Communists. They are not extremists of any sort. They may be misguided, but their action has helped to concentrate attention upon the shortcomings of the Government. The men are fighting for a national undertaking, and, at the same time, they are fighting for their homes and their possessions in the Capertee Valley. I realize that the die is cast and that the Government will not deviate from the course of action, upon which it has embarked. Nevertheless; I ask it, in the interests of humanity, to do something for the people of Glen Davis. It should at least send representatives to the township in order to tell the people where they stand and give them definite undertakings in relation to compensation and future employment. I have heard it said that the people of Glen Davis will be employed in industries elsewhere. But the honorable member for Hunter has stated to-night and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) has referred previously to the fact that miners have been dismissed from their employment in other fields. I have directed attention to the fact that the Joint Coal Board has terminated prospecting for coal and has issued a direction that no new mines shall be opened in the western district. The inference to be drawn from these facts is inescapable. With 500,000 tons of coal at grass, miners will not be needed, and the men who have been dismissed will not be engaged elsewhere, even though we are still importing coal from India and are thereby reducing our overseas balances. The Government has a responsibility to the people of Glen Davis and to the people of Australia as a whole. The men who pioneered the industry at Glen Davis must not be deserted and left lamenting, but should be given a guarantee of security for themselves and their families in the future. The miners, the technicians, the chemists and all the others who are concerned in the abandonment of the Glen Davis industry should be taken into the confidence of the Government. I ask it not to allow this intolerable situation to continue. It should send representatives to the district. Perhaps a Minister will be prepared to go there in the name of humanity to meet the miners and the townspeople and determine what the Government should do for them.
– I bring to the attention of the House the case of an elector of the division of Mackellar, Mr. Keith Bath. As honorable members know from reports that have appeared in the press, the Government has decided to take advantage of the statute of limitations-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I point out that the matter of Keith Bath is before the High Court of Australia and, therefore, is sub judice. In these circumstances, I think that the matter should not be discussed in this House.
– I, too, rise to order. The matter that I intend to discuss has nothing to do with the proceedings before the High Court. It refers to the actions of the Government in relation to those proceedings. It is very important for us to realize-
– I renew my point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member referred in his opening remarks to the fact that the Government–
– I was on my feet stating a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
– I shall hear one point of order at a time. The honorable member for Mackellar may continue.
– The subject that I propose to discuss has nothing to do with any matter that is before the High Court. It concerns the actions of the Government. Surely it is competent for members of this Parliament, which is the controlling party on one side of the case, to discuss the actions of the Government in relation to that case, which have nothing to do with the matters that are before the court for judgment. I think that we should consult the Standing Orders, and I should be obliged if you would permit us to take that course, Mr. Speaker.
– I understand that the prohibition against the discussion of matters that are before the courts rests upon practice, not upon the Standing Orders. The practice is that, when a matter has been taken before a court, it cannot be discussed in this House in any way until the court has given its decision.
.- I desire to deal with a matter concerning life insurance companies. I have before me particulars of a case concerning a man and his wife, each of whom took out an insurance policy in 1938. Both their policies are dated the 16th May, 1938. One is for £24 and the other is for £25 12s. The premium payable is1s. a week. The company concerned is the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited. I shall give the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) the names of the persons concerned if he is interested enough to ask forthem During the last fourteen years this couple has paid to the insurance company £72 16s., in respect of insurance policies which, if they were paid in full, would he worth only £49 12s. This old couple have’ now only a pension to keep them. They asked me whether I thought they should continue to pay the premiums or collect thesurrender value of the policies. I told them that as they had already paid nearly double the amount that they could collect at the expiration of the policy they should surrender them asquickly as possible in order to cut their losses. The lady concerned received a letter dated the 20th May from the branch secretary of this company, Mr. Phillips, which reads as follows: -
We confirm our telegram of the 20th inst. advising the surrender values of. these policies. The amounts payable,calculated in consideration of premiums paid to 12th May, 1952, are £14 9s.1d. and £146s.11d. respectively. It will be necessary for . . . to sign the attached application and discharge in connexion with policy No. 2537610 and ifyou will call at this office bringing these forms, duly completed, together with the policies and premium receipt book, the matter will have our immediate attention.
This matter is well over the fence. It may be that a mistake has been made.
– I agree that this is a reputable company.
– Why does not the honorable member take the matter up with the company instead of wasting the time of the House?
– Thisis the company’s final decision. It is fantastic that people should pay £72 12s. for a policy which has a maturity value of £49 12s. and a surrender value of only £28 16s. If the company’s action is legal it is operating a racket. I should like the Minister to be good enough to examine the law in order to ascertain whether there is any safeguard against this type of practice. Perhaps he could take the matter up with the company’s head office in order to ascertain whether a mistake has been made. If the company has not made a mistake then action should be taken to safeguard the poor people who enter into these contractsand find that they have been sold a worthless proposition.
– I do not know the circumstances relating to the insurance policies that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has mentioned. As I have said by way of interjection,Iknowthat the company concerned is a reputable one. It may well be that these are full life policies. They may be policies to which other incidents have attached. There may be an accident incident connected with them or other conditions, all of which would affect their surrender value. Without knowing these facts, it would be premature to condemn the company. I suggest that the honorable member should contact the head office of the company on this matter. From what I know of the company I am sure that he would receive an explanation which would satisfy him that no dishonesty, roguery or sharp practice has been involved.
– If this practice is permissible will the Minister consider amending the law?
– No. These matters rest chiefly in contract. If two people freely make a contract which is harder on one than the other that is their business. The law already gives a measure of protection in such cases. I think that the honorable member should make inquiries at the head office of the company. If the reply that he receives is not satisfactory, I shall not mind looking into the matter in the interests of his constituent.
– They are endowment policies which mature at the age of 80.
– What is the present age of the persons insured?
– The man will be 59 on his next birthday.
– It may be that the company has stated the correct surrender value of the policies at the present time. If the honorable member does not receive a satisfactory explanation from the company I shall endeavour to ascertain what can be done for his constituent.
Glen Davis has been discussed in this House on many occasions recently. Less than a week ago, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) made a very clear and powerful statement to the House upon it. He traversed what had happened, and indicated what he was trying to do for the people of Glen Davis. It appears that now the miners there have staged a stay-in strike. We have been told that they are in the depths of the mine, breathing what has been described as foul air. I have been in those tunnels, and I do not think the atmosphere in them can be described properly as foul. The tunnels are rather airy and healthy. Surely the complete answer is that if the miners of Glen Davis care to go down the mine and stay in it, that is their business, and nobody else can be blamed. We have reached a peculiar stage if the Government can be blamed because miners choose to strike and to stay in a hole in the ground. They can come out of it when they wish to do so. Nobody is preventing them from doing so. The real point is that after the most exhaustive investigations, and after attempts spread over fifteen or eighteen months to keep the industry at Glen Davis going and to preserve the township, it has been found impossible to do so. The enterprise is operating at a loss of approximately £10,000 a week.
Mr. Luchetti interjecting,
– The loss is £6,000 “ a week if certain interest payments and sinking fund charges are not taken into account, but it is £10,000 a week if those payments and charges are taken into account. The project has been incurring a ruinous loss, and we have decided to close it. We have made, and are continuing to make, generous offers to the miners and to the townspeople. We want their co-operation. If we get it, I am certain that, in the long run, they will come to the conclusion that the Government has treated them .generously.
– I desire to raise a matter of continuing urgency. I refer to the difficulties that are preventing the farmers of New South Wales from producing all the primary products that they are capable of producing. New South Wales is well known to be a rich State, capable of feeding its own population and numbers of other people. The New South Wales Government, although it pays lip service to the cause of food production, is in fact presiding over the disintegration of agriculture in New South Wales, while other States are increasing their production of foodstuffs. New South Wales lacks an efficient transport system. I refer particularly to its railway system.
Many people believe that transport charges represent a half of the cost of rural products, because freight charges must be paid upon fertilizers, building materials and other commodities brought to the farmers, and also upon the products of the farms when they are sent to the sea-board. I propose to show that the inefficiency of the New South Wales transport system, compared with the systems of other States, is a factor that is causing a reduction of food production there. It is well known that New South Wales is already importing from other States quantities of butter, cheese, potatoes, fruit, milk, cream, beef, maize and other commodities. It is importing even wheat, although at one time it was a great flour-exporting State.
Transport can play a tremendous part in stimulating agricultural production, but an inefficient transport system can do great damage. Let me compare transport costs in New South Wales with those in other States. In Victoria, the freight charges upon a ton of superphosphate, carried over a distance of 50 miles, are 6s. lid., in New South Wales they are 18s., and in South Australia they are 8s. 3d. The charges in New South Wales are nearly three times greater than those in Victoria and South Australia, in which States primary production is increasing, whereas in New South Wales it is decreasing. For a long haul, freight charges upon a ton of superphosphate are 22s. 9d. in Victoria, and 39s. in New South Wales. We must not forget that freight charges in New South Wales are subsidized to the degree of 25 per cent, by the State Government, and that that subsidy is paid, in fact, by the taxpayers. For a distance of 200 miles, freight charges upon groceries and drapery are £9 9s. a ton in Victoria, and £12 19s. a .ton in New South Wales. For machinery, the charges are £7 10s. 5d. a ton in Victoria, and £10 14s. a ton in New South Wales. Freight charges upon grains such as maize and oats, for a distance of 200 miles, are 25s. Id. a ton in Victoria, and 79s. a ton in New South Wales. The charges in New South Wales are more than three times greater than those in Victoria. For that distance, freight charges upon wheat are 25s. Id. a ton in Victoria, and 63s. in New South Wales. In one part of my electorate, poultry-farmers are now paying nearly £60 freight upon a truck of wheat, although two months previously they were paying £15 a truck.
– How much does a dozen eggs cost now?
– Eggs cost 6s. a dozen now, owing to the tremendous cost of transporting wheat. In Victoria, where freight charges are lower than in New South Wales, I believe that the price of eggs is also lower. In that State, a bullock can be transported for 400 miles for less than £2, but in New South Wales the cost is £3 14s. 4d. In the case of a light beast, the higher freight charges in New South Wales have the effect of increasing the price of the meat by Id. per lb. In Victoria, the cost of moving a sheep over 400 miles is 43d., but in New South Wales it is 88d.
The cost of transporting fencing material, machinery, seed, fertilizers, and other requirements of farmers, is twice as much, and sometimes three times as much, in New South Wales as in other States. How on earth can the people of New South Wales obtain cheap food when the inefficient transport system of the State is forcing prices up? The Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales is a very fine man personally, but, none the less, he is presiding over the disintegration of agriculture in that State. The fact that he is able to speak to the farmers in language they can understand, does not alter the fact that the Government of which he is a member is doing a grave disservice to agricultural production in New South Wales. While the primary producers of that State are burdened with heavy taxation and an inefficient transport system, the prices of the foodstuffs which they produce cannot be reduced.
.It is evident that the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), realizing that his party has been smitten hip and thigh throughout Australia, and is now on the defensive, is trying to create a diversion by attacking the Labour Government of New South Wales, and particularly the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Transport in that State, whom he blames for the decline in primary production. He should realize, if he has any sense, that primary production should be considered in relation to the continent as a whole, and not in relation to any one State. The decline of primary production is due to a number of factors, not the least of which is the destruction of confidence among the primary producers by this Government which the honorable member supports.
In 1949, the parties which support this Government promised many things to the wheat-growers, the dairy-farmers and other primary producers. They promised to reduce taxation, and they said nothing about imposing a special tax on income from wool. The honorable member mentioned railway freight rates in New South Wales on superphosphate, but he did not say that this Government had withdrawn the bounty of £3 15s. a ton which the Labour Government had been paying on superphosphate. That bounty was one of the best methods that could be devised for stimulating production. The honorable member did not mention that the decline of wheat production in New South Wales was largely due to drought over which the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales has no control. For the 1947-48 season New South Wales produced a record wheat crop, and provided most of the wheat that was exported from Australia. The honorable member did not point out that railway transport in New South Wales is very much more difficult than it is in a small, compact and rich State like Victoria. Whilst it is true that freight rates are considerably lower in Victoria thar in New South Wales, the Victorian Government has had to plead with the Australian Government for a sufficient allocation of revenue to enable those freights to be kept down. The honorable member for Macarthur did not suggest that the Commonwealth Treasurer should provide more revenue for the Government of New South Wales to enable it to reduce the rates payable by primary producers. Does he imagine that the New South Wales Treasurer can pull out of the clouds the money that would be needed to keep down freight rates? He knows that every penny piece that is expended by the Government of New South Wales comes from revenue raised by the Commonwealth. If the Government of
New South Wales is short of money it is because this Government is starving it of revenue and of loan money.
The honorable member for Macarthur mentioned the cattle industry. For a great many years past, store cattle have been sent from Queensland to be fattened in New South Wales, and sometimes even in Victoria. Queensland has been a great reservoir for beef cattle. The honorable member is trying to deceive the people and lead them into believing that the responsibility for decling primary production rests on the Government of Nev? South Wales instead of on this Government. The primary producers have enjoyed great prosperity for a. number of years. That prosperity has in some measure been destroyed by the taxation policy of this Government. The Government led the people to believe that it would reduce taxes, but that has not been done. Every paper that if published for primary producers is full of complaints about the uncertainty of the Government’s taxation policy. The wheat-growers are saying openly that they will not sow more land to wheat until the situation is clarified. The Government has deprived primary producers of the incentive to produce. Admittedly, because the primary producers have been prosperous, they have tended to slacken off, but they have improved the amenities on their farms, built new sheds, sunk dams and improved their fencing. While they have been doing that they have not been able to concentrate on increasing production. Dairy production was highest in Australia during the season 1934-35. Times were then very hard, and farmers’ sons could not get outside employment, with the result that they stayed on the farms and milked as many cows as the farms could carry. I am not advocating a return to those conditions, which, as a matter of fact, were largely the responsibility of the parties that support the present Government.
.. - 1 regret having, at this hour in the morning, to raise a matter touching upon security, but as the Government is hastening to close the current sittings I may not have another opportunity to do so. I should like to know why officers of the security service have been shadowing the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
– Shadowing ?
– That is the expression used by the president of the council in describing what has been happening. So far, no statement has been forthcoming from the Government to make it clear who is responsible for what has been done, or to explain what it is hoped to achieve by shadowing the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions when he was engaged on his legitimate business as an officer of that organization. The security service has been put to some peculiar uses recently. Only a few weeks ago a deputation from the Federated Clerks Union of Australia came to Canberra to interview the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). The members of the deputation stayed at Hotel Ainslie-Rex. I am informed that while they were interviewing the Minister at Parliament House, members of the security service were going through their rooms and belongings at their hotel. The Government should give some explanation of the exact work on which the security service is being engaged. Is it the purpose of the security service to assist the Government by spying upon trade union officials and, no doubt, upon members of this Parliament? I noticed two members of the security service in the precincts of Parliament House to-night. I do not know the work they are engaged upon in Canberra. One is named Tuck. I do not know the name of the other man, but he had a very mysterious look.
– Did he have a black moustache and a beard?
– All I can say is that it is very easy to detect that they are security officers. Perhaps they are tapping the telephone lines or doing something with it. The explanation that was given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to the complaint of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) about the tapping of telephone lines to Parliament House could not be accepted by any sensible person as reasonable. Honorable members will recollect that when the honorable member for Herbert raised the matter, the Postmaster-General said that he knew nothing about it, but that he would have inquiries made. Subsequently he admitted in the Parliament that the lines had been tapped. The reason that he gave was that officers were ascertainingwhether the telephone lines into Parliament House and out of it were adequate to carry the load. That is a ridiculous explanation. Technical officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department have informed me, as they would have informed the Postmaster-General if he had inquired, that there is no need to tap the lines to ascertain whether they are adequate for the load. If they want to check trunk-line calls, there is a manual switchboard which is operated by girls who can tell them what calls have been made on the trunk-line system and the duration of the calls. That is the simple way to test the trunk-line traffic. Technical officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department have informed me also that it is silly to suggest that they have to tap a line to test the loading through the automatic telephone exchange. If the Minister admits that the lines have been tapped, he should think of some other excuse than the one that he has given to honorable members.
There has been no denial by the Government that during the period when the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was before the House and during the subsequent referendum campaign, the telephone system was being tapped so that the conversations oftrade union officials and Labour members of Parliament could be heard ; nor has there been any denial that tape recordings were made of the conversations. Statements to that effect have been made to me from many quarters. The Government has not denied that such a practice was engaged in during that time.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I think that the matter is serious enough though I know that empty-headed honorable members opposite
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect on his colleagues in the House.
– They are not my colleagues, they are my compulsory associates. In any case, Mr. Speaker, if you object to the term, I do not propose to repeat it. I merely say that honorable members who laugh probably are living in a state of simplicity. They are not fully aware of happenings going on around them, or happening in this country. One of the things that we have to guard against in Australia while we are talking about freedom and democracy is the danger that we are failing to guard and protect ourselves against the growth of totalitarian methods which were used by the fascist powers and by the Communist powers. I do not expect the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is sitting at the table, to give me immediately the information that I seek on the matters that I have mentioned, but I hope that he will convey the text of my remarks to his colleagues so that before the Parliament rises to-morrow, the House will be given a satisfactory explanation of the exact state of affairs in regard to the security service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Electoral - Referendums - Statistical Returns in relation to thesubmission to the Electors of a Proposed Law for the Alteration of the Constitution entitled “ Constitution Alteration (Powers to deal with Communists and Communism) 1951”; together with Summaries of Referendums, 1906- 1951.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes - Balcombe, Victoria.
Postal purposes - Cavan, Slew South Wales.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1952 -
No. 39 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 40 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union.
No. 41 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
House adjourned at 1.47 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
a asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Was the Commonwealth Bank Board among those who advised the Government on the balance of payments problems during the period ended the 31st December last?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
In accordance with normal practice the proceedings of the board are confidential , and whether it advised the Government on a particular matter cannot be disclosed.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
i asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following information: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following information : -
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Both of these drugs have undesirable side effects, and for this reason it is desirable that full investigations be made as to the results of treatment. With regard to cortisone, it is quite clear that there is insufficient in Australia to treat all who desire it. It is there- fore necessary that it be issued according to medical priority, whether the patient be wealthy or poor, or whether a hospital or private patient. From the 1st March, 1951, to the 31st January, 1952, its control on medical priority was exercised, by arrangement with my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs, by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and I repeat my sincere appreciation of the work of the college. From the 1st February, 1952, the distribution of cortisone has been controlled by officers of my department, there being in each State capital an advisory sub-committee of the college to advise my officers in border-line cases. The importers of cortisone arerequired by the Department of Trade and Customs to supply only to retailers or hospitals who furnish the drug only to approved patients, whether private patients or hospital patients. The same medical priority in allocation still obtains, and I believe the distribution is made fairly. The Government does not intend to endeavour to become the sole importer of cortisone, nor, at this stage, to provide it free.
s asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minis ter for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1952, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520604_reps_20_217/>.