20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Last week the “honorable member for Higinbotham asked me a question in relation to the flying of aircraft over Parliament House. I have received a letter on the subject from the Minister for Civil Aviation. I do not think that any further action on my part is warranted by the contents of the letter.
– In view of the fact that the Treasurer always refuses to Answer questions in relation to Commonwealth action at meetings of the Australian Loan Council on the ground that proceedings of the council are secret, will he inform the House whether he regards himself as being obliged, at some time, to indicate the nature of his actions at the -meetings of the council, or whether he has enunciated a new constitutional doctrine that this is an aspect of financial policy -for -which he is not answerable to the House? “Why does his insistence on : secrecy not extend to refraining from denouncing the Premiers for their attitude at meetings of the Australian Loan Council ?
– I have never denounced the Premiers for their attitude to the Australian Loan Council. I have denounced them for their ingratitude to the Australian Government for what it has done for them. The presistence of honorable members opposite in asking questions about proceedings of the Australian Loan Council is becoming tedious. I have said, and I maintain still, that the proceedings of the council are and always have been held in camera and are governed by the rules and regulations of the council, upon which, the States have a preponderance of six votes to two.
– I ask the Treasurer two questions in relation to the net increase, since the 1st July, of treasury-bills drawn “by the Government on the Commonwealth Bank and still outstanding. Is the right honorable gentleman aware of the increase of the amount? If so, will he say what the amount is?
– I have to depend on my memory in a matter of that nature, and I do not consider it fair to expect an answer to the question off-hand.
– Can the right honorable gentleman give me an approximate figure ?
– No, I shall not even give an approximate figure, although the increase is in the vicinity of £5P,000,000. I shall obtain accurate information on the matter, as I yesterday told the Leader of the Opposition I would do when I invited him to place a similar question on the noticepaper. I shall obtain the information and supply him with it.
– -I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that the Prime Minister of India has arranged’ a toplevel conference between delegates from the United States of America and Communist China for the purpose of overcoming the objection of the United States of America to the recognition of red China. If this is a fact, are any details of the discussions known to the Australian Government, or officially to the United Nations? Is it possible that the outcome of such negotiations may have a direct influence on an early settlement of the cease-fire talks in Korea, or is such a result too much to hope for at the present time?
– From time to time over a period of months, various members of the United Nations, including Australia, have made suggestions regarding the possibility of arranging an armistice in Korea. “We have no knowledge of the particular matter to which the honorable member has referred. We have no reason to believe that such a move as the honorable member has specifically referred to in his question has, in fact, been made.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the Premier of Queensland has communicated with the Prime Minister and complained that Italian immigrants in the Wacol camp, near
Brisbane, are discontented because they have not been found employment, as promised by this Government? Is it a fact that the Premier of Queensland has also complained to the Prime Minister about a considerable quantity of Communist literature being distributed to those immigrants, in which they are urged to demand work and, if they are not given work, to demonstrate against this Government? In view of the serious position that exists at the Wacol camp, will the Minister say what steps, if any, have been taken by his department to find work for the immigrants who are accommodated there?
– I do not know whether the Premier of Queensland has communicated with the Prime Minister, but I have some knowledge of the difficulties that have arisen in certain places in relation to some of the more recently arrived Italian immigrants. As honorable members are aware, the Government has been raking active steps to place those immigrants in suitable employment. To a large degree, the efforts of the Government have been successful. Many of the immigrants have been placed, in suitable rural employment, and others have been placed, in industry, but a certain number of them remain upon our hands. We have provided them with emergency employment. I have said on previous occasions that I arn. confident that, as the harvesting season approaches, we shall be able to place the remaining immigrants in employment. We have taken action to ensure that there will not be a substantial flow of unskilled Italian immigrants to this country next year. We are aware that the Communists, as is their usual practice, have seized upon this situation as a means to foment trouble in this country. I have some knowledge of what they have done.
– The Government has no excuse. The Communists should have disappeared by now.
– We are doing our best to ensure that they will disappear, despite the valiant efforts to the contrary of the honorable member for East Sydney. We ;ire dealing with this matter actively and sympathetically. I hope that, with the co-operation of the State Premier, we shall find a solution of the problem at an early date.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth is to take charge of war service land settlement in New South Wales because the New South Wales Government has drastically reduced its war service land settlement scheme and has diverted to other purposes funds made available by the Commonwealth for that purpose?
– This Government is naturally very concerned about what amounts to almost a complete cessation of war service land settlement in one of the largest States of the Commonwealth. I do not say that the New South Wales Government is unwilling to allocate sufficient loan money to enable war service land settlement in that State to proceed satisfactorily, but if it is willing to allocate the money, it appears to be unable to do so. The allocation of loan moneys is entirely a matter for the State Government, which includes in its programme a sum for expenditure upon war service land settlement; but it is for that Government to decide whether it will, in fact, allocate that sum for that purpose, f t is obvious that in New South Wales war service land Settlement has been given a very low priority.
– Who told the Minister that?
– It is obvious that that is so. This year, the New South Wales Government has allocated only £2,000,000 for war service land settlement. That sum represents 2.7 per cent, of its total loan allocation, compared with the peak figure of 27.7 per cent.
– That is because the Commonwealth is starving the States financially.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney is not entitled to interject.
– Very much larger amounts of loan money have been made available to New South Wales in the last few years than were made available when the proportion of 27.7 per cent, of New South Wales loan moneys was allocated by the State Government for war service land settlement. This Government is very seriously concerned about the matter, and is giving consideration to possible alternatives in order to see that the promises made to servicemen before they went away to war are carried out.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a copy of the official report of the United States Congressional Committee on the Judiciary, in which both major American political parties participated, which was established to inquire into the activities of the Institute of Pacific Relations ? If so, has he noted the following statement that appears under the heading “ Conclusions “ at the end of the report: -
The Institute of Pacific Relations has not maintained the character of an objective, scholarly and research organization.
The IPR has been considered by the American Communist Party and by Soviet officials as an instrument of Communist policy, propaganda and military intelligence.
Is it correct that Communists in the Institute of Pacific Relations - I refer to the international body centred in America - have carried on their subversive activities with the unwitting assistance of many well-meaning people both in the United States of America and in other parts of the world, including university professors, journalists and radio publicists of high repute? In order to enable Australian citizens in this category to protect themselves against being made innocent dupes of the Soviet, will the Prime Minister establish, in the Department of External Affairs, a Soviet Affairs section and make the advice of that section available to any reputable person who may seek it?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I am indebted to him for having directed my attention to it, and I shall make it my business to read it. I shall discuss his suggestion with the Minister for External Affairs on his return from overseas.
– I desire to ask a supplementary question.
– Order ! I have not called the honorable member for Mackellar.
– I am asking for the right to ask a question under Standing Order 150.
– I desire to ask a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Evans, and I address it to the Leader of the Opposition. J should like to know why he was looking so strained and concerned during the course-
– Order !
– I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he was one-
– Order ! The question is out of order. The right honorable gentleman’s looks do not come within the scope of the business of the House.
– As 24 new Australians are employed, and 35 more are to be employed from to-morrow, as attendants, stewards, gardeners, &c, at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Point Cook, Victoria, in place of ex-servicemen who have been, or are being, dismissed, I ask the Minister for Air whether he will have an investigation of employment conditions at the station made with the object of retaining the services of ex-servicemen in all positions, including clerical positions in which they have for years given satisfactory service and so, to quote the words . used by the Minister for the Interior in an answer to a question this morning, “see that the promises made to servicemen are carried out “.
– It comes ill from the Opposition to suggest that this Government should honour its promises to ex-servicemen. I have seen little evidence that honorable members opposite care two hoots about what happens to . exservicemen or to the nation’s defence effort. I have tried to make it clear, in respect of Point Cook-
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! I ask the Minister to wait until the House is readyto listen to him. If the House does not wish to listen, we can proceed with the business of the day, and that may enable us to rise a little earlier at night.
– -I think, Mr. Speaker, that Opposition members deserve a provocative reply, if they a.re capable of taking it.
Mr. Tom Burke interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable gentlemen must not reflect upon one another. The honorable member for Perth will withdraw his remark about the intelligence of the Minister for Air.
– I have no knowledge of the remark to which you refer, Mr. Speaker, but I withdraw it.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman also knows perfectly well that he should not interject when a Minister is replying to a question.
– I have made it clear to the House .previously that the policy of the Royal Australian Air Force has been to employ civilians temporarily in service postings until we have been able to recruit or train sufficient Air Force personnel to take their proper jobs. As we have recruited or trained Air Force personnel, we have progressively discharged the temporary employees. It is correct to say that a few Italian immigrants have been employed to do odd jobs round some Air Force stations.
– The ex-servicemen would have accepted the odd jobs at Rathmines.
– They could not be employed in similar jobs because of trade union regulations, arbitration court awards and similar provisions. The Italians will be employed for only a few weeks. They will return to Bonegilla camp as soon as the jobs are finished. As a Government, we have a responsibility to look after the interests of every one in the community. Our first consideration is towards om- own people, and we give preference to ex-servicemen in particular. We also have a responsibility to immigrants who come to this country expecting to be able to find employment. In fact, they all are gradually being placed in employment, and in secure employment at that. I hope that honorable members opposite will not try to take mean political advantage from a predicament of this kind. This problem is an immense one and should be solved in a realistic way.
– My question to the Minister for Air, is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Burke. In view of the Minister having ordered mass dismissals of exservicemen civilian personnel from all Air Force depots - nineteen from the works at Sale, 27 from-
– Order ! The honorable member is now giving information, which he is not entitled to do.
– Will the Minister give an assurance to the House that all the persons dismissed will be given continuous employment, and so be saved the necessity of wasting their savings to the extent of £60 or £70 as previous exservicemen have had to do in the past few months when they have lost their employment ?
– I gave a complete explanation of this matter to the honorable member for Burke.
– We want an assurance from the Minister.
– I explained then, and I shall explain again for the benefit of the honorable member for Ballarat, that the people who are now losing their work, and there are not many, considering that the dismissals are spread over the whole of Australia–
– How many are there?
– I do not remember, but I think about 300 persons throughout the whole of Australia will be dismissed. The Royal Australian Air Force has taken a great deal of trouble to ensure that the dismissals will be spread as evenly as possible over head-quarters and stations throughout Australia, so that in no particular area will many persons be dismissed. The Royal Australian Air Force has done a remarkable job, and deserves praise rather than narrowminded condemnation. When the persons who are now to be dismissed were first employed, they were engaged on the understanding their positions were temporary and that as soon as the requisite number of Air Force personnel were recruited they would lose their jobs. Notwithstanding that understanding, my colleague the honorable member for Mitchell, has been very active in this matter and in co-operation with him we are doing our best to ensure that the effects of these dismissals will be minimized. I shall make sure that there will be no unnecessary dismissals, and I shall certainly again carefully investigate this matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. In view of the housing shortage in Canberra, will he consider making available for letting to civilians cottages at Harman, from which naval ratings and their families were transferred to new prefabricated houses, and which have been unoccupied since about last February? Is it true that many expensive prefabricated homes at Harman are still occupied by single female personnel, while Canberra families cannot get houses?
– I-I.M.A.S. Harman is the Royal Australian naval receiving station for the whole of Australia. A decision was made by the Naval Board some time ago to replace male personnel with members of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service in certain technical musterings, or jobs, and we had to allot ten or twelve houses at Harman to accommodate members of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service as and when they were able to pass the necessary examination and qualify for the positions. I understand from the Department of the Navy that the first group of young women will pass out after the examinations which will take place within the next few weeks. If they pass out successfully, they will be put into the ten or twelve houses at Harman. There are many naval ratings who are waiting for homes in the Harman area and we would therefore not be able to allot any of these houses to civilians. We shall need them, first for the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service. If we do not obtain sufficient members of this service to do the necessary technical jobs of receiving and passing on information, we shall put males on to that work. I desire to pay a particular tribute to the personnel of Harman for the wonderful job that they have done in connexion with the signalling and transmission work in connexion with the Monte Bello operations.
– Will the Prime Minister confirm or deny the allegation that was made in the Queensland Parliament earlier this week to the effect that he was playing at party politics by withholding from publication the report of officers of the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station on the construction of houses at Zillmere, Brisbane? Has the right honorable gentleman yet received that report ?
– I, certainly, harp not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred, and, as the Minister for the Interior has just intimated to me that he has not received it either, it may be assumed that it has not yet been furnished.
– Has the Minister for Supply been informed of a- statement made in London to the effect that British steel mills are now able to supply all Australia’s requirements of tinplate, but are unable to obtain this business because Australia is committed by government contract until the end of 1954 to take 40 per cent, of its requirements from the United States of America?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement mentioned by the honorable member as having emanated from England. The statement carries some wrong implications and should be answered. After the conclusion of question time I shall ask for the leave of the House to make a statement on the matter.
– I ask for leave to make the statement that I indicated earlier, in answer to a question that I wished to make at the end of question time.
– Is leave granted ?
Opposition MEMBERS. - No.
Leave not granted.
– Oan the Minister for Territories say whether a statement that was made publicly in Queensland on Tuesday last to the effect that the Australian Government has decided to proceed with the construction of the rail link from Dajarra, in Queensland, across the Barkly Tableland to Birdum and thence to Darwin is correct, or is it merely conjecture? If the statement is correct, will the Government proceed with this vital work as soon as possible?
– Any statement to the effect that the Australian Government has made a decision affecting railway policy in respect of the Northern Territory is not correct. The whole subject of railway development in the Northern Territory is receiving the close consideration of Cabinet at present, but no announcement of Government policy in the matter has been made.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the search for oil in Australia is continuing. Are there any signs that oil will be discovered in Australia or in the territories under its control? Does the” right honorable gentleman believe that the current search for oil in Australia is really genuine ?
– Having regard to the amount of money that has been expended on the search for oil in this country, particularly by private oil interests, I am perfectly certain that the search is genuine. It would be extraordinary if it were otherwise. I shall arrange for the details for which the honorable member has asked to be obtained and communicated to him.
– Having regard to the indispensability of surgical appliances to physically handicapped children, and also to the high cost incurred by parents in the provision and frequent replacement of such appliances, which is beyond the financial resources of many parents and, indeed, causes hardship in some instances, will the Minister for Health consider including these appliances under the free medicine scheme? I emphasize that these appliances are as important to physically handicapped children as lifesaving drugs are to those who require them.
– The matter that the honorable member has raised is primarily one for consideration by the States. However, when the Government is reviewing its health policy as a whole it will give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) addressed a question to me that related to the case of the Commissioner of Taxation v. Fletcher Clarence Dixon and sought information about its progress. I have had investigations made and have been advised that that case was heard by the High Court in August. Judgment were reserved ; and, of course, my investigation ended at that point. We are now awaiting the decision of the court, but, having regard to the date on which judgment wa3 reserved, the decision may be expected to be given very soon.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3.30 p.m.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1951.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill. Its main purpose is to amend the Superannuation Act in order to implement the Government’s decision to provide for the transfer of certain contributors from the Defence
Forces Retirement Benefits Fund to the Superannuation Fund. It is complementary to certain provisions in the bill recently passed by the House to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. Representations have been made by service departments that provision should be made whereby a contributor to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund may, on appointment to the Public Service or to an approved Commonwealth authority, transfer his rights in that fund to the Superannuation Fund. At present there is no such provision, and specially trained men in the Navy and Army, who retire at comparatively early ages, and whom it is desired to appoint on retirement to permanent administrative positions in the Public Service, hesitate to accept such appointments. The reason is that they have to surrender their rights under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act and become contributors under the Superannuation Act at rate for age next birthday as normally applies to new appointees from outside the service. The service departments are concerned at their inability, because of this barrier, to obtain in a civil capacity the much-needed services of these specially trained men.
The contributions under both schemes for pension on retirement at age 60 are identical, and the proposal, which is supported by both the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board and the Superannuation Board, simply means that the contributor shall give up all rights to benefits under the defence scheme and continue his contributions at the same rate for full pension benefits under the Public Service scheme. Under this arrangement, the contributions made by the contributor to the defence scheme will be transferred to the Superannuation Fund. Opportunity is also being taken to amend the Superannuation Act so as to exclude from the superannuation scheme United Kingdom scientists who are engaged by the Commonwealth and who contribute to the United Kingdom Federated Superannuation System for Universities or to similar superannuation schemes. Under the present act, these scientists are compelled to contribute to the Superannuation Fund or to the
Provident Account. The amendment is designed to exclude them from the Superannuation Fund or the Provident Account if they are already contributors to the United Kingdom Federated Superannuation System for Universities or to similar superannuation schemes.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1949.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– hy leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make such provision- as will enable Australian electors abroad at the time of a federal election or referendum to record their votes with the least avoidable inconvenience. Hitherto, electors overseas have been able to vote at a federal election or referendum only by making their applications to, and obtaining their postal voting papers from, a returning officer in Australia. They have had to obtain an application form, send it to Australia, await the receipt therefrom of the necessary postal vote certificate and ballotpaper, and then record and return their vote to the returning officer for their division in time to reach him not later than seven days after polling day. This procedure, which, in most cases, requires a period of several weeks, has meant that very early application has been imperative. However, all too frequently, action was not commenced sufficiently early to be effective. Sometimes, for instance, the elector was about to embark on a sea voyage or continental tour, and the facilities available proved to be of no practical use.
Accordingly, in the belief that, as far as reasonably practicable, every elector should be afforded the opportunity to vote at an election or referendum, the
Government proposes by this bill to amend the law so as to permit an assistant returning officer at, say, Australia House, London, to issue postal vote certificates and postal ballot-papers direct to Australian electors on application. Such assistant returning officer will act under the direction of the Chief Electoral -Officer in precisely the same way as does any other postal vote issuing officer. He will, after issuing a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper to an applicant elector, duly endorse the application and forthwith send it by airmail to the returning officer for the division concerned. The applicant elector, upon receiving the postal vote certificate and postal ballotpaper, will complete the certificate and record his vote before an authorized witness in the normal manner. He will then enclose the ballot-paper in the certificate envelope and post the envelope, or cause it to be posted, to the returning officer for the division in respect of which he has voted. It will be clearly understood that no envelope containing a postal vote issued by an assistant returning officer outside Australia will be -admitted for scrutiny until it has reached “the returning officer for the division for which the voter has voted and that officer, by checking the voter’s enrolment on his -official roll, has verified the right of the voter to the vote recorded. If the voter is not duly enrolled for the division for which he has voted, the vote recorded by him will be rejected unopened.
The final clause of the bill provides that, when a postal vote application is being made or a postal vote recorded outside Australia, the persons authorized to act as witnesses shall include persons employed in the public service of any of the Queen’s dominions and also any justice of the peace, minister of religion or medical practitioner in any such dominion or territory of the Common”wealth.
– It sounds like the act of a desperate government.
– A Labour government of which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was a member extended the provisions relating to authorized witnesses to include any elector whose name appeared on any electoral roll in Australia. An authorized witness only witnesses a signature. A duplicate of the signature is in the possession of the returning officer, and he can satisfy himself that the signature on the ballot-paper is in fact the signature of the voter concerned. In the case of postal votes, such a check is very often made by returning officers before votes of that nature are recorded. Therefore, the remark of the honorable member for Ea3t Sydney was somewhat weird.
– Can the Minister say when a vote from “ overseas must reach the appropriate electoral division?
– I shall deal with that matter a little later. The object of the extension is to assist electors who, while travelling abroad, are, at the particular time, in some out of the way place and, for that reason, would experience difficulties in locating an authorized witness within the existing category. No alteration is proposed of the present procedure for obtaining a voting paper from an assistant returning officer. Clause 2 is designed only to permit an electoral officer to appoint an assistant returning officer at a place outside Australia. In reply to the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), clause 4 proposes that a uniform time shall be fixed after which a postal vote certificate of postal ballot-paper shall not be posted.
– I did not refer to that matter. When must a postal vote reach the electoral division in which the voter is registered?
– I think within seven days after the taking of the ballot. No alteration is proposed of the provisions of the act in that connexion. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th October (vide page 3954), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– Probably this bill will excite more comment than any other measure dealing with transportation that has been considered by the Parliament. In my view, the public should be as fully informed upon this matter as possible, but the Government has attempted to conceal the facts. In those circumstances, the measure appears to be one of the worst political moves to defeat a well established industry that has ever been made. Honorable members opposite will find it difficult to explain to their constituents why they have permitted the Government to get away with a scheme under which five big shipping lines will be allowed to use public funds to finance an airline in which they have a major interest, whilst other airline operators will be denied the use of such funds. I cannot describe the action of the Government in the language that I should like to use. I should be called to order by you, Mr. Speaker, if I were to attempt to use the terms that I believe the bill deserves. It is a contemptible measure, and I entertain the utmost contempt for the Government which has presented it to the Parliament in this form. The bill represents an attempt by the Government to do for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited what private enterprise has failed to do, which is to guarantee the money that the company requires for the purchase of the new aeroplanes which arc needed to keep it in the forefront of civil aviation. The company has refused to seek that money from private enterprise, and apparently is extracting some reward from the Government for the assistance that it gave to Government parties at the last general election and at the 1949 general election. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited wants the Government to help it to extricate itself from difficulties that it has itself created.
In the debate on this measure, there has been a great deal of misrepresentation. I believe that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) did some misrepresenting before some of the younger members of the Liberal party expressed their views on the measure in this chamber.
– I have not spoken on the bill yet.
– I am referring to happenings in the party room. I know the style of the right honorable gentleman, and I can guess the nature of his remarks there. It is evident that some of the younger members of ‘ the Government parties have been entirely misinformed upon this matter. They have said, for instance, that dollars were made available to TransAustralia Airlines, but were denied to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That is not so. The public is entitled to know the facts. It is true that the Chifley Government decided that government employees should travel by Trans-Australia Airlines, but that decision was made only because Trans-Australia Airlines was being boycotted by big business interests, which had instructed the members of their staffs not to travel on aircraft operated by the commission. It was quite evident that such a boycott of Trans-Australia Airlines was in operation.
A thorough investigation should be made of the events that have led to the introduction of this measure, in order that the public may be well informed of the causes of the present conditions to which the Government objects on the ground that it believes that they have had an adverse effect upon Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The question of the carriage of airmail by Trans-Australia Airlines can be disposed of quickly. Although some of my colleagues have alleged that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was subsidized to a large degree by payments made for the carriage of airmail, I prefer to say that during a period of seven years it received the sum of £2,540,000 for the carriage of airmail in this country, at a price which it was able to determine because it was a monopoly. The Chifley Government decided that something should be done to prevent that monopoly from fleecing the Australian people. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was being paid 8s. per lb. for carrying mail matter that was, in many instances, during the war, only sacks of cipher books. During thewar, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was in a very favorableposition. It could do practically what it. liked. I remember an incident during the war that can be regarded now as slightly humorous. The PostmasterGeneral of that day wanted to come to Canberra to consult with the Prime Minister. Owing to the existence of an order that mails should take priority of passengers in aircraft, he was denied a seat on an aircraft. He tried to get into touch with me to explain his position. The aircraft on which he wanted to travel, which was operated by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, took off while he was still trying to find out where I was and to explain why he should be given a place in the aircraft which was occupied by a sack of cipher books, which could easily have been delayed for a day.
The Chifley Government decided to establish a government airline. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said recklessly that there was no mandate for that to be done, and that the Chifley Government made that decision because it liked government monopolies. Labour policy is, of course, laid down in the Labour party’s platform, as it has been for years. It is to be found in the printed copy of the policy under the heading, “Amplification of Defence Policy”, and, in relation to aviation, it reads as follows : -
As our civil aviation provides the foundation of aerial defence, the Commonwealth Government should endeavour to develop air services in all parts of the Commonwealth, and airports to serve all centres of population in Australia and its territories.
It is desirable, not only in Australia but also in many other countries, that a government should establish transport facilities for the people generally, because it is beyond the power of private institutions, except such wealthy institutions as those with which honorable gentlemen opposite are associated, to obtain the large amounts of capital necessary. As a matter of fact, the very pattern which brought Trans-Australia Airlines into existence is being followed now by Bungana Investments. I wonder how many honorable members opposite have heard of Bungana Investments? Of whom does that firm consist? It has a preponderating influence in airlines in Western Australia, in Guinea Airways in South Australia, and in Butler Airways which has been held up as an example by honorable members opposite. I know Mr. Butler and have every respect for him as an individual, but he is under the influence, as he has been for some years, of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. It has been claimed that the Labour Government tried to harm an airline run by exservicemen from Townsville to inland areas of Queensland. The fact is that Trans-Australia Airlines was established amidst the sneers of honorable members opposite who were then in opposition. They treated its establishment as an attempt to achieve the impossible. In fact, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited itself did not hesitate to suggest, by means of press statements, that Trans-Australia Airlines was a socialistic venture that was bound to fail. I have shown why the Chifley Government considered it absolutely necessary to enter the field of civil aviation, and I consider that a full exposure should be made in relation to the payments that were made during the war to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, when that company had a complete monopoly and had to be used by the Government for the carriage of airmail, and in relation to various other things that followed as a result. Such an exposure would enlighten some honorable members opposite so much that they would not be such enthusiastic supporters of this oneeyed and unscrupulous agreement.
Mr. Fairbairn interjecting,
– Does the honor able gentleman know of any government that would make contracts with private interests for the carriage of airmail merely to provide them with an opportunity to make profits, when the Government itself had the necessary equipment to perform the services? It has been shown time and time again during this debate that it would be . as logical to divide the carriage of mails by truck from post offices to airports between government trucks and private trucks, as it is to divide the carriage of airmail between the government airline and a private airline. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) knows as well as I do, as a result of his recent visit to the centre of Australia, that the private mail contractor in that area was given as much help as possible during the period that I was Minister for Civil Aviation. He works on the basis of a subsidy which, when I became Minister for Civil Aviation, was at the rate of £1,500 a year from each of three different authorities, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Civil Aviation and the Postmaster-General’s Department. His subsidy to-day is about £37,000 per annum, and it was high before I ceased to be Minister for Civil Aviation. I believe we should give such contractors the utmost encouragement. The Labour Government did not attempt to destroy them, but it attempted to prevent the growth in Australia of a monopoly that would have had us by the throat. What we sought to prevent is what the United States of America, the home of private enterprise, has always tried to prevent. That country has imposed strict limitations on the ownership of airlines by shipping lines, because it sees the danger of airlines so owned becoming subservient to the interests of the shipping lines that own them. Consequently, the United States of America will not allow shipping lines to own airlines also. When Pan America, which is the flag line of the United States of America, was operating to this country British Commonwealth Pacific Airways, which was competing with it, was receiving only the normal payment for the carriage of airmail. Pan America, operating from San Francisco, which is 6,500 or more miles from Australia, was on the other hand receiving 1.20 dollars for each mile flown, even when its aircraft carried only one letter. That is the way private enterprise has it own airlines subsidized.
Trans-Australia Airlines is our airline, and I am proud of the fact that Australia owns it. and glad that it was established. It developed so rapidly that honorable members opposite did not dare to destroy it, whatever might have been the wishes of people who were opposed to its establishment and continued existence. The expenditure incurred in the establishment and early conduct of the airline was incurred because it was absolutely necessary for the good of this country.
– Is not the honorable member also proud of the great national airline Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited?
– The Minister has not heard me reflect on the ability of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. 1 realize that that airline did a good job but at the same time I assert confidently that it was well paid for all it ever did for the Government. It would have been ridiculous for the Labour Government to have allowed a private monopoly to continue. When we established Trans-Australia Airlines we were met by sneers and contempt from honorable members opposite, who said that it could not possibly succeed and that it would be only another instance of public money being poured down the sink. Within a few years, however, Trans-Australia Airlines began to show profits. We introduced the rule that people travelling on voucher on Government business should travel only by the Government’s airline when possible, because we knew that the combines interested in private airline companies were doing their best to prevent their officials from travelling by TransAustralia Airlines. We turned the tables on them in that regard. I consider that the action of the Chifley Government in relation to those employed in the carriage of airmail was completely justified in view of the tactics employed by private companies against TransAustralia Airlines.
I shall deal now with some statements made by honorable members opposite, some of which I believe to have been made conscientiously by the real conservatives on the other side of the House, who were born and bred in a conservative atmosphere and naturally have grown up as conservatives. I refer to honorable members like the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) and the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), who made statements yesterday that will not bear close examination. The assertion was made that dollars were given to Trans-Australia Airlines to purchase Convair aircraft, while Australian
National Airways Proprietary Limited was denied dollars. I can remember it being said that the Labour Government was purchasing a type of aircraft that would not be able to operate the service between Melbourne and Sydney because it had not the necessary range. The fact is that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was not interested in buying Convairs, but was interested in buying DC4’s, and was endeavouring to do so. We bought Convair aircraft and they proved to be a great success. I wish to point out that dollars were available to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited at the same time as they were available to Trans-Australia Airlines, but Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited neglected its opportunities. If it found later that the dollar position was tight, at a time when Trans-Australia Airlines also found it tight, it had no real cause for complaint. A report made to me when I was Minister for Civil Aviation contained the following statements: - l’t_ has been claimed that, by authorizing dollar expenditure by TAA, the Government lias victimized the private operator, ANA. This is a serious charge which is not borne out by the facts, which are:
Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not wish to purchase Convairs, but were thinking about other aircraft such as the Martin 202. It considered finally that the long range of DC4’s made them a better investment. The Convair has completely proved its worth. I do not agree with the opinion that has been expressed, even by some members of the Labour party, that the Convairs are not giving complete satisfaction. I do not think there is any better aircraft in Australia. The Convair has been a great money-spinner, and has proved a very safe aircraft for the transport of passengers. I speak with a knowledge of this matter, because I have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles in aircraft of various types.
The purchase by Trans-Australia Airlines of five new Convairs was authorized before the serious deterioration in the dollar position, and those aircraft have proved to be an excellent buy. Despite the fact that at least five additional aircraft of the same type were on offer in the United States of America in 1946, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not . apply for permission to purchase them, or any kind of new aircraft. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been furnished regularly with dollars adequate for the purchase of the spare parts necessary for the maintenance of its entire fleet. Other airlines have received similar treatment. Those facts should dispose of the allegation that the Labour Government showed favouritism to Trans-Australia Airlines, and treated privately owned airlines harshly. I have not heard Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, or any other privately owned airline complain that favouritism has been shown to Trans-Australia Airlines, to their disadvantage. They might not have liked the instruction issued by the Labour Government that Commonwealth officials should travel by TransAustralia Airlines services. I have given the reason for that instruction. The privately owned airlines also might not have liked the granting to Trans-Australia Airlines of the right to carry all airmail matter. Before the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines, the airmail contract had been granted to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. In the ordinary way of business, the Government, quite properly, granted to Trans-Australia Airlines the right to carry all airmails in return for an overall payment of £540,000. That contract did not mean that Trans-Australia Airlines was paid a poundage rate. No good purpose can be served in this debate in colculating how much Trans-Australia Airlines would have received had it been paid a poundage rate compared with the overall payment of £540,000. The proper way in which to approach this matter is to bear in mind all the time that TransAustralia Airlines was liable to transport all mail matter. In fact, the utility carried all classes of mail matter during a strike on the coal-fields, when rail services were not operating, during shipping strikes, and when the shipping service to Tasmania was suspended. That condition was a part of the contract, for which Trans-Australia Airlines was paid. The Government has not got a case against Trans-Australia Airlines.
– We have not tried to make out a case against Trans-Australia Airlines.
– I do not suggest that the purpose of Government supporters is to decry Trans-Australia Airlines. They could not succeed, even if they wished to do so.
– We do not desire to do so.
– Very well ! The Australian National Airlines Bill, when it was introduced by the Labour Government in 1945, was opposed at every stage by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. They attacked the legislation without any valid reason, and their speeches received plenty of publicity in the press. If there is one thing that the shipping companies know how to do well, it is how to get full publicity for their views in the press. Probably they have some interest in the newspapers as well as in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. We cannot tolerate the possibility of the domination of transport in Australia by shipping lines as they dominate sea-going transport round our coasts. Shipping companies are now endeavouring to buy up the airlines which are operating in country centres through Bungana Investments. They may not have a preponderant interest in Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited, but they have a predominant interest in the other privately owned companies I have mentioned. I speak quite conscientiously about these matters. Unfortunately, the Government has withheld from the Parliament vital information about the financial position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. It is scandalous that we should be asked to pass legislation that will guarantee the right of five big shipping companies, which are the real owners of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, to borrow up to £3,000,000, in order to provide them with aircraft so that their inefficient service will be able to compete with an efficient airline. The whole thing is an outrage. I am sure that when the facts are presented fairly and squarely by any newspaper, the people will realize that this Government is not fit to occupy the treasury-bench. The Government is defrauding the people of their rights by utilizing public money itv this way-
– I rise to order. I take exception to the word “ defrauding “, and I ask that it be withdrawn. We are entitled to expect the honorable member to observe some degree of moderation in his remarks.
-Order! Exception has been taken to the use of the word “defrauding”. I ask the honorable member for Maribyrnong to withdraw it.
– I withdraw tb( word. I do not consider it to be quite strong enough, and, therefore, I say that the Government is deceiving the people.
– Why? Can the honorable member substantiate that statement ?
– Yes. The agreement in the schedule to the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill 1952 provides that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is the representative of the big shipping companies, will bp guaranteed a loan of £3,000,000, and even more, should it require a bigger amount. The legislation also provides that the agreement shall operate for a period of fifteen years. The Government is endeavouring to prevent TransAustralia Airlines from succeeding as an airlines operator. I believe that a number of Government supporters, notwithstanding their speeches, consider this legislation to ‘he wrong, and that the Government, in introducing the bills, is merely fulfilling promises that it made to its wealthy supporters in return for their assistance in the general election campaign in 1949, and again in 1951.
– “What would the honorable member do if he were the Minister for Civil Aviation at the present time ?
– I would do the fair thing on behalf of the people of Australia, and try to help Trans-Australia Airlines to function in their interests. The Labour party believes that to be essential. In my opinion, this is a cunningly devised bill, because the average person, when he examines it, does not see the implications which a person, who is associated with the airlines industry, can detect. Are honorable members opposite willing that the report of the investigator who examined the position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited be made available to the Parliament? This company may be practically insolvent, yet the Government proposes to guarantee its overdraft. Should not the Parliament be informed whether the credit of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is sufficient to justify such a loan ? Why is the information withheld from us? I have been a member of the Parliament for 25 years, and I have never known such an outrageous proposal as this one. The Government is treating the Parliament with contempt. I cannot find words to express my contempt of the manner in which the Government is proceeding with this legislation. Apparently, the Government has succeeded in deceiving some of its honest young supporters, who have not been told all the facts. They will not be told the facts, either, because the Government will prevent, if it possibly can, any disclosure of the contents of the report submitted by the private investigator who examined the accounts of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. He is a well-known accountant, and I think that I can mention his name here without committing a breach of confidence. He is Mr. Nixon. What did he report about the position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited?
I am sure that it will be found, if the report is made public, that TransAustralia Airlines is a better-managed concern than is Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I have nothing against people who lobby in the interests of the organization that they represent, if they consider that such representations are necessary, but I venture to suggest that expenditure so incurred in that way is not a legitimate charge to include in a balance-sheet. Yet that kind of thing can be done by the shipping companies.
Some Government supporters have endeavoured to justify the introduction of these four bills on the ground that it is desirable to provide competition between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I point out that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was an interstate monopoly until Trans-Australia Airlines began operations in 1946. In fact, Trans-Australia Airlines really provided the competition that Government supporters now propose. However, the result of this legislation will be to hamstring, if not kill, Trans-Australia Airlines. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited sought a declaration from the High Court of Australia which, had its case succeeded, would have prevented the establishment of TransAustralia Airlines. In other words, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited endeavoured to kill Trans-Australia Airlines in its infancy. The shipping companies, which owned Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, were reaping big dividends from its operations. The plain truth is that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited at that time occupied a position that a private company would not have been permitted to occupy in other countries. In Canada, for example, only, the government airlines are allowed to operate the transcontinental services. These facts are available for any honorable member who is interested in them to peruse, if he is inclined to take -the trouble to do so. I refer honorable members to page 126 of the Canadian Official Sandlook of 1944 -
Canadian Scheduled Air Transport Services - Government Air Policy - In a statement to the House of Commons in April 1943 the
Prime Minister said that Trans-Canada Air Lines would “ continue to operate all transcontinental systems and such other services of a mainline character as from time to time be designated by the Government” and that Trans-Canada was “ the sole Canadian agency which may operate international services.”
The Government has continually held up socialization as a bogy, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that socialization is necessary in regard to transport. To-day, on behalf of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and on behalf of the shipping concerns that are behind that company, he is sponsoring a bill which will prevent the proper development of transport in Australia. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) clearly outlined the ramifications of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and the honorable members for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) named the shipping companies that are financially interested in this airline company and there is no need for me to detail them again. I suggest that this bill represents a well-designed scheme to help Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited at the expense of Trans- Australia Airlines. I do not know whether the Government was deceived into helping Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but with the legal talent in the Cabinet, and I am not considering the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) at the moment, one would have thought that it would have been very difficult to deceive the Government. I believe that the Government dare not bring this matter before the general public because, assuredly, the public would disapprove of the Government’s actions. The Prime Minister, in the Melbourne Argus of the 24th July, 1945, is reported to have said -
On the question of socialization, Mr. Menzies said few people would have any quarrel with Government control of railways or tramways or water supply or such other great public utilities.
Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has claimed that because of its leases of property, it should be permitted to use the government air facilities free of charge. When I was Minister for Air, £11,000,000 a year was spent on the provision and maintenance of air facilities, and at present the expenditure is about £15,000,000 a year. Surely Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited cannot accept those facilities and refuse to pay for them, while TransAustralia Airlines is compelled to pay. Trans-Australia Airlines paid these air route charges without hesitation because it knew that the payment of such charges is the custom throughout the world. There is nothing new in the imposition of air route charges. The young Liberals who sit behind the Government surely feel some uneasiness about this bill. I suggest that even the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who can be described as a young Liberal, but is one of the most conservative reactionaries in Australia, may not be disposed to view this bill favorably. [Extension of time granted.] I desire now to put certain facts before honorable members which could not have been considered by those who are supporting this measure. Air route fees and charges were laid down in accordance with an investigation that was made into the practices obtaining in other countries of the world. It is significant that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has paid, and is now paying, charges while operating for Air Ceylon, although it has refused to pay such charges within Australia.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The House seems to be getting out of hand on this matter, and interjections from both sides must cease.
– The air route charges have been laid down in regulations dealing with the matter, but Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited disputed the power of the Minister to make those regulations and showed no disposition to pay charges similar to those imposed in most other countries of the world. Under the regulations the charges for a Douglas DC3 passenger aircraft amount to £2 7s. 3d. a unit. If there are two units involved in an air service to Sydney, the charges for that service would amount to £4 14s. 6d. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited refused to pay such charges, but I suggest that it has added the charges to the prices charged to some of its clients. The company has probably done that because it considered it necessary to build up a reserve from which, it could pay the fees if the High Court case went against it. Those are the charges that the Government is considering reducing hy half from the time the bill is introduced, or from the beginning of the next financial year. They are not excessive in any way. The big shipping companies that are behind Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited decided that they would escape these charges if they possibly could, and would use all means at their disposal to do so. I suggest that the Government has been recreant to its trust to the people in this matter, and that is why I have fought it so consistently. The Labour party would have been content to accept any verdict given by the .High Court, but this matter has not been allowed to go to a verdict and apparently there has been no intention on the part of the Government to make Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited pay its just dues. That is most reprehensible, and that is why I speak with such intensity of feeling.
Reprehensible tactics have been adopted in the compilation and the presentation of this bill, tactics which should not enter into the life of the Parliament. Nothing worse has ‘been done in recent times than the signing of this agreement with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and the Opposition will certainly not agree to give away the people’s rights that were established during the regime of the previous Government. Mr. A. W. Coles proved to be a great leader of a great team. He was doing excellent work. His successor has proved to be a capable man, but is he to be removed, the team broken up and Trans-Australia Airlines forced to help carry the load that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has taken upon its own shoulders? The company has built up tremendous expenses because of its luxurious administration. I have endeavoured not to be condemnatory of this airline, which in the past has given good service to the country. While it had a monopoly of air services it was doing well, and I do not say that in any grudging fashion. At no time has Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited ever charged a
Labour government with doing anything unfair. The previous Labour Government did not discriminate against it in any way at all. The company did write a few letters to the previous Government to the effect that it preferred this or that, but no doubt the present Minister has also received such letters. If the present Minister for Civil Aviation had been in Australia at the time he would not now be an enthusiastic supporter of this bill.
– I am one of the architects of the bill.
– He may have been during, the original discussions, but I do not know how some of the so-called Liberals hope to avoid their promises that they would cross the floor of the House if any action were taken against Trans-Australia Airlines. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is an inherent monopoly. Before TransAustralia Airlines was formed this company had bought .up other airlines. I wonder whether honorable members on the Government side have taken the trouble to investigate these matters. Through Bungana Investments Limited, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited controls Guinea Airways Limited, and the air services to Townsville and other country centres. The company was the power behind the publicity against the use of D.C.3 aircraft on this route, and claimed that injustices were being done to returned soldiers. Returned soldiers may have been operating these aircraft, but they were not the men behind the gun. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited also maintained that the Commonwealth was not permitted by the Constitution to maintain intra-state air services. The company has prevented the Commonwealth from introducing airlines, such as it operates in Queensland, in the other States, and has done everything that it could, by legal means, to prevent the development of TransAustralia Airlines.
– The honorable member, in consideration for the extension of time which was granted to him, should speak more fairly of the operations of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
-Order! An extension of time granted by the House is unqualified.
– I am sorry if I have created the impression that I was being unfair. 1 want to state the facts.
– The Minister for Air should not cry .because his leader upbraided him.
– I do not desire to take an unfair advantage of any concession for which I may be indebted to either the Minister or to the House. But the truth must be stated about this attempt to rape Trans-Australia Airlines. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has swallowed up other airlines in Australia. Through Bungana Investments Limited it controls Guinea Airways Limited, in South Australia, Townsville and Country Airlines in Queensland, and Airlines of Western Australia, and is the largest shareholder in Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited, through which company it has an interest in Queensland Airways Proprietary Limited. The parent companies of shareholding companies in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited with the exception of W. Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited, are domiciled in London, and their assets exceed £300,000,000. It seems odd that companies with such huge resources should require bank accommodation of £3,000,000 for capital equipment and should also require the Australian Government to guarantee an advance to that amount. Such a proposal is a denial of the principle of private enterprise which Government supporters claim to espouse. In effect, these companies are not prepared to take a risk but are seeking the assistance of the Australian Government to maintain them in business when beaten in fair competition. These are the same interests substantially that are now negotiating for the purchase of the government’s ships and shipping assets. In the United States of America transport service operators are not permitted to control airlines. Shipping and railroad companies are thus prevented from obtaining airlines in that country.
The Australian Government secured at least one report, and probably two, from a Melbourne accountant named Nixon. I demand as a member of the Parliament that the Government table those reports. The Opposition is prepared to take the risk that they may refute many of the arguments that my colleagues and I have advanced in the course of this debate. Nevertheless, the House has a right to demand that those reports be made available before it is called upon to agree to this measure. I again call for those reports. In all probability, they would indicate that the operating costs of Trans-Australia Airlines has been less than those of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and such a fact would explain the losses that have been incurred by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in contrast to the success of Trans-Australia Airlines. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, claimed that a monopoly of airmail transport had contributed most to Trans- Australia Airlines’ success. He also said that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, as a result of its losses, would have had great difficulty in raising its capital requirements to reequip its fleet. The Parliament is entitled to know what that company has done with the profits that it made over a period of seven years, and with the airmail payments amounting to £2,750,000 that were made available to it by the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member’s extension of time has expired.
– I should like to move that the honorable member for Maribyrnong be granted a further extension of time.
-Order! Such a motion would be contrary to the Standing Orders.
– I am disappointed that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) should endeavour to obtain a further extension of time for the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). I agreed to an extension being given to that honorable member, on the understanding that he would not abuse that concession, but it is completely dishonest-
– I object to the statement that the Minister has just made. When an honorable member is given an extension of time, it is a matter for him, personally, to decide whether he shall utilize the whole or only a part of the additional period.
– I rise to order. I can see no reason why a Minister should not indicate the reason for his agreeing to an extension of time being granted to an honorable member. Nothing in the Standing Orders precludes the Minister for Air from indicating that he agreed to an extention on the basis of an understanding that had been made between the honorable member concerned and himself. Therefore, the objection to the Minister’s comment is entirely unfounded.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! If honorable gentlemen do not maintain order, I shall name any who continue to offend against the Standing Orders. I shall not warn them again. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has taken exception to the Minister’s use of the word “ dishonest “. As such a term is unparliamentary, it must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw.
– In reply to the point of order that was raised by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), I point out that no conditions may be laid down with respect to the granting of an extension of time. Such an extension is either granted or refused. The Standing Orders simply provide that the relevant motion shall be put without debate and that an extension shall not exceed 50 per cent, of the original time alloted or ten minutes, whichever is the lesser.
– The Opposition has based its case in this debate on two arguments. The first was of the peculiarly emotional kind advanced by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. In the past, he was closely associated with Trans-Australia Airlines and the attempt to squeeze out Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and he is now unable to realize that private airline companies are capable of providing services of a standard equal to that which he claims his brain-child is providing. The second argument advanced by honorable members opposite was that in some way or other the Government is tending to support the activities of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited which, incidentally, was first in the aviation field in this country, at the expense of Trans- Aus tralia Airlines. A major principle upon which this measure is based is that there shall be fair and free competition between the two companies. When members of the Opposition argue against the continuation of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited they admit that they do not accept the principle of fair competition. Their other arguments were either purely emotional in character or were based on a misinterpretation of the facts.
The Government bases its action in this matter on seven principles which are set out in the preamble to the bill. Strangely, members of the Opposition have not referred to the preamble. [Quorum formed]. The first of those principles is to ensure that adequate, safe and efficient air services shall be provided for the Australian public. Later, I shall indicate the means by which the Government intends to achieve that objective. The second principle is to ensure that the basic defence industry of Australia shall be maintained. The third is to guarantee the continued existence of the two main airline operators, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. The fourth, which is a fundamental principle, is to ensure fair and reasonable competition between the two organizations. The fifth is to facilitate the provision of finance for the procurement of the finest types of aircraft. The sixth is to ensure the continued development of the Australian aircraft industry, with expanding opportunities for employment.
I have not heard any of these principles discussed by any member of the Opposition. Instead, honorable members opposite have based their arguments on grounds of political expediency, the emotional reaction of socialists to the fact that Australians, as individuals, are to be given the right to continue to operate their own private airline. The first and most important fact that occurred to me when I examined this problem was that the whole history of airline operations in Australia has been a history of individual enterprise and the success of individual men and women. That history is studded with a galaxy of names. Boss Smith, Keith Smith, Hargrave, P. G. Taylor, Charles Kingsford Smith, and many others. These men were the founders of Australian aviation, and their names are respected throughout the world. Wherever we go, we find that Australian pilots take second place to none. That is not a jingoistic boast. The simple fact is that Australian pilots are amongst, the finest in the world. The great companies that manufacture aircraft engines, such as the Vickers and Rolls-Royce motors in the United Kingdom, and the Pratt and Whitney and the Allison motors in the United States of America, and the great aircraft manufacturers, such as the Bristol, Vickers, and De Haviland organizations in the United Kingdom and the Douglas corporation in the United States of America, all are privately owned. Therefore, surely we are entitled to say, and surely the Opposition will acknowledge, that the history of aviation, both in the air and on the production lines, has been a ‘ story of the successful activities of individuals and private corporations. It is sheer nonsense for honorable members opposite at this late stage to complain that the Government is trying to drive a government-sponsored concern from the field of aviation. They have overlooked, in the heat of political debate, the fact that the Government and its supporters believe that Australia has two magnificent air transport organizations in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. I remind them of this fact. We consider that these airlines belong, in the forefront of the civil aviation services of the world. I was disgusted to hear the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) state yesterday that the accident rate of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was high. His criticism of the company did him scant credit and was a poor tribute to the efficiency of the men who conduct the major airline services of Australia and have made them outstandingly successful.
– Then why does the Minister persist in referring to the subject ?
– Order ! I have warned honorable members against interjecting. I shall not do so again.
– Both airlines are well conducted and efficiently organized, and they are rendering excellent service, to the Australian people.
The function of every government should be to try to embody in its legislation the sustained and reasoned convictions of the people. Let us examine this principle. I am convinced that a gallup poll would prove that an overwhelming majority of Australians want .TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to continue in competition. In fact, one of my colleagues has just handed me a resume of a newspaper article in which the finding of a recent gallup poll was made known. That finding was in line with another finding recorded in December, 1951, when the people indicated that they were three to one in favour of retaining TransAustralia Airlines as a government-owned airline in competition with the privately owned company, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That is the verdict of the people. What attitude has the Opposition adopted in this debate? Its members have claimed in this House that they respect public opinion. But many of them have declared that they will repudiate the agreement to which the bill refers and will seek to destroy Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited if the opportunity to do so again presents itself to them. Let that be notice served on every employee of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited! Let it be notice served on all those who travel in the aircraft of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited that the fixed policy of the Labour party is to embark on a programme of- destruction of this great national airline, if it can. Australia is on the threshold of a new era of development. Under this Government, tremendous strides forward have been made in the production of coal and steel, the expansion of construction industries and the turn-round of ships. Transport merits special attention.
Australia is peculiarly suited to the development of transport systems. Because of the vast distances that separate the main industrial areas, it is especially suited to the development of air transport. This Government considers that it has a responsibility to ensure, not only that Trans-Australia Airlines shall remain prosperous and active, but also that private companies, such as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in particular, shall continue to operate competitively and provide service to the public. That is the proper basis for a discussion of this bill, and I am sorry that honorable members opposite, instead of adopting that basis and Con.sidering the matter dispassionately, have introduced partisanship, bitterness and recrimination into the discussion.
Let us consider the means that the Government has adopted in order to carry out its policies. As I have said, its main objective is to provide adequate, safe and efficient transport services. Is that not what the average Australian wants? He wants efficiency ; he wants air transport ; he wants to have a choice, and he wants it to be provided on a competitive basis. What does the bill provide? Unless we examine the means by which the Government proposes to carry out its task, we shall not provide the answer. The first point that we must prove is that the Government intends to provide safe and efficient air transport services. That point can be proved by reference to the fact that the Department of Civil Aviation has a responsibility to establish high standards of efficiency for air services. I consider that it has established standards that are at least equal to those of other countries. Its constant job is to provide air fields and the means by which efficiency and safety can be maintained. This year’s budget includes a provision for the expenditure by the department of £6,700,000 for works and technical development. The Postal Department, which is a colossal organization, has a works budget for this year of £28,000,000. Therefore, we have evidence that the Government i3 taking positive action to ensure tha t the Department of Civil Aviation shall maintain efficiency and safety in Australian air services. Clause 11 of the agreement under the bill embodies an undertaking by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to maintain and operate efficient air services for the transport of passengers. That deals with the technical side of the matter. Let us now turn to the safety and efficiency of the airlines themselves.
This bill provides that funds shall be provided to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to enable it to purchase six Vickers Viscount aircraft. These machines are of the most modern type and are driven by turbine-propellor motors. They are about as big as Convair aircraft, but they have four gas turbine engines which drive propellors. They will provide the most modern, comfortable and cheap kind of transport that is possible on internal Australian air routes. Trans-Australia Airlines has placed an order for six Vickers Viscount machines, and, not long ago, approval was granted to Qantas Empire Airways Limited for the purchase of three Super Constellation aircraft. There is the proof of the pudding. It is proof of the Government’s intention to provide efficient and safe air services. Therefore, the first point is well proved. The Government has demonstrated its intention to cater adequately for the interests of the public, and I believe that the intention will be fully realized under the provisions of the bill.
The second point is the Government’s intention to provide for the defence of Australia. I am amazed that not one member of the Opposition has referred to the defence effort and the relationship between it and the continued existence of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines on a competitive basis. Members of the Opposition will talk glibly of defence for political purposes when it suits them to do so, but I have never heard any of them suggest any positive, practical action to provide for the security of the country. The defence potential of Australia must he adequately maintained. This can be achieved by the continued existence of the two main airline operators. The pilots of Australian National Airways Prporietary Limited will be able to continue to fly the company’s aircraft and to remain in steady employment. The bill will provide the Australian aircraft construction industry with a great opportunity to expand that was not available before. Had the Government not provided for the continued employment of the private company’s air and ground staffs and the expansion of aircraft production, it would have betrayed Australia. I repeat that honorable members opposite have not bothered to discuss the importance of maintaining efficient air services and developing the defence potential of the country. Their sole objective appears to bc to bring about the destruction of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. If ever there were insincerity in a debate or a lack of capacity to face realities, it was evinced in the approach of the Opposition to this measure. I commend the bill to all. sensible and loyal Australians.
.- It has been apparent to members of the Opposition for a long time, and it is now becoming increasingly evident to the Australian people, that the present Government is nothing more than a mouthpiece for big business in this country. While the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) was speaking, my mind ran over the many governments that we have had in this country of a similar political colour to this Government, and I came to the conclusion that, bad as many of those governments were for Australia, this is the worst government that has occupied the treasury-bench in this House. It is a desperate and dying government. Every vote of the Australian public indicates that it would have no chance of success if a general election were held now. As a desperate government, it proposes, in the short time at its disposal, to do as much damage as it can do to the Australian community, and to help its direct political friends as much as possible.
The Government wants to make the issue in this case socialization versus private enterprise. On practically every occasion when debates of this kind take place in this or in any other Parliament, the role of anti-Labour speakers is to talk about the inefficiency of government enterprises, and to say how superior private enterprise is to government enterprise in the conduct of public utilities. But, in this instance, the Government has frankly admitted that, in fair and open competition, a government airline has proved to be such a great success that its private competitor is in difficulties and must be given governmental assistance. If honorable gentlemen opposite want to make the issue on this measure socialization versus private enterprise, I am content to let the general public judge whether the government enterprise or the private enterprise is providing the most efficient air service. There is no need to go far to secure evidence that the government enterprise is best. Trans-Australia Airlines, although it is a much younger company than Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, is already flying more passenger miles than its competitor. That proves conclusively that the Australian public has no doubt in its mind about which company is providing the most efficient service. At the present time, members of the Parliament are free to travel by either Trans-Australia Airlines or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I challenge the Government to produce figures which show how many members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party now travel by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and how many by Trans-Australia Airlines. In many instances, Government members have preferred to wait for a later aircraft, so that they could travel by the safer system operated by Trans- Australia Airlines, rather than risk their necks by travelling on an aircraft operated by the privately owned Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has said that on every occasion when a government has any association with a business undertaking, that association proves to be disastrous. Why has not the honorable gentleman produced some evidence to support that contention? Trans- Australia Airlines is a shining example of a government enterprise that is highly successful and very beneficial to the Australian community. If honorable gentlemen opposite were honest about this matter, they would admit frankly that they would like to dispose of Trans-Australia Airlines. But the public support of that great airline is so great that they are afraid to dispose of it openly. Therefore, they have set out to sabotage it, in the hope that, if they are given enough time, they will be able to destroy it, and once again establish a private monopoly in this field of activity. Let us examine what Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has said about competition. That company admit? that there is no room for the two airlines to exist together in open competition for available business. When spokesmen for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited suggested that there should be a merger of the two major airlines, they stated that it was not possible for the two airlines to compete on a profitable basis. If that be so, which company does the Government want to destroy? One of the companies must go eventually. There is no doubt that the Government is aiming at the destruction of the government undertaking. Why should this Government, which is discredited in the eyes of the Australian people, try to bind succeeding governments with a fifteenyear agreement? Honorable gentlemen opposite have said that it is discreditable for the Opposition to say that, when it has been returned to power, it will do its best to undo the harm that is now being done by this Government. I believe that it would be the duty of the present Opposition to do that, and that if the Australian public were given an opportunity to speak to-day they would support the stand that we have taken on the bill.
It has been interesting to hear Government ministers refer to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited as a pioneer of air services. The Minister for Air said that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was first in that field. I suggest that he study the history of aviation in this country. If he does so, he will find that the pioneers of air services in Australia were men who have been forgotten. Kingsford-Smith founded the company which flew the ill-fated Southern Cloud. The loss of that aircraft caused the destruction of that company, because the government in office then would not provide the financial assistance that it required. The men who pioneered air services in this country did not benefit from their pioneer work. The great shipping combines that control Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited were not interested in pioneering air services. They became interested in civil aviation only when they believed it was essential for the preservation of their privileged position to have control of air transport as well as of sea transport. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) appeared to find a great deal to complain about in the fact that TransAustralia Airlines was established with public money, and that the taxpayers of this country were not consulted upon the matter.
– Hear, hear!
– Does the honorable member for Warringah agree that there is no difference between using public money to establish Trans- Australia Airlines and using public money to support a privately controlled airline company? If so, why does not he urge the Government to give the taxpayers of Australia an opportunity to decide whether they want public funds to be used to bolster a private company that is concerned solely with making profits?
Mr. Bland interjecting,
– A little time ago, Mr. .Speaker, you threatened to deal with any honorable gentleman who interjected. Since then the honorable member for Warringah has interjected repeatedly. I want to know whether there is one rule for Government members and another for members of the Opposition?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) knows from experience that the rules apply equally to honorable members on both sides of the chamber. If I dealt with the honorable member for Warringah, I should have to deal with the honorable gentleman who is sitting on the right of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– I make it quite clear that I believe there should be a government monopoly in air transport. That was the intention of the Chifley Government. In my view, a government monopoly in air transport would be a great benefit to the Australian people. This Government, because it believes that the general public are opposed to monopolies, says that it wants neither a government monopoly nor a private monopoly. But I heard one honorable gentleman opposite refer to the Corbett report. That report proposed the establishment of a private air transport monopoly in this country. It suggested that air transport should be the preserve of the private airline companies that were then operating in Australia, and that other companies should be prevented from entering that field of activity in the future. Honorable gentlemen opposite have talked as though they believe that the Chifley Government should have implemented the recommendations contained in the Corbett report, which would have involved the establishment of a private air transport monopoly.
There is a special argument in favour of the establishment of a government monopoly in air transport. Safety is the major concern of a government airline, and profit is the major concern of a private airline. The Minister quoted undertakings ‘given by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited about the observance of safety precautions, and he talked about the purchase of new aircraft. The purchase of new aircraft is not the only factor involved in the safe operation of air services. It is most important that airline operators should service and maintain their aircraft properly, and that they should obey the safety regulations of the Department of Civil Aviation. There have been many instances of non-compliance with those regulations. There is at least a strong suspicion that failure to observe safety regulations caused some of the major aircraft crashes in this’ country. Captain Holyman has been mentioned in this debate on a number of occasions. When a company in which he was interested initiated an air service (between the mainland and Tasmania across the Bass Strait, I understand that the company took out of its aircraft certain facilities for the storage of aviation fuel, in order to increase the payload. The company risked the safety and security of its passengers, because it wanted more payload and more profit. The investigation into the crash of the Amana revealed that employees of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had not followed some of the precautionary measures prescribed by the Department of Civil Aviation in regard to testing fuel tanks. They did not carry out the necessary test’s because they were trying to keep the aircraft running to schedule. Apparently it was running a little late and, a risk was taken with the lives of passengers. I remember that on one occasion I was travelling., in company with Senator McKenna, in an aircraft of Trans-Australia Airlines to attend a sitting of the Parliament. Because there was fog in Canberra, the pilot of the aircraft’ would not take the risk of attempting to land. He carried us on to another airport. Before we arrived there, he apologized “to us. He said, “I think I ought to apologize to you gentlemen, because the A.N.A.. aircraft that was following us got down successfully at Canberra”. It took the risk, and got down successfully on that occasion, but on other occasions Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited aircraft may not be successful in getting down safely through the fog. I do not blame the pilot who was flying the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited aircraft, because no doubt had he taken his passengers to another airfield, an action that would involve more cost to the company, he would have been asked to submit innumerable reports and would no doubt have been put on the mat. That is an example of the way in which private airlines are willing to prejudice the safety of the travelling public for the sake of profit. If all honorable members opposite were willing to speak their minds freely they would admit that in most instances they prefer to travel the safe way on the government’s airline.
– They do, in fact, travel by it
– Yes, they do. I have already challenged the Minister to produce the figures relevant to the matter. I turn now to the subject of competition. What competition will there be under the proposed agreement? “We are to have what the Government terms “ rationalization “. The two airlines are not to compote with each other, but are to work out an arrangement under which they can operate without actually being in competition. If any dispute arises in connexion with these arrangements a retired judge will determine the issue. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has pointed out, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is in charge of this bill, retired a competent officer from the post of Administrator of Papua-New Guinea because he was considered to be too old for the job at the age of 63 years. I ask the Government to inform us of the identity of the retired judge who will be appointed to be the referee in connexion with any difference of opinion between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited?
– Perhaps Mr. Justice Sta rke.
– I do not know the exact ages of the gentlemen who formerly sat on the High Court bench, but I should think that Mr. Justice Starke is in the eighties, and Mr. Justice Rich is probably in the nineties. They could easily be among the gentlemen from whom the choice of a retired judge to determine differences of opinion between TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Air-ways Proprietary Limited will be made. Let us examine whether the mediation between the companies would be on an impartial basis. I do not intend to reflect on any of the men who may be appointed to do this work, hut I merely say that, because of the positions they have occupied and because of their early associations and environment, it is most likely that they would bo prejudiced in favour of the private airline as against the government concern.
I turn now to the proposed Government guarantee of a Commonwealth Bank loan to Australian National Airways
Proprietary Limited. It is interesting to note that that company is to be placed in a privileged position. It is supposed to be in financial difficulty at the moment. Members of the Opposition have dealt with the identities of the big concerns that hold shares in the company. Those concerns do not appear to be experiencing any financial difficulty, and, as a matter of fact, if we wanted a real test of whether or not they are in financial straits, it is only necessary to consider the efforts that they have made in the past few months in order to bring pressure to bear on the Government, so as to ensure that the objectives of the Government’s wealthy backers will not (miscarry. I do not know the gentleman concerned, but I understand that a lobbyist has been staying at the Hotel Canberra, in a suite that no doubt costs the company 50 guineas a week, and that he has been there for the past three or four months waiting to interview some honorable members opposite. I have no objection to anybody’s coming to Canberra to interview honorable members and Ministers in. order to place a point of view before them, but who could reasonably argue that it is necessary to keep a lobbyist in Canberra for months past, living in a lavish suite at the Hotel Canberra, merely for the purpose of placing the views of a company before the Government? Is it not obvious that the purpose of keeping that lobbyist in Canberra for so long is to enable him to entertain some of the honorable members opposite, in order to ensure that they shall be properly conditioned and will have pressure brought to bear on them so that they Vii:i be prepared to carry out the wishes of the private company when the hill comes to a vote. “What a .remarkable case this is ! Here we have a private airline, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which has aircraft that are already obsolete or are rapidly becoming obsolete, and which, with its available assets, cannot itself raise the money necessary to re-equip its fleet, but must come to the Government for a guaranteed loan. The Government has decided that not only will it guarantee the loan to be advanced to the company by the Commonwealth Bank, but that if the bank refuses to advance the money, the Government will itself find it. This is the Government which has claimed that it has done everything possible, with its available finances, to reduce taxes and provide homes for people who require them. Yet it now shows its readiness to provide millions of pounds to a private aviation company which, because it has a more efficient competitor against it in the field, has not been able to raise money for itself on the open market and probably has doubts about whether the Commonwealth Bank will be prepared to advance the necessary money to it even under Government guarantee.
Members of the Opposition have asked the Government to let the House know more about the affairs of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) seemed to be disturbed because we sought this information, which the Government has decided to regard as sacrosanct, an:! has claimed that it should not be made available to the public. It is the same attitude as the Prime Minister has adopted on other occasions on which private enterprise lias been asked to submit ite books for examination. He took the same attitude when, as the legal representative of the Shell Oil Company Limited, he advised that company not to submit its accounts for examination by a royal commission. The Prime Minister believes that the public should accept, without question, the statements of the Government and the company about the company’s financial position. Why should the public accept the word of the Government, or the mere say so of the company, that it has been unable, because of its failure to make a profit in the past, to finance the purchase of the new aircraft it urgently requires? If honorable members will examine the schedule to the bill they will find it there provided that if the company defaults in regard to its repayments of the loan that is to be supported by a Government guarantee, a severe penalty is to be imposed. Severe indeed ! The penalty provided is that the Commonwealth will guarantee no further loans on behalf of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Who ever heard of such a preposterous proposal as this agreement?
I turn now to air-route charges. The hearing of a certain court action in respect of air-route charges has been delayed for many years. It seems rather remarkable how quickly the courts can move into action when it is a matter of making some decision detrimental to the workers, their wages or industrial conditions, but when it comes to an action before the High Court to determine whether a. private company shall be obliged to pay air-route charges that were fixed by the Government, years of delay occur. Questions have been asked in this House by honorable members who have endeavoured to ascertain the reason for the delay. It appears to me, as an ordinary citizen and an observer of these matters, that the High Court delayed its decision on the matter until it got a government in office more favorable to private enterprise.
– Order! The honorable gentleman may not proceed on that line.
– I do not intend to proceed on that line, but was merely expressing my opinion. I say that the Govern-, ment ought to give some explanation to the Parliament regarding the delay, of almost five years, in connexion with a decision on air-route charges. What does the Government propose to do about airroute charges ? It is not waiting until the High Court has made its decision, but is bartering with this private company about the amount of its liability it ought to pay. The air-route charges owed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited amount to about £1,000,000. Trans-Australia Airlines has had to meet similar charges and has been able to pay them and still operate at a profit. The Government proposes to write off twothirds of the amount owed by the private company. Taxpayers who are complaining about the Government’s action in making the effect of certain taxation provisions retrospective will be interested to observe the alacrity with which the Government is willing to write’ off twothirds of the just indebtedness of a private company in respect of air-route charges. As the honorable member for Fremantle has said, the amount that the company is now to be charged, approximately £338,000, will be paid out of the loan which is to he guaranteed hy the Government under the agreement, so that in fact Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will pay none of the airroute charges, amounting to about ?1,000,000, for which it is liable. What does that mean, in effect? It is necessary for the Australian Government to expend enormous sums to make air travel safe. I hope that, no matter what steps to achieve economy may be taken by any Australian Government, such economy will not be effected to the detriment of air safety. After having provided millions of pounds to increase the measure of air safety the Government has given a form of subsidy to the private airline operators by making those services available to them without adequate charge. That means, in effect, that the taxpayers arc paying a subsidy to the private companies.
I turn now to the carriage of airmails. I shall not repeat the statements made by my colleagues on this matter, but it appears to me to be utterly ridiculous for honorable members opposite to talk about free and open competition, and contend that a private airline is entitled to carry half the country’s airmail when, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has pointed out, at the time when Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had a monopoly of airmail transport in Australia it exploited the community by charging much higher rates than an impartial investigation would justify. Trans-Australia Airlines is outstripped by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in regard to the carriage of freight, although it carries more passengers and mails than does Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Under this proposed agreement passenger and mail traffic is to be halved between the two companies. In view of that fact, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should be made to share freight traffic with TransAustralia Airlines. But no ! Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is to have preserved to it. all the freight business that it has to-day, and is to be given half of the business that TransAustralia Airlines, now has. Who- could argue that that is free and fair competition? We know that various govern. ment departments often require the transport of freight by air. The agreement provides that the air freight business of the various departments is to be freely available to both companies. What will “ freely available “ mean ? It will mean that Trans-Australia Airlines will get very little of this business because the Government, through its Ministers, will instruct departments that they had to use Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the transport of freight.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 1S.J/S to 2.15 p.m.
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). - I feel it my duty to bring to the notice of the House a matter in connexion with proceedings in this building that is causing me a little disquiet. The actions of two visitors to this place are, in my opinion, highly objectionable. I had occasion to call attention to one last night. I see that the incident has been mentioned also in a press interview in this place. During the luncheon adjournment when I left the chair to go to my room, I found in the lobbies that members of the public are not authorized to enter, another person who must be described as a lobbyist. I have no intention of allowing the facilities of this House, such as the lobbies and so forth, to be turned into a battleground for conflicting interests. I simply make it perfectly plain to visitors of that description that I am highly dis satisfied with what’ I have seen in thi? House during the last 24 hours, and that if there is a continuation of it, I will take action.
– Arising out of what you have said,. Mr. Speaker, I point, out that, it is very difficult for us to understand your remarks, unless you are more specific. I think that lobbying has been going on in connexion with this measure, and that lobbying on a grand scale has been going on for months in this capital city. I would welcome an inquiry by an appropriate committee, of the Parliament into that matter, and I; think it would be. to the’ benefit of the Parliament if all the ramifications and details could be exposed for the information of the public.
– What happens outside this building is not my concern, but as long as I occupy this chair, what happens inside this building is my concern, and I will not have the building turned into a battleground for certain conflicting interests, and have honorable members button-holed in places where certain visitors had no right to be.
– You have said, Mr. Speaker, that you had to take action against a certain individual last night in this chamber. Can you inform us who that individual is, and what interests he represents?
– You, Mr. Speaker, mentioned in your statement a few moments ago that during the luncheon adjournment you found another person, whom you described as a lobbyist, in a part of the building that members of the public are not authorized to enter. If you feel impelled to give the name of the individual against whom you took certain action yesterday, will you also state the name of the second person ?
– Order ! I do not wish to state from the chair the names of either of those two persons but I have every reason to believe that one of them represents Trans-Australia Airlines, and that the other represents Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.. From my point of view as Mr. Speaker, their actions are equally objectionable, but in different ways.
– I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you ask the Government to make special provision for the proper registration or licensing of lobbyists. Perhaps a special part of the House could be set aside for them,, in the- same way as accommodation is made available for members of the diplomatic corps, so that honorable members will know who the, lobbyists are and what their purposes are. If such accommodation were set aside for them, they would not occupy some of the seats that are provided for visitors who- come to sec the National Parliament in session-.
– Order ! The honorabta member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has raised an- important and interesting point. I understand that in the- House- to which this chamber defers on all matters of pro cedure, lobbyists must be registered with Mr. Speaker. The conduct of certain individuals during the last 24 hours is such that I consider that it may be a very good system to have.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I insist upon the maintenance of order. I did so before the luncheon adjournment, and I shall continue to do so this afternoon.
– Having regard to what has just passed, I am happy to say that I am able to address myself to this measure tolerably well informed on both sides. I have not had any interviews with any of the lobbyists to whom Mr. Speaker has referred, but, after all, they are as old as this Parliament, not as individuals, but as a class. However, I had the advantage of long interviews with the representatives of Trans-Australia Airlines, and with the representatives of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited when Cabinet was considering its policy on this matter. You will agree, Mr. Speaker, that such interviews were entirely proper, because it is a very good thing that a government should know both sides before it takes action.
We, in fact, observed the course which was not observed in 1945- by our predecessors in office, who. did not need a lobbyist from Trans-Australia. Airlines-, because it was then in the process of creating that airline. The legislation of the Labour Government on that, occasion, so far from paying any attention to the position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, was1 clearly designed to destroy it. I sha’ll begin my remarks with a little relevant history on this matter. It is not very ancient history either; but it is as well that we all should have it in. mind. The present. Opposition-, which has been trying to make debating points on this ‘bill during the last two days, was1 in government in 1945, when it created Trans-Australia Airlines. The Labour Government established, that organization by means of the Australian National Airlines Bill, which it introduced in this House in. terms which were designed, not to create competition, but to destroy it ; and in terms which were expressly designed to set up- one government monopoly airline, and eliminated from the business competing airlines established with private funds. In short, the express purpose of the Australian National Airlines Bill was to create Trans-Australia Airlines, and abolish not only Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but all other interstate airline operators. I remind the House of that simple fact for the reason that we have had a good deal of crocodile weeping in the course of this debate about fair and unfair competition. But talk of fair and unfair competition comes rather ill from the Labour party, which has sworn to abolish competition completely in this field. Tha Chifley Government made that fact abundantly clear when it introduced the Australian National Airlines Bill in 1945. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who was Minister for Civil Aviation at that time, made the following statement in the course of his speech on that bill: -
Having dealt with the considerations which have influenced the Government to decide to nationalize the airlines, I now propose to deal with other matters.
I direct attention to the words, “ The decision of the Government to nationalize the airlines “. It is quite true that the then honorable member for Corio, Mr. Dedman, who was a senior Minister in the Chifley Government, endeavoured to get away from that statement when he made what was regarded as the chief supporting speech for the bill. He drew a subtle ideological difference, which I am sure the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will remember, between nationalization and socialization. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, having a very direct mind, would have no truck with that kind of feeble distinction, and simply said, “ Our decision is to nationalize the airlines “. However, Mr. Dedman made the following statement: -
The main reason for the introduction of this bill can be stated briefly and it will be approved by the people. It is that when an industry develops to the stage at which, naturally, a monopoly can (rive a more efficient service than can be given by a number of independent companies, it should pass from private ownership to control by the Government. That is when it should be nationalized.
The then honorable member for Warringah, Mr. Spender, interjected, “For that reason alone?” and Mr. Dedman replied -
That is a sufficient reason. Anyway it is the main reason why this bill finds in lue st strong supporter.
There was the expressed direction of the policy of the Chifley Government at that time. There was to be no competition, and no choice, for an admittedly successful and efficient private air service. As a matter of pure socialist doctrine, the then Government said, in effect, “We shall get rid or the privately owned airline”. I want to make it clear, because there is still much confusion in the public mind about the matter, that the Labour Government did not say “ We shall establish a government airline to compete with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited “. The Chifley Government said : “ We shall nationalize the air services. We shall establish Trans-Australia Airlines and abolish Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited “. The Chifley Government used appropriate language in its legislation for that purpose, and, indeed, at this moment, there would be a single interstate air monopoly in Australia, and no Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, if it were not for the fact that the High Court of Australia had decided that the Australian National Airlines Act went too far and that, by virtue of section 92 of the Constitution, the act could not be given its full effect. So the Labour party could not, by an act of Parliament, put Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited out of business. It was only the decision of the High Court that has kept Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in the field.
I emphasize that the Opposition has not really changed its ground. If every member of the Opposition spoke frankly about his view on this bill, he would rise in his place and say, “ I stand where I stood a few years ago. I want to destroy the private airlines. That is the policy of the Labour party. That is what we are determined to do”. Therefore, any agreement or bill which offers to a great private airline, which was in the field of aviation long before TransAustralia Airlines, a chance of competitive survival is anathema to the Labour party. If honorable members opposite want to have a fair public judgment on this matter, let them, in due course, stand up and say, “ We want to abolish nil airlines other than Trans- Australia Airlines “, and let them then take the judgment of the people.
The point which I want to make, and which needs to be emphasized, is that it is, from the point of view of the Labour party, a mere accident that there arc competing airlines to-day, because so far as any act of this Parliament could accomplish it, the Labour party destroyed the competitors of Trans-Australia Air.lines seven years ago. The High Court alone, by its decision, invalidated that attempt to destroy the competitors of J’ rans- Australia Airlines.
Members of the Labour party have said, in the course of this debate, that if and when it returns to office, it will repeal this measure and repudiate this contract. I want to make that point perfectly clear. Why has the Labour party adopted that stand? Does it think that another agreement could be made which would provide for fairer competition?
– Of course that is not the reason. It could not be, unless the Labour party, which was sworn only a few days ago to destroy competition, is now to profess, for vote-catching purposes, to be in favour of it. Therefore, it is nonsense for anybody to pretend that the purpose underlying this promise is that a Labour government could produce fairer competition. It is obvious that the only reason for the repeal of the act would 1)0 ultimately to create a government monopoly which has been, and still is, the object of the Australian La.bour party.
– By fair competition.
– The honorable member says that the Labour party would create a monopoly, but would do it by fair corn petition. I consider that that is an engaging interjection, and I am grateful to the honorable member for making it because that is exactly what the Labour party .means. It will go through the forms of competition, but the result will be completely destructive, because honorable members opposite know, and indeed everybody in Australia knows, that if a government is in a business such as air navigation, and a private concern is in the same business in the same field, then the government can, subject to contract or statute, destroy its competitor at its own sweet will. A government airline can sustain any charge at all, and the Treasury will bear it; but a private company cannot survive year after year in a state of dead loss, because liquidation is inevitable. Of course, honorable members opposite can take their choice. They will either abolish a competitor in the direct or honest fashion, by legislation, or they will abolish it by the process of strangling the non-government competitor. It is because that was the position, and is the position at present, that the present Government had to consider this problem and answer for itself two questions. One question was : How can we, who believe that there should be competition in the air navigation field, guarantee the continuance of fair competition? The other was: What steps can we take to ensure that for as long a term of years as possible the government airline and the private airline will run in fair and efficient competition with each other, the interests of the public being preserved? To answer those questions effectively was our real problem. I emphasize that point, because it has been said very loosely, not only in this House but also in the lobbies, that the Government had other ideas. I have heard the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) say that the first idea that the Goverment had was to sell TransAustralia Airlines.
– I shall adopt the word “ altogether “ supplied by the Leader of the Opposition, because it makes more false the accusation that the Government at any time had before it a proposal to sell Trans-Australia Airlines. If the right honorable gentleman cares to gather his news from gossip, that is his responsibility, but I tell him as head of the Government that that question did not enter into our consideration. Mv colleagues and I were abundantly satisfied that Trans-Australia Airlines had become well established, that it was highly efficient and well managed, and that it enjoyed the public goodwill.
There is no need to throw names at competitors in this field, Trans-Australia Airlines^ reputation was high and we started off on that footing. Therefore, we had to come to a conclusion that our choice was one of two or three courses. One was to establish some kind of merger between the two operators, and I can imagine what would have been said by the Opposition if we had put that proposition to the House, yet the simple truth is that our predecessors themselves conducted negotiations for a merger of these two airlines and it was almost at the point of completion when it foundered on one rock only. That was the problem of personnel.
– Quite correct.
– The right honorable gentleman admits that what I have said is quite correct. Therefore, the Opposition is in a rather bad position to talk about associating with deadly private enterprise, when it was itself contemplating a merger, a joint company in which the Government would have an interest and in which private enterprise would have an interest. I should like honorable members opposite to make a note of the fact that their leader agreed with what I have just put to the House. We rejected that proposal, because we believed in competition - not unlimited competition because Australia is limited in population and its first requirement is a high order of efficiency and safety in the air, but competition in the interstate field between our two major airlines. We decided that that was the policy that we should pursue. Having reached that point, the next question was how to enable a non-government competitor to stay in business with a government competitor when, of course, the government holds all the cards. A government can give all the profitable mail business to the government concern and it can organize the whole of the government business in fares and freights into the hands of the government concern. It can fix charges as it thinks proper, and it would not matter if they were too high because any losses that the Government airline suffers will not be the business of the airline but the responsibility of the Treasury. A government can provide capital for its own airline, it can supplement it from time to time, and it can give the government airline dollars at its own discretion for the purchase of dollar aircraft. How could there be fair competition if such circumstances be left to run their free course?
There is a much more important matter. Private enterprise cannot operate on a large scale in any country unless it has the goodwill of the people who invest capital. Those people, as we all know, are not as a rule, except perhaps in connexion with some sporting event, prepared to invest their capital on a mere gamble. Every Australian who has thought about this matter knows that the great airlines of Australia have in the past operated to a large degree with twin-engined aircraft of the D03 type, and later with an infusion of Skymasters, Convairs, and so on. Everybody who has kept in touch with modern developments knows that to re-equip airlines and provide modern services is much more expensive than was dreamt of six or seven years ago. Aircraft of a modern type may cost ten times as much as some equally modern aircraft might have cost some five or six years ago. Therefore, the problem of capital for re-equipment is of enormous importance. Now let us consider the position of these two great air operators, because they are great air operators. One is the Government airline which has all the resources of the Treasury behind it. So long as the Government wants it to stay in business, that organization has no real problem in getting, capital and re-equipping its fleet. The other is the private airline. It has to say to itself, “Where shall we raise the millions of pounds that we need to re-equip our fleet, when as every investor in Australia knows, we may be wiped out by a single administrative act of a hostile government “. That is an impossible position for any company to find itself in, and I say frankly that we were not prepared to pretend that we were preserving the competitive system unless we made it possible for both competitors to stay in the business, to provide modern services and thereby to serve the interests of the people. Consequently we made an agreement, a fifteenyear contract, and we now invite this
Parliament to ratify it. So far in our history, no parliament has yet thought fit to repudiate a contract ratified by a previous parliament, and I do not think that one ever will.
– The Government did, quite recently in connexion with the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
– That is a particularly false and foolish remark. The right honorable member says we did it with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited the other day.
– The Government repealed the relevant act.
– I know that I should be completely out of order if I pursued the right honorable gentleman, with his labyrinthine mind, into these matters. He knows, although he does not concede it, that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited agreement came to an end with the concurrence of the contracting parties. What is the use of talking nonsense about that, when the contracting parties have agreed that the matter will come to an end?
Honorable members interjecting,
– I expect to hear a lot of vacant laughter from some people about what I have said, but not from a lawyer. I shall make a bargain with honorable members opposite.
– We would not bargain with the right honorable gentleman.
– And perhaps I would not bargain with the honorable gentleman, but I shall make an offer to honorable members opposite. If some day they find themselves in office and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited agrees to the cancellation of its contract, I shall raise no question in this House about it because I happen to be intelligent enough to know that the parties who make contracts can cancel them at their own sweet will. The Leader of the Opposition has foreshadowed that the Labour party will repudiate the contract made by the parties to this agreement, even though it is ratified by this Parliament. I have referred to capital, because it is of the first import ance. It would be a mere pretence to say that we acquiesced in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited competition unless we were prepared to help it to re-equip its fleet. On that point the Leader of the Opposition works up a synthetic passion. I do not presume to remember his exact words, but he said, in effect, “ This is a terrible thing. The Government will find £3,000,000 in the first instance for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. It will guarantee an overdraft at the Commonwealth Bank for this company at a time when it is telling the States that they cannot have money for housing and works “. And so all these crocodile tears drop down on the table, with the design to catch the interest of. the people who want homes, and of the State Premiers who want everything. Therefore, it is not inappropriate for me to say that, if the right honorable gentleman would look back at the Australian National Airlines Act 1945, he would find in section 30 that the previous Labour Government which created Trans-Australia Airlines in the latter part of 1945 made a direct treasury advance - not a guaranteed overdraft but a direct treasury advance - of £3,000,000 to Trans-Australia Airlines with a promise of more to come. Therefore, I wonder how that £3,000,000 for a new airline, designed to be a great monopoly operator, would compare with the Government’s proposition which he now criticizes so bitterly. I investigated the matter to see how the value of the money-
– We have forgotten the value of this Government’s money.
– The honorable member need not say too much about this until he is out of the wood. In 1945-46, the year in which the previous Labour Government created Trans-Australia Airlines and gave it this £3,000,000, the total loan allocation to the States was £18,800,000. The last loan allocation to the States by the present Government was £203,300,000. If the honorable member objects to £3,000,000 as against £203,000,000, what will he say about £3,000,000 as against £18,000,000?
– That is a peculiar argument.
– All arguments are peculiar, if one does not agree with them. The honorable member may think what lie likes about this argument, but I shall leave it to the people. The Leader of the Opposition, in the course of his comparison, said that the Government could find the sum of £3,000,000 in this instance - we are not finding but guaranteeing that amount - and complained that, at the same time, we could not find money for the States for housing. During the last financial year, this Government found for war service homes the sum of £27,500,000, but in the very year in which the Government of which he was a member found a sum in excess of £3,000,000 for the establishment of Trans- Aus tralia Airlines, that Government provided for war service homes the sum of £400,000.
In short, the Government that the right honorable gentlemen supported found eight, or nine, times as much money in that financial year to establish TransAustralia Airlines as it found to provide, homes for ex-servicemen. Yet, these salty tears have dripped from honorable members on to the table in the course of this debate. But the story, of course, does not end there. I have mentioned merely two items. In the same financial year of 1945-46, in which the Government that was supported by the right honorable gentleman found a sum in excess of £3,000,000 to establish Trans-Australia Airlines by direct treasury advance, that Government found for the States for housing the sum of £6,800,000, whereas this Government last financial year found £26,500,000, and this year, is finding the sum of £30,000,000 for housing. Let honorable gentlemen compare those figures. In point of fact, the comparison that the right honorable gentleman sought to make was so ludicrous that it merely recoiled on his own head. One does not need, in this instance, to make the historic answer, interesting as it is. lt is quite sufficient to say that if the condition of fair competition is that the competing parties should be assisted on the capital side, then we are certainly prepared to assist them on the capital side. I put this particularly to honorable members who do not profess to be socialists and who do not believe in the divine right of governments to run everything in the country. If we, the Government, had done nothing and had said, “ We will leave this matter alone. We will allow this thing to run its course “, the position, inevitably, would have been that the other great competitor, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, would have been forced into liquidation.
– So, the Government, decided to force Trans-Australia Airlines into liquidation.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) admits, by implication, that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited would have been forced into liquidation, but he preferred to put it as a choice - that it would be either Trans-Australia Airlines or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That is a choice in his mind, but not in our mind. The choice to us was to keep both organizations out of liquidation and in competition so long, as we could do so by means that would be fair to the public. Therefore, I return to what I was saying earlier. Would it not have been a strange position for a. government that had been elected as a sworn opponent of socialism to sit. by and see fail a great airline, which, except for one or two dirty innuendoes that have been made with respect to the safety factor, is admitted to be efficient? [.Extension of time granted.] What sort of oddity would it be for a LiberalAustralian Country party administration to complete the process of nationalizing airlines which the Chifley Government endeavoured to put into operation and in. respect of which it was frustrated only by a decision of the High Court? That proposition has only to be stated to be shown to be elementary. Therefore, my colleagues and I came to the conclusion, without any doubt at all, that what had to be done was to preserve competition; and that the only way to do that, in the face of an Opposition that is pledged, if given a chance, to destroy Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited - as honorable members opposite have repeatedly said in this debate - was to give every conceivable form of guarantee and continuity of fair competition. That is what is being done under this bill.
That is really the heart of the matter. I shall now refer to one or two astonishing red herrings that have been drawn across the trail of this debate by the Leader of the Opposition and those who sit behind him. In the first place, it is said that the treatment of ah’-route charges is quite lavish and irresponsible. It is even hinted that the lobbyist, to whom honorable members opposite referred and who, I suppose, is the local manager of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, is influencing our minds to make a reduction in air-route charges to which reduction all other responsible interests are opposed. A few facts might be dropped in cold fashion on this business. They are very interesting. Both TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited thought that the air-route charges proposed under the agreement were much too high.
– As operators, they naturally would think so.
– I do not mind what the reason might be, but I shall state the facts if the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), who is getting his name into Hansard, will permit me to do so. Both airline operators said that the charges were much too high. It has been said that in the changes that we have made, we have favoured Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and not Trans-Australia Airlines. They have been treated exactly in the same’ way, because the Government could not do to one something that it did not do to the other. Therefore, they have been treated with complete equality. Twothirds of their past liability, whether it has been performed or not, has been eliminated under this agreement. I entered the chamber this morning in time to hear the honorable member for East Sydney complaining that these air-route charges were much too low. He hinted, as usual, that some illicit influence had been brought to bear upon the Government. I repeat that we interviewed both Australian National Airways Proprietary
Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines, and both think that the charges that we have fixed are too high, because the proposal that they put forward was that the new charges should be one-third of the old charges, whereas the proposal that we adopted, which was our own, was thai they should bo half of the old charges. If honorable members opposite would trouble themselves to have a look at the accounts of Trans-Australia Airlines, which are freely available to them, and would note the enormous amount of money that Trans-Australia Airlines has to pay by way of petrol tax and matters of that kind, they would realize that any attempt to put upon airline operators a large proportion of the cost of providing air facilities in Australia would put all airline operators out of business unless one airline received an enormous subsidy from the government of the day.
The Leader of the Opposition was also troubled about aircraft becoming available in the future from British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited or some other organization in which the Australian Government has an interest. Of course, the provision in the agreement that relates to that aspect is a fair provision. The right honorable gentleman must know that if two, or three, DC6’s, or two or throe Constellation aircraft became available from Qantas, or British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited, and were put into interstate service in Australia, the line that procured such aircraft would put the other line on the ground. One airline, whose competing weapons are DC3’s, cannot compete with another airline that operates Constellations or DC6’s. It would be absurd to expect competition between two airlines in such circumstances. As the Government believes in fair competiton. we have said, very properly, that, if these heavy aircraft become available they are to be made available equally to both competitors. If two such aircraft become available and both operators want the machines, each will receive one. If three aircraft become available, obviously two must be made available to one operator and the third to the other operator; and that is to be determined by a tribunal. On the next occasion on which an odd number of such aircraft became available, the operator that did not get the advantage on the preceding occasion would then get the advantage. What could be fairer than that? Yet, in some way, this is put up as if it were a vicious attack upon the position of the Government airline.
Thelast thing that I desire to say - it is unimportant, but I throw it in to lighten the gloom - is that the Leader of the Opposition and some of his supporters have been thoroughly upset because, they say, the independent chairman, who is to decide which operator is to be given the odd aircraft when an odd number become available, is to be a retired judge.
– The right honorable gentleman is one himself.
– He has forgotten that. He has been saying, in effect, “Is it not a terrible thing? This poor old man will never be able to determine these things”. The honorable member for East Sydney, who is a prospective Minister for something or other in a hypothetical government, said, in effect, “All these old fellows, a couple of High Court judges” - whom he did not like much - “ who are 80 and 90 “. It is a pity that honorable members opposite have such short memories. If they looked at the measure which the Government which they supported introduced in 1945, and at its provisions in respect of compensation, which were vastly important since they involved the provision of compensation for the elimination of an entire air service, they would find that such matters were to be determined by a choice of people, one of whom was a retired police magistrate.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harbison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
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.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
Question put -
That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill 1952 to be an urgent bill.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. ( Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage, until 5.45 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 6 p.m. this day.
– I do not suppose the Parliament has ever considered a bill more important than this, by which the Government proposes that future parliaments of this nation shall be bound for a period of fifteen years. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a long speech upon the motion for the second reading of the measure. He was granted an extension of time. Then the gag was applied to prevent the Opposition from replying to the right honorable gentleman. It is proposed that the committee stages of this bill, with which three other bills are involved, shall conclude at 5.45 p.m., and that the remaining stages of the bill shall conclude at 6 p.m. That is a scandalous proposal.
The importance of the measure cannot be denied. I have already referred to the fact that this Government, which was completely discredited by the vote of the electors of Flinders on an issue similar to this, is proposing that future parliaments shall be bound for a period of fifteen years. Such a daring proposition has not previously been put before any parliament. Imputations have been made of active lobbying in connexion with the measure, to which you have referred, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman must confine himself to the matter of the time-table.
– I am making the point that it is very important that there should be a thorough investigation of this matter, and that the discussion of the bill should not be curtailed. This is an oppressive measure. It is aimed at the gradual weakening and ultimate destruction of a government enterprise.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is getting away from the question before the chair.
– I am making the point that the great importance of the measure warrants a detailed examination of its provisions by the committee. One of the proposals contained in the bill is that this Government and the Commonwealth Bank shall together lend no less than £4,000,000 to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Is not that a matter for consideration by the committee? It is proposed further that a large sum shall be given to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited by a partial remission of air-route charges in respect of the last five years, and that, in the future, the air-route charges payable by that company shall be reduced by 50 per cent. In addition, the measure proposes the establishment of a rationalization committee, the operation of which would prevent the expansion of Trans-Australia Airlines. The Government airline could not open up one new air route in Australia unless it obtained the approval of that committee. Those proposals require careful and detailed examination.
The motion proposed by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) shows that the Government knows that the bill would not be approved by the people of Australia if they were given an opportunity to express their opinion upon it. Therefore, the Government has decided to hurry the measure through this House, and to curtail discussion of it. It is shameful that so vicious a measure should be forced through the Parliament in such a way.
– The House has been treated to an unconvincing and pathetically weak piece of play-acting on the part of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who objects to the time schedule laid down for consideration of the remaining stages of the measure. We do not deny that the measure is import ant. That is why the House has been debating it for two days. Discussion on the measure extended until the early hours of this morning. Every honorable member opposite has known for the last few weeks that it was the intention of the Government, with the concurrence of the Opposition, that the Parliament should conclude this week discussion on all the measures now before it. Except for the unfortunate death of the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), the sessional period would have ended at the end of this week, with the full concurrence of honorable members opposite, all the legislation now before the Parliament having then been dealt with. Opposition back-benchers have been pressing for weeks for an early closing of the Parliament. The Government is attempting to divide the time available to the Parliament evenly anil sensibly over the measures yet to be disposed of. Can any honorable member opposite seriously suggest that the Opposition has not been allowed to make a fair presentation of its case on this measure ? Not only did the Leader of the Opposition have complete freedom to speak at length on the measure, but th<; honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who was the Minister for Civil Aviation in the Chifley Government, was granted an extension of time. Government speakers and Opposition speakers have followed one another in rotation throughout the debate. A period of two and a half hours is to be provided at the committee stage for discussion of the few simple clauses of the bill and the schedule, which embodies the general agreement covering this transaction. The general agreement has already been endorsed by the House by an overwhelming majority on the second reading. I suggest that, having regard to the business before the Parliament, and the general desire of honorable members to conclude the Parliament’s business for this sessional period, so that they will be able to devote their attention to other duties in their electorates, the provision made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) for the discussion of the remaining stages of the measure is adequate and reasonable.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has entirely misrepresented the position. The Opposition was prepared to have the sessional period concluded this week, but the death of the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) has had the effect of depriving us of one sitting day at the end of the week, and it will deprive us of another sitting day to-morrow. The Government is taking advantage of the right honorable member’s unfortunate death to push this legislation through. It is, in fact, taking advantage of an act of God to push through the Parliament in great haste this disreputable deal with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. It gives us a little more than two hours in which to approve of the committee stages of the measure. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that more than two days have been devoted to discussion of the measure. That is wrong, because the debate has covered only one day. It was prolonged quite unnecessarily into the early hours of the morning by the action of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) in permitting the honorable member for- Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), to whom nobody wanted to listen, to consume half an hour of time unnecessarily.
– Order ! That debate is not under discussion.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council is the toughest character who has ever appeared in thi; House to apply the gag and the “ guillotine “. He has an unenviable record and a shocking reputation, and he is only adding to them to-day. We want to have more than two hours to discuss thu most disreputable deal ever put before this Parliament for its endorsement. I join, therefore, with my worthy, respected and distinguished leader in his protest against this proposed curtailment of time for the consideration of a bill of such magnitude as this, which includes provisions that are unprecedented in the history of any parliament in any Englishspeaking country. Fancy a committee of this Parliament being asked to approve of every clause in this disreputable deal in two and a half hours. That is disgraceful, shocking and completely unnecessary. We can sit next week and the following week, if necessary, but tho Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has to receive another brief and go to London so this Parliament is to be closed up. Thank God this Government is due to meet its fate very soon.
.- The Government ought to take into consideration the nature of the opposition to the measure that has been expressed to-day, and treat the bill as being of a special character. In complete sincerity we have expressed the view that this bill is fraudulent and’ corrupt. That view having been expressed, the Government should have considered it its duty to vindicate the measure completely. We have also indicated that we do not intend to be bound by the agreement which is incorporated in the measure, if there be any legal way of evading its provisions when we come into office.
– Order ! The honorable member must come to the subject of the allotment of time.
– The attitude of the Opposition on the matter should have been taken by the Government as a serious warning to it that would justify an extension of time for debate on the measure. When an opposition as uncompromising as that which we have expressed has been advanced, the Government should recognize that the measure ought to be fully debated. During the Chifley Government’s term of office a bill of this character would have been debated for two weeks. It is an outrage that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) should say that two days is sufficient debating time for the measure. In 289 sitting days under the Chifley Government, the closure was moved 7-2 times; in 114 sitting days since this Government took office it has been moved1 130 times. That is an indication of the manner in which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) treats this Parliament. It is a characteristic of this Government that the more unconvincing is its case the more eager is it to move the closure.
The pathetic exhibition, of flabby arrogance by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his speech this afternoon
-Order ! That is not under discussion at the moment.
– The action of the Government in applying the “ gullotine “ shows clearly that it does not believe its case to be convincing, and wishes to push this bill through the House as quickly as it can.
.- The Government has given us a limited time of a little more than two hours to complete the consideration of this measure, which involves an expenditure of £3,000,000 and, perhaps, £4,000,000. The measure binds this Government and succeeding governments to the agreement for a period of fifteen years. The House is asked to dispose of all the aspects of the matter in about two and a half hours. We say that this is an outrage which reduces this democratic institution to a pure mockery. The Government considers that it stands on unsure ground in connexion with this matter, and that is why it is unwilling to allow the measure to be fully debated. Not only the people generally but also the Government’s own supporters are restive over the actions of the Government, as we know from past experience and from the lack of enthusiasm shown during this debate by many honorable members opposite, who have had to be whipped into supporting the proposal. In order to stifle criticism in the Parliament, and to hide weaknesses in its own ranks, th, Government is prepared to sacrifice the democratic privileges and rights of this chamber and make a mockery of democracy by pushing through this shabby measure.’ The Government will meet the defeat that it so richly deserves, and its tactics to-day will only make that defeat more certain.
.- The exhibition that we have just been given is the acme of hypocrisy on the part of the Opposition, and is the most shameful that I have seen here.
– I rise to order. Am I entitled to ask, Mr. Speaker, that the term hypocrisy be withdrawn on the ground that it is offensive to me?
– I also rise to order. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) referred to this bill as “ fraudulent and corrupt “. That is not parliamentary language, but we did not object to the use of those terms. However, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is becoming thinskinned. He considers that members on his side of the chamber should be allowed to use unparliamentary language of that nature, but that only parliamentary language should be used on this side of the chamber.
Mr. Haylen interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) used the term “ dirty fascist “.
– Wo, I said “ perfect fascist “.
– The honorable gentleman should withdraw the term.
– I withdraw it.
– I consider that the term was intended to refer to me, and a mere withdrawal is not satisfactory to me. I want an apology to be made by the honorable member for having used the term. It is a term which has been accepted throughout the world as being a term of opprobrium of the worst character, and I insist on an apology.
– Does the right honorable gentleman object to the word “ perfect “ or the word “ fascist “ ?
– I can answer that question by saying that if I referred to the honorable member for Parkes as being a Communist of the reddest type, he might be entitled to object to that expression, which is one that I would not use. The expression that he used is as offensive to me as such an expression would be to him.
– I withdraw the term and apologize for having used it.
– If I take exception to the statement that the Opposition’s attitude is “the acme of hypocrisy” as being personally offensive to me, Mr. Speaker, am I entitled to ask that the the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) withdraw them and apologize for having used them?
– I must point out to the House that we are getting into a rather difficult position from my point of view. I can truthfully say that since I have occupied this chair I have never heard so many unparliamentary adjectives used in regard to a hill and a government as I have heard in the course of this debate. The words “ outrageous “, “ scandalous “, “ dishonest “, and so forth have been used time after time during the debate.
– Because they are true descriptions of the bill.
– Order! There is a standing order which provides that there shall be silence when Mr. Speaker is on his feet.
– What about when he is airborne ?
– Order! If the House is not careful I shall simply leave the chair.
Opposition Supporters. - Hear, hear!
– So much for the sincerity of the desire of honorable members opposite to debate .the bill.
– Order ! I consider that some very hard words have been used on both sides of the chamber during this debate, and I am bound to say that I do not consider that the words used by the Minister for Health were as hard as some that I have heard from the Opposition side of the chamber during’ the debate.
– Were they unparliamentary?
– There have been many unparliamentary terms used in the debate and I think the honorable gentleman should consider that aspect of the matter.
– I rise to order. The remarks made by the Minister for Health are also offensive to me. I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that on an occasion on which I used the word “ hypocrisy “ to describe members of the Australian Country party, you compelled me to withdraw the term and apologize for having used it. If it was necessary for me on that occasion to withdraw the term and apologize for having used it. then I consider that it is also necessary for the Minister for Health to withdraw the similar term that he used, and apologize for having used it. He should receive treatment similar to that which I received from you.
– I point out, Mr. Speaker, that you referred to the use of adjectives. The words that I used were nouns. I did not apply them to particular persons, but simply to the actions of the Opposition as a whole. That is a different position, and I suggest that my remarks were in order.
– Order ! It is a custom of the House that when an honorable member considers himself to be aggrieved by a statement a withdrawal of it must be made. If the honorable member for Lalor insists on a withdrawal of the statement being made, I am bound to follow the procedure.
– I am prepared to withdraw the words, if they are objectionable to the honorable member, but I should like him to supply me with appropriate words that I might use in their place.
-Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Like other honorable members, I must record my protest at the lack of consideration shown by the Government to this House. After all, there are 123 members–
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the motion has expired.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 3994) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so- resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 3993).
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 - n ,i: Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
Dr. EVATT (Barton- Leader of the
Opposition) [3.53]. - I move -
That all the words after the word “ on “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ a date to be fixed by proclamation, which shall not be earlier than its submission to the people either at a referendum or a general election.”.
The purpose of this important amendment is to provide that the act shall not be permitted to come into operation until it receives the consent of the people of Australia. The form which I have adopted for the amendment has been adopted on a previous occasion in committee, and I have followed it practically verbatim. The primary reason for this proposal is that this Government has not the slightest authority, by a popular vote, to introduce this measure, or this kind of measure. This afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a speech in supposed justification of the bill. The right honorable gentleman engaged in special pleading for the shipping combines and the monopolies against the airline owned by the people.
Order ! The right honorable gentleman will not be in order in referring to that matter on this clause.
– I assume that if I am to ask the committee to postpone the operation of the measure until the people give their specific approval to it at a referendum or a general election, I shall be in order in giving reasons for the adoption of such a course.
– The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that this clause deals with the date on which this legislation shall come into operation. I shall limit the discussion to the matter of time.
– My purpose in seeking to have the date on which the act shall come into operation postponed, is to ensure that this measure, which will involve the expenditure of public money, and grant concessions to one private corporation as against the popular’ publicly owned corporation, must be approved by the people before it is given effect to. After all, the people’s money is involved in this matter, so I claim that they have the right to express their opinion about this agreement.
Yesterday, and again this afternoon, reference was made to the origin of Trans-Australia Airlines. That matter has been considered by the people on two occasions since the establishment of the concern in 1945. It is perfectly correct to say that the High Court of Australia has ruled that the Australian National Airlines Act cannot authorize the creation of a monopoly for the Government in interstate commerce. But the act does give the Government the right to run and operate interstate services. That situation has lasted for years. The matter came before the people in one form or another in two general elections, first in 1946 and again in 1949. The Opposition contends that on neither of those occasions was any warrant or authority given by the people for the introduction of legislation of the kind now under consideration. This measure is of a completely unheard of kind. Nothing was said during the general elections in 1946 and 1949 about a measure which would operate, of its own force, according to the form of it, for no less than fifteen years. The proper course, before parliaments are bound in the future, is to allow the people to determine whether they are willing to be so bound. Normally, a change of this kind would be authorized by the people at a specific referendum, either by an ad hoc act of Parliament which submitted the question to them, or at a general election, or even by an alteration of the Constitution. Nothing of that kind has occurred in this instance. So far as I know, objections raised by honorable members opposite to the government airline at the general election in 1946 did not touch this point. Nothing that was said on behalf of the present Government during the general election campaign in 1949 referred to the principal features of the agreement. A loan is to be guaranteed by the Government–
– Order ! That matter should be discussed when the schedule is under consideration. The Leader of the Opposition is well aware of that fact.
– But we cannot amend the schedule. I merely want to describe it. I am assuming that the schedule will be approved and am asking that the operation of the agreement be postponed until a certain event. For that purpose I must refer to the schedule in general terms.
– I cannot allow a second-reading debate to develop on this clause.
– I agree, and I am not repeating any of the principles of the legislation that were discussed during the second-reading debate. I submit that a referendum should be held with a view to determining whether the agreement, which is set out in the schedule, has the approval of the people. I believe that if the agreement were submitted to the people for an expression of their opinion, an overwhelming majority of them would reject it.
The argument has been advanced that similar matters have been considered in the past, and that there have been arrangements regarding Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the possibility of a partnership or merger. Those proposals are different from the agreement now under consideration. This bill, in the opinion of the Opposition, will destroy or injure Trans-Australia Airlines by indirect methods. I have referred to the fact that an enormous loan is to be made to a private corporation, which is really owned by a shipping combine. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is to be granted an enormous concession with respect to airroute charges. I shall not discuss the details, other than to point out that Trans-Australia Airlines paid the full charges, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has not paid even a part of them. Henceforth, the charges are to be reduced by one-half. I understand that the Consolidated Revenue Fund will have to meet a fair proportion of the reduction, which means, in effect, that the taxpayers will have to bear the cost of the concession. Under the agreement, airmail matter will be divided between the government airline and its competitor. This is not an agreement for fair competition; it is an agreement to destroy Trans-Australia Airlines.
– Order ! The right honorable member is discussing the provisions of the schedule.
– I am saying that this matter is important and therefore should be referred to the people.
– I am afraid that the Chair- takes a different view. I rule against the right honorable gentleman and must ask him to’ accept the ruling of the Chair.
– I accept it. The Opposition holds a certain opinion upon this measure and the Government has a different view. Surely that is a matter for the decision of the people? The Government says that this matter .is merely a simple one of encouraging competition. “We say that it is a matter of destroying competition. The Government says that its aim is to encourage competition, but we say that it has introduced a measure that is loaded against the government airline. The people should decide the matter because it cannot be decided by a parliament that already has the dews of death, on its forehead, so far as can be judged by recent popular ballots. Surely this is- a matter of great importance that should be referred to the people before the Parliament binds itself. I say again that the people should be given the opportunity to vote on this proposal.
Other aspects of this measure are of extreme importance. Some of them have been referred to by my colleagues on this side of the chamber. We complain that the method adopted by the Government in making this agreement is not in accordance with parliamentary practice, that there has been favoritism and undue influence and that the Government has taken a step to build up a monopoly against the public interest. In those circumstances surely this is a matter for the public to decide. The Government should not put a. measure on the statutebook which the Opposition, representing a great section of the people, cannot accept because the people have not given it their approval. This measure challenges the system of constitutional government. The word “ repudiation “ was used; I did not use it, it was used by the Prime Minister and his supporters. However, I repeat that unless this matter i3 referred to the people, either at a general election or by way of referendum, then no self-respecting party in Australia could accept it; and we shall take every possible lawful step to ensure that the agreement will be rescinded and that Trans- Australia Airlines will be restored to the status, activities and business that it had before this measure was introduced. The measure is unjust, and I again ask the Parliament to put the matter to the people so that they may express an opinion.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired-.
– This clause provides that the act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent, and to that clause the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has moved an amendment which is designed to delay the coming into force of the bill until it has been submitted to a referendum of the people. The only argument he has produced in support of his amendment is a general one. He has stated that the will of the people has not been expressed about this matter. I desire to reply to his argument in two ways. First, I say that it is the customary practice in our form of parliamentary government that particular assent to particular measures is not given by the people. Our system is not similar to that of the Swiss. The Swiss system is that measures can be submitted to the people by way of referendum. In our system, when a government is elected, the people look to it to carry out the business of governing and to do on behalf of the people those things that it is within the competence of the government to do. We do not have a system of referendum under which every legislative act of the government has to be referred to the people. That principle is qualified by one fundamental requirement of our system, that a government should not stray beyond what is termed its “ mandate “. It should not do, during its term of office, anything arising from a policy that it has not referred to the people or disclosed to the people when it sought their support and confidence. That is the second argument that I advance against the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition. The Government, both by general reference and particular reference made its attitude to the general question of socialist enterprises quite clear, and placed beyond doubt its attitude to airline monopolies.
In the policy speeches of the leader of the Government, delivered before the general election of 1949 and before the general election of 1951, it was made clear that the Liberal and Australian Country parties were non-socialistic in intention, and it was also made clear that in the particular matter of airlines, if we were elected to office, we would attempt to re-establish conditions of fair competition. That having been put to the people, they voted for us in an overwhelming manner on both those occasions, and therefore we have the clear authority of the people, given in the customary fashion, to proceed with a measure such as this. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that in this one case we should depart from the usual practices to which past Labour governments have always adhered, and that we should do so in spite of the mandate of the people that was so clearly given to us.
The proof of the fact that the right honorable gentleman is just making a demonstration and is not raising anything fundamental, is given by the terms of two acts with which previous Labour governments were associated. They are acts that deal with the same matter as the subject now under discussion, and they are the Australian National Airlines Act 1945 and the Australian National Airlines Act 1.947. In both acts the provision regarding their coming into force is similar to the provision in the measure now before the Parliament. In 1945 and 1947, when the government of the day proposed not that fair competition should be established, but that a completely socialist monopoly should be created, there was no question of a referendum ; and in the bills that they introduced they provided that the measure should come into force on proclamation or when royal assent was given. That is exactly what the Government is doing with this measure.
There is one point on which the right honorable gentleman has suggested that this proposal differs from others. He has said that because the schedule to thu bill contains an agreement in which there is a specified term of fifteen years for the operation of the agreement, this Parliament is binding future parliaments, and because of that fact, some special consideration must be given to the present case. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that we can find many precedents for the Government’s action in this measure. We can find a precedent introduced in the Parliament in 1945, the year when the Chifley Government passed the Australian National Airlines Act. Tn that year that Government also introduced the Commonwealth and. State Housing Agreement Act, which provided for an agreement having a duration of ton years with provision for termination of the agreement in similar terms to the provision in the present bill. It might be argued that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement binds future governments, just as this agreement does. Indeed, it does bind future governments in the same way as the agreement in the schedule to this bill will bind future governments. The argument produced by the right honorable gentleman is revealed in all its hollowness by the fact that having argued that we are attempting to bind future parliaments, he proclaims his intention and expresses his confidence that he will not be bound. He can have one argument, but not both. If he says that he is bound under the measure for fifteen years, and that therefore it should be referred to the people before it is passed, he cannot say that he will not be bound by it if it is passed. If he says that he will not be bound by it if it is passed then he cannot argue that it is not a binding agreement for fifteen years. The whole of his argument shows the hollowness of the demonstration - not the debate, but the demonstration - that the Opposition has now put forward to delay and hinder this measure rather than to contribute anything to civil aviation.
.- I cannot imagine any democrat voting against the amendment proposed by the Leader- of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which is merely designed to refer this measure to the people at a referendum or at a general election. The
Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has said that in other days measures of a similar character were put before the Parliament, and a vote of the people was not considered necessary. We do not need to have a constitutional issue in order to hold a referendum. Two matters that have no constitutional significance were referred to the people, one in 191G and one in 1917. In each of those instances the matter was conscription, and a referendum was held to determine the attitude of the people. In each case the government of the day, which was a conscriptionist government, accepted the verdict of the people. The Leader of the Opposition merely asks for a referendum, and he undertakes that if the people, say that the Government is right, the Opposition will accept that verdict, but that the Opposition will not accept this measure without a mandate from the people. The Government can make all the agreements that it likes, but we shall rip every one of them up when we assume office in a year or so, unless the Government consults the people on them. The Australian National Airlines Act 1945 was approved by the people at the 1946 general election, and the then government was returned to power on all its actions between 1943 and 1946. This Government lias gone behind the backs of the people, and has concluded an. agreement, the terms of which the people knew nothing about and were told nothing about at the last general election. It is wrong foc the Minister to say that the Government has a general authority to desocialize everything. Does he say that the Government should sell the Post Office or the post office clock, because, if his argument is good, the Government has the right to de-socialize everything that this Commonwealth owns - the Post Office, the Commonwealth railways, the Commonwealth airlines, even the national broadcasting system - and it has a right to hand them out to the predatory interests that brood, vulturelike, over Australia in the hope of feeding off, and growing rich on, the property of the people. These are the interests that will get wealthy out of what the Government proposes to do, and many of their shareholders have never even seen this country, and never will.
The overseas shipping interests, the Inchcape gang-
– Order !
– It is partly because those who will benefit from this bill are overseas people that we object to the issue being decided without a referendum. The people who own the shares in Austraiian National Airways Proprietary Limited will sell their shares on the world markets, and when the Labour party attains office those who own the shares will have to bear whatever losses are involved in any action that might be taken by the then, government. If a general election is held we shall perhaps have 104 of our members sitting on or behind the treasury-bench in this chamber. If the Government will not face up to the issue, we shall have to hold what will amount to a referendum in Werriwa and Bradfield. Even in Bradfield we should win on this issue, because if the late right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) had lived he would not have supported this sell out at the expense of the people of Australia. Why is the Government afraid to face the people on this issue? Why are Government supporters so afraid that, metaphorically speaking, they are hiding in hollow logs behind Parliament House in Canberra? Why is the Government not prepared to put its case to the people and fight it out before them? Why is it. not prepared to say to the people that it believes that the proposal contained in this measure is in the interests of Australia, and be prepared to accept the people’s decision? The fact is that the Government is acting against the interests of the people and is doing so behind their backs. The Australian Labour party, as the only democratic party in this Parliament, contends that the Government should, by the only democratic procedure that is open to it. ascertain the will of the people in this matter by submitting this issue to them at a general election, or at a referendum. It is idle for the Minister for Territories to say that that procedure is in vogue in Switzerland, but not in Australia. That is no reason why we should not follow such procedure in this country. I remind the House that when “honorable members paid tribute to the late right honorable member for Bradfield earlier this week, mention wa3 made of his adherence to democratic .principles. The Government which he led submitted the conscription issue to the people not at one referendum, but at two referendums. “Why is the Government afraid to submit this issue to the people at a referendum? I remind honorable members opposite that Labour won a substantial victory at the referendum that was held in September of last year on an issue on which they thought that they had the support of the people of Australia, but found that they did not.
. - The issue that is involved in the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has submitted should be clearly stated, because if ever an attempt was made to confuse an issue in this chamber, members of the Opposition have made it on this occasion. The right honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that the Government should hold a referendum in order to ascertain whether it has a mandate to proceed with this agreement. On that point, I remind the committee that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the joint policy speech of the present Government parties, during the election -campaign in 1949, said -
As for the government airlines which were designed by the Chifley Government to be monopolies and failed to be so only because of a High Court decision, we shall put them on a truly competitive basis with no preference either in cheap capital or dollar expenditure.
The present Government parties were returned on that undertaking with substantial majorities in both Houses of the Parliament. Therefore, the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne are merely quibbling when they say that the Government has no mandate to introduce this measure. On the contrary, it has the clearest mandate to do the very thing that it proposes to do under this bill. The Leader of the Opposition said that in any event the Government had no mandate to implement the provisions of the agreement that is contained in the bill. The people gave to this Government authority to restore fair competition between these two air lines; and it is merely quibbling to say that the Government has no mandate in respect of the details of the methods by which it proposes to implement that mandate. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that this measure is designed to destroy Trans-Australia Airlines. That is entirely incorrect. Furthermore, no honorable member on this side of the chamber has attacked TransAustralia Airlines in the course of the debate on this bill. However, the Chifley Government deliberately set out to destroy Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause before the Chair.
– This Government is not seeking to destroy Trans-Australia Airlines, but to restore fair competition between these two great airlines. The honorable member for Melbourne attempted to confuse the issue by saying that no person who is a democrat could vote against the amendment which seeks to submit this issue to thepeople at a referendum. I remind members of the Opposition of the attitude that the Chifley Government adopted to-wards a similar suggestion when its banking proposals were before the Parliament in 1947. At that time, petitions were presented daily in this chamber praying that that Government should submit those proposals to ‘the people at a referendum. If ever a government had the dews of death ou its forehead, that government did at that time. It absolutely refused to hold a referendum but proceeded in its attempt to nationalize the private banks without having a mandate to do so. That was one of the main reasons why the people, at the first opportunity that was given to them, threw that Government out of office. I repeat that this Government has a clearmandate for the introduction of this measure. The proposals contained in the bill were placed before the people by the Prime Minister at the general election in 1949 and the present Government parties were elected on its expressed pledge to restore fair competition between Trans-Australia Airlines and AustralianNational Airways Proprietary Limited..
.- Does the .honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) really and honestly believe that the people, regardless of changes of public opinion that might occur,, gave to the present Government carte blanche to impose its policy upon succeeding .governments during the next fifteen years? I am not concerned about whether the dews of death are on the forehead of this Government. It may win the next general election. But I do not believe that any intelligent person believes that the people would give to any government a mandate to impose its policy upon succeeding governments for a period of fifteen years. Indeed, if honorable members opposite advance, that contention, the case for the amendment becomes clearer. Under this measure the Government will bind the Opposition, which has expressed the most violent protests against this bill, to the policy that the bill embodies. This issue should be submitted to the people in order to ascertain whether they desire that this policy shall be imposed upon all parties in the Parliament during the next fifteen years. That is the purpose of the amendment.
I say straight away that the Chifley Government was rejected on its bank nationalization proposals and that any future government that attempted to nationalize the private banks would similarly be rejected. But that is an argument not against but in favour of the holding of referendums on vital issues of this kind. Government supporters have said that this bill is a desocialization measure. They need not worry about whether Labour, if it is -returned to office, will socialize, or destroy, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Neither need tilley worry about the instructions that a future Labour government will give with respect to foreclosure on Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited if it should be unable to meet its liability to the amount of £4,000,000. If I were a Government supporter, I should not be too sanguine about the policy that this Government is now attempting to impose upon the Opposition. The Government, under this measure, may produce a situation about which a succeeding government may not be able to do anything legally, but nothing can prevent a bank from foreclosing on a company that is unable to -meet its liabilities. Therefore, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should remain solvent in the future. ‘Government supporters contend that ‘any member of the ‘Opposition who speaks with emotion on a subject is insincere. The emotional basis of the speech that I made on this bill yesterday is that I have no confidence in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I profoundly believe that it is unfit to continue to exist. That is my ‘sincere conviction. The question of whether this issue should be submitted to the people by way of a referendum rotates on the question of whether the people have given any indication that they believe that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should continue to ‘exist. “Why is that ‘company bankrupt to-day? Why is it being salvaged by this Government?
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause before the Chair.
– The indications are that there is a public disesteem of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and that fact is sufficient justification for the Opposition’s request that tire Government should submit this issue ;to the people. The passenger figures in respect of the ‘company which ‘Government supporters have cited are evidence of (that disesteem and of the fact that public support of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited declined sharply towards the end of 1949 and early in 1950. I shall not go into the reasons for that development. The traveling public already has voted this company out of existence, because travellers have ceased to support it. Consequently, it has been operating for some time at a loss. In view of that vote of the travelling public, the ‘Government should test the .people as .a whole on this issue. That i3 all that the Opposition asks it to do under the amendment.
The case for submitting this issue at a general election is equally as sound as that ‘which exists for submitting it to the people by ‘way of a referendum. It is untrue for Government supporters to say that the Government was given a mandate by the people to proceed with this measure. The present Government parties did not at any general election undertake to provide for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited a loan of £3,000,000. It is flatly untrue for them to say that the nature of this agreement was adequately indicated by the Prime Minister in the joint policy speech of the present Government parties during the general election in 1949. All that the right honorable gentleman did on that occasion was to make a pious assertion about fair competition. But what is fair competition? Such talk is on a par with that of persons who believe that they have solved the whole industrial problem when they have said that they believe in a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, whereas, in fact such an assertion, far from solving only opens up the problem. The present Government parties may have been given a mandate to restore fair competition. But who is able to say that the public would regard as provision for fair competition, a proposal under which this Government intends to give half of Trans-Australia. Airlines’s present traffic to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, without transferring any of the latter company’s traffic to the Government airlines? Such a proposal is unfair. The impression that the majority of people gained from the policy speech that the Prime Minister made during the general election campaign in 1949 was that the present Government parties would not repeat the Chifley Government’s attempt to abolish Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but would enable the two organizations to co-exist. This attempt to salvage Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is being made because TransAustralia Airlines has beaten that company in competition. All that members of the Opposition now say to the Government is that if it believes that under this measure it will restore fair competition between these two organizations, it should be prepared to go to the people and tell them .that that is its view and ask them whether they endorse it.
– What about the Chifley Government’s attitude on bank nationalization ?
– The honorable member can forget that matter.
– The Chifley Government did not submit its proposals to the people by way of referendum.
– The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) simply implies that this Government should submit this issue to the people by way of a referendum. The argument that Government supporters have advanced in respect of the Chifley Government’s bank proposals cuts both ways. I believe that there ought to be a referendum on the issue. The public has shown that it has no confidence in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That is why the company is tottering to bankruptcy, and it is a further good reason why there should be a referendum or a genera] election. There is another reason why the Government ought to submit its plans to the people at a general election. Government supporters will not pretend, surely, in view of the results of every State by-election, the local government elections in Queensland - which is a Liberal State - and the Flinders byelection, that the Government’s stocks are rising. At least, they have reason to doubt chat their stocks are rising. If they are confident that the public supports their policy, let them go to the country. That is what the Opposition now proposes. The sort of arrogance that I now see among Ministers was evident on a former occasion when I supported a Labour government in this Parliament. I know what the public thinks of ministerial arrogance. It tore down that former government, and it will tear down the present Government. At least the Labour Government did not attempt to bind its successors, regardless of changes of public opinion, as this Government proposes to do.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall not allow to pass without correction the insinuation made by honorable members opposite that the public has lost confidence in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The charge can be refuted on several counts. I shall do so by producing a few simple figures. If the public has no confidence in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, as the Opposition has suggested, why is it a fact that last year that company’s aircraft carried more passengers than Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft carried, and just a little over twice as much freight? The figures provide, in simple terms, a complete answer to the suggestion that the public lacks confidence in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– Order ! I draw thu attention of the honorable member -to the fact that the committee is considering clause 2.
M r. FALKINDER. - I am replying to the statements of a previous speaker, and I think that I am entitled to do so.
– I shall allow the honorable gentleman to answer a definite statement.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was sincere when he spoke of accidents, but he, like many other honorable members, discoursed about aerodynamics from a layman’s point of view. One would think; after having listened to honorable members opposite, that they had been flying “ since Pontius was a pilot “. They know about as much, of the science of aerodynamics as Pontius Pilate knew. I refute again the assertion that the Government has no mandate to enact this measure. I remind honorable members who claim that the Government has no mandate for this proposal that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) declared the intentions of the Government parties in plain terms in his 1949 policy speech. He said on that occasion -
As for the government airlines, which were designed by the Chifley Government to be monopolies (find failed to be so only because of a High Court decision), we shall put them on a true competitive basis, with no preferences cither in cheap capital or dollar expenditure.
We have, in the terms of that statement, I believe, a clear mandate to carry out the present proposals. No genuine argument that this bill will be of real disadvantage to Trans- Australia Airlines has been produced by the Opposition. Trans-Australia Airlines is a very effi cient and excellent organization. It will continue to be so, but it will remain as a pre-eminent, or comparable, airline only if it provides a service as good as that provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This bill will afford it an opportunity to maintain its present high standard of efficiency. The argument that the Government proposes to bind successive parliaments for a. period of fifteen years is a spurious argument, to say the least. Similar binding arrangements have been made in the earlier history of the Commonwealth. In any event, any bill passed by this Parliament is intended to be a permanent law. The Opposition may say that this is a trite argument, but the fact is that this Government is to-day honouring agreements that have been carried over from the regime of the Chifley Government. Does anybody suggest that the Government has endeavoured to dishonour the food contracts with the United Kingdom that were made by the Chifley Government? The meat contract is operative for a period of fifteen years.
– The Government has varied some of those contracts.
– That is true. But it is equally true that this Government has honoured the obligations that were undertaken by its predecessor. I entirely refute the suggestion that the Government has no mandate to enact this measure. It has a clear mandate to do so.
– I refer first to the statements of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) in opposition to the proposal that the Government’s plans for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines be submitted to a popular vote. The honorable gentleman said that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited last year handled twice as much freight as Trans-Australia Airlines handled. Does he know why that was so? The truth is that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited carried the larger volume of freight because it has the constant support of a monopolistic shipping combine. The companies which own and support Australian National
Airways Proprietary Limited make arrangements for the handling of all the freight that is transported in its aircraft. When the original measure for the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines was debated in this chamber, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition, clearly stated his attitude to shipping companies. I ask honorable members to make a careful note of the quotation that I shall make from the right honorable gentleman’s speech and bear it in mind when they consider the Opposition’s proposal that the Government’s plans for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines be submitted to a vote of the people. The right honorable gentleman said -
If any shipping company in the world failed to get into the field of aviation when it could, it would deserve to be driven out of business. All people who are concerned with transportmust have a fairly flexible mind in adopting modern methods of transport if they are ultimately to survive in a. competitive world.
This Government proposes to conclude an agreement that will preserve for the shipping companies an airline organization that has failed to survive against active competition.. It has no mandate to do so. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck),, who is probably the most youthful member of the Cabinet, said in his second-reading speech -
The conduct of these services under conditions of active competition has produced Australian air services which are among’ the best in the world.
That was a noteworthy admission.
– It was not an admission. We are proud of the fact.
– At any rate, it is a statement of fact. The Opposition maintains that the people should be consulted before anything is done to disturb that state of affairs. This bill does not provide for fair active competition. It will bind the hands of the Parliament for the next fifteen years, during which time Trans-Australia Airlines will be tied to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member applauds a proposal to stultify active competition against the popular will. The agreement will restrict the people’s airline to those activities that its competitor is prepared to agree to, or, failing agreement, to those activities that a retired judge is prepared to authorize. The Government has no mandate for any such scheme, which is contrary to all the principles upon which Trans-Australia Airlines was founded. The Government has said that it wants to place the affairs of Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on a profitable basis ; but, in fact, it plans to destroy all the good results that have been achieved by Trans-Australia Airlines. I invite honorable members to consider a significantpassage in the report of the Australian National Airlines Commission on the operations of Trans-Australia Airlines for 1951-52.
– Order ! The subjectmatter under discussion is the date of commencement of this bill.
– But you have permitted discussion of the question whether the Government has a popular mandate for its proposal.
– Do not argue with the Chair.
– I am not arguing with the Chair, but I submit that I am entitled to refer to a passage in the annual report of the Australian National Airlines Commission, because the Government claims that it has a mandate to put Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on a profit-making basis. The annual report of the commission states -
Developmental services of the type provided by Trans-Australia Airlines in the Channel Country and the Gulf Country add a great degree of security to the lives of the outback settlers whom they serve - not only in emergency, but generally, as fast reliable links with the more settled community. The low density traffic available on these routes cannot in the immediate future make them profitable.
The agreement under the bill provides that Trans- Australia Airlines shall not extend its services in those areas without the consent of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– Order! The honorable member is discussing aspects of the bill that are not now under consideration by the committee. I shall not allow him to continue along those lines.
– 1 apologize, Mr. Chairman. The Government lias no authority from the people for its plan to prevent one airline organization from doing anything that the other company does not wish it to do. But that is what this bill provides. The Minister for Territories has referred to active competition, but this measure will destroy competition. Furthermore, the Government has no mandate to make public money available to a proprietary company without obtaining an undertaking that it will be converted into a public company so that everybody may examine its affairs. No reference was made to any such proposal in the policy speech of the present Prime Minister during the last general election campaign.
– Order ! Policy statements are not under discussion. The committee is considering the date of commencement of this -bill.
– You allowed another honorable member to quote ia passage from the policy speech of the present Prime Minister.
– Order.! I have allowed the honorable member to cover a wider field of discussion than any previous speaker covered.
– I thank ,you for .your indulgence, Mr. Chairman. Nevertheless, I point out that I am now dealing with an extract from the Prime Minister’s policy speech, which was quoted by an honorable member on the Government side of the chamber. If the Government honestly believed that it had a mandate for its proposals, it would have no fears about submitting them to a vote of the people. It would trust the people. But because the Government knows that it lias no mandate for ‘the measure and ‘that the people would reject legislation of this kind if they were given an opportunity to do .so, the bill is being rushed through the Parliament, hi the hope hat the people will have forgotten it when *he next general election is held. The bill cuts across the need for the development of air services in outback areas. The Labour party is discharging its responsibility to the people when it says that it will not agree that any expansion of the activities of Trans-Australia Airlines should be subject to the sanction of an airline that is concerned only with making profits.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) about a referendum. If a referendum on this measure were ‘held, and if the people voted in favour of it, would the Labour party alter its plans for the socialization of airlines in this country, which they made perfectly clear in 1:945? The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has made it quite <clear that -the Labour party, if and when it is returned to office, will frustrate and thwart the intentions of the bill, if it :be legally possible to do isa. In proposing this amendment, the Opposition has indulged in political humbug of the worst type.
I agree with the ‘statements that have been made about the standard of flying in ‘this ‘country. For ten years -of my life I had a small ‘acquaintance with flying. I -suggest that the honorable member for Blaxland, ‘who -referred to the development of air services in the outback areas, would be well advised to study the history of aviation ‘in Australia, and ‘to familiarize himself with the activities of Mr. Arthur Butler. I think it fair to say, with due respect to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Trans-Australia Airlines, and to the great pioneers of aviation in Australia, that no person contributed more to the development of aviation services in ou’tbac’k areas than did Mr. Arthur Butler, who is now the head of the Butler airlines organization. I agree that other men have made contributions to ‘the development of aviation in this country, but when we are talking ‘of the development of air services in outback areas, the name of Mr. Arthur Butler deserves to be mentioned more than ‘does .the name of any other man.
A government, is elected to discharge certain responsibilities and undertake certain duties. It must make up its mind what it should do, and then aci accordingly. I do not believe that the Chifley Government should have conducted a referendum in 1947 on its proposals for nationalization of banking. Any person who has ever voted for the Australian Labour party has voted, for the nationalization of banking. If a person cast a vote for a Labour candidate and did not know that he was casting a vote in favour of nationalization of banking, he had only himself to blame for not being familiar with the platform of the Australian Labour party. I believe that the Chifley Government, if it considered that the right thing to do in the interests of this country was to nationalize private banks, had every right to pursue that course in 1947.
I support the bill, because I believe it to be in the best interests of Australian aviation. Provided certain circumstances do not develop, Australian civil aviation will achieve stability during the next two or three years. Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be maintained in existence. The Commonwealth, having begun to take such a profound interest in this matter, ought to continue to take an interest in it, and to make sure that the major airlines of this country will be maintained in balance, with fair and proper competition between them. I see that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) is well versed in the art of balancing. I have no doubt that he will adopt such, a policy if he becomes Minister for Civil Aviation again during the next fifteen years. I do not believe that the Opposition is sincere in asking for a referendum on this matter. If there be one member of the Parliament who should not have moved this amendment, it is the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), because while he was a member of a government he always showed a marked disinclination to pay the slightest attention to the views of the Opposition.
The honorable member for Blaxland referred to the participation of shipping companies in the airlines of this country. He gave that participation as a reason why a referendum should be held. He said that he wanted the people of Australia to become familiar with the background of private airlines. Surely it is not wrong for shipping companies to provide the capital for an organization like Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Such an organization provides a service for the people, and the profits that it makes are subject to taxation and provide a source of revenue for the Treasury. That revenue can be used to finance social services and defence preparations-
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the amendment that is under consideration.
– There is nothing wrong with the formation of an airline company by shipping companies. Such an enterprise is to the benefit of the country, because it provides a service for the community, and the Treasury skims the cream from its profits. The Leader of the Opposition referred to this measure as the most important measure in the history of the Parliament. No other member of the Opposition had the cheek to say that this bill for an act to approve of an agreement made between the Commonwealth and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is the most important legislation that has been considered by the Commonwealth Parliament during the last 52 years. The right honorable gentleman made a stupid and silly remark.
– It is a bill to legalize a robbery.
– Order ! The honorable member for Maribyrnong must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word “ robbery “ but I still say-
– Order! The honorable gentleman must withdraw the remark, and apologize for it.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– That statement was a. gross exaggeration, and was in keeping with the general tenor-
– Order ! The incident is closed. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) should continue his speech.
– Honorable members on this side of the chamber have dealt with the allegation that the Government has no mandate for this measure. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) and other honorable members read portions of the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in which that issue was dealt with. It has always been clearly understood that people on our side of politics are opposed to the socialization of airlines. We always made it clear that, as soon as we could do so, we should institute a policy that would ensure fair and proper competition between airlines. There is no reason why the operation of this measure should be postponed. I lament the fact that it was not introduced until October of this year. In my view, it could properly have been introduced years ago. I commend it to the committee and urge honorable members to vote against the amendment.
.- The proposition that this issue should be determined by the people themselves is a fair and reasonable one. The people are vitally concerned in this matter, because their assets will be affected by the measure. They are interested parties to the arrangement that has been made, but they were not consulted when the negotiations that preceded it were in progress. The Government did not consult even TransAustralia Airlines, which is the trustee of the people’s assets. For a period of three months, lobbyists acting on behalf of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, made representations to the Government, but when a representative of Trans-Australia Airlines came to the Parliament he was placed in a humiliating position.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the amendment.
– The people’s assets are being dealt with. Therefore, the people are interested in this arrangement, but they have not been consulted upon it, or given any say in the matter. If a man went into another man’s house and attempted to take some of his belongings, the householder would be entitled to defend his property. But the Australian people have not been given an opportunity to defend their assets. They have been hamstrung. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should not be permitted gradually to invade the domain of the people and, through an enactment of this Parliament, virtually to filch some of the people’s assets. By this measure, the Government will divest itself and future governments of all legislative responsibility in this connexion for the next fifteen years, which is the period of operation of the agreement. Under the Constitution of this country,’ a government has to go before the people at least once in every three years, but, as a result of the operation of this measure, the people will be hamstrung in relation to this agreement for at least the next five general elections. There may be more than five elections during the next fifteen years, because it is possible that a double dissolution will occur in the not too distant future. The Government should consult the people on this matter. Why should the bill be bulldozed through this chamber in a matter of about 24 hours? The Senate elections will be held in three to six months’ time, and a referendum upon the bill could be conducted simultaneously with that election. Then the people could accept or reject it. That would be the fairest and simplest way to deal with the matter. The Government is making serious inroads upon the right of the people to be consulted every three years and to give a mandate to an incoming government.
It has been said that the measure will lead to fair competition between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Aus tralia Airlines. There is nothing fair in the agreement that is being pushed through the Parliament. The negotiations will be entirely one-sided. It may happen as a result of the hasty way in which the legislation has been put through the Parliament that the Government will ultimately be involved in costly litigation because of differing interpretations of the clauses of this indicate and unique agreement. Vital constitutional questions may be involved. The people themselves are the only authority that can determine a constitutional matter finally. The agreement purports to be in accordance with the Commonwealth’s powers in relation to trade, customs and defence. That is a very doubtful, proposition. We know that on. a previous occasion on which the Government contemplated the disposal of the public’s- assets in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited it sought the advice of Queen’s. Counsel about its position because it, wished to- fortify itself in its efforts to sacrifice the people’s assets. It obtained a legal opinion, from Mr. Barwick, Q.C., who had acted for the private banks before the High Court and the Privy Council in the bank nationalization case. Why does not the Government seek the opinion of Mr. Barwick on this matter? The reason is that it has grave doubts about the matter, and was not prepared to take the risk of receiving an unfavorable opinion from Mr. Barwick or any other constitutional lawyer about the constitutional validity of the measure.
– Order ! The legal aspect of the matter is outside the ambit of the present discussion.
– I am dealing with the constitutional aspect of the matter. I submit that the Constitution gives to this Parliament certain powers that can only be expanded by a vote, of the people at a referendum. This matter should be determined at such a referendum, because, undoubtedly,, as it stands- it will, raise grave constitutional issues in the future.
The proposed agreement will hamstring future governments for fifteen years. I suggest that such a provision, apart altogether from the invasion of democratic principles that is involved, cannot possibly be constitutional. If the Government wanted to put the issue beyond doubt and to ensure that it was acting in conformity with the will of the people, it would take the opportunity to hold a referendum on the issue concurrently with the Senate election next year. Why is there such urgency in relation to this matter? This is the last opportunity that we, the representatives of the people, shall have to oppose this shocking legislation. I cannot see that the measure could be held to be constitutional inasmuch, as it will have the effect of restricting future parliaments for fifteen years. It is certainly not democratic. The Government should accept the amendment moved by the* Leader of the Opposition and let the- matter be decided at a referendum. After all, when the Government went before the people on the last occasion it said1! that it would bring down certain legislation to ensure that nationalization of industries could not occur in the future without a referendum havingfirst been held. Surely no action should be taken to denationalize an industry without the people having- been given an opportunity to express their will on the matter. I hope- that even at this late stage the Government will do the proper thing and submit the issue to the popular vote.
.- This House must be appalled at the threats which, fell, with venom from the mouth of the honorable member for. Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). We are entitled to ask what the future of any business in thi? country will be if it falls into the hands of a government that thinks as he does. We have been reviled because we are endeavouring to protect a private enterprise that was inthe aviation field before Trans-Australia Airlines- came into- existence. We are attempting to protect that private enterprise for a period of fifteen years, but it will be right and proper for any government to re-examine the position as it finds it after that time.
We- have heard from honorable members opposite many threats about their intended repudiation of this agreement should they gain office. We have witnessed the efforts that were made by Labour governments to destroy private enterprise. I suggest that the behaviour of Labour governments is the best possible evidence of the need for this agreement. The question of whether or not we have a mandate for this measure and whether a referendum on it is desirable, depends entirely on whether we sought a mandate for it from the people. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has quoted from the joint policy speech of 1949 which indicates beyond any shadow of doubt that we said that we should put these airlines back on a fair and equitable basis of competition. One airline, TransAustralia Airlines, the darling of the Chifley
Government, has mail contracts worth £500’,000 a year, whilst the other, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, has mail contracts worth only £50;.000 a. year. We propose to do something, to close that gap and abolish- such unfair competition. I remind the committee that the business- of carrying airmails was. originally in the hands of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, but was taken from it arbitrarily and handed to Trans-Australia Airlines by the Chifley Government. The Labour party begins to cry. when this Government starts to play the political game according to rules that the Labour party itself invented. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has told us a fanciful tale about what would happen if somebody went into a person’s house and began to steal from it. The committee will not be entirely unmindful of the fact that when the Labour Government established Trans-Australia Airlines in. 1945 it. went into the taxpayers’ pockets, because- it. was from that source alone, and; without the approval of the taxpayers, that the. moneys required to establish the Australian National Airlines Commission were derived.
– Where does- the Government propose to obtain the- money to bolster- Australian’ NationaL Airways Proprietary Limited ?
– The money required will probably come from the same source.
– Order ! That matter is beyond the ambit of discussion.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that if we are to have that sort of interjection-
– I shall deal with, interjections.
– There has been too much of that sort of one-sided debate in this chamber.
The- CHAIRMAN.- Order ! I regard, that statement as a reflection on the Chair, and I ask the honorable gentleman to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. We have heard a good, deal of talk about the Government’s attempt, under this agreement, to protect the position for fifteen, years:. The same protests- could be applied to many of the inroads into the democratic rights of’ the community that were made under the- previous Labour Government. This country has watched the growing inroads of socialism into our economy, and we know, very well from the words that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) used on a previous occasion, and from the views expressed by almost all other honorable members opposite, that the Labour party has taken as its- slogan the words,. “You cannot put the feathers back on a plucked fowl”. We propose to protect the position for only fifteen years, when it can be re-examined, but the Labour party’s acts of socialism cannot be reversed. I remind the committee that in 1949 the people of this country, who had grown tired and fearful of the effects of socialism, changed their minds and put the Labour. Government out of office. This agreement is to, last for only fifteen years,, but every move made by the socialists to destroy the very foundations- on which a free enterprise economy can- be erected is designed to have effect for all time.
– Order ! The honorable member had better come back to the amendment.
– This matter is of the very essence of the bill. If honorable members opposite are so certain that we are going to have an- election in eighteen, months’ time!-
– The honorable member will’ be known as “ Paterson’s curse “.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will withdraw that remark. It is a reflection on the honorable member for Paterson.
– I merely meant that in another connexion the-
– Order !
– I want to explain toyou what Paterson’s curse is.
– Order ! I know - exactly what it is. I have asked the honorable member to withdraw the remark and apologize for having made it.
– I withdraw it and apologize for having made it and: say that the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) is not Paterson’s curse. [Quorum formed.’]
– There is no call to waste time or money in holding a referendum on this issue. The 1949 joint policy speech, which was repeated in 1.951, told the people in plain terms what the Government -had in mind regarding airline operations. The people gave their verdict at that time and the Government has a perfect mandate to introduce this legislation. I remind the committee again that the agreement will last for only fifteen years, whereas the Labour party introduced legislation the effects of which are not reversible.
.- 1 support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that this proposal be submitted to a referendum of the people. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) said that the Opposition was objecting strongly to the fact that the Government was endeavouring to protect private enterprise for fifteen years. After all, if the Government wishes to protect private enterprise for fifteen years, why not for 50 years, or 250 years, or 1,000 years? Honorable gentlemen opposite claim that they are doing this in the name of democracy. The very essence of democracy is the right of the people to change their mind. Of course, when we look at the Government that sits opposite we realize that the ability to change its mind is a particularly valuable attribute of democracy. The Government seeks to bind government after government for a period of fifteen years.
– That is what your Government did without a referendum.
– I have no government. 1 have been here only since 1949, and 1. accept no responsibility for anything that was done before then. After all, is the sole claim advanced by the Government to justify the measure that it is only doing something that a previous government did, to which it objected and which it used to unseat that previous government? I have never heard of a more absurd attitude as that which is adopted by people some of whom, at any rate, look intelligent. I desire to take a stand on democratic principle in relation to this matter. I am here by the will of the people and, being here by the will of the people, I shall endeavour to ensure that the Government shall be responsive to the people’s will. It is a sine qua non of democracy that legislatures should be responsive to the people’s will. If the people’s will alters from Parliament to Parliament, then the complexion of legislation should alter in accordance with the desires of the people. Otherwise, we should not have the essence of democracy, although we might have all its forms.
– Now will the honorable member relate his remarks to the hill?
– I am emphasizing th at this Government has no right to bind parliaments in the future, as it proposes to do under this legislation.
– The honorable member’s remarks are in order. He has been discussing the date on which the act will come into operation.
– The present Government, during the general election campaign in 1949, claimed that it strongly supported the strengthening and development of free enterprise. Of course, this Government is the lineal descendant of a government that sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the woollen mills, which belonged to the people, and has lived up to that record by selling the Commonwealth’s shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and has intimated its intention- to sell the Commonwealthowned ships.
This Government is pledged to destroy all socialist or public enterprise. Therefore, it should unfurl its banner in the breeze - the skull and crossbones - and seek to encompass the destruction of Trans-Australia Airlines; but it should not attempt to “ bulldoze “ the people, or draw wool over their eyes, by pretending that it is seeking, by this legislation, to ensure the maintenance of fair competition between the government enterprise and a privately owned enterprise. The Government has always insisted that the vital principle for which it stands is the preservation of private enterprise, and the destruction of socialist or government enterprise. For that reason, 1 contend that the Government should submit this proposed agreement to the people in order to obtain an expression of their opinion upon it. There are two unanswerable reasons why the Government should adopt that course. First, the essence of democracy is the right of the people to change their minds between two elections. At the next election, the people may declare themselves in favour of the nationalization of airlines, yet blunder sufficiently to return this Government to office. In those circumstances, the Government should not disregard the wishes of the people in thatrespect. Government supporters contend that once the agreement has been signed, no one is entitled to change his mind about it. The supremacy of government has disappeared, and the voice of the people has ceased to be the voice of God, as it is alleged to be in a democracy. A decision is made at the whim of a few people who happen to occupy the treasury bench at a given hour. That is not democracy. It is the very negation of democracy. 1 did not rise with the object of retelling the stories that have been so well told about Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Nor did I rise in order to refer to the pressure that has been brought to bear upon Government supporters in order to secure the passage of this legislation. However, I thought that one reason why the proposed agreement should be submitted to the people was that Mr. Speaker had announced from the chair that certain honorable members were being button-holed within the precincts by lobbyists-
– That, Mr. Chairman, is a reason why I believe that this agreement should he submitted to the people at a referendum, in order to obtain an expression of their opinion upon it, because I consider that they will be horrified when they learn that pressure of a doubtful kind has been brought to bear upon some honorable members in order to secure the passage of certain legislation. Because of all those matters, I emphatically declare that this proposal should be submitted to the people. If the Labour party is returned to office at the next general election, it will seek to secure for the people the supremacy of the government in the conduct of the business of Australia.
.- I have been a member of this Parliament, for a little more than two and a half years, and in that period, I have never witnessed such a display of anxiety neurosis as I have seen exhibited by the Opposition this afternoon. Last night, .1 said that honorable gentlemen opposite were screaming and yelling like native cats. This afternoon, they are behaving like tiger cats-
– I rise to order. Last, night, Mr. Speaker ruled that if a collective reference to Opposition members was objectionable to one Opposition member, he would be. in order in asking for thiwithdrawal of the remark. I submit, Mr. Chairman-
– In order to save time, I withdraw the statement and apologize for having made it. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) discussed the essence of democracy. He said .that in a democracy the people had the right to change their minds. “Well, that is all right. It is a part of democracy, no doubt. But democracy also implies the freedom of the individual. Such a principle is embodied in this legislation, because the freedom of the individual is the essence of democracy. I cannot understand how members of the Labour party can speak in terms of democracy when the fundamental purpose of the Labour party is the antithesis of democracy. Socialism is not compatible with democracy, and, of course, the Labour party advocates socialism. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and various Government supporters iba ve shown that it was the avowed intention of the Labour party in 1945 to nationalize all air services in Australia. The Labour party has not withdrawn from that stand in this debate.
– Order! That matter is not relevant to the clause under consideration.
– I am replying to statements that have been made by Opposition speakers. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) accused the Government of selling the people’s assets. He was struggling hard for an argument when he raised that matter, because the people would not thank this Government, or, for that matter, any other government for seeking their approval of every important decision that had to be made. The subject matter of this bill is only a simple business transaction that the Government is entitled to undertake, and the people expect it to reach a decision without reference to them.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. .Beazley) described as objectionable the provision to make the agreement binding for fifteen years. I remind the honorable gentleman that a loan may be granted to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for a specific purpose, and it would not be of any use if it, were not granted for such a period. The objection to the agreement on that ground is positively absurd. The honorable member also said that the Government had introduced this legislation in the face of violent opposition. The opposition, no doubt, has been violent enough, but it has not been logical. The honorable member also made an extraordinary statement to which I must refer. He said that when the Labour party was returned to office, it would use its power of foreclosure and convert Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited into a government undertaking. If the honorable member for Fremantle has spoken, on behalf of the Labour party the people should be warned about what it is likely to do. His reference to foreclosure, in a matter of this kind, is a hit below the belt. The honorable member also said that he had no confidence in Australian National Air-ways Proprietary Limited. I am sure that the people of Australia will resent that statement, and I hope that it does not represent the opinion of the Labour party, because no one can point an accusing finger at Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in respect of the service that it has rendered to Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) proposes that the Government should seek the opinion of the people on this agreement, either -by way of a referendum or as an issue at a general election. In my opinion, the position depends upon the mandate that this Government has received from the people, in respect of such matters. I do not think that any one, whether he is in favour of or opposed to the bill, will deny that the Government has a definite and specific mandate to encourage private enterprise. I read a part of that mandate in the course of my second-reading speech on this bill. In the general election campaign in 1949, we stated that we would ensure the maintenance of fair competition between Trans-Australia. Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and take action to prevent air services in Australia from being controlled by a monopoly, whether it was a government monopoly or a privately controlled monopoly. We gave that assurance to the people with respect to airways, banks and a number of other matters. That line of demarcation was drawn for the information of the electors between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party on the one hand, and the Labour party on the other hand.
We stand for a system of private enterprise, which we shall maintain with this legislation. The Labour party stands for a system of socialism, which means complete government ownership. No one can deny the clarity of the mandate that we have obtained from the people on this issue. As the Government has obtained that mandate, it is in duty bound to act upon it in these matters. The people do not expect the Government to obtain their opinion, by way of a referendum or a general election, on every important matter that is raised in this House. The Government also has an obligation to ensure that the public shall have the best possible air services. The action that will be taken under this legislation will improve the services of Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government has no intention of injuring Trans-Australia Airlines, or of conferring a particular advantage on Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. This legislation gives effect to the mandate that the Government has received from the people to provide adequate and efficient services, and to prevent the growth of an airlines monopoly. The Opposition’s whole objection to the measure is based on its disappointment that one of the major airways services of this country is not to be put out of business. Are we to sit idly by and see that happen? Would the people expect us to do that? Of course they would not. Therefore, we must ensure that there shall be fair competition between the airline companies or we must set up a complete government monopoly. This Government has a mandate to ensure that a monopoly ali all not be created.
.- I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and I propose to outline the reasons why the amendment is completely reasonable and should be agreed to by the Parliament. The question whether this bill is related to nationalization or private enterprise is entirely beside the point, because the States of Australia and the Commonwealth have authority vested in them to enter the field of public utilities. Therefore, surely the people should be given the opportunity to state whether they believe that the Government’s action in this case is the proper action. Surely every individual in this country who is desirous of investing his capital in territory within the jurisdictions of the Federal or State authorities has sufficient intelligence to know that at any tick of the clock a State or the Commonwealth legislature may decide that it is in the public interest to enter the field of his investment and become the conductor of a public utility in the interests of the people. If I were an investor, I would invest my money with the full knowledge that a State or the Australian Government could enter the field of my investment at any time. Because of that, and because the field of public utilities has already been entered by the Federal and State governments, surely the shareholders of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should not raise a howl about unfair intrusion when a government enters their field. Every State government in Australia las entered the field of public utilities from time to time, not necessarily socialist or nationalist governments, but particularly in the State of Victoria, Liberal and Labour governments. It must be appreciated that despite the declaration of the Labour party that it will, by every legal means within its power, endeavour to restore to Trans-Australia Airlines its rights and privileges, the Labour party cannot introduce any such legislation to this Parliament in the normal course of events until two years have passed. In the meantime, by virtue of this measure, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited will be able to recoup the whole of the losses that it has sustained to the present time. Because this Government proposes to put the company into such a privileged position, the people should be given an opportunity to speak about it. If they were given that opportunity they would speak in no uncertain voice about this infamous proposal. No wonder that there have been lobbyists in the precincts of this chamber, and no wonder that during the last two days there have been worried looks on the faces of Government supporters because of the Opposition’s disclosures about this measure. The bill will not restore the rights of free enterprise, because the operation of airways will become the exclusive privilege of both Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. If some other investor comes along and wants to commence a new airline, he will very quickly find that by this measure the Government has shut him out of the field, and that now the field has been left free to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines. Honorable members would be interested to have their attention directed to the career of MacPhersonRobertson, who started making sweets in a small backyard camp at the rear of a shop in Fitzroy. He started with a kerosene tin and a few logs of wood, but in the course of time “he overwhelmed his local competitors and even pushed out the powerful importing interests of overseas countries. Nothing of that sort can occur in the airline industry because it will .become the closed province of Australian National Airways Proprietary
Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines. That will be the effect of this measure, and it is useless for the Government to talk of restoring free enterprise. It is doing nothing of the sort. This Government, by legislation, is giving a private company the privilege to use air routes and air facilities that have been paid for by taxation levied on the workers, so that it can recoup itself for lasses that it has suffered. What right has this Government to say to any ambitious individual that he cannot enter the charmed circle of the airline monopolies?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.HASLUCK (Curtin- Minister for Territories) [5.42]. - We have covered much territory in this debate, and before the question is put it might be well to recall what is before us. Clause 2 of the bill provides that the act shall come into operation on the day it receives the royal assent. That is the customary clause, and it appeared in the Australian National Airlines Act of 1945, which was introduced by the Chifley Government, and a similar clause appeared in the Australian National Airlines Act of 1947, also introduced by the Chifley Government. It is a. customary clause in a measure of this kind. To that clause, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has taken the unusual step of moving an amendment to the effect that this measure shall not come into effect until it has been submitted to the electors by way of referendum or at a general election. That proposal is clearly to alter the time of enactment of the measure. Honorable members have accepted the second reading of the bill, and now the Opposition is trying to nullify that vote of the House by deferring the operation of the bill. The only reason that it has offered in justification for its action is that this bill contains in the schedule an agreement between The Australian Government and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and that in that agreement there is a. provision that the term of the agreement, subject to certain termination provisions, shall be fifteen years. The Leader of the Opposition argued that becauseof that the measure in introducing some novel principle, and therefore it should not follow the customary procedure. The term in the agreement is not in any way novel. Many measures introduced in the time of Labour governments have contained agreements in their schedules and those agreements have contained time clauses. All agreements contain a fixed term in order that they may be carried out. Clause 2 is a customary clause and the agreement in the schedule does not contain any novel principle. The purpose of the Opposition in putting forward this amendment is merely to attempt to delay the operation of this bill and to countermand and nullify the decision that this chamber has already made.
– I protest against the introduction of this monstrous measure.
– Order! The time allotted for the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Dr.
Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause and the remainder of the billbe agreed to and that the bill be reported without amendment.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to correct a misstatement that I made in the course of an earlier debate in this chamber, when I said that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had made “hypocritical utterances”, and had voted against a measure that was designed, in the days of the Chifley Government, to provide for the payment of subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. a day to Australian ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese. I have since checked the record and have ascertained that my statement was incorrect. I had proposed to read the appropriate passage from the Hansard reports, but, in view of the pressure of time, I shall not do so. The report shows that Mr. Chifley also was under the impression that a vote had been taken on this issue. However, I find that I was wrong, and I unreservedly apologize to the honorable member for Parkes and express the hope that he will accept my apology.
– I direct the attention of the House to a matter that I consider to be of a most urgent and serious character. This morning, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) tried to minimize the danger that exists as a result of the unemployment of immigrants and dismissals of ex-servicemen by the Government in a desperate effort to try to mitigate the position of the new arrivals in Australia who are out of work. In Rawson-place, Sydney, to-day, some hundreds of unemployed Italian immigrants attempted to interview the Italian Consul and clashed with officers of the New South Wales Police Force. A serious situation hasarisen. The Minister for Immigration this morning endeavoured to explain away the unfortunate circumstances of these immigrants by suggesting again, as is the practice of the Government, that all the trouble could be attributed to Communists who were fomenting trouble amongst unemployed immigrants. The Italian Consul in Sydney has stated, following to-day’s disturbance, that the men concerned have no fixed political beliefs and that all they want is work. The existence of sucha state of affairs in Australia is a most serious matter. These men demonstrated and clashed with the authorities merely because they demanded the right to work, which means to them the right to live and to support the families that they have left in their native country. I am not aware of all the details of to-day’s incident in Sydney. All I know is that a clash occurred. No doubt, other such incidents will occur unless the Government takes action to provide work for these immigrants. They will not sit down and agree to wait, perhaps for months, or even years, until this Government is prepared to honour the promises that it made to them. Those promises should be honoured. Employment should be found immediately also for the Australian exservicemen whom the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. McMahon) has dismissed from the various air services, and the others who have been dismissed from other government employment. I ask the Government to have an immediate investigation made into this serious matter and, to make a full statement as soon as possible on the action that it proposes to take.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Social Services Consolidation Act - Report by the Director-General of Social Services for year 1951-52.
Defence (Transitional Provisions). Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and Designs (3).
Public Service Act -
Appointment - Repatriation Department - J. H. Kelly.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 94.
House adjourned at 6.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I do not propose to answer questions of this nature unless directed to do so by a resolution of this House. Every government provides hospitality from time to time to distinguished visitors both local and overseas. Such entertainments possess no party character. I am not, save under direction, prepared to order the preparation of detailed accounts.
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the easing of credit restrictions, will the Government co-operate with the States in the correction of’ unemployment and the promotion of national works and. food production by assisting in the provision of new credits which will enable the States to avoid the cancellation of orders and arrangements for railway rolling-stock, electric power equipment, irrigation, soldier land settlement, and house and road construction.?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows . -
To help the States in continuing works projects of an. essential nature the Commonwealth has taken unprecedented action to assist the Loan Council programmes for 1951-52 and 1952-53. The Commonwealth has agreed to arrange special assistance in respect of the 1952-53. programmes up to an amount of £135,000,000. This will require some call on bank credit and represents the full limit to which the Commonwealth Government can go in tile present circumstances without gravely endangering the financial position of the Australian economy.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has not carried out, and does not at present propose to carry out, experiments in connexion with the problem of serrated tussock.
h asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
m. - On the 10th October, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) asked the following question : -
Tt has come to my notice that some South Australian manufacturers of ploughs are at least three years behind with their orders, as a result of the extreme shortage of heavy section steel flats, which has greatly limited production. Now that ample supplies of coal are available, will the Minister for Supply state the reason for the shortage? Will he also make the investigations with a view to Increasing the supply of steel?
The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
The ‘ question of supplies of heavy section flats for plough manufacture in South Australia has been discussed with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The company advises that it is not being pressed for supplies of heavy section flats for plough manufacture in South Australia. Disc steel mid special size light sections for ploughs are *t present in short supply. Heavy section**, which are used for the heavier agricultural implements are in reasonable supply and further improvement is expected shortly. The Department of National Development will shortly complete a survey of shortages of steel for agricultural implement manufacture. However, neither the department nor .the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is able to identify the manufacturers referred to by the honorable member. If the honorable member will supply the names of the manufacturers referred to and their specific requirements, appropriate action will be taken to see what can be done to meet these requirements.
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
Will the Government grant to members of the Commonwealth Parliament the same car transport facilities as are granted to departmental heads and to ministerial typists and other staff?
e.- The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Government has already granted certain additional car transport facilities to members of Parliament which are considered to meet all reasonable needs. It does not, at present, propose to make any change.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521030_reps_20_220/>.