20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mb. SPEAKER (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question, which is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, relates to a portrait of the late Mr. J. B. Chifley. I have noticed that it has not been hung in King’s Hall. If the hall is overcrowded with paintings, would it be possible to remove another painting so that this portrait of a late Prime Minister could be bung there? I am certain that all members of the Parliament ddesire that the portrait to which I have referred should be hung in King’s Hall.
– The painting in question is not the property of the Commonwealth. It is here purely as an act of courtesy to the artist, who brought it here through the good offices of the honorable member for Macquarie. I agreed that, for a few days, it should hang in the corridor leading to the dining room. Very shortly, it will be removed and returned to its owner. The Historic Memorials Committee, of which the Prime Minister is the chairman and the Leader of the Opposition is a member, will confirm roy statement that we have commissioned another artist, Mr. Colquhoun, to paint a ‘ portrait of the late Mr. Chifley. If that work has been completed, it has not yet been seen by me or by the committee. It will be the official memorial to the late Mr. Chifley. The portrait to which the honorable member for Adelaide has referred is not our property. It has not been offered to us. It is the private property of the gentleman who brought it here.
– As it has not been possible for the portrait commissioned by the Historic Memorials Committee to be completed, will you consult with the Prime Minister to ascertain whether, pending completion of the portrait, an arrangement can be made for further use to be made of the portrait to which the honorable member for Adelaide has referred?
– That course of action would present certain difficulties. I have received correspondence from other artists who have painted portraits of the late Mr. Chifley. They claim that if consideration bc given to this portrait, it should be given also to their portraits. It appears that a number oi portraits u. the late Mr. Chifley has been painted. I think the only possible course open to us is to return this portrait to its owner, now that honorable members have been given an opportunity to view it. We must await the result of the official commission given to Mr. Colquhuon.
– In view of recent reports about your attitude towards honorable members leaving Canberra at week-ends, Mr. Speaker, do you consider i;hat it would be advisable to institute the system that now operates in the services; that is of having inspections of honorable members before issuing leave passes to entitle them to draw their travelling vouchers ?
– If the honorable member wishes to discuss any of my views, he may do so only on a motion.
– It has come to my knowledge, Mr. Speaker, that you made some comments at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee-
– Order ! Any comments made by me at a Public Accounts Committee meeting cannot be discussed in this House - at any rate, before the Public Accounts Committee reports on them.
– Did the Minister for Health, a short time ago, make a statement to the. effect that there was a shortage of 15,000 hospital beds in Australia? ls it a fact that over twenty hospital building projects in New South Wales alone, which are in various stages of construction, have been abandoned and that work upon a number of other projects has been slowed down because the authorities in New South Wales lack the finance necessary to enable them to be brought to completion? What action, if any, does the Minister propose to take to ‘ correct this most serious situation ? Has he any suggestions to make about how the difficulty can be overcome?
– In January, 1951, I placed a proposal before the various State Ministers for Health and State governments, acceptance of which would have resulted in an increase of about £10,000,000 a year in hospital revenue.
– From whom?
– It would have come from the Australian Government, the patients and insurance payments. The honorable member for East Sydney apparently thinks that buildings can be erected for nothing. What has been wrong with the hospital system in Australia during the last eight or ten years is that it has become practically bankrupt. It is in the red to the tune of about £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 a year. The delay of the States in agreeing to put my proposal into effect is one of the reasons why the hospitals are at present short of money. I am glad to say that the New South Wales Government, about six months before the actual termination of its agreement, agreed to the new proposal and thereby saved itself about £2,000,000 a year.”
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to make a statement to the House about the result of his discussions with M. Jean Letourneau, the French Minister for Indo-China Affairs?
– M. Letourneau, the distinguished French Minister for IndoChina Affairs, was in Australia for three or four days. The Minister for Defence and I had the benefit of very extensive discussions with him in which all aspects of affairs in Indo-China that are of concern to Australia were fully explored. The Minister for Defence has already discovered the directions in which aid in the form of a fairly wide range of typea of military equipment can be given to Indo-China. It is proposed that experts of the three armed services in Indo-China shall visit Australia to inspect and decide on this material. Also, under the Colombo plan it is hoped that we may be able to give appreciable aid of a civil type that is required by the three Associated States of Indo-China, within the next two or three months. AU efforts will be made to help the French and the Associated States of Indo-China in the great task they are undertaking to combat communism in that important area.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs inform me whether the assistance to be accorded to the French in Indo-China will be by way of gift, or will those materials be paid for? Considering that France, in resisting communism in South-East Asia, is in truth also fighting Australia’s battle, will the Minister agree that a generous attitude is called for on the part of the Australian Government?
– This matter has not yet been seriously discussed by the Ministers concerned, but if I may express my personal view without committing myself at this stage, I think there is very little doubt that those materials will be a straight out gift.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House of the position in relation to the drug cortisone. A case has come to my notice, and I understand that there is a number of such cases, in which the drug is required but considerable delay has been experienced in obtaining it from the Commonwealth authorities. Will the Minister investigate the matter and tell the House what the position is? Is cortisone one of the recognized life-saving drugs which are supplied free by the Commonwealth, or, if not, what is the reason for its omission from the free list ?
– The position is that life-saving drugs are not put on the free list until they have been approved by an advisory committee of expert specialists. Cortisone has not been so approved, for two reasons. The first is that the side effects that result from its use in many cases have been very serious, and therefor it is at present still under investigation by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. The second reason is that it is in short supply throughout the world, and therefore cannot be put on the free list and used indiscriminately, because then there would not be enough of it for use in those cases in the treatment of which it is undoubtedly valuable.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is correct, as reported, that the compulsory operation of the self assessment system for provisional tax has been abolished? If so, where taxpayers have already made self assessments which may be to their detriment, are they to be permitted to withdraw them and abide by the assessment of provisional tax for the previous year as calculated by the Taxation Branch?
– The answer to the first part of the- question is, “‘Yes.”; The answer to the. second part is that the. rights,, privileges and- obligations of taxpayers, who have already lodged returns, will be preserved.
– My question is directed to the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior. For the purpose of war service l’and1 settlement, the’ Commonwealth owned a tobacco farm training centre at Manjimup, in Western- Australia. All ex-servicemen who- required tobacco farms have now been- settled’ on farms, and Past year- the State government- wanted’ to purchase that Commonwealth: property for a tobacco research: station.
Mr.-., WARD. - I rise to order,, Mr. Speaker.. A few days ago you ruled that questions asked of a Minister, acting for another Minister must be placed on the notice-paper; because- you said’ tha-t an acting Minister could not be expected- to answer such questions without having been given notice of them. Is it not a fact that the honorable member for Forrest is now- asking a question of an acting1 Minister which that Minister could not be expected1 to- answer ?’
-Order ! There is no substance in< the point of order because the Minister for Defence has been publicly appointed to carry out the. duties of the Minister for the Interior, and’ for all practical purposes he is now the Minister for the Interior. The point to which I have called the attention of honorable members time and time again, is- that in this chamber they cannot address questions without notice to a Minister representing a Minister in the Senate. The question- of the: honorable member, for Forrest is in order.
– I ask the Minister whether the Commonwealth is willing to. sell the property that I have mentionedto the Western Australian. Government, and’ whether any agreement has. yet. been reached’ aBout the matter ?
Sir- PHILIP MCBRIDE- Negotiations have been proceeding, between’ the
Austraiian: Government and -the Western Australian Government in relation to? the laird mentioned’, by the honorable! member, and recently I ga&& authority for the Commonwealth. to. accept am offer made, by the State Government for that land. The State Government willi be advised accordingly, and- will them have it within its power to> use the land1’ as it thinks fit.
– Will the Minister for Air indicate the stage that has been reached in the manufacture in Australia of Sabre and. Canberra jet aircraft for the Royal Australian Air- Force?’’ Is- it intended to- equip operational units with these Australian-built aircraft?
– The production of Canberra mIld Sabre aircraft in Australia, comes within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Defence Production. I shall obtain the actual details for the honorable member. I can assure him. that in the not too far distant future the Royal Australian Air Force’ hopes to get deliveries of both types of aircraft. Royal Australian Air Force operational units will then- be equipped1 with both types of aircraft. Up to the- present time the’ Royal Australian- Air- Force has not d’ecided’ which units will be so equipped, or where they will be stationed1 when the aircraft are made- available to them-.
– My question-, which is- addressed’, to the Minister for- Social’ Services; relates to what appears’ to be ari’ anomaly in- the social services’ legislation. It concerns; the- position.’ of awife whose husband has been convicted! and’ imprisoned’ f or a period- of six months or more: In such circumstances the- wife is. entitled, to- the widow/s. pension after her husband h.m< been imprisoned; for six. months, but- not before the expiration.* off that period-.. Does- the.- Minister not. agree that, such a provision may causes considerable hardship, to a- wife w,ho im left without means, of support for six. months’?’ In many/ instances the wiv.es o£ convicted’ persons have young children,, ane unable to go to work and; have noi income’..
Will t?he Minister look into- the-‘ matterwith’ a view to- the suitable’ amendment the legislation?:
– The* question raised by the honorable member- opens up a great many possibilities-. The first thing that occurs to me is that at least some provision, is: now, made for the
Support, of a wife in such circumstances. There was a time when nothing, was done to- help such people. 1! assur-e. the honorable, member- that the departmental officers examine all cases o£ this kind with the greatest sympathy. Even when they, ar.e. unable to- provide direct help- under the. provisions of the act,, they, do everything possible to assist the wives and children of imprisoned husband’s, through other organizations and charitable bodies. I shall examine the proposition submitted by, the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that the vacation of, house.- property owned by age or invalid pensioners frequently causes either the cancellation or marked reduction of the rate of pensions normally paid to such persons.? Is the Minister also aware that circumstances quite beyond, the control o£ such pensioners are the cause of such vacations? These ca-uses include permanent invalidity,, senility and, in some instances, the inability of pensioners to obtain the tenancy of their, properties. If any of the foregoing circumstances- can be proved, and if it can be demonstrated that a property is not producing: revenue, will’ the Minister give consideration to the writing off of the value of the property over a period’ of three years, for the purpose of calculating pension,, so -as. to permit such ‘ex-pensioners to obtain a. social’ service benefit?-‘
– I shall consider the suggestion made by the honorable member., but I point out to him, in passing,, that amending social- services legislation passed by this Parliament late last year included a provision which authorized the. Director-General of Social Services to disregard capital, derived from the sale of a property if he was. convinced that the person concerned was likely to use- the- money to- purchase- another property. This provision- has- been’ of great- service- already. However, it. does not entirely cover the suggestion’ that the honorable member has’ made, and I shall give- further consideration to the matter.
– Will, the, Minister for the Navy, state- when* it is– expected tha-t the- Royal Australian Navy will take delivery of H.M.A.S. Melbourne”1. Is. itintended to retain H.M.A.S. Vengeance as a unit of the Royal- Australian Navy after H.M.A.S. Melbourne, has been delivered’?’
Mr-.. McMAHON.- The. exact date upon which! H.M.A.S. Melbourne wills be delivered has not. yet been decided. It, is hoped tha-t that vessel’ will be available towards the end- of next. year. I. am sure that- the honorable member- is, aware* that. H.M.A.S. Melbourne is not immediately available because new development in design and equipment are being-: incorporated in-, the- vessel,, in particular, the, latest type, of catapult, which will enable modern, fighters to be pr03.ec.ted’ from the ship. It is intended.! to keep H.M.A.S’. Vengeance. until H.M.A.S. Melbourne; has been- delivered, but for no longer.. In other words’, we shall them have two capital ships,. H.M.A.S.. Melbourne and H.M.A.S. Sydney in- the Australian- fleet.
– Is the Minister foi- External Affairs able- to give the House any information about the resignation of the Secretary-General* ofMie. United’ Kat-ion-s? Does the- new appointment to- that position require the unanimous vote- of the members of the Security Council? If so does it not appear that a serious crisis- in the affairs of the United Nations may now have been reached £
– It is common, knowledge that Mr. Trygve Lie has had a. very unhappy time in recent years by reason of what he interprets as the persecution of himself, in his capacity as the Secretary.General of the United Nations* by representatives; of the .Soviet. Union-. If my memory serves- me correctly, the new appointment to the position- requires- the unanimous vote of the members- of the
Security Council. In other words, Russia may exercise the veto if it cares to do so. I believe that the situation is serious. Mr. Lie expressed his views last November, and also in the last few days, on the subject, and left no doubt whatsoever regarding the motives of those who, he believes, have persecuted him. I believe that the honorable member for Oxley is right in saying that this is a very serious matter in the life of the United Nations.
– My question to the Minister for Supply relates to a situation that has arisen in the heavy industries at Port Kembla, where men are being put out of employment as a result of the importation of steel. Will the Minister state whether it is a fact that Australia can produce steel more cheaply and of better quality than any other country? Was not more than £75,000,000 worth of steel imported during 1951-52 whilst numbers of men were dismissed from the industry? As there is a possibility of more dismissals of employees from the Metal Manufactures Limited and the Commonwealth Rolling Mills, will the Minister have the position investigated at once and take appropriate action to ensure that the employment of Australian workmen will not be interfered with by the importation of steel products?
– I think that the honorable member for Cunningham is under a misapprehension. His question should be directed to the Minister for National Development in the Senate. However, I shall draw the attention of my colleague to the honorable member’s question, and see that he receives an answer to it. As some misapprehension appears to existabout the whole matter, I offer my own opinion that the Australian steel .industry, owing to the enlightened administration of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, is in an extremely healthy state indeed.
– Can the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization state whether it is true that an insect has been discovered to combat the
Noogoora Burr ? If so, can he inform m<i when it is proposed to release the insect?
– I shall obtain the latest information about the matter for the hon.orable gentleman, and advise him of the position as soon as I can.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence Production. Has this country achieved over-production in armaments and munitions of war? Will the arms and equipment to be provided for the French Forces in Indo-China be up to date, or will they be either obsolete or obsolescent ?
– This question is most involved, because the matters raised by the honorable gentleman come within the province of a number of Ministers. The part which concerns me is whether Australia has overproduced arms and equipment. The answer is that we have not. We are maintaining a steady flow up to a particular stage, but beyond that, we have not progressed. The other matters raised by the honorable member are the concern of other Ministers, and I do not propose to answer those questions.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware that next Tuesday will be a day of great significance to many Australians as it will be the feast day of a Scots saint who converted the Irish to Christianity? Does he not think that this would be an appropriate occasion to announce the appointment of an Australian Minister to Ireland, which post has been vacant since this Government took office although Australia has continued to maintain at great expense its diplomatic missions in Chile, Peru, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Patagonia, and various other places with which we have no cultural or trade ties? If the Minister is prepared to make such an announcement, I can recommend to him a number of sick journalists in very good health.
– Perhaps the honorable member would not wish to discuss this matter with me in public. However, if he would care to meet me privately and bring with him his curriculum vitae, I am sure that I shall be able to give every consideration to it.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Premier of New SouthWales has been continually pressing the Commonwealth Government to provide his State with more money on the ground that it has not sufficient funds for urgent hospital, school, housing, and other public works. Did the Premier, at any time during his negotiations with this Government, disclose the fact that he intended, as soon as the State general election had been held, to spend large sums on big salary increases for top public servants, including retired and defeated Labour politicians? Would the works programme of the State have been helped if the Premier had not given such salary rises?
– It is not customary to discuss applications by the States for financial assistance. The Premier of New South Wales has no monopoly of continuous and tedious requests to the Comm on wealth for financial assistance.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. What has become of the Foreign Affairs Committee? Is it defunct? If not, when is the House likely to hear a report of its activities, in accordance with the conditions under which it was established ?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the Foreign Affairs Committee is far from defunct. It meets very regularly. It held its last meeting yesterday, when the members had the privilege of a confidential discussion with Mr. Letourneau and his staff. I have been hoping for a considerable time that the Opposition will agree to be represented upon the committee. A fortnight ago, I went so far as to suggest to the Leader of the Opposition, in writing, certain amendments of the charter, so to speak, of the committee, which 1 hoped would enable the Opposition to co-operate with the Government upon it, but I have not yet received a reply from the right honorable gentleman.
– Does the Minister for Territories intend to arrange for another parliamentary delegation to visit the Northern Territory during the forthcoming recess? My question is prompted by the success of the last visit, which I believe should be repeated so that as many members of the Parliament as possible can acquire first-hand knowledge of the mineral, agricultural and pastoral potentialities in the north of Australia.
– In conformity with a decision taken last year by this Government, I approached the Treasurer upon this matter recently. I have received his consent to the provisions of funds to enable visits to be made to the territories during the winter recess. Either this week or early next week, I shall write to the party whips and give them details of the visits, not only to the Northern Territory but also to other Territories.
– I lay on the table the interim and final reports of the Tariff Board on tractors. Copies of the final report are not yet available for circulation to honorable members.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to - That leave of absence for one monthbe given to the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) on the ground of ill health.
HEARD ISLAND AND McDONALD ISLANDS BILL 1953.
Bill presented by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– by leave -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable members are aware, Heard Island and the neighbouring McDonald Islands have been Australian -territory since December, 1947, when, after the United Kingdom had transferred its rights in the islands to the Commonwealth of Australia, effective -control of them was established by the Commonwealth. At about that time, an Australian research expedition landed on Heard Island for the purpose of establishing a weather and scientific research station. The position as between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government was regularized by an exchange of notes, which took place in December, 1950, when it was formally confirmed that it was the understanding of the United Kingdom that, as from the 26th December, 1947, His Majesty’s sovereignty over the islands had been exercised by, and the rights of the United Kingdom Government in the islands had been transferred to, the Australian Government, and that by such transfer and by the establishment of effective Australian control, the territory had been acquired by the Commonwealth of Australia.
The object of the bill is to provide a system of law in the islands that will be certain and adequate. It would be difficult to state with precision exactly what laws are in force in the islands at the present time. In view of this uncertainty, as well as the absence of any provisions for certain administrative purposes, it has become necessary to make full provision to meet such contingencies as may arise. Early last year, for example, certain fatalities on Heard Island drew attention to the need for provision to be made for the holding of coroner’s inquests and the registration of deaths. Legislation is necessary also in respect of such matters as the protection of wild life and governing the qualifications of medical practitioners appointed to attend persons stationed on the islands. Those are specific matters, but other branches of the law may require attention also. The bill will not only provide for the application of a general body of law, but also will empower the making of ordinances. It is proposed to apply the laws in force from time to time in the Australian Capital Territory, insofar as such laws may be applicable to the islands. That would .enable the administration to function, generally speaking, through existing officers and instrumentalities, so that, for example, when it became necessary to register a death, that could be done with the Registrar for the Australian Capital Territory in the ordinary manner, because the bill provides that the laws shall apply as if the islands formed a part of the Australian Capital Territory.
There is, however, one general exception to this principle. Honorable members will see from the provisions of clause 5 (2) and clause 7 that acts of this Parliament will not, unless expressed to extend to the islands, apply there either of their own force or as part of the law of the Australian Capital Territory. The reason for those provisions is that it is considered preferable to make a selection of Commonwealth acts which can be applied at any time by ordinance, rather than to apply all of them indiscriminately, with consequences that might, well be unforeseen. In any event, it is clear that many Commonwealth statutes would not be suitable for application in theseislands
Clause S makes provision for a genera J power to amend or repeal adopted laws, and clauses 10 and 11 relate to the making of ordinances generally.
Clause 9 provides for the jurisdiction of” the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory to be exercised in respect of the islands. That clause is necessary because of the otherwise general provision that Commonwealth acts shall not, of their own force, apply. 1 commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee: (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message).
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a hill for an act to amend the Tractor Bounty’ Act 1939-50.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Eric J. Harrison and Sir Philip McBride do prepare and’ Bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution-.
Bill presented by Mr. Eric J. Harrison, and. read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read, a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the payment of increased rates of bounty on tractors of the internal combustion engine type, in capacities ranging from 10 to 55 belt pulley horse-power; manufactured in Australia for sale and use in the Commonwealth. Under the bill the increased rates will be payable for a three-year period commencing on the 24th October, 1952. As Honorable Members are aware, the Tractor Bounty Act was enacted in 1939 for a period of five years; In 1944, 1947 and 1950 the act was, in each instance, amended to provide for an additional three-year period. The 1950 amendment also increased the bounty payable on tractors exceeding 40, but not exceeding 55, belt pulley horse-power, from £72 to £96 a tractor. In the absence of any amendment to the. Tractor Bounty Act the payment of bounty at the rates at present in force would continue until the 23 rd October; 1953. However, early last year representations were made by the Australian tractor industry for greater assistance. It was claimed that changed cost circumstances that had occurred since the industry was reviewed by the Tariff Board in 1950 had placed Australian manufacturers in an uncompetitive position with imported tractors. As a result of these representations it was decided to refer to the Tariff Board, for inquiry and report, the question of the necessity for continuing to assist the production of tractors in Australia. In its report the Tariff Board has recommended, amongst, other things, that the rates, of bounty be substantially increased and that these increased rates operate for a period of threeyears.
The present rates of bounty, as compared with the recommended rates, are as
The Government has decided to adopt the rates recommended, and also proposes that they shall have retrospective effect in relation to tractors produced on or after the 24th October, 1952 The proposed rates represent a considerable increase on those now in operation, and honorable members will appreciate that their retrospective application will do much to alleviate the difficulties Australian manufacturers have encountered in selling their products in competition with imported tractors. Another significant amendment proposed by the bill is the repeal of section 4 of the Tractor Bounty Act, which specifies the total amount, of bounty that may be paid during prescribed periods. Whilst that section has not in the past reacted to the detriment of bounty claimants, the position could arise whereby the claims for bounty would exceed the total amount specified and, in such circumstances; it would be necessary to reduce all claims correspondingly. The repeal of the section will, therefore, eliminate a possibility that could defeat the object of the bounty.
Under the present provisions of section 9 of the Tractor Bounty Act bounty is not payable where the manufacturer’s net profit exceeds 10 per centum per annum. In considering this factor in relation to the effect the increased rates of bounty may have on the Commonwealth’s financial commitments, it was decided to reduce the net profit limitation to 5 per centum. An appropriate amendment is contained in the bill. The Australian tractor manufacturing industry has expanded considerably during the post-war years, and I believe that this is in no small way due to the assistance which has been accorded to the industry by means of the bounty. The capital employed in the industry is approximately £4,000,000 and direct employment is given to about 2,000 persons, more than 90 per cent, of that number being males. Annual Australian requirements of tractors in the bountiable range ha3 been estimated at 20,000 units, but at present Australian manufacturers can meet only about one-fifth of that demand. The alternative to bounty assistance would be the imposition of protective duties, but in view of the relatively small Australian production the imposition of such duties would impose an unjustifiable burden on the users, principally primary producers, of the many tractors that must necessarily be imported.
In its latest report the Tariff Board stated that, whereas a bounty equivalent to a protective duty of approximately 12£ per cent, had been considered sufficient in 1950, the increase of the costs of labour and material in Australia in the succeeding years had been considerably steeper than in overseas manufacturing countries, and that now a bounty equivalent to a duty of approximately 25 per cent, was needed to provide adequate assistance to the industry. The proposed rates of bounty were assessed by the board on that basis.
As I have already indicated, the payment of the bounty proposed by the bill is for a three-year period commencing on the 24th October, 1952. The question of what assistance should be accorded to the industry beyond that period will, in due course, be made the subject of a further inquiry by the Tariff Board. 1 commend the bill as one that merits favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen, through Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for mi act to provide for the establishment of a dax commission, and for matters incidental thereto.
Motion (by Mr. Holt, through Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the National Service Acts 1951, and for other purposes.
Bill presented by Mr. Eric J. Harrison, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the National Service Acts 1951. Under the acts, persons who hold conscientious beliefs which do not permit them to engage in any form of naval, military or air force service are exempt from service. Persons claiming exemption on this ground are required to establish their claims before a court of summary jurisdiction, that is a police, stipendiary or special magistrate. Provision is also made for relief from combatant duties, and in turn for the performance of non-combatant duties, on grounds of conscientious belief, and claims of this kind are decided in the same way. The acts do not at present provide for any appeal from, or review of, a magistrate’s decision. When the legislation was framed the Government was aware that during the war there was a right of appeal under the National Security (Conscientious Objectors) Regulations. It was considered, however, that a scheme of national training, limited to 176 days in Australia in time of peace, was so different from an obligation of compulsory service of indefinite duration in time of war involving liability for active service outside Australia, that different considerations applied. In the United Kingdom there is a right of appeal, but there the liability is for two years involving service abroad.
Though the decisions of magistrates in this difficult field of conscientious belief have, in general, been accepted without question for the last two years, there have been a few cases in which the question of a right of review might have allayed doubts in the minds of parents and registrants, and of organizations and associations having a particular concern with freedom of conscience. Representations seeking a right of review have been made by a number of such bodies and also by members of this Parliament.
It might be of interest to honorable members to know that the number of young men who have sought exemption or partial exemption on the ground of conscientious objection is relatively small. Sixty-one of every 10,000 registrants have sought exemption for non-combatant duties only. Fourteen of these have been exempted, and 25 registered for noncombatant duties. Under this bill there will be a right to apply to a district, county or local court or, in the States where there are no such courts, to a Supreme Court judge, for a review of a magistrate’s decision upon a claim to exemption or partial exemption on the ground of conscientious belief. The right will be available to those who have already unsuccessfully applied to a magistrate, and have not yet commenced their service or have been committed to service custody under the provisions of the act which received the unanimous endorsement of this Parliament in 1951. One or two matters affecting the jurisdiction of courts under the acts are also dealt with by the bill, but they relate only to technicalities and I do not think it necessary to make reference to them. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That Order of the Day No. 1, Government Business, be postponed until a later hour this day.
.- I strongly object to the motion by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), because quite often honorable members want to air their grievances by way of question, but are prevented from so doing by the Standing Orders. Consequently, the only opportunity that they have of putting such matters before the House is on “ Grievance Day “.
– I assure the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that he will not be deprived of bis opportunity; my motion is merely an attempt to get government business dealt with according to schedule.
– Order ! The Standing Orders lay it down that “ Grievance Day “ shall not extend beyond 12.45 p.m. Therefore if the Vice-President of the Executive Council wishes to postpone “ Grievance Day “ until after that time, he will be virtually putting the subject off the notice-paper for this day.
– Is it not competent for two second-reading speeches to be made at the present time and for “ Grievance Day “ to proceed afterwards ?
– Order ! The Standing Orders provide that “ Grievance Day” must finish at 12.45 p.m. The House has to take into consideration a matter that is of great importance. Are honorable members to maintain their rights under Standing Order 291, or is government business to take precedence over what is regarded by the Standing Orders, and what should be regarded by the House, as an opportunity for private members to raise matters that they consider to be of importance?
– May I point out that the government business that I wish to introduce consists of two secondreading speeches which should not occupy much time. At the conclusion of those speeches, surely it is competent for the House to revert to the business of the day and deal with private members grievances. I merely moved that Order of the Day No. 1 be postponed until a later hour this day. I have discussed the matter with the clerks of the House, Mr. Speaker.
-The right honorable member should consult me about these matters, because I am the custodian of the rights and privileges of private members. The motion before the House, if carried, will cut into the rights of private members. Standing Order 291 was introduced into the Standing Orders for the specific purpose of giving honorable members an opportunity, every second
Thursday morning, ito raise matters that they consider to ‘be of importance. If the ‘Government intends to proceed with second-reading .speeches at a “time when, according to the .’spirit «of the Standing Orders, no ‘government business .should be transacted, then the Government has to take responsibility for its action. My responsibility is to ensure that private members get their rights.
– I take it that at .the conclusion ‘of the two secondreading speeches that I propose to make we shall revert to Order of the Day No. 1, If you, Mr. Speaker, rule against me, you will place me in the position of not being able to proceed with government business in the way that we have planned. If you rule that we ‘cannot revert to Order of tobe Day No. 1, I suggest that there is some misunderstanding .associated with the procedure in this House because I haKe given -close -consideration to this matter. Although I am aware that I am intruding on private members’ rights -by introducing two second-reading speeches, the .time that I propose to .take up in .doing so will .not materially affect the time of honorable members. It was .quite within the competence of the Government to move that “ Grievance Day “ should no.t .be proceeded with. The Government decided not to take that course, but to give honorable members a right to -grieve in Che ‘time .allotted to them.
– I suggest that “Grievance Day” should continue now. The Opposition will co-operate with the Government ‘later.
– That is not the .arrangement that I made with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– I am a ware -of that, but in view of the opposition that has been expressed to the course proposed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, perhaps ie could make his .two secondreading speeches this afternoon, when .the Opposition will co-operate with him. That course would now allow honorable members an opportunity ,to air their grievances.
– Order ! If this order of the day is to be called on before 12.45 pan., the Government ‘business could proceed now, but “ Grievance Day” .must cease .at 12.45.. Consequently, any government business that is to -be .transacted will reduce the time available to private mem’bers
-J.. Harrison. - I agree with you, Mr. .Speaker, but the .honorable member for Melbourne made this .arrangement with me. He .no doubt is. representing the honorable members ‘behind him, <and DE am representing the honorable .-members behind -me, so that the course that I pr.opose to -take is -in accord with the will of the House.
– -I have repeatedly fallen foul of your rulings at question time, Mr. Speaker, -and now I wish to bring an important matter to the attention of the House. I am satisfied that if government business ‘now proceeds, the time of honorable members will be reduced because “Grievance Day” must finish at 12.45. I strongly object to any diminution of the time available to private members under the Standing Orders.
; - I strongly protest against the action (of the Government in denying private members their rights, particularly in view ;of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the time .occupied hy Ministers in introducing new legislation cannot he made up after 12.45 p.m. to-day. If Ministers will give U3 an assurance that the time taken by them in making their secondreading speeches on new bills will be made -up .after he suspension of the sitting for lunch, we shall agree to the motion. *~I. understand, however, that the Standing Orders would not permit that to he done. Ministers are being unusually indulgent in offering to give us a little time to air our grievances today, having regard to the fact that during the life-time of this Government “we had not once had the privilege until the last “Grievance Day “ two weeks ago. The Government should follow the policy adopted by the Labour Government and allow honorable members an opportunity to air their grievances at least on each .alternate day provided under the Standing Orders for that purpose. During the regime of the
Labour Government the privilege was extended to honorable members at least once a month.
– Irrespective of any agreement that may have been made between a member of the Government and a member of the Opposition, I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will give members an opportunity to air their grievances at least once a week.
– The question is, “ That the motion be agreed to “.
– There is :a little .confusion in the minds of honorable members about the substance of the motion.
– The question is, “ That order of the day No. 1 - Government Business - be postponed until a later hour this day”.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill now be read a .second time’.
This bill, received from the Senate, gives effect to the view of the Government that the compensation law in regard to injured seamen, should be brought into line with similar legislation which has been passed in respect of employees of the Commonwealth and of workers in other industries. As honorable members are aware, .seamen engaged in interstate trade and commerce are outside the scope of the workmen’s compensation laws of the States. In order to cover seamen therefore, the Commonwealth passed the Seamen’s Compensation Act in 1911. The act was amended in 1938, 1947 and again in 1949 to keep it up to date, and to ensure that it should not be inferior to .other similar laws. Since the act was amended in 1949, all States have increased the monetary benefits payable under their acts, and the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act was amended in 1951 to embody the improvements made by the State laws. In accordance with past practice it has been decided to bring the .Seamen’s Compensation Act into line with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. It is not possible to make the two acts identical in terms, but hy the bill now before the House the benefits available to seamen and their dependants will be .brought to the same scale as those provided in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. In matters of administration and of detail there are necessarily some’ differ en-cos between the two acts which must he provided for, .and some drafting improvements have also been made.
Briefly, the more important changes contemplated, and “which are in line with those made in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, are as follows:- The amount of £1,000 at present payable on the death of a seaman will be increased to £1,500. The additional provision for each dependant child is to be increased from £50 to £75. In case of incapacity, the existing provision of £4- a week is to be increased to £6 a week.
In respect of minors, the increase is to be from £’> ti week to £4 10s. a week. The provision for a wife or female dependant will be increased from £1 5s. a week to £1 15s. a week, and that for each dependent child under the age of sixteen years will be increased from 10s. a week to 15s. a week. A requirement of the present act is dependency at the date of the injury and there is a further qualification that the person remain so dependent. In respect of a wife or child of a totally incapacitated seamen the hill provides that the allowances shall be extended to a wife who .becomes dependent upon the seaman after the date of his injury, provided she was married to him when he was injured, and to any dependent child who is born after that date, provided that the child is not of a marriage contracted after the date of his injury. The present maximum compensation of £1,250 for certain specified injuries, such as loss of sight or of .both limbs, will be raised to £1,750 with proportionate increases of other amounts shown in the Third Schedule to the .act. The maximum amount to which weekly payments of compensation may accrue will :be increased from £1,250 to £1,750.
The act already provides for unlimited liability in a case of total and permanent incapacity.
The maximum payment of £25 under the act for funeral expenses is payable only where there are no dependants of the deceased seaman. The bill provides for the increases of that amount to £50 and for payment to be made regardless of whether or not there are dependants. The maximum amount payable in respect of medical expenses is to be raised from £100 to £150. The Minister will retain his power to increase the amount in special cases.
The act provides for compensation in the event of injury sustained by a seaman while travelling to or from his place of employment, and also when travelling to a mercantile marine office. Following on the lines of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, the bill will restrict the compensation cover to journeys incidental to the employment itself by providing that the travel be to or from his employment and, when to or from a mercantile marine office, for reasons connected with his employment.
The act protects the right of a seaman or his dependants where there is legal liability of a stranger for damages in respect of the accident. If the seaman receives compensation under the act and damages from a stranger, the compensation, up to the amount of the damages, must be repaid to the employer. The bill provides that the amount recoverable by the employer shall include the medical and hospital expenses paid by the employer.
A further proposal, that is peculiar to the Seamen’s Compensation Act, relates to the amount that may be added to the weekly payments of compensation on account of the value of board and lodging for a seaman. The act provides for an amount within the limit of 30s. a week. The limit is to be increased to 45s. a week. Apart from the last-mentioned amendment, as I have already mentioned, the bill will merely have the effect of bringing the provisions of the Seamen’s Compensation Act into line with those of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, which was amended in 1951, so that the amounts payable to seamen and their dependants will be generally comparable with State benefits.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to amend the Patents, Trade Marks, Designs and Copyright (War Powers) Act 1939-1946. Although that act was designed to deal primarily with problems occasioned by the war, neither it nor this bill depends for its validity in any way upon the defence power. Both represent an exercise by the Parliament of the power vested in it to make laws in respect of industrial property. The principal act, in addition to those provisions rendered necessary by the war, includes a section which has no relation to the existence of a state of war and properly belongs to permanent industrial property legislation. I refer to section 15, which makes effective existing international arrangements concerning patents, trade marks and designs. It was included in the act of 1939 pending the revision of the whole of our industrial property legislation. That revision is at present proceeding, and as honorable members may recall, has in part been completed. Last year, we passed a comprehensive Patents Bill which incorporates provisions corresponding to section 15 to which I have already referred. However, that act cannot be brought into operation for some time, and the revision of the law relating to trade marks and designs has not yet been completed. Therefore, it will readily be seen that the continued operation of section 15 of the 1939 act is necessary. The period of operation of the principal act, however, is limited. Under section 17 it expires six months after the issue of a proclamation under the Trading with the Enemy Act that war no longer exists. Such a proclamation was published in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 2nd October, 1952, and consequently the Patents, Trade
Marks, Designs and Copyright (War Powers) Act, will expire at midnight on the 1st April, 1953.
The purposes of the present bill may be shortly stated. The first is to extend the operation of the provisions of section 15 from the 2nd April, 1953, until a date to be fixed by proclamation. The second i3 to amend section 15 by altering certain references in that section to United Kingdom legislation. This amendment is rendered necessary because some of the acts to which the existing section refers have been superseded, since the 1st January, 1950, by new legislation in the United Kingdom. Consequently, retrospective operation has been given to the amendment. The third purpose of the bill is to continue the operation of section 9, which is one of the temporary provisions of the act. The section confers on specified authorities, where, by reason of circumstances arising from the existence of a state of war, it appears necessary or expedient so to do, the power to extend the time fixed by or under the Patents Act, the Trade Marks Act, the Designs Act, or the Copyright Act, for the doing of any act. Owing to circumstances directly attributable to the war, many acts required to be performed administratively and to a lesser extent by applicants under the industrial property legislation within a prescribed time are incapable of performance within that time. It, therefore, becomes necessary to confer on the appropriate authorities power to extend times in proper cases.
The existing act contains no provision for protecting people prejudicially affected by the exercise of the power given under section 9. Clause 5 of the bill seeks to effect an amendment which will enable provision to be made by regulation for the protection of persons who may be prejudicially affected by the exercise of this power. As the occasions for the exercise of the power given by section 9 will progressively diminish and the provisions of section 15 will ultimately be incorporated in permanent industrial property legislation, clause 8 of the bill makes provision to enable the operation of the act to be terminated by proclamation. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
SUPPLY. (“ Grievance Day.”)
Telephone Services - Employment - Health and Medical Services - Social Services - Mineral Resources - Uranium - Northern Territory - Coal - Communism - Taxation - Wheat.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
Dir. FAIRBAIRN (Farrer) [11.43].- I desire to air a grievance, and, in doing so, support the remarks of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), and other honorable members who complained last “ Grievance Day “ about the shortage of telephones. The present position is most unsatisfactory. At least 1,000 persons in my electorate who have applied for telephones have not yet had instruments installed. In Albury alone more than 150 persons are waiting for services, and other people would apply for telephones if they thought that they had any chance of obtaining them. I am not able to cite any case so bad as that mentioned by the honorable member for Mitchell, who recalled that one person was celebrating the eleventh anniversary of the lodgment of his application for a telephone. Nevertheless, I know that there are some bad cases of delay in my electorate.
Ex-servicemen who have settled on the land in outlying areas have been waiting for as long as three years, but have not yet been given a service. They have been charged rent for the instruments, and their names have been published in the telephone directory. A special effort should be made to supply such persons with instruments. Some of them live as far as 50 miles away from the nearest doctor. Roads have not yet been constructed to their properties, and in wintertime, the tracks that they normally use are impassable. The Postmaster-General’s Department grants a returned serviceman who wishes to set up in a new business a No. 2 priority for the installation of a telephone, but so far as I can judge, that priority is of no advantage, and, indeed, in not worth the paper on which it is written. I believe that ex-servicemen who have settled on the land should be supplied with telephone services immediately. Other persons in my electorate who are without telephones suffered the loss of property in disastrous bush fires about thirteen months ago. Naturally, I do not expect telephone services to be restored within a month or two months after large areas have been devastated by bush fires, but I expect them to be resumed within a reasonable period. Many people whose properties were burnt out more than a year ago have not yet been provided with telephone services, and others have been given temporary connexions across trunk lines. As a result of this make-shift arrangement, as many as a dozen people use the one line, and the service that they get is slow and most unsatisfactory.
It is apparent that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has failed to provide sufficient telephone services to meet the needs of the public, and, therefore, emergency action must be taken to remedy the situation. One suggestion is to increase the number of linemen and technicians employed by the department. I am satisfied that when some members of the staff of the department were dismissed about two years ago, the Government was trying to reduce the numerical strength of the Public Service, because it considered that an excessive number of persons were employed in some sections. However, I believe that some of the persons who were retrenched were doing an excellent .-job, and that we cannot do without them.
The Postmaster-General’s Department has not made any effort to revert to the system of contracts which functioned most efficiently until it was discontinued in the early 1930’s. At that time, not much new work was being undertaken, and the department, in order to keep its own permanent employees occupied, did not let any contracts. Unfortunately, the contract system has not been resumed. The argument against it is that a contractor is not a skilled technician, and is unable to do the work as efficiently as the skilled linemen employed by the department. My reply to that contention is that the system worked most efficiently for many years. When a contract was let, an employee of the Postmaster-General’s Department accompanied the gang, and supervisedthe job thoroughly. If the shortage of telephones is to be overtaken the contract system must be re-introduced for the erection of lines, in the same way as contracts are let in many other businesses.
We are confronted with an emergency, and must reconsider the existing policy for the installation of rural automatic exchanges. I consider that rural automatic exchanges are highly satisfactory, but I point out that in almost every instance, the subscribers who are connected with them had been receiving a service before the new installation. My own residence is connected with an exchange that is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and, in my opinion, that spread of hours is ample for ordinary business purposes. In an emergency, a subscriber is usually able to use his telephone on the payment of an opening fee. At the present time, thousands of man-hours are occupied in the installation of rural automatic exchanges which, when all is said and done, only provide a service for people who already had a service.
– Not always.
– I agree that an exchange which is closed owing to the retirement of the operator and when a new operator is not available should be replaced with a rural automatic exchange. Frequently, however, considerable additional work is involved in the operation of the extra trunk lines, cutting people back who had been on a distant exchange and have to transfer to their nearest exchange, and repairing lines. I do not consider that so much work is warranted, merely in order to give a slightly better service, when so many people are without telephones.
Let us realize that it Is the responsibility of the Postmaster-General’s Department to ensure that every person in Australia who desires to have a telephone should be provided with a service. I regret that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is not present to-day, because I was eager for him to hear my remarks on this subject, but I am aware that he is indisposed. I hope that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is in charge of the House, will inform the
Postmaster-General of my views, and ask that emergency action be taken immediately to rectify an unsatisfactory situation.
– During the last two weeks honorable members have listened to many speeches on the subject of banking and high finance, but on this occasion I am concerned with the immediate needs of many unfortunate residents of the electorate of West Sydney. I am very happy to know that the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), who has just spoken, sees eye to eye with the Labour party on the subject of telephone installations. Two and a half years ago, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) sacked 10,000 employees of the Postal Department. The brunt of that blow fell on Sydney. Every year I renew my representations on behalf of many applicants for telephone installations who live in the West Sydney electorate, and during the last two or three weeks I have been informed by the Postal Department that no fewer than 50 of these applicants can have no hope of obtaining telephone services yet. It is pleasing for me to note that, with the prospect of a general election in the not distant future, members of the Liberal party at last are acknowledging the mistake that was made by the present Government in sacking 10,000 employees of the Postal Department. These workers were thrown heedlessly on to the employment market. I hope that the Postmaster-General can be persuaded now to restore them to their former positions so that the Postal Department will be able to overtake the lag in works, particularly in connexion with telephone services.
We have heard a great deal of criticism of the massed deputation that came to Canberra yesterday to call upon the Government to resign. There is no doubt that many Communists took part in the demonstration, and perhaps they were responsible for leading the delegation to Canberra. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there were hundreds of good, honest, unemployed men in that delegation. They were entitled to come to Canberra. to seek an explanation of the circumstances that [Si] have led to their loss of employment, and possibly they were under an obligation to do so if they were so instructed by majority votes of their trade unions.
– The trade unions were not responsible for the demonstration.
– Several trade unions helped to organize it. The honorable member knows nothing about the unions. According to the officers who compile the electoral rolls in the Sydney area, about 10,000 people mostly new Australians, would be ineligible to vote if a genetral election were held to-morrow. My assertion can be supported by the facts that I have supplied to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and other Ministers in numerous letters that I have written to them on behalf of these people. Many of them are unemployed. When a man is out of work, very few people are willing to provide him with shelter. Consequently, many unfortunate people in Sydney have to sleep at night in the Domain or other open places. Members of the Liberal party will laugh at that statement, but I suggest that they visit 7 Young-street, Circular Quay, where they may see as many as 400 people lining up to obtain breakfast or dinner. Meals are provided at that address by an organization which does not wish to disclose its name because it works simply for the good of people who cannot help themselves.
Why should there be so much unemployment in a time of prosperity? Since I have been a member of this House, I have heard a great deal of talk by Government supporters about high prices for wool and wheat and about prosperity throughout the country. If this Government cannot maintain full employment under such conditions, what would happen under its administration if there were a depression? In fact, this Government is leading the country into a depression. I hope and trust that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will reach some agreement with the Premier of New South Wales in the near future so that that State will be provided with additional funds with which to continue with its public works programme. Men who are out of work are not comforted by vague assurances that their situation may improve perhaps twelve months hence. The people know that this Government is at fault, as they have demonstrated at numerous federal by-elections and State general elections recently. But that knowledge does not satisfy men and women who are without food or shelter. They should be given the opportunity to deal with the Government at once and should not be forced to wait for twelve months or more before they can vote at a general election. I speak for the unemployed men and women of Sydney, and I earnestly implore the Treasurer to do something for them.
This Government’s medical and hospital benefits scheme is a disgrace to Australia. It is all very well to tell sick people that, if they contribute ls. or so each week, they will be able to receive medical benefits and free hospital treatment. The simple fact is that many unfortunate patients are unable to obtain hospital accommodation even at the urgent request of their doctors. I know of one sick woman who has been taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, by ambulance daily for the last three weeks only to be told each day that the hospital cannot admit her. Yet the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) tells such people that everything will be all right iri the sweet bye and bye if they will contribute to his insurance schemes. The right honorable gentleman would change his tune if he tried to find hospital accommodation for all the unfortunate Australians who need medical and surgical attention immediately. Even their doctors cannot arrange hospital accommodation for them.
Mr. Gullett interjecting,
– If the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) had looked after the interests of his electorate, he would not be so eager to have a redistribution of electoral boundaries in order to make his position safe at the next general election. I am not surprised that the electors of Henty have lost confidence in him. The way in which he carries on in this House at times merits nothing but the condemnation of the people, and I have no doubt that they will condemn him at the next election.
The pensioners of Sydney are suffering grievous hardships. Government supporters have accused me in the past of having taken advantage of the circumstances of the pensioners in order to win sympathy and gain votes, but I remind them that I have a majority in the West Sydney electorate of 13,000 votes - an unlucky number according to the stars. Not all of those 13,000 electors are pensioners. I am sure that many members of the Liberal party would take a risk on that unlucky number if they could obtain such a substantial majority. Miny pensioners are on the verge of starvation. How can a pensioner who pays 23s. a week for a room afford to buy nourishing meals, especially when an orange costs Sd., an apple 6d., and even an egg 6d.? How can the Liberal party say that everything is all right while the pensioners are forced to starve slowly on their meagre incomes? Why, in the name of justice, does the Government refuse to help them ? I appeal to it, even’ at this late hour, to give practical aid to these unfortunate citizens. Unless it helps them, it will be condemned by the people out of hand. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) have repeatedly said that honorable members on this side of the House have been calamity howling when the have complained of unemployment. According to the Government, there is only a little unemployment, and most of that is in Sydney. These denials are discounted by the fact that the people of Sydney have taken every opportunity during the last few years to show their displeasure with Liberal party candidates. The electors will probably clear them all out at the next general election.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Most honorable members have noted with interest the remarks that were attributed recently to Mr. R. W. Coxon Director of Mines of the Administration of the Northern Territory, about the mineral potentialities of an area that stretches south of Darwin for some 200 miles. After a very cursory examination, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) and myself came to the same conclusion about that area. It may be one of the richest in Australia. So much of Australia is unknown from the mineralogical point of view that one would hesitate to say definitely that the area is, in fact, the richest in Australia. But it is a very rich area, and its potentialities are becoming more and more apparent as miners turn from the alluvial deposits to the deeper sediments, laid down in proterozoic times, which contain rich deposits, not of one mineral but of many. The ‘most important of them is, of course, uranium. The uranium deposits appear to be associated with sediments left up against limestones, where it would appear to be reasonable to suppose that the original uranium, being carried in an acid solution, was deposited against the alkaline beds. That is the kind of thing that occurred, for example, in the uranium mines at Shinkolobwe in the Belgian Congo - the richest known in the world. It is also a characteristic of the Bum Jungle formation.
We know very little about the resources of the area. New finds are being made almost daily. I point out that some reports remain to be investigated. Recently, I was able to direct the attention of the authorities to the reported discovery of a luminous mineral at a point that I can identify as being approximately twenty or 30 miles from Rum Jungle. If it proved to be a uranium mineral, its properties would hi unique. At the present time, we do not know whether it is a uranium mineral, but the evidence in my possession shows that the existence of a luminous mineral there, whatever it may be, has been reliably reported. The person who made the discovery is now resident in New South Wales and is not in a position to investigate it, but he has very generously made information about it available because he believes that the development of our uranium resources is of far greater importance than private reward. I hope that if the discovery does prove to be of any consequence, he will not be forgotten.
It is of great importance that we should develop at Darwin proper port facilities for the handling, not only of uranium and other minerals going out of the area, but also of the inward general cargoes that must, of necessity, be associated with the development of a mineral industry. It is heartening to learn that this Government has already initiated appropriate action to enable inward general cargoes to be handled. The previous government inherited the very complete organization that existed in Darwin during the war, but allowed it to deteriorate and decay. The organization was dissipated by dubious disposals operations during the four years after the end of the war, when, unhappily, thu Labour party was responsible for the control of the Northern Territory. But let us not worry about the past. Let us look to the future, and congratulate the Government upon what it is doing to build a new wharf at Darwin, the construction of which will, I hope, proceed with expedition.
There is another matter which is worthy of the Government’s attention. In addition to a wharf that will enable normal cargoes to be handled, we should have facilities for the handling of inward and outward cargoes of bulk minerals. I think that such facilities would best be provided by some kind of belt system, similar to that which is used at Whyalla to load iron ore. It seems to me that what we should do now is to establish a wharf for the loading and unloading of bulk ores not necessarily in Darwin itself, but perhaps at a base some miles up the river, the locality of which would depend upon anchorage facilities, soundings, currents, and other technical matters. I believe that we should direct our attention to the problem of unloading, because we shall need in the territory a certain amount of coal. In the early stages of the development of the industry, although not in the later stages, we shall need also a certain amount of sulphur, from which to produce acid for the leeching of the uranium. In the early stages, other bulk cargoes may be required.
Then we shall want to send out of the territory bulk cargoes of uranium ore, copper ore, silver-lead ore, and many of the other ores with which the country south of Darwin is blessed in such abundance. I suggest that the Government give consideration to the installation of a loading belt of the kind to which I have referred, serviced by both rail and road transport and with a system of bins behind it so that the various ores can be segregated and loaded into ships as segregated ores. A system of that kind is of prime importance, because the development of the mineral industry in the vicinity of Darwin will depend upon it. Costs are important. They can be reduced by the provision of proper handling facilities of the kind that I have indicated. The lack of proper wharf facilities in Darwin has always caused a bottleneck. If we made arrangements for bulk minerals to be shipped from places other than the wharfs in Darwin itself, we should, to some degree, relieve the congestion of general cargo on those wharfs. While labour costs in Darwin are as high as they are now, it is obvious that we should adopt all kinds of laboursaving devices. As Darwin is exposed to the risk of enemy action, there is something to be said in favour of separating facilities for the handling of bulk minerals from facilities for the handling of general cargoes.
Uranium is the most important of the minerals to be found in the Northern Territory, It is not the only mineral there, but I believe it to be the most important. Uranium deposits are likely to be extended by further discoveries. Eventually, uranium will be treated on the spot and reduced to concentrates of comparatively small bulk but, in the early stages, until the concentration plant has been built it will not be possible to concentrate the ore locally, and much of it will have to be sent away in an untreated form. I hope that that state of affairs will be only temporary, and that the Government will press on with the construction of the treatment works. But no miracles can be expected, and some years will elapse before we have the very complex treatment works required to treat this ore. In the meantime, as a temporary measure, we could export the ore in bulk.
– Order ! The honor- able gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I want to refer’ to delays in the installation of telephones. I have endeavoured to ask questions upon this matter, but when I have attempted to explain them I have been ruled out of order. I shall not repeat the remarks of the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) on this subject. I endorse his statements. I admit that delays in the installation of telephones occurred also when a Labour government was in power. In those days, prospective subscribers received a stereotyped reply to the effect that their applications for the installation of telephones could not be granted, because there was a shortage of necessary materials and equipment. The same kind of reply is given to prospective subscribers now, despite the fact that the shortage of equipment is not as acute as it was previously.
I urge that priority in this matter be given to taxi-cab owners and mine union officials. Although the production of coal is very important, mine union officials who want, telephones can get only duplex installations. They must share- their telephone lines with other people. Incidentally, the postal department is accepting deposits from prospective subscribers and is holding deposits for a long time, but it is not paying any interest upon the money that it is holding. In my electorate, there is a new township called Windale. Numerous people there have applied for telephones, but have been unable to obtain them. They also have received stereotyped replies to the effect that installations cannot be made because the necessary equipment is not available.
It is anomalous that the rental charges made to the subscribers who are connected to telephone exchanges that give a continuous service are the same as those made to subscribers who are connected to exchanges that cease to operate when the local post office closes. At a meeting held in Maitland, a resolution was carried that residents of Redhead and Dudley be charged lower rentals for their telephones because the exchange to which they are connected does not provide a continuous service. The resolution stated that such subscribers should pay a rental based upon the hours during which they could use their telephones. It is grossly unfair that a man who can use his telephone only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday of each week should be required to pay the same rental as a person who has a continuous service, night and day, on every day of the week. In the places to which I have referred telephones cannot be used at all on Sundays. For the last four years, the residents of the area have been endeavouring to obtain a rural automatic telephone exchange.
The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and his predecessors have said that all applications for telephones cannot be granted because there is a shortage of equipment, especially of cables. Why is there such a shortage? In my electorate alone, over 100 people want telephones but cannot get them. The grievance of people who are unable to obtain telephones is a genuine one, but we receive the same old stereotyped reply when we make representations on behalf of our electors regarding the provision of telephones. I have the wording of the stock reply off by heart, and it is about time that it, at least, was changed. People should not be asked to accept duplex telephones. Every individual subscriber should have the benefit of a single line.
I turn now to the subject of coal about which I have spoken so often in this chamber that anybody would think I should have become tired of it. The honorable _ member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the honorable member foi” East Sydney (Mr. Ward) used to lay bets, when I rose to speak, on whether I would mention coal. On Tuesday I directed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question about the eyesore constituted by huge stacks of coal at grass in the Cardiff area and other parts of northern New South Wales. It is tragic that mine-workers are being dismissed because the Government does not adopt as a matter of top priority a policy of finding markets for our coal. Pakistan sent a. mission to Australia to explore the possibility of obtaining coal from this country, but it has not notified us of the tonnage it would require.. I have frequently asked why the Government does not permit the Joint Coal Board, to do as
Mr. Mighell did when he was chairman of the authority that controlled coal before the Joint Coal Board was established. He mixed high quality coal from the Greta seam with coal from the Newcastle or borehole series, and the mixture was used satisfactorily during the war. Nowadays manufacturers will not accept any coal other than Greta seam coal, although the borehole series coal, which is now being left at grass, is a good steaming and coking coal. The Greta series of coal has been exploited only since 1901. Prior to that time gas was made from Newcastle series coal which, as I have said, is also a good steaming coal. To-day millions of tons of it are at grass in my electorate. The Joint Coal Board’s report places the figure at 2,500,000 tons. The Government should do something to force the Joint Coal Board to mix coal of the two grades or obtain markets for the Newcastle series coal.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I have always supported the principle of having a regular “ Grievance Day “ debate according to the Standing Orders. I also support it, as honorable members opposite know, by taking part in “ Grievance Day “ debates. I wish to refer to some remarks made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), who said that there were hundreds of good, honest Australian workers among the people who took part in a demonstration outside Parliament House yesterday, who had come here in order to obtain their “ rights “.. In this House the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) publicly dissociated himself and his party from that demonstration. In spite of that fact some of his followers took part in certain talks with members of the demonstration. The organizers of the demonstration included Mr. Bird, a Communist official of the Victorian branch of the Seamen’s Union of Australia, and, I heard, Mr. J. Healy, the Communist general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, spoke over the loudspeaker that was operating in front of the building.
– How did the honorable member know it was Mr Healy ?
– Because he was announced as Mr. Healy. It seemed that the slogan of the demonstrators was “ Out Menzies ! “
– Everybody agrees.
– If the slogan of that Communist-inspired demonstration was “ Out Menzies ! “ the demonstrators must have had some idea of which political party they wanted to see in control of this chamber. The identity of thatparty is not hard to find. Members of the Opposition are conscious of the fact that the demonstrators desire that the Labour party should regain office.
– Then why do the Communists always oppose Labour candidates at general elections ?
– In spite of interjections I shall continue with my remarks.
I turn now to a statement that was issued by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to the press yesterday. It said, in part -
The Commonwealth Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, announced in Canberra .to-day important relaxations relating to self-assessment of provisional tax.
In future, Sir Arthur Fadden said, selfassessment of provisional tax will be completely voluntary.
In future, however, whether he makes an estimate or not will be entirely at the option of the taxpayer. If a man is content to have his provisional tax assessed on the basis of the previous year’s income, then he will merely accept the taxable income shown on his assessment form and no question of penalty will arise. It is probable that most people will do this.
If he thinks that his income will be lower this year than last year, then it will probably be to his advantage to make his own estimate of what his income will be, and to assess his provisional tax on this lower figure. In this case there must be some safeguard against those people who will be tempted to postpone their tax payments by underestimating their income. People who underestimate their income by more than 20 per cent, will be liable to an extra payment designed as a .penalty for the late payment.
Tn short, the position is that the taxpayer is no longer obliged to make an estimate of his income, but if he thinks that it is to his advantage to do so then the estimate which he makes must not be grossly inaccurate in his own favour.
If a man thinks that his income is likely to be greater this year than last year, he can, if he likes, pay his provisional tax on the basis of his last year’s income. Or if he prefers he can submit his own higher estimate and pay on that basis. But in either case there is no question of any penalty.
I have read that statement in order to correct an erroneous opinion that has been expressed in many quarters, and in this House by some honorable members opposite. It would not be necessary to explain this matter to you, Mr. Speaker, but it is apparently necessary that it should be explained to some honorable members opposite. Provisional tax has nothing to do with the tax that will be due on next year’s income. When a man makes a self -assessment of his provisional tax he does not have to assess what he thinks his income will be next year.
– It is for the current year.
– Of course it is, but some members of the Opposition are of the opinion, and have argued with me about it over the last 48 hours, that the estimate to be made in self-assessment of income is an estimate of next year’s income. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know that members of the Opposition are prepared to allow that erroneous opinion to be held by taxpayers. Recently, a member of the Opposition was asked by one of his electors how lie could estimate next year’s income, because he might have to face a drought in the meantime. The member of the Opposition asked me, “ How can he do it?”, and I replied, “He is not called upon to do it. He is called upon to estimate the current year’s income “. Some of the present misunderstanding has arisen from the fact that the actual income tax on the current year’s income is not finally paid until the taxpayer receives his assessment in the succeeding year. The provisional tax he pays on the current year’s income is offset against the amount of tax due on the actual income that he has shown on his return that he submits the following July. The income tax he will pay next year will be tax on the income that he earned this year and provisional tax paid now is a credit. Some honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), are smiling at my explanation, but it is highly necessary that I make it, for the simple reason that taxpayers in rural areas have not the benefit of our knowledge of these matters. It is necessary that the matter be made clear, because the erroneous opinion that I have mentioned exists, and is being fostered in some quarters by people y who are not favorably disposed to. this Government.
Some honorable members have mentioned that many primary producei’3 believe that the averaging system of taxation has been abolished. Certain Labour party supporters are fostering that idea. Nothing could be further from the truth. The averaging system has been abolished only in cases where the current year’s taxable income of the taxpayer is more than £4,000, and his average income over the last five years, including the current year, has also been over £4,000. If his income for the current year is more than £4,000, but his average income for the fast five years, including the current year, was under £4,000, the first £4,000 of his income is subject to the averaging system, and only the excess over £4,000 is dealt with on the ordinary assessment basis. This matter is not being clearly explained throughout country areas by some honorable members who know the facts. I believe that on every possible occasion honorable members on this side of the House should enlighten the people about the real position. I turn now to the 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance. One member of the Opposition said to me, “ If I ask a man whether he would, rather have the benefit of a 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance in the first of five years, or of 20 per cent, in each of the five years, he would say he would rather have the 40 per cent.”. Having the advantage of the 40 per cent, in the first year, however, he will only receive 10 per cent, a year depreciation allowance on the diminishing balance during the next four years and would be definitely at a great financial disadvantage.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I join with the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) in his protest regarding the lag in the provision of private and public telephones. It is refreshing to see honorable members oppo site stirring themselves in relation to this matter, although their energy will n save either them or the Government from their destined political fate. For some time we have been wondering what has been happening to the available telephone equipment. If there is telephone equipment available, what Ls happening to it? Is it just disappearing like the flies in winter? With all due respect to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), I recollect that during the regime of the Chifley Government the then .PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) told me that the Chifley Government had complete plans, and hoped within a period of twelve months to meet all applications for telephones. We know, of course, that there was a shortage of labour and materials at that time because of Labour’s full employment policy. However, ample supplies of man-power and materials are available to-day, and the Government should be able to provide telephones for those who need them. There are thousands of unemployed people in my electorate and adjoining electorates - I should say about 10,000 in all - many of whom were employed in the Postal Department but have been dismissed because of the Government’s retrenchment policy. Standard Telephones and Cables Proprietary Limited at Liverpool have been engaged for some time in the production of materials for the Postal Department, and surely some of the unemployed persons in the surrounding districts could be employed at this factory and thus increase the production of much-needed telephone equipment.
Recently I had to introduce’ to the authorities a deputation of the residents of Chester Hill who wanted to try to increase the number of telephones in their neighbourhood. Thousands of new residents have recently settled in the area because of the New South Wales Government’s huge housing programme, and new businesses and ancillary activities have started there. In the whole of that new area there are very few private or public telephones. There are only two or three public telephones to provide for thousands of people. Quite often it is impossible to make urgent telephone calls, such as to police and doctors, because of the long queues of people waiting to use the instruments. On Sundays it is usually impossible to use the telephones because their money containers are full of coins. It is a sad commentary upon the Postal Department when people who urgently need the services of doctors for maternity cases are not able to use telephones to obtain them. Many people in the district have had to walk miles out of their own area to obtain the use of a telephone. I suggest that an all-party committee of the Parliament be set up to inquire why the Government cannot increase the installation rate of telephones. Where are all these new telephones going? Is it a matter of spoils to the victor, and are the telephones being installed in the electorates of supporters of the Government? I suggest that quite a number of honorable members on this side of the House are in the same position as myself, and wish to see more telephones installed in their electorates.
An even more serious aspect of the Government’s calamitous financial policy is its practice of calling up invalid pensioners from time to time to decide whether their pensions should be reduced or cancelled. I mentioned the matter in this House during the budget debate two years ago. I have in mind a particular case of a man who was retired from the New South Wales Department of Railways on the advice of the departmental medical officer as being totally and permanently incapacitated. That man later received an invalid pension. After a couple of years he was called up for examination, and his pension was cancelled. I protested about it to the Department of Social Services, and raised the matter in this House, and his pension was finally restored. A number of similar cases have been brought to my notice where despite the certificates of the local doctors the government medical officer dealing with pensions at Parramatta has recommended against the granting of invalid pensions. Even though this Government has laid down a stringent policy about the payment of pensions, surely departmental officers, particularly medical officers, should carry out their functions with <i better spirit. One could not be blamed for thinking that they were actually paying the pensions out of their own pockets.
Another distressing case came to my notice last year. The man concerned was an old ex-serviceman of World War I. who, like so many of his old comrades, had broken down in health in his early 50’s. He had not previously applied for his rights under the repatriation legislation. This man, who worked in a government department, applied for an invalid pension and a departmental medical officer said that he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and recommended retirement. His local doctor certified that he was entitled to an invalid pension, and he was awarded a pension. After a year or so he was called up for review. In the meantime he had suffered two strokes, and as a consequence of those illnesses he was blind in one eye and partially blind in the other. The same government medical officer to whom I referred to in the previous case examined this man and recommended that his pension be cancelled. However, it had been previously discovered that he was not suffering from nervous trouble, but from cancer. The local doctor who operated on him in the Auburn hospital found that his condition was hopeless and told his relatives he was so bad that he did not want the relatives to inform him of his true condition. Meanwhile, the departmental doctor had recommended that his pension be cancelled because he was fit for light work.
– That doctor ought to be put on the end of a pick.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has expressed my own sentiments. The local doctor who had certified the man as permanently incapacitated could have been contacted by the departmental officer, and his examination either accepted or taken into consideration. When this matter came to my notice I protested to the Department of Social. Services, and also brought the matter to the attention of the repatriation authorities. I must say, in fairness to the repatriation authorities, that they dealt with the matter promptly and granted the man a pension from a retrospective date. He was completely unfit for work, and should not have had his invalid pension, cancelled in the first place. However, the repatriation pension, in spite of its retrospectivity, was not of much use to him because within two or three months of the cancellation of his invalid pension he passed away.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has justly called attention to the lack of telephones throughout Australia. However, it is significant that in the assembly outside this building yesterday the Postal Workers Union could be readily identified by a large poster being carried by a section of the crowd. I am beginning- to wonder whether the Postal Workers Union is not a Communist-controlled organization, and whether it is for that reason that there are real delays in the installation of telephones. It has been brought to my notice on one or two occasions that when workers in the Postal Department have been asked how long it would be before telephones were installed, they ha ve replied, “ Ask the Liberal Government”. In my own electorate many people have been waiting for six and a half years for telephones, but it should be remembered by all honorable members that three and a half years of that time was during the regime of a Labour government.
I now want .to draw the attention of honorable members to the dictatorial attitude adopted by the Australian Wheat Board in connexion with the delivery of wheat to Strahan or Regatta Point and King Island since the port of shipment was changed from Melbourne to ports in South Australia. On the 18tl] December last, I wrote to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and asked whether he would arrange for an investigation to be made with a view to discovering whether those ports could not again be included in the shipment of wheat from Melbourne. The quantity of wheat concerned is not large, but no vessel carries wheat from Adelaide or a South Australian port for either of the two places that I have mentioned. The Australian Wheat Board agreed to ship wheat from Melbourne, but the cost of rail freight was 29s. 4d. a ton, and that, plus the cost of bagging, has to be paid by the individual customers. I consider such a state of a’ffairs is unjust. Other purchasers of wheat in Tasmania have had the freight paid by this Government. The users of wheat at Queenstown, Strahan, Zeehan and Gormanstown on the west coast, and King Island, are consequently charged extra over and above the other users of wheat in Tasmania. An effort should be made by the Australian Wheat Board to pay the freight to these districts, or the freight should be shared by the other users of wheat in Tasmania. On the 9th January this year I received an acknowledgment to my letter of the 18th December, which indicated that the matter would be investigated. I made further personal representations and received another letter on the 28th February which, informed me that the matter would be treated as urgent. Honorable members should note that that was two months after my first representations on this matter. In the meantime, the people of the west coast of Tasmania have had to do without wheat almost. They have used pearl barley and anything else that has been available. The shipping services to Tasmania are not regular, the ships are not large and the quantities that can be stored in the Tasmanian districts that I have mentioned are limited.
– That is private enterprise.
– The people about whom I am speaking would be satisfied if they could purchase their wheat from individual farmers. If they could purchase wheat individually they would be very pleased to give private enterprise an opportunity to supply them.
.- 1 join with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) in complaining about telephones in general. I agree that an allparty committee of the Parliament should be appointed to discover where all the telephones are that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) claims have been installed. In my electorate the telephone position is disgraceful. There are exservicemen of World War I. and World
War II., many of whom are bedridden, who have been trying to get telephones for years without success. I received a complaint to-day by one old ex-serviceman who lives in Pozieresavenue, Matraville-
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 26th February (wide page 349), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure, which relates to the wool industry, is essentially one of very great importance to every man, woman, and child in Australia. It will be appreciated that the income that Australia receives from the sale of its wool overseas and from the utilisation of wool in Australia and its territories is of vast importance to our economy. The wool clip is produced by approximately 90,000 persons. The prosperity or otherwise of the industry has a great impact upon all our people, including approximately 2,000,000 wage-earners. Every measure which has an impact on the economy and the industrial progress of the nation must be given the closest consideration. A study of the economic life of Australia over the last century reveals very plainly that during periods when the price of wool has been at a low level, unemployment, distress, and economic disaster have been the lot of vast sections of the Australian people. In 1920, the average price of wool was approximately £21 a bale, whereas in 1931-32, the year of the greatest depression in Australia in my lifetime, the average price was less than £11 a bale. In 1936-37, the price was £17 a bale; in 1946-47, it was £30 a bale; in 194S-49 it was £60 a bale; in 1949- 50 it was £68 a bale; and in 1950- 51, it rose to the record high level of £200 a bale. In the 1950-51 season the total income derived by the wool-growers expressed in round figures, was £600,000,000. It is estimated that the return for this year will be approximately £100 a bale, or a total income to the woolgrowers of £300,000,000. Contrary to the belief of a very large section of the Australian people, the greatest number of sheep is owned by comparatively small farmers. In fact, 73 per cent, of the nocks in Australia is owned by small growers who produce from one to 30 bales of wool from flocks ranging from 40 to ],200 sheep. The remaining 27 per cent, of the flocks is owned by big pastoralists.
The Parliament has not at any time substantially assisted the wool industry. This industry differs substantially from other primary industries, such as the wheat, dairying and fruit-growing industries, in that it has received little assistance from the Parliament. From time to time, however, the Parliament recognises the overall value of the wool industry to the people. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) referred in his second-reading speech to the challenge made to the industry in recent years by the synthetic wool substitutes. In order to raise the level of the standard of living of the people, including the wool-growers, this Parliament enacted legislation, particularly during the war years, to ensure that as far as practicable the wool industry should be kept on a sound economic basis.
The Minister in his second-reading speech outlined at length the purposes of this measure. He commenced by saying that the bill seeks to amend the existing wool use promotion legislation. It is well that I should say at this stage that the Parliament has already enacted wool use promotion legislation. It was not identified by that description, but took the form of an act to appoint the Australian Wool Board. In 1936, at the request of the wool-growers, the Parliament passed the Wool Tax Act which gave legislative sanction to a proposal submitted by the wool-growers under which they proposed a levy on themselves of 6d. a bale for wool publicity purposes. The proceeds of the tax were utilized by the Australian Wool Board to publicize and popularize wool in Australia and abroad and to engage in research work. I pay a tribute to the work done by the board since its inception, particularly during the period when, under the chairmanship of Mr. Douglas Boyd, the hoard came under my control as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Inevitably, with rising costs and the challenge of synthetic wool substitutes it became essential for the board to have at its disposal’ a larger amount of money than was available to it under the levy of 6d. a bale imposed at the request of the growers. In 1945 the Labour Government introduced the Wool Use Promotion Bill under the provisions of which, and with the concurrence of the wool-growers, the wool tax was increased from 6d. to 2s. a bale. That legislation also con’tained other very important provisions, including one that the Australian Government should contribute to the funds of the board an amount equal to that contributed by the wool-growers. Under that act the wool-growers and the Government each contributed £300,000 approximately. Another important provision empowered an authority to ‘ undertake research work in the use of wool. Under the 1945 act the board’s functions were limited to the dissemination of publicity inside Australia and internationally of a kind that was calculated to increase the popularity and use of wool. It was thought that although the board had done a remarkably good job, its research functions should be separated from its publicity functions and, accordingly, the Wool Consultative Council was established. The council consisted of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, two grower representatives of the Australian Wool Board and representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, wool manufacturers, textile distributors, technical education authorities, the Australian Workers Union and the Textile Workers Union. The council was placed under the authority of the then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman. The proceeds of the wool tax and the Commonwealth contribution were divided almost equally between the two authorities. As far as I know, that scheme worked reasonably well. If it was not completely satisfactory, during my term of office as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I did not hear any complaints about it. It is appropriate that publicity work in the industry should be largely under- the control of representatives of the woolgrowers themselves, but technical research into the problems of the wool industry is of a highly complex character and as it affects not only the wool-growers but also manufacturers, technical educationists, research workers and workers of various kinds, it should be under other control.
The bill before us proposes to change the name of the Australian Wool Board to the Australian Wool Bureau and to vest in that body the powers that were formerly exercised by the board. The Wool. Consultative Council is to be abolished. In addition, provision has been made for the Australian Wool Bureau to be provided with more adequate finance to enable it to perform its functions. Honorable members will recall that during the last sessional period a bill was passed by the Parliament which authorized an increase of the woolgrowers’ contribution to research and publicity from 2s. to 4s. a bale, with a maximum contribution of 5s. a bale in certain circumstances. The Labour party did not oppose the measure because it had been introduced at the request of the wool-growers themselves who had to find the money. At that time, however, no provision was made for the continuation of the policy of the Labour Administration under which a government contribution was made to the industry on a £l-for-£l basis. Under this bill approximately £315,000 is to be provided out of Consolidated Revenue for that purpose. The relevant provision is so worded, however, that it is difficult for the layman to say exactly what it means. It is apparent that the Commonwealth contribution will not be equivalent to the contributions made by the growers. The Minister may correct me if my interpretation of the provision is wrong. The Government’s decision on its contribution is, perhaps, justifiable. The wool industry is exceedingly prosperous. I should have been perfectly satisfied, in view of the paramount importance of wool to the people of Australia, if the Government had continued to grant assistance to the woolgrowers on a £l-for-£l basis. However, the Government has not seen fit to do so.
The Minister has explained, in his second-reading speech, that a sum of £2,750,000 will be transferred to the wool board from the Wool (Reserve Prices) Fund. and that portion of the balance in the Wool Contributory Charge Trust Account which will remain after the wool stores owned in Australia by the Joint Organization have been purchased, will be made available to it. The Government also proposes that a portion of the income from the rental of these stores shall be paid to the wool board for wool publicity and research I make the position clear to wool-growers that no part of the amount of £2,750,000 .is a Government contribution. The Wool (Reserve Prices) Fund accrued because in 1951 this Government placed a tax of 7-J per cent, on wool cheques for the establishment of a reserve fund which was to he a stabilization buffer in a plan for the continuance of organized marketing. As the result of the blunder of the Government in imposing the wool sales deduction of 20 per cent., the woolgrowers, unfortunately, rejected the reserve price plan. They said, in effect, “ We have been struck for 20 per cent, of our gross income from our wool this year, and, in addition, we have to pay 7^ per cent, of our wool cheque as a contribution to a plan for the organized marketing of wool. We are not in favour of the scheme “.. When the proposition was put to them, they rejected the plan. The Government had provided that if the plan were rejected ‘by the wool-growers, the proceeds from the levy of 74 per cent, “were to be returned to them. In the period that elapsed between the collection of the money, and its return to the growers, some interest had accrued, and, no doubt, some “ scraps and pieces “ were also available. The Government has now decided to hypothecate the residue of the tax to the Australian Wool Bureau. I do not disagree with the hypothecation of the money for that purpose, but I make it clear that this payment is not a Government contribution.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and his supporters have repeatedly emphasized that they do not believe in the principle of ministerial control of statutory boards that manage the marketing of primary products. If not in the precise words, then at least in effect in this measure, the Minister proudly informs the House that the wool board advised him that it would like the statutory provision which confers on the Minister power over the board to be repealed. The board apparently indicated that it did not desire to be embarrassed, harassed, and controlled any longer by a Minister, whoever he might be. The board, from its own point of view, was justified in adopting that attitude, and in conveying its opinion to the Minister, because he, more than any one else, has constantly declared that ministerial control of boards engaged in the marketing of primary products should be abandoned.
On this occasion, he has run true to form. He made a furore about the iniquity of ministerial control over such boards, and chose to disregard the fact that the Minister is responsible for the protection of the interests of- the Australian people, whether they be woolgrowers or workers. He has told us, in a subtle manner, that he proposes to relinquish ministerial control over the activities of the wool board in the promotion of the use of wool. Of course, I do not agree with that policy, efficient though the Australian Wool Board may be. When all is said and done, the board enjoys the protection of this Parliament. The woolgrowers have certainly made substantial contributions towards the welfare of their industry, but the board has always had at its disposal the coercive machinery of the Taxation Department. Some one should be responsible to the Parliament and the people for ensuring that the .board discharges its statutory functions efficiently and correctly.
Before I proceed to discuss the Minister’s withdrawal of his affirmation about ministerial control, I shall cite an illustration of how a statutory authority can “ run off the rails “ and abuse its authority. I hope that in doing so I shall not be unjust to any one. I have paid a tribute to the Australian Wool Board, and am rather reluctant to raise this matter at the present time. Apparently the -system was in force when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. A provision should be incorporated in all marketing legislation to require the production of the minutes of the meetings of marketing authorities. I do not think that -any statutory “body is required to produce tike minutes of its proceedings, but I believe that the Australian Wool Board! lias ‘frequently forwarded them to the Minister-. However, I noticed in the report of the Australian Wool Board for 1951 a tribute to the late Mr. J. H. W. Mules, who did remarkably good work for Australian wool-growers and sheepowners. He had been a stud-owner, pastoralist and manager, and a great research worker. I also pay a tribute to his remarkable achievements. I do not think that he was an employee of the board, yet I find that, in recognition of his great services to the industry, that body granted him an annuity during the latter part of his life, and that on his death, the annuity was transferred to his widow.
– How much was the annuity?
– The report does not state the amount. I admire the board foi- its humanity in the matter and am glad that Mr. Mules, and later his widow, got the assistance. But after all, the woolgrowers and the Government never contemplated that when the board was established to publicize the use of wool, a person who was not its employee would be granted an annuity which on his death, would be transferred to his wife. I do not doubt that he deserved the money On humanitarian grounds. But did this Parliament contemplate that, when it gave the Australian Wool Board certain authority, such a payment would be made? On the same ground, an annuity should be paid to any employee of the board, such as the worker who sweeps the floors. I cite that illustration of what an authority which enjoys the protection of this Parliament can do, when its actions are not subject to scrutiny of a Minister, as the custodian of the rights of the public, in order to ensure that it does not abuse its powers. Whether or not the action of the Australian Wool Board was legal. I do not know. The whole situation is strange.
I have pointed out that the Minister announced in his second-reading speech that he proposes to -abandon ministerial control over that portion of the work ot the new wool bureau that relates to publicity and wool use promotion. However, he has admitted, somewhat apologetically, that -ministerial control will be continued over that portion of the work of the bureau “relating to scientific research and technical work. I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker, in view of your statements published in to-day’s press, that you ardently support the Minister’s stand.
– Order ! The honorable member may not bring me into the matter at this stage.
– It is useful, sir, as a Sound opinion. The Minister was virtually apologizing when he made the following statement in his second-reading speech : -
The (3-overnment has -also agreed that the Australian Wool Bureau, as one of its powers and functions, take steps for the improvement of the .production of wool in Australia, and for the encouragement of research, but the Government feels that it should not deprive itself of authority, through the Minister, to ensure that the bureau, in engaging in these activities, does not duplicate similar activities undertaken by other authorities in this field.
The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) nods assent. He say, in effect, “ Quite right “. But it is an interference with an authority, the majority of members of which are wool-growers. The Minister for Commerce -and Agriculture has consistently declared for years that such a board should not be subject to Ministerial control. The Minister continued^
This is particularly important in the case of research where other instrumentalities are pursuing research works financed from the Commonwealth continuing annual contribution of about £350,000 from Consolidated Revenue towards wool research.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has been blathering in the country for years about the necessity for noninterference by a Minister with the work of primary producers and marketing boards. In this bill he has taken a 50-50 stand. Of course, there is no clear dividing line between money raised by wool-growers for wool publicity and woo] use promotion, and for scientific and technical work. The Minister stands exposed as somewhat of a major humbug, if that term is parliamentary.
I could not fail to notice that great stress was laid by the Minister in his second-reading speech on the menace of synthetics to the wool industry. It is the ardent desire of the Government, in introducing this bill, to provide ample scope for the Australian “Wool Bureau and interested persons to do everything in their power to counter the danger of synthetic materials to our great wool-growing industry. But other measures are needed to achieve such a purpose. I have repeatedly indicted the Government and the Minister for their failure to make any real attempt to deal with the problem. I do not want honorable members on either side of the House to be swayed by what they may regard as my partisan attitude in this matter. The Australian Wool Board, itself an instrumentality of the Government, commented scathingly in its annual report for 1951-52 on what it described forthrightly as the failure of the Government to do anything practical to counteract the introduction of synthetic materials. The board stated in that report -
Again the- Board has to record with the utmost dissatisfaction that virtually no progress has been made in the negotiations to bring about the compulsory labelling of textile goods offered for sale in this country.
The campaigns waged by the Board and other interested bodies for compulsory textile labelling extend over many years. They have been marked by a seemingly interminable series of conferences, but out of this morass of discussion no finality has yet come.
The latest impediment - one indeed which has existed for some considerable time but which has again emerged - is the failure of the Commonwealth Government to amend certain Customs regulations to ensure that imported’ textile goods would be subject to the same requirements as goods made in Australia so far as labelling is concerned.
That is a damning criticism. The report continued with the following comment, to which I particularly direct the attention of all honorable members: -
The next step was to induce the Commonwealth authorities to amend the appropriate
Customs regulations. On more than one occasion success” has seemed to be in sight. Then some objection has been taken, usually resulting in another conference on the subject being held, in addition to the many previous conferences, the proceedings of which must run to millions of words.
In its Annual Report for 1948-49 the Board was able to announce that the Commonwealth authorities had agreed to amend the Customs regulations to require a trade description to be applied to all imported textiles, specifying the names of the fibres of which the material is composed and stating the percentage by weight of each. This was most encouraging.
That was done under Labour’s administration. However, in the following year, after this Government had come to office, the board had to record -
Last year the Board was impelled to express its strong dissatisfaction with an official announcement that the Customs regulations would be amended to provide for the compulsory labelling of imported goods made wholly or partly of wool. This meant, of course, that the regulations would apply only to the class of textiles mentioned and not to textiles as a whole. Such amendment would have defeated the letter and spirit of the move for textile labelling.
The Minister’s statement that compulsory textile labelling would serve no useful purpose is amazing. The amendments proposed bv the Commonwealth Government are practically useless in the world of modern textiles. Ah the Board stated last year “‘“In the interests not only of the wool industry, but of the buying public, complete textile labelling is essential. To-day, as never before, consumers are bewildered by the diversity of types of textiles offered for sale. They are in no position to distinguish between wool, cotton or synthetic fibres.
Clearly the views of the Commonwealth Government on the one hand, and those of the Board and the organized wool-growers on the other are so far apart on the question that further discussion seems useless in the immediate future. Until the Commonwealth Government adopts a more reasonable attitude concerning labelling of all textiles the purchasing public and the wool-growers must continue to suffer under disabilities which have become intensified with the development of synthetic fibres.
Honorable members will recall that there was no reference to any concrete proposals for the solution of the problem of synthetic textiles in the second-reading speech delivered by the Minister. The honorable gentleman merely said that the Government was aware of the existence of this menace to the wool industry. The bill will not protect the wool industry or the consumers by requiring importers of textiles composed either wholly or partly of syntheticmaterials to label their products. I have referred already to the provision for the transfer of £2,750,000 to a fund to finance the work of the new Australian Wool Bureau. Incidentally, I have no objection to the new title.
The Commonwealth Wool Adviser will be a member of the bureau and also will undertake the work that previously was carried out ably and effectively by the Australian Wool Realization Commission. As every wool-grower knows, the commission appraised every parcel of wool that was forwarded to the brokers. In the course of this work it accumulated a vast and extremely important array of statistical information, which has been of enormous benefit to governments, growers, and others interested in the wool industry. It would be tragic if the winding-up of the affairs of the commission, which was established as a war-time instrumentality, should lead to the discontinuance of its statistical service. Therefore, the bill provides that the work shall be continued. Temporarily, at least, the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, aided by a staff which he will be authorized to appoint, will cooperate with the growers and the appraisers whom they employ in order to maintain the statistical service. The Opposition concurs in the Government’s proposal because much good will flow from the continuance of the work. However, the provision for the appointment of a staff by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser appears to be somewhat unsatisfactory and requires elucidation in the committee stage. The bill apparently does not place any limit on the size of the staff that may be appointed or authorize the Minister to control the Commonwealth Wool Adviser in this respect. No doubt some officers will be taken over from the Australian Wool Realization Commission. All members of the staff will be subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act. The only degree of control that the Government will have over the Commonwealth Wool Adviser in relation to the appointment of this staff will arise from the fact that the necessary salary and wages must be provided by means of a parliamentary appropriation. Doubtless the Minister will say that this will be a safeguard against the danger of accumulating an excessive staff, but the Opposition considers that more direct control should be placed in the hands of the Minister. The present .Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, who was appointed to that position during the term of office of the former Labour Government, is the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. Is it reasonable to expect this man, who is the administrative head of a huge department and who is’ probably overloaded with work already, to perform all the duties that will be required of him as the Commonwealth Wool Adviser under the terms of this bill? He is an extremely efficient officer, but I do not know how he will manage to carry out the duties that already fall to his lot and also control effectively the staff that will be engaged on the wool statistical service.
I trust that the criticisms that I have offered will be heeded by the Government. My severe condemnation of the twaddle that the Minister has uttered on the subject of ministerial control is amply justified. There will be greater scope for detailed discussion of the Government’s proposals when the clauses are considered separately in committee, and I hope that the Minister will then reply to my comments. Unfortunately, since the outbreak of World War II., so many acts relating to the wool industry have been passed by this Parliament that it is difficult for us to be familiar with all their intricacies and to be acquainted with all the funds that have been mentioned by the Minister. I hope that the honorable gentleman will take the opportunity in committee to help us on these matters. The Opposition will support the bill. I do not often applaud the Government, but I am always fair. I applaud the provision in this measure for the continuance of ministerial control over the research activities of the Australian Wool Bureau, but I deplore the Government’s intention to relinquish ministerial control over the publicity’ and promotion activities of the bureau. I cannot understand how the Government hopes to distinguish research activities from other activities. It appears to me tha-t the dividing line will be extremely difficult to define, and I suggest that the arrangement will embarrass the bureau. If will necessitate the keeping of detailed accounts’ so that expenditure on different activities may be kept in separate compartments. The exercise o’f ministerial control over all activities of the bureau would make for greater efficiency and vould’ ensure the protection of public growers’ funds.
Dr. DONALD CAMERON (Oxley) 3.0]. - I was glad to he.ar the honorable member for Lalor (“Mr. Pollard) say that he supported the bill. Although the honorable gentleman said that he intended to criticize it, I do not regard his criticisms as being of a serious nature. They Were confined largely to matters of detail. I also support the bill, but I shall ask the House to consider whether it goes far enough. It was obvious to every honorable member who listened to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEWEN) that the theme running through the measure is the threat to the Australian wool industry from synthetic fibres. I want to speak about that threat, which I believe to be of considerable magnitude. I d’o not want to give the impression that I imagine that Synthetics could replace wool overnight. Nothing of that kind is likely to happen. The threat to wool from synthetics is the threat of a gradual process of elimination, but, none the less, it is a threat of great magnitude and real seriousness. If it succeeds, it will cause the decline of the great Australian wool industry, with all the fateful consequences that would flow from such a decline. It is trite to say that the whole of our economy depends upon wool, and that, any threat ,to the prosperity of our wool industry is a threat to the economic life of Australia.
By far the greatest danger to wool routes from the synthetics industry. I want to give the House some facts about the huge chemical industry of America, and the magnitude of the threat that it Constitutes to the Australian wool industry. The American chemical industry consists of about 10,000 “firms, which employ about 650,000 people. Let us Consider only the twenty largest firms in it.- Their assets are worth ito less than £4,000,000,000, and their annual sales are worth £3,800,000,000. Those’ twenty firms, with their enormous asset’s, are spending upon research into synthetics between £100,000,000 and £200,000,000 each year. These are gigantic figures, but I have been informed on- good authority that they have been estimated on a conservative basis. In addition, firms in Great Britain, Canada, Prance, Italy, Germany and Japan are developing synthetic fibre industries, and are engaged in production and research.
This is a chemical age. I want to give the House a few illustrations of what the chemical industry, in a chemical age, has been able to do to natural industries. I know that one cannot argue completely from analogies, but the analogies to which I shall direct the attention of the House have great significance. First-, let us consider what happened to the natural dye industry. I know that that industry bears no direct comparison to the wool industry, but it is a case in- point. Throughout the world, natural dyes have been replaced completely by synthetic dyes. Let me cite to the House a few figures about the soap industry. In the United States of America, natural soaps have been replaced to a large extent by synthetic soaps, or detergents, which are commonly known as soapless soaps. In 194.0, ‘ 30,000,000 lb. of detergents were produced in the United States of America.. In .1953, thirteen years later, the production of synthetic soaps in that country had risen to the great total of 1,400,000,000 lb. a year. During the same period; production of natural soaps declined from 3,200,000,000 lb. to 2,400,000,000 lb.- virtually a decline of 1,000,000,000 lb.
Let me turn to the pyrethrum industry, which, in 1948, was producing 1,300,000,000 lb. of insecticides a year. Now, as a result of the advent of DDT and other synthetic insecticides’, its pro.duction has shrunk to 4,000,000 lb. Let mc remind the House of the position of the rubber industry. I know that the synthetic rubber industry in the United States of America grew up under war conditions, and was artificially stimulated and projected by the fiscal policy of the American Government. But that is beside the point. The point is that what has happened in relation to the rubber industry is another instance of how the chemical industry, no matter what the circumstances may be, is capable of replacing a natural industry. Every one is familiar with the enormous inroads into the natural rubber industry that have been made by the synthetic rubber industry, admittedly under exceptional circumstances. Perhaps honorable members read recently that some inventor has claimed to have invented a synthetic rubber tyre, which, although it will be much more expensive than a natural rubber tyre, will outlast the vehicle to which it is fitted. That is an instance of the inroads into natural products that are rapidly being made by synthetic products. Let mc finish this catalogue by citing another, and I think most apposite, example to the House. No chemical firm or inventor has yet succeeded in producing a synthetic fibre that is the equal of silk. Nevertheless, natural silk has been completely overthrown by synthetic fibres, and to-day it is completely unable to compete with nylon. Probably that is the most significant instance of all.
I want to give the House a few facts about the properties and uses of the new synthetics that are competing with wool. I could refer to many such synthetics, but I shall refer only to one or two as examples. Let ?ne begin with a substance known as Vicara, which is particularly interesting because it is made from corn. Many of the synthetics are manufactured from petroleum products, but this substance is extracted from corn. Initial production began in 1949, only a few years ago, with an output of 2,400,000 lb. a year, which; by 1952j had reached a figure of 12,000,000 lb. It is expected that in 1955 the annual output will be 50,000,000 lb. It is a soft cashmere-like fabric, with strength and warmth equal to wool. It resists shrinking and creasing, and is resistant to moths and mildew* In March of last year, it could be produced for 1 dollar per lb. The price of good quality wool is 1.70 dollars per lb. It blends well with wool, and is being used extensively for that purpose in the United States 6f America.
Let me give to the House a few facts on another substance known as Dynel, the basic raw material of which is petroleum. The production of Dynel commenced in 1950, three years ago, at the rate of 2,000,000 lb. a year. In 1951, the production was 5,000,000 lb. Additional plant is under construction, and it is expected that in the immediate future production will be at the fate of 20,000,000 lb. a year, and eventually 40,000,000 lb. It is a strong competitor with wool. It is used mainly in the manufacture of blankets, upholstery, pile fabrics and similar goods. Blankets made from the substance will neither shrink nor mildew. They are moth-proof and stain-resistant. Its selling price at the present time is 1.25 dollars per lb., compared with 1.70 dollars, the selling price of wool. I want to give a final example to the House. It is the example of another substance known as Orion, a recent production. It came into commercial production first in 1951, with an output of the value of £6,500,000 a year. A plant with a capacity of 25,000,000 lb. a year is under construction, and the estimated production rate for the fibre by 1962, only a few years away, is 200,000,000 lb. a year.
In an age of great scientific discoveries and great chemical progress, those figures are staggering when we realize that the main purpose of the production of these synthetics is to compete with wool in the world’s textile market. The prize for which this great production is being undertaken is the domination of the textile trade of the world. Therefore, one can say that, for the chemical industry, the rewards of success are beyond computation. I remind the House that the driving force behind the research into, and the manufacture and sale of, these products is commercial enterprise. I do not say that in airy partisan spirit, but every one must admit that there can be no greater driving force in commerce than the profit motive. In this instance, the profit motive is stimulated by the glittering prize of the domination of the world’s textile markets. The production of the synthetics is financed by a chemical industry with what one might almost call limitless resources, which is already devoting hundreds of millions of pounds a year to research into this subject. The question is : What can we do to meet this threat? I do not regard the position as hopeless. To meet the threat, we can promote research into the use and marketing of wool. I believe that the research work should be actuated by the same motive that animates the competitors of wool, because no other motive will produce the same result. There is no need to be ashamed of that motive, because it is the mainspring of commercial success everywhere in the world. I believe that in the case of wool scientific research and marketing research are interlocked and that the driving force behind them should be commercial enterprise.
I could talk for a very long time on this subject, but I am contenting myself with a summary of the directions in which I believe scientific and marketing research in relation to wool should be provided. I believe, first, that some attention should be paid to the possibility of giving wool some of the easy laundering properties possessed by synthetic fibres, by altering its chemical structure. I do not want honorable members to think that I advocate a complete reorientation of everything we do with wool. I believe, however, that research should be made into those important aspects as well as into other aspects of the wool industry. Secondly, research should be made into the problem of dissolving and re-spinning wool and into the development of byproducts. It will not have escaped the notice of honorable members that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization recently announced that it believed that a wool wax industry worth perhaps £70,000,000 could be established. These are important aspects of research into wool marketing and development. Another matter for research is whether customers will in future require a more uniform type of wool instead of the 2,000 or thereabouts different varieties that we now market. It must be obvious to everybody that if a manufacturer can obtain, at a reasonable price, or perhaps at a lower price than the price of wool, a synthetic product .that will meet most of his requirements and which is uniform in texture and quality, he will adopt that product in preference to a material that is not uniform. I believe that we should do some research into the reduction of the cost of production. I know that research into that matter is being carried out. I understand that I shall be followed in this debate by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who no doubt will give the House some information about it. I remind the House that I began my speech by asking whether that research is adequate. Are we sufficiently stressing all the factors that we must stress in order to give an adequate answer to the threat represented by synthetics. In order to achieve a reduction of the cost of production some research could be carried out on such matters as the desalting of brine in order to improve the water supply from bores. Considerable research of that kind has been carried out in the United States of America. We also require research into marketing possibilities, not only in opposition to synthetics, but also in combination with synthetics. That matter opens up the next aspect, which I believe to be most important. I refer to liaison with organizations overseas for the promotion of the sale of wool. I know that there are organizations like the International Wool Secretariat and the Wool Bureau Incorporated, but the question is whether they are sufficiently devoted to the development, sale and publicizing of Australian wool as such, and not just wool from any source.
It is obvious that a great deal of finance would be required to carry out those various activities. Are we providing enough finance for these purposes ? Will the measure before us provide adequate finance, and, if not, how is it to be provided? These are all important questions. The question that arises in my mind is whether the scientific research that is being carried out is sufficiently integrated with research in the sphere of marketing. Would it be better if the Wool Bureau, for instance, were enlarged, and should it have among its personnel a few marketing and commercial experts, and industrialists who are actuated by commercial motives? I realize that the bureau is composed of representatives of the wool industry who have a vital interest in this matter, but it is questionable whether they have sufficient experience of all the aspects so essential to the promotion of the sale of wool, and whether they have sufficient institutions or bodies readily accessible to them from which they can draw all the information needed and obtain the required initiative. I should like to see some expansion in the sphere of marketing research.
There are probably four sections of marketing which require a good deal of investigation. I shall state them briefly to the House. First, we want a customer research service, with representatives of the wool industry working in customers’ mills, developing, in close touch with the commercial interests concerned, techniques for handling fabrics. Secondly, we want research into fabric development, with men working in textile laboratories closely in touch with all the developments and the commercial aspect of the demand for the various kinds of fabric. Thirdly, we need research into sales development and into the projects and ideas produced by each fabric group, and the possibility of transmitting them to the public and encouraging the use of different fabrics. We also need to develop a sales mechanism by which it will be possible to reap the reward of the research work that every fabric group is doing. Finally, and most important, we need research into the advertising and promotion of wool, which would involve not only advertising in Australia, but also advertising throughout the world. I realize that there is in existence an organization for that purpose, but we might well ask ourselves whether it is adequate, and whether we are taking steps under this bill that will gain the required result from this sphere of wool marketing. All this boils down to one thing. Is the bill adequate to provide for all these things? Do we need them all ? In my view, unquestionably we need them all, and we also need to develop and pursue them further and further. We need to ask ourselves whether the Wool Bureau is adequate, and if we decide that it is, then we must ask whether the machinery by which it can heep itself in touch with the activities of other bodies is adequate. If it is not adequate, it is extremely important to make it so. Are the resources and activities of the bureau sufficiently co-ordinated ? Should more funds be provided for its use? Is there sufficient commercial motive? These are not questions that can be answered, easily, but they are most important. The whole future of the wool industry and Australian prosperity depend on the answers to them. We must ask them not only now, but constantly in the future, and if we are at any time of the opinion that our activities and resources are inadequate, we should be ready, at any time, to enlarge the measures we are now taking under this bill and carry the campaign against the threat of synthetic fibres continually forward so that no disaster, gradual or sudden, may befall the industry on which our whole prosperity depends.
.- The measure is designed to amend the Wool Use Promotion Act and to provide for the expenditure of £2,750,000 for the purpose of promoting the use of wool and improving its production. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said, we welcome this bill inasmuch as it will provide funds for the purposes I have mentioned. The money to be provided has been contributed by the woolgrowers themselves. I read with interest the speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) on this matter. He stressed rightly the menace to the wool industry of synthetic fibres. The money to be expended under the measure is to be expended in an effort to combat that menace. I hope that it will be expended wisely. The Government could probably have made just as valuable a. contribution or perhaps even more valuable one, to the prosperity of the wool industry if it had introduced legislation to enforce the labelling of textiles. It has refused to take such action. I do not know the reason for its refusal, nor do any of the wool industry organizations, including the Australian Wool Board. The board made that point clear in the report read by the honorable member for Lalor. I have asked questions on this matter, but have received no satisfaction. If synthetic fibres are a menace, as they are, then surely the Government, especially its Australian Country party component, should be doing something about it.
– I have never heard the honorable member asking a question about it.
– I have asked many questions about it. I was one of the first honorable members to ask such a question in this House, long before the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) was a member of the Parliament, but the Australian Country party does nothing in these matters. I believe that it is the intention of the Government to side-step the issue of textile labelling. Because I wanted to discover its intentions, on the 10th September last I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government had secured the advice of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization as to the practicability of determining in textiles, by weight or in another way, the proportion of re-used and reprocessed, wool and artificial fibres to pure virgin wool. I asked him, if he had not received such advice, whether he would obtain it and communicate its nature to the House. He answered as follows, on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs : -
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been consulted concerning the question of determining the content of re-used, re-processed and virgin wool in a given textile-
Not a word about artificial fibres ! That point was side-stepped. The reply continued -
The organization is of the opinion that any specific recognition, either qualitatively or quantitatively, of the various types of wool in a textile product is virtually impracticable.
That is meant to convey that re-used wool - in other words shoddy wool in which there is a big trade, being sold to the public as virgin wool, cannot be detected in a textile. Surely the Minister does not wish us to believe that our scientists cannot detect synthetic fibres that have been mixed with wool. I am able to tell them that myself. The woolgrowers’ organizations know that artificial fibres will not wear like wool, will not withstand heat or cold, and, in fact, their general value when made into clothing is immeasurably less than that of wool. I am quite as concerned about this matter as the consuming public, because
Australia depends upon the wool-growing industry for its standard of living and the consumers depend upon wool for many of the comforts of life. It is the considered opinion of many persons connected with wool-growing, and with the general life of the community, that textiles should be labelled to show the proportion of wo j1 used in their manufacture. In the Weekly Times of the 11th June, 1.952, the remarks of Mr. R. D. Bakewell were reported as follows: -
Mr. R. D. Bakewell, chairman of the Australian Woolgrowers’ Council declares that one of the most vexed questions for woolgrowers is the fact that textile labelling has not yet been implemented.
Growers he says are certainly entitled to be incensed after they have argued a good case for over 20 years, a.nd not achieved the desired legislation.
Representations have been made continuously, but from stage to stage the industry lias been thwarted by either disagreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments or by one or more of these Governments succumbing to protests from the powerful importers’ and retailers’ organisations.
Terrific pressure must be exerted upon the- authorities by manufacturers of clothing and by other interested people, because the wool-growers have been attempting to have some labelling system introduced by the Australian Government for many years. Of course other big and powerful interests, as the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) said, probably influenced the Government The report of Mr. Bakewell’s statement continued -
The position today is that while each of the States has had the necessary textile labelling legislation on its statutes since 1945, the Commonwealth Government has obstinately refused to bring, down the complementary Customs regulations required before the system can operate.
The Commonwealth Government’s last major step was to put forward a wool labelling proposal in 1951.
– This Government threw overboard the Chifley Government’s labelling regulation.
– Exactly. The report continued -
Mr. Bakewell says wool men do not wish to see other fibres dishonestly sold under the guise of wool. At one period blankets were described as woollen had all the warp threads made of cotton and other fibres;
Many of the garments worn today, including underclothing and suits, are made of mixtures which contain very little wool, although they are made to look like normal woollen garments.
Production of artificial fibres is being rapidly developed in many countries and these fibres may finally do considerable harm to the demand for wool.
It is surely crass folly for Australia to encourage the establishment of such fibres in tile Austraiian market by permitting them to dishonestly simulate wool, declares Mr. Bakewell. . . . . . He suggests that opponents of textile labelling have not put forward the real reason for their hostility. This opposition stems from the fact that oversea manufacturers desire to continue under the existing advantageous conditions, whereby they can sell all sorts of inferior fibres, in mixtures and otherwise, under the guise of wool. “ The woolgrower organisations strongly favor textile labelling, as also do the six State Governments,” says Mr. Bakewell. “Lt is almost beyond comprehension that our Federal Government should be persuaded otherwise, when it must realise that Australia will have to look to the wool iudustry for many years to come as the main bulwark of the national economy, and that the Wool Industry “ill be strengthened by suitable textile labelling legislation. “ Wool still stands supreme as the outstanding apparel fibre, and we are proud to sell it competitively under its own name. “ We want honest competition, however, in which other fibres sell under their true names, and this can only be obtained by the introduction of textile labelling.’
Although the money allocated by ,the Australian Government for wool use and promotion is very welcome, I suggest that more money could be devoted to scientific investigation to decide whether a method can be evolved to discover the proportions of virgin wool, re-processed wool and artificial fibres in garments. The honorable member for Oxley said that large amounts of money have been spent to advertise and introduce man-made fibres in place of wool. I am quite certain that such fibres will never be as serviceable as wool. The laboratories will never produce a substance to do all that wool can do. In some fields synthetics have proved to be as good or better than the natural product, such as, perhaps, synthetic rubber, but I believe that not for a long time to come will any synthetic substitute be produced that will have all the value of wool for clothing. I now desire to read from a publication issued by the Australian Wool Board. Some of the public money is being well spent in issuing publications such as this. The article reads -
Mr. Giles E. Hopkins, Technical Director of the Wool Bureau, New York, has had somewhat unfortunate experiences in personal tests which he has made of certain synthetic fibres for clothing purposes.
In an address at the Lowell Textile Institute, he said that in order to evaluate claims made on behalf of these fibres he had constituted himself a one-man “guinea pig”. As a consumer, he had certain ideas about what constituted basic qualities to be expected in all fabrics. However, his work as a “guinea pig “ had forced him to edit this understanding considerably, and now he was prepared for almost anything. “I’ve bought miracle socks,” said Mr. Hopkins, “ and caught, cold walking around with puddles in my shoes while the dye came off to stain my feet. “I’ve bought miracle ties from which I could easily wash off the breakfast egg, only to see lint attracted and held fast to give a mottled effect. “ I’ve bought one miracle shirt to take me through a long business trip, because 1 could wash it myself each night-and threw it away .because that was the only way I could get it washed with safety, and I was fed up with doubling as a laundress. “ I invested in a miracle blanket to see how easily it washed, how much it shed - and then blanked out my radio with static. “ I bought a miracle suit, a two-button number that I could wear swimming (don’t ask me why) but on my first encounter with a heavy mist it sucked the water through my skin with chilling efficiency. “ I continued to wear it to see how the crease stood up - while I developed pills on .the trousers under the coal and my pipe ashes melted holes in the lapel; and when the tailor finally got the suit to press he glazed the finish. “ Remembering the swimming pool, I tried to wash it, but. the lining sank and the seams puckered. Thu fabric might have been washable - if I wore it as a sarong, but even a “ Guinea Pig “ has its limits “.
Mr. Hopkins said the wool industry had been with us for a long time. The fibres and the products made from them have been developed through actual experience over many generations of service. “ The consumer knows what to expect from wool. We expect that it will be with us for a long time,” he added.
The prediction that synthetics will supplant a major part of wool consumption in the near future is viewed with extreme scepticism in the current issues of two national business, magazines “ Fortune “ and “ Business Week “, states the Wool Bureau, New York.
A claim that synthetics will replace one billion (U.S.) pounds of wool within the next 10-20 years is “ not supported by facts “, according to an exhaustive study by “ Fortune while a study by “ Business Week “ points out that “ the best all-round fibres are the ones that have been around longest - wool and cotton “.
Assessing claims for synthetics “Fortune” says: “The public, which for centuries sat upon, trod upon and kept itself warm and happy with wool, is being told that it can be happy, even ecstatic, walking on an extrusion of wood pulp or clothing itself in a mixture of adipic acid and hexamethethylenediamine (which one copywriter referred to as 100% virgin nylon). Nylon is about as virginal as, say, a dish of spaghetti.”
Mr. F. Eugene Ackerman, President of the Wool Bureau, was quoted by “ Fortune “ as saying that the claim that half the wool now consumed would be replaced by synthetics within 10 to 20 years was not supported by the facts. He added that wool, as always, would remain man’s premier fibre. “ Fortune “ article continued : “ The chemical industries loudly disclaim any intention of driving the sheep out. That is only logical. In their internecine war the synthetic makers need wool to exploit their own products. They are, in effect, riding into new textile fields on the backs of the sheep. Their friendly feeling towards sheep will continue just as long as there is not available in vast quantities any man-made equivalent of wool.” “ Business Week “ said : “ A textile engineer puts it this way - “ If the only fibres we knew up to now were the synthetics and somebody suddenly “ discovered “ cotton and wool, cotton and wool would be hailed as “miracle fibres”.”
There is no doubt that a tremendous amount of money is being spent to boost artificial fibres, but, as I have shown the House, authoritative investigators believe that there is no substitute for wool. Only last week I read an article which I believe will interest honorable members. It is to be found in the Victorian Wheatgrower of Tuesday, the 5th March, 1953, and it reads -
Swish betrays Men on Patrol.
Nylon is definitely “ out “ as a material for uniforms for Canadian soldiers serving in Korea.
The principal reason is that the noisy “ swish “ of the uniforms does not, in the opinion of Canadian experts, give the soldiers a chance to approach the enemy silently.
This is stated by the “ Toronto Daily Star “ of January 21 which goes on to quote Canadian soldiers as saying that the nylon parka and wind pants makes a noise louder than the rustle of a taffeta evening gown.
– Order! Persons in the public galleries may not read newspapers.
– The article continues -
On a quiet night, when a Canadian so clad is sneaking up to a Chinese outpost, it does not give him much of a chance.
Apart from the noise, nylon has another disadvantage; it melts and burns, the newspaper continues. Soldiers returning to their bunkers after a spell on watch warm themselves up near their bunker stoves.
Tired and sometimes careless, they get too close and before they are fairly thawed out, the fabric buckles and melts. Sometimes it burns or the part nearest the stove disappears in a fine ash.
Woollen overcoats, of the kind that you, Mr. Speaker, have worn on active service would stand up much better to that kind of treatment. Even the Army authorities have tested the value of wool substitutes, yet they must know that when the German army was fighting on the Russian front during World War II. German soldiers died in thousands because the material in their clothing contained mostly artificial fibres. The Russians survived the rigours of the winter campaigns because their clothing was made of wool. I have been told by Naval authorities that men who were immersed in the cold waters of the North Sea during the war often survived only because of the warm clothing which they were wearing. We should protect the good name of wool as a clothing medium by instituting a system of textile labelling which would prevent the perpetration of frauds on the public. The people have a right to know what sort of material they buy. If they are buying clothing made from material containing artificial fibres, they should be told of that fact. Proper provision for textile labelling would probably do as much good to the wool industry as would the expenditure of vast sums of money on publicizing the virtues of wool.
I welcome the proposal to provide additional money for research work. Much research is still needed in the wool industry. Those responsible for the research work undertaken in Australia have done an excellent job. Clothing manufacturers with the aid of the research workers and scientists are now able to produce a woollen cloth so fine in texture that it resembles silk. Although I have no fear for the future of the wool industry, I suggest that appropriate action be taken to compel the manufacturers of imitation woollen products clearly to label them as such and not to allow them to be masqueraded as wool. The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) undoubtedly had that in mind when he referred to synthetic wool substitutes. I trust that a good deal of the money made available to the Australian Wool Bureau will be utilized to ensure that textiles sold in Australia shall be properly branded.
– The Opposition has indicated that it supports the bill, but in accordance with its normal practice it is endeavouring to find some faults in the measure. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made several statements to which some reply should be given. He commenced his speech by making a rather remarkable statement to the effect that no assistance had been given to the wool industry by any Australian government. I quote not his exact words but the substance of his remarks. Later, that honorable member indicated the various ways and means that have been adopted by Australian governments, including one of which he was a member, to assist the wool industry. I shall not refer to that point other than to say that he replied to his own criticism during the course of his speech. The honorable member paid a tribute to the operations and conduct of the Australian Wool Board since its inception. Most honorable members sincerely support his remarks in regard to the board, which will eventually become the Australian Wool Bureau. Some criticism was levelled at the Government by the honorable member in relation to the amount which the Government proposes to contribute to the Wool Research Trust Account. The honorable member said he was not certain what the amount would be, but it would be in the vicinity of 2s. a bale. He asked for enlightenment on the point. For his enlightenment I invite him to study clause 21 (2.), which reads as follows: -
The Treasurer shall, in respect of each financial year, pay into the Research Account out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly -
the sum of two shillings for each bale of wool;
the sum of one shilling for each fadge or butt of wool; and
the sum of four pence for each bag of wool in respect of which tax has been paid in that financial year under the Wool Tax Act (No. 1) of 1952 or the Wool Tax Act (No. 2) 1952.
The honorable member’s criticism was partly directed to the amount which the Government proposes to contribute in comparison with that which the industry contributes to the Wool Research Trust Account, and also to what he said was a certain action taken by the Government without the consent and co-operation of the industry. Again, the honorable member answered his own criticism when, at a later part of his speech, he read an extract from the annual report of the Australian Wool Board stating that the board had approved the action of the Government in establishing a separate contribution to the funds of the board from the consolidated revenue fund. The action to which he referred was given legislative effect during the last sessional period with the complete co-operation of the wool industry.
The next point of criticism offered by the honorable member was in connexion with the action of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in introducing this measure to revoke the control which the Minister, and through him the Government, will have over the board, in future to be the Australian Wool Bureau, in the matter of research and publicity. Webelieve in the principle that, as far as possible, an industry should control its own resources. We believe in the principle of freedom on the part of all Australian industries. Opposed to that is the principle of socialism to which the honorable member subscribes and which he undoubtedly had in mind when he criticized that part of the bill. At a later stage of his speech the honorable member mentioned the reference made by the Minister to an authority which would ensure there shall be no duplication of functions performed by the Australian
Wool Bureau and those performed by other research authorities, such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. For the information of the honorable member I shall quote the Minister’s exact words on the point. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, said -
The Governmenthas also agreed that the Australian Wool Bureau may, as one of its powers and functions, take steps for the improvement of the production of wool in Australia and for the encouragement of research. However, the Government considers that it should not deprive itself of authority, through the Minister to ensure that the bureau, in engaging in these activities, shall not duplicate similar activities undertaken by other authorities in this field. This is particularly important in the case of research where other instrumentalities are pursuing research work financed from the Commonwealth’s continuing annual contribution of about £350,000 from Consolidated Revenue towards wool research.
I do not think that any one could possibly objectto the appointment by the Minister of an authority to ensure that there shall be no duplication of functions or unnecessary spending of money.
– I invite the honorable member to read the relevant clause in order to ascertain how far the Minister’s authority will extend.
– The honorable member for Lal or and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) referred to the subject of textile labelling. I can see no reference to that subject in the bill. It is an entirely different matter which will undoubtedly be dealt with by separate legislation at a later date. Passing reference was made by the honorable member for Lalor to the difficulties that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser may experience in carrying out the additional functions that will be associated with his responsibilities under the provisions of this measure. I direct the attention of the honorable member to clause 5, which reads as follows : -
The Minister may. on such terms and conditions as the Minister thinks fit - (a.) appoint a person to be the Commonwealth Wool Adviser;and
Commonwealth Wool Adviser.
If thework of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser is found to be too onerous, in certain circumstances it may be shared by the Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser.
I want to refer now to the excellent speech that was made by the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) who dealt with this subject in a very constructive way and displayed a good deal of national thinking on the matter. The honorable member posed the question : Does the bill go far enough in dealing with the difficult problem of synthetics? He quoted at some length the factors in the American chemical industries that apply to the wool industry. I agree with his line of thinking. His warning, and the warnings of other national thinking people in Australia, should not go unheeded. The wool industry is facing a grave threat from synthetics. It is most encouraging to note that the wool industry has so far won the battle, but the future may tell a different story. We hope that it will not do so. That so far the battle has been won for the Australian wool industry may be attributed partly to the tremendous amount of research that has been undertaken since the last war by the defence services of the United States of America which have carried out very extensive experiments with different types of fibres. The result has been very encouraging. They are still adhering to a large proportion of wool fibres for the bulk of defence uses, particularly for the manufacture of: uniforms and other materials used by the defence services generally.
The honorable member for Oxley referred to some of the research work that is being carried out and suggested I might refer to one or two aspects of research work being conducted in conjunction with the Australian wool industry. I shall refer very briefly to one or two aspects of the work carried out by the principal organization conducting the experiments - the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Considerable experimentation was carried out prior to and during the war and it has since been continued on pasture and plant nutrition work. That work is being extended. Disease investigations have been conducted on a very large scale by the organization. Investigations into reproduction and fertility carried out by the organization in -close conjunction with the industry have brought very satisfactory result. These studies are being continued by the organization on an expanding scale. Experiments in nutrition and drought feeding have been undertaken, and will be continued. Investigations have also been made into improving the quantity arid quality of fleece production, which is a vital factor to the industry.
Another important work carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is the control of rabbits, which have presented a big threat to the primary industries for many years. As honorable members are aware, that work has met with a good deal of success. In the textile field, investigations have followed certain definite lines. A new kind of branding fluid has been developed and is now in general use throughout the industry. A greatly improved method has been evolved for the recovery of wool wax from scouring by a new flotation process, and is being satisfactorily used at the present time. A new and simple process has been evolved which improves the resistance of woollen goods to both shrinkage and wear. The results of the new experiments in that direction are being applied commercially. Experimentation by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization indicates that there are definite prospects for the development of a commercial moth-proofing process in the near future. I refer to these matters briefly in order to show that a great deal of research work has already been undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. One of the objects of this bill is to expand that work. Greater attention will be devoted to wool publicity, which is vital not only in Australia but throughout the world.
The bill refers to other matters, which are of paramount importance to the wool industry, and they can be segregated into certain categories. The first phase that strikes one is the importance that has been placed on the challenge of synthetics to the wool industry. The measure allows, within the capacity of the resources available to the industry and to governments in Australia, for the full use of science and publicity henceforth to assist the promotion of wool. We all agree that the wool industry is the. basis of our whole economic ‘Structure. ‘Consequently, the first point that is brought out is the threat from synthetics to the wool industry, and the ways and means that are being evolved to overcome it.
The second feature of the bill is the establishment of the new Australian Wool Bureau, which was previously known as the Australian Wool Board. The Australian Wool-growers Council, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, and the Australian Wool Board asked for the alteration of the name. That explanation answers the question asked by the honorable member for Lalor, who could not understand why the name was being changed. The industry itself asked for the change, and the Government is co-operating, to that degree, to meet its wishes.
I now turn to the finances of the Australian Wool Bureau. The proceeds of the wool tax, which can now range from 2s. to 5s. a bale, will be available to the bureau. Those revenues will be supplemented by the government grant for research to the Wool Research Trust Fund. An amount of £2,750,000, which will be transferred to the bureau, is the unspent balance in the Wool (Reserve Prices) Fund and, in addition, that portion of the balance in the Wool Contributory Charge Trust Account which remains after the wool stores owned by the post-Joint Organization in Australia have been purchased will be paid to it. The Government has also indicated its preparedness to pay a portion of the income from rental of those stores. The bureau, then, will be financed from certain continuing sources of revenue, including the wool tax, the Government’s contribution, and rent from the wool stores, and, in addition, will receive the fixed amount of £2,750,000 from the Wool (Reserve Prices) Fund.
The proposals in this bill, broadly, free the Australian Wool Bureau from governmental control or direction with respect to wool publicity and research work. This is one of the vital provisions of the bill, and every honorable member on this side of the House is in complete agreement with it. The Australian Wool Growers Council has suggested that the office of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser be discontinued, and that a representative of the industry be appointed in his stead to represent the Government. However, the Government considers that it should be in a position to choose its own representative, and, therefore, is continuing the office of Commonwealth Wool Adviser. The Government has also appointed a Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser, who can act in his stead on certain occasions. Neither the Australian Wool Board nor the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation asks for the abolition of that office. I merely mention that fact to indicate that the Government retains its vital interest in the bureau through the Commonwealth Wool Adviser or his deputy. It is the Government’s prerogative to select its own representatives in accordance with its own desires.
Under this bill, the Minister has authority to exercise in order to avoid the duplication of the expenditure of moneys on research work by the Australian Wool Bureau and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Reference has been made to the Wool Statistical Service. Provision is made in the bill for this service to be retained, and to come under the control of either the Australian Wool Bureau or the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. Certain trials are being undertaken at the present time in connexion with the statistical service, and a decision on the matter will be reached eventually on the result.
The bill provides, on the recommendation of the industry, for the abolition of the Wool Consultative Council. The work that has been undertaken by the council will be continued by administrative action under the act. We all must realize, as the honorable member for Oxley has pointed out, the serious threat of synthetics to the wool industry. The ability of Australia to counter the threat is definitely limited by its resources. We cannot undertake research work on the scale that is seen in the United States of America, but we can, within the limits of our capacity, concentrate our efforts on wool research and publicity. This bill goes a long way towards that objective. It places emphasis on the importance of research and publicity. The results of that work must be passed on to the industry, and brought into operation quickly, in order to meet the grave threat from synthetic fibres. The Australian Wool Bureau has a vital and important task. I regard its task as one of national importance, because the whole of our economy is based on wool. The work of the bureau will become more and more important as time passes. The additional authority granted under this bill will give the bureau an opportunity to expand its work in research and publicity, and I feel that it will undertake its responsibilities in a national spirit.
.- The House is now considering a national problem. Although the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) has rather exhaustively traversed the parliamentary and practical issues, I consider that something remains to be said in regard to synthetics. During the last 25 years, we have heard the cry that the wool industry would eventually he in the throes of battle with synthetics. But beyond the establishment of a meagre fund for wool research and publicity, nothing has been done in this country to prepare for that struggle. There appear to be two schools of thought on this matter amongst those who have considered the threat of synthetics. One school of thought, adopting probably the more intelligent approach, believes that the wool industry is living on borrowed time, and eventually, our virtual monopoly of the sale of wool and woollen materials will be challenged. The other school of thought considers that synthetics do not constitute a danger, because the natural tensile strength and flexibility, and the amazing facility of wool for accommodating itself to so many avenues of manufacture will prevail. If the members of those two schools of thought could make up their minds about the matter, the consuming public would be more satisfied.
Some interesting factors appear when we examine the line-up in the grazing industry. Some wool-growers say that the synthetics must win out. Others say, in effect, “ There is nothing to worry about. Our sheep are as good as they ever were “. To an observer, the problem is more profound. Why is there a threat to wool ? The answer is that wool is dear, as a basic product, whilst synthetics are cheap. The two protagonists in this war between wool and synthetics are the United States of America and Australia. The United States of America has not enough wool to absorb the demands of the home market. Australia exports large quantities of wool. We must obtain a good price for our product, and ensure that it is widely used. The price of wool, because of various factors, has increased, whilst synthetics, because they are made from air, coal tar, natural gases and other synthetics, are cheap. In the modern world, all the advantages lie with the article that is novel and attractive and has special properties that can be publicized. To-day, we are waiting for shipments of dacron, the successor to nylon, to arrive in Australia. Dacron is said to be flexible, more easily washable and more readily tailored than nylon, and it is supposed to be almost equivalent to silk as a material for men’s shirts and underclothing. For that reason, the big shops of Sydney, Melbourne and other Australian cities have made advance bookings of new dacron shirts, suits aud other articles of clothing.
The first danger to wool lies in the fact that substitutes that are cheaper to produce are being developed. The paltry sums, relatively speaking, that Australia can afford to spend on publicity for wool would be as nothing against the overwhelming pressure of the newness and attractiveness, in an age of gadgets, of synthetic materials such as nylon and dacron. These glamourous materials virtually sell themselves, whereas solid old wool must depend for its publicity value on sober statements of fact. In the circumstances, our publicity men have done a. miraculously successful job in promoting the use of wool. The research scientists, too, have done excellent work, but the fight is not by any means won, and it cannot be won yet. Synthetic fibres, when blended with wool, are cheap and therefore highly dangerous competitors of pure wool. Synthetics can win the battle, first on the propaganda front, and secondly on the price front. The development of the use of synthetic materials is a matter of great interest to all Australians. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) said that uniforms and blankets supplied to the Australian armed services were mainly manufactured from wool. Does he know that the United States forces are provided with clothing and equipment which contains large quantities of synthetic fibres? American soldiers in Korea, for example, wear uniforms and use equipment that consists of 85 per cent, wool and 15 per cent, nylon or dacron, according to the degree of flexibility required of the article. Only recently the president of the Graziers Association of New South Wales reported that 60 per cent, of all summer suits sold in the United States of America last year were made from 10C per cent, synthetic materials. That stag’s has not been reached in Australia, but the threat is imminent. When manufacturers of synthetic materials in the United States of America have captured the huge local market, they will turn their eyes to other countries and then the real attack on wool will begin.
How can we protect Australia against the inroads of synthetic ^fibres? The wool industry in the United States of America is protected by a great lobby organization. I suppose the wool lobby in Washington is second only to the silver lobby. The only protection that our wool industry enjoys is that which is provided by government financial aid and the goodwill of the Australian community. When we are told that 73 per cent, of the wool-growers in Australia a:-1? small-holders, we wonder why there is an agitation for the selling of our merino rams overseas. The lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams would further complicate the problems of the wool industry. If our merino rams were sold to Japan, Siberia and Manchuria, Australian wools would have to meet the competition of high quality foreign wools within a decade. As though the great menace of synthetics were not sufficiently dangerous to our principal industry to cause concern, numbers of well-known pastoralists advocate that we should engage at once in the export of merino rams. This trade would be extremely profitable temporarily, but it would serve only to add to our miseries in the long run. No manufactured article or primary product is secure from competition in the modern world. Every established product is threatened from all sides as new customs and usages arise. Therefore, we should do everything possible to protect the wool industry against the inroads of synthetic materials and to prevent it from being exposed by our own error to the competition of foreign superfine wools.
Obviously, the first defence that should be employed is that of enforcing the labelling of textiles in Australia. Why should cheap and shoddy materials be represented as wool? The machinery necessary to enforce honest labelling of textiles already exists, and there is no reason why it should not be used. Government supporters have said that it is impossible to determine whether a material contains virgin, used, or reprocessed wool. I refuse to believe that the wit, wisdom and industry of the experts of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization cannot devise a means of distinguishing re-processed wool from virgin wool. The task may appear to be difficult, but I am sure that it can be accomplished. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) informed the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Mcleod) recently that it was impossible to determine the quantity of foreign fibre included in a woollen article. That, of course, is ridiculous. I accept the fact that there is no way at present of distinguishing re-processed wool from virgin wool in a woven material, but I believe that a means of doing so can be devised fairly quickly. In fact, such a test must be found.
Many millions of pounds are invested in the business of importing fabrics of all kinds. The traders will continue to import materials that consist of virgin wool blended with inferior or used wool and synthetic fibres unless the Government takes action to prevent them from doing so. Insistence upon the proper labelling of all materials would not destroy the market for blended materials. There would remain sufficient demand for such fabrics to enable importers to make fair profits. The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) stated an argument that supports my contention when he pointed out that, although no true substitute has been found for pure silk, synthetic silk is used almost exclusively in Australia in preference to pure silk. The obvious course of action topursue if we are to protect the wool industry is to prepare a complete plan for the promotion of the use of wool and for its defence against the competition of other materials. Unfortunately, the opinions of graziers on the value of government assistance are divided. Some of them fear that government interference will injure them. Their organizations are reluctant to accept government grants in case this should lead to the imposition of government controls. I believe, of course, that the Government, as the custodian of the taxpayers’ money, has a duty to supervise the expenditure of any subsidies that it may provide. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture spoke in his second-reading speech of freedom, and said that he was eager to relieve the industry as much as possible of all forms of government control. However, I have not the slightest doubt that his finger is well on the pulse of the industry and that his eyes carefully scrutinize the accounts of government expenditure on wool publicity and research. The woolgrowers must decide where they stand on this issue.
Do they believe that there is a serious attack upon their industry and that, unless they prepare a defence, they will be forced to fight for survival on their own soil with ships dumping unwanted foreign synthetic products on our shores, or do they think that nothing will ever displace wool from its present position in the market ? When the graziers decide where they stand, the people of Australia will be eager to help them because they know that wool is Australia’s number one product. The growers also must not yield to the seductive attractions of quick profits to be gained by selling our stud rams overseas. The desire for immediate profit might lead them to destruction. A site on the island of Hokkaido was selected by Japan years before the outbreak of World War II. for an experimental merino breeding station. Similar preparations for the establishment of merino flocks were made in Manchuria and the northern parts of China. There is the second great threat to our wool industry. The third great threat arises from the Government’s failure to insist upon, the proper labelling of textiles. The Australian Wool Board has expressed dissatisfaction and alarm because the regulations that provide for the labelling of textiles are not being enforced. Blended materials and synthetic materials should not be allowed to masquerade as wool. Our wool publicity officers and research experts have achieved splendid results, but our basic object should be to popularize pure wool products. We should insist that such products be distinguished clearly from blends and shoddy woollen materials. The fact that the Australian Wool Board has complained that it is dismayed, hamstrung and unable to proceed with developmental work because of the failure of the Government to enforce textile labelling regulations should cause the Government to take action immediately.
I have intruded in this debate as an ordinary citizen who is interested in the special problems of the wool industry. Three steps must be taken by the woolgrower before he can hope to resist the onslaught of synthetic textiles. First, he must decide what he wants. Secondly, he must realize the strength of the forces arrayed against him. Thirdly, he must co-operate with the Australian consumers by providing them with a good article so that he may have their sympathy. If the grower will take those steps, there is no reason why, notwithstanding the limited funds that are made available for publicity and research work, the wool industry should not go on from strength to strength and prove to the rest of the world that its product is supreme. The wave of synthetic products can be beaten back, but it may well overwhelm the industry. We cannot afford to have dissension amongst tha growers or unreasoning fear of government interference. It is a regrettable fact that some old hands amongst the wool-growers have no interest in scientific research. They are the sort of farmers who squat on their sun-scorched, eroded properties and refuse to listen to the advice of the scientists until they find themselves surrounded by dust-blown useless land. Fortunately,, such men are not numerous. Nevertheless, their existence poses a problem. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said, the bill has the approbation of the Opposition. I agree with him that certain features, including the provisions in relation to ministerial responsibility over the new Australian Wool Bureau, require further discussion in committee, but the broad general principles of the bill are sound. I hope that the extra money to be provided under the terms of the bill will enable the genius of Australian research scientists and publicity men to be used to the best advantage. These men have done much for the wool industry in the past. We must remember that the industry is not yet out of the wood because we have not prepared a defence that will match the onslaught of synthetic materials. The sooner the wool-growers and the general public realize that fact, the better will it be for our number one primary industry.
.- I seize this opportunity to pay a tribute to the men who are engaged in the wool industry, because, after all, it is our most valuable industry and they are very few. Wool-growing may be described as the last citadel of free enterprise in the field of primary production. I express my regret that it is not generally recognized that the tremendous work incidental to this industry is confined to a handful of people. The production of wool in this country reaches fabulous levels in terms of weight. In 1938-39, 938,000,000 lb. of wool was produced in Australia. The annual production moved slowly upwards during the next few years until, in 1951-52, it reached the figure of 1,080,000,000 lb- all produced by a handful of people. The value of that fabulous production in 1938-39 was £41,405,483. As the volume of production increased after that year, so did the value of the commodity, but not in the same proportion. In 1950-51, the value of our wool production was £636,330,574 - all produced by a handful of people. Last year, because there was a fall in the price of wool, there was what can be described as a calamitous fall in our income from wool. The figure of £636,330,574 dropped to £307,787,000. Less than S0,000 people have been pouring all that wool into the markets of the world, and all that money into our national economy, for the everlasting good of the whole of our community. So I say that unquestionably the wool industry is the last citadel of free enterprise in our primary industries.
To the degree that the bill puts into political effect the considered views of those who want to preserve that freedom, I welcome it. To the degree that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has taken cognizance of representations made to him by the accredited representatives of woolgrowers, I welcome the bill. To the degree that the bill retains either ministerial or bureaucratic control of the wool industry and those engaged in it, all my instincts and all my experiences prompt me to oppose it. But I am pleased to note that those controls have been reduced to a minimum. The Australian Wool Board has been returned to the status quo ante, if I may use that expression. One great virtue of the bill is that it expresses the manifest desire of the Government to decontrol the wool industry and restore the functions of what will be called the Australian Wool Bureau to the people to whom they rightly belong. Perhaps it has been forgotten that the Australian Wool Board, in its original form, was established in 1936 to promote the use of wool in competition with synthetic fibres, to engage in research investigations, and to promote the sale of wool wherever that could be done, both at home and abroad. The Australian woolgrowers themselves financed the board through a wool tax of 6d. a hale, and the board was absolutely free to engage in any operation likely to be of value to tb, wool industry. To my certain knowledge, in its original form it served the industry and the country faithfully and well.
The board continued to function during the war, despite a flagrant duplication of duties by a number of government instrumentalities with all kinds of fantastic names. I do not suppose that any honorable member can say explicitly what the functions of the Wool Consultative Council were. Inter-departmental committees were established to investigate the wool industry during the socialist regime in this country, and I do not suppose that any of them have been disbanded. But the board continued to function, despite the existence of such instrumentalities established under the National Security Regulations. Then came the Wool Use Promotion Act of 1945, sponsored by the previous Government, which increased the wool tax from 6d. to 2s. a bale and, for the first time, subjected the Australian Wool Board and its members to ministerial direction and control and to departmental direction and control. That was the beginning of the end of the effectiveness of the Australian Wool Board, as it was then constituted.
This bill will change the name of the Australian Wool Board to the Australian Wool Bureau. That is being done at the request of the wool-growers. The Australian Wool Board was never a board in the accepted sense of the word. It was a body established to promote the use and consumption of wool, to engage in certain scientific investigations and to meet competition by synthetics, which was prevalent even as far back as 1936. The board was never a marketing board. Therefore, there is merit in the proposal to substitute the word “ bureau “ for the word “ board “. The bureau will be financed, first, by the wool tax, which has been increased to 4s. a bale, at the request of the wool-growers, who are seised of the importance of meeting the competition of synthetic fibres, which is increasing from year to year; secondly, by the transfer from the Wool (Reserve Prices) Fund of no less a sum than £2,750,000, which represents the unspent balance of that fund and by certain moneys transferred from the Wool (Contributory Charge) Trust Account; and thirdly,’ by a contribution of £350,000 from the Treasury. All those contributions have been made at the request of the wool-growers, who are seriously concerned about the problems that confront the industry, which have been dealt with exhaustively this afternoon by those honorable members who have addressed themselves to the measure.
The bureau will be freed from the ministerial control and direction so far as wool use promotion and publicity are concerned. The Minister is to be commended for action that will have that very desirable affect. The bill will give to the bureau certain powers to engage in research, but, largely because the Treasury is to make a contribution to the funds of the bureau, there will be a degree of ministerial control in relation to research. That brings me to a phase of the bill that is important to my argument. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
The Government has also agreed that the Australian Wool Bureau may, as one of its powers and functions, take steps for the improvement of the production ~>t wool in Australia, and for the encouragement of research, hut the Government feels that it should not deprive itself of authority, through the Minister, to ensure that the bureau, in engaging in those activities, will not duplicate similar activities undertaken by other authorties in this field.
I ask the Minister whether he is aware that, since the socialists obtained control of the treasury bench in this House and proceeded to plot for the socialization of the wool industry, the field to which he referred has been cluttered with authorities other than the Australian Wool Board. I want to refer to one of those authorities that has been functioning since 1946 on a scale that has reached alarming proportions. I venture to say that it is an authority of which very few honorable members have knowledge. It is an authority that is unknown outside of this House. It is an authority that has never been recognized by the wool industry. I ask the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee to take notice of a duplication of duties that has existed for a number of years in relation to the wool industry. During the war, and under the National Security Regulations, all federal governments found it necessary to encroach upon fields of investigation and activity that rightly belong to the States. That was inevitable under the circumstances of wai- emergency. At the conclusion of hostilities, the Commonwealth found itself firmly entrenched in all of those fields. That was the time to evacuate them and to restore to the States fields of investigation and activity that rightly belonged to the States, but the opportunity to do so was missed. It was missed for political reasons, and for noother reason. It must be remembered that the Government in office at that time favoured unification. The only really satisfactory way in which to achieve unification under the Australian Constitution is for a federal government, devoted to the cause, to take action that is likely to render certain functions of the States redundant. The department to which I refer is, innocently enough, a classic example of that process. To the best of my knowledge and belief, every State in the Commonwealth has a Department of Agriculture. Since the inception of selfgovernment in Australia, all of those departments have been functioning on an expanding scale. Then a federal government, pledged to unification, established a Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and proceeded to drain the States of their most competent officers. There was nothing wrong with that from the stand-point of the Commonwealth. I am not suggesting that the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture is unnecessary. I believe it to be necessary. But I suggest that an unrestricted growth of the functions of Commonwealth departments must imperil State departments by reducing them to redundancy, and must induce and encourage flagrant duplications of activities, which is the very thing that this bill is designed to end. In the period of our history that, preceded World War II., it was the duty of the State Departments of Agriculture to carry out investigations, engage in activities and collect information, both in the field and in the laboratory, that were likely to be of value to the wool industry. It used to be possible, and it ought still to be possible, to get the very best and latest information easily and cheaply from the State Departments of Agriculture covering the entire field of production. That is the purpose of those State departments, and if they cannot discharge that responsibility they ought to discharge themselves. If the Department of Commerce and Agriculture sponsored and published a work dealing with wool or agriculture or any other form of primary production, I might be tempted to excuse the excess depending on its usefulness, but I find it hard to excuse the publication of a work entitled Materials Handling in the Wool Industry, not by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, but by the Department of National Development. I ask the House to bear with me while I refer to the pitiful story of the establishment of this utterly useless department and the investigations it is allegedly carrying out. I have made a careful study of the operations of the department over a period of years. This publication, issued by the department, states -
The interest of the Government in the subject arose from its direct war time experience in the handling and distribution of defence materials and in 1946 a Materials Handling Branch was set up within the Division of Industrial Development to continue work done previously through a committee of the Department of Munitions.
With the help of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Australian Wool Realization Commission a reconnaissance of major wool growing districts in all States was made.
Apparently that reconnaissance has been going on, unnoticed by the industry, since 1946. The statement continues -
Subsequently an interim report was submitted to the Inter-departmental Committee on Wool Research-
What a stupid title ! - which recommended that the investigations be continued-
As if an organization like that could make any other recommendation - and that a Materials Handling Testing Station be set up at North Hyde near Sydney-
Near Sydney, mark you! -
The station is now ready for operation.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and the Government, know nothing about the station, nor does any other honorable member, except possibly the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who must, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in 1946, accept some responsibility for it. He shakes his head, so he knows nothing about it either.
Those quotations are taken from “Report”, the first chapter in the book. Then the authors really get down to business. The second chapter, “ Preparation for Shearing”, opens thus -
The usual practice for preparing sheep for shearing is to draft them in like kind. Little attempt is made to remove dust and other foreign matter from the wool or to remove stained pieces before sheep are shorn.
This book took several years to prepare. The chapter continues as follows: -
It is usual to yard or shed sheep for a time so that they can cool down and empty before shearing; empty sheep are easier to shear and handle and this practice also helps to keep sheep droppings out of the wool areas of the shed.
That is the second paragraph ! The third paragraph of the chapter reads -
Some growers put sheep infested with Bathurst Burr into clean .paddocks for some months prior to shearing. They say that during this time the burr dries, the barbs release their hold on the wool, and most of the burr falls off.
Paragraph No. 4 reads -
Before the sheep are shorn they, are driven through a race made of wire netting so fixed that it scrapes across the backs and the sides of the sheep as they come through the race. This simple device may have other practical applications.
That statement is not meant to be funny, and it is rude to laugh at it. Here is one short and priceless paragraph taken from the chapter dealing with “Yards and Sheds and. I hope that every sheepman will take full cognizance of it. It reads -
Wise orientation may make it unnecessary to cover or partly cover yards against sun and rain.
What a magnificent contribution to an industry that has been operating in this country for 150 years ! It comes, not from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, but from another department that, in 1946, when plotting the socialization of the wool industry, went out on reconnaissance, and like the mountain that quaked, and produced a mouse, it produced the phrase - “Wise orientation may make it unnecessary to cover or partly cover yards against sun and rain “.
But there is worse to follow. I read the chapter headed “ Training and Amenities “ to my wife and family, and they will never forget it this side of the grave. I have rarely seen my family so highly amused. Here is a sample of it -
The advantage taken of simple aids to cleanliness like garbage tins conveniently placed, and receptacles for dead matches and cigarette-ends. The absence of printed matter, wall charts, and so on for the instruction of operatives. The need for educational work by providing easy access to general literature and books about the industry.
The operatives are the gentlemen who work in and around a shearing shed, and out and about the paddocks. This statement is the result of seven years of close investigation by a sub-department of the Department of National Development. In my opinion the work of this department and the text of the book, like its title, can only be described as the utter rubbish for which they will he recognized as soon as they receive the publicity they deserve. The photographs in the book are unbelievably bad, and the designs for both yards and shearing sheds are precisely the same designs as have been available to the industry for more than a hundred years, and that can be provided in blueprint form by every self-respecting State Department of Agriculture in the country. Here is a flagrant case of duplication that should seriously concern the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and honorable members on both, sides of the House. It should also seriously concern the Public Accounts Committee. The matter should be investigated.
Nothing could ever have made me mention this book or the work of the organization that produced it, except the fact that it is apparently sponsored by the Department of National Development and not the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. No shabbier trick has ever been played on a Minister of the Crown than the trick that has been played on the Minister for National Development who has been forced into the position that he had to produce this document. I commend the Government for releasing the controls that have been objectionable to the wool industry for many years. I also commend it for the restoration of the Australian “Wool Bureau to its original form, and for giving accredited growers’ representatives the responsibility for the management of the affairs of their own industry. But it is useless for one department to vacate a field as important as this one is, if another department is allowed to encroach on it. That is what has been happening. In 1945 the “Wool Use Promotion Bill was brought down, and in 1946 this reconnaissance was established by another department. Ever since then this organization has been turning out this rot.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Will all the woolgrowers get a copy?
– Certainly; at a price. I do not believe that critical comment is to be deplored, because it is the lifeblood of a parliament. The honorable member for Riverina is to be congratulated for having produced critical comment of this publication, otherwise this House and the world would not have had the advantage of hearing my opinions. The honorable member spoke of duplication. There are six Departments of Agriculture in the six States, and one Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I do not believe that any of the six State departments have yet addressed themselves to materials handling in the wool industry. I consider that it is essential that some adequately qualified body should concern itself with this subject. I do not put my knowledge of the wool industry against that of the honorable member for Riverina, whose knowledge of the industry far out-rates mine, but
I know something about the business of materials handling. I had the privilege of being the Minister for National Development during 1950 and later, and I took a particular interest in the work on materials handling in the wool industry, which was dealt with by a branch of the Department of National Development. The work done on materials handling, particularly in America, during the last ten years has established the fact that the direction in which great economies are possible in any industry is in the organization of materials handling. I am not qualified to give a technical opinion about this matter, except to say that visiting bodies from the United Kingdom, composed of employers, employees and the general public, have drawn my attention to the progress made in the United States in materials handling, and the economies that have been effected in industry thereby.
The gentlemen who compiled this publication are experts in materials handling, although they are not experts in the wool industry. They may have put matters into this report that every person, even those only slightly connected with the wool industry, may believe are not correct, but the authors are not to be blamed for that. They set out a simple description of the operation of materials handling in the wool industry, and proceeded to apply their technical knowledge of materials handling to an analysis of the operations involved. In chapter 13 of the book they list about 90 different directions in which they believe further work is necessary and will be justified.
– For instance, ashtrays for cigarettes.
– Possibly, among other things. I give this document my support. I have not read every word of every line of it, and I do not suppose that everything that the authors say is beyond dispute, but I do know that this volume, which has been condensed from the original work of about six times its size, has been read by people who do claim, with right, to be experts in the wool industry. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip
McBride) whose knowledge of the wool industry is very great, approves of it. Mr. Douglas Boyd, the chairman of the Australian Wool Board ; Mr. McKerihan, the president of the Rural Bank of New South Wales; Mr. J. G. Crawford, Commonwealth Wool Adviser, and Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, all approve of it. Mr. Carson, the chairman of the Australian Wool Realization Commission, also records his firm approval of the contents of the document. Mr. C. K. Jacka, who is well known in New South Wales, believes that the book deserves attention. Country Life, the Stock and Station Journal, the Farmer and Settler, Stock and Land, and Pastoral Review have all commented favorably on the book. All those publications are highly reputable, and are widely read in primary producing circles. They record firm approval of thi? volume and its approach to the problems with which it deals. Those in the Australian wool industry would do well to study this volume and consider the whole series of analysed operations that go to make up the handling of wool as it comes from the sheep’s back until it goes on board ship or is put to general use.
The gentlemen who compiled this volume have done this kind of work for many years, and have done similar work for the textile industry, the iron and steel industry and other industries. They cannot pretend to . be experts in the techniques and phraseology of all the industries that they have investigated, but they can claim to be experts in the business of materials handling. In future, equipment may be evolved for the wool industry which will simplify and cheapen the business of wool handling. The book states that probably tens of millions of pounds could be saved to the wool industry if more attention is paid to materials handling. Sums far greater than that have been saved in America in every single industry that has been examined, and I believe that during the last ten years the materials handling problem in all American industries has been examined. It goes much against my grain to take an opposite view to that of the honorable member for Riverina, but I have no doubt that his primary producing knowledge has been savaged by some of the terms and phrases used in the volume. I do not know enough about primary production to join in his entertainment over this document. It may possibly be that some of the phrases used are rather open to criticism. However, I am ready to believe that really fundamental purpose of the volume has been well served. As wool-growing is an Australia-wide occupation, it can most economically be investigated from the materials handling point of view by an Australia-wide organization, which, of course, must be a federal organization. If a State department had investigated the matter the results of its investigation would not have spread far beyond the boundaries of its own State, but I hope that this work will be read widely throughout Australia by all wool-growers who can afford its almost nominal price. I do not intend to address myself to any other aspect of the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for improving the production and increasing the use of wool, and for purposes connected therewith.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Debate resumed from the 4th March (vide page 511), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), when introducing this measure, made a very brief speech and informed the House that the bill contained provision to delete from the principal act the section which enables the Minister to veto all the decisions of the
Egg Export Control Board if the chairman dissents from any decision of the board. He also intimated that it is necessary to bring the staffs of the Egg Export Control Board under the provisions of the Public Service Act as far as the terms and conditions of their employment are concerned. During the debate on the Wool Use Promotion Bill I said that I have always supported the principle of ministerial authority over boards of this type, and I repeat that statement in respect to this measure. There is no. effective provision in the bill for ministerial control over the Egg Export Control Board, and therefore the Opposition will oppose the measure in its entirety.
I am sure that the great bulk of the people, whether producers or consumers, emphatically believe in control by the Parliament, and the assumption of ministerial control over statutory authorities created by the Parliament. My opinion, which has been formed as a result of years of experience, is that ministerial control should always be exercised over authorities which have power over the export of the basic foodstuffs of the people of this country. The Australian Egg Board was constituted by the Egg Export Control Act 1947 which was introduced into the Parliament by the then Labour Administration. The act vests certain specific powers in the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It contains a provision that if the chairman or any other person who presides at any meeting of the board dissents from any decision of the board at that meeting, and transmits to the Minister a notice of his dissent, the Minister may vary the decision of the board, and such varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the board.
– The Minister is thus able to override the board.
– The Minister may veto a decision made by the board and confirm or vary the chairman’s decision as he so desires. In view of the purposes for which the Australian Egg Board was established, it is absolutely essential that power to veto the board’s decisions should reside in the Minister. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) nods his head. I could cite many instances in which it should have been, and some instances in which it has been, essential to the interests of the people, including the producers concerned, for the Minister to vary or veto a decision made by a board from which the chairman has dissented. I do not like to cite specific cases that arose during my administration of the board, and I do so on this occasion only in order to show how necessary it is that the Minister should have a discretionary power in matters of this kind. As honorable members are aware, the Australian Egg Board was established for the specific purpose of controlling the marketing of eggs in overseas countries. On one occasion the board decided to export eggs on consignment to Singapore. The Minister should be well aware of the risks involved in the shipment of any primary product on a consignment basis. The firm to which the eggs were intended to be consigned operated a large cool store in which the eggs were to be placed on arrival. If the shipments had been made and the refrigerating machinery at the store had broken down, or if industrial trouble had caused a stoppage of work at the store, by the time the eggs had been disposed of the price may have dropped by from 50 per cent, to 80 per’ cent, and the egg exporters would have had to suffer the loss involved. Having regard to the risks involved, I vetoed the proposal. The Minister will, I am sure, agree that in so doing I acted rightly.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– I could tell the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) something of the trials and tribulations suffered by the Amalgamated Freezing “Works of Victoria, which was established by .a co-operative farmers’ organization. When the works got into financial difficulties they were ultimately taken over by the Government of Victoria and controlled by a board under the chairmanship of the Director of Agriculture of that State. The board indulged in the very hazardous practice of sending fat lambs to London on consignment. From the time the works were taken over by the Government until they came under the .control of a Labour Minister in 1931 the producers and the
Government were involved in a loss amounting to nearly £1,000,000. It was only after a vigilant Labour Minister for Agriculture vetoed such practices that that semi-government instrumentality was placed on a sound financial basis. It may be said that the members of the Australian Egg Board have had practical experience of the industry. That is true,, but sometimes even experts make mistakes. The Minister must always act asthe watchdog of the interests, not only of the producers, but also of the consumers of eggs. The honorable member for Isaacs will remember that many yearsago the Victorian Government established an egg board, with major representation of egg producer interests, which operated successfully for a number of years but subsequently got into difficulties. When the honorable gentleman was a member of the Victorian Parliament he was one of the board’s most trenchant critics. The board continued to function badly until ultimately a Country party government amended the legislation to provide that the Minister for Agriculture should exercise some control over its activities. No one would suggest that a Minister should intervene in minor matters dealt with by such authorities, but every onewill agree that the Minister should exercise control over their major actions and policies. He should always be the watchdog of the interests of the people.
In the last two years Australia has had, at times, insufficient butter to meet local requirements. A perusal of the export figures disclosed that we had not retained sufficient butter to meet local requirements in the event of a dry period occurring in one or more States. If the Australian Dairy Produce Board had refused to alter its policy after the chairman had intimated to the Minister that he dissented from the decision of the board to continue exports at an undiminished rate, chaos would have resulted. Power must reside in the Minister to vary or alter the decisions of commodity boards to meet the circumstances of the time.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has made a feature of legislation of this type since he has been in office. If he will peruse the records of his own department and those of many of the States, he will find that in most instances a Minister is given power to veto or alter the decisions of commodity marketing authorities. It is not always a matter of protecting the consumers from the producers. Sometimes it is a matter of protecting the producers from themselves. To grant discretionary power of this kind to the Minister is logical and sensible. It must not be forgotten that power to control the export of primary products from Australia is written into the Constitution. If, at some point in our history, we consider it to be wise to clothe a board consisting of a majority of primary producers with arbitrary powers, at least we should not divest ourselves entirely of proper supervisory control of the authority concerned. It would be fantastic for a Minister to say, “ I am no longer responsible for the activities of my departmental head or his deputy “. How much more fantastic would it be for a Minister to appoint a statutory authority consisting of primary producers and others and say, “ I will not exercise such supervision over the authority as 1 do over the department for which I am responsible “ ? In the measure which the House has just disposed of, the Minister divested himself of authority to control wool publicity, but he held the rein over wool research as tightly as, if not more tightly than, any Labour Minister ever has done. It is all very well for the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) to endeavour to convince us that the Minister will have power over the activities of the Australian Wool Bn rears.
Mi-. SPEAKER.- Order ! The honorable member is dealing with a matter which has already been disposed of.
– We object to the proposal that the Minister should relinquish control over the Australian Egg Board. Similar action is being taken in other measures that are before the Parliament. The day will surely come when honorable members opposite will very much regret their support of proposals to allow a Minister to thrust his responsibilities on to an outside authority constituted by the Parliament, by allowing the authority to administer a law which should be administered by the Minister.
There is another aspect of the measure which displeases me. Clause S of the bill reads as follows: -
Section seventeen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the words “ Commonwealth Bank of Australia “, the words “ , and may open and maintain with any other prescribed bank,”.
Anti-Labour governments did not allow such authorities as the Australian Meat Board, the Australian Wine Board and. the Australian Apple and Pear Board to choose whether they would transact their business with the Commonwealth Bank or a private trading bank. However, the position was placed beyond doubt by the Chifley Labour Government, which wisely made provision for the various marketing boards to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. I remind the House that the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank has been asked from time to time by marketing boards to advance them vast sums of money to enable them to pay producers, pending the receipt of returns from the sale of the products overseas. The Commonwealth Bank has rendered splendid service to the producers. No instrumentality protested to the Chifley Labour Government because it had difficulty in transacting its business with the Commonwealth Bank. No representations were ever made to me, when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, that .various marketing boards should be given the right to open accounts with the private banks. [Now, the .scene has changed. The private banks, which subscribed the major part of the election funds of the Liberal party, are now reaping their reward.
– Oh !
– The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) should not squeal. Under this bill the private banks will receive their reward for the assistance that “they rendered to the Liberal party during the general election campaign of 1949. In future, the Minister will merely need to wink to indicate to a marketing authority that he wishes it to transact its business with a private bank, and no doubt the authority will consider itself bound to do so. Of course, the bill does not compel the marketing authorities to transfer their accounts from the Commonwealth Bank to the private banks, and they will be free to make their own decision in that matter. However, I see no need for this alteration.
The other provisions of the bill are unexceptional. Power is given to bring the employees of the Australian Egg Board under the provisions of the Public Service Act.
– That is not so.
– The term3 and conditions of employment of the staff of the Australian Egg Board will be brought into line with Public Service conditions. Some provisions of the bill are consequential to matters that I have already criticized. The Opposition will vote against the motion for the second reading, because the bill infringes a principle long cherished by the people and supported by the press, that ministerial control should be preserved over statutory authorities. I admit that some semigovernmental bodies in the various States, such as the railways, electricity undertakings and rivers and water supply commissions, have extremely wide powers, but I am certain that an overriding authority is given to a Minister to put his foot down, when necessary, in order to ensure that the work is performed efficiently and in conformity with government policy. The Opposition will vote against the bill.
.- I hoped that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), in the latter part of his speech, would run true to his opening remarks, and would not drag in irrelevancies about the banking issue, or announce that the Opposition would not support the bill. I am somewhat astonished that he has taken such a stand, because he gave his approval to the Wool Use Promotion Bill 1953, which contains exactly the same provisions as we are now considering in the Egg Export Control Bill 1953.
– That is not so.
– I am sorry, but I must accept the honorable member’s statement. My sorrow in this matter arises from the fact that I find myself in complete agreement with many of his statements on this bill. I take this opportunity to emphasize several of them, but I make it plain at the outset that I support the bill.
Some of the provisions of this seemingly innocent bill go to the very foundations of parliamentary practice and public administration. This bill, in common with the other marketing bills that the House will consider, appropriates revenues, which are thereupon completely removed from consideration by the Parliament in the future. In the Wool Use Promotion Bill 1953, funds are appropriated on no fewer than four occasions. During the current financial year, no less than £585,000,000 is appropriated by special acts of Parliament, which remove the money entirely from consideration by the Parliament when the budget is under discussion. We are already committed to an expenditure of £585,000,000, and the several marketing bills which will be placed before us will commit us to an additional few million pounds. In those circumstances, the Parliament really loses control of its own house. It has no power to determine the main features of the budget, because they have been determined beforehand. If Ave are committed to the expenditure of approximately £600,000,000 out of the budget of £1,000,000,000, is there any possibility of reducing taxes, or doing any of the things that we should like to do ?
The honorable member for Lalor also discussed the organization of the Australian Egg Board and its staff. T venture to suggest that one of the things that we have done very badly in modern government is deciding the kind of agency which should undertake the different types of work. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) found himself at odds with the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) over criticism of the Department of National Development. The problem in that case was to decide, not merely whether something should be done, but where and by whom it should be done. A statement of the distribution of administrative functions published in the Gazette on the 2nd July, 1951, contains a whole series of confused departmental relationships. Functions that should be the responsibility of one department are shown to be undertaken by another department. There is also a vagueness about the powers conferred, and that vagueness is seized upon as the charter under which departments work, so that the Department of National Development becomes engaged in wool matters, despite the fact that no fewer than three other agencies had as their primary objective responsibilities associated with wool. So, we find several departments barging into a field that should be the province of one department. The Minister for External Affairs vigorously defended the specific example I have cited against the reasonable and just criticism voiced by the honorable member for Riverina. When I make these statements, I do not suggest that the kind of authority which will be established will give rise to the problems mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor. He believes that a marketing board should be subject to political control.
– Not political control, but ministerial control.
– Ministerial control is political control. The honorable gentleman is merely playing with words. Political decisions are taken by the government of the day, and are not necessarily founded on economic and administrative grounds. I wish to draw that distinction. The decisions which are made are made for political reasons, and not for administrative or economic reasons.
– Of course they are.
– The honorable member’s argument is not sound. Our problem in Australia during the last 60 years has been to devise a trading organization the activities of which could be administered from day to day free from the exigencies of party politics. The various agencies to which the honorable member for Lalor referred were an illustration of the corporations that were established to do various jobs. We have to go a long way before we shall find the kind of organization that will not act arbitarily, and yet will not be subject to the vagaries of party politics. That position may be reached in many ways. An agency may be placed under the control of a department. That practice has been adopted in the past and while it puts the Minister in complete control it makes budgeting difficult for a business undertaking. It is difficult to distinguish the departmental arrangements from the statutory corporation. If a corporation is placed under the control of a department, the Parliament is able to take cognizance of it because it comes within the scope of ministerial responsibility. If we consider that Ministers cannot manage trading agencies satisfactorily, we can set up a statutory corporation with independent financial powers. But once we do so, we are confronted with the difficulty that in political theory every agency of the Government should be subject to ministerial control.
– That is the socialist creed.
– I am now talking in terms of administration and not of political ideologies. An agency may be placed under the control of a department, or established as a separate organization, with the risk possibly of political control. What is needed is” popular control. I believe that the kind of agency envisaged in this legislation will make popular control possible. The producers will be represented, and the Government will have its nominees on the board. Consequently, we need not fear that the board will act arbitrarily. In any case what is to be gained by ministerial control? Can ministerial control add anything to the success of the activities of a marketing authority? At best, it will prevent arbitrary action; at the worst, it can become the plaything of party politics. Honorable members should carefully consider those questions.
The third matter which I desire to discuss is the alteration of another established tradition and that is removing the control of the staff of the Australian Egg Board from the Public Service Board. Ever since the Public Service Act was amended . in 1922, it has been the policy of the Public Service Board to persuade successive governments to bring all forms of activity under its jurisdiction. The marketing agencies which we have been considering have been placed outside the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board, and their staffs have been placed outside the provisions of the Public Service Act. The bill does not state distinctly that the staff of the Australian Egg Board shall be outside the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board. It merely provides that the agency may appoint whatever staff it needs and that this staff must be subject to such terms and conditions of employment as are approved by the Public Service Board. The Public Service Board may be able to use its power to determine terms and conditions as a means of controlling the selection of staff by the agency, which will have the power ofappointment and dismissal and the power to fix salaries as it deems desirable. This will cut across a whole body of tradition that we have endeavoured to build up. It is important that honorable members should understand precisely what will happen when they vote for this provision. Under the terms of the existing act, salaries could be altered only by statutory rule or by an amending regulation. Thus, before members of the staff could receive salary increases or extra allowances they had to wait for the Executive to approve of a statutory rule or a new regulation. The Minister has tried to overcome that kind of difficulty by placing such matters within the discretion of the agency itself. The problem that arises, therefore, is whether this is the right course of action, to take. Some persons would deny that the Public Service Board is the proper authority to deal with trading agencies. Perhaps this provision will introduce a. new scheme that will require a type of control entirely different from those in existence up to the present. Nevertheless, I believe that some kind of control should be exercised. We have to consider whether the kind of administration to be established will be the most efficient possible for the purpose that we wish to achieve.
The Public Service Board has always faced a difficult job, but it developed its philosophy in relation to the Public Service in an era when the service merely had conventional functions to perform, whereas to-day it engages in diverse activities, including trade. We must ask whether the machinery provided for one set of conditions- will be suitable for the different set of conditions that exists to-day. I cannot resolve the problem simply by saying that the machinery is effective or ineffective. All I can say is that we should sedulously persist with an attitude of inquiry designed to ascertain whether or not the machinery is efficient for its purpose. I have consistently maintained that, if we are to be successful in managing the enormous enterprise that we know as the Australian Government, we must be assured that the machinery that we have created is working effectively and will achieve in the most efficient possible way the purpose that we have in view. We cannot provide ourselves with that assurance by appointing interdepartmental committees or committees of Ministers. Ministers are too busy to conduct such inquiries. There ought to be an external examination in order to determine whether or not we have chosen the most efficient method of control. We must not be like the fabled ostrich and bury our heads in the sand, as we have done in relation to the broadcasting of proceedings of this House. We pretend that we disapprove of some of the broadcasting arrangements, but we do not take the necessary step of appointing some authority to determine whether our views are correct or not.
Consideration of the bill now before the House confronts us- with fundamental problems. I shall gladden the heart of the honorable member for Lalor by quoting from a United Kingdom Ministry of Reconstruction report presented by the famous Machinery of Government Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Haldane, which is a classic document on administration. The report states -
It would, we think, be generally felt that any improvement in the organization of the Departments of State which was so marked as substantially to increase their efficiency should have as its correlative an increase in the power of the Legislature as the check upon the acts and proposals of. the Executive:
In other words, if we are to improve the Public Service, we must find some way of improving the political, or parliamentary, organization. The report added -
A more efficient Public Service may expose the State to the evils of bureaucracy unless the reality of Parliamentary control is so enforcedas to keep pace with any improvement in departmental methods.
That expresses what I have been trying to say. There has been a constant improvement of the Public Service, but there has not been a comparable improvement of the political organization for the purpose of supervising the activities of the Public Service.
There are two functions in the task of administration. The first is that of doing the job that has to be done. The second is that of examining the job in order to determine whether it is being done properly. One consists in doing, and the other consists in knowing. We have gone a long way towards perfecting the machinery of “ doing “, but the machine has become so large, and its ramifications are now so extensive, that it is no longer possible for us to know exactly what it is doing. That was the burden of the criticism expressed earlier by the honorable member forRiverina. He spoke of something that was being done which, he believed, was unknown to any Minister or member of this Parliament. I confess that, in the course of some of the investigations that I have been engaged in as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, I have discovered facts which make it perfectly clear that the parliamentary organization, or the ministerial organization, is far behind the Public Service organization. Therefore, the kind of control that should be exerted by the Cabinet is no longer exerted by it. The Cabinet is overwhelmed by work and, in those circumstances, it cannot possibly do its job effectively. That is the reason why we are not given any leadership by cabinets these days. They all have too much to do. We must alter our political machinery in order that we may obtain the best results from our administrative machinery. The provisions that I have been discussing go to the root of all the weaknesses in modern public administration. Many of these weaknesses are being disregarded. The bill seemsto be simple and innocuous, but the provisions hold within themselves the seed that may help to destroy the whole scheme of parliamentary government. That is why I have directed the attention of the House to them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 995).
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Commonwealth Wool Adviser and Deputy).
– I have been told that, earlier in the debate, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) asked for some information about the functions of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. The Wool Use Promotion Act 1945 provided that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture might appoint a person to be Commonwealth wool adviser, (a) on such terms and conditions andwith such remuneration as he thought fit, and (b) to have such duties and functions as the Minister from time to time determined. When Mr. J. G. Crawford was appointed as Commonwealth Wool Adviser in August, 1949, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Lalor, stated that his functions and duties were to ensure adequate co-ordination of all phases of Government policy in relation to wool and, more particularly, to advise upon post-Joint Organization marketing proposals, to assist in a vigorous research programme, to co-ordinate activities under the Wool Use Promotion Act, with special reference to research and extension, and avoid duplication in those activities.
In my second-reading speech on this bill, I said that this Government took the view, which I believed that any Australian government would take, that, as long as the economy of Australia was dependent to the degree that it was, and historically had been, upon the fortunes of the wool industry, it was almost unthinkable that it should deprive itself of the services of an officer charged with the special responsibility to perform all the functions implicit in the title “ Commonwealth Wool Adviser “.. Isaid also that theGovernment, in order that it might be able to predict the national income of the country with reasonable accuracy and foresee economic trends, had to have intelligent advice upon the situation of the wool industry and likely trends that might affect it. That is an explanation of the historical background of the office of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the role that this Government expects that officer and his deputy to play.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has given a very brief explanation of the duties of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. It is an adequate explanation of the role that that officer formerly played. But the honorable gentleman, in his second-reading speech, stated that it was the intention of the Government to vest in the adviser a substantial number of additional functions. He indicated that the adviser would preside over a section of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and would be responsible for the compilation of statistical information formerly compiled by the Australian Wool Realization Commission. I am entirely in accord with that. But the clause we are now discussing states - (1.) The Minister may, on such terms and conditions as the Minister thinks fit -
The powers are not specified in the clause, which makes provision for a rather vague vesting of power in the adviser. I assume that the Minister will be the person who will specify those powers. I assume also that, in the main, they will be strictly confined to the performance of the functions of the adviser on the Australian Wool Board and to the supervision of the collation of statistical information that may be required from time to time.
I should like the Minister to explain the meaning of sub-clause (3.), which states -
The Commonwealth Wool Adviser is a corporation sole with perpetual succession and an official seal, and is capable of suing and being sued in his corporate name.
I assume that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser is, as it were, a benevolent dictator, and a king in his own right in his own section of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Does the Minister agree with that assumption?
– I shall explain the position later.
– Clause 6 states -
Subject to this section, the Commonwealth Wool Adviser may employ such persons as he thinks necessary to assist him in performing his duties and functions and exercising his powers under this Act.
No provision appears to have been made for ministerial control in that connexion.
– The committee has not reached that clause yet.
– Very wide power is vested in the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. He is a corporation sole with perpetual succession, he is the head of a section of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and, under this bill, he will be authorized to employ such persons as he thinks necessary to assist him to perform his duties and functions. In sub-clause (2.) of clause 6, provision is made with respect to the terms and conditions of employment of persons employed under that provision.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member for Lalor is dealing with the next clause, notice of an amendment to which has been given.
– I shall deal with that matter later.
.- The clause deals with the terms and conditions upon which the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and his deputy may be appointed. It is true that, under the clause, the Commonwealth Wool Adviser will become a corporation sole and, therefore, literally the government within the Australian Wool Bureau, which itself will be a body corporate. The inference is that he will operate on a very wide front.From a perusal of the clause, it is apparent that he will have unspecified duties and powers. He will be authorized to recruit a staff of unspecified size.
Nominally, he will be under the control of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but the history of the wool industry does not give us much confidence that the Adviser will exercise his powers wisely unless the Minister pays a great deal more attention to what his servants do than his predecessor did.
We have here the beginnings of a new bureaucratic empire. The Wool Use Promotion Act 1945 specified that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be the agency for research into the scientific, biological and technological aspects of the wool industry, and that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should be responsible for economic research. Under those bodies, there was an interdepartmental committee, of which the Commonwealth Wool Adviser was the chairman. Under him, in turn, was a consultative committee and the Lord knows how many more similar organizations. So the tree grew. I want to know whether the powers of the Adviser under this measure will still include power to initiate the kind of inquiry that recently was reported upon by the Department of National Development in a publication to which reference was made this afternoon. In the introduction to Materials Handling in the Wool Industry, we read -
The Wool Board and the Commonwealth Wool Adviser arranged with the Division of Industrial Development to do what is referred to as a. reconnaissance of the wool industry.
That happened in 1947. When the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), shook his head this afternoon, that shake of the head seemed to indicate that the honorable gentleman did not have a detailed knowledge of that undertaking. For seven years, this great project proceeded in the quiet seclusion of some government office, until at last its report saw the light of day. The Commonwealth Wool Adviser, apparently on his own “ say-so “, invited the Department of National Development to take part in the inquiry. Now, we have not only the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but also the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Department of National Development and an array of consulta tive committees, to say nothing about half a dozen State Departments of Agriculture, all investigating the wool industry. I do not think it will be out of place at this stage to refer to the contents of the publication, which are thoroughly illustrative of the sort of thing that can go on when ministerial control is not sufficiently strict.
– The honorable member is a little wide of the mark, but I shall permit him to continue for a while.
– My remarks are germane to the appointment of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. The publication contains only a condensed version of what must, in its original form, be a monumental work - a monument to sheer futility. The appendix, with that passion for detail that characterizes the whole of the report, states that the reconnaissance visited 84 sheep stations in all States of Australia, and travelled by car except in the case of Western Australia and Tasmania. With book and pencil in hand, no comment was too small and no detail too petty to include in the report. The reasons for the publication of the report are obscure. If it was published for the edification of the uninitiated public, it would have been a little better with, a few characters and a plot. If it was directed to the wool industry, woolgrowers will be insulted if they speculate 25s. to buy a copy of this volume. It has some humour - rough but expensive. For instance, we read on page 7 -
In hot districts, particularly in Western Australia, thatched coverings over the counting out yards are common. They shelter the shorn sheep from the sun.
That is a very good comment. The report also states on page 7 -
The design of fences round shearing yards depends largely on the availability of material.
That information took a fair bit of digging out! One can almost sense the objective of the whole of the report from another passage on page 7, which states -
One property has a corrugated iron fence in circular form. Dust storms or moving top soil have not encroached on these yards. Here is an idea that deserves further trial.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must round these remarks off, because he is going a long way from the clause.
– I am talking about round fences;. I should hate to round off a report that is so full of; a grim kind of humour - grim because it involves an ex:penditure of the wool-growers? money. I hope that in future the- wool-growers will keep a close eye on the Government and: see that their funds are not wasted again upon this kind of monumental folly. I recommend the- report to honorable members because at one stage it sets out the theory, of shearing in the following words -
The theory of good shearing is to take the. fleece other than belly wool off in one piece. 1 am certain, Mr. Chairman, that you will forgive me if I read another passage from the report. It is as follows : -
Combs- are made both left and right hand, but left hand shearers sometimes use right hand combs.
That is the kind of nonsense that has been, published in a 70 or 80 page document that has emerged from a government department. It is obvious that the Ministers in charge of the two departments that are remotely associated with the document did not have an inkling of what was going on under their administration.
– I wish to know the exact meaning- of .this- clause. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr, McEwen) has- given us some indication of what is- to be done. We were told, particularly three years ago at election time, that the Government intended to remove bureaucrats and. boards, and the controls associated with them. It even, said* that it would prevent ministerial or political control from being exercised in connexion with many matters, yet this clause betrays an opposite intention. It read’s - (I.) The Minister may, on such terms and conditions” as the Minister thinks fit -
The conferring of such a power1 on the Minister, should, be closely examined, by this. Parliament during, its consideration of this bill, because such. a. provision leaves the gate wide open for abuse. Subclause (3.) provides as follows: -
The Commonwealth Wool Adviser is a corporation sole with perpetual succession and an official seal, and is capable of suing and being sued in his corporate name.
If that is not placing a bureaucrat in position, I do not know what is* According to sub-clause (2.), after the Minister has appointed the Commonwealth Wool Adviser that person - shall perform such duties and functions asthe Minister, from time to time determines, and- shall have such powers as are necessary for the performance of those duties and’ functions.
If we are to make it possible for such an appointment to be made on such terms and conditions- as the Minister thinks fit, then the Minister should have included in the bill a clearer- definition of what is to be done. We have heard the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) on the subject of blank cheques and the lack of proper control over the expenditure of money by the Parliament. We have heard Mr. Speaker make a statement-
– Order !
– At least we have read, such statements. We have heard other officials complaining bitterly that parliamentary control of expenditure is extremely loose; I think that, by accepting this clause, we shall come perilously close to allowing the appointment, of a dictator in connexion with, this particular activity. I do not object to the appointment of a Commonwealth: Wool. Adviser; .or to the taking, of any steps to help- the wool industry, which is- so important to Australia, but I contend that this clause is getting close to- what has been done in. many other acts. It is intended, to be a skeleton that the Minister or his- department will’ be able to- clothe according to his: or its; desires. If the- Minister so desires he can. give the Commonwealth- Wool Adviser full powers to do anything, he likes in. connexion, with work that the Minister considers: that, official should do. That power may be
U3ed unwisely, as well as-, wisely. In view of the statements made by Government, members- and. supporters in this- House recently in. relation to: another measure,, to- the effect, that certain legislation- was designed to prevent a future government from ruining certain sections of the business community, it seems strange that the power to be conferred by this clause is to be given to the Minister. The bill should hare been more definite about what is to be done, so that we should know that, in passing this measure, we are not leaving the way open for the appointment of an autocrat as Commonwealth “Wool Adviser. I hope that the Minister will be able to make the position more clear to honorable members.
.- I express my indebtedness to the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) for continuing the good work that 3 started this afternoon. However, I should like to explain that what I had to say this afternoon with regard to materials handling in the Department of National Development was not a criticism of that, department, and I am quite sure thai the honorable member for Paterson did not intend his remarks to be a criticism of the department. I am sure he wac criticizing, as I was, the material? handlings in the Wool Industry Section of the department. We both emphasized that the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) was entirely innocent in this matter. The whole thing started in 1946, and the Minister was obviously unaware of it until the report was brought down. Indeed, I stated in my speech to-day that no shabbier trick had eve been played on an innocent Minister. I take the opportunity to repeat that statement. The appointment of a Commonwealth wool adviser is the penalty that the wool industry has to suffer for the contribution that the Government, is making to the Australian Wool Bureau. A total of £350,000 is to be paid to the bureau this year, and it is presumed that such payments will continue. I am certain that the wool industry itself will appoint to the Australian Wool Bureau men who will be competent to- prevent the Commonwealth Wool. Adviser, no matter who he is or what he does or attempts to do, from acting against the interests of the Wool industry.’ I have no objection, therefore, to the appointment of the adviser, and T am certain that the industry as a whole has no great objection to it.
There are other features concerning the selection and appointment of the adviser that can be criticized, but, unfortunately, the precedent was established by the previous Government that in all these organizations established to manage the affairs of our primary industries, there have to be liaison officers to protect the. interests of the Government. In many instances these individuals are entirely redundant, but, in this instance, because the operations of the bureau are largely confined to wool use promotion, the Commonwealth Wool Adviser can., to some degree, render a useful service. However, I very much doubt whether he is worth the expenditure of £350,000.
.- The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) like the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) indulged in some caustic criticism of a brochure that was issued by the Department of National Development. It is unfortunate, that the honorable member for Paterson was not in the chamber immediately prior to the suspension of the sitting because the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) took the hide off the honorable member for Riverina in reply.
– Rubbish ! Utterly impossible !
– The Minister paid a very high tribute to the section of the Department of National Development that issued this publication. Contrary to my usual form I wholely agree with the Minister for National Development in his criticism of the honorable member for Riverina. If there is one thing more than another which industry and primary production needs to-day, it is information and extension services in regard to practices that are desirable in industries, and which government departments can make available.
– But this brochure is ABC stuff.
– At present there are thousands of people who are newcomers to the land. Some of them have had experience of farming, but there are many young people in all our schools who are coming of age, who, we hope, will go on to the land. As the years go by there will be more thousands of people who will want to go on the land, and to have available the necessary information on primary production, however primitive and elementary it may be, will be a great advantage to them. Had the honorable member for Paterson, the honorable member for Riverina and I enjoyed that advantage we might have been better primary producers than we are. Some of us did not learn, until we had reached middle age, some of the things that we should have learned in our youth, and would have learned then had publications of this kind been available to us, and to the primitive honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Paterson. The attitude taken by these two honorable gentlemen is in marked contrast to the attitude of the Minister for National Development. As a matter of fact, over the months that have preceded this debate the Minister has been applauding and upholding the extension services made available by the United States Government not only to American primary producers, but also to business interests, and in respect of all functions carried out in the United States of America.
– The honorable member for Lalor should be on this side of the chamber.
– There are some things about which I agree even with an individual like the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). For many years I have been passing a long established foundry in Melbourne, and have been appalled to see the place as dark as a dungeon with the dust of half a century on its walls, I doubt whether its walls have been touched by a whitewash brush in 50 years. What applies to that place applies, in a different fashion to many shearing sheds and farm buildings. If the proprietor of that foundry would spend £300 or £400 on a coat of whitewash and on the installation of decent lighting he would not only find the place more cheerful for his workers and himself but would be giving his employees something to which they are entitled, and would also obtain increased production from them. I have been long enough in primary production to have experience of wool sheds on farms and larger properties, and in many instances the primitive practices followed in them are appalling. Anything that can be done along the lines of extension services and publications is all to the good of the country.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has answered that point fully, and should now come to the clause under discussion. The other matter comes under another clause.
– I was provoked by two honorable members opposite who have a different outlook from mine, but I am glad that their own Minister disagreed with them. I agree with the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) that this is an extraordinary clause. I agree to the appointment of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. In fact, the previous administration appointed a wool adviser. The Minister of the day appointed him and decided bis functions. However, I shall have something to say later in relation to the clause dealing with the powers that are vested in the adviser.
– I am bound to confess that I have not seen that publication issued by the Department of National Development. It was authorized in 1947, during the regime of the Chifley Government, and I have been too busy to peruse it. I do not know whether it is good or bad, but the principle of extension services is good, although the publication may be open to criticism. I shall now refer to the clause that deals with the appointment of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser.- I explained when introducing the measure, that the Government believes that there should be a Commonwealth Wool Adviser, and I have nothing to add to what I said then. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) placed a good deal of importance on the point that this officer’s duties have not been precisely described in the clause, and he was supported in that charge by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). This clause is in the same language as a similar clause in a 1945 act which was introduced by a Labour regime. These are the words that both the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Port Adelaide voted for when they were part of that measure in 1945–
The Minister may appoint a person to be Commonwealth Wool Adviser on such terms and conditions and with such remuneration as the Minister thinks lit.
We have had our bit of fun, and the Opposition has tried to charge the Government with doing a dreadful thing -
– I did not criticise the appointment at all.
– The honorable member for Lalor supported the honorable member for Port Adelaide, whose remarks were directed to a criticism of the clause on the ground that the duties of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser were not defined. Those who have studied matters of this kind, well understand that to enumerate the duties of such an official would be too restrictive, because he has to function as an adviser to the Government on many matters. Who can say what new matter may arise in the future that this official will be required to advise us about? The practice that the Government has followed in this bill with regard to the duties of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser is in accord with the practice of all Governments, who leave the functions of officials such as this to be defined by the appropriate Minister. At all times the Minister will be responsible to the Parliament, and if he defines functions that are too broad he will be liable to be brought to order by the Parliament. The Commonwealth Wool Adviser is to be established in his official capacity as a corporate body capable of suing and capable of being sued. That provision was inserted on the recommendation of the legal advisers of the Government. Whatever the political colour of the government in office, the legal advisers would have offered the same advice, and no doubt that government would have acted upon it. It appears to me that if the Commonwealth Wool Adviser takes action in the course of his duties, he shall not be personally responsible as a private citizen, but all the duties that he performs in his official capacity will be the responsibility of the Government. Surely nobody will consider that that is an improper provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) Subject to this section . . .
– I move -
That sub-clause (1.) of clause6 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-clauses : - “(1.) If the duties and functions imposed or conferred on the Commonwealth Wool Adviser in pursuance of the last preceding section include the duty or function of compiling, analysing and publishing statistics and information relating to wool or to the wool industry, the Commonwealth Wool Adviser may, subject to this section, employ such persons as he thinks necessary to assist him in performing that duty or function. “(1a.) The last preceding sub-section does not authorize the Commonwealth Wool Adviser to continue to employ persons if his duties and functions cease to include the duty or function referred to in that sub-section.”.
The provision that will give the Commonwealth Wool Adviser power to appoint staff will be amended so that it will apply only when that official is responsible for conducting statistical wool surveys. The amendment makes it clear that unless he is responsible for conducting statistical surveys, he shall have no authority to appoint staff. Therefore no one should now suggest that the measure is likely to establish a new bureaucracy. The Australian Wool Realization Commission, during its operation since the beginning of the last war, has conducted statistical surveys which have provided a unique and invaluable record of the composition of the Australian wool clip. The record shows, through the years, how the Australian clip is constituted, where it has been grown and marketed, and at what times it has been sold.
When the American Government, with the support of the United Kingdom Government, proposed that the Australian wool auction system should cease and that our clip should be allocated among the nations that needed wool, it argued that this was necessary because the Korean incident and other international tensions had produced demands for wool unprecedented in peace time. I, with the .support of the Government and the Parliament, and certainly with the support of the wool industry, went to London at three days’ notice to resist the- proposal. This was a matter of all the wool-buying countries of the world ganging up in an attempt to destroy the auction system. I had to argue logically and factually why those proposals were bad. Without going into the technical details of that tremendously important negotiation, I can say the unchallengeable authenticity of the analysis of the Australian wool clip was used as a basis of the arguments that successfully defended our auction system. A year later the American administration again proposed the cessation of auctions, and again the matter had to be argued for eight weeks. No one can say when such a proposal may again be put forward, and no one can predict whether there will be another war. We do not know that, .if there is another war, auctions can be continued and there may have to be an allocation of wool. Then prices would have to be decided on average for type. If that should happen all the decisions would be made upon the results of the analysis of the Australian wool clip to which I have already referred.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said that war was certain within three years.
– He was probably looking at the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) when he said that, but I do not believe that the honorable member’s influence extends as widely as that statement would indicate. The Australian Wool Realization Commission is to be wound up in the near future. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture, with my approval, proposed that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser should continue the work now being done by the Australian Wool Realization Commission. Certain wool-brokers stated that a government department should not do this work, and that it should be left to the wool-brokers who, because of their knowledge of tile clips, could better do the work. A deputation waited upon me and
I informed it that I was not concerned that the Government should do the job, and that I would be glad if it was not necessary for the Government to do it. However, I had doubts whether the brokers’ typing of the wool was sufficiently uniform and whether their records would be sufficiently complete to produce a statistical analysis of the clip year by year which would be unchallenged in the international arena. I suggested that the matter could be best resolved if, for three months, the Australian Wool Realization Commission continued its analysis, the wool-broking houses commenced an analysis themselves and we compared the result. That work has been proceeding for some time and a conference will be held in Sydney next week during which the two analyses will be examined. If it is revealed that the brokers’ analysis is adequate then they will do this job, but if not our statistical surveys will be continued. If they are continued they may be continued under the authority of the Australian Wool Bureau. If the Australian Wool Bureau does not want to continue, the Commonwealth Wool Adviser will do so. If he should do so he will need staff. The right of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser to appoint staff relates exclusively to that circumstance which, as I have explained, is as yet unresolved. The amendment will make it crystal clear that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser will have the right to appoint staff only if he is the person responsible for the conduct of the Wool Statistical Service. If that circumstance eventuates, and he appoints staff, it might appear from the wording of the clause that he will be free to appoint as many persons as he likes under whatever conditions he decides to impose. That is notintended. Sub-clause (2.) provides that the terms and conditions of employment of persons employed shall be such as are determined by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser with the approval of the Public Service Board. That provision would put a brake on the Commonwealth Wool Adviser in relation to the terms and conditions of staff employment. As to the number of people he may appoint, he must limit appointments to the number which the Minister is prepared to include in his budgetary provision. The number employed will be the responsibility of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture of the day; the terms and conditions of employment will be the responsibility of the Public Service Board ; and the choice of the appointee will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth “Wool Adviser. To the extent that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser may need typing or clerical assistance in carrying out his normal functions, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture will provide it.
.- The amendment moved by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the explanation that he has given are reasonably clear, but they are not entirely satisfactory. He has said that the Public Service Board would determine the terms and conditions of employment of staff needed by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. I should like to know whether that statement necessarily means that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser will invite applications from persons who wish to be employed under his jurisdiction, or whether it means that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser will exercise a power which is not exercised by the permanent heads of government departments. I realize that, whether or not applications are called in the event of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser taking over the work formerly carried out by the Australian Wool Realization Commission, it is almost certain that the staff employed by him will be recruited from the staff already employed by that body. In recruiting staff for government employment it is a good practice to open wide the door to all citizens who may desire to apply for appointment. I want an assurance from the Minister that positions on the staff of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser will be open to all qualified persons. If that is not done all the Public Service Board would do would be to determine hours, terms and conditions of employment after the Commonwealth Wool Adviser had selected his own staff. That is unsatisfactory.
I wish to mention another matter in passing. Although it is not quite relevant to the clause I am sure that you, Mr.
Chairman, will permit me to refer to it because the Minister himself has been allowed to stray briefly from the clause without interruption by the Chair. The Minister referred to the value of the statistics compiled by the Australian Wool Realization Commission in arguing a case with representatives of the United States of America who sought an allocation of Australian wool for stock-piling purposes. He pointed out that the statistical information provided by the commission enabled him to ward off an attack by the Americans on our open market system of auctioning wool. He went further and told us that in the event of another war there would have to be an allocation of wool.
– If I used the word “ allocation “ I did so inadvertently ; I intended to use the word “ acquisition “.
– The Minister mentioned the difficulties he had experienced in evading the request. I should say that for a long time he equivocated and that it was not until the Australian primary producers and others concerned became very articulate on the matter that he decided that the auction system should be continued.
– The honorable member is prevaricating.
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to canvass the question whether there should be an acquisition or an allocation of wool in the event of another war.
– The Minister spoke at length on that aspect of the matter. The problem that confronted him could have been solved very quickly after the documentary evidence compiled by the association had been made available to him. He allowed the .negotiations to extend over about eight weeks, when his answer should have been an unequivocal “ No “. The Australian woolgrowers should be given the fullest information regarding the intention of the Government in this matter in the likely event of another war. The Minister has said that acquisition is likely to take place. He should make a definite pronouncement on the subject and also state whether applications will be called for the positions under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser.
.- The wording of this clause seems to indicate the absurd lengths to which the Government is prepared to go in order to convince itself that it is being true to its oft repeated cliche about reducing the bureaucracy and cutting down the Public Service. This matter could be disposed of in a few simple words if the clause had provided that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser may, subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act, appoint such staff as he may deem to be necessary to enable him to carry out his functions. The Statutory authority for the selection of officers for appointment to the Public Service is the Public Service Board. It is the duty of the board to ensure that surplus staff is not employed and that departments are administered efficiently and economically. The Commonwealth Wool Adviser should be able to go to the Public Service Board and indicate the staff that he needs. The board, which is capable of staffing large departments such as the Treasury, would undoubtedly be able to cope with his needs. Why the Government should have gone to. the length of establishing the tortuous process provided for in this clause, I do not know. The situation could quite easily have been met by providing that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser may appoint such staff as he needs, subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act. Under this clause the absurd position will arise that if the Commonwealth Wool Adviser wants a typist to assist him in his work he will have to go, cap in hand, to some section of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in order to obtain her services.
– The Commonwealth Wool Adviser functions within the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
– Wherever he functions, the fact remains that he will have no authority to appoint a typist to assist him in his work. It is farcical for the Government to include such a provision in the bill. It has been inserted because the Government is the victim of its own cliche, which it is continually shouting in the press and on the public platform, about the reduction of the bureaucracy. The Government has repeated the cliche so often that it is beginning to believe it to be true. The Commonwealth Wool Adviser will have to have the assistance of clerks and typists, but the Government proposes to give him that assistance in the most cumbersome possible way. He will have no real authority over his staff.
– What rot!
– I hear cries of “What rot ! “ from the hill-billy members of the Australian Country party. They have no idea of the functions of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser or how he will perform them. Another point made by the honorable member for Lalor was that no indication has been given of the manner in which conflicts which may arise between the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the Public Service Board shall be resolved. No provision has been made for the impartial selection of qualified staff to assist the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. It is a cardinal feature of sound public administration that there should be an impartial selection of staff to fill vacant positions in the Public Service. All qualified citizens should have an equal chance to apply for appointment. Instead of using the provisions of the Public Service Act to ensure the efficient and economic staffing of the Commonwealth Wool Advisers’ section of the Department, the Government has devised this complicated clause to satisfy some of its supporters on the back benches who are continually howling about reducing the Public Service and whittling down the bureaucracy. The provisions of this clause will make no difference to the number of persons employed by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and accordingly the selection of staff should have been left to the Public Service Board acting under the provisions of the Public Service Act.
– I object to clause 6 (2.) which reads as follows : -
The terms and conditions of employment of persons employed under this section shall be such as are determined by the Commonwealth
Wool Adviser with the approval of the Public Service Board.
If this sub-clause will deprive employees of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser of the right to apply to the Public Service Arbitrator to determine their wages and conditions, it is a departure from usual practice, and should not be tolerated. This proposal could become the thin end of the wedge in the Public Service, and be used against other Commonwealth employees. That would bc a simple matter if the Government is permitted to “ get away “ with this proposal without a protest. In effect, the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, or the head of a department, will have the right to fix the wages and conditions of his employees, subject only to the approval of the Public Service Board. Such a form of government control should not be tolerated by any one who has a mind for fair play. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to state whether I have correctly interpreted the sub-clause. If his answer is in the affirmative, I hope that he will amend the sub-clause in order to give to employees of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser the same rights as are possessed by other Commonwealth employees.
.- I always listen with great attention to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) when he speaks about the Public Service, because of his long experience of it, but I should like to ask him whether, in this case, he is living in the past and conjuring up ideas which had currency at the time he was a public servant, but are obsolete to-day.
– I was not a public servant.
– A position is created by this bill which has all the attributes of managerial functions. I ask the honorable member for Yarra, when he is thinking about these matters, whether the ordinary machinery for recruiting the conventional Public Service has any place in an age when we must deal with the wide diversity of business and trading undertakings that we were discussing before the dinner adjournment. The contention of the Opposition places persons in these various trading under takings in an invidious position. They are asked to share their managerial functions with persons who have no responsibility for the results that may follow from their interference. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is entirely inconsistent in his thinking. He wants to have it one way, and then the other way. Somehow or other, we must find a way in which to bring the conventional method into line with the problems created by such functions as are envisaged by this bill, and similar measures.
When we appoint a manager, he should be responsible for the results of his administration. Under the present system there is too much “ passing the buck “ to other people. If a man cannot be responsible for his job, he should not accept the position. He must be able to make his responsibilities go hand in hand with the job that he has to perform, and he must be responsible for the results, or take the consequences. I again pose the question that I posed before the dinner adjournment, and that is whether the matter under consideration requires a new approach. We have to reconcile this problem with the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, and at the same time ensure that ministerial responsibility will not mean interference in such a way as to make it impossible for the organization to function. That is the dilemma, and I do not know the answer to it. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has introduced a series of bills which are a departure from the tradition that we have been trying to develop for 30 years. This departure may be the correct answer to our problem. I do not know whether that is so. It is the kind of problem that some one should, be asked, officially to answer. We cannot find the answer by talking about the matter to people in the Public Service.
.- I do not think that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has grasped the purpose of clause 6 (2.). Briefly, it empowers the Commonwealth Wool Adviser to employ staff under terms and conditions approved by the Public Service Board. That provision has nothing to do with the employment of the staff of a trading instrumentality. The persons who are likely to be employed by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser are members of the staff of the Australian Wool Realization Commission, who will become excess officers when the activities of that body are concluded. Perhaps some clerks who are now employed by private enterprise may seek appointment to the staff of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. There is no reason why the applications should not be examined by the Public Sendee Board, and judged on their merits. Under sub-clause (2.) the Commonwealth Wool Adviser will select his own staff.
The remarks that I am about to make are not directed at the present occupants of that position, or at anybody else, but I point out that if the applications are not to be under the supervision of the Public Service Board, a person with qualifications inferior to those of other applicants could be appointed to the staff. An expert formerly employed by the Australian Wool Realization Commission could be unjustly rejected by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, and he would not have the redress that is available to persons whose applications are subject to the scrutiny of the Public Service Board. Perhaps the eminent professor, the honorable member for Warringah, will admit that my submission is as logical as his own.
Mr. KEON (Yarra) “9.8].- I at least share with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) a realization, of the importance of a proper consideration of Public Service administration, and a searching examination of the organization of the Public Service. However, T must resist the soft impeachment that my ideas on the matter are somewhat oldfashioned and no longer in keeping with present-day realities. The fundamental principles to which I am trying to convert him, although I did not think earlier that he needed conversion, is that irrespective of the circumstances, impartiality in the selection of staff must be maintained. I should not need to argue this matter with Government supporters, because many of them have criticized appointments made by Labour governments, and. said that the Labour appointees could not be trusted. Govern ment supporters vowed that when a Liberal government came into office those officials would be sacked, and declared that the Labour party had planted its men here, there and everywhere throughout the Public Service.
Honorable members opposite have maintained that stand in season and out of season. If they sincerely believe that Government officials should serve all political parties impartially and give disinterested advice to a. Minister, they should support any system, that preserves impartiality of selection, whether the matter arises in the year 1900^ 1952,. or 2053. That fundamental importance of impartiality of selection needs no emphasis. It ensures that officials who are charged with carrying on the administration, long after the political heads who were in office at the time of their appointment have disappeared into oblivion, are completely impartial. That principle extends far beyond the circumstances of the day. It is just as important in a department charged with managerial functions or carrying on trading or commercial activities like a government bank, as in an age-old department like the Treasury or the Prime Minister’s Department.
That is why I say that the Government should avail itself of the existing legislation and the machinery by providing that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser may employ staff subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act. In that way, impartiality of selection would be assured., the Government would receive disinterested advice, and. the rights of members of the staff would, be protected.. Experts in Public Service administrations would be in a position to see that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser did not overreach himself in the employment of staff. If the Government is prepared to allow the Public Service Board to staff big departments, it cannot logically contend that the board cannot provide the small staff required by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. The board has a team of experts on staffing matters. From time to time departments have surplus staff, and officers need to be placed elsewhere. The Commonwealth Wool Adviser may be able to obtain staff from other departments.
– It is not a question of what is done, hut how it is done.
– There is- a sound principle, which is always to distrust human nature and make certain that legislative provisions require one to do something in a manner which will avoid the excesses to which human nature, unfortunately,, tends: No honorable member, if he had a position to fill and if a. friend possessing reasonable qualifications approached him, could resist the temptation to look somewhat favorably on that person. That is why insistence is placed upon appointment by competitive examination, and that has been the strength of the British Civil Service through the stresses and strains to which it has been subject. The British Civil Service,, in the last century, has avoided as far as possible any system under which kissing goes by favour. The British have insisted on a system that allows impartiality of appointment.. That is the kernel of the whole matter. Therefore, I suggest, even at this late stage, that the Minister should abandon this cumbersome clause, and leave the selection of staff to the expert, impartial Public Service Board, which has been appointed by the Parliament to staff departments.
– Some honorable members have beaten the air in this debate. I assure the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) that nothing in this legislation will deny a person appointed within the Public Service access to the Public Service Arbitrator. That is clear and unequivocal.
– We want them to have access to the jobs first.
– I shall deal with that point later. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has raised an important matter of principle concerning the power of any person or department to make appointments in circumstances- that would deny to an employed person the right of access to an established arbitration authority. I have been assured positively that nothing- in this- clause will, deny that right to anybody. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) and: the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) have asked whether the Commonwealth Wool Adviser will advertise vacancies on his staff. I have not the slightest doubt that this will depend in each case on the nature of the vacant position. Should it be a highly technical post, an advertisement would not be necessary. The Snowy Mountains authority and other such bodies appoint men to highly skilled technical jobs without first advertising the vacancies. They choose the men who are best qualified for the jobs. However, it is customary to advertise runofthemill jobs,, and I have not the slightest doubt that a similar course will be followed by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser. While I am the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I shall be able to supervise and exercise control in such matters. Should the honorable member for Lalor exchange places with me, by the grace of the electors, he will be able to do so. Both he and the honorable member for Yarra have urged strongly that every job should be open to every citizen. That i’3 a high-sounding principle. But, when the former Labour Government appointed Alex Wilson as the Administrator of Norfolk Island, did it advertise the vacancy first?
– That was an- executive position. The situation was entirely different.
– The Labour Government gave a reward to a person who- had performed a service for it.
– When this Government appointed Dame Enid Lyons to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, did it call for applications first?
– What about the Australian Minister to Egypt? Did the Government advertise that vacancy ?
– When Forgan Smith created a job and put it in a pigeon hole for two years- until he was ready to take it himself, did- he bother to call for applications?
– Order !’ The Minister should return to the clause.
– When Mr. McGirr, as Premier of New South Wales—
The- CHAIRMAN..- Order !
– McGirr; Finnan, Ferguson - take the whole range of
Labour appointments ! What chance did ordinary citizens have to apply for those jobs? There is no more notorious record of nepotism in this country than that of the Labour party in office. Yet these plausible gentlemen opposite plead that every decent citizen should have an opportunity to apply for every job that becomes vacant ! What utter nonsense !
– This Government packed the High Court of Australia.
– The honorable member and his colleague ought to hang their heads in shame. I shall not discuss the matter further, because I have effectively disposed of the Opposition’s arguments on this issue.
The honorable member for Lalor has done me an injustice. He must have done so only through a lapse of memory, because I am convinced that he would not do so deliberately. He said that I equivocated for a long time when the “United States of America proposed the adoption of a system of wool allocations, and that I acted finally only under pressure from the wool-growers’ organizations.
– That is true.
– I have outlined the circumstances previously both inside this chamber and elsewhere. The first knowledge of the American plan for wool allocations came to me when the United States Ambassador to Australia called at my office in this building and presented me with an aide memoir e-
– What about the clause that we are supposed to be considering?
– The honorable member apparently does not like to hear a colleague exposed, but I shall expose him because he maligned me. The United States Ambassador presented me with an aide memoire, which stated that his Government had decided that there should be a system of wool allocations and had convened a meeting to take place in London three weeks from that date. It had invited 40 nations to be represented at the conference.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The Minister has now had his say on this matter in reply to the honorable member for Lalor, and I think that he should be content. His remarks are definitely out of order. They have nothing to do with the clause before the committee, and he knows that the honorable member for Lalor will not have a chance to reply to them.
– I, too, rise to order. The honorable member for Lalor raised the matter which the Minister has been discussing and, when I said, “ That is not true”, the honorable member used words that were very close to being insulting. I think that the Minister has every right to reply to the honorable member for Lalor and tell the real story.
– The subjectmatter of the controversy is unquestionably unrelated to the clause before the committee. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the first instance cited an example of the statistics that would be collected by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, and the honorable member for Lalor, in reply, went beyond that issue. I asked him to cease but he elaborated on his theme and made a charge against the Minister. As it is the practice of the committee to allow an honorable gentleman to reply to a charge of that sort, I must allow the Minister to continue now.
– I have stated the facts in this chamber previously and they have never been challenged before. In fact, they cannot be challenged successfully. Immediately the United States Ambassador had indicated that his Government wanted to introduce a system of wool allocations and had convened a conference in London to which it had invited representatives of a large group of nations, I said that I was sure that the Australian Government would never agree to the termination of the wool auction system in the situation that then existed. The Government immediately confirmed the statement that I had made to the United States Ambassador, and that day I invited representatives of the wool-growers’ organizations to come to Canberra so that I could tell them of the American proposal. Representatives of those organizations later went to London and were present when I engaged in the negotiations at the conference to which I have referred. That is the main story. The only point that I have omitted is that I told the United States Ambassador at once that Australia would not engage in negotiations with a mass of nations, including some from behind the Iron Curtain, on the issue that his Government had raised, but that, if the request was based on America’s defence requirements, the Australian Government would certainly consider it. I stated emphatically that the only nations entitled to be represented at the proposed conference were the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the three woolgrowing dominions. Furthermore, I said that the discussions should take place, not in London, but in Canberra, which is the centre of gravity of the woolgrowing world. The negotiations were confined to the countries that I suggested, and the United States of America agreed that the conference should be held at Canberra. The United Kingdom also concurred, after some demur, but finally the British negotiator was forbidden by medical orders to fly. That is why the conference was held in London. That is the complete story
– Apology accepted!
– That is a very mean remark. The honorable member knows very well that I have stated the truth. He knows also that I have told the story on previous occasions, and therefore he should have been aware of the facts. If, in fact, he did remember the truth as I had explained it previously, his attempt to malign me to-night on the ground that I did not tell the truth does him little credit. That is all I have to say on this matter.
– The committee was entitled to expect the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to reply reasonably to the criticism by members of the Opposition of the method of making appointments to the staff of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser for which the clause provides. The Minister had pointed out that the Public Service Board would fix the rates and conditions of employment of members of that staff and that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, under his ministerial direction, would be able to regulate the size of that staff. Therefore, he said, the whole situation was satisfactorily covered. Honorable members on this side of the chamber then pointed out to him that an extremely important point had not been covered and that the Commonwealth Wool Adviser would be able to appoint to his staff such persons as he pleased without the ordinary safeguards that are observed in normal Commonwealth employment. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) said that the Public Service Board should choose and recommend to the Commonwealth Wool Adviser the personnel of his staff. Surely there need not have been any heated discussion of this matter. The proposal was reasonable, and the Minister might well have been able to make a reasonable reply to it. I waited, as did other honorable members, to hear him explain why the most involved and roundabout procedure for which the bill provides had been adopted in preference to the procedure suggested by the honorable member for Yarra. However, the Minister entirely ignored the suggestion in his reply, and the very fact that he did so, and also raised a tremendous smoke-screen around the whole issue, entitles us to attach more significance to it than we would have done otherwise. Had the Minister given some ordinary common-sense reason why this special procedure ought to be adopted in the case of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser’s staff, the committee might well have been satisfied. However, the honorable gentleman has not given any reason to justify departure from the normal practice. Instead, he has raised a smoke-‘ screen by discussing appointments made by governments. These are exceptional appointments to executive positions and have no relation to appointments such as will be made by the Commonwealth Wool Adviser for the purpose of making statistical surveys. The Minister became extremely heated, but he continued to avoid any reference to the rational and reasonable points that had been put to him for explanation. He drew all sorts of red herrings across the trail and failed to satisfy the committee that there should, be any departure from the normal procedure in connexion with appointments to Commonwealth employment. In the circumstances, we are fully entitled to suspect the motives that animate him.
.- I support the argument that has been advanced very ably by honorable members on this side of the chamber that appointments made under this clause should be made through the Public Service Board, and should be subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act. It is important that that should be done, because it is necessary to prevent political patronage of the type that otherwise would be dealt out by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). I remember how the Minister sacked Mr. Cullen from the Australian Wheat Board and replaced him by Sir J ohn Teasdale, a supporter of the Government, who was given an increased salary.
– Order! Appointments made by the Minister are not relevant to the question before the Chair. I ask the honorable member for Grayndler to confine himself to the clause.
– I was making a passing reference to the matter.
– I shall not permit passing references of that kind.
– With due respect to you, Mr. Chairman, I point out that the Minister referred to a number of appointments made by Labour governments.
– Order ! I said that that incident was closed, and it is closed. The honorable member must get back to the clause.
– I am attempting to make the point that appointments made under the clause should be subject to the provisions of the Public Service Act in order to prevent supporters of the Government from being unduly favoured. We believe that political patronage is involved i:i this matter and that the Government is seeking to disguise its intention to pack this board, with appointees of its own political colour, or with persons who arc in its favour.
– Order ! If the honorable member does not obey thc Chair I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I do not wish to defy the Chair, but I want to make my point. I am sorry that you have to protect th, Government.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will resume his seat.
– I rise to order. The object of the procedure adopted by the Public Service Board is to prevent political patronage, and to ensure that persons are appointed to the Commonwealth Service only on the basis of the suitability of their qualifications for the offices to which they are appointed.
– Order ! Political patronage does not enter into this matter.
– I hope that you will listen to my point of order. Under this provision, persons could be appointed to the Commonwealth Service without regard to their qualifications for the positions. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) sought to make the point that the procedure adopted by the Public Service Board would, if followed in this instance, ensure that appointments were made upon the basis of qualifications for the position, not as the result of favoritism.
– Order! The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) is not raising a point of order. What he has said is a matter for debate. Unless he raises a point of order, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– The Opposition is indulging in obstruction.
– If you would only silence the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), Mr. Chairman-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must make his point of order, or resume his seat.
– I was trying to explain my point of order, but the VicePresident of the Executive Council interrupted me.
– Order ! The honorable member for Perth will resume his seat.
– I should like a ruling from you, Mr. Chairman. Is it permissible for a member of the committee to charge the Government with having inserted this clause in the bill to enable it to recruit staff by methods other than those adopted by the Public Service Board, so that it could,, if it so desired, exercise political patronage and appoint people of its own political colour? Is- not that a valid argument?’
– That is a matter for debate.
– What is your ruling?
– That is a matter for debate.
– I rise- to order.
– Order ! No point of order is involved.
– You ruled that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) was out of order when he argued that, under the clause, persons could be appointed as the result of political patronage. The point that the honorable member was trying to make was that unless the safeguards proposed by the Opposition be inserted in the bill, there may be political patronage. I suggest that that is the crux of the matter.
– I believe, Mr. Chairman, that in accordance with normal procedure, you ordered the honorable member for Grayndler to resume his seat when he defied a ruling by the Chair.
– That is correct.
– I suggest that no point of order can be raised upon that ruling, because the honorable member did defy the Chair.
– I rise to order.
– Order ! The honorable member must wait until I have Stated the question. The question before the Chair is that clause 6, to which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has moved an amendment, be agreed to. The amendment has been circulated, and I do not propose to read it at this stage.
– Will you give a ruling on my point of order, Mr. Chairman?
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) did not raise a point of order. He referred to a matter of debate.
– I rise to order. It appears that, under your ruling, Mr. Chairman, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is permitted, deliberately to level charges against Labour governments, but when we rise to answer thos: charges, you rule that we cannot reply to them. If that is the position, will you tell, us when it. will be appropriate for us to answer those charges?
– No point of order is involved.
– I want to make a suggestion. There is an amendment before the committee about which there is some difference of opinion. It is possible that the amendment has not been fully understood by honorable members, or that the text of it is not known to all of us. Will you read the amendment?
– It has been circulated.
– I ask you to read it.
– The Minister read it to the committee, and copies of it were circulated. I do not propose to read it again.
– Where are the copies?’ I have not had one.
– This is an attempt by the Labour party to put on a party political turn.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I shall not ask the Minister to withdraw a general statement of that kind, but I shall ask him to deal with the clause.
– Honorable members opposite have suggested that the provisions of the clause would enable appointments to be made to the Government Service other than through the routine followed by the Public Service Board, which requires that the existence, of vacancies be published, that applications for the vacant positions be called, and that persons be chosen from appli-cants for those positions.
– If that is not done, the way to patronage is opened.
– That i3 the charge that has been made, against the Government. In this instance, it is a charg-3 that can be advanced only-
– I rise to order: You have just ruled, Mr. Chairman, that the subject of political patronage is not relevant to the clause.
– Order! I have stated that the point raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was not a point of order, but a matter for debate.
– I wish to raise a point of order.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) will sit down. I have said that no point of order is involved.
– You have not heard what I wish to say. Why do you not listen to what .1 am saying?
– It is contemptible to allege that such a reputable and honorable gentleman as the Commonwealth Wool Adviser would exercise patronage on behalf of any political party.
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether the word “ contemptible “ is an unparliamentary expression.
– I did not hear the Minister use that word. I have my mind upon many things. I am trying to keep the committee in order, and I can easily miss hearing some words. In what sense was the word used by the Minister ?
– It was used in an offensive sense.
– Will the honorable member for Lalor repeat the words that the Minister used?
– I said that the suggestion was contemptible and that was perfectly true. Remarks of that kind are customary in this chamber. Let me come to the point whether appointments to the Government Service ought to be made only through the Public Service Board, after applications have been called publicly. I say to the honorable member for Lalor that, during the four years when he administered the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Australian Wool Board, the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Meat Board, the Australian Egg Board and every other statutory board hired and fired at will. No applications for appointments to vacant positions were called for. All that the Public Service Board did was to specify the terms and conditions of employment. For four years, the whole array of statutory boards in Australia hired and fired at will. Now that the honorable member for Lalor is in Opposition, he has the effrontery to say that what this Government proposes to do in this instance is improper. I suggest that the honorable member abandon that form of attack, because whenever he makes an allegation of this kind I am able to say that what he has criticized the Government for having done, was done also while ‘he was administering the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Now that I have exposed the hypocrisy of the Opposition in this instance, I ask the committee not to waste any more time upon the matter.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harbison) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Why not raise your swastika ?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) must withdraw that expression.
– What did I say?
– The honorable member knows what he said. He said that the Vice-President of the Executive Council ought to raise his swastika.
– He did not say that.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor will apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize, but I point out to you, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member for East Sydney did not say what you have said he said.
– Order ! You are not concerned in this incident. The honorable member for East Sydney must withdraw the remark that he made.
– I withdraw everything that I said. That will put the matter right.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.) Ayes . . . . 54
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I am pleased that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has had the clause amended, because it now partly meets the objections I had to it in its original form. This is the first time I have spoken in the debate on this clause, so the Minister wrongfully accused me of having made a statement about the clause. The clause as amended now makes it clear to me the powers of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser in relation to the employment of staff. He will be able to obtain staff should he desire statistical information but he may not employ any one for any other purpose without authority. The functions of the Adviser are to be confined to general advice without any outside assistance and his employment of staff must be made with the concurrence of the Public Service Board. I have no great objection to that principle, although other honorable members on this side of the chamber have objected to it. On occasions it is necessary to appoint to such bodies people with special knowledge, but generally we should keep as close as we possibly can to the normal procedure relating to appointments, which is that they are made through the Public Service Board. I raise no further objection to the clause.
– The clause, as amended, empowers the Commonwealth Wool Adviser to make appointments of staff without the safeguards or protections given by the Public Service Act. It therefore opens the way, in the opinion of the Opposition, to political patronage and nepotism. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), though he constantly raised his voice louder and louder, and worked himself into a fury on this matter, has completely failed to give the committee any logical reason for this departure from the normal procedures relating to Commonwealth employment. So far from giving any logical explanation, the Minister went to the extreme length of declaring that, by suggesting that the normal protections of Commonwealth employment procedure should be included in this clause, the Opposition was traducing the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and reflecting on his integrity. That, of course, is utter nonsense. In making that defence the Minister was hiding behind the skirts of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, and absolving himself of responsibility. It would be just as logical for the Minister to contend that no competitive system need operate in relation to appointments to Commonwealth positions, and that there is no need for the Public Service Board to operate, on the ground that the head of every department, and every person authorized by the Commonwealth to employ staff, is a reputable person and a person of integrity. To argue that the provision of safeguards under the Public Service Board constitute a reflection ou the honesty or integrity of the heads of Commonwealth departments, is absurd. It is equally absurd, and it is politically cowardly, for the Minister to shelter behind this indefensible form of procedure, which is in breach of the accepted principle of Commonwealth employment, and for which the Minister has failed to give the committee any adequate reason.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has altogether misrepresented the statement made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). Before I deal with the Minister’s actual statement, I wish to point out that the contribution of honorable members opposite to the debate tonight has been typical of the attitude of the Opposition, and the Labour party generally, to important matters. The Minister particularly pointed out to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who led the debate for the Opposition at the second-reading stage, that during the time that the honorable member was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government many boards - which the Minister named - adopted the same procedure as will he adopted under this measure when it becomes law. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in attempting to show that the Minister said something that he had not actually said, has done nothing to clarify the debate. He did not intend to. He intended to throw a smoke-screen round what had really been said. The Minister had made it clear that the procedure to be adopted was the normal procedure under the .previous Government and -the previous Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who has objected so fiercely to this provision.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has supported the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in his attack on the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in relation to the Labour party’s attitude during its term of office to marketing boards, but he overlooked, very conveniently for his argument, the fact that such boards established by the Labour Government were established during wartime. In the circumstances the last thing that the Labour Government wanted to do, or would have done, was to make permanent appointments to them at a time when so many men who in normal circumstances would have applied for such appointments, were unable to do so, because they were fighting overseas. That is the reason why those boards were established on the basis on which they were established by the Labour Government. It would have been very wrong for the Labour Government to have appointed staff on a permanent basis to authorities in respect of which it had not been decided even then whether they were to be permanent or temporary. As I -have said, had it established them on a permanent basis with permanent staff, it would have deprived hundreds of thousands of servicemen who were overseas fighting of the opportunity to obtain positions that were offering on those boards. It ill becomes the Minister, therefore, to criticize the Labour Government for its failure to place those boards on a permanent basis. However, now that the legislation is being amended, this is the opportunity “for the Government to do the right thing. It is of little use for the Ministers to say, time after time when we criticize the Government’s legislation, as they do on every occasion, that the Government is only doing what the Labour Government did. They use that argument as their justification for legislation, yet their very justification for being on the treasury bench to-day i& that they are not going to do what we did when we were in office. I suggest to the Minister that, by advancing that excuse on this occasion he is, in effect, moving a vote of no confidence in himself and the Government.
I do not want to deal with this matter on a party political basis. This is an occasion when amending legislation to deal with various aspects of these authorities is under consideration, and therefore it is the appropriate occasion on which to take “whatever steps are necessary to place the recruitment of the staffs concerned on a proper basis. Recruitment of Commonwealth employees, by “virtue of the statutes passed and confirmed by
Parliament after Parliament, has been effected subject to the safeguards that we have found over the years to be so necessary. Those safeguards should apply on this occasion. Nobody is suggesting corruption, or otherwise, but our experience over the years has shown us the necessity of having a system of Commonwealth employment which ensures the impartiality of departmental employees, so that when a new Minister takes over his department which was previously administered by a Minister of the opposite political faith, he knows that his departmental staff is impartial and is not actuated by political motives, not having been appointed politically in the first place. It must have been a great consolation to this Government to know when it took office, that appointments in the Public Service had been made under the Public Service Act, and that it had to deal with officials whose impartiality could be relied on, and who could be trusted to give it the same impartial service as they had given to other governments. The Government would admit that if it were honest with this committee. Because of the Public Service Board’s experience and knowledge of the work of departments, I hope that the Minister might be converted to the view that this clause, which is cumbersome and wordy, and which does not contain the vital principle of control by the Public Service Board, should be replaced by the simple provision that I have suggested. I recommend that to the Minister, with some faint hope that he might do that which he often urged the last Labour Government to do when he was a member of the Opposition.
– >. believe that I can put the minds of honorable members at rest by saying that I have received an unequivocal assurance from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that he does not propose to appoint Mr. Finnan, Mr. McGirr, Mr. Ferguson, or Mr. Baddely to this position. To-night we have witnessed unexampled hypocrisy on the part of the Labour party. This is the party which, in its New South Wales manifestation, has shown a degree of political corruption-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members do not cease interjecting I shall he forced to take action.
Mr. Fitzgerald interjecting.
– Order ! If the ‘ honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) does not cease interjecting. I shall ask him to leave the chamber.
– This speech by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is disgusting.
– Order! The honorable member for Phillip will apologize to the Chair for his interjection.
– I apologize.
– During the course of this debate we have witnessed the spectacle of unexampled hypocrisy from the Labour party. In its New South Wales manifestation-
– Order! The honorable gentleman must address his remarks to the bill.
– I shall content myself by remarking that the Government does not stoop to the kind of political patronage which has characterized the operations of the Labour party. Its specious opposition to this clause shows complete and unexampled hypocrisy.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 15 - by leave - considered together.
Mi-. KEON (Yarra) [10.5].- I desire to address myself to clause 9. I notice that the personnel of the Australian Wool Bureau will be the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, or his deputy, and six representatives of the Australian Wool-growers, who shall be appointed by the Govern orGeneral from a panel nominated by the organizations of producers. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) explain why there is no representative on the bureau of the general public, the consumers and the workers in the pastoral industries? The Australian wool industry is of vital importance, not only to the wool-growers, but also to the whole of the community. On that industry depends the whole of our economy, because if the price of wool should fall the economy would slump. Surely one or two representatives of the consumers and a representative of the Australian Workers Union, or other employee body, would not outweigh the six growers’ representatives. I suggest that in many respects persons, who are not wool-growers, would better protect the wool industry than some of the woolgrowers themselves. The people of every electorate in Australia are concerned with the wool industry. I suggest that the representatives of the wool-growers are not likely to make decisions in the best interest of the nation. One has only to fly to Canberra to see how the woolgrowers have ravaged the soil and permitted erosion and denudation of the land. One has only to see how the heart of the country has been eaten out because of careless grazing. Perhaps the graziers are not the best people to conserve the land. If it contained a representative of the public interest and representatives of the workers, who were not concerned with getting the maximum profit in the minimum time but were concerned with preserving the industry on an economic basis, the Australian Wool Bureau would be able to function more effectively than it will function when constituted as proposed by the Government.
Perhaps the honorable member for
Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and I might not agree on the matter of the auction system. However, it seems to me, and also probably to a great many of the people, that if there were persons other than graziers on the Australian Wool Bureau, and if a war should occur and our enemies and allies compete for wool as an important war material, it would then perhaps not be considered the right thing to say “ We have the wool and if you care to pay the price you can have it whether you are friend or foe “. It seems to me, as it would seem to a representative of the public, that such a system would savour of war profiteering. If anybody cares to examine the statistics about the sale of wool after the Korean incident began, he will discover how wool was sold to the Soviet Union and the United States, and how the increase of price was caused by the competition between friends and enemies.
– Nonsense ! Very little wool was sold to our foes.
– All I can say is that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) does not know what he is talking about.
– If the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) is so sure of his facts let him produce the statistics.
– I shall do so within a few minutes. The price of wool increased because of the competition between our enemies and our friends. One does not need to be an expert in the wool industry to know that. Because of that, and because this Government was not capable of coping with such a tremendous increase in our export income, we suffered all the difficulties that flowed from that situation - as the members of the Government know very well. If a representative of some section of the people other than the wool-growers had had a say in the auction system they would have put forward a proposition that would have favoured our potential allies in the event of trouble.
It is not sufficient for the wool-growers to say “ We have the wool and if you want it you will pay our price, irrespective of whether you are a friend or foe “. The pastoral industry stands convicted, in my mind and in the minds of a number of people, of deliberately lining its own pockets to the detriment of the country and its allies.
– Does the honorable member for Lalor support that view?
– Everybody is entitled to his opinion, and in my opinion that was a foul situation. There are points of view about the wool industry other than the graziers’ point of view, and people holding those views are entitled to have their voices heard. Let not the graziers forget that many of them own their land through sheer robbery in the first place.
– Order! The honorable member should keep to the point at issue.
– Let the graziers remember that many of them acquired their land under circumstances which we would not agree to to-day, and that many acquired it at very low prices - : or no price at all. There is no honorable member on the Government side of the House who would agree that the use made of that land by the graziers has been uniformly good. Fortunately, to-day we are developing a conscience in relation to soil erosion, and many graziers are trying to stop this rape of the land.
– Order! The honorable member should deal with that matter when the committee is considering functions under the bill.
– The Australian Wool Bureau cannot carry out its functions in the best interest of the people of Australia unless interests other than the grazing interests are represented on it. I am sure that the graziers would admit that they would benefit if there were representatives of the workers on the bureau. They have a vital stake in the preservation and advancement of the industry, as have the general public and the consumers. I suggest that the Minister should give consideration to my proposition.
– Honorable members have just listened to a collection of the most extraordinary statements by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who appeared to ramble on about all sorts of things from soil erosion to whether people paid enough for the land that they own. Surely the object of having an Australian Wool Bureau is, not to have a great unwieldly body trying to reconcile divergent interests, but to have a small efficient committee of experts engaged in exploring the factors which make for the wider use and better marketing of wool. The purpose of having an Australian Wool Bureau is to have a single driving force to promote the sale and marketing of our wool. If the bureau were to be enlarged in any way at all, surely it should be enlarged only by the addition of marketing experts or perhaps chemists or chemical engineers who could assist those motivated by the driving force which wool-growers are motivated by, that is the desire to sell wool profitably. That, of course, is a most powerful driving force. It is pure propaganda for the honorable member for Yarra to ramble off into long stories about whether . consumers should be represented on the Australian Wool Bureau. If consumer interests are to be represented on the Australian Wool Bureau we may as well provide that the representatives of margarine users shall be represented on a copra board. If Opposition members want to make propaganda out of this matter, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has been doing, they can suggest increases of the representation on the bureau ad infinitum. The bureau is merely intended to be a small body of experts whose principal function will be to further the sale of wool. We should consider adding to its membership only experts who will further promote that specific purpose.
.- Unfortunately, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) and the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) were slightly off the rails in their discussion of this clause. Both of them jumped to the conclusion that, the Australian Wool Bureau is to be established to foster the marketing of wool.
– Not to foster the marketing of wool, but to promote its sale.
– It is intended that the bureau shall perform the function that was previously performed by the Australian Wool Board, namely, to promote the use of wool as opposed to wool substitutes and other textiles. It will have no marketing functions whatever. I appreciate the active and capable interest displayed by the honorable member for Yarra in his endeavour to ensure that interests other than those of wool-growers shall be represented on the bureau. Let. us put the position in proper perspective. When the Labour Government in 1945 established the Australian Wool Board, in accordance with its traditional policy, it did not provide, as it would have done had that been a marketing authority, for representation on the board of interests concerned in the promotion of the sale of wool. It established the Wool Consultative Council to advise Ministers on matters concerning the industry, a function previously performed by the earlier board. The council had a very wide charter. It included in its membership the Commonwealth “Wool Adviser, two grower members of the Australian “Wool Board, and representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, wool manufacturers, textile distributors, technical education authorities, the Australian “Workers Union and the Australian Textile “Workers Union. The council was £rst administered by the then Minister for Post-War Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman. Unfortunately, the council has been destroyed by this Government. No longer will any interests but the woolgrowers advise the Minister in connexion with wool research matters. No doubt the Minister will say that the Australian “Wool Bureau is to control publicity designed to promote the use and sale of wool all over the world, and that, for the financing of those activities, the whole of the funds are to be provided by the woolgrowers. That does not justify represetation on the bureau being entirely confined to primary producers. I agree with the honorable member for Yarra on tha*” point. The Minister has told us that research functions, which are of vast importance to every section of the community, are to be entirely under the control of the bureau. In those circumstances, there is every justification for the contention of the honorable member for Yarra that the bureau should include in its membership representatives of trade unions and other interests.
– Are not the funds used for the purpose of research obtained from the sale of wool?
– No. A great deal of the money used for that purpose comes from sources other than the sale of wool. If the honorable member had been present in the chamber this afternoon when T made my second-reading speech he would know more about this matter.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) should not be permitted to say that I was absent from the chamber when in fact I was present. I have been more regular in attendance in the chamber during the last seven years than has any other honorable member.
– I admit that the honorable member is a reasonably good attender-
– I am a record attender.
– That is not so. The honorable member is often absent from the chamber.
– If the honorable member had taken the trouble to read clause 21 he would know that the Treasurer is to make available to the bureau from the Consolidated Revenue Fund an amount equivalent to 2s. for each bale of wool produced, for expenditure on research. It is true that that amount is to be supplemented by £2,750,000 from other funds that have accrued almost entirely from the sale of wool. The Government proposes to replace the “Wool Consultative Council, which was established by the Labour government, by the Australian “Wool Bureau which is to be almost wholly a grower representative body. It is safe to say that the bureau, with its six grower members and the Commonwealth “Wool Adviser and the Deputy Commonwealth “Wool Adviser, will not consult representatives of the manufacturing interests, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization, the trade unions or the technical education authorities, all of which were included in the membership of the Wool Consultative Council. The Minister will undoubtedly contend that the council did not function satisfactorily. During the whole of my term of office as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I did not hear a single complaint about its work, nor have I since heard such a complaint. If honorable members care to read the report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization for the year 1950, they will find that notwithstanding that we had then only recently emerged from a war the council performed a task of major magnitude. It discharged its responsibilities and carried out its task with signal success.
– The debate on this clause has been enlightening in many ways. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr.
Pollard)., who administered the Department of Commerce and Agriculture for four .years, has just told the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) that if he had taken the trouble to read clause 21 he would know that the Australian Wool Bureau will be called upon to administer an amount equivalent to 2s. a bale, or £360,000, to be provided from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, as well as £2,750,000 which was transferred to the Wool Research Trust Account. That is utter nonsense. [Quorum formed]. Apparently, the honorable member knows nothing of the provisions of some of the most important enactments that he administered. He set out to rebuke my very distinguished colleague, the honorable member for Mallee, who displayed a complete knowledge of the wool industry and the provisions of this legislation and who showed quite clearly that the honorable member for Lalor knows nothing whatever about the matter. The honorable member for Lalor said that the proceeds of the wool tax were expended on research and that the £2,750,000 transferred to the Wool Research Trust Account would be administered by the Australian Wool Bureau under this legislation.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member used those words. I shall not allow him to crawfish out of the statement. lt has gone into the Hansard record and I shall see that the honorable member does not alter it in the Hansard “flat”. He should know that these funds are expended under the jurisdiction of four Ministers who are named in an entirely different statute. Having exposed his complete lack of knowledge, I pass on to his claim, that the Wool Consultative Committee which he established in 1945 was a very useful body. He claimed, quite correctly, that the council represented all interests from the wool-grower to the shed-hand. The council consists of nine members, and the records show that it has met six times since 1945. On only one occasion in that period was there a full attendance of members. That illustrates the value to the wool industry of the consultative council which the honorable member for Lalor estab- lished. He would serve his own interests, and the interests of the Labour party best if he sat silent in his place when measures dealing with the primary industries are before the House, because every time he opens his mouth, he reveals his ignorance of the matters under consideration.
However, that is comparatively unimportant. What is really serious is the savage attack upon graziers and woolgrowers by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). Of course, he speaks with all the authority that comes from a complete lack of knowledge of anything relating to the rural industries. Ensconced in a pocket handkerchief electorate in the middle of Melbourne, he tells the wool-growers how to conduct their business and where they can “get off “. He says, from the profundity of his ignorance, that representatives of the consumers and the workers should be appointed to the Australian Wool Bureau. He asks how much money the bureau will expend, and what functions it will perform. He would have found all that information in the bill if he had bothered to read it. His speech revealed that he imagined that the bureau is a marketing authority. Obviously, he did not read the bill, or listen to my second-reading speech.
This legislation has nothing to do with the marketing of wool. It relates entirely to wool use promotion, and the money to be expended for that purpose has been collected from the wool-growers at their own request. In 1935 they asked the Government to impose a tax of 6d. a bale for wool use promotion. Subsequently, they requested the Government to increase the tax to 2s. a bale, and last year, they asked that the levy be raised to 4s. a bale. It is the money provided by the wool-growers that will be used for wool use promotion. Yet the honorable member for Yarra considers that a wool sorter should be appointed to the Australian Wool Bureau on the ground that he could advise his fellow members how the money should be expended. Such a suggestion is too outrageous for comment. Research will be conducted by the bureau with the funds provided by the wool-growers into the marketing of their own product, and on extension services in a modified form. What on earth has a member of the Australian Workers Union to do with those functions? The honorable member for Lalor appointed a member of the food and fodder unions in Melbourne to the Australian Wheat Board to decide the price at which wheat should be sold.
– The Minister confirmed that action by appointing a member of the flour millers association to the board.
– Every time the honorable member opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it. The position is clear. The simple truth is that the consultative council has been exposed as a farce and a sham. Why should such a body remain in existence? The Australian Wool Bureau has the right to appoint consultative committees, and when it does so, the members will be persons of wisdom and judgment.
– Order ! We have not yet reached that clause.
– The Government does not intend to appoint a member of the housewives association to a body that is concerned with wool use promotion.
– Or vice versa.
– Yes. That may be the policy of the Labor party, but we do not embrace it. The bureau will do a specialized job, and will expend the woolgrowers’ money for that purpose. That money will be spent in accordance with the judgment of the wool-growers themselves and not of other people.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has furnished me with the information that I require. Clause 16 deals with the powers and functions of the Australian Wool Bureau, and clause 21 relates to the Wool Research Trust Account. Provision is made for the Minister to approve the manner in which that money shall be expended. Consequently, the issue has now been clarified.
The Minister became very excited and made many strange allegations. He uttered some derogatory remarks about the number of meetings held by the Wool Consultative Council established under the act of 1945.
– It has met six times in eight years.
– The honorable gentleman has been Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for more than three years. I direct his attention to the fact that the act, which he is supposed to administer, provides that the council shall meet at such times and places as are directed by the Minister. Obviously the honorable gentleman has fallen down on his job.
– I would not bother to summon such an ineffective body.
– The Minister was bound, under the act, to summon the council when there was business for it to transact. I shall now discuss the expenditure of money on research under the original act.
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in doing so.
– I realize that the situation is difficult. You, Mr. Chairman, have allowed speakers to wander away-
– Order! The honorable member raised this matter originally, and I allowed the Minister to reply to his statement. Subsequently, I allowed the honorable gentleman to refer to it briefly again. I now ask him to confine his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– I can dispose of the matter quickly if I am permitted to do so.
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in doing so at this stage.
– The Minister has discussed the Wool Consultative Council. I submit that I should be allowed to do so.
– Order ! I have already explained the position. The honorable gentleman will not be in order in doing so.
.- I object to clause 9 (1.), which reads as follows : -
The Bureau shall consist of - (a) The Commonwealth Wool Adviser or the Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser, as the Minister from time to time determines; and
I do not care whether the money is provided by the Australian wool-growers or anybody else. If we are to establish the AustralianWool Bureau, for goodness’ sake let it be an organization representative of all sections of the woolgrowing industry. If the Australian Workers Union or the Australian Woolclassers Federation is not represented on the bureau, the other members will not know how to do their job thoroughly.
– Do not the woolgrowers provide all the money?
– That is immaterial. It is our duty to be sure that the bill will achieve the objectives that we desire. If all the members of the bureau are representative of the woolgrowers, proper consideration cannot be given to some vital aspects of wool production. Clause 16 (2.) provides -
Subject to any directions of the Minister, the bureau may -
Do such things as it thinks fit for the purpose of -
improving the production of wool in Australia; or
encouraging research in Australia and other countries directly to the promotion of the use of wool;
One of the principal reasons why our wool clip is not handled as efficiently as it should be is that the representations of the workers in the industry have not been properly considered. Many factors in the handling of the wool clip have not received proper attention, and, indeed, they will not receive proper attention as long as the interests of the workers who do the job are completely ignored. I shall cite a few instances. Although I represent the division of Hindmarsh, which is an industrial centre, I have had extensive experience of the wool industry, and I know as much about it as any other honorable member. We lose more money a year because our sheep are not cared for properly than for any other reason.
– Order ! The honorable member should discuss this matter when clause 16 is under consideration.
– I contend that a representative of the Australian Workers Union should be appointed to the Australian Wool Bureau, and I shall explain my reasons for expressing that view. The Australian Workers Union represents the men who are affected by the failure to crutch sheep as often as they should be crutched. The Australian Workers Union could make some valuable suggestions to the bureau for the improvement of wool production. The Australian Workers Union could tell the bureau that more attention should be given to the gratings in the catching pens and the counting-out pens. Those matters have engaged the attention of hardly 5 per cent. of the wool-growers. Whenever shearing takes place, wool is wasted because it is blown through the portholes into the counting-out pens, where it becomes dirty. Finally, this wool is shovelled into drays, and is wasted. On one station a heap of wool almost 20 feet high was wasted through this cause. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) knows that this is true because he saw the heap of wool, which belonged to the Mundi Mundi Pastoral Company Ltd.
There are many serious shortcomings in the wool industry which, in my opinion, only a representative of the Australian Workers Union could point out to the bureau. I refer, for instance, to the need to have sheep yarded at least four hours before shedding. Every woolgrower knows that, because of bad management, many squatters allow their sheds to become empty and then rush flocks of sheep long distances in the heat of the day so that they arrive at the shed panting and famished. The animals fill themselves with water and are then put into the shed. Honorable members can imagine the mess that they make in the shed after that treatment. The union has repeatedly urged growers to introduce better methods of handling their flocks. Sheep should be brought to the yards at least four hours before they are shedded so that the sheds and the equipment will be kept reasonably clean. It is about time, too, that the Australian Workers Union was permitted to step in and show the growers how to provide proper watering facilities for their flocks. Growers throughout the back country of Australia water their sheep only at ordinary dams. Thousands of square miles of sheep country in South Australia arc watered only by dams. In order to reach the water, the sheep have to wade into the kopi mud until they are covered with it over their legs and half-way up the breech. The union would submit to the bureau a proposition that growers should fence their dams and provide proper troughs so that the sheep could reach the water without damaging the wool.
.- I need not say much in reply to the comments of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), because it appears that only the most suitable men will be appointed to the Australian Wool Bureau. The money that will be expended by the bureau will be provided by the wool-growing industry, and the idea of appointing a member of the Australian Workers Union to the bureau is fantastic. The honorable member demonstrated his abysmal lack of knowledge of the sheep industry. There is no need for me to explain, for the benefit of any sheep raisers who may have heard the broadcast of the honorable member’s speech, the remarkable inaccuracies that it contained.
– Mention one of them.
– I shall do so. The honorable member said that mismanagement was rampant in the wool-growing industry throughout Australia and that sheep were not properly cared for and fed. The history of Australia has been associated with the excellent management of our sheep flocks. In no country are sheep better cared for than they are in Australia. That is why Australia is the greatest wool country in the world and has an absolute monopoly of superfine wool. Such results can be achieved only by good management. I refer the honorable member to wool-growers like the Taylors of Tasmania, whose wool tops the markets. There are growers throughout the country whose skilled husbandry has done much to bring Australia to its present condition of economic stability. The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh showed that he represents an industrial suburb. If somebody suggested that a wool-grower should be appointed to the executive of the seamen’s union, or some other such organization
– What rot!
– If the seamen’s union had a certain amount of money–
– Does the honorable member belong to the auctioneers’ union ?
– Order! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) will apologize to the Chair for his disobedience in continuing to interject.
– I apologize.
– If a trade union wanted to use some of its funds for the benefit of its members, and somebody proposed that a man who had nothing to do with the union should be appointed in order to direct the expenditure, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) would be the first to object, and their objections would be justified. The measure that the committee is considering is of paramount importance to Australia. Its object is to promote the use of wool in order to defeat the menace of synthetic fibres. Yet honorable members opposite make all sorts of extravagant speeches that have nothing to do with the subject but only tend to make confusion worse confounded for the wool industry! People in distant parts of Australia who heard the speech by the honorable member for Hindmarsh may have been impressed at first by his assertion that he knows more about the wool industry than does anybody else in this chamber. Fortunately, his remarkable statements must have convinced all listeners that he has no knowledge of the industry. Mr. KEON (Yarra) [10.53].- I made a very humble suggestion, which I thought would have commended itself to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and his colleagues. The bill provides that the Australian Wool Bureau shall consist of seven members, six of whom shall be graziers. Their duties will be to improve the production and use of wool and to encourage scientific research. My simple proposal was that a representative of the consumers of wool, and perhaps also a representative of the workers in the wool industry, should be included in the membership of the bureau. That suggestion was not revolutionary. I proposed specifically that a representative of the housewives, who buy wool and are more interested than anybody else in obtaining good quality woollen garments, should be given the opportunity to state their point of view in order to help the wool industry to provide the best types of wool for clothing. However, in response to this reasonable and modest proposal, the Minister rose in fury. His blood pressure increased by 3,000 per cent., he thumped the table, and he foamed at the mouth until anybody within ten yards of him who could not swim would have been in danger of drowning. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) - -
– Order ! The honorable member should deal with the clause. He is not entitled to discuss a whole list of honorable members.
– I am dealing with the clause.
– The honorable member had better do so.
– I am discussing the reactions of honorable members on the Government side of the chamber to my modest suggestion for the improvement of the clause. I should have thought that the honorable member for Balaclava, the honorable member for Corio, the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) and other honorable gentlemen who represent so many thousands of consumers of woollen goods would agree that one member of the Australian Wool Bureau should represent the point of view of the consumers.
– The honorable member for Mallee could be appointed to represent the sheep.
– That is a good idea.
– Order! I direct the attention of honorable members to
Standing Order 86. I shall not continue to tolerate irrelevant and tedious repetition. Honorable members must submit fresh ideas or I shall refuse to allow them to speak.
– I resent the suggestion that there has been tedious repetition in this discussion.
– Order ! Is the honorable member questioning the ruling of the Chair?
– I am expressing resentment of the suggestion that there has been tedious repetition in the few minutes during which I have had a chance to discuss this clause.
– The honorable member is merely repeating the statements that he made in his first speech.
– I do not think you would understand what I said, whatever it was.
– Order ! I did not hear what the honorable member said. Will he repeat that statement?
– Perhaps it is better that you did not hear what I said, Mr. Chairman, and that I should continue with my speech.
– Order ! If the honorable member has said anything objectionable to the Chair, he must withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it. I am astonished that honorable members on the Government side of the chamber, who represent so many thousands of consumers of wool, have not supported my suggestion that the consumers should be represented on the Australian Wool Bureau. The honorable member for Mallee decried the proposal that the workers in the wool industry should be represented on the bureau. Does he suggest that a man engaged in the pastoral industry, whose livelihood is bound up with its prosperity, would try to wreck the industry? Such a man would have the same interests as the growers. What is so alarming about the suggestion that those who earn their livelihood in the industry-
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. You have ruled that honorable members must not engage in tedious repetition. I assure you that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) is repeating now exactly what he has said previously.
– Order ! I will decide such matters.
– The honorable member for Mallee said that the seamen would object if graziers were appointed to executive positions in their union. The honorable member knows very well that the only product that the seamen have to sell is their labour. The price of that labour, and the terms and conditions under which it may be used, are decided by bodies-
– Order ! This is not relevant to the clause.
– I think it is very germane. Men who have no affiliation with the seamen’s union decide the price that the members of the union shall be paid for their labour. My suggestion is, not that people who have nothing to do with the wool industry should determine the conditions of that industry, but that groups of people who are interested in its welfare should be represented on the Australian Wool Bureau in order to help the industry to meet the demands that it will be called upon to meet in the future and to fight the competition of artificial fibres. The suggestion is mild and modest, and there was no occasion for the Minister to lose control of his blood pressure. The proposal should commend itself to Government supporters if they sincerely wish to carry out their duty, which is to represent the interests of consumers of wool.
– This discussion has been most enlightening. The committee is considering a measure that is designed to assure the sale of Australia’s most important product under the most favorable conditions. The entire economy of this country is founded upon the wool industry, but this discussion has been turned into a burlesque by the Opposition.
– I rise to order. The statement by the Minister that I, and other honorable members on this side of the chamber, have turned the discussion into a burlesque is most offensive. I have attempted to make a serious contribution to the discussion, and I demand a withdrawal of that statement.
– Order ! I have already ruled that I will not demand the withdrawal of a general statement in which no particular honorable member has been mentioned unless the language of the statement is unparliamentary.
– If this is a burlesque, then the Minister is a strip-tease artist.
– That comment by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) illustrates the attitude of the entire Labour party to this important measure.
– I rise to order.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is trying to obstruct the proceedings of the committee.
– The Minister has said that the Labour party has made a burlesque of this debate. That is the effect of his remarks. I have tried to make my contributions to the debate in an orderly fashion. The Minister’s remark is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I have already, said that I shall not ask honorable members to withdraw general statements.
– Those of us who have been members of the Parliament for many years recognize obstruction when it is practised. The intelligent people of this country, many of whom are listening to this debate to-night, will understand quite clearly the real weight of interest that has been directed to the measure by the members of the Labour party who have spoken upon it. Nothing has been more indicative of the attitude of the Labour party to the wool industry of Australia than the demeanour of members of the Opposition to-night.
– I want to know to which of the clauses now under consideration the Minister is referring. Are his remarks relevant to those clauses?
– Order! The Chair will decide whether the Minister is out of order. The honorable gentleman has a perfect right to reply to matters raised by members of the Opposition, who have wandered, so to speak, all over the world in their arguments.
– The Minister was referring, not to matters raised in debate, but to the conduct of honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– I am relating my remarks to the clause that sets out the constitution of the proposed Australian Wool Bureau. The bureau is designed to promote the sale, to our best advantage, of a product the character of which is unique, not only in this country but throughout the world. The Australian wool-growers render an incomparable service to humanity. They are a group of people, numbering not more than 300,000, who make a major contribution to the clothing of humanity. There is no other group of people of a comparable size among the population of the earth that makes so great a contribution to the welfare of humanity as do the Australian wool-growers. Nevertheless, they have been made the subject of a savage attack by members of the Labour party.. The honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) made savage attacks upon their conduct, and upon their sense of responsibility in the utilization of their land. The remarks of those honorable members have illustrated the attitude of the Labour party to the wool industry and the wool-growers of this country. The honorable member for Yarra, who is an authoritative member of the Labour party, made it quite clear to-night that he objected to the fight that was waged by this Government to defend the wool auction system. That is an indication of the attitude that he and some of his colleagues would adopt if ever their party were returned to power in this Parliament. They would be prepared to allocate the wool of the Australian wool-growers to other countries.
– I rise to order. I point out, first, that the Minister is not dealing with the clauses before the committee, and secondly, that he uttered a direct lie when he said that I favoured an abandonment of the wool auction system.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Yarra, to withdraw the words “ direct lie “. They are unparliamentary.
– I withdraw them. I say that when the Minister made the statement to which I have referred he was trifling with the principles of objective reality.
– The honorable member for Yarra continues to be funny according to his own standards.
– I ask the Minister to refrain from dealing with the wool auction system. There was an incident in relation to that matter to-night. I have declared the incident to be closed, and it must remain closed.
– I am replying to a savage attack that was made upon the Australian wool-growers. The attitude of contempt that members of the Labour party have adopted to this measure shows the wool-growers what consideration they could expect to receive at the hands of a future Labour Government. The attitude of those members of the Opposition who would be willing to surrender our wool auction system at the demand of a foreign power is in line with the attitude of the Labour Government of New South Wales, which has resumed wool-growing properties and has paid the owners less than half the value of the properties.
– Order! The Minister is going very wide of the clauses before the Chair.
– It would be a good thing if the Labour party, having put on this turn and having realized that, by so doing, it has seriously damaged its own reputation, would abandon its obstructive tactics and permit this measure to pass without making it the subject of further performances of the kind that we have endured to-night.
Clauses 8 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Powers and functions of bureau).
.- This clause is the key clause of the measure. It will vest in the Australian Wool Bureau authority to engage in the promotion, by publicity or other means, not being research or the encouragement of research, of the use of wool in Australia or in other countries, and also to make arrangements with persons, authorities or associations in Australia or in other countries likely to be conducive to that purpose. Section 13 of the Wool Use Promotion Act 1945 provided that, subject to the direction of the Minister, the board should have power to make arrangements with persons, authorities or organizations in Australia or in other countries for joint measures of publicity or other means for the promotion of the use of wool. The committee will see the difference between the two legislative provisions. The 1945 legislation vested in the Minister a final authority to be utilized in cases of necessity. It was not to be used arbitrarily, or to the detriment of the wool industry. It was intended to be used only to prevent the Australian Wool Board from doing anything to damage the interests of Australian wool producers or wool consumers. I still believe that that was a very wise provision. I do not know of any occasion when that ministerial power was exercised under Labour administrations. The provision was of a protective nature, and similar provisions have been inserted in legislation sponsored by anti-Labour governments throughout this country. But this Government, because it has promised to the wool-growers that they will have unfettered control of authorities appointed by statute to deal with their products or matters pertaining to their products, has had to yield upon that point.
In sub-clause (2.), the Minister has revealed himself as a dual personality. In sub-clause (1.) the Minister proposes to relinquish ministerial control and to take the hand of the Minister off the functions of the bureau - he would call it the heavy hand of the Minister if the Labour party were in power - but in sub-clause (2.) he proposes that the Minister shall have power to take a firm grip of the board. The sub-clause states-
Subject to any directions of the measure, the bureau may -
do such things as it thinks fit for the purpose of -
improving the production of wool in Australia :
encouraging research in Australia and other countries directed to the promotion of the use of wool; and
make arrangements, with persons, authorities or associations in Australia or in other countries, likely to be conducive to either of the purposes specified in the last preceding paragraph. (3.) the Bureau may perform such other functions for the benefit of the Australian wool industry as the Minister approves.
Those are important and all-embracing provisions. Honorable members will note that the clause does not provide that the bureau may perform functions that the wool-growers consider fit and proper. The Minister benevolently concedes the bureau a power, and just as readily takes it away. All of his vaporings end up in a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde conclusion. He has a dual personality. There can be no equivocation about that. Under these powers the Minister can do almost anything. Naturally, as an intelligent Minister, who is no doubt interested in the welfare of the wool industry and its impact on the rest of the Australian community, he will only do those things - as would a responsible Minister of any political party - that he considered were conducive to the welfare of the industry and the overall welfare of the people of this country. That is a simple requirement of any measure introduced by a government. It is of no use for the Minister to say that the Government has absolute rights in relation to publicity, and claim that only government money will be expended.
The Minister will contend, no doubt, that the bureau will enjoy complete liberty in relation to publicity. It will up to a point, but it may go haywire. To take an extreme case, the bureau may say, “ We are going to purchase the Melbourne Age or the Melbourne Argus, if either of those newspapers are willing to sell “. At that stage it may be necessary for the Minister to step in and say, “ I do not think that the bureau should spend the wool-growers’ money on a proposition of that kind”. A Labour administration might say, “ We are going to buy a Labour newspaper “, and the Minister may. say, “ The bureau should not do that, merely for the purpose of encouraging wool publicity “.
The Minister has referred to a savage attack. I point out that almost all of the legislation that has been enacted to levy a tax on general income-earners in order to promote the welfare of the woolgrowers of this country has been placed on the statute-book by Labour governments. It is true that in 1936 a levy of 6d. was imposed on the wool-growers, but there was no contribution by the government of the day. In 1945, the then Labour Government made a £l-for- £1 contribution. Yet the Minister has the effrontery to say that we have made savage attacks on the wool-growers. It will be the function of the bureau to promote the interests of the wool industry, which, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has pointed out, is an important function. The Minister has stated that the honorable member for Yarra made an attack on the 100,000 wool-growers. After all, it must not be forgotten that from 90.000 to 100,000 wool-growers, who produce the wealth, have a title to it. The Australian Labour party stands for justice to all people, including the woolgrowers. That has been amply illustrated.
– Does the honorable member support the clause?
-We suppport the portion of the clause which gives the present Minister, or any other Minister, power to direct certain activities of the bureau.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. McEWEN (Murray- Minister for Commerce and Agriculture) f 11.16]. - !’ clearly explained the policy of the Government in connexion with this matter in my second-reading speech, and I did not think that I should have to explain it again. The wool-growers have requested the Government to impose a tax on them for the purpose of promoting the use of wool, to protect the reputation of wool against synthetics, and to do other things calculated to improve the production and use of wool in Australia. At present neither the Government nor any private organization in this country is engaged in the treatment of wool. The bureau, when established by statute, will have complete authority to spend the wool-growers’ own money on publicity in order to increase the sales of wool. But when it comes to research, notwithstanding that the money is the growers’ own money, it will bc used only for the modified research to which I have referred. The truth of the matter is that during this year an amount of £360,000 will be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for research in wool. In addition, there has, during this year, been set aside from that fund an amount of £2,750,000.
– Will that be spent by the bureau?
– None of that money will be expended by the bureau. I ask the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to be patient and he may lea.m something about the activities of thi) department that he used to administer. This Government is not going to tax the people of Australia for research in wool, and then have the same activity duplicated by some one else. It is only where there is the possibility that duplication may occur that the reserve power will be taken by the Minister, in order to ensure that duplication shall not be engaged in. The wool-growers consider that there should be absolutely no restriction of the expenditure of their own money on research, notwithstanding that the large amounts of money to which T have referred will be provided from Consolidated Revenue for research purposes. In the quietude of my office, I have taken the trouble to prepare a statement, which will make the matter crystal clear. It is as follows : -
Clause Ki (2.). - Power of Ministerial Direction of Wool Bureau.
In the second-reading speech I explained the reason why, notwithstanding requests to the contrary from the wool industry, the Government decided not to deprive itself completely of authority to ensure that the bureau, in engaging in activities connected with research and the improvement of the production of wool, did not duplicate similar activities undertaken by other authorities.
This has been the subject of further representations by the Australian Wool Growers Council since the introduction of’ the bill. I feel I should make it clear how I consider this power should be exercised. The wool bureau is not primarily constituted as a body fin? engaging in research and the way in which the bill is drafted would enable the bureau’s decisions on research to be reviewed, if necessary, by the Minister.
In the event of such a case arising, the Minister would usually look for advice to the interdepartmental committee on wool research on which the wool bureau will be represented.
Of perhaps greater importance - in that the question of Commonwealth and State powers is involved - is the need for the Minister to be able if necessary to review the wool bureau’s activities connected with the improvement of the production of wool.
The States retain the power to legislate on matters affecting production in Australia and it will be appreciated that there is the need for ensuring that authority set up under Commonwealth statute may be prevented from taking action which may prove an embarrassment in Commonwealth-State relationships.
Obviously, for the reasons I have mentioned, this reserve authority is of more significance in relation to the bureau’s activities in Australia than overseas. Indeed, the very nature of the bureau’s arrangements in regard to overseas measures for the encouragement of research or the improvement of the production of wool, involving as they do agreement with three or four other organizations, do not lend themselves to a detailed intervention by a Minister.
Ministerial consideration would, in fact, only be appropriate in cases which involved some important aspect of international relations or some serious and needless duplication.
No case of this kind has arisen previously and it is unlikely that one will arise in the future. In the absence of such a case it would not be my intention to intervene.
I should perhaps make it clear that, in this legislation, the wool bureau is free to act with complete and final authority unless the Minister takes the initiative of giving a direction on a particular issue.
In other words, the bureau is not under the necessity of continuously seeking ministerial approval either prior to or after it has taken action. In practice, the Minister’s power of direction is no more than a reserve authority.
The statement I have read is a deliberately considered statement to make it clear that there is no intent in this provision that all the bureau’s activities in respect of research must first have the approval of the Minister. It is, as I have said, nothing more than a reserve authority which, frankly, I do not expect will ever have to be exercised.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 (Consultative committees).
. -This clause provides for the establishment of consultative committees. The existing provision in the principal act is somewhat different. This measure, introduced by a government that claims that it does not believe in bureaucracy and in expanding the number of public servants, provides as follows : - (1.) The Bureaumay constitute Consultative Committees for the purpose of assisting the Bureau to exercise its powers and perform its functions under this Act, and may appoint persons (including persons who are members of the Bureau) to be members of those Committees during the pleasure of the Bureau.
It goes further and provides as follows : - (2.) themembers of the Consultative Committee may be paid such fees, allowances and expenses as the Governor-General determines.
I say again that this Minister who has decided that this bureau must be given almost complete freedom, makes provision in the bill for the establishment of consultative committees without limit, and for the payment to their members of such allowances, fees and expenses, not as the bureau determines, or as the wool-growers who, as the Minister has pointed out, contribute the funds, determine, but, in effect, as the Minister himself determines. We all know that the reference to the GovernorGeneral is in effect a reference to the Minister and, finally, to the Executive Council. So we can see again, despite protestations to the contrary, there is to be a degree of ministerial control in this matter. Of course, I expect that there will hardly ever be any consultative committees appointed, and that the bureau will manage its affairs without them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Annual report).
.- This clause provides as follows: -
The Bureau shall, in the month of August in each year, furnish to the Minister a report on the operation of the provisions of this Act relating to the bureau during the last preceding financial year.
This is a good provision, but I suggest to the Minister that when the measure is before the Senate an amendment should be made to the effect that the bureau shall be required to furnish the minutes of its meetings to the Minister. I think that the bureau does so now, but it is not compulsory.
– I cannot imagine that it would be necessary to provide by statute that the bureau must render its minutes to the Minister. I have not the slightest doubt that the bureau would furnish its minutes at any time to the Minister on request. Availability to the Minister of knowledge of the activities of the bureau is ensured by the fact that an official of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, in the person of the CommonwealthWool Adviser, will be a member of the bureau and will be entitled to have the minutes. If the Minister wants to see the minutes he has only to obtain them from that official.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 24 and 25 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report -by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- As the Government will soon be closing the Parliament for a very long period, and as a great number of Government supporters will be proceeding overseas to engage in other activities, I take this opportunity to raise a number of important matters that affect the people.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put-
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Australian Imperial Farces Canteens Funds Act - Annual Report by the Trustees for year 1951-52.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Mr. ANTHONY - The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530312_reps_20_221/>.