20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) was ordered to: withdraw from the House under the provisions of Standing Order 303, and was ordered to leave the premises. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) moved a motion of dissent. A vote of the House negatived the motion of dissent thus endorsing the Speaker’s action. As previously reported to this House I saw the honorable member in King’s Hall during luncheon time on Friday. His presence there was during the period of withdrawal that is mentioned in the standing order, namely, the remainder of the day’s sitting. By entering King’s Hall, the honorable member disobeyed an order of. the House. Disobedience of an order of the House is contempt of tho House. The fifteenth edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice, at page 111, states as follows : -
Disobedience of the orders nf either House whether such orders ore of general application or require a particular individual to do, or abstain from doing, a particular act, or contravention of any rules of either House, is a contempt of that House.
At this point I might mention that the control of the whole area of the King’s Hall is administered by Mr. Speaker with the President of the Senate. The honors able member for Watson did not seek the permission of Mr. Speaker to re-eater the building. Contempt of the House is a serious matter. For the preservation of the dignity of this House matters of alleged affront must be given, serious consideration. Further, the House makes its own rules and orders and it follows that it should see that those rules and orders are obeyed. The power of the House to punish its members for contempt is beyond dispute. It may accept his apology, or the offender may be reprimanded or admonished, committed, suspended or expelled.
I have given the House the facts of this matter. I have alleged that contempt of the House has been committed, and the matter is now in the hands of the House itself.
– I suggest that in the first instance an opportunity should have been given to the honorable member for Watson to be heard. I should like to formally record my protest against a statement affecting an honorable member before there has been any investigation of the facts of the matter.
– Order ! Is the right honorable gentleman moving a motion, because otherwise his discourse is not in order ?
– No, sir. You have submitted a report to the House and I submit that the honorable member for Watson should be given an opportunity to speak in the first instance.
– I desire to make a personal explanation on this matter. I desire to refer to the proceedings in the House on Friday last when you, Mr. Speaker, directed me to withdraw from the House during the remainder of the day’s sitting. I voluntarily withdrew from the House on your instruction to me to do so. I have always believed that yon had no power to’ exclude any honor able member from the parliamentary building. I was informed that an objection to your ruling had been raised by the Leader of the Opposition by way of a motion of dissent. Before the question was decided in the House I entered the Senate side of the parliamentary building believing, as I still believe,’ that your power under Standing Order 303 does not extend there. I saw you at the Senate side of the King’s Hall while you were proceeding to luncheon after the sitting of the House had been suspended. You did not inform me then of the decision of the House, and no message was sent to me from you or from any official. Shortly after I saw you I received, through the Opposition Whip, a message from the Leader of the Opposition that the House had not upheld the submissions of the ‘ Opposition, and that, therefore, it was proper that 1 should withdraw from the parliamentary buildings altogether, and raise the question, if necessary, at a later time. I wish that to be noted by all honorable members. I immediately acted on that advice, left the building, and returned to Sydney. I certainly did not intend any contempt of the House or of your authority as Speaker, and in the circumstances I ask the House to accept my explanation. I acted throughout in good faith and in accordance with what I believe to be my rights as a member and my duty to this House.
– I move - ‘
That the House is of opinion that contempt of its ruling and authority has token place by the honorable member for Watson.
In view of the honorable member’s explanation and in view of the motion that I have just submitted, the Government would like certain action to be taken by the House in order to place on record the fact that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has been guilty of contempt of the House and its rules.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, read the motion of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) ?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has moved -
That the House is of the opinion that contempt of its ruling and authority has taken place by the honorable member for Watson.
– I suggest that that motion be typed out.
Opposition members interjecting,
– The motion has been written on the back of a typed statement that was handed to me by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) for the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Perhaps that will stop some of the laughter of honorable members opposite.
– I would like to see the motion in typescript so that its terms will be clear, and so that it may be debated.
– Let the Vice-President of the Executive Council print it in block letters.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would not understand it even then. The motion as I now have it written down reads -
That the House is of opinion that contempt of its ruling and authority has taken place by the honorable member for Watson.
– I submit that the House should reject this motion. In a case of contempt, whether contempt of court or of the Parliament, it is usual that the contempt should be specified. What is the contempt in this case, and was the honorable member guilty of any contempt? I am not speaking now of the ruling of Mr. Speaker, because his ruling is not an order of the House. The authorities that Mr. Speaker has given to honorable members to-day are not concerned with a direct order of the House. It is only if the House of Representatives as such, gives some order, that there can be contempt of its authority. For the support of actions taken by Mr. Speaker, all we have is the authority of the Standing Orders. By what standing order is this matter governed? Wo standing order covers it. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has stated the position quite frankly. He was directed by Mr. Speaker to withdraw from the House on Friday. In giving that direction Mr. Speaker purported to act under Standing Order 303. The debate that subsequently took place, which lasted almost until the suspension of the sitting for lunch, related to whether Mr. Speaker’s authority extended sufficiently far to enable him to exclude the honorable member for Watson from the parliamentary building. The House in the end upheld the ruling of Mr. Speaker and refused to agree to the motion of dissent therefrom. I should like to remind the House that it is well known, because of an incident that took place in the House a week before, that had the ruling been disaffirmed, the action against the honorable member for Watson would have been beyond the power of Mr. Speaker. When the decision was given by the House on the motion for dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling, if, as Mr. Speaker has said, it was an order of the House, it should have been communicated to the honorable member for Watson. With all respect to you, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member should have been directed to be present during the debate on the motion for dissent, as I suggested to the House during the debate on Friday, because the question then before the House was whether Mr. Speaker had authority to do what he did. Had the House refused to endorse the order of Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Watson would have been improperly removed from the House by order of Mr. Speaker. How was contempt of the House committed? As the honorable member for Watson has frankly stated, it is perfectly true that he came into the parliamentary building in the belief that he was not disentitled to the use of the Senate side of the building. I shall not enter upon a detailed argument of that matter. I understand that the view taken by the Senate is very strongly against-
-Order! The right honorable gentleman may not refer to the procedure of the Senate.
– I am not referring to the procedure of the Senate. I merely mentioned the Senate procedure as a possible case. After all, the President of the Senate and the Senate itself have authority over their own portion of the building-.
– They have no authority over the members of the House of Representatives.
– They have authority over that part of the building which they control. They take a view which is contrary to the view taken by Mr. Speaker. We know of instances in which the order of Mr. Speaker and the actions of the officers of the House under it have not been supported.
I come back to the question of contempt. Before contempt can be committed an honorable member must be judged guilty of wilful contempt. No mention is made in the motion of when or where the alleged contempt of the honorable member for Watson took place, how it took place or what it amounted to. Never has such a motion previously been moved in any parliament in the British Commonwealth. Yet on such a motion we are asked to make a general direction. It is elementary that before an honorable member can be guilty of contempt there must be wilful disobedience of an order. That could not have taken place until the decision of the House relating to your ruling had been communicated to and was known by the honorable member for Watson. You, Mr. Speaker, . saw the honorable member in King’s Hall, as you reported to the House, but you did not inform him of the ruling of the House. That is the important point in relation to what had happened only a couple of hours before. The honorable member should have been told that, because of the ruling of the House, it was required that he should withdraw. As he was not informed of die decision, he has not been guilty of wilful contempt. As no prima facie case has been established against him, the Opposition cannot support this motion which has been couched in such a vague way, and which involves such an important matter, and therefore we shall vote against it.
[2.45). - The leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has not done die cause of his colleague any good by telling the kind of story that he has just put to this House. He has indulged in a set of legal quibbles which, if anything, would be calculated to stir resentment against the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) rather than to provide an objective appreciation by honorable members on both sides of the House of the action that has been taken. If any confirmation of the propriety of the terms of the motion moved by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) was required, it was provided by the statement of the honorable member for Watson himself. What has been alleged in the terms of the motion is not a wilful contempt, and the Leader of the Opposition is much too good a lawyer not to appreciate the difference between the fact of contempt and the fact of wilful contempt. The legal decisions of this country bristle with instances in which people without any guilty mind in the legal sense have been adjudged guilty of contempt of a court of law, or even of this Parliament. The motion of the Vice-President of the Executive Council refers to contempt. There can be no doubt whatever on the fact of contempt, which has been not only admitted by the hono.ra.blo member for Watson but also accepted in substance by the Leader of the Opposition. Upon learning that the honorable member for Watson was in the precincts after the House had decided that he should be excluded from the precincts, the Leader of the Opposition made’ arrangements for the Opposition Whip to go to the honorable member and point out to him that his action was, in effect, in contempt of a decision of the House.
– -The right honorable gentleman told him of the decision.
– Yes, and he knows well that, if the honorable member knew the decision of the House and acted contrary to that decision, he was in fact in contempt of the House.
The Leader of the Opposition knows sufficient of the discussion that has taken place on this matter between the VicePresident of the Executive Council and his own representative to be aware that honorable members on this side of the
House were prepared to accept an apology from the honorable member for Watson. They were prepared to accept his word that he had acted without any wilful desire to be in contempt of this House, and this fact was made known to the honorable member himself and to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Consequently, in proposing the motion which is now before the House, what the Vice-President of the Executive Council has in mind is that the authority of the House and the authority of the Chair shall be maintained. Undoubtedly there has been action in contempt of the House. That fact should be frankly recognized and the records should be put straight. I am sure that the House, having accepted the view that contempt has occurred, would be prepared to accept also the statement of the honorable member for Watson that he did not commit such contempt wilfully, together with an expression of his regret. I am certain that every fair-minded member of the Blouse would be happy to accept his assurance and let the matter rest there. However, instead of handling the matter in that clear and straightforward manner, the Leader of the Opposition has engaged in a series of legal quibbles which merely confuse the issue. What we on this side of the House want to do is assert the authority of the Parliament and the authority of the Chair. If a contempt has occurred, either wittingly or unwittingly, the authority of the House and the authority of the Chair must be supported on that point. If, however, we receive from the honorable member for Watson his assurance that, if contempt has occurred, it has occurred unwittingly and from no wilful design on his part, I, for one, and other honorable members on this side of the House I am sure, would be happy to let the matter drop at that point. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that this is sound counsel which he and his colleagues should adopt.
.- The trouble is that there are too many lawyers in the Cabinet. If the position had been left where it was originally, I think the House would have been satisfied and we should have been able to overcome this trouble with very little diffi culty. Unfortunately, there has been insistence upon the fact that the House must declare the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) guilty of contempt before it hears him and, as the honorable member has said, without his having been officially advised of its decision. The honorable member was outside the House, waiting for the result. As soon as he had heard the result, he went away. You, Mr. Speaker, saw him there. You reported him to the House as having been present, and immediately cited him for contempt. That seems to us to be a reversal of the procedure generally followed in relation to persons charged with offences. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) told us the other night when he was ordered out by you on one famous occasion, you very kindly sent him a note and told him to go home. No such consideration was extended to the honorable member for Watson. It seemed that there was a chase of the honorable gentleman, because not only washe expelled from the House but also he was to be dealt with further. It looked like a blood hunt.
– Order !
– I am entitled to use picturesque language.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is not entitled to reflect on the House. He must understand that very clearly.
– I am talking about the attitude of members of the Cabinet to this matter. I am not speaking of the action of the House, because no action has been taken by the House on the contempt charge. On one occasion, the honorable member for East Sydney offended against your ruling and was ordered out of the House. When hehad left the chamber he sought sanctuary immediately in the Senate portion of the building. He remembered his history of the middle ages, and he sought sanctuary where he could find it. The President of the Senate, like some of the venerable archbishops of old, gave him sanctuary, and neither you, Mr. Speaker, nor anybody else in this chamber raised any further questions about alleged contempt by the honorable member.
There is no precedent to govern a case of this kind. We are making precedent to-day. The honorable member for Watson has been found guilty in advance and has been brought forward for sentence. Presumably, after he has been sentenced, he will be given an opportunity to apologize. To the members of the Opposition, that is wrong. We say, with due respect, that Standing Order 308 was never intended to be used in the way in which it is being used.
– I rise to order. I submit that Standing Order 303 is not under discussion. The House is dealing only with the question of contempt.
– That is so.
– Our view is that no contempt can be involved in a disobedience of an addition by Mr. Speaker to Standing Order 303. All that the standing order states is that an honorable member dealt with under its provisions shall withdraw. The Senate has a standing order on this matter. It is completely different from our standing order, and is much more explicit.
– Order! The Senate cannot be discussed now.
– If the Standing Orders of the Senate cannot be discussed, we can discuss the authority of the officers of this House in pursuit of a member of the House. I believe that authority in the Parliament is divided between the President of the Senate and the Speaker of this House. The Speaker’s authority does not extend beyond a. certain point, and the authority of the President does not extend beyond a certain point. If either the President or the Speaker sends his officers beyond that point, those officers are transgressing the authority of the other chamber. There has been no decision by the Senate yet that the authority of the Speaker extends beyond a point half way across King’s Hall.
– Order ! That is not under discussion.
– Surely it is relevant if a man found on the Senate side of the building is held by this chamber to be in contempt. In the view of the Opposition, there could be no contempt once the honorable member had passed beyond a certain point. But the honorable member for Watson says, in effect, “ Well, I did not pass beyond that point because I wanted to be contemptuous of the authority of the House of Representatives; I merely crossed over to the other side of the House, outside what I believed to be the authority of the House of Representatives, to await its verdict. When I found what had been done to me, I immediately withdrew “. I consider that the reasonable course, in all the circumstances, when the honorable member made the explanation, was for the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to move that it be accepted, or ask for such addition to the explanation as would satisfy the amour propre of this chamber. But to carry on an argument of this sort, when there are so many more important things to be done, is, in my view, no compliment to this chamber, and proves still further that this House has lost its effectiveness. The sooner it is dissolved, the better.
– in reply - I would not have taken part in this debate if it had not been for the observations of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He said that if the position had been left as it was originally, the House would not be debating this complex matter at this moment. That statement moves me to tell the honorable gentleman that the House cannot be aware of the circumstances of which he speaks unless it is made aware of them. Therefore, the House should be placed in a position to enable it to understand the matter. I have in my hand a statement that was to be made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). He was prepared to say in the House -
I should like to refer to an incident which occurred on Friday last. I understand that a certain action of mine has been reported as being in contempt of the House. I wish to state that I certainly never intended any contempt of the House or of its authority and, in the circumstances, I ask the House to accept my assurance that I acted in good faith. If the House, however, takes the view that contempt took place, I wish to apologize to the House.
That statement, and the apology that was supposed to be made by the honorable member for Watson, are based on whether the House decided that contempt had taken place.
– Where did the VicePresident of the Executive Council get the statement?
– From the honorable member for Melbourne in his office. It was typed there.
– Has the honorable member for Melbourne gone back on the deal?
– I do not accuse the honorable member for Melbourne-
– The statement embodies some observations made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
Mi-. ERIC J. HARRISON.- Yes. I do not charge the honorable member for Melbourne with having gone back on his arrangement with me, but I point out that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) cannot have made his views clear to his deputy before he entered this chamber regarding arrangements which were made, after discussions extending over many hours this morning, and to which he was a party. Therefore, the Government has no alternative other than to place before the House the fact that the honorable member for Watson was guilty of contempt; because if the House had been prepared to accept this statement, his apology would not have been an apology in fact, because the House had given no ruling as to whether it considered that the honorable member was in contempt of the House and its standing orders. So, we decided that the matter, instead of being covered by one motion in which the honorable member’s apology would be accepted, should be dealt with by two motions, one of which would relate to the contempt of the House, and the other would accept the honorable member’s apology. Now, the honorable member for Watson does not express an apology. The Leader of the
Opposition has evidently given him a direction that is contrary to that given by the honorable member for Melbourne, and tries to make party political capital out of the situation by debating the issue in the chamber.
Let us examine the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. First, he has said that this motion is not framed in what he considers legal terms. I may have referred to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order 303, and to the incidents that happened in the House, but I am not interested in legal jargon. I am interested only in stating the case as I see it, and as the House sees and understands it. Therefore, I make no apology for the wording of the motion. The Leader of the Opposition challenges your authority as representing this House. I think that any honorable member who has any knowledge of the procedure of this House knows that your ruling, given while you are in that Chair, is the ruling of this House until the House carries ‘.i motion of dissent from it. In other words, when, in conformity with the Standing Orders, or indeed, outside of the .Standing Orders, you place an interpretation on the Standing Orders which is not in conformity with the spirit of those orders, if the House upholds you then the ruling that you have given is, ipso facto, in your power. Therefore, you acted within your power when you suspended the honorable member for Watson under the provisions of Standing Order 303, which I shall now quote, with your permission because the honorable member for Melbourne misquoted it. That standing order reads -
STANDING ORDER 303.
The Speaker or the Chairman shall order a Member, whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of that day’s sitting, and the Serjeant-at-Arms shall act on such orders as lie may receive from the Chair in pursuance of this Standing Order. Any Member ordered to withdraw from the House pursuant to this Standing Order shall not return during the same sitting except by permission of the Speaker or Chairman.
I say no more than that you conformed to that standing order. You suspended the honorable member, and you gave a direction to the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove him from the building. That was done with the authority of the
House, until such time as your ruling was the subject of a successful motion for dissent.. The Leader of the Opposition moved dissent from your ruling, and the House supported your position. Therefore, you are doubly armed. You are armed in the first place with the power that you possess as Speaker, and in the second place because that power was reinforced by the decision of the House. Therefore, either prior to, or subsequent to, a decision by the House on that motion of dissent, any action you took with regard to the honorable member for Watson was with the full power and consent of the House. To contend that the honorable member could come back into the chamber until that matter had been decided was begging the question. He had no right to be in the House until such time as dissent from your ruling had been registered by a vote of the House. He had no right to remain here until that was decided. I- am not a jurist myself, but I am amazed that the Leader of the Opposition, this jurist from the highest courts of Australia, should state a case that is contrary to the position I have outlined. Let us examine his statements regarding the matter.
It is perfectly true that in 1901 this Parliament decided to accept as its authority on precedent the tenth edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice. That was the basis upon which we acted. May lays it down perfectly clearly with regard to the suspension of a member,, that the member suspended shall withdraw “ from the Palace of Westminster”, which contains both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. To say that this House has not the power over its members to decide whether or not they shall leave the building is beside the question. The fact is that we have the power in this House to expel a member, or to inflict on him a minor suspension. Within that wide range of power we have full power over every honorable member in this Parliament. When this House directed that the honorable member for Watson should leave the building it wa3 acting within its powers, because the House has every right and power over its members by its own resolutions. The Leader’ of the Opposition is fully aware of that fact. By a resolution of this
House we can expel a member and cause an election to be held in his constituency. So what is the use of begging the question in this regard ? I want to say no more about the matter. The Government was quite prepared, if the honorable member had been ready to apologize to the House for the contempt in which he held it by his action to recommend to the House that it accept that apology. The honorable member has not been prepared to apologize, and therefore, I have moved this motion to place it beyond all reasonable doubt that the House is of the opinion that the honorable member for Watson is guilty of contempt of the House.
– I desire to make a statement with regard to the suggestion that there has been some bargain.
– Order ! Is leave granted ?
GOVERNMENT supporters.- No !
– Then I desire to make a personal explanation. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has misrepresented the position and misrepresented
– Order ! We are not concerned with the position. Has the right honorable member been misrepresented in this case?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council misrepresented me in his statement regarding my position in this matter. I shall state very briefly how and why the honorable member for Melbourne had’ certain conversations with him. He did not give the facts surrounding it. What the Vice-President 3f the Executive Council did was to try to obtain,, through one resolution, a. decision of the House that the honorable member for Watson has been guilty of contempt of the House.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that he can deal in a personal explanation only with the matter in which he claims to have been personally misrepresented.
– I have been personally misrepresented, because the VicePresident of the Executive Council suggested that I was party to an arrangement that was broken. That is a complete untruth.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman may not use the word “ untruth “ in that way.
– Then it was completely incorrect. The view expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne to the Vice-President of the Executive Council was that the Opposition would not be a party to a double-barrelled resolution adjudging the honorable member for Watson guilty of contempt and accepting an apology from him, because we take the view that there was no contempt. I submit that the position has been completely misrepresented by the VicePresident of the Executive Council.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The position outlined by the Vice-President of the Executive Council is factual to a point, but at a certain point there is a divergence. What I agreed to with the right honorable gentleman ultimately, after a number of conversations involving a variety of changes of words and everything else, was that there should be a resolution to be submitted in two parts, one of them criticizing and condemning the honorable member for Watson - and 1 advised him that the Opposition would vote against that contempt resolution. After that, the honorable member for Watson would make an explanation and submit an apology. The Vice-President of the Executive Council said that the Government would accept the apology. He then said to me “Well,– “
– The honorable member is leaving out one point, which referred to the matter of debating this issue.
– I am coming to that. I consider I have been misrepresented because of the failure of the VicePresident of the Executive Council to state the whole facts clearly. He said to me, “ The Government will separate the resolution into two parts, provided that there is no debate on the motion relating to contempt “. I said, “ I shall have to consult my leader on that matter, and 1 shall report back to you”. I discussed the matter with the Leader of the Opposition, who said, “ I must debate that point “. I went to the Vice-President of the Executive Council and said to him, ‘ The Leader of the Opposition is going to debate the motion regarding contempt “. The Vice-President of the Executive Council then said to me, “ I will now put the two motions in one “. I said, “ Very well, that will have to be the position “. That is where the matter rests. There was no arrangement under which the honorable member for Watson was to rise. He rose of his own volition, without any prior arrangement on the part of anybody, and to suggest a breach of faith on my part in connexion with any dealings with the Leader of the Opposition or any negotiations that I had with the Vice-President of the Executive Council after having consulted with the Leader of the Opposition, is wrong. I wish to get the record straight. I have no feeling in the matter. I have told the House the complete truth of the negotiations, and I think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council would have been well advised to omit this question of negotiations and other personal matters from the debate, because they are not helping the House to deal clearly .and fairly with the position. His misrepresentation of my position, and the position of the Leader of the Opposition, is objected to strongly by my leader and myself.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Melbourne has revealed -a certain amount of information, and certainly misrepresented me when he did not give the full facts. He accused me of agreeing to move one motion and then submitting two. The honorable member for Melbourne arranged with me that there should be only one .statement made, and that it should fee made in the words that have already been spoken by the honorable member for Watson, and no more than those. The bargain was that the honorable .member for Watson should apologize to the House. The honorable member for Melbourne misrepresented me by accusing me of not adhering to the arrangements. How could I submit a motion to accept the apology from the honorable member for Watson when the honorable member has wot made an apology? We might as well be clear on this point, and get the record straight. I told the honorable member for Melbourne that I was prepared to split this motion into two parts, provided there should be no recriminations in debate in this House which could tend to destroy the standing and the prestige of the Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition apparently thinks otherwise. That is why I have not been able to submit the motion in two parts.
Question put -
That the House is of opinion that contempt of its ruling and authority has taken place by the honorable member for Watson.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- Now that the House has found me guilty of contempt, I wish to say that it is my conviction that the formalities in connexion with the matter were not observed as they should have been. I should have been informed by you, Mr. Speaker, when you passed me in the King’s Hall of the decision of this House. I still believe that I was within my rights in waiting to hear the decision of the House. As soon as I received advice of the decision I left the House. I believe that I was misrepresented by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), because I made no arrangement with him. I stand on my own actions, and I am voicing my own conviction about the decision of the House. In my explanation of the matter I maintained that I intended no contempt of the House or of the authority of the Speaker, and I also asked that in the circumstances the House should accept my explanation. I acted throughout in good faith, and awaited a decision in accordance with what I believed, and still believe, to be my rights as an honorable member. However, the VicePresident of the Executive Council got hot under the collar and made certain allegations. In deference to the taxpayers of Australia, because the debate on this matter has been carried on for almost an hour, and because the House has resolved that contempt has taken place, I wish to apologize to the House. I emphasize the “ House “.
– The House is not prepared to accept a qualified apology by the honorable member. The honorable member must apologize to the House unreservedly in a matter of this kind.
– I did not qualify my apology to the House. I said that in the circumstances, and as a. result of the decision of the House, I apologize to the House.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the apology be accepted.
– I address a number of questions to the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior. By whose authority did an unauthorized person, namely an executive member of the Australian Labour party and a candidate for the Senate elections in Victoria, make use of the Federal Members Rooms in Melbourne? Is it a fact that the person concerned used large quantities of stationery and other facilities provided for the use of members of the Parliament and paid for out of the taxpayers’ money ? Is it true that he made certain trunk telephone calls and sent telegrams to the value of £300 ?
– Is the question based on a newspaper report?
– It is based not upon a newspaper report but upon my own observations when I visited the Federal Members Rooms yesterday. Is it true that a large quantity of official stationery, the property of the Australian Government and provided for the use of federal members by the taxpayers, was used by this person for sending out election propaganda? How long was the person concerned in occupation of an office at the Federal Members Rooms, by whose authority did he utilize it and on whose instructions was it made available ? Is it also a fact-
-Order ! The honorable member has a long list of questions.
– That is true, Mr. Speaker, but this is a very important matter. To bring my questions to a close, I finally ask: What steps can be taken to protect the taxpayers from this misuse of Government property in the future and does the Government propose to recover from the Australian Labour party or from the person concerned the large amount of money involved in this improper use of the Federal Members Rooms and its facilities ?
– What about ministerial trips abroad?
– As I have been interrupted, I shall ask still another question. Is there any evidence that an office in the Federal Members Rooms, Melbourne, was used for improper purposes as was the case with certain offices in Parliament House, Sydney, used by a man named Doyle?
– My only information on the matter is contained in a statement which I saw in the press. I regard the questions as of grave importance. I shall ascertain the facts and convey them to the honorable member.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior make a statement, not only to the honorable member for Henty but also to the House in connexion with the unfounded charges which the honorable member has laid against a person who is not a member of this House and which would be actionable at law if he were courageous enough to repeat them outside this chamber ?
-I shall convey the facts to the honorable member for Henty. If the honorable member for Melbourne would like to have them, I shall convey them to him also.
– As the result of the death of Stalin and the appointment in his place of Malenkov, is the Minister for External Affairs able to say whether international relations have been or are likely to be materially changed? If so, would Australia be justified in either increasing or decreasing its defence preparations ?
– I know of no direction in which international affairs can be said to have been altered by the death of Stalin. The degree of tension throughout the world is, I think, undiminished. I know of no reason why Australia’s defence preparations should be in any way interrupted.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs anything to say about certain criticism in Australia of the visit to the United Kingdom by Marshal Tito ?
– There has been criticism of the visit to the United Kingdom by Marshal Tito, but I do not agree with it. I believe that it is to the advantage of the world, in its present state, for any two countries to get on well with each other. Marshal Tito’s visit to Great Britain shows, if it shows anything, that it is perfectly possible for communism and democracy to live side by side-. This thesis has been denied by Soviet Russia, but the visit of the leader of Yugoslavia to- the United Kingdom, I believe, is a living and- extremely interesting example of the ability of an avowed Communist State to get on well with a State that is avowedly democratic.
– I address my question to the Minister for Supply. Is it true that until- recently the Government has been selling large quantities of clothing and equipment used in the- last war to disposals stores throughout Australia? Is it also true that during the last three months government agents have visited disposals stores and have re-purchased, at considerably increased prices, uniforms, haversacks, tents and much other material for use in the training of national service trainees? If these are facts, why did not the Government, when it submitted the National Service Bill to the Parliament, realize that it. would be necessary to use equipment which was subsequently sold but which it was later compelled to re-purchase at higher prices ?.
– I read something of this sort in the newspapers some time ago. To the best of my knowledge the assertions are untrue. It is true that, from time to time, obsolete or out-of-date- equipment, and equipment which, for particular reasons, is no longer required by the- services, has been disposed of. That has been done in the past, and it is still being done. I am not aware of any instance in which the military authoritieshave had a change of heart, and have gone to second-hand shops to re-purchase equipment.. I do not believe that that has happened. I shall cause inquiries to be made and if I can ascertain the facts I shall pass them on to the honorable member
– I should like to inform’ the honorable member for Batman also that, during 1950, when Australia’s defence needs were increasing, the Government had in mind the possibility th<at defence equipment might be in short supply. Therefore, I personally gave instructions to the- Department of Supply that, when- goods were declared for disposal from- the services, a check should be made in order to’ ascertain whether or not it would be wiser to- keep them in case they should be- required subsequently.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Army, relates to the Services Canteens Trust Fund’, the trustees of which have invited applications for education assistance for children of ex-servicemen from World War II. Does the Minister consider that war widows who apply for this assistance for their children should have to fill in long and complicated forms, the completion of which would, in many instances,, require the assistance of a chartered accountant? Will the Minister consider abolishing this cumbersome method and authorizing local repatriation committees to assess and report to the Services Canteens Trust Fund authorities a. war widow’s need for assistance?
– Nobody wishes to embarrass a war widow or anybody else who makes application for assistance of this kind. As the Minister administering the Services Canteens Trust Fund, I have had discussions with the members of the trust and have urged’ them to make more money available to assist in the education of the children of exservicemen. I have discussed with them the method by which such assistance should be given. The honorable member has suggested that local repatriation committees might be; asked to assess a war widow’s need for assistance. We have established local regional committees, consisting of ex-service men and women who have been nominated by the exservicemens’ organizations, to assist in this work. They will not seek any more information than is necessary to make the assistance available. The honorable member has a completely wrong angle on the matter. Arrangements have been made for the greatest possible assistance to be given to applicants and the forms have been drawn up by the ex-servicemen on the trust. I am satisfied with the work being done by the members of the trust. Its chairman, Mr. Blackburn, V.C., and other personnel, who act in an honorary capacity,’ have given long service to the trust. If the honorable member can indicate any instances of hardship arising from “the administration of the trust I shall be amazed. I will have a look at the forms myself. I have given this matter my personal attention and I am satisfied that the best possible assistance is being rendered to all applicants and that applications are being treated with despatch.
– Will the Treasurer endeavour to expedite the provision of an answer to a question that I have placed on the notice-paper in relation to outstanding treasury-bills? I gave notice of this question after I had asked the right honorable gentleman a question without notice. I realize that a considerable volume of work is entailed in preparing an answer.
– I assure the right honorable gentleman that” the reply will be prepared expeditiously.
– The question th’a’t I wish to ask the Minister for Territories is- supplementary to1 a question that was asked: by the honorable member for Oxley last Friday. It concerns the astonishingly successful” experimental work that is being done to produce an improved wool pack from kenaf, a fibrous plant grown in the territories. Can the Minister assure the Parliament that no attempt to duplicate that experimental work k being made by any other departments, sub-departments, inter-departmental committees, sub-interdepartmental’ committees, their oxen or their asses that are under the control of this House?.
– I assure the House tha* there is no- duplication- pf tins work.. The concluding, words of the- honorable gentleman’s question lead me’ to expl’ain’ that we do- not even covet it.
– i am sure that you will agree, Mr. .Speaker, that St. Patrick’s Day is an appropriate occasion for me to ask the question that i shall direct to the Minister foi- External Affairs. i ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is a fact that the Government has decided to appoint an ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. If so, what is the name of the appointee? If the Minister is not able to name the appointee now, will he do so before the Senate election campaign commences? Was he under any influence from Brisbane when he decided to make the appointment, or has he decided, after three years of delay, to accede to my request that such an appointment be made?
– Australia’s relation ships with other countries are constantly under review. i have no statement to’ make to the House at present on the subject in which the honorable m’ember is particularly interested, but I shall be very gl!ad to meet the honorable gentleman outside the House if he will be good enough to bring with him a curriculum vitae an also a certificate of airworthiness from two or three respectable persons.
– Oh the 10th March 1 asked the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior whether he was in a position to give a decision on the high rents that are charged for houses- owned by the Commonwealth a-t Dapto, Unanderra, and Build. Is he yet in a positron to do so? This is a serious matter a-nd is of considerable importance- to miners who are forking only about’ four days aweek, but are- obliged- to pay rents’ of £1 a week. sir philip mcbride. - i advised1 the- honorable member lust week that the houses- to which he has” referred!- were then in theprocess of being taken over’ by the Department of the Interior. That still1 applies. Most of them have been- taken’ over by the department but, up- to’ d’at’e, the tenancy of such houses and the rents charged for them have not been considered.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to relieve the concern of primary producers who are eager to co-operate with the Government by increasing primary production by assuring them that the Government has succeeded in its endeavours to accelerate the production of agricultural machinery and spare parts? Can he assure them that there will be an adequate supply of agricultural parts needed for seeding, such as discs and tines, for the season which is about to begin ?
– The Government’s policy has been in operation for some time, and, with the greater availability of coal and labour for the steel industry,, it is beginning to produce substantial beneficial results. Although there are still shortages of cultivating machinery, the supply is much better than it was some time ago, and some critical parts, such as discs and cultivator points, are now for the first time in completely full supply. Header harvesters are being made in Australia now, as a result of arrangements which have been made between the Government and the manufacturing companies, at a rate of many more hundreds per annum than was the case a couple of years ago. This, too is a result of the Government’s policy, assisted by the improved availability of steel and a better supply of labour for the industries concerned.’ Also, for the first time since World War II. there is a full supply of cheap Australian galvanized fencing wire, both plain and barbed. Supplies of Australian-made galvanized iron and galvanized wire netting are also increasing.
– Has the attention of the Minister been directed to complaints by primary producers that they are unable to obtain, within a reasonable time, duplicate parts for new machines and old machines that they possess for the purpose of carrying on their occupations? Can the honorable gentleman give the House an assurance that such shortages are being dealt with effectively ?
– I am aware that the shortages to which the honorable member has referred have existed, and doubtless they still exist to some degree. Certain lines of agricultural machinery have been manufactured in Australia by certain companies only during the last few years. Therefore, there is a very small demand for duplicate parts for them. However, some machines supplied by old-established Australian agricultural implement manufacturers are still in the field, although, in some instances, they are 20 years, 30 years or even 40 years old. There is a tremendous demand for duplicate parts for those machines. The manufacturers would have to devote a disproportionate part of their effort to meet the demand for those duplicate parts. I have discussed the matter with the companies concerned, and I am certain that they are co-operating with the primary industries by endeavouring to divert an appropriate proportion of their activities to the production of duplicate parts.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been directed to the decision handed down by the High Court last Friday to the efFect that tariffs charged by Commonwealth Hostels Limited are subject to State prices control? If so, can the Minister state what amount was illegally charged to immigrants between the 27th April, 1952, when Commonwealth Hostels Limited increased its tariffs, and the 12th November, 1952, when, in anticipation of the court’s decision, the company was granted exemption from the prices legislation of the States? Furthermore, is it the intention of the Government to ensure that the full amount will be voluntarily refunded to the immigrants so overcharged ?
– I shall not attempt to give a complete answer, at this stage, to the questions that the honorable member has asked. I shall try to supply him with a detailed statement later. The matters involved are associated with some aspects of Government policy which are at present under consideration. I make reference at this stage only to the honorable member’s use of the term “illegally charged”. No doubt the honorable member and other honorable gentlemen are aware that the constitution of Commonwealth Hostels Limited was designed to provide for greater efficiency of administration, not to alter in substance the arrangements made between the Australian Government and the British immigrants who came to this country to occupy the hostels. The various State prices authorities took the view at all times that Commonwealth Hostels Limited, as a direct instrumentality of the Commonwealth, did not come within the ambit of State prices control. Even when we sought a decontrol order some months ago, the Queensland prices authority insisted that it had 710 authority to decontrol a Commonwealth instrumentality of this kind. I should not like the impression to be gained that the word “illegally” implies that improper authority has been exercised by the Commonwealth. It is true that the High Court has determined, on a technicality, that, in terms of its decision, charges made to immigrants from a certain date should not have been made. The decision raises certain policy issues which are receiving consideration at present.
– Is it not a fact that an officer of the South Australian prices administration advised an officer of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, very soon after that organization had been established, that it was governed by the prices regulations of that State, and that the officer of Commonwealth Hostels Limited told the State officer, in effect, to mind his own business, that the Commonwealth organization knew what it was doing, and that it was not subject to such regulations? If that be true, is not the statement made by the Minister inaccurate to that degree?
– I have given the House the information that has been conveyed to’ me by my departmental officers. They have assured me that, upon this matter, they were advised by the Crown Law authorities and the Attorney-General’s Department. My information is that the
State prices authorities maintain that Commonwealth Hostels Limited did not come within the ambit of State prices control. However, I shall be very interested to follow up the allegation of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that an officer of the South Australian prices, administration expressed the view that we were bound by State prices regulations. This is the first time that I have heard of such an expression of opinion. It appears to be in conflict with other statements made by other State prices administrations.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave of absence far one month be given to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar), on the ground of ill health.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), on the ground of ill health.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a proposal to ensure the maintenance of the flax production and processing industry under a government commission. The Government would prefer not to become involved as a principal operator in this production activity. It has introduced this legislation only because the maintenance of flax production is essential as a part of the defence preparations and because the efforts of the Government, like those of the Chifley Government, have failed to achieve an arrangement that would ensure chat the industry was carried on in some other way, either by private enterprise - cooperative or otherwise - or by State governments. Early in 1948, the Chifley Government decided to dispose of the flax industry, which had” been established as a war-time necessity. Brochures giving particulars of all the mills available for sale and details of production capacity were made available throughout Australia and the rest of the world, seeking offers for the purchase of the industry, either in whole or in part. The only offer received in response to the advertisements was from the Government of Western Australia, which finally purchased the mill at Boyup Brook in that State. Since then, the mill has beenleased to a local co-operative company, which is carrying on the industry in that district.
Some tentative inquiries were received from other quarters, but no serious approach was made, and no other offer was received for any of the mills.
When the present Government took office, it immediately made further attempts to dispose of the industry, on the condition that it should be maintained at a certain minimum level of production. With that basic condition, I discussed the situation with representatives of the Victorian Government and the South Australian Government. Both Governments were anxious that the industry should be maintained, but neither was willing to take any part in it as a principal. Then I approached the Victorian Flax Growers Association and also the Australian flax spinners.
I proposed on behalf of the Government that these two groups, representatives of producers and processors, should form a company to take over the mills and maintain the industry. I made it clear that the Government would be prepared to dispose of the mills to such an organization at a reasonable price and to make financial arrangements of a nature which such an organization could be expected to be able to meet.
On this proposal of mine, the Victorian Flax Growers Association and the Australian flax spinners spent a considerable amount of time in trying to evolve a proposal for submission to the Government. The idea was to form a company representative of the two groups and make an offer for a selected number of mills. Unfortunately, despite long and serious consideration of the matter, they found themselves unable to formulate any satisfactory proposal which they were pre-
Dared to submit to the Government.
It will be seen that : both this Government and the Chifley Government have made every effort to dispose of the industry, but without success. The industry is far too important in our defence preparations for us to allow it to disappear so we are forced to find some way of ensuring its continuance. That is the reason for this bill. The flax industry must be retained in Australia because flax fibre is an important raw material in the manufacture of equipment for the fighting services.
Aeroplane fabric, parachute harness, hangar canvas, gun and boat covers, fire hose, tents and other camp equipment, yarns and twines for cordage, and all linen sewing thread for boots and uniforms for the services are made from this essential’ fibre, for which no effective substitute has yet been found.
During World War I., the flax industry was established in Australia to help meet the war needs of the British Empire for flax fibre. At the end of that war, the production of flax in Australia was practically discontinued in spite of various attempts by private interests to carry on this industry. In World War II., there was again an acute shortage of flax fibre, and in June, 1940, the British Government made an urgent appeal for the sowing of as much flax as possible in Australia. By 1942 over 60,000 acres of flax was under cultivation in Australia. This rapid expansion to meet pressing war requirements involved the expenditure of some hundreds of thousands of pounds in the establishment of mills to process the flax straw.
There was no time for the careful planning which was required to put the industry on a sound commercial basis, and flax was sown in some areas which were not entirely suitable. Farmers with little experience in the growing of flax undertook its production as an urgent war measure, and there were no properly trained operatives available for the processing of the straw, with the result that our costs of production were very high during the early war years. This was the price Australia had to pay for its failure to maintain this industry after World War I. to meet its defence requirements.
After World War II., >flax fibre was still in short supply in all Empire countries and the production of flax in Australia under Commonwealth control was continued. In August and September, 1950, following unsuccessful attempts to dispose of the industry, it was reviewed by the Key Industries Sub-Committee of the various sei1 vice departments and the Joint War Production Committee of the Defence Department, for the purpose of determining its position in relation to the defence of Australia. The Joint War Production ‘Committee re-affirmed that the flax industry has a high defence significance. Because of the serious difficulties associated with any attempts to stockpile flax fibre, the Joint War Production Committee considered that Australia should maintain and expand flax production so that in time of war the country’s requirements would be assured. This is only attainable by giving stability to the industry for at least the next five years. As I have pointed out earlier, it lias not been found possible to arrange this without Commonwealth “Govern ment participation in the industry, at least for a period.
Since the end of the war and during the period that efforts were being made, to dispose of the industry as a going concern, the government-owned mills have been operated by the Flax Production Committee which functions within the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. This committee has been operating a purely commercial undertaking, purchasing flax straw from farmers on a contractual basis and selling the processed fibres to the flax spinners. The Government has never been involved in the industry beyond the point of production of the flax fibre. The flax-spinning industry has long been established in Australia, and depended Wore the war principally upon imported fi lire. Experience has shown that a commercial undertaking of this .character cannot -be efficiently conducted as part of a public .service department. Therefore the Government, has finally decided to establish a commission to ensure, in conjunction with the co-operative company operating in Western Australia, a pro duction of about 2,000 tons of flax .fibre per annum. This will remove any danger of shortages of flax for the manufacture of essential equipment for the Navy, Army and Air Force in -times of national emergency. At an appropriate time a further attempt will be made to dispose of the industry to private enterprise, subject to suitable guarantees that it will be continued on a basis of production adequate to meet our defence requirements.
The bill is a simple one, and provides in effect, for the establishment of a commission of five members to carry on the powers and functions which were vested in the Flax Production Committee during the last Avar. The” bill provides the necessary machinery to enable the commission to purchase the Commonwealth assets at present under the control of the Flax Production -Committee. The whole basis and explanation of this proposal is the importance of flax production to defence. I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 11th March (vida page 821), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, having been passed by the Senate, has been transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence therein. The Opposition in the Senate approved the bill, and the Opposition in this chamber does not intend to vote against it. However, I desire to direct attention to the fact that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in this bill as in other marketing legislation that was under consideration last week, proposes to change a principle in the principal act by abolishing .certain authority that was vested in the Minister of the day over the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Once again, I emphasize the manifest danger of the removal of that control, which is contained in section 15~ of the act. and gives to the Minister some authority over the board with respect to the licensing of agents to export apples and pears.
It has come to my notice from time to time that people who are well equipped financially and by experience to engage in the export of apples and pears have been refused permission by the board to act as its agents. The power which is vested in the board in this respect is very great, and it could be abused. Some people who established businesses during the last war, and by virtue of the war-time conditions enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the field, were able to expand their organizations to a considerable degree. They have become firmly established, and resist a newcomer who wishes to enter their preserve. I hope that the House is not in -favour of the establishment of monopolistic organizations, and will not approve the granting to marketing authorities, such as the Australian Apple and Pear Board, of dictatorial powers over business establishments. This Parliament should not vest in an outside body the power to create a monopoly which, in its essence, may be called socialistic, unless the Minister of the day can exercise control such as has been conferred on him in the Apple and Pear Organization Act 193S. It may be desirable, from the standpoint of the board, to confine export activities to a comparatively small number of agents, but we should ask ourselves whether this Parliament should grant the board the power of life and death over an enterprising individual who desires to enter the field. If the Parliament desires that to be done, I suggest that the only authority that should be vested with that power should be a government department. Either the Government lets everybody in, or it does not let anybody in. If it lets everybody in as an exporter, then the only conditions should be that the exporters shall be financially strong enough to conduct their businesses and they should have to give every guarantee to the export authority that they are commercially experienced arid are capable of doing a good job and of dealing in a thoroughly honest manner with their clients here and in other parts of the world. I should be the last person not to pay a tribute to the Apple and Pear Export Control Board. In both war and peace it has done a magnificent job under great difficulty, labouring always under uninformed and ill-informed public criticism. Undoubtedly, however, the danger will exist if that authority is placed in a position when it, and it alone, can decide whether a party or parties may enter into a certain line of business in this so-called free Australia. Until now, the Minister himself has had a veto power. If a business firm complained to him that any authority had refused it a licence the Minister himself, under the existing legislation, had the power to veto the decision of that authority so as to ensure that the business concerned received a licence. When I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture some years ago it came to my attention on occasions that some people had been refused licences by such authorities, and I dealt with these matters on their merits. At least in those days the individuals concerned had the right to appeal to the Minister, who could consider the case impartially. On several occasions I vetoed decisions of the authorities concerned. I acted as the representative of the people in the Parliament. I was the authority to whom people who considered they were the victims, of injustice could appeal for protection. The Minister has not gone so far in this bill as he did in other bills to rob himself, as Minister, of the trust that the public expects him to hold, and therefore the Opposition will not oppose the measure. I point out, however, the clangers inherent in this measure in that it proposes to remove the veto control from the Minister who is responsible to the Parliament, which is responsible to the people.
– I support, in some degree, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The Apple and Pear Export Control Board with which the bill deals will probably be confused in the minds of some people with the Apple and Pear Marketing Board which existed as an interim authority during the war, the establishment of which, as the honorable member for Lalor will remember, I supported although it was bitterly opposed by other people engaged in the fruit industry. The Apple and Pear Export Control Board is in a curious position. Under the legislation that established it, which the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) introduced in 1938 when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the board has no power to buy and sell apples or pears, and no power in relation to any materials used in the preparation of fruit for the market. The board is not only having a difficult time at present, but is also faced with a difficult time because in the last ten years the acreage under apples has been reduced from 105.000 to 84,000, whilst the nation’s population has risen from 6,000,000 to nearly 9,000,000 in the same period. That means that more of our apple crop is consumed in Australia than was previously the case and only Tasmania and “Western Australia export a great quantity of the fruit now. I discovered when I visited the United Kingdom on three occasions before the war that it was essential to have a rationalized system of delivery of our fruit to Great Britain, which is our principal market. Ultimately I hope fruit-growers will be able to influence shipping companies in order to achieve a properly regulated delivery to Britain. In addition to its functions in relation to markets and research and the achievement of a regular shipping programme, the board has another important function, that of controlling the issue of licences to export, without which people cannot export apples or pears. In that connexion I sound exactly the same note of warning as the honorable member for Lalor has sounded. The growers have a majority of representatives on the board, which includes also the representatives of the shippers. It would not be unfair of me to suggest that those shippers, who have established a large business over the years, would look carefully at newcomers who applied for licences to export. I think that the honorable member for Lalor and theMinister realize the difficulties that have arisen in that direction. Personally, I consider that the board is immensely valuable as a research body. As I have said, it has no power to engage in market ing itself. I consider that it should ultimately be continued only as a research body and that the granting of licences to ship, if such a system is considered desirable, should be administered by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture itself. In 1931, one gentleman shipped my fruit on consignment, which meant that he acted as my agent, and I was to receive the whole of the proceeds. I received only Id. in the £1 for the fruit. I consider that the system of licensing is desirable in the fruit industry, which has some undesirable fringes both here and at the receiving end in London. The Minister might be wise to consider vesting his department with the control of licensing which is now in the hands of the board. The board’s value could be quite well maintained if it operated as a research body. South Africa has a similar board which controls exports of fruit from that dominion. It operates differently from the Australian board, however, in that it underwrites the whole of the shipping space overseas and grants its licences in the same way as it grants shipping space - that is, only to those whom it knows to be reputable persons with sufficient financial stability to meet their responsibilities. I commend the bill. The fruit industry, of which I have been a leader for more than 25 years, long ago asked that ministerial discretion should be withdrawn. I hope that ultimately the granting of licences will become a function of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
– This measure will commend itself to the House. I take this opportunity to suggest to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that efforts should be redoubled with a view to ensuring that there is the fullest co-operation between the Commonwealth, the States and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization regarding our fruit export trade. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has done a magnificent job by enabling apple and pear producers to combat disease, and I pay a tribute to it for its successes in that direction. Its work is not sufficiently recognized. My remarks at this stage are directed to ensuring that the
Apple and Pear Export Control Board sh.aU not be dealing with a diminishing product. I am concerned because, owing to the trend of prices, costs and other factors that have entered into the production of apples and pears in New South Wales, particularly in its relation to war service land settlement in my own electorate, the board may be dealing with a diminishing industry. This community needs increased quantities of fruit. One of the factors which operate against increased production of fruit at the present time is that in the early days of war service land settlement the areas provided were wrongly conceived in that they allowed only a small orchard. No provision was made for the fact that young people growing up would require fruit-growing areas for themselves on which they could use the techniques that they had learned from their fathers, who had learned them’ the hard way. That factor has militated against- the growth of the industry, at least in New SouthWales, and should be’ carefully.scrutinized. Orchard development by the Commonwealth and State governments in relation to war service land settlement should be investigated, and is- probably being investigated. Another factor which has militated against increased production of apples and pears in New South Wales is that, many orchards that were planted after World War I. are deteriorating. These- orchards are- from 30 to 3-5; years old. People who had1 experience, and have applied it, offset that deterioration by growing amongst the trees green crops which are ploughed in, and by the use of fertilizers. Those measures- maintain, the life of the tree andi the rate of production,, and, which is infinitely more important,, the quality of the fruit. It appears to methat ia order to prevent the deterioration” of orchards and a> consequent fall inproduction) we must have an> accentuated1 programme of co-operation, between- Commonwealth and S%ate agencies to bring’ education facilities- foi’ orchardists moreeffectively into use-.. In . any fairly largearea/ given over- to war service- land settlement, surrounded by private growers, as is the case in the Kentucky district of New England,, there- shouldbo established a. small unit- foi: the- deua ore- stratton of techniques. I am strongly of the opinion that quite apart from experimental farms where intensive research takes place, in most branches of our administration we need units to show farmers the advantages of proved new methods and to ascertain areas where research could be better used than in- one or more settlements of exservicemen. I have mentioned the Kentucky settlement merely as- a case in point because there 13 a large number of people settled. on> the- land there. I suggest that it would be unfortunate itf new farming methods were not brought before settlers in many other districts-.. State authorities have,, to a point,, recognized the necessity for larger areas than they originally contemplated, but when we consider the work of the Australian Apple and Pear Board we must ensure that if possible its administrative field1 shall be continually enlarged. It must expand its activities, not only in the- interests- of our export markets, but al’so in the interests of our own people to whom a reasonable supply of fruit at reasonable prices is- an essential for good health. I rose to make these remarks because the debate on this measure appeared- to be an opportune time.. I pay tribute to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for his interest in these matters, and i have put. my suggestions forward, not in a critical- spirit,, but in an attempt to- make a. constructive contribution- to the debate-.
, - in reply, - I thank, the honorable- member for New England (.Mr. Drummond) for the constructive- observations that he has made on this measure,, audi I assure’ him that I shall take fully into- account’, the advice that he has tendered’, and shall ensure that his adVice’ shall be brought to the notice of the Australian Apple and’ Pear Board, a.nd! other authorities that are concerned1 with the well-being of the fruit’ industry.. I concede the necessity for close cooperation between! the Australian Appleand. Pear Board,, the appropriate Commonwealth, and State departments, the Commonwealth) Scientific and Industrial Research Organization- and the industry itself if we are all to work together for the well-being and the development of this industry. I also thank the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) for hrs contribution, made out of the- wealth of his experience as an acknowledged leader of the fruit industry in Australia over a long period of years. I believe that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was labouring under some misapprehension when he suggested that themeasure is designed, amongst other things, to reduce the degree of ministerial authority over the board. I correct that misapprehension- and inform him that the bill will not diminish the authority of the Minister one iota because he has a very minimum of authority at present over the board.
– Any authority that theMinister does have will be reduced.
– That is not so-. There is a reference in the principal act to the Minister being empowered to issue a notice in the Glazette. That will be limited,
– If the Minister does not gazette powers or does not make regulations, then any authority mentioned by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will not operate.
– We are in the hands of the legal authorities on that matter, and I am sure that the words in the measure to which the honorable member for Lalor has referred are not the result of any policy direction by the Government, but are the outcome of a legal consideration that the provisions enabling the Minister to gazette certain things were necessary in the early stages of the Australian Apple and Pear Board, but have been of no use for some years. The legal authorities believe that there is nothing for the Minister now to gazette.
– If the board desires to gazette new regulations, under the principal act, the Minister can. disapprove. The measure will take from him that power to disapprove.
– I understand that that is- not so, but if necessary I shall clarify the matter at the committee stage of the bill. If the honorable member for Lalor will remind me about the matter, I shall make a specific statement on the point. My second-reading speech made it quite dear that this bill was not the outcome of policy recommendations. The parliamentary draftsmen merely took an opportunity to bring the measure up to date. The only policy purpose of this particular part of the measure is to avoid a process of circumlocution necessary under the principal act. It has been necessary for years,, not only for the Australian Apple and Pear Board, but for other boards, when dealing, with approval of conditions for the appointment of staff and approval of conditions for the variation of the tennis of appointment of staff,, to consult the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Public Service Board, and the Treasury in order to get regulations drafted.. That has been most unsatisfactory, and the principal act will now he amended by this measure so that the terms and conditions of appointment and continuance of the service of staff, will become a matter of agreement between the Australian Apple and Pear Board and the Public Service Board. That has been provided for no reason other than to maintain a standard of uniformity between the staff conditions in statutory bodies and the staff conditions under the Public Service Board.
The broad function of the Australian Apple and Pear Board is to engage in activities in relation to marketing, research and shipping arrangements, and also to recommend the granting of export licences, because no- one is permitted t-.> export without a licence. The board will not own, sell or market fruit at all. It is one of the boards in which the Minister has very little authority on his own motion. That state of affairs was established in 1938, and although the bill was amended at the instance of the honorable member for Lalor in 194T and’ in 1948j he did not elect to take power for the Minister on either of those occasions. The honorable member for Lalor said that he had been compelled, on several occasions in the past, to- veto decisions of the board. I say that those decisions could not have been made by the Australian Apple and
Pear Board, but must have been made by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, which was a war-time board, and, like all such boards, was under the arbitrary control pf the Minister. There has never been any authority for the Minister to veto decisions of the board established under the Apple and Pear Organization Act.
I have experienced difficulties of judgment in this matter, and I have felt the absence of authority, but the history of the export of fresh fruit shows that on occasions our reputation overseas has been impaired because people inexperienced in the business have shipped fruit to overseas markets and the fruit has arrived at inopportune times, has been badly freighted, or has been unsuitable to the particular trade. The honorable member for McMillan has also illustrated how dishonest people have operated to the detriment of the fruit-growers. For instance, he said that on one occasion he had received one penny for every pound’s worth of fruit he consigned. On several occasions, agents who were not financially strong enough have undertaken to ship on consignment or to buy fruit and pay for it later, and have left the growers lamenting. If a grower is doing business in a nearby market town he is usually not bitten more than once, but it is a serious thing for a grower to send a whole year’s production to an outside market and discover many months later that he will not get anything for his fruit. The experience of responsible merchants, growers, and governments has shown that there should be an authority to ensure that the reputation of our fruit and the interests of the growers are not impaired by dishonest, inexperienced or financially weak shippers. Therefore, this hoard has been chosen as the authority to ensure that persons who want to export fruit must have a licence to do so.
That bill was originally drafted to give the Minister power to issue, a licence on the recommendation of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. That was done because it has been shown legally that a Minister cannot issue a licence unless he receives a recommendation from, the Australian Apple and Pear Board. When I first assumed office I discovered that licences were not being recommended in respect of shippers who, I believed, should have a licence. I mention the Tasmanian Fruit Board as an instance. That is a State statutory authority which handles the produce of hundreds, or even thousands, of growers, but the Australian Apple and Pear Board was not prepared to recommend that a licence be issued to it. I decided to give that State authority a licence, but then found that I did not have the power to do so. I reasoned with the Australian Apple and Pear Board, and ultimately the board made an appropriate recommendation. The only alternative is for a hard-pressed Minister or his department, rather remote and scarcely equipped to judge whether individual prospective shippers are suitable persons to ship, to issue licences or for the Minister to superimpose his judgment upon that of the board. After a not too smooth experience with the board I say now that the acceptance of the advice of a reasonable board is the better course to take. If the board proved to be unreasonable this Government or any other government would take appropriate action in the interests of the people. Another purpose of this measure is to streamline the conditions upon which staff may be appointed by the board itself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8 - by leave - considered together.
.- I shall refer to clause 6. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has explained that this clause was inserted in the bill in order to streamline the procedure for the payment of salaries and allowances to members of the staff. As will be the case in respect of other measures which we shall consider this week, the problem that was raised last week again emerges. What should be the status of the Public Service Board in relation to agencies of this kind? I put it to the committee that at some stage we shall have to reconcile existing practice with the desire on the part of certain agencies, such as marketing organizations, to be entirely free of traditional control and supervision by the Public Service Board. I do not contend that the staff of the Australian Apple and Pear Board should be under the supervision of the Public Service Board because I do not know whether that would be desirable. What we expect from Public Service Board control, and what we have been trying to ensure in all the operations of government, is that a government department or activity will be staffed by only a sufficient number of persons to work it efficiently and that the staff will be drawn from the class of persons most capable of performing the duties which confront them. In this bill we are robbing ourselves of that protection. The clause provides that staff shall be appointed by the Australian Apple and Pear Board under such terms and conditions as the Public Service Board may prescribe. That power could be used to veto appointments to the staff by the Australian Apple and Pear Board. The clause could also rob us of the protection of ensuring that the work is organized in the most efficient possible way. In connexion with organizations of the character that we are now discussing I have felt that the Government should adopt the practice it adopts in connexion with financial measures. When the parliament is asked to pass a measure for the provision of finance a certificate must be given by the Treasurer that the amount sought is necessary for the purpose of the measure. When we are dealing with an organization such as this provision should be made for the issue of a certificate by the Public Service Board, a body which the Government recognizes as an authority in organization matters, stating that it is the kind of organization which is most capable of performing the functions which the organization is designed to achieve. The Government relies upon the Public Service Board for control of staffs covering the ordinary functional activities of government, but in respect of organizations of this kind it departs from that practice. At one stage or another, I hope that the Government will consider whether or not an entirely different technique should be adopted in relation to measures of this kind. Before the Parliament is asked to consider organizations such as those provided in measures that will be discussed this week, it should insist that the proposals have been vetted by the Public Service Board, which should issue certificates that the proposed organizations will most effectively discharge the functions which they are called upon to undertake.
Clauses agreed to.
New clause 9.
Amendment (by Mr. McEwen) proposed -
That, after clause 8, the following new clause bc inserted: - “ 9. Section twenty of the principal act is amended by omitting the words ‘ Commonwealth Bank,’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or with any other prescribed bank,’.”.
.- If the amendment is accepted the Australian Apple and Pear Board will have the right to bank with the Commonwealth Bank or any other prescribed bank. I am well aware that similar provision has been included in measures that were placed upon the statute-book during the regime of the Labour Government. In certain circumstances it was necessary to provide that an authority may bank with a bank other than the Commonwealth Bank. The Australian Apple and Pear Board has managed very well so far by relying almost exclusively on the facilities provided by the Commonwealth Bank. I should like to know why the amendment is necessary unless the Minister has it in mind that the board should use a bank other than the Commonwealth Bank. Will the Minister also state the method by -which a prescribed authority will be prescribed ?
– The am.endm.ent will make the measure almost identical with the provision that was inserted in similar legislation when the Labour Government was in office - although the actual wording may be slightly different. It is proposed solely for the purpose of uniformity. It has apparently been found necessary to make provision in certain circumstances for a government instrumentality to bank with a. bank other than with the Commonwealth Bank. Some of our legislation enables authorities such as this to bank with -a bank approved by the Treasurer. In o other legislation the term “ or with a prescribed bank “ is used. A bank would be prescribed by the appropriate Minister in accordance with the law. I do not know whether the prescription would be by Executive Council minute or by some other statutory device. I should imagine that it would be by Executive Council minute upon the recommendation of the appropriate Minister. There is no intention in the amendment other than to facilitate the business of the board. I say without qualification that the Government does not intend to divert business from the Commonwealth Bank.
– The Government did not apply that principle when it introduced legislation to divert airline business from Trans-Australia Airlines to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– The Commonwealth Bank is the appropriate banker for the Government’s statutory boards. Only when the facilities of the Commonwealth Bank are not available will the board resort to other banking facilities.
New clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from, the 11th March (vide page 821), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to this bill, which was approved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna). It refers mostly to fees, allowances and expenses of members of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, either abroad or in Australia, conditions of employment at the London agency of the board, the employment of staff and r]ic payment of moneys into the fund under the control of the board. As it is more or less a machinery measure the Opposition supports it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th March (vide page 821), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure is almost identical with the measure which the House has just passed. It deals chiefly with conditions and methods of employment, fees of members of the Australian Dried Fruits Board and the payment’ of moneys into the fund controlled by the board. The Opposition offers no objection to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th March (vide page 821), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has pointed out that this measure will not substantially affect the provisions of the existing act. The Opposition does not object to the bill, which is mainly a machinery measure, and will accord it a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 10 agreed to.
New clauses 11 and 12.
Amendments (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That, after clause 10 the following new clauses be inserted: - “11. Section twenty-three of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘ Commonwealth Bank’, and inserting in their stead the words ‘ Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or with any other prescribed bank ‘. “ 12. Section twenty-four of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘ Commonwealth Bank’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or in any other prescribed bank’.”
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th March (vide page 958), on motion by Mr. HOlt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seeks to amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act 191.1-1949. Insofar as it will improve compensation payments to seamen, the Opposition naturally supports it. The adequacy of the proposed scale of payments, however, is another matter. For the purposes of debate, the bill may be divided into two parts. One part consists of proposed amendments of the principal act which will clarify definitions and will re-arrange certain sections in order to remove ambiguity. No objection is raised to these provisions. However, I direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to clause 4, which provides that section 5aa of the principal act shall be replaced by a new section 5aa, which will limit the compensation payable to a seaman who suffers personal injury by accident while travelling to or from a mercantile marine office. The existing section is not so restrictive as the proposed new section. I hope that the Minister will attempt to explain the reason for this alteration. Section 5aa of the act now provides that compensation shall be payable to a seaman who suffers personal injury by accident while he is travelling to or from his place of employment, a mercantile marine office, or a place which it is necessary for him to attend to obtain a medical certificate or to receive medical, surgical or hospital treatment or compensation in respect of a previous injury. The Government now proposes, apparently, that compensation shall be payable to a seaman injured accidentally while travelling to or from a mercantile marine office only if his visit to the office is connected with his employment in the service of his particular employer at the time of the accident. It is conceivable that a man might visit a mercantile marine office as a result of his desire to change his employment and that, if he were injured in such circumstances, he would be deprived of compensation. I stress this point because I believe that the greatest possible protection should be provided for employees in all workers’ compensation legislation. I object to the inclusion in any such measure of a provision which, on the face of it at any rate, will restrict compensation rights. Apart from this objection, the provisions which will clarify various definitions and re-arrange sections’ of the existing act are satisfactory.
The principal reason for this bill is the necessity to improve workers’ compensation rates as a result of the sharp increases of the cost of living that have taken place since the act was last amended. The Seamen’s Compensation Act was last amended in 1949, for the same reason that has been stated by the Minister for Labour and National Service on this occasion. The 1949 measure was designed to bring seamen’s compensation rates into line with the rates then provided in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, which had been amended in 1948. The basic wage, based upon the figures for the six capital cities in 1948, was £5 19s. a week. During the four years that have passed since the Seamen’s Compensation Act was last brought up to date, the cost of living has increased at an unprecedented rate. This is best indicated by the fact that, on the latest figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, the basic wage average for the six capital cities is £1111s. a week. Therefore, we are entitled to ask whether the rates of compensation for which this bill provides are adequate when related to the losses that will he incurred by seamen if they are injured in the course of their employment. A man who is injured while working for an employer immediately loses wages. Will this measure enable him to be adequately compensated for such injury? I submit, with due respect, that the Government has not taken into consideration the great economic loss that is suffered by an employee as a consequence of injury.
The act now provides that the weekly payment to an injured employee shall be £4. The proposed new rate is £6. The present rate allowed for a wife is £1 5s, which is to be increased to £1 15s. The rate for a dependent child is now 10s. and it is to be increased to 15s. Thus, under the new scale, the total weekly payment that may be made to a man with a wife and one child will be £S 10s. The basic wage was described by the late Judge Beeby as a sum which, at the best, would not support more than a family of three. Yet, although the present basic wage is £11 lis., a family of three may receive only £8 10s. in compensation. The act now provides that, if a seaman is killed, the principal dependant shall receive £1,000. This amount will be increased to £1,500. In addition, each dependent child will be entitled to receive £75 instead of £50. The rate payable to seamen under the age of 21 who are injured in the course of their employment will be raised from £3 to £4 10s. a week. The allowance for board and lodging will be increased from £1 10s. to £2 5s. a week. This means that, if the employer provides the injured seaman with board and lodging, an amount of £2 5s. will be deducted from the compensation payable. The total liability in respect of medical expenses is to be increased from £100 to £150 for any one accident. The maximum payment that any employer will be called upon to make in respect of any one accident that a seaman may suffer will he increased from £1,250 to £1,750. Some people who have not examined the present trend of workers’ compensation legislation may be inclined to say that this bill is reasonable, but I point out that the payments for which it makes provision are based upon compensation payments to Commonwealth employees that were approved by the Parliament in 1951.
Two aspects of Commonwealth workers’ compensation legislation are open to grave objection. First, the compensation payments are totally inadequate when they are compared with the rates of pay received by workers, and secondly, there is a tendency for this Parliament, in passing such legislation, proportionately to reduce payments as compared with the basic wage. To ilustrate my point, I shall give a brief resume of the effect of workers’ compensation legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament since 1912. The 1912 legislation made provision for compensation to be paid at the rate of £2 a week. The basic wage then was £2 13s. a week. So the difference between the compensation payment and the basic wage was 13s. Eighteen years later, in 1930, amending legislation was introduced into the Parliament. It made provision foi1 workers’ compensation to be paid to a man with a wife and child at the rate of £3 17s. 6d. a week. At that time, the basic wage was £4 6s. a week. Therefore, the gap between the basic wage and the compensation payments, which was 13s. in 1912, was reduced to 8s. 6d. In 1944, further amending legislation was introduced. Under that legislation, the compensation payable to an injured worker with a wife and one child was £4 Ss. 6d. a week. The basic wage at that time was £4 16s. a week. So the gap to which I have referred was reduced to 7s. 6d. It was reduced again in 194S, when legislation was passed by the Parliament under which compensation was paid to an injured worker with a wife and one child at the rate of £5 15s. a week. As the basic wage at that time was £5 19s. a week, the gap was reduced to 4s.
I think we can say safely that in 1948 a satisfactory stage had been reached in the history of compensation payments to workers during incapacity. But during the last five years there has been a tendency for the payments to decline considerably when compared with the basic wage. Under the Commonwealth Employees ‘Compensation Act 1951, the payment made to an injured worker with a wife and one dependant child was £8 10s. a week. At that time, the basic wage was £10 a week. So the gap between the basic wage and the compensation payments, which had been reduced to 4s., was increased to £1 10s. Under this legislation, the compensation payable to an injured worker with a wife and one dependant child will be £8 10s. a week. The basic wage is £11 Ils. a week. Therefore, the gap between the compensation payment and the basic wage will reach the astonishing figure of £3 ls. That cannot be regarded as satisfactory.
I want to refer to the unjustified delay in the introduction of this bill. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1951 received the royal assent in November, 1951. A period of about fifteen months elapsed before legislation in regard to seamen was introduced. That means that, for about fifteen months, seamen, who must be covered by Commonwealth workers’ compensation legislation owing to the interstate and overseas nature of their occupation, have been entitled to workers’ compensation payments at only the lowest rates applicable in Australia, which are considerably less than the corresponding payments made by the Commonwealth to its own employees. So far, no explanation has been given of the long delay in introducing this bill. That delay cannot be justified. But it is more difficult to understand why, now that the legislation has been introduced, the Government has made no attempt to make it operate retrospectively, and, from November, 1951, to place seamen upon the same basis as Commonwealth employees in respect of workers’ compensation payments. The present rate of compensation for an adult seaman who is injured can be regarded only as grossly unfair. Something should be done by the Government to make the operation of the measure retrospective at least to the date upon which the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1951 came into operation.
Let me refer to another matter that will indicate very clearly the meagre nature of the payments proposed to be made under this bill. In 1951, speaking upon the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill, I said that it would not give Commonwealth employees reasonable protection against loss of income as the result of accidents suffered during their employment. In 1952, I directed a question to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in which I asked whether, in view of large increases of the basic wage, the Government proposed to introduce a bill to increase workers’ compensation payable to Commonwealth employees. The right honorable gentleman made it clear that the Government did not propose to do so. Now, I direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to the fact that State governments have recognized the inadequacy of workers’ compensation payments. A bill has been introduced into the Victorian Parliament under which compensation payments made to persons subject to the Victorian legislation will be increased to such a degree as to make the payments proposed by this measure appear ridiculous and mean. Under the legislation now being considered by the Victorian Parliament, weekly compensation payments in respect of total incapacity due to injury will be increased from £5 10s. to £8 16s., or £2 16s. higher than the proposed payments that we are now considering. The payment to a dependent wife will be increased from £1 8s. to £2 8s., and it will be 13s. greater than the payment proposed in this measure. The payment in respect of a child will be increased from 10s. to 16s. a week, and will be slightly higher than payments made by the Commonwealth in future; a total payment for a family of three of £12 a week. The maximum payment to persons under the age of 21 years will be increased from £4 a week to £6 8s. a week, compared with a maximum payment of £4 10s. a week under this bill. In Victoria at the present time, the compensation payable to a worker who is killed in an accident is subject to a limit of £1,400. The limit will be increased to £2,240, compared with a limit of £1,500 under this legislation. The difference between the payment made to the dependants of a deceased worker under the Victorian legislation and under this legislation will be £840. In Victoria, the maximum sum payable in respect of each dependent child of a worker who is killed will be increased from £50 to £80. Under this measure, the maximum payment will be £75. Under the present Victorian legislation, the sum that an employer can be required to pay in respect of medical and surgical expenses is limited to £125. The limit upon such payments will be removed. Under this legislation, which deals with seamen, it will be increased from £100 to £150. A similar anomaly will arise in respect of the maximum payment that can be made in respect of any one accident suffered by a worker. Under this measure, the maximum sum payable in respect of any one accident suffered by a seaman will be increased to £1,750, whilst under the Victorian legislation it will be increased from. £1,750 to £2,800. The Victorian Parliament proposes to give protection to an injured worker to the degree of £1,050 more than is proposed under this bill.
– For what disability will the maximum sum be payable under the Victorian legislation?
– It could be paid for the loss of both eyes, or in respect of a broken back. Generally, it will be paid in respect of injuries which, although they do not cause death, will make the injured person an invalid for life.
– What is the maximum amount that will be payable in respect of death?
– Under the Victorian legislation, the maximum sum payable at present is £1,400, and it will be increased to £2,240. Under this measure, the maximum sum payable in respect of death will be £1,500. In all workers’ compensation legislation, it has been usual to provide that the sum payable to ‘the dependants of a workman who is killed shall be slightly less than the sum payable- to a workman who, as the result of an injury, is condemned to a living death. Men who become paralysed due to a broken back may live for many years, but they will be unable to enjoy their lives.
I have referred to those matters because, at one stage of the history of workers’ compensation legislation, we could claim with justification that legislation on that subject passed by the Commonwealth Parliament was the best in Australia. But, unfortunately, during the last few years, the Commonwealth, instead of leading the States in workers’ compensation legislation, has become a follower of the States. Literature is available which analyses the provisions of the workers’ compensation legislation of the States and of the Commonwealth. Hitherto, the Commonwealth has led in this field, but now it follows some of the States. The seamen are responsible for the safe transport of passengers and cargo round the Australian coast. Probably, the seamen run a greater risk of injury or death than workers in most other occupations. One State is bringing its workers’ compensation law up to date, and, unfortunately, the Commonwealth is trailing behind it. The amounts of compensation proposed in this bill are completely inadequate to support the family of an injured seaman. I cannot say whether the Government is prepared to consider the Opposition’s views on this bill, but I hope that the whole matter will be carefully re-examined in order to ensure that the maximum protection will be given to seamen who are injured in the course of their employment.
The amount which is fixed by workmen’s compensation legislation for a person who loses his life while he is carrying
Out his employer’s tasks and helping to make his profits is considerably less than the damages that are being awarded by the civil courts to persons who are injured in the course of going about their everyday business in the streets of our capital cities and country towns. People who, in the ordinary course of their daily activities, are knocked down by motor cars seek redress in the civil courts and verdicts for amounts up to £20,000 are entered for them, not for death, but for grave injuries. Yet the men who go down to the sea in ships, and may lose their lives while they are trying to save a vessel from destruction, are entitled to substantially less compensation. The widow of a seaman who loses his life in the course of his employment will receive only £1,500. If a deceased seaman has no dependants, the liability of the employer is limited to a sum of £50 for funeral expenses.
This legislation is completely unsatisfactory as a safeguard of the economic interests of a person who is injured in the performance of his employer’s business. Nevertheless, the Opposition will vote for the bill, because the new rates are certainly better than the former scale. However, the Government should overhaul the compensation scales applicable tQ Commonwealth employees and to seamen. Not by any conceivable standard, can we regard this legislation as satisfactory. The Government alone can remedy tho position, and I hope that as the result of the passage of the amending workmen’s compensation legislation in Victoria in the near future, the earliest opportunity will be taken by the Government to introduce amending legislation with a view to providing more humane rates of compensation for Commonwealth employees and the men who go down to the sea in ships.
– I feel that I should rise at this point to deal with a few of the matters raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who is speaking on this bill on behalf of the Opposition. He has certainly greeted the legislation with modified rapture, when we consider that, in substance, it grants an overall increase of about 50 per cent, in the benefits that are to apply. He has painted rather a gloomy picture of the prospects in life of those nien who, as he expressed it rather dramatically on one or two occasions, “ go down to the sea in ships.” He created a rather discouraging atmosphere for men who may seek a livelihood on the waterfront.
I do not discount his genuine sympathy and concern for members of all sections of the industrial movement, and I am glad to be able to assure him, from my knowledge of the facts of this matter, that the fate which awaits men who go down to the sea in ships is by no means as general, serious, or sombre as some of his remarks may have led us to believe. This Government has assumed full responsibility for this aspect of workmen’s compensation, because seamen fall outside the scope of State legislation, yet the average amount paid under these provisions in recent years has been approximately £3,400 annually. Therefore, the incidence of disability is not great, and a large sum of money is not involved under this legislation. J know that when I make such a statement, I invite the honorable member for Bendigo to ask, “ If it is such a small amount, why not bring the Commonwealth legislation into line with the more liberal provisions to be found elsewhere ? “
– Why not give the seamen the same rate as they would receive if the F were working ?
– The honorable gentleman has sufficient experience as a member of the Parliament to know that a government when it legislates in this Parliament on matters of this kind, cannot treat any particular group in isolation, but must be prepared to relate the claims of that group to the claims of others who may be said to be in somewhat comparable circumstances. Indeed, the whole purpose of this legislation is to bring those persons who are covered by the provisions of the Seamen’s Compensation Act broadly into line with those persons who are covered by the workmen’s compensation provisions of other Commonwealth legislation, which covers tens of thousands of Commonwealth employees. Consequently, the Government seeks to ensure that the provisions that relate to seamen are not less favorable than the provisions which apply to the whole field of Commonwealth employees.
The honorable member for Bendigo must be the first to realize the difficulties and clangers that would arise if one section, which cannot be said to be directly in the employment of the Commonwealth, were placed on much more favorable terms than the employees of the Government. The honorable member, in logic and justice, should direct his criticism, not merely to this group, but to the whole field of Commonwealth employees, and, in doing so, he should realize that he is raising a large financial problem. It is outside my own competence, when I am discussing this measure, to refer to that problem with any authority. Treasury policy is involved, and I do not feel that this occasion is profitable to develop the full story of workmen’s compensation in the Commonwealth. We have had other opportunities to do so.
When I make that statement, I do not wish to create the impression that any Commonwealth government, irrespective of the political party in office, has been niggardly in its handling of this compensation matter. It is true that the honorable member for Bendigo can produce the fact to-day that the Victorian Parliament is in the process of amending the workmen’s compensation legislation with the incorporation of scales which appear to be more liberal than those in the Commonwealth legislation.
– That is so.
– I have not sufficient knowledge of the details of that legislation to contest any claim made by the honorable member for Bendigo in respect of it. However, that legislation has not yet been passed by the Parliament. I have no doubt that, if we combed through the workmen’s compensation acts of the various States, we could point to many provisions which are not by any means so liberal as are the provisions of this bill. It is no novelty to find the eyes picked out of the legislation of the various States, and to have the results brought forward as justification for the granting of more liberal treatment in Commonwealth legislation. So far as I am aware, we have not merely kept pace broadly with workmen’s compensation legislation in the States. If anything, the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation have been more favorable than those in the State acts. I shall give one illustration to show that, so far as I am aware, this legislation is on a more favorable basis than even the amending legislation of Victoria. I refer to the provision that we make for total and permanent incapacity. The Commonwealth accepts an unlimited liability in such cases.
– That is with respect to its own employees.
– I understand that it is with respect to this legislation also.
– I cannot see such a provisionin the bill.
– That is my advice, and I shall check it before the bill is considered in committee, but I understand that such a provision exists with respect to total and permanent incapacity. I believe that is a much more important provision for the seaman who has the misfortune to be injured than is the amount paid in the case of death. My reason for making that statement is that the widow is entitled not only to the compensation payable under this legislation, but also to other Commonwealth benefits.
– That will apply to the widow of any worker who is injured in outside employment.
– Yes, I appreciate that fact. All I am suggesting is that I do not think it is a sound process to select the best -.conditions of a number of schemes in operation in various parts of Australia, and present only them as a proper basis for our own legislation. Our legislation compares favorably with that of the States. I do not feel that we have any cause to believe that we have not dealt fairly with those persons who come within the provisions of this bill.
If it is desired to provide a more liberal scale of compensation than exists in this legislation, the proper course is not to tinker at this bill, but to examine the whole field of Commonwealth compensation with a view to making improvements. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) pointed out, when he introduced the bill, that all the parties in this Parliament have frequently reviewed the compensation legislation. I have no doubt that if the purchasing value of money changes radically in this country in the future, and certainly if it depreciates substantially, the government of the day will regard it as proper to review the position again. I mention, in passing, that I do not see any likelihood of a substantial depreciation of the purchasing power of money.
I do not wish to speak at length on this bill. The point raised by the honorable member for Bendigo on the amendment to section 5aa can be dealt with more conveniently in committee. I shall refer to the matter then.
– Has the Minister considered the matter of retrospectivity ?
– There again, I have inquired why delay has occurred in the presentation of this legislation. I am assured that it resulted solely from the drafting problem. A great volume of legislation has had to be submitted to the Parliament in the intervening period, and that is the only reason for the delay in this instance. In view of the relatively small amount that has been paid in seamen’s compensation over a period of years it would appear that there have been no serious hardships caused, and it is not proposed to introduce retrospective provisions at this point.
– I was astonished to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) suggest that it is the Commonwealth’s responsibility to set payments of compensation, such as are provided for in this measure, so as to maintain a common formula that would operate in respect of all compensation payments to be provided legislatively. Surely it is the Government’s responsibility to set the level of compensation payments to be made under legislation of this description on the basis of the value of the currency at the time. Such a policy has always been accepted by every State, and has been accepted by the Commonwealth until now. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mi1. Clarey) explained, compensation payments have always been related as nearly as possible to the basic wage. It is fantastic for the Minister to say that this bill is merely a “ relating “ bill to the measure that was passed in 1951. That is not an explanation that is worthy of a government that has an intelligent approach to the need for compensation. Despite the Minister’s statement I should say that the maximum to which compensation payments are to be extended by this bill can be regarded as no more than meagre. The maximum is to be on the basis of £6 for the breadwinner, £1 15s. for his wife and 15s. for the first child, making a total of £8 10s. a week at a time when the basic wage is £11 lis. In most cases the family concerned expects to receive some extra payment to offset the value of the time lost by the injured worker. I do not propose to trace the history of compensation, as the honorable member for Bendigo has done so most capably, except to say that the close relationship of the level of compen sation payments to the basic wage was accepted by all governments between 1912 and 194S.
All compensation legislation has provided for an extension of the maximum payments. This bill will become historic because, in the main, all it will do is to bring the amounts concerned into line with provisions that operated in New South “Wales two years ago. It does nothing about extending the coverage on workers to bring it into line with the provisions of State compensation legislation. The Minister has said that we should not pick the eyes out of the compensation acts in the States and compare the results with the provisions of this bill. I submit, however, that it. is proper for me to make appropriate comparisons as I shall now do. . This measure will increase to £1,500 the maximum payment in respect of a worker who has lost his life, whereas the maximum payment under New South Wales legislation has been £2,000 for a number of years. The. increase of the maximum payment from £1,000 to £1,500 does not represent the increase of the cost of living that has occurred since this Parliament last considered such legislation. Surely the minimum that should be prescribed by an act of parliament under present conditions should be a figure nearer the purchase price of a home where the family unit could be kept together after the breadwinner had gone. When the similar legislation was before the Parliament in 1948 the sum of £1,000 had a certain purchasing power. The sum of £1,500 to-day has nothing like that purchasing power. The real question at issue is not of relativity between this bill and some other bill that provides for compensation payments. The relativity should be between the principal act and what is now considered to be a reasonable amount to be paid as compensation to an injured worker and his dependants. It is just as logical to say that it was not right to have amended the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act in 1951, because it would have thrown it out of gear with the Seamen’s Compensation Act, as it is now to say that it would be wrong to amend this legislation in a way that would -throw the Seamen’s
Compensation Act out of line with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. It was thrown well out of line in 1951, and if the proper thing were done now it would be thrown out of line again in favour of those to be covered by the legislation, because in the intervening period the basic wage has increased from £10 a week to £11 lis. a week. Surely nobody will rise in this chamber and say that there is no relativity between the compensation paid to an injured worker and the basic wage standard. There has always been a close relationship between them. There was a close relationship in 1948 when the Labour Government last dealt with this matter. It set the maximum payment at £5 15s. a week at a time when the basic wage was £5 9s. a week, and in that respect it did more than had been done during the whole time between 1912 and 1948. That process of relating the amount that is due to an injured worker to the amount considered necessary for the upkeep of the average home, has been followed until now. I think that this is the first occasion on which a new compensation measure has been introduced into any parliament in this country which provides for a wider divergence between the maximum amount of compensation to be received by a worker and his family, and the basic wage. The Government recognized in 1951 that the basis that has been prescribed in the principal act was the desirable basis of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. At that time the basic wage was £10 a week. Is it not right to suggest that the same spirit that actuated the Government then , Should guide it now ? The maximum payment provided by the measure is niggardly. The maximum of £8 10s. set in 1951 was only 30s. below the then basic wage, but this bill provides for the same maximum although the basic wage is now £11 Ils. Such a proposal is unheard of in compensation legislation in this country.
I have dealt with compensation matters over a long period of years in the trade union movement. Compensation cases arise frequently in the transport industry in which I was engaged, and I have always considered that there should not be any maximum payment set in any compensation legislation. I know that the Government would be breaking new ground if it introduced a provision that there should be no maximum: payment, but that is a principle that should be applied to- payments to the dependants of a deceased worker. I regard even the New S’outh Wales maximum payment of £2,000 as niggardly, having in mind not only the purchase price of a home for- the bereaved family, but also other factors that operate. There have been numerous civil cases recently where the dependent families of breadwinners who have been killed have been awarded amounts of up to £6,000. Such amounts are based not only on the need for compensation, but also on the responsibility of the mothers to rear their children. My view has always been that compensation payments to relatives, in cases where the breadwinner has been killed, should be set on a minimum amount, and not on a maximum amount. I know that the Minister will agree with me that the maximum amount provided in the compensation legislation is the greatest amount that can be awarded irrespective of the circumstances of any particular case. I hope that this Parliment will take the lead and prescribe a minimum, and not a maximum, amount for compensation of dependants. Will anybody in this chamber claim that where a breadwinner dies as the consequence of an accident an amount of £1,500 is sufficient compensation for the wife and family? It may be argued that a. seaman’s dependents may be eligible for a. widow’s pension or other social services. Irrespective of that, some authority should be available to ascertain her true financial standing. I have had much to do with workers’ compensation, and I believe that the compensation of £1,500 prescribed in this measure for a seaman’s widow should be a minimum and not a maximum. In practice, a judge or other- tribunal should be able to determine the fair compensation. 1 suggest that the £1,500 prescribed in the measure will be always prescribed by any authorized tribunal, even though it is a maximum, and that it should be the duty of the tribunal to assess compensation with £1,500 as a minimum. In recent years State legislation has been initiated to provide compensation for those who are injured at pick-up centres, or while travelling thereto from their places of abode. In this measure there is no such provision, andI suggest that the Government might give careful consideration to including one. In that regard I refer honorable members to section 14b of Part 1 of the New South Wales Workers’ Compensation Acts 1926- 1951 which reads -
Where any person is ordinarily engaged in any employment in connexion with which persons customarily attend certain prearranged places (in this Act called “ places of pick-up”) at which employers select and engage persons for employment, any such person shall he deemed, while in attendance at anysuch place of pick-up before being so selected, or while travelling thereto from his place of abode, to be a worker employed by the employer who last employed him in his customary employment.
That is a section of a general workers’ compensation act, but the act itself covers seamen. In 1951, the Queensland Government inserted a similar provision into its workers’ compensation legislation, and although it is not as strongly worded as the New South Wales provision it has much the same effect. I suggest that this bill should have been drawn, not only to give effect to the increases of the compensation decided upon two years ago, but also to give greater cover to workers. Sub-section (5.) of section 5 of the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911-1949 reads -
Any payment to an injured seaman made under an insurance policy privately effected by the seaman or made by a friendly society, by way of compensation or medical or disablement benefits, shall not be deemed to be compensation or payment in respect of the injury within the meaning of sub-section (2.) of this section.
Clause 3 of the bill is designed to omit sub-section (5.) of section 5. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service clearly to inform the House of the reason for the proposed omission. The Seamen’s Compensation Act also provides, in section 10a -
Except as provided by this Act, a seaman shall not be entitled, in respect of personal injury by accident arising out of or in the course of his employment, to receive compensation or any payment by way of compensation from the employer both independently of and also under this Act.
Now I suggest that perhaps insurance companies may have some sort of amalgamation with shipping companies. If sub-section (5.) of section 5 is to be omitted, the omission may have farreaching effects on the compensation payable to widows. I ask honorable members to consider in that connexion paragraph (1.) subparagraph (a) (i) of the First Schedule, which reads -
The amount of compensation under this Act shallbe - (a.) where death results from the injury -
i ) if the seaman leaves any dependent wholly dependent upon his earnings, the sum of one thousand pounds
If a seaman takes out a policy with an insurance company, under which his widow is to receive £5 a week, that amount will be taken into account when considering the amount of compensation to be awarded to her. I have a New South Wales case of this description in mind at present, where a wife was earning a certain amount, her husband died and she was not able to obtain the full £2,000 of compensation because her degree of dependence was not total.
– I have been assured that that will not be the effect of this amendment.
– I am pleased to hear the Minister say that, but I point out that any assurances given in this House will have no effect upon any legal tribunal that may be interpreting the legislation. It is not sufficient to say that the omission of sub-section (5.) of section 5 of the principal act will merely tidy up the act. I suggest that if there was a need for the Minister to be assured on that point, the safe action would have been to allow the sub-section to remain. It cannot be said that this sub-section, which is to be deleted, has operated to the detriment of any employer or insurance company. I, and I am sure my colleagues, believe that the sub-section should not be omitted. Whereever a doubt exists, let the doubt be on the side of the person who is seeking compensation. If a man has tried to make some sort of provision for his widow, let that not be a ground for withholding part of the compensation that she would otherwise receive. There is no difference between a widow having a business income of £5 a week and having £5 a week from an insurance policy or an investment of the nature of insurance.
I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey”) that the increases proposed in this measure are niggardly. If the amounts payable in 1951 were a proper assessment of the amounts due to dependants of deceased or injured workers, then obviously something more than is envisaged are proper to be paid to-day. I suggest, first, that both acts should have been amended coincidentally if uniformity is necessary. I suggest, secondly, that there should have been a wider coverage for seamen travelling to and from their homes, and, thirdly, that sub-section (5.) of section 5 of the principal act should not be deleted merely for the purpose of tidying up the act. A deletion of that kind will cause legal arguments about degree of dependence that should be avoided. If this sub-section is not omitted the Government will be doing something to help those who may be left when a worker has lost his life in industry.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- The House is considering an amendment of the Seamen’s Compensation Act. As honorable members know, there are only two compensation acts on the Commonwealth statute-book ; one relates to Commonwealth employees and the other to seamen engaged in interstate trade and commerce. Because the workmen’s compensation acts of the States do not cover seamen, the Commonwealth passed the Seamen’s Compensation Act in 1911. The act was amended in 1938, 1947 and again in 1949. The amending bill which we are now considering applies to seamen the increased benefits provided in the act relating to Commonwealth employees. There are only one or two main points in the bill that need to be considered. Honorable members generally have accepted the measure because they realize its importance. The first point with which I want to deal relates to the provision of compensation for perma nent incapacity. For seamen the weekly incapacity payment is to be increased from £4 to £6; for a wife or female dependant the payment is to be increased from £1 5s. to £1 15s. a week; and that for each dependant child under the age of sixteen years the increase will be from 10s. to 15s. a week. That means that the benefit payable for an incapacitated man, his wife and three children will be increased from £6 15s. to £10 a week. The Government is to be commended for having taken a realistic view of this matter.
Opposition members have suggested that there should be a relation between the total compensation benefits payable and the basic wage. I do not understand how it would- be possible to arrive at such a relation. No Opposition member suggested upon what basis it should be established. Is it suggested that the total compensation benefits payable should be equal to the basic wage? If that is the contention of Opposition members, they have an entirely wrong mental approach to the problem. A similar suggestion has been made by them in regard to age and invalid pensions. It is wrong to adopt the attitude that a person who is not working should receive benefits equal to the earnings of a person who is working. The basic wage is determined, not on the needs of a man, his wife and so many children, but upon the capacity of industry to pay. To suggest that there should be a relation between the basic wage and payments for permanent incapacity following injury is totally wrong. Provision for the payment “of a total benefit of £10 a week is very generous having regard to the existing basic wage. A person who has been totally incapacitated is not subjected to the same personal expenses as is a man who has to go to and from his work. Nobody can complain that the Government has not been generous in this proposal.
The maximum lump sum payable to a person who has suffered certain specified serious but not fatal injuries is to be increased from £1,250 to £1,750. In the case of the death of a seaman the amount payable to his dependants is to be increased from £1,000 to £1,500. It has been suggested by Opposition members that in providing benefits similar to those contained in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act the Government will pay to seamen compensation less than that paid to workers under some State acts. It may be that the Government of Victoria is at present increasing the amount of compensation paid to workers and that the New South Wales Government is providing compensation benefits that are on a more generous scale than are those provided in this bill. But if we take the matter further we find that in Queensland which, because of a certain arrangement of electoral boundaries is at present the most Labour of the Labour States,, the maximum amount payable to a worker in the event of a death is £1,250. If we delve further into the Labour administration of Queensland we find that provision is made in the Brisbane City Council Ordinance that the maximum amount payable by the council in the event of the death of a man with a dependent wife, due to the negligence of an employee of the council, is fixed at £1,000. It is ludicrous for the Opposition to suggest that the State governments are more concerned about these matters than is the Australian Government. The maximum amount of £1,500 payable on the death of a seaman is totally inadequate having regard to present circumstances. We must give a great deal more consideration to this matter than has been given to it in the past.
The final words of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) in his second-reading speech were that the amounts payable under the act “will be generally comparable with State benefits “. Surely that is an unwise approach to this matter. We are to have benefits comparable with those provided in another act of our own Parliament and we are also to have benefits comparable with those provided in State acts. That cannot surely be the basis on which these amounts have been determined. A new value has been placed on life to-day compared with that placed on it many years ago in the compensation laws. We should endeavour to bring our thinking on this matter up to date.
This afternoon some honorable members referred to decisions of the civil courts in relation to compensation claims.
Every honorable member knows that the amounts approved by the courts as compensation for injuries are very considerably in excess of the amounts paid by any government or public administration for similar purposes. It is most desirable that the Commonwealth should establish a commission to inquire into all the facts in relation to this matter so that we shall be able to provide what every honorable member would regard as adequate compensation to injured employees. If the maximum payment of £1,500 on the death of a seaman were invested at the rate of interest applicable to Commonwealth loans it would yield approximately 26s. a week. It would probably be possible to purchase an annuity which would return a slightly larger weekly amount. We must take a more realistic view of these matters. The last review of this matter was made in 1951, when the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act was under consideration, but circumstances have so changed in the last two years that a further review is desirable. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has told us that the annual expenditure under this legislation is approximately £3,400. That is a very small amount compared with the total expenditure of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, we do not know what expenditure is incurred under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, but whatever it is there is an obligation to do the right thing by seamen. The community expects that the Government as one of its first responsibilities will look after the relatives of a deceased or injured seaman. The amounts granted by the civil courts to injured persons have been so high that many insurance companies are now no longer willing to engage in third party business. That fact in itself is a recognition of the existence of new standards. I suggest to the Minister that he should ask Cabinet seriously to consider the appointment of a commission, if Ministers are unable to undertake the task themselves, to investigate the whole position so that realistic provision shall be made for Commonwealth employees and for seamen who are injured or who die in the course of their employment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
The bill. .
– It may be convenient at this point if I try to clear up one or two matters that were raised during the second-reading debate, but which were primarily of a committee character. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) suggested that seamen who were injured on their way to work might be prejudiced by the operation of one of the clauses of this bill which appear to have a rather more restrictive character than do the existing provisions of the act. The honorable member had referred to clause 4, which amends section 5aa of the principal act. The present act provides for compensation in the event of injury sustained by a seaman while travelling to or from his place of employment or to or from a mercantile marine office. The amendment now proposed alters the travel provision to journeys to or from the employment, as distinct from the place of employment. This is necessary because a seaman could be travelling to or from his place of employment for reasons quite unconnected with his employment. That may sound a little difficult to follow, but what these provisions set out to do is to protect the position of a man actually at work or in the course of his employment. It could happen, for example, that a man, having been discharged from a particular vessel, forgot to pick up his discharge certificate and decided to go back to collect it, and in the course of so doing sustained some injury. By no reasonable stretch of the imagination could’ it be said that the man concerned had been injured in the course of his employment. There are other illustrations that readily come to mind. As in the other provisions of this bill we have sought to bring the provisions of the principal act into line with those that apply to Commonwealth employees generally. The amendment achieves a. corresponding result as regards travelling to and from a mercantile marine office by providing that the reason for such travel must be connected with a seaman’s em ployment. The act at present covers a wide field of liability in respect of casual or fortuitous journeys to or from the ship or mercantile marine office which have no real connexion with employment. This is one of the few amendments of substance that will be made to section 5aa by this bill. The remaining parts of the section will be recast without altering the law in order to make explicit certain matters which, up to the present, have been implicit. I emphasize the fact that some State compensation acts provide cover for a person who attends at a pick-up place for the purpose of being selected for employment. Nothing in this bill will conflict with any such State law.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) was concerned because the Government proposed to omit from the principal act a reference to private insurances. Clause 3 provides that section 5 of the principal act shall be amended by omitting sub-section (5.). That sub-section provides that a seaman shall not be debarred from recovering compensation both under a private insurance policy and under the provisions of the act. Honorable members opposite fear that clause 3, by providing for the omission of the sub-section, will have the effect of disqualifying a seaman from benefit under the act if he happens to have insured himself privately. I assure them emphatically that the clause will not have any such result. The terms of the bill, and of this clause in particular, perhaps, do not make the intentions of the Government clear. The position may be understood more readily if honorable members will examine the history of this legislation. The Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911-1938 contained a provision that a seaman should not be entitled to recover compensation both independently of and also under the terms of the act. This was thought to deprive a seaman who had taken out private insurance of the right to claim compensation, under the terms of the act, up to the amount covered by the private insurance policy. Therefore, the act of 1947 was drafted to amend section 5 of the principal act by adding the following sub-section : -
Any payment to an insured seaman made underan insurance policy privately effected by the seaman, or made by a friendly society, by way of compensation ov medical or disablement benefits, shall not be deemed to bc compensation or payment in respect of the injury within the meaning of sub-section (2.) of this section.
That amendment made it clear that, notwithstanding the provisions of the remainder of the section, a man who had insured himself privately was not to be deprived of the benefit of such insurance. In other words, private insurance payments were not to be offset against any compensation that would be payable otherwise. Subsequent legislation deleted the original provision, but the amending provision of 1947, which I have quoted, was allowed to remain in the act. That provision, of course, was then meaningless. Its purpose was to qualify the original provision, but nothing was left for it to qualify. The sub-section to which it related no longer existed. Therefore, when the draftsman examined the act for the purpose of drafting the bill now before the committee, he decided that, as the provision was meaningless, unnecessary and confusing, it should be removed. I assure the committee that, according to the best advice available to me, there is nothing now in the act, or in this amending bill, to debar a seaman from receiving any payment by way of compensation or medical benefit which results from a privately effected insurance policy or from his membership of a friendly society. Such payments will not be offset in any way against the liability of an employer under this legislation. I hope that my explanation has made the position clear.
– I should like the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to clarify one or two doubtful aspects of clause 4. The clause provides for the repeal of existing section 5aa and its replacement with a new section which states that a seaman shall be eligible for compensation under the act if he suffers personal injury by accident while travelling to or from his employment and while travelling to or from a mercantile marine office for a reason connected with his employment. Will the provision apply to a man only when he is leaving a ship prior to his discharge or will it apply to him also after he has been discharged from a ship and is on his way home from his employment? I should like to know also how the proposed new provision will apply to a man who goes to a mercantile marine office in order to seek employment. When a man ceases to be employed on a ship will he continue to be covered by the compensation provisions of this legislation during the period between his departure from the ship and his arrival at his home? Will he be covered also on the way from his home to a mercantile marine office if he is seeking employment? If so, who will be obliged to pay the compensation?
– Honorable members should keep in mind the fact that provision for workers’ compensation is normally made by the government of the State in which a worker happens to follow his occupation. Because seamen move around the coast and therefore cannot be said at any time after they have been employed to be in any particular State, it is necessary for the Commonwealth to provide for the payment of compensation to them for injuries sustained in such circumstances. However, the Commonwealth takes the view that, up to the point of actual engagement for work, responsibility for the payment of compensation to a seaman properly comes within the jurisdiction of the various State parliaments. Therefore, certain State parliaments, if not all of them, have taken action to meet the situation. The view of the Commonwealth is that the responsibility of this Parliament begins when the person is engaged for employment and ends when he is discharged from employment. Should injury be sustained as a seaman goes from his home to a pick-up centre or, after having been discharged, from a pick-up centre to his home, the responsibility, in our view, rests with the State parliament. Nothing in this legislation will reduce the liability of any State in that respect: If honorable members opposite consider that more should be done in any State than is now being done there, I suggest that they take the matter up with the government of the State instead of with this Government.
– I cannot accept the explanation of clause 4 that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has given. The wording of section Saa in the principal act is clear and provides the maximum amount of protection for seamen. It states that compensation shall be payable to a seaman if he is injured while travelling to or from his place of employment. Clause 4 proposes that this shall be replaced with a provision that compensation shall be payable if a seaman is injured while travelling to or from his employment. That provision embodies a limitation. There is always some definite point at which a seaman is discharged from his employment, after which, of necessity, he must attend at a mercantile marine office in order to seek re-engagement. The act also provides now for his protection if he suffers from personal injury by accident while travelling to or from a mercantile marine office. The clause provides for the variation of that provision so that compensation shall be payable only if the injury is sustained while he is travelling to or from a mercantile marine office “ for a reason connected with his employment “. If a man is discharged at the ship’s side, he must go to the mercantile marine office in order to have his papers finally discharged. Immediately, this gives rise to the question whether, when he goes to the mercantile marine office after having been discharged at the ship’s side, he is travelling in connexion with his employment. In fact, it might be argued that his employment had ceased, although his further employment would depend upon his discharge being made effective at the mercantile marine office. I have no doubt that the draftsman endeavoured to make the position as clear as possible, but two important considerations arise from this provision. The ‘ first is that it will diminish the protection afforded to seamen. The second is that it will establish a legal anomaly, or loophole, that may well become the source of a great deal of legal action in the future. Therefore, I contend that the amendment is faulty and not in the best interests of the seamen.
One or two other matters require clarification. Every effort was made by members of the Opposition during the second-reading debate to make it clear that there is some relationship between rates of workers’ compensation and the minimum wage fixed in- industry. However, it appears that our efforts were unsuccessful, because the. honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) has said that we have not demonstrated a connexion between compensation payments and the basic wage. I point out that, in recent years, there has been a slight change in the method of calculating compensation payments for injured workers. In the early days of workers’ compensation, the amount of compensation for injury was calculated invariably according to a percentage of the wage that the injured man had been receiving at the time of his injury. Indeed, in four of the six States, that method of calculation is still employed. However, this Parliament and two State parliaments have recently adopted the method of fixing a. specified amount for compensation. That amount has always been near the rate of the basic wage at the time. In New South Wales, for example, the weekly payment for a worker who has been incapacitated is 75 per cent, of his former average weekly earnings, with a maximum payment of £5 15s. a week. There is a definite connexion between the rate of compensation and the wage that was received by the worker. In South Australia, the compensation is 75 per cent, of the average weekly earnings of the employee. Whatever the weekly earnings of an injured employee may be, he receives 75 per cent, of those earnings as workers’ compensation.
– Also a sum in respect of each child.
– In addition, he receives payments in respect of his wife and dependent children. In Western Australia, the figure is 66§ per cent. The honorable member for Petrie queried workers’ compensation payments being tied to the basic wage. That is done in Queensland, where payments are adjusted in accordance with increases or decreases of the basic wage. Throughout the history of workers’ compensation, there has been a very close connexion between compensation payments and the wage of a worker at the time of injury. One honorable member said that in Queensland the payment made in respect of death was £1,250. He has been misinformed. The payment is £1,500, plus £50 for each dependent child.
Let us consider whether workers’ compensation is assessed on the ability of industry to pay. The Commonwealth has not compelled employers to insure themselves against workers’ compensation risks, but all of the State legislation makes such provision. It requires every business undertaking to pay premiums to an insurance company, which assumes the liability of the employer in this connexion and, if necessary, makes payments on his behalf. The practice, not only in Australia, but also in Great Britain and other countries, is that the liability of employers in relation to workers injured while carrying out their duties shall be covered by insurance.
I repeat that the payments proposed under this legislation are too small when compared with existing wage rates. It would be wise to support the suggestion that a committee be appointed to determine what, in present circumstances, would be reasonable rates of compensation when a workman is injured or loses his life in the course of his employment. The Commonwealth Parliament should insist that in workers’ compensation legislation it will lead the States, and set an example to the rest of Australia.
– I can deal with the first point raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) quite promptly by reminding the committee that normally the discharge of a seaman takes place at a mercantile marine office, where the man receives the balance of his wages and his discharge. As the mercantile marine office is regarded as the point of discharge, a seaman would be covered by workers’ compensation legislation while he was travelling to the office and while he was at the office.
– Is he covered while he is travelling from the mercantile marine office to his home, after discharge?
– He is not covered by Commonwealth legislation. This measure deals with the compensation that must be paid by an employer in respect of injuries sustained by an employee. After the point of discharge, there is no employer to whom we can look for compensation. If it is considered that the gap should be filled in some way, it is open to the State parliaments to do so, because they are responsible for workers inside their boundaries. The position of seamen is abnormal in that, for the greater part of the periods during which they work, they are not within the boundary of a State. As there is a need for some authority to make provision for them, the Commonwealth has stepped in and has assumed that responsibility. But I think most honorable members will agre that there would be no justification for the Commonwealth to go any further than the needs of the situation demand. I do not think that the State parliaments would welcome an intrusion by the Commonwealth into one of their provinces.
The honorable member for Bendigo referred to the provisions of the workers’ compensation legislation of the various State parliaments. I stress that the Commonwealth has not approached thi3 probem in a cheese-paring spirit. In the earlier legislation, we have not sought to pick the eyes out of each of the relevant State acts, but the general coverage that we have given has been at least as generous as that given by any of the State acts and, in the main, has been more liberal. The honorable member sought to make a comparison between this measure and the bill at present under consideration by the Victorian Parliament. I point out that that bill has noc yet been passed and that, by and large, our legislation is still comparable in generosity with that of the States and, in most instances, is more generous.
The honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Petrie suggested that the compensation payments be reviewed periodically. I think thatmost members of the Government will agree with that suggestion. As a reasonable time has elapsed since the principal workers’ compensation legislation was considered by the Parliament, I have no doubt that the time is now ripe for a close examination of the matter to be made. But, as I sought to explain earlier, this measure deals only with a relatively minor part of the total field of workers’ compensation covered by the Commonwealth, and it would not be appropriate, in dealing with this bill, to get out of line with the general legislation on the matter. The Government is trying to bring the legislation that affects seamen into line with the legislation that affect3 Commonwealth employees generally. I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), into whose province this matter falls, the suggestions that have been made. I have no doubt that the appropriate departments will give full consideration to the need for a close examination of this matter.
.- The last statement made by the Minister prompts me to refer to the necessity to examine again the provisions of proposed section Saa. Under the existing legislation, a seaman discharged at a mercantile marine office is covered until he has reached his home. I consider it to be essential that he should be so covered from the time he leaves his home to take a job until he arrives at his home when the job has finished. Under the proposed new section 5aa, a seaman will not be covered while he is on his way from a mercantile marine office to his home, after discharge. I point out to the Minister that it would not be easy to transfer to the appropriate State parliament responsibility for the protection of a seaman after his discharge, because, after discharge, he is an unemployed worker, and is not entitled to receive workers’ compensation for any injury that he sustains while travelling from the mercantile marine office to his home. The only legislation that can cover a seaman engaged either in interstate trade or overseas trade is the Seamen’s Compensation Act passed by this Parliament. If a seaman is engaged in intrastate trade, he is covered by the workers’ compensation legislation of the State concerned. I suggest that, when this legislation comes before the Parliament again for consideration, an amendment be made to ensure that when a seaman has been discharged he will be covered by the legislation until he has reached his home.
– I shall bring the suggestion made by the honorable member to the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay).
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th March (vide page 959), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which originated in the Senate, received the approval of the Opposition in that chamber. The purposes of the measure were stated broadly by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). I confirm the views that were expressed by Senator McKenna in the Senate. The Opposition supports the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
HEARD ISLAND AND McDONALD ISLANDS BILL 1953.
Debate resumed from the 12th March (vide page 952), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which should receive the unanimous support of the House, is important because it represents a formal extension of Australian jurisdiction to what has been Australian territory, in fact, since 1947. Heard Island and McDonald Islands are described in the bill as territories acquired by the Commonwealth. The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to the government of territories is derived from section 122 of the Constitution. The relevant words in that section are as follows : -
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth
The best illustration of that is the Australian Capital Territory - or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth . . .
This legislation-making authority in relation to Heard Island and the McDonald Islands is contained in the words “territory . . . otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth “.
The arrangements for the taking over by Australia of jurisdiction over Heard Island and the neighbouring McDonald Islands were made in December, 1947, when the Chifley Government was in office. The position then was that the United Kingdom Government transferred its rights in those islands to the Commonwealth, and a research expedition was landed by the Australian Government on Heard Island to establish a research station for weather and general scientific purposes. The Chifley Government realized at that time that those islands could become of great strategic importance. They are in a position having significance not only for Australia but also for South Africa and for important portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The islands also possess a scientific importance as an outpost from which valuable information could be derived by Australia for its weather and scientific purposes. But the Chifley Government had an even broader conception of the matter, namely, the relationship of Heard Island and the McDonald Islands to what might broadly be called the Antarctic Continent, and Australia’s undoubted rights in it. We had consultations with the United Kingdom Government, which considered that the time had arrived for Australia, in pursuance of a policy adopted long before that time in relation to the Antarctic, to assume jurisdiction over Heard Island and the McDonald Islands. That has been done in fact. There is occupation of a territory in fact, and other nations are likely to recognize it. In addition, valuable research work and pioneering work have been done on Heard Island. Some accounts of that work are contained in a book which waspublished recently and is now available? in the library. It describes the achievements of Australian expeditions on Heard Island, and is an epic record of courage and bravery under most adverse conditions.
That follow-up has never been abandoned. Australia is continuing the work. Some future development - some defence development - may make Heard Island of great importance. It could be so. South Africa holds that view. I have made those statements only as a background to the attitude taken by the Chifley Government at that time.
– There is no dispute about the ownership of the islands.
– There is no dispute about the facts. All this bill does is to say, in effect, “ Here is a territory for which this Parliament can make laws. They should be made.” To date, the position has not been regularized legally. Australia proceeds to say that it has to make a clear-cut point of departure for the future, and that no laws in that territory shall be enforced except the laws passed by this Parliament in accordance with clause 5 of the bill. The Minister for External Affairs (Mi-. Casey) has explained, in his second-reading speech, that provision is made that the laws in force in the Australian Capital Territory, including the general principles of the common law and such principles, for instance, as are embodied in Magna Charta, the right of liberty, and the laws of equity, are to be enforced in Heard Island and the McDonald Islands by virtue of an act of this Parliament. The laws of the Australian Capital Territory are to apply, with certain exceptions, to the islands. That means, in fact, that there will be in the forward Antarctic areas to the south and the west of Australia the same authority as we have with respect to the Australian Capital
Territory in which this Parliament meets. It is right and proper that such should be done.
The bill will not affect many people, but civil rights may arise in Heard Island or the .McDonald Islands. The Minister has explained that, recently, the necessity arose for a coroner’s inquiry to be held because of a death that occurred under circumstances of heroic proportions. That is an incident, but the legal side has to be watched. The Minister is quite right to regularize this position. It may be that, in future, this will have to be altered in some way, but the provision is flexible so that the Crown - the Commonwealth Government - subject to the supervision of the two Houses of the Parliament, can ensure that laws referable to that territory, and peculiarly necessary to it, may be applied by ordinance. That is the position. In my opinion, it is a most important stage in the expansion of Australia - not expansion in any aggressive or imperialist sense. The proposal is not open to criticism. It is essential for the welfare of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the interests of all the people concerned. That was the view of the Chifley Government which it was my duty to put before the United Kingdom when this arrangement was made in 1947. The Australian Government and the Minister are to be congratulated for having carried that into effect, for starting the system of laws operating in that territory and for clearly telling the world, “Here is Australian territory governed by Australian law in accordance with the directions of the Australian Parliament”. The law is based on the fundamental rules applicable in every State and every territory of Australia, namely, the common law of England, and also on such principles as the liberty of the subject, freedom of discussion and all those matters which we take for granted but which are most important and are declared afresh by the Government in relation to this new territory. The Minister is to be congratulated on having introduced this bill.
and his colleagues support this bill. It is a non-controversial measure - one of those rare and welcome measures into which party politics do not intrude. Australia has a large stake in the Antarctic, being approximately onethird of the whole continent. We have had a claim to it now for at least two generations, and have done a great deal to support the claim by the activities of our Antarctic explorers such as Mawson and many others. Indeed, I think it is correct to say that at least two vessels which accompanied Captain Cook, in addition to discovering and surveying the eastern coast of Australia, made a complete encirclement of the Antarctic continent before 1795, thus establishing the interest of the British peoples, and, in particular, the peoples who were to become the British Australian peoples in the great Antarctic continent to the south of this country.
This is not the time or the place for me to develop this wonderful story. In passing this bill and other measures which. I have no doubt will be before us in the future, we shall do something not only for the Australia of the present, but also for the Australia of the future. We are casting our minds and our efforts forward into the next 100 years. No one can say what the potential value of the Antarctic continent is. We can only speculate on what the scientists and explorers have told us, but we know that there are four, five or six respects in which the Antarctic continent and its nearby islands, such as the ones now under discussion, may have important potential value for the future. I remind honorable gentlemen that only a few hundred miles from the group of islands we are now discussing lies the Kerguelen group of three or four islands which our friends of the French Republic are developing with considerable ingenuity and keenness. They have established meteorological stations which are co-operating with our own meteorological station on Heard Island, and in that way are giving us the means - and there are not many other means - of doing longrange weather forecasting which is becoming progressively pf more value to the primary producers of Australia. Actually the meteorological station and the radio station on Heard Island have been spoken of by the Commonwealth Meteorological Service as being of great value to it not only as adding one of the few links to longer-range weather forecasting in Australia, but also giving some clue to the weather conditions in the southern Indian Ocean across which an Australian airline conducts a service to South Africa.
This bill is not controversial. As th<i Leader of the Opposition has said, it is a simple measure designed merely to give a body of law mainly to Heard Island^ The McDonald Islands are a group of rocks which I do not believe will have much economic or other value. But Heard Island itself is an island of some consequence, due largely to its geographical position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th March (vide page 954), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 4th March, (vide page 509 J, on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure is on similar lines to other measures - the Egg Export Control Bill, the Wool Use Promotion Bill, and several other measures with which we dealt last week. In the main, it implements the policy of the Government to bring the staffs of authorities such as the Meat Export Control Board within the ambit of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, and makes provision for the payment of fees to members of the Meat Export Control Board. We do not quarrel with those provisions of the bill, but we strongly oppose the provision for the relinquishment of some degree of ministerial authority over the board. The Opposition will vote against the second reading and against the relevant clauses in committee. It is strange that the Minister on the one hand, in line with his declaration of Government policy to remove ministerial control over instrumentalities of this kind, does so to some degree-
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) will have a few things coming to him when he analyses this measure. On the one hand the Minister gives us a great display of Government policy regarding the removal of ministerial authority over this body, but on the other hand, when challenged, he does not fail to point out that the Minister will still retain an ample measure of authority over the instrumentality. On the one hand he declares that ministerial authority is being removed, and on the other hand he says that it is being retained to an adequate degree. The two statements are not reconcilable.
Mr. Bowden interjecting,
– All the interjections of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) do not make any difference. I have only to quote the remarks that the Minister made in his second-reading speech to prove my point. He said -
The bill also provides that the Minister’s power to veto or alter decisions of the board under section 10 (5a) of the act be deleted. The meat industry considers that this provision, which was inserted in the act in 1946, constitutes an unwarranted intrusion into the affairs of the board.
Later on he said -
The Government ls in agreement with the industry on this point and considers-
And this is the point I want to emphasize to the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Gippsland - that there is ample protection of Government and industry interests in the remaining sections of the act in that the major powers of the hoard are still subject to the direction of the Minister.
Where does the Minister stand? He stands on the dividing line and does not know which side to fall on. He speaks with two voices. He tells the industry that he is removing the heavy hand of the Minister of the day, and then he says that he is not removing it at all. Let us analyse the extent to which he removes ministerial control. According to himself he removes a minor power of the Minister and retains a major power. I confirm that contention to a degree, but we shall vote against the measure because the minor power, when analysed carefully, is of major importance. He is removing from the existing legislation sub-section (5a) of section 10, which contains a provision that enables the chairman of the board to direct the attention of the Minister of the day to the fact that he has dissented from a decision made by the other members of the board. That provision enables the chairman simply to direct the attention of the Minister to that fact. The Minister may then decide whether or not to support the chairman. That is not a major power, but it is a power of some importance inasmuch as the chairman of such an authority is an intelligent individual who has been selected by the government of the day to act as a watch clog. He is usually confirmed in his appointment by successive governments. There is, as a rule, no interference with the position of such a chairman by a government. Only once has a government so interferred, and that was in relation to the Australian Wheat Board. In my experience the chairmen of such bodies have proved thoroughly satisfactory. The chairman is appointed to watch the interests of the Government and, indirectly, the interests of the community. The power vested in him to inform the Minister that he dissents from a decision of- the board is to be removed, and so the watchdog is to be deprived of his statutory power to tell tales to the Minister. His function is to tell tales to the Minister when he considers that something detrimental to the interests of the consumers, the producers or the Government has occurred. The Minister blandly produces an amending bill to remove that power and then in the next breath states that, although he is taking away the power which, he says, the industry considers to be an intrusion-
There i$ ample protection of government and the industry interests in the remaining section of the act in that the major powers of the board are still subject to the direction of the Minister.
What is all this nonsense about? Is it not simply an empty gesture to a lot of people who have been howling for absolute control over the export of their products ? Is it not simply a make-believe? The Opposition does not approve of this removal of a power which is not. an arbitrary power, but is a very useful power. I ask the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Gippsland how they stand in regard to the so-called “ ample power “ which, according to the Minister, still resides in his hands. The whole thing does not make horse sense, because the Minister in effect, says “ I remove ministerial control but I still retain it “. What does it all mean? The Opposition will oppose the measure.
– in reply - The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has made the position of the Labour party clear in this regard. The Labour party opposes only one feature of the bill. It opposes the provision which is designed to remove the absolute authority of the Minister of the day to act arbitrarily in vetoing the decisions of the board, and to act in a manner that will still make it appear that the Minister’s decisions are the decisions of the board itself. I have read the offending section as it applies to other acts from which it is also in process of being removed. I do not know what man on earth could- have conceived this section. I have never before seen one like it. When the Labour Government instituted this statutory body during its term of office it boasted that the authority included a majority of primary producers, which, according to it, demonstrated that the affairs of the industry, insofar as they were connected with, export control, had been placed in the hands of the producers. Having made that . claim, the Labour Government insinuated into the act a provision that the chairman, who was to be an appointee of the Government, representing the Government on the board, might dissent from any decision made by this board, controlled by a majority of producer representatives, and report his dissent to the Minister. The Minister might, within 24 hours, veto the decision of the majority of the board or, worse than that, vary it. I can understand a ministerial veto of a decision, but provision permitting a ministerial variation of a decision, perhaps along political lines and in such a way that the variation will be regarded thence as the decision of the board itself, is outrageous. The primary producers almost unanimously regard it as such. As I said last week, in reference to the similar provision in another act, this section of the principal act places in the hands of the Minister a power that is as absolute as any authority taken by any dictator, whether it be Hitler or Stalin, but it is not as clean and as clear-cut as the authority taken by a dictator, because at least a dictator takes his authority openly, and accepts the responsibility. In this Labour-conceived provision, however, the Minister reserves to himself an absolute dictatorial authority to make a decision and then to publish his decision as the decision of the board, notwithstanding that every producer member of the board may be opposed to the decision that the Minister has taken. Who on earth can say truthfully that that contains any element of democracy ? This Government does not believe, ami the primary producers do not believe, that such a provision is fair or democratic. The bill, therefore, is designed to remove that provision from the legislation governing a number of statutory boards^ in which the Labour Government incorporated it. It is the Government’s policy to leave the affairs of %he primary industries to the greatest possible degree in their own hands. We have never said, whether wc were in opposition or in office, or oil an election platform, that we would, by statute law, place the affairs of a primary industry completely and unfetteredly in the bands of that industry. We have always held that there are some reserve powers that a government ought to retain to itself. Every speech ever made from this side of the House has made that point clear. There will still remain in the legislation, after this measure has been passed and the offending section has been removed, adequate provision for the Minister to exercise authority where required. These statutory boards are all called export control boards. and they have nothing to do with the supply of foodstuffs to the local public. They deal only with surplus food. Neither the Government nor anybody else contracts commodities into the hands of the export control boards. The goods are placed there only when local needs have been fully satisfied. Then the surplus commodity is realized, and nobody but the chosen representatives of the producers decides what is to be done with it. If the chosen representatives of the owners of the commodity say to the representatives of the Government, “We would like you to try to arrange to contract along certain lines “, we say, “ It is your property, and if you want us to arrange a contract we shall do so, but we shall do it in co-operation with you, and if any negotiations are to take place we want you to participate in them whether they are negotiations for a contract or whether they are periodic price negotiations “.
Not since this Government has been in office have there been any negotiations for the contract disposal of any product in which the representatives of the owners of the product have not participated. There have been no periodic price negotiations for the sale of a product sold overseas in which the “representatives of the producers have not taken part. Now we have a longterm meat contract, not because this Government thought that there should be one, but because the chosen representatives of the producers asked ti to negotiate and attended at those negotiations. Those representatives- studied’ the matter for two years during the period of the negotiations, and, finally, on the motion of the Graziers Association of Australia they almost rebuked us for not being quick enough in signing the contract. Now that the contract has been signed, I, following the policy of the Government, have asked the Australian Meat Board, on which a majority of the members are producers, to act as the principal in negotiating prices and arrangements for sale during the period of the contract. I cannot make it a principal, because the contract is one between governments and the Government cannot divest itself of final responsibility.
I once invoked the ministerial authority under the principal act to prevent the Australian Meat Board from taking a certain action that it had decided upon. This was not to superimpose my judgment on the board in any matter with regard to meat; it was a matter of propriety in public administration. The Australian Meat Board had decided for the purpose of the sale of a limited quantity of meat to North America, where prices were about two and a half times as great as on the local market, that it would give export permits to certain companies and individuals. The board decided to give these permits according to a very fair formula. That was, that exporters were to be allowed to export in the same proportion as they had contributed in the last year to the United Kingdom meat contract. That is as fair a method as could be devised, and I did not quibble with the fairness of it. I differed from the Australian Meat Board because a company was given an export permit that enabled it to procure, say, 1,000 tons of meat on the Australian market at a certain price and sell it on the overseas market at two and a half times that price. Therefore, the possession of the permit gave to the company a very high profit. The method adopted by the board gave other companies an entitlement to export 5 or 6 tons, and as they could not find a market overseas for that quantity they handed over their quotas to, among others, an hotel broker, an insurance broker, a machinery merchant and so on. Consequently, our meat was being hawked around. I considered that that method of allotting permits was wrong. The
Cabinet agreed with me, and the Australian Meat Board was prevented from continuing that system. The board then became the exporter, and returned the resultant high profits to the producers. Therefore, the Government, by its action, allowed the producers, rather than the large companies, to take the profit. There still remain in the Meat Export Control Bill the same authority that I invoked on that occasion, and I do not imagine that anybody could rationally argue that more authority than that is needed. All I say is that this Government does not want to invoke any. authority at all.
– Neither does anybody else.
– I shall not enter into a dispute with the honorable member for Lalor, but the general doctrine of socialism requires a socialist government to dispose of the property of private individuals in accordance with socialistic doctrines. The difference between the Government and the Opposition on this occasion is that the Government wants merely a reserve authority which it hopes it will never have to invoke, whereas a socialist government would desire to be possessed of the maximum authority to enable it to exercise that authority in accordance with its socialist doctrine. That a socialist government would exercise such power is indicated by the classic example of the sale of wheat by the private arrangement of a Minister of the previous Government, to another socialist government in New Zealand at less than half the price that could have been got for it elsewhere. The fact that such a sale had taken place was suppressed for twelve months.
– The growers were paid export parity for the wheat.
– For almost twelve months I stood on the Opposition benches in this Parliament and tried to get the then Labour Government to admit that it had made the sale, but no admission was made until after twelve months had passed. Then we were told about it only after an election had taken place, and after it was finally revealed, not by a Minister of the Australian Government, but out of the mouth of a New Zealand
Minister, that this transaction had taken place. I accept the assurance of the honorable member for Lalor that the AustralianWheat Board was reimbursed, but I cannot believe that it was intended to be reimbursed in the first place, when the fact of the cheap sale was repressed for a year. I suggest that the only reason why it was repressed was that it was an indefensible arrangement. That indicated a willingness on the part of a socialist government to deal with other people’s property in an arbitrary fashion. This Government will not interfere with our surplus products, which come voluntarily into the possession of the export control boards. I can contemplate interference only in the circumstances that I have mentioned, where the Government interfered, for administrative reasons, with an arrangement made by the Australian Meat Board. That is an explanation of the different attitude of the Government parties and the Labour party, and I ask that honorable members support the Government’s proposal.
Question put -
That thebill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Meetings of the board).
.- This is the principal clause in dispute between the Opposition and the Government. The Minister in his defence of the clause stressed that the Government wanted to get rid of an irritating power which was not essential, and that there was ample power in other provisions of the legislation to enable the Minister to take appropriate action if he disagreed with a decision of the Australian Meat Board. It is strange that notwithstanding all his protestations he should have illustrated an excellent case to justify the retention of the power which he now seeks to abolish. He did not tell the people that if he had not received a complaint from a certain exporting interest he could easily have been unaware–
– There was no complaint.
– He could easily have been unaware of a proposal of the board to inflict an injustice, not upon primary producers, but upon an ordinary citizen who was engaged in the every day business of meat handling or exporting Under the power which he now seeks to abolish the chairman of the board could have brought the intended injustice to his notice. In future the chairman will not be vested with authority to direct his attention to matters of that kind. In the case which he mentioned I do not know whether or not the chairman directed his attention to the board’s decision.
– He did not do so.
– Then how the Minister found out about it, I do not know. At all events, he ascertained that an injustice was contemplated. If the Chairman had noticed it, under the provisions of the legislation he would have been empowered to direct the attention of the Minister to it. The Minister may then have altered or rejected the board’s decision as he deemed fit. The Minister proposes to divest himself of that power. He has said that he interfered in the matter to which he referred not because it directly affected primary producers but because it affected other persons in the community. That is all the more reason why he should retain power to vary or veto the decisions of the board. He has a responsibility not only to watch &te interests of primary producers but alao to protect the economic welfare of the people. The Minister seems to have a fantastic idea that if a decision of the board does not affect producers, it does not master. That is quite wrong. The producers have an absolute majority on the board. Three members of the board represent lamb producers, one represents mutton producers, two represent beef producers, one represents pig producers, Avo represent meat exporting companies, one represents publicly owned abattoirs and meat treatment works, and one represents the employees in the industry. The chairman represents the Government. The Minister has said that the section which this clause proposes to delete from the act gives him unwarranted power to interfere in the affairs of primary producers. Earlier he said that the board had nothing to do with the supply of meat to the people of Australia. That is an absolute evasion of the truth. The boa’rd .has everything to do with the supply of meat to the Australian people because if, by the unjust exercise of its powers, it permits too much meat to be exported from Australia, insufficient meat is lef to meet the requirements of the home market. Consequently, the powers exercised by the board must; be very closely watched.
The Minister referred to an injustice which the board proposed to inflict on a certain individual who was not a producer. Let me mention another instance in which the Minister might have exercised his authority to prevent an unwise decision from adversely affecting the producers. Some considerable time ago it was believed that valuable markets existed in the United States of America for Australian meat and arrangements were made for the export of token shipments. Either the board or private shippers exported no less than 8,000 tons of meat to the United States of America. When the exports were contemplated the Minister should have been able to ascertain from his advisers at the Australian Embassy in New York whether the venture was likely to prove profitable or otherwise. The meat was subsequently sold at a substantial loss which had to be borne either by the board or by the exporters. The loss of a dollar market of that kind constitutes an overall economic loss to the people.
Throughout this discussion the Minister has claimed that he has retained what he has described as an adequate degree of ministerial responsibility. We shall vote against this clause because we believe that it will destroy a vital protection given to the people in the principal act. When I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I exercised my power of veto on only one occasion, in that instance to reverse a decision of the board to refuse a license to a person who had been convicted of black marketing operations. The Minister talks a lot of nonsense about Labour’s opposition to this bill having a socialist background because during the last two or three days he has been jammed in a corner trying to prove that he has retained wha’t he is pleased to call adequate protective powers. There is no justification for this clause. The existing provision of the act should be retained for the protection of the people.
.- There is a great temptation for Opposition members and other persons both inside and outside the Parliament who have no “intimate knowledge of the meat industry to imagine that the Australian Government has large quantities of meat at its disposal. That is an entirely fallacious assumption. No Australian government has meat for sale either on the export or the domestic market, nor has the Australian Government power to acquire meat for sale except under the strict terms of the Constitution. There is a widedifference between the powers of the Australian Government and those of the State governments in this regard. A recent High Court decision has laid it down, subject to appeal, that the New South Wales Government has power to acquire property of any kind at any time, and to pay any price for it or no price at all. The New South Wales Government could possess itself of all the meat that is produced in New South Wales and pay any price it decides to pay or not pay for it at all, and dispose of it in any manner to achieve its political ends. But that set of circumstances could never apply to the Commonwealth Government. This Government has only one way of acquiring meat or any other commodity. It must do so under the terms of placitum (xxxi.) of section 51 of the Constitution, which lays down that, although the Commonwealth has the right to acquire property, it must do so on just terms. The High Court has declared that “just terms “ means the value of that which is acquired at the date of acquisition. The Commonwealth Government, at any time, whatever its political character may be, must comply with that provision unless it resorts to subterfuge.
I suggest that section 10 (5a.) of the principal act is a subterfuge which was designed for the purpose of enabling a government to evade the provisions of the Constitution. An unscrupulous government could use it for that purpose. In order to refresh the memories of honorable members, I shall quote the subsection, whichclause 4 will delete from the act - (5A.) If the person presiding at a meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board,signifies at the meeting tothe other members present in person hie intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twenty-four hours after the close of themeeting, transmitstothe Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, effect shall not be given to the decision unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the decision so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.
To every fair-minded person that is an objectionable feature of the principal act and it should have been deleted long ago. It gives to the Minister absolute power to suborn the chairman, or any other member of the Board who might preside at any of its meetings, in order to achieve his own political ends and gain control of a commodity which, in normal circumstances, could not pass into the control of the Government unless it was paid for in the normal way. Time after time I have known that provision, which is embodied in various acts, to be held over primary industry boards as a damoclean sword which the Minister of the day has used to enforce his will upon the accredited representatives of the producers. Another weapon that has been used to compel suchboards to conform to a minister’s wishes has been the threat to impose an export tax and by that means reduce the representatives of the growers to a condition of ignominious subjection. The Government is to be commended’ for its decision to restore to the meat producers, to whom it rightly belongs, the right to dispose of their product to the best advantage.
The honorable member for Lalor has tried to make political capital from the fact that the right of ministerial veto will be retained in some degree. That is true, and, as long as primary industries have an obligation to the community as a whole, it is only right that the Minister should have some sort of over-riding power to direct their marketing and export boards in the public interest. No reputable board would ever dispose of a commodity against the best interests of the people to whom that commodity belongs, and simultaneously against the interests of the people as a whole, and no Minister would dare toexercise his veto except in the interests of the public, which must inevitably be in the interests of the producers. Forthese reasons, no sensible person can take exception to the fact that the Minister will retain that power.
Whether he exercises the power or not will depend entirely on the Minister in the first place, and the circumstances in the second place. I assure the House that the deletion of section 10 (5a) of the principal act, and similar provisions in other acts, has been an object dear to the hearts of the producers, not only of meat, but also of every other commodity that depends to any large degree on the export trade. That is why I welcome clause 4.
.- No matter how earnestly one might wish to have a free and open market for meat, as we have for wool, the simple fact remains, as the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) and other honorable members on the Government side of the House must know, that meat is sold under the terms of contracts negotiated between governments at prices fixed by governments and in circumstances largely determined by governments. That is necessarily so because of the financial circumstances of Australia and the rest of the sterling bloc in relation to other countries. It is sheer nonsense to talk about the Australian Meat Board functioning in the same way as the Australian Wool Board for the disposal of our meat. Meat will continue to be sold under the terms of contracts negotiated by governments, and I do not believe that the honorable member for Riverina or the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) would suggest that the system should be discontinued. Obviously, the Government, which must accept responsibility for the contracts, must retain power to control the decisions and activities of the Australian Meat Board. As the honorable member for Riverina has said, no Minister is likely to make decisions that would adversely affect the meat industry, because such decisions naturally would have an adverse effect also upon the Australian economy and the people generally. I am disturbed by the Government’s proposal because it has been made at a time when, notwithstanding all the talk by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture about fiveyear plans for increased primary production, the output of our primary industries continues to head in the wrong direction.
It is true that, as a result of favorable seasons which have led to an abundance of feed, it appears as though the Government’s activities have helped farmers to increase production. However, if we ignore such temporary factors as good seasons and a few external circumstances, and examine the real base of our primary industries, we see that, despite the Government’s plans to increase our primary production in order to increase our ‘ export income, the Government’s policy is causing the situation to become worse.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member will now refer to the clause before the committee, which refers to meetings of the Australian Meat Board. The discussion may include the power of veto by the Minister.
– The line of argument that I am developing is that the Minister and the board will be faced with a set of circumstances in which ministerial power must be invoked. I am trying to direct attention to the condition into which our primary industries are declining, which points to the necessity for the Government to retain control, particularly in relation to exports. This argument is germane to the clause that the committee is considering. For instance, the latest information provided by the Commonwealth Statistician on the subject of the number of cattle in Australia is of great importance.
– I shall not permit such statistics to be brought into this discussion.
– I suggest that, as the honorable member for Riverina was allowed to discuss the Constitution and the power of the Government over . the meat industry generally, my remarks are very much to the point.
– They are very wide of the mark. The remarks of the honorable member for Riverina were relevant because they referred to the power of the Government under the Constitution and otherwise. The honorable member will return to the clause.
– How can we consider whether the decisions of the Minister will be for good or evil if we cannot take into account the circumstances that are likely to arise in the future when those decisions will have to be made ? It is impossible to argue whether the Minister should or should not retain his powers if we cannot at least offer some information concerning the probable future position of the meat industry. I suggest that honorable members consider the statistics in relation to live-stock.
– I shall not permit that.
– There may come a time when the intervention of the Minister will be required in order to enable the Australian people to be adequately fed. The direction in which this Government’s policy is leading us, taking into account our increased population and the continued decrease of our cattle population, should give us grave cause for concern. The Minister should retain his power over the Australian Meat Board because I can readily envisage circumstances in which intervention will be necessary in order to ensure that a sufficient quantity of meat shall be retained in Australia for domestic consumption. This, surely, is a strong argument against the proposal of the Government to allow the Australian Meat Board to proceed without provision for ministerial direction or veto on some occasions. The live-stock population, according to the Commonwealth Statistician
– Order ! The honorable member will not be permitted to deal with those figures. They have nothing to do with the clause.
– All I can say is that I hope that the committee will refuse to agree to the clause. The disastrous rural policies that are being pursued by the Government will bring about a state of affairs in which ministerial intervention in the activities of marketing and export boards will be required in order to ensure that a reasonable proportion of foodstuffs shall be kept in Australia to meet the needs of our people. Consideration of our increasing population and the decreasing live-stock population leads only to the conclusion that, notwithstanding the Minister’s talk of five-year plans to’ boost agricultural production, we are heading in the wrong direction at an even faster rate than we were doing so before the
Minister announced those plans. As you will not permit me to pursue that argument any further, Mr. Chairman, I leave the matter there and urge the committee to reject the clause.
Mr. HAMILTON (Canning) [10.0 J.Once again, we have heard the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) criticize legislation designed to assist primary producers, and, once again, he has been wide of the mark in his remarks. The section proposed to be deleted was inserted in the act, at the instigation of a Labor Government, to make the primary producers believe that they would have control of their product. The statement that the producers would have a majority on the board was broadcast far and wide by all possible means, but very little was said about the fact that the chairman would be able to ‘lodge with the Minister an objection to a decision of the board and that the decision could be upset by a Minister who did not desire the producers themselves to handle their product.
I remember that when this section and similar provisions in other legislation were debated hotly in the Parliament between 1946 and 1949, the Prime Minister of that time would not pay any attention to the views that were expressed by honorable members who represented primary producers. The Government is to be commended for this action to delete an obnoxious provision from the act and, at the same time, to retain in the hands of the Minister power to ensure that the board shall function properly. A few minutes ago, we listened to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was the Minister responsible for the insertion in the act of the section that the Government proposes shall be deleted. He was very wide of the mark in some of his comments. The figures that he cited showed that he had not much knowledge of the quantity of meat that was exported to the United States of America. He said that 8,000 tons was exported, but only 870 tons was involved. When the attention of the Minister was directed to what was happening, he took appropriate action immediately.
– The meat was over there and money was lost on it, before the Government woke up.
– The quantity involved was not 8,000 tons, as the honorable member for -Lalor suggested a few minutes ago. I should not be surprised if he knows the figure, and has exaggerated it in order to make the picture look worse. If he does not know the figure, then he has not kept himself informed of events in the meat industry, since he was kicked out of office ignominiously in 1949. I hope that the Parliament will delete this kind of provision -from all legislation in which it has been inserted, because it is nothing but a source of annoyance to every section of our primary producers.
– I have listened with great interest to the objections that have Deen raised by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and other members of the Opposition. I shall confine my remarks to the question under consideration, which is whether the authority that controls meat exports should be an independent board, so far as it is reasonable for such a board to be independent. During the last war, I looked at matters of this kind from the viewpoint of a State administration. At the outbreak of the war, I was closely associated with the Framing and passing of a resolution that asked the Commonwealth, through the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), t-0 establish for the control of primary products boards on which a majority of the members Were primary producers. It is an historical fact that when the Labour party came into power in this Parliament it proceeded to act in a manner which indicated its complete contempt of the principle that primary producers should exercise control of their products. In many instances, when it established a board for the control Of primary products, it brushed aside the primary producers whose products were to be controlled. I remember the board that was established to control the disposal of hides. When I studied the legislation under which the board Was established, I discovered that the producers had not one representative on the board. They were given only an advisory member. Then the Labour party, with a sudden change of heart, doubtless because it saw signs of the coming storm, amended the legislation and permitted each State to nominate a producer as a member of the board.
The principle that we are discussing is whether, in the disposal of primary products under the provisions of acts of Parliament, there shall be a real producer control of those products. I know that it will be argued that we cannot have legislation that would give to some people an unlimited right to take what they liked from the community, but that argument is not applicable to the export of primary products. I agree that in this matter, as in till other similar matters that affect the interests of the community, the Government must have a certain reserve executive power> but that is entirely different from giving a Minister the right to dictate to a board and to attribute to the board a decision which, in fact, has been made by him. Nothing angers primary producers more than the action of a Minister in overriding the decision of a board that controls a primary product and sending his decision out as the decision of the board. I congratulate the Minister upon this action to eliminate an offensive feature of the legislation.
I believe that the chairman of a board of this kind should be a primary producer, and that the secretary, or the executive member, should be a highly trained technical officer, lent to the board by the Government to act in an advisory capacity. I have bitter recollections of bodies sent overseas by the Labour party when it was in office, on which the primary producers were not permitted to have a representative, except, in some instances, one who acted only in an advisory capacity. The owners of the primary products that were being disposed’ of could not exercise effective control of the disposal of those products.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) made the point that because many of these products are sold under contract, there is very little for boards to do. There is a great deal for such boards to do. They must keep ih touch with conditions, in the industry concerned, keep themselves informed of prices abroad, maintain contact between the Government and the industry, and ensure that the Government shall be kept fully and continuously informed of the views of the primary producers, not only of the technical views of the appropriate department. I do not say that the Government should not be kept informed of the views of the department concerned, but the departmental view and that of the primary producers do not always march together. The practical man must come into the picture. Countless thousands of hides were wasted in the interior of Australia because an uneconomic price for hide3 was determined by a governmentcontrolled board. That kind of thing can be avoided by close contact between a boa I’d and the Go vernment. I congratulate the Minister. Not only has he expounded these theories in the past but also he has had the courage to introduce this measure, with, I am certain, the full support of the Government.
.- The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), made, in effect, a second-reading speech, but I do not mind that.
– I confined myself to the clause. “Mr. POLLARD.- The honorable gentleman believed that he did so. He referred to the board that was established to control hides and leather. That was a Commonwealth instrumentality which worked in conjunction with the States. He said that primary producers were not represented on that board. I remind him that the board was a war-time instrumentality, established to handle a product for which the primary producer was paid when he sold his stock to the meat works or to the butcher. The hides were, in effect, the property of the butcher or the meat works.
– That is only partly correct.
– The honorable member should not quibble. He referred also to the appointment of the chairmen of various export authorities. Let me tell him that the Labour Party was never guilty, as was this Government, of removing from the Australian Wheat Board a fully fledged wheatgrower who had done a lot of work for the wheat-growers of this country in an honorary capacity and in other capacities, and of putting in his place a man who had not grown a bag of wheat for years. We appointed to the Dairy Produce Export Control Board the late Mr. Howey, who had given <a lifetime of service to dairy producers. We appointed him as Government representative on the board because he was one of the best practical dairy-farmers in Australia. When the honorable member for New England indulges in propaganda of that kind, he goes very wide of the mark. I could go on ad infinitum.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must not pursue that line of argument any further.
– I remind you, Mr. Chairman, with due respect, that the honorable member for New England referred to this subject. He said that a Labour government appointed as members of these boards people who were not primary producers. Most of the early war-time boards, established by a non-Labour Government, were controlled by people who were not primary producers. The producers did not have a majority of the members of the boards until the Labor party came into office.
The remarks of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) are not worthy of a reply. The honorable member for New England said that primary producers interested in these authorities took exception to decisions being attributed to a board that were, in reality, decisions of the Minister. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said to-night that he had reversed a decision of the Australian Meat Board to issue an export licence to a certain interest or individual, but, as far as people outside the industry were concerned, it did not matter much whether the decision was that of the Minister or of the Board. To all intents and purposes, it was a decision, not of the Minister but of the board, because at no time until this moment did the Minister announce, either in the press or in this chamber, that he had interfered with the decision of the board upon that matter. Some people might believe that the board made the decision. That sort of nonsense does not cut any ice.
– The incident to which I referred in respect of the issue of licences for the export of meat to the dollar area was public knowledge. The representatives of the primary producers and the meat exporters on the Australian Meat Board discussed the position quite freely and publicly. Consequently, it is nonsense to say that the matter was not known-
– I was discussing the Minister’s interference with that particular export, and not with the total quantity.
– It is nonsense to say that the knowledge was not public property until I referred to it a few minutes ago. The position was widely known. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has allowed himself to get out of touch with the primary industries, otherwise he would have been as familiar with the facts as are countless thousands of Australians, including persons who are not primary producers. The more the honorable member speaks of primary industry boards, the more he reveals that he has not a grasp of the situation. He says that it is essential to retain the provisions! of sub-section (5a), which is to be repealed by clause 4 of this bill, because it may not come to the notice of theMinister promptly that certain action has been taken and he may desire to invoke this provision. The honorable member obviously has not read the provision because it states explicitly that the Minister, if he is to take action, must do so within 24 hours. Consequently the statement of the honorable member for Lalor is without foundation. The residual authority which the Government retains is without limit in point of time. The honorable member does not appear to have grasped that fact. The approach to this matter is on a political plane, namely, whether we want to veto or vary a decision of the board, and describe it in law as a decision that the board has voluntarily taken. Surely, that is the desire of the natural authoritarian. We have many of them here, but they do not sit on this side of the chamber. This debate serves to illustrate that point.
The honorable member for Lalor said that the Australian Meat Board exported 8,000 tons of beef to North America, and made a loss on the consignment.
– It was 800 tons.
– I doubt whether the honorable member gave the wrong figure as the result of a slip of the tongue.
– It was a slip of the tongue, but the principle is the same.
– If it was a slip of the tongue, the other words used by the honorable gentleman in relation to this matter were a gross exaggeration. He said that I should have known that there was not a good market for the consignment in North America, and, accordingly, should have forbidden the board to export the meat. The attitude of the socialist was again revealed. The representatives of primary producers and the great meal processing works constitute a majority of members of the board. Those men have a wide experience of . the industry. Yet the honorable member for Lalor asks, “ Why did not the Minister have a better knowledge of the North American market than the members of the board ? “
– The Minister sought to prevent the export of additional meat to the United States of America.
– No. I have expressed an opinion on the matter. That is all. I held the view early in the piece that the board would make more money if it did certain other things. I am not well equipped to hold a dogmatic view on these matters. I am merely a farmer whose business is the production of fat lambs, and I have some experience of public administration. I said to the board, in effect, “ I think you would make more money if you sold lambs to Canada than if you sold them to the United States of America. I think you would make more money if you sold heavy lambs rather than light lambs, and that you would encounter less opposition from primary producers if you sold manufactured meat, which did not carry its foreign identity to the consumer, than if you send carcass meat. As an individual, I suggest that the board consider these matters “. Well, the members of the board considered the position. They were infinitely better equipped than I was to form an opinion on the situation. My advice was rejected. The board took the opposite course. Events have proved that my opinion happened to be right. I did not seek to impose my opinion on the board, and neither to-morrow nor at any other time will I, as an ordinary individual, claim that my judgment, even if it is supported by the advice of experienced departmental officers, is superior to that of a board of this kind. The meat is the property of the primary producers, and is not taken compulsorily from them by the statutory board. The meat is offered to the board by the primary producers or processors for realization. The conception of honorable members on this side of the chamber is that, in those circumstances, the chosen representatives of the industry should hu ve the maximum freedom to exercise their own business judgment in the realization of their own product. This Government follows that line of policy, and the amendment is in accordance with it. The more Labour members speak on this matter, the more they reveal the mind of the socialist, which denies the property rights of individuals, and claims that the property and even the personal rights and bodies of individuals should be at the disposal of the State. That is the doctrine of socialism. Let honorable members opposite argue the matter if they will. All I can say to them is that we do not agree with them.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has rebuked the Government for the decline of the live-stock industry. I remind him, if he is not aware of the fact, that live-stock cannot be planted as a crop this year, and reaped next year. The live-stock which are now in existence were being bred during the last days of the Chifley Labour Government. The reason why the live-stock industry went into a decline–
– Order ! I cannot allow the Minister to continue that line of discussion.
– I wa3 merely about to say, Mr. Chairman, that the Labour Government which fixed the price for leather and hides at 7d. per lb. when the export price was 63d. per lb. dealt a blow at the live-stock industry The Labour
Government which fixed a price of £27 a ton for tallow when it was worth £120 a ton for export dealt a blow at the livestock industry. The honorable member for Lalor is saying quietly, “ That is right “.
– Yes, in order to protect our own people. Everybody knows what’ has happened to the cost of living since this Government has been in office, yet it was elected on a promise to put value back into the £1.
– A government which fixed the price of lead at £22 a ton when it was worth £100 a ton for export-
– It was a payable price.
– That is the exemplification of socialism,
– The present Government continued that policy. Do not try to wriggle out of it.
– Do not let us have a duet. The honorable member may express his views again if he so desires. He has illustrated his lack of understanding of the live-stock industry. He said that the Australian Hides and Leather Industries Board was dealing with hides for which the primary producers had been paid when the stock was sold, and, therefore, the hides had nothing to do with them. Surely to heaven the value of live-stock when sold at auction is dependent upon the value of hides and tallow at that time!
– I rise to order. I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, under which rule you asked me to confine my remarks to the clause and under what rule the Minister is allowed to wander all over the countryside % He is not referring to the clause under consideration.
– Order! The remarks of the Minister are definitely wide of the clause, and I ask him to return to it. I asked him before not to deal with general policy, and a five-year plan.
– I respect your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I though that I was merely replying to matters raised by Opposition speakers, but I do not wish to canvass it any further. I understand the anxiety of the Labour party to silence me when I referred to its record in some of these matters. However, the general situation has been revealed. The Government and I are content to allow those whose property is at stake to judge this issue. The real test is that this Government is prepared to allow the meat producers to realize their property in accordance with their own judgment. The Labour party, if it is returned to office, will arrogate to itself the right to deal with other people’s property according to its own judgment, to the great disadvantage of the primary producers.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 4th March (vide page 510), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill he now read a second time.
.- This measure is almost identical with the Meat Export Control Bill, except that it provides that the dairy-farmers’ representation on the Dairy Produce Export Control Board shall be increased by one. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Housing - Shipping - Telephone SERVICES - Health and Medical SERVICES
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I regret that the Minister for “War Service Homes (Mr. Townley) is not in the chamber, and I trust that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) will direct his attention to my remarks. On the 24th February I directed the attention of the Minister to what I considered to be grievous faults in the construction of a group of war service homes at Glenroy, Victoria.
Unfortunately, the Minister took some exception to my airing of that grievance in this Parliament.
– He took exception to the way the honorable member did it.
– I did it in a very courteous and decent manner, but I did not hesitate to say that the homes were a disgrace to the contractor and the War Service Homes Division. I was courteous to the Minister. I have no reason to change the remarks that I made. The Minister took some exception to my charges, and went so far as to state that I should have gone to the Director of War Service Homes about the matter. All I have to say in regard to the Minister’s criticism is that, after all, this Parliament is the forum of the people, and when a member of it considers that a complaint is serious enough to be voiced in this chamber he is not necessarily reflecting on a departmental chief or on the department that has administrative control over the matter complained of. On the contrary, it is a distinct assistance to the Minister and the department to have aired in this House a matter that affects the department. In this particular instance it may have the result of assisting the department to cause its contractors more readily to meet their just and proper obligations. I have always admitted that the War Service Homes Division, over all, has done a very good job for ex-servicemen, and I wish to emphasize that the particular job to which I referred is a disgrace. My remarks regarding the work at Glenroy have brought comment from other dissatisfied ex-servicemen and within the last week I have received a complaint about some homes that have been built at Shirley-street, Fawkner. I took the trouble to go there on Sunday afternoon to examine them. The terms and conditions under which those homes have been taken over by the tenants are different from those that operate in respect of the Glenroy homes, inasmuch as’ these homes were built by a private contractor who subsequently entered into negotiations for the purchase of the homes by ex-servicemen with finance provided by the War Service Homes Division. That is slightly different from the situation which governed the houses at
Glenroy. They were built under direct coa tract to the di vision. In the Fawkner case, before the ex-servicemen could take up occupancy of the homes or make any financial commitment to the contractor from whom they were purchasing them, and obtain the financial support of the War Service Homes Division, the homes had to be examined by the division’s inspector and had to be approved, I understand, as structurally sound, and as being worth the price that the soldiers were asked to pay. There are a number of homes concerned. Apparently in this particular case the War Service Homes Division inspector, who may have been overridden by the division - although I do not know whether or not he was - decided that the homes were sound and solid and satisfactory in construction. To-day the ex-servicemen are in occupation. I saw two of the homes. All I can say is that if they are held to have been constructed according to decent building ethics, I should be ashamed to have had anything to do with them if I were a contractor, a builder, or a carpenter. They are far from what they ought to be.
The time has arrived when there should be some inquiry into this sort of thing. I realize fully, and I sympathize with the War Service Homes Division in this respect, that there are cases of exservicemen seeing homes being built by private contractors and deciding that they will see the contractors and endeavour to purchase them on completion. They then seek financial assistance from the division, which informs them that it will have to examine the homes when they are completed to ensure that they comply with its building standards and, if they so comply, the division will finance their purchase. It may be that on occasions an ex-serviceman states that although the home may not be up to standard he will take it because he is anxious to have a home, but that does not excuse the division or its inspectors for taking over buildings with faults that are manifestly the result of bad workmanship. The Minister for War Service Homes has now entered the chamber. I repeat -f or his benefit that he took exception to my airing of this sort of complaint on a previous occasion. As I have pointed out, this Parliament is the forum which protects the people from abuses. It not only protects the public and the Government, but it also protects instrumentalities like the War Service Homes Division itself, inasmuch as publicity in this Parliament brings contractors to a realization that if they skimp their work and sell inefficiently constructed buildings to exservicemen somebody in this Parliament will direct the attention of the people and the responsible government department to what is going on. Future purchasers of such homes are thereby probably given some protection, as is also the staff of the War Service Homes Division. I hope that the Minister will not take exception to my remarks to-night. On the 21st February, I asked him personally in this House to visit the Glenroy estate and examine the homes of which I had complained. I told him that I was prepared to substantiate everything I had said about them. I am prepared to do the same in regard to all that I have to say to-night about homes being purchased by the division under a slightly different system at Fawkner. I hope that this sort of thing will cease and that the division will be enabled, partly as a result of my remarks, to bring contractors up to the mark. It has been said that there is a maintenance period in regard to these homes. Such a period is obviously necessary to enable the contractors to repair any faults that may be due to slight structural defects that were not manifest when the homes were handed over. But to contend that the results of the fitting into houses of doors that were warped before they were fitted, and the installation of window frames that were out of plumb before they were put in, are things that ought to be attended to in a maintenance period, is fantastic. Those are structural defects which should have been noticed during the course of construction. A similar state of affairs exists in regard to the laying of floors. When the man laying one floor had got half way across he obviously laid a board that was buckled horizontally, and kept on laying more boards until there was a series of gaps in the floor boards of half the room. That is obviously a defect that should be corrected during the course of construction and in such a case the division’s inspector should instruct the contractor to lay no further flooring until the first defect has been remedied. That obviously should not be regarded as a maintenance fault to be corrected afterwards, because, if it were the ex-service occupant of the home would have to pull up his carpets and1 the whole floor would have to be taken up, and the skirting boards would have to be removed. I saw one door jamb that had a length of wood 1 inch thick inserted to make it plumb. It will never be a good door jamb. It should never have been allowed to remain in that structure. That is not in the nature of a minor fault that shows up some time after the house has been handed over. I take exception to this sort of thing going on. I know the Minister is sympathetic. I know that he has his problems, and that the War Service Homes Division also has its problems. I have been told that the ex-servicemen’s organizations police this sort of thing for ex-servicemen. I know that they have taken an interest in it, but I have not forgotten an instance in this Parliament when I directed attention to an instance of this sort of thing that had occurred at Sunshine, and the Minister was able to say that an ex-servicemen’s organization had said that the house was all right. It was not all right despite the view of that organization, and the fact that it was not all right was proved when the War Service Homes Division ultimately forced the contractor to repair the faults complained of. I omitted to mention that in one of these houses in Shirley-street, Fawkner, the plaster in one bedroom can be shaken about-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I wish to make some remarks in reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in this House on the 24th February, in relation to war service homes at the Glenroy estate in Melbourne. As he said to-night, I took exception to them. It is not that I resent criticism. I took exception to the way in which he went about bringing the matter to the notice of the House. I welcome any honorable member informing me or the department of any problems that are being experienced in relation to war service homes. The point was that I felt it would have been more in order had the honorable member first gone to the War Service Homes Division itself, or possibly, had come to me, about the matter. The honorable member indicates that he does not agree with that contention. We differ on the point. The honorable member is of the opinion that if he ventilates these matters in this House more good will accrue to ex-servicemen.
– In some instances.
– I accept the honorable member’s sincerity in the matter, but in view of the excellent work that the officers and technical staff of the War Service Homes Division do on behalf of ex-servicemen, I should be doing less than my duty if I failed to come to their defence now. I promised the honorable member for Lalor that I would have his complaint investigated The honorable member said that many of the items at Glenroy about which he complained were maintenance items. I found that to be correct. Most of the instances he brought forward were maintenance items, which means that, in fact, the War Service Homes Division would not take delivery of the homes, and until such, time as the contractor makes these defects good. Until such time such houses are still under maintenance, and the ex-servicemen are not required to pay for the work required. Technically, I suppose we should wait until a house is complete in every detail before we allow the occupants to take possession of it, but in times like .these that would be a monstrous thing to do. The stoves and the wiring to which the honorable member referred were all passed by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. In spite of that, we have the makers of the stoves remedying any faults that have developed. All I want to say on that point is that the position at Glenroy is well under control.
Reverting to the difference of opinion between the honorable member and me on this matter, I shall quote some facts that I have obtained. I refer first to a communication which relates to the Anzac
House section of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Melbourne. It reads -
Mr. Moore, of Anzac House, telephoned this morning and reported that at a meeting of the Glenroy Sub-Branch last night, the question of recent press statements was brought up for discussion. Members of the “ Progress Committee “-
They were the gentlemen who went to the honorable member for Lalor - who were present apparently could not state a good case in support of the approach to Mr. Pollard, M.P.
Mr. Hands (President of the Progress Committee) was severely criticized by speakers for his part in having complaints dealt with independently and not through the Housing Committee at Anzac House.
At the end of the discussion the meeting passed a resolution dissociating itself entirely from the representations made to Mr. Pollard and specifying that the State Branch (Anzac House) be informed accordingly in order that the possibility of the irregular action in this instance being repeated may be avoided.
I shall now refer to the” Legacy adviser’s report about a certain widow whose name, was mentioned.
– I did not mention the name of a war widow.
– No, it occurred in a press statement. The adviser interviewed this woman, and he considered all complaints frivolous excepting perhaps adjustments to the stove. He considered other items either minor complaints or the applicant’s ‘own responsibility. I suggest that those reports are” far more effective than anything that I can say in support of my departmental officers. Further. The report states -
Messrs. Hands and L’Huillier said the purchasers felt that they had some grounds for making representations because of the Contractors failure to attend to maintenance items within a reasonable time. However, when Mr. Pollard was spoken to on this matter it was not thought that he would make a statement in Parliament but rather that Mr. Pollard would either go to the Deputy Director or speak to the Minister.
Therefore, I suggest that the honorable member for Lalor adopted the wrong attitude to this matter. Now I wish to read from the annual report of the Glenroy sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I am attempting to bring evidence to support my argument that the officers of the War Service Homes Division in Mel bourne are doing a particularly good job and are not likely to slum any of these houses, as has been suggested. The branch reported -
The War Service Homes and Housing Committee meets regularly each month …. the Deputy Director attends all meetings and gives much valuable help and advice on housing matters to all delegates.
The Sub-Branch has been most successful in helping members with their housing problems and 1 am pleased to report that we have received every co-operation from Mr. G. T. Bell and his staff. If you have any housing problem contact your representatives, as they are only too willing to help you.
Finally, I throw into the ring the following letter, which was written by a resident : -
We have recently moved into one of your Group Homes at Glenroy, and would like to express our gratitude to you and your staff for making it possible for us to have our own home.
We arc very pleased with it and the service which the builder (Mr. Bill Jarvis) has given us since we arrived; he has left no stone unturned as to making our own and neighbors conditions comfortable.
We find it our duty to write this letter ot appreciation, as there are always people ready to abuse assistance offered by your department - but few to praise.
I suggest, in these circumstances, that I was perfectly entitled to take exception to the manner in which the honorable member for Lalor brought this matter before the House. That will no doubt always be an issue between us. The officers in the War Service Homes Division have done a magnificent job for ex-servicemen. They are doing everything to assist them to own their own homes, and are also doing everything in their power to get them into their houses as quickly as possible. If the honorable member for Lalor will approach them-
– I do not intend to approach them. I shall exercise my rights in this Parliament, and I challenge the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) to go out and look at these houses.
– There is no question about the honorable member exercising his rights. The important thing is to get ex-servicemen into their homes as quickly and efficiently as possible. The honorable member has brought nothing before the House to show that the officers in Victoria are failing in their duty.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- 1 wish to direct the attention of the Government to the shocking increase of shipping freights between Australian and Tasmanian ports. Because of Tasmania’s geographic position, it depends entirely on shipping for the carriage of goods from the mainland to its ports and from its ports to the mainland. Ships at present trading from Tasmania to the mainland and back again handle between 80 and 90 per cent, of all goods that leave and enter the island. The remainder of the goods are carried by air. The economic stability of Tasmania is involved in adequate shipping and just freight charges. To illustrate the volume of our imports and exports I shall cite some figures. In 1950-51 our imports were valued at £30,317,000, and they included such items as manufactured goods, machinery, foodstuffs, raw materials, clothing, groceries, gypsum, salt, building materials, wheat and so on. Our exports for the same year totalled £26,870,000. Eighty-five per cent, of our manufactured goods are exported, and the other exports include fresh fruit, jam, fruit pulps, potatoes, fish, hops, woollen textiles, zinc, copper, bronze strip, tin ore, sheelite, timber, cement, and paper. Prom 1939 to 1950 our trade increased by 100 per cent., and that placed a tremendous demand on shipping. However, to-day importers, primary producers and those engaged in the timber trade are receiving sledge-hammer blows because of excessive freight charges. Our economy, in fact, is being slowly strangled by increasing freight charges. The cost of living is being inflated through ridiculously increased freights on all imports and the economic survival of many primary producers and trading sections is being gravely threatened. Excessive freights have already forced large quantities of Tasmanian timber off the mainland markets, and much of our good timber is now being left in the bush. Moreover, SOO to 1,000 timber workers have left their union.
Tasmania is the only State that is utterly dependent on sea carriage, and because of soaring costs the timber is being priced out of good mainland markets. In spite of a reduction of 10s. a 100 super, feet in January this year, the exporters of Tasmanian timber are still paying freight of 28s a 100 super, feet. In 1939, the freight charge was only 5s. 6d. a 100 super feet. Wharfage charges bring the costs to 35s. a 100 super, feet, or an increase of more than 500 per cent, in freight charges on timber. Victorian millers, by comparison, pay only 10s. 7d. a 100 super, feet for seasoned timber carried from Orbost to Melbourne. How can Tasmania compete under such one-sided conditions? An increase of freights will gradually price Tasmania out of the markets in respect of primary produce and timber. In connexion with potatoes there is a still more tragic story. In 1939, it cost 19s. a ton to ship potatoes from Tasmania to Sydney. To-day, it costs £6 19s. 6d. a ton, which is a 650 per cent, increase. Strange to say, Western Australia is paying only a 450 per cent, increase on the 1939 figures. Why there is a difference of 200 per cent, between Tasmania and Western Australia I have not yet discovered, but I suggest that the anomaly requires close examination by a federal authority.
Another scandalous anomaly characterizes the Tasmanian potato industry, and that is that the extraordinary price leakage between the producer in Tasmania and the consumer in Sydney. The difference between the price that the grower receives and the cost to the Sydney housewife is over £30 a ton. That £30 goes to various middlemen, retailers, shipping companies and other groups between the growers and the consumers. That is a scandalous state of affairs, and should be remedied. The export of potatoes from Tasmania was a great industry in the war years, but to-day it is languishing. It is being crucified by the lack of stability, ruinous freight charges and uncertain prices. The industry is at the mercy of price fixers and freight fixers on the mainland. The industry has been ruined, as Labour said it would be if the 1947 referendum on prices were not carried. Because pricefixing is not on a federal basis, Tasmania is at the mercy of mainland price-fixers. The pre-war premium on Tasmanian Brownells was £ 3 a ton more in Sydney than our other varieties, but that has long been submerged in uniform stacking and selling.
In 1939 the freight cost per ton of Tasmanian jams sold to Queensland was 22s. To-day it is £22 a ton. In 1938 the freight on jam carried from Launceston to Melbourne was 20s. a ton, but to-day it is 99s. a ton. In 1938 the freight from Launceston to Sydney was 22s. a ton, now it is 126s. a ton. Therefore, freight charges have increased by 500 per cent. The Retailers Association in Tasmania, the Tasmanian fruit farmers, the Chambers of Commerce, the Potato Marketing Board, the State Government, and federal members all speak with one voice and say that Tasmania is getting a shocking deal from shipping companies in connexion with freight rates. I raise the matter here because the Australian Government has a Minister for Shipping and Transport, and I suggest that the Government can investigate this matter with a view to ascertaining whether there is any justice in price rises and freight charges such as those to which I have referred. I know that shipping companies have to meet increased costs in ship construction, repairs, labour and so on, but I cannot be convinced that such increases justify 500 per cent, or 600 per cent, increases of shipping freights, within ten years. I point out to honorable members that Huddart Parker Limited, who is listed with 110 other companies in Rydge’s journal of March this year at page 223-224, shows a 12 per cent, dividend on ordinary shares and 6 per cent, on preference shares. Its ordinary share dividend is exceeded by only ten other companies out of the 110. That is not too bad for a company that states that it has so many extra costs to meet. Other companies, such as the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, W. Holyman & Sons Proprietary Limited and Howard Smith Limited also handle a large number-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I direct the attention of this House to a serious matter, which is exercising the minds of a considerable number of people in Australia. I refer to the practice, which I understand is going on in the capital cities of the Commonwealth, of permitting members of the security service, and even members of the State police forces, to tap private telephone lines. Accusations of this kind have been made in the House on other occasions, and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has invariably denied that any such interference is taking place. I have been informed that the practice is rife in Adelaide at present, and that private telephone lines are being tapped by people who, if the Minister’s statement was a truthful one - and we have no reason to regard it as being otherwise - are acting without the authority of the Postmaster-General. This country has reached a sorry state of affairs if members of the security service and State police are able to gain access to telephone exchanges for the purpose of listening to private telephone conversations. We have surely not reached the stage when this country is to be harassed by the operations of a gestapo, an Ogpu or some other form of secret police. Surely people may discuss their business over the telephone without being harassed by these intrusions into their telephone conversations.
– The honorable member is inventing his statements as he goes along.
– The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) would not like to have his private telephone conversations subjected to such control.
– Where is the honorable member’s proof that the practice is being followed?
– I do not propose to give to the honorable member for Fisher the information that I have at my disposal. I shall impart it to a more responsible person. I do not want any peeping or eavesdropping on the part of the honorable member for Fisher. I should like the Minister in charge of the House to arrange for this matter to be thoroughly investigated-
– The honorable member is not really serious in this matter?
– I ask honorable members not to take this matter lightly. It is all very well for Government supporters to. pretend that everything i3 all right because the Government which they support is in office. They should remember that in politics the birds of to-day are the feather dusters of tomorrow. They should not seek to justify the tapping of private telephone lines merely because they happen to be in power to-day. They should uphold the democratic rights of a free people. Irrespective of whether a Labour government or a Liberal government is in office, no government has the right to stand idly by while these practices continue. I have evidence of the practice to which I refer being carried out in Adelaide-
– Give the evidence to the House.
– There is no need for the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) to become heated about the matter. It is just as important to him as it is to me, and to his friends and my friends. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) can verify the fact that we have good reason to believe-
– You have patched it up between you.
– I resent that statement. An honorable member of the standing of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who has been Mr. Deputy Speaker, should know better than to make such a statement. The honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, can verify the fact that telephone conversations are being tapped because of the clicking noise-
– There is no need to joke about this matter-
– The clicking noise is probably caused by mice.
– One of my colleagues has suggested that it may be caused by ratbags. There is evidence that this practice is being resorted to. It is time that we asserted our rights, as a free people, to prevent such occurrences. We should not let a gestapo or an Ogpu interfere with the rights of the people.
.- In Victoria, a section of the people is being deplorably and inhumanely neglected. The people concerned were almost completely forgotten until the Hon. William Barry became the Minister for Health recently. I refer to the mentally sick.
– That is a State matter.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) says that this is a State matter. If he will allow me to proceed, I shall quickly convince him that it is a Commonwealth matter. The inmates of the Kew Mental Hospital live in the most squalid conditions. They are guarded and fed, but they are certainly not cared for. No member of this Parliament who has visited the asylum could fail to be impressed by the degrading conditions that exist there. The Commonwealth should assist the Victorian Minister for Health in his endeavours to bring about an amelioration of the conditions under which these unfortunate people live. They have no votes, and they exercise no political influence, and consequently, they are forgotten.
In 1951-52, the Commonwealth paid to the Victorian Government for the relief of tuberculosis sufferers an amount of £2,700,000. A sufferer from tuberculosis, with a dependant wife, receives an allowance of £9’ a week. A sufferer without dependants receives £5 10s. a week. If the sufferer is undergoing hospital treatment, he receives £3 7s. 6d. a week. In addition the Victorian Government receives from the Commonwealth for every patient in a public hospital, an amount of 8s. a day for the bed which he occupies. Considerably more than £1,000,000 was paid to the Victorian Government in 1951-52 by this Government in respect of persons who occupy beds in public hospitals. The position is absolutely different in regard to patients in mental homes and institutions. For every inmate of a mental home, the Commonwealth pays to the States ls. 2d. a day on condition that no payment is made for the maintenance of the patient. If, instead of the payment of1s. 2d. a day, the Commonwealth had paid 8s. a day for each inmate of mental institutions in Victoria, it would have paid to the Government of that State an amount of approximately £1,075,000. The position is even worse that that. Inmates of State benevolent homes and institutions of that description, who reach the age of 65 years in the case of a male and 60 years in the case of a female, receive the age pension. But pensions are not paid for the inmates of mental homes. At the 31st December, 1950, there were 548 male patients of 65 years and over and 1,383 female patients of 60 years and over in Victorian mental hospitals. Thus, more than 25 per cent. of thepatients in mental hospitals at that date were of pensionable age.
– Who made the arrangement for the contribution of 1s. 2d. a day?
– That was probably made in the dim, distant past. It does not reduce the responsibility of this Government, which is saving a large sum in age pensions at the expense of the comfort and well-being of people who cannot take cave of themselves and who have no political influence. Had this Government paid as much for every mental patient as it pays for every patient in a public hospital, it would have contributed an additional amount of over £1,000,000 to Victoria in 1951-52. Had it paid the age pension for mental patients of pensionable age, it would have made a contribution of hundreds of thousands of pounds. This problem should be considered independently of party political considerations. It is above the battle of politics. These people live in the most deplorable conditions and are more inhumanely treated than any other section of the community. Their needs should receive the consideration of the Australian Government. This is the only Government that can provide the funds with which to improve their conditions. I appeal to the Minister for Health to assist the Hon. William Barry in his campaign to rouse the indignation of the people of Australia to such a pitch that it will not be quelled until the community as a whole takes upon itself the responsibility of providing for the welfare of the mentally ill.
.- Mr. Speaker–
– Mr. Speaker, I call your attention to the state of the House.
Mr. Speaker having counted the House,
– As a quorum is not present, I adjourn the House.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Tuncurry, New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
National Development - C. A. Van Der Waal.
Supply- C. F. Bareford, C. E. Kerr, B. F. Palmer.
Works - S. K. L. Wallace.
House adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information : -
The members other than the Chairman shall be returned soldiers, and one shall be selected for appointment from a list, containing the names of not less than three returned soldiers, submitted to the Minister by any organization representing returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth.
Lists of names were submitted as follows: -
Organization and names included in list.
Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia -
Benjamin Seddon Heagney.
Herbert Trangmar Allan.
Air Force Association -
John Lloyd Waddy.
Douglas Verma McGuigan.
Sidney Donald Thistleton.
Tubercular Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association -
Alfred John Chambers.
John Lloyd Waddy.
Ex-Naval Men’s Association -
John Lloyd Waddy.
Alfred John Chambers.
Douglas Verma McGuigan.
Partially Blinded Soldiers Association -
John Lloyd Waddy.
Alfred John Chambers.
Limbless Soldiers Association -
John Lloyd Waddy.
Alfred John Chambers.
Edward Charles Townsend.
Australian Legion of ex-Service Men and Women -
Sidney Donald Thistleton.
Herbert Paul Henningham.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information : -
I must first explain that appeals against determinations by repatriation boards that certain incapacities are not due to war service lie to theRepatriation Commission and appeals against the commission’s determination lie to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. These appeals are referred to as “ Entitlement Appeals “. Appeals against assessment by a repatriation board if the degree of incapacity arising from a disability accepted as “due to war service” lie direct to the Assessment Appeal Tribunals. The reply to the question asked by the honorable member is -
In addition to determining appeals against Repatriation Boards determinations, the Repatriation Commission also has referred to it, in pursuance of sub-section 27 (2.) of the Repatriation Act 1920-1952, certain eases of a particular class and these cases are included in the following figures: -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The figures for 1948-49 and 1951-52 include £600,000 set aside in each of those years for strategic roads and road safety. 3 and 4. The Commonwealth has never made Commonwealth Aid Roads grants direct to local authorities although the State governments may, if they so desire, pass on any portion of the grants to local authorities. Figures showing the extent to which the States have adopted this practice over the years are not available.
n asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
Production from July, 1952, to December, 1952, was 917,000 tone, giving an annual rate of about 1,830,000 tons for the year -1952-53. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited estimates, however, that production for the full year 1952-53 may reach 1,900,000 tons, because of further increased production during January to June, 1953.
The major developmental projects arc: (a) Capacity to produce coke essential to smeltingis being increased at Newcastle. (Similar expansion at Port Kembla was recently completed.) (b) A new skelp rolling mill at the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited’ works, Newcastle, is planned, (c) A new plate and strip mill with a capacity of about 1,000,000 tons per annum is under construction at Port Kembla and scheduled to commence rolling plate in 1054 and strip in 1955.
s. - On the 24th February the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. E. Fraser) asked mo the following question: -
I ask the Prime Minister to state the reasons for the decision recently implemented that Commonwealth employees aged 65 years or more must be dismissed. Has the rule been applied impartially? Is the instruction a denial of the right honorable gentleman’s previously expressed view that men of pensionable age should be encouraged to remain in employment?
Further to my promise to make inquiries about the matterI now advise the honorable member that it is the policy of the Public Service Board that, under normal circumstances, the services of employees should not be retained after they reach the age of 65 years. This policy is followed wherever practicable, but staffing conditions do not always permit the close pursuit of the policy. For instance, it may be necessary to employ persons over 65 years of age where there is no suitable person under that age available to perform the work or where a person has special qualifications for a particular job. Public Service inspectors have been instructed to keep lists of Commonwealth employees over the age of 65 and to review these lists periodically in the light of the nature of the positions occupied, the fitness of the occupants f or employment and the availability of suitable persons under the age of 65. No instructions on the matters have been issued recently. The fact that some employees over the age of 65 have recently been replaced by younger men is entirely due to a review of the situation having shown that the younger men were available for employment. The implementation of the instruction is not a denial of the view that men of pensionable age should be encouraged to remain in employment, but it must be borne in mind that the needs of the community require a balanced employment age in order to keep the supply of labour moving forward at a reasonable rate. This concept applies, not only to the Public Service, but also to industry.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530317_reps_20_221/>.