20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that the Leader . of the Opposition has admitted that he has no knowledge of the cost of implementing the specific promises in regard to pensions that he made on behalf of his party, will the Minister for Social Services give the House some in-formation on that matter ? Recently, the Minister stated that the abolition of the means test would involve an additional expenditure of £100,000,000 a year on social services. Was that figure based on existing pensions rates? “What would be the cost of abolishing the means test at the pensions rate of £4 a week promised by the Leader of the Opposition? What would be the total expenditure on social services in the remote event of the right honorable gentleman carrying out his promises ?
– The figure that I cited was based on existing pensions rates. At the rates proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, the cost of abolishing the means test would be considerably greater. I cannot say offhand how much greater it would be, but I shall find out and let the honorable member know.
– Does the answer given by the Minister indicate that the Government’s plans to -abolish the means test have been abandoned? Has the Government abandoned all hope of achieving that objective 1
– The question raises a matter of policy, but I shall be pleased to set the honorable member’s mind at rest. During the last few years, it would have been quite impossible to abolish the’ means test, and also meet the major commitments for which provision had to be made. In the meantime, the Government has gone quite a long way towards liberalizing the means test and will be able to press on with its complete abolition as soon as it is financially possible to do so.
– Supplementary to the question that has been asked by the honorable member for Kingston, I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that as recently as the 16th June, 1953, he wrote to the honorable member for Darling in connexion with the means test to this effect -
The Government recognizes the unfairness of the means test arid the penalties that it imposes upon thrift. Efforts have been made accordingly to devise a new system of social services whereunder pensions are paid as of right and without a means test. A solution has already been reached which, it is felt, will be suited to Australian social and economic conditions and which will meet with the general approval of the community.
Is it a fact that a solution has been reached, or are honorable members ‘ -to infer that the Government has altered its opinions to conform with the answer that the Minister has given to the honorabl’3 member for Kingston?
– I have found the Leader of the Opposition to b’e notoriously ill-informed-. He should know that if a few sentences are taken out of their context, the meaning of a letter can be destroyed. . I stand by the content’s of the letter that he has read.
– Then a solution has been reached ? -
– I have a solution.
Opposition members interjecting.
– Order ! A question has been asked of the Minister for Social Services. If honorable members are not prepared to hear the reply without interruption I shall ask the Prime Minister to proceed with the business of the day.
– To. resume, Mr. Speaker^-
– Order ! I have heard interruptions again. It is a matter now for the Prime Minister. Does the right honorable gentleman wish to proceed?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker.
– I stand by the letter. Its contents are quite consistent with the reply that I gave .to the honorable member for Kingston. As I have said previously, this matter involves major financial problems. I told the House yesterday that the complete removal of the means test now would cost £100,000,000. I have been asked what the cost would be if the pensions proposals of the Leader of the Opposition were put into effect. The proposals that the Leader of the Opposition put forward in his speech on the budget would, if given effect, cost about £120,000,000. In view of the expenditure that this Government has approved for State works, amounting to- nearly £300,000,000 in two years, it has been impossible to remove the means test altogether. We have eased it considerably every year since we have been in office, and have also eased it considerably in the present budget, to the great satisfaction of a tremendous number of people.
– I address to the Minister for Social Services a question concerning the abolition of the means test. In view of the fact that he has said that it is not the intention of the Government to abolish the means test, can h? explain why, in a letter, portion of which was quoted by the Leader of the Opposition, he made the following statement : -
Owing chiefly to the Government’s heavy financial commitments in defence and payments to the States-
That is a new one - it has not been found possible to introduce the new scheme at present. As soon, however, as the economy and international position improve, the Government hopes to be able to proceed with this important reform.
Did the Minister write that letter, and does the statement I have quoted from it mean that he opposes the abolition of the means test, hut that, at some future time, when the economy and international position improve, the Government proposes to abolish it ? If so, that is a “ Kathleen Mavourneen “ attitude.
– The only noteworthy point in the honorable member’s question was contained in the first part of it in which he stated that I had made a statement that the Government did not intend to remove the means test. If he can show me any statement that I actually made to that effect, I shall be pleased to answer him.
– I refer to the statement that the Minister for Social Services made yesterday in reply to a question that criminals and undesirables were drawing unemployment benefit, and that in Sydney approximately 40 per cent, of the persons drawing that benefit had been doing so for periods up to six months or longer. Is the Minister aware that under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act the benefit is automatically terminated in respect of recipients who refuse to accept work that is offered to them through Commonwealth employment offices? Therefore, may we take the Minister’s statement as an admission that the 40 per cent, of persons to whom he referred have had no suitable employment offered to them for periods up to six months or longer ? If so, can he indicate when such persons are likely to be offered employment? Further, does his statement imply that those who have fallen by the way should not have the right to live and be given the opportunity to redeem themselves?
– I cannot comprehend how any intelligent person could misinterpret the very plain reply which I made yesterday to the question of whether the Unemployment and Sickness Benefit Act debarred persons with criminal records from drawing unemployment benefit, or limited the period for which a person could continue to draw the benefit. To that question I replied that no such provisions were contained in the act. I am aware of the fact that people apply to Commonwealth employment offices for jobs. If a known criminal made such an application, the officers, if they did their job, would not recommend him for employment and his card would be forwarded to the Department of Social Services bearing the stamp “ No work available “. I said that approximately 40 per cent, of applicants in Sydney for unemployment benefit had been drawing the benefit for periods of six months or longer, and that obviously that number would include persons with criminal records. The point is that whilst 40 per cent, of recipients of the benefit in Sydney have been drawing it for periods of six months and longer, I am proud to be able to say that in Tasmania, for instance, the corresponding percentage is less than 10 per cent. Consequently, the percentage in respect of recipients of the benefit in Sydney appears to be disproportionate; and the position there is being closely watched.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that, during recent court proceedings in Sydney that arose out of litigation between two newspaper organizations, a witness stated on oath that, during a visit to Canberra, he had secured pre-knowledge of the budget .proposals in respect ot company taxation, and that he had been able to turn that knowledge to the advantage of the interests with which he was associated? If so, have any inquiries been made into that matter, including a check regarding the persons with whom this gentleman was in contact during his visit to Canberra, who would have been in a position to have some knowledge of the budget proposals? If such inquiries have been made, when does the Prime Minister’ expect to be in a position to make a statement to the Parliament about the results of the investigation? If no inquiry has yet been instituted, will the Prime Minister say whether he proposes to take any action in that direction ?
– I heard it said that some such evidence was given in this case. I have heard it said also that the witness, when questioned on the matter, indicated that he had made what he regarded as an intelligent guess. I have known of many intelligent guesses about the contents of budgets. Of all the budgets that I can remember, this was one the secrets of which were most closely and successfully kept.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether there is any process available to honorable members in accordance with the Standing Orders and usages of this House whereby they could ascertain from the Leader of the Opposition whether he has changed his former view of the Government’s budget and financial policy by reason of the fact that the Labour Premier of New South Wales, in his budget speech, praised this Government’s budget and in every way commended it to the country. As we know, these two people lead their own respective sections of the Labour party. I wonder whether, as a matter of interest to this House, there is any way in which we can ascertain whether the right honorable gentleman has changed his view as a result of the statements of his New South Wales Labour colleague.
– The honorable gentleman may direct a question to the Leader of the Opposition if he chooses to do so.
– Then I direct a question to the Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! The question that the honorable gentleman apparently desires to ask the Leader of the Opposition was fairly well stated in the question that he asked me. If the Leader of the Opposition likes to reply to it, he may do so.
– I did not hear it. Will the honorable member repeat the question?
– It was unintelligible.
– Order ! I shall not allow honorable members to cast reflections like that on other honorable members. In this House everybody is presumed to be of equal intelligence.
– Will the Minister for Air say whether the reconstruction work in connexion with the naval and air base on Manus Island has been completed ? Is the base to be maintained at an opera tional standard ? Are reciprocal arrangements operating between the Royal Australian Air Force and the American Air Force at the base?
– The base has not been completed. The Government hasmade plans to complete it by the end of 1954. It is not intended that the baseshall be kept in a condition of complete operational efficiency, but only in such a condition of preparedness that it could, be brought to a state of operational efficiency quickly if, unfortunately, it became necessary to do so. We have noofficial agreement with the American Government in regard to the joint use of Manus Island by the Royal Australian Air Force and the United States Air Force, but we provide the Americans with all the facilities that they require. We welcome them there, and we shall continue to do so.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question that refers to the senseless allegations that are constantly being made in an attempt to blame this Government for the failure of theState Government of New South Wales to proceed with the construction of the Blowering Dam. Since the funds that are made available to all the States, including New South Wales, by this Government and the Australian Loan Council are greater than they have ever been, and greater than any State ever believed to be financially possible, and since no provision has ever been made by the New South Wales Government to allocate the comparatively small sum of money necessary for the preliminary drawings of the dam, which are now three years overdue, is there any way in which the Prime Minister can impress on the Premier of New South Wales the absurdity of the situation when, the snow-fed rivers having been diverted, there is no dam to impound the water and disperse it to the places where it is most urgently required for irrigation purposes?
– I cannot think of any more effective way of impressing this matter on the New South Wales Premier than by sending to him a copy of the honorable member’s question, which seems to me to be accurate in every particular.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to the result of a recent gallup poll which showed that more than 70 per cent, of the Australian people favored the provision of incentive schemes in order to increase efficiency in industry and thereby increase production ? That survey proved that more than 70 per cent, of the community, including the overwhelming majority of Australian workers, favoured such schemes. What action can the Government take to give effect to their desire in that respect ?
– I do not think that there can be any doubt that, as the survey revealed, the overwhelming majority of Australian wage-earners do favour suitable incentive schemes with adequate safeguards against abuses or exploitation. Industrial tribunals are readily available to ensure the provision of such safeguards. The honorable member has asked what action the Government can take to give effect to the desires of Australian workers in that direction. I point out that the Government has at all times indicated that it approves of suitable incentive schemes with adequate safeguards of the kind that I have mentioned. I am glad to say that to the degree that it represents a move forward from the position adopted previously, the official recognition for the provision of wage incentive schemes in the future, which the General Council of the Australian Council of Trades Unions has now extended, is to be welcomed. The most disturbing feature of that decision is that there still remain in the Labour party a hard core of opposition to such schemes which have the support of the overwhelming majority of Australian workers. Indeed, the Australian Workers Union, which is nonCommunist and has consistently abided by industrial arbitration in this country, has had in operation for many years in the cane-fields, shearing sheds and else where, a system of payment by results which has enriched, not only the nation, but also the workers themselves.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service is in connexion with his statement that the Australian Workers Union is in favour of incentive payments. Does the Minister know the difference between an incentive system, a piece-work system and a profit-sharing system, as recognized in the trade union and industrial movements? If so, will he explain the difference?
– Of course, I am aware that the term incentives covers the whole range and variety of systems which have been devised in this country and in other countries to encourage greater effort. I do not think that the essence has altered. What is involved, essentially, is that by having an opportunity to earn a bigger wage a worker is encouraged to put forward a better effort, or a more highly skilled effort. It was in that sense that I said that the Government parties favoured an extension of the system of incentive payments. The Australian worker enjoys a standard of wages, hours and leisure which is remarkably good by comparison with those of other countries and they can be maintained only by maintaining production. They can be improved only if production is progressively increased. It is therefore not only in the national interest, but very much in the interests of the individual also, that he should put forward his best effort. If a suitably devised incentive scheme would give that encouragement, all sections of this Parliament should do what they can to see that this is introduced.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Because of the indifferent quality of the reception in Canberra of broadcasting stations outside the city, and because of the great interest of probably 90 per cent, of Canberra residents in the grand final of Australia’s most crowd-pleasing sport at the Melbourne Cricket Ground tomorrow between Geelong and Collingwood, will the Minister endeavour to have a description of at least some part of the match relayed over one of the local national stations so that residents of the Australian Capital Territory may enjoy some part of Geelong’s undoubted success ?
– I would be delighted if I could arrange such a broadcast for the benefit of the honorable member for Corio and the very small number of people who are interested in Australian Rules football. I believe that the Prime Minister himself claims that it is a football game. I shall ascertain whether it is possible to re-organize the Australian broadcasting system so that the expected triumph of Geelong may be duly described to residents of the Capital City.
Mr. Haylen proceeding to ask a question,
-Order ! The honorable member has introduced the name of a person. Consequently the question must go on the notice-paper.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I suggest that in the circumstances I should be allowed to complete the question.
– I also rise to a point of order. I ask you to allow the honorable member an opportunity to reframe his question.
-Order! Quite recently I decided a similar case in connexion with a question asked by the honorable member for Lawson. I do not intend to make any exception to the mie that I then laid down.
– I rise to order. The standing order that deals with this matter indicates that no question may be asked without notice where the character and conduct of individuals is concerned. The question of the honorable member for Parkes does not concern’ the character or conduct of an individual, and I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, are straining the standing order beyond its intentions.
– Order ! I have taken the same stand ever since I have occupied the chair.
– Then you must have misread the standing order.
– That is a reflection on the Chair, and the honorable member must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– Can the Prime Minister explain why, when speaking of pensions rates, honorable members opposite refer to the £1 as being almost valueless ; but when the Government announces that it has to collect thirteen of those £l’s plus ls. from a person whose income is £600 a year, they consider it a great injustice and burden to the taxpayer? -Mr. MENZIES.- I appreciate the anxiety of the honorable member, but he asks me an. impossibility when he asks me to explain the mind of the Opposition.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House whether his recent visit to the Long Range Weapons Establishment at Woomera was filmed by a representative of the British Broadcasting Corporation? If so, will the film be available for exhibition to the Australian public ?
– No film has been made by a representative of the British Broadcasting Corporation of my recent visit to Woomera, but a disgracefully false story was published by a section of the press, alleging that the Government had permitted a representative of the British Broadcasting Corporation to visit Woomera and photograph the movements of Mr. Duncan Sandys, but that representatives of the Australian press were excluded. As the Prime Minister has already said, that was not so. There was no exclusion of the Australian press. Most generous facilities were provided to them. A news and ‘ information photographer photographed Mr. Sandys’s movements in the village, and it was arranged that the film should be available to the newsreels and “ stills “ to the press of Australia upon application. As far as I know application has not been made by the newspapers and the commercial film interests of Australia have said that they are not interested in exhibiting the film.
– The question that I shall address to the Prime Minister relates to an incident that occurred recently when a number of public servants volunteered to search for some people who were lost. I understand that the Government decided that they should not suffer a loss of salary for the period that they were engaged in the search, but that the Public Service Board enforced the regulations and they have lost pay. Does this indicate that the Public Service Board has become so powerful that the Government is not now in a position to give effect to its desires? Has the Prime Minister personally considered this matter? If not, will he do so, in order that people who are prepared to volunteer in such worthy causes will not be the losers in consequence ?
– I must confess that I am not familiar with what has happened in this instance. I have not myself dealt with the matter, but I shall certainly look into it.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a recent suggestion by a former Commonwealth Solicitor-General and constitutional authority - I do not want to mention his name - that a special conference of State Premiers should be called to discuss legislation for a constitutional convention, and that a subsequent referendum should be held for the purpose of obtaining the authority of the people to revise the Constitution? Does the right honorable gentleman believe that a review of the Constitution has become necessary ? If so, will he support the convening of a conference of State Premiers and Commonwealth representatives as a preliminary step to a revision?
– I quite agree that there should be some review of the Commonwealth Constitution, though on a number of occasions the people of Australia have indicated the contrary opinion. As to whether a special meeting of Premiers should be convened with the idea of having a convention, I am bound to say that I see no practical chance of that being done in the immediate future. It certainly could not be done inside the the next nine months, as far as I can see, for a variety of reasons.
– As chairman, I present the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the following subject : -
Fourth report - Department of National Development :
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 24th September (vide page 668).
Remainder of proposed vote, £745,000.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £2,059,000.
Department of External Affairs
Proposed vote, £1,915,000.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £8,071,000.
Proposed vote, £1,320,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I desire to refer, as shortly as I can, to certain questions which arise from the report of Mr. Balmf ord, the chairman of the Capital Issues Control Board, which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) mentioned a few days ago. I think that the committee should examine the constitutional basis of capital issues control and then give attention to the report in some detail. It seems to me that the time has come when, according to the decision in the Marcus Clark case, the basis of capital issues control has practically disappeared. I do not think that honorable members, or if I am wrong about that, the general public, are aware of the fact that the basis on which control has been continued by the majority decision of the High
Court given twelve months ago is the fact that it is a defence measure and can be supported solely as a defence measure.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– That fact is clear from the minority and majority judgments of the High Court. It is provided in the regulations that consent may be refused only on the basis that defence preparations are involved. I mention that because it seems to me that the situation to-day is radically different from what it was twelve months ago. It is very possible, to say the least, that the whole constitutional basis of the capital issues control no longer exists. There is a good deal of criticism of the administration of the control naturally directed by those whose applications are not successful. When we consider the report of Mr. Balmford, it seems to me that, looking fairly at the two applications, one by the Daily Telegraph and the other by the Sydney Morning Herald - I am not using the full names of the parties concerned - in neither case was an element of defence preparations involved which would have justified the refusal of the applications. Therefore, I cannot complain about the decision of Mr. Balmford in either case. It is true that people may differ on the justice of the decisions, but the matter had to be decided in the light of its effect on defence preparations.
Having said that, I must refer to the administration of these controls. This is one of the most extraordinary documents ever presented to Parliament. It purports to be a day-by-day narrative of events. It has clearly been brought into existence after the events. I do not think that there is anything wrong in that. But the reference to Mr. Chifley was not entered on Friday, the 21st of August, 1949. I presume that Mr. Balmford ha-3 consulted his records and tried to give a consecutive statement of events. It seems to me that he has endeavoured to present this document as a kind of justification of his conduct. I agree with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that the reference to Mr. Chifley was quite irrelevant to the matter before the House. It could only have been introduced because’ of a suggestion that an application could never be granted on a Sunday nor even discussed. I think that the reference to Mr. Chifley shows a lack of care in stating a case which should not characterize the chief administrator of this important body. The comment of the honorable member for East Sydney in this respect was fully justified. Mr.. Balmford has made the following statement : -
He reminded me that he had met me oncebefore and that was on the occasion of Sunday, the 21st of August, 1949, when, at Mr. Chifley^ residence, I saw four people about Courtauld’scapital issues application. On at least twooccasions during that interview I had to break, off and go to see Mr. Chifley in his bedroom, at the Hotel Kurrajong.
That statement is irrelevant to the matter that we are now discussing. It has been, made in order to suggest an analogy with, the present case, but, as I shall show,, there is no analogy. During 1949, Mr. Chifley, exhausted after a week’s work, used to rest in bed on .Sunday morning; and continue to do some of the enormous-‘ volume of work that flowed in. upon him.. Courtaulds Limited were a great undertaking which was proposing to set up im Australia, and being an overseas corporation it would be proper for the responsibleMinister to tell his delegate, the actuary,, to see Courtauld’s representative on a? Sunday if Sunday was the only day on which that representative could cometo Canberra. There is nothing wrong inthat action and the relevance .to this transaction does not exist. It surprises me that such a statement should be included in this report. It shows a lack’ of responsibility because it offers a kind! of justification that was not asked for.. It was completely wrong to include it..
The comments that the honorable member for East Sydney made yesterday did’ not warrant the scathing personal abuse and misrepresentation in which thePrime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indulged. No charge of corruption was made by the honorable member for East Sydney against Mr. Balmford. Is criticism m this chamber to be stifled on the thesis that what is said is built up and elevated” into a charge of corruption, and the declaration is then made, “ Unless you formally make a charge of corruption, I shall not do anything about it”. Is: that the view of the Government? I do- not think that it is the view of the Treasurer, and I shall make one or two suggestions to him about the matter before I complete my remarks. Meanwhile, I warn the Government that criticism cannot be disposed of in that way. The honorable member for East Sydney will not be intimidated by that kind of argument. I do not consider that the references by the Prime Minister to previous inquiries were accurate, fair or full. I remember the occasion to which the Prime Minister referred last night. The right honorable gentleman also spoke of a smear campaign. Who has been the victim of a smear campaign? The honorable member for East Sydney has been the victim of one of the most ferocious and filthy campaigns in the history of parliamentary life, but he emerged from it completely vindicated. I mention this matter only briefly, because it is off the track. The track that should be followed leads to the administration of the Capital Issues Board. I say, at the outset, that this control must come to an end shortly. When I make that statement, I am dealing with capital issues control, not as an economic measure, but as a war measure. Can we say that it is now necessary for the defence of this country? We do not get full reports about the operations of the Capital Issues Board, because secrecy naturally shrouds that authority in many respects, but my colleagues have told me of many complaints about the rejection of applications to the board by small business people, whilst other applications have been granted.
The transaction with the Capital Issues Board in Canberra was done on a Sunday. When I make that statement, I am not referring to the earlier transaction. Why has that earlier transaction been dragged into this debate? Why is reference made to the approach of the Daily Telegraph in the matter? It is completely irrelevant. It shows, certainly, the method of administration in a particular case; but the real transaction is the transaction of the Sun. Again, T mention the newspaper rather than the company. What are the circumstances? The Sun wished to issue more capital, and a transaction was proposed. The Daily Telegraph was a competitor for the controlling interest in the Sun. I think that is a fair statement of the position, although I have not seen the documents. I asked the Treasurer to make them available to me, because I want to see the evidence in the case. I have only read the newspaper reports of the litigation, particularly the evidence of Mr. Irish, but the Treasurer has not made the documents available to me.
However, the Sun proposed to enlarge its capital, and bring in the owners of the Sydney Morning Herald as the new shareholder in the newspaper. I understand that the new shareholder was to have substantial control of the Sun. Then the rival newspaper offered to pay 15s., 20s., or even 25s. for the shares in the Sun, if consent from the Capital Issues Board was not obtained. I understand that to be the position. A meeting was held, I understand, on the Friday or Saturday. It was realized that the share market would be affected on the following Monday. Shareholders would have been interested, and the price of the shares would probably have risen. That appears from Mr. Balmford’s report, because Mr. Irish says - I am not giving his exact words - “ Unless you deal with the matter on the Sunday it may be necessary to suspend dealings in the Sun shares “. Therefore, from their viewpoint, it was necessary, or at any rate highly desirable, to have the matter concluded on the Sunday.
This was not done simply because the Capital Issues Board was extending its operations to Sunday. I do not believe that to be so,, or that the board does this kind of work regularly on a Sunday. It was the special nature of the transaction that attracted, and I cannot see that in itself there is anything wrong in that. But the purpose of it was clear. It was to get the transaction completed before the Monday. I have not seen the details of the evidence, but I believe that a meeting of the directorate took place practically at midnight on the Sunday night, so that finality ‘could be reached. Then the matter was followed by litigation, and the judge said that he would grant an injunction against the directors of the Sun, but not against the Sydney Morning Herald. Why? It is perfectly clear that the judge must have been of the opinion that a prima facie case existed that the directors of the Sun did not pay sufficient attention to “ the interests of their shareholders. That could be the only basis of such an injunction. The directors of the Sun were not attentive to the interests of their shareholders. The Sydney Morning Herald was in a different position. It had no duty to the shareholders of the Sun. It asked for the additional capital without evidence of any lacie of good faith, or whatever- the Equity phrase is. Therefore, the injunction was not continued. Nobody would have known about this application but for the law case. That is perfectly clear. Mr. Irish, in Hie course of his evidence - which I think is very important - dealt with the matter of company taxation to which the honorable member for East Sydney referred this morning. Let me read what Mr. Balmford says about that in his report - and I accept this because I believe it to be undoubted. Mr. Balmford says -
So far as I can recall the words “ company taxation” were never mentioned.
What is he referring to? He is referring t.o the evidence of Mr. Irish in the cas;!, but Mr. Irish never said that Mr, Balmford was the person who gave him information about the budget. In fact, he did not say that it was on that visit to Canberra that he had gleaned that information. Nevertheless, it is a serious matter that budget information should be available. I repeat Mr. Balmford’3 words -
So far as I can recall, the words “ company taxation “ were never mentioned. We had mi discussion about the budget, and in any cape T had no idea what was in the budget.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period of fifteen minutes forthwith, and I thank the committee for its courtesy in permitting me to do so. I say first that the honorable member for East Sydney did not make any charge of corruption and no such charge should be put into his mouth. Neither I nor the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has made a charge of corruption. Nevertheless, it appears to me that all this bustle and hurry on a Sunday was not in keeping with the dignity of a government department. I do not think a senior officer of any government department should do what Mr. Balmford did on this occasion. He has told us that he went around picking up people at hotels. One is inclined to be all the more critical of that conduct, because apparently there was no justification for saying that the application should not have been granted. The department was brought into ridicule by what happened on this occasion. The trouble would probably not have arisen but for the desire to transact the business on a Sunday. Mr. Balmford should not have granted the application on the Sunday, but should have dealt with it in the ordinary course. Had he done so, the stock exchange would have been the master of any speculation in shares pending a decision on the application. That would have been the normal way to do it. The trouble was caused by visits to Canberra of representatives of rival newspapers. Each was watching the other, -and the departmental officials actually brought the security service in to protect them. If it were not so serious it would be comic. The whole thing is simply ridiculous. In a public matter like this, involving shareholders, if the application was considered on a Sunday, that should have been announced, not by Mr. Balmford, but by the responsible Minister, the Treasurer. According to Mr. Balmford’s report the Treasurer was not even informed of it.
– I was not in Canberra.
– The Treasurer should have been informed of it. He should have been told by his officers of what was happening. The Treasurer could then have made a statement, that, in view of the circumstances, the Capital Issues Board had decided to authorize the increase of capital. As the matter affected shareholders, that decision should have been announced publicly. It should not have been a fact accomplished in a newspaper battle. It should have been a proper, ordinary routine matter of departmental business.
– The Treasurer has never made announcements about capital issues and transfers.
– No, because there has never been a case like this before.- The Treasurer should have been in touch with the matter and should have been informed of all moves.
– The Capital Issues Board should have been informed, too.
– Yes, why was it not brought into the matter? It would have granted the application. Is the board simply brought into these matters after the event? It is the administration of the regulations that creates uneasiness. In my view, there should be an investigation to determine first of all -whether capital issues control is necessary. I do not think that constitutional power to exercise such control exists. At any rate, if it does exist, it can be exercised constitutionally only in rare cases of specific kinds that are related to defence. I do not suppose such cases are likely to arise again. The Stock Exchange transactions of shareholders were not a matter for consideration by Mr. Balmford. He would have granted the application in the normal course on the Monday or the Tuesday, and, in the meantime, the share market would have been controlled by those who can prevent any manipulation of the Stock Exchange in such cases.
I turn now to a matter that I consider to be more important. I have referred already to a passage in the evidence given by Mr. Irish in court. I cannot complete what should be said about that evidence because of the absence of a precise transcript. The Prime Minister said this morning that Mr. Irish had qualified his evidence in some way, but, as I have read the reports, Mr. Irish said, not on the occasion that we have been discussing, but at Canberra on some occasion well before the budget was presented, that he was sure that there would be a 2s. in the £1 reduction of company taxation and that three directors of his company had worked out the deal on that footing. That is how I interpret the evidence. This is more important than the other issue.
– They also worked out the saving that could be effected as a result of the tax reduction.
– I am not sure of the details.
I ask the Treasurer now to examine the evidence and trace the facts. He should not let the matter remain in doubt, -but should arrange for an investigation to be conducted by his officers in order to ascertain from Mr. Irish the source of his information. The premature release of the information does not mean necessarily that there was corruption. It may have been a case of a breach of duty. There may have been some leakage of budget information. Certainly it is a fact that, on the afternoon of budget day, the Melbourne Herald published detail after detail of the budget. That night the honorable member for Melbourne and I, as we followed the Treasurer’s budget speech, ticked off the points that had been forecast in the afternoon editions of the Melbourne Herald, and we found that a high percentage of its statements was correct, though not its prediction in relation to company taxation. I need not elaborate on that. If information of this kind was released prematurely, then somebody has been guilty of a breach of duty and it is a matter for the Government to investigate and explain. The Government alone is responsible for clearing up this matter. The duty of the Opposition is only to call attention to it and to criticize those who are responsible. That is what we are doing, and we will not be prevented from being critical simply because there may be an explanation. If we are not critical, when everybody in the business world is concerned about the matter, wo fail in our duty. The honorable member for East Sydney, when he referred to this subject last night, did not reach this point in his speech because of the limitation of time. I regret that he was attacked on other and personal grounds because he raised the issue.
I conclude by summarizing my views. I think that the action that was taken on a Sunday was not of a regular kind.
– The same sort cf thing was done by a Labour Prime Minister.
– I do not think tha.t the right honorable gentleman was in the chamber when I referred to that allegation. I dealt with it adequately, and- I shall not repeat my statement now. I say again that I do not think that capital issues business should have been transacted on a Sunday. I think that there was no ground in law, under the Constitution or the regulations, for rejecting the applications. I think that the Treasurer should have known about them. Indeed,’ he learned about them after the events, according to Dr. Wilson and Mr. Balmford. I think that it is quite improper to bring Mr. Chifley’s name into the matter, and that to do so shows a disregard of the proprieties.
– It shows that it was customary.
– It does nothing of the kind.
– That was a precedent.
– Finally, I should like the Treasurer to look into this matter. Security and investigation officers apparently have been trying to prevent one newspaper from finding out what the other newspapers were doing, and perhaps vice versa. It seems to me an extraordinary thing to bring security investigation officers into the matter.
– The security investigation officers are continually investigating and reporting on such matters.
– I know there is some kind of a melodrama going on, with one newspaper attacking another. The crux of my remarks concerns the sworn evidence of Mr. Irish in the. court. The substance of it was that he was of the opinion that there would be this reduction of company taxation which would affect his client, that the directors of the company concerned in the transaction were in Canberra on this occasion, and that he worked out with them how the reduction would affect the company. That matter should be inquired into by the Commonwealth investigation officers and the result of their inquiries made known to the House. I also think that the debate on the statement of the Treasurer should be resumed in the House, rather than in this committee, when the House is armed with a report as to what Mr. Irish says. He was not cross-examined up to the final point; he was not asked who gave him the information. That question should be cleared up. The Treasurer must know who it was and be aware of its importance. The Government cannot allow the matter to rest as it is. If budget information of that kind goes out to a few people, infinitely great harm may result. That has been proved on numerous occasions on the other side of the world, particularly in Great Britain. Therefore, I again ask the Treasurer to do what I suggested to him the other day, by way of a question without notice. That is, to see that the evidence is present, and that the appropriate body, which I understand is the Commonwealth investigation service, ascertain from Mr. Irish the details of his information, when he obtained it, and from whom he obtained it, and in that way endeavour to trace the source of the leakage, if leakage it was. In my opinion such an inquiry is a thousand times more important than are the efforts of the Government to stifle criticism in this Parliament by saying that it is first necessary to allege corruption. There is no evidence of corruption. I believe that Mr. Balmford is an honorable public servant, although I do not like the way in which some of these matters have been dealt with in his report, such as dragging in Mr. Chifley’s name. That is completely wrong. Probably nobody appreciates the truth of that statement more than does the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) .
This budget leakage has nothing to do with Mr. Balmford and his report, except that the Mr. Irish who came to see him about this matter is the Mr. Irish who, under cross-examination, stated that he obtained certain information and sufficiently relied upon it to bring it to the notice of his board of directors. I think he said that two or three of the’ directors at the meeting asked in order to decide whether or not they would go ahead with . this transaction, what saving the reduction of company tax would mean to his client. That was long before the budget was presented to the Parliament. That is the criticism I offer, and I adhere to it. Nothing can gainsay the truth of my statements. They are fair comment and absolutely true.
– It is remarkable that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) sat silently on the Opposition front bench last night when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) answered the charges, if they were charges, made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Although the right honorable gentleman had had in his possession for some time the report on this transaction made by Mr. Balmford, he sat stiffly in his place aud, without a murmur, although he was challenged to ‘do or say something, allowed the honorable member for East Sydney to take it - and he did take it. But now, having slept on the matter and tried to think of some means by which the honorable member for East Sydney can be extricated from a dilemma, he has drawn a red herring across the trail and attempted to change the line of inquiry. He has asked why the honoured name of the late Mr. Chifley has been referred to. For days last week, the honorable member for East Sydney directed a number of questions to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about the transaction of business by a government office on a Sunday, as though there was something sinister in the fact that a public servant had dealt with a public matter of an urgent nature on a Sunday. The word “ Sunday “ was repeated time and again by the honorable member, as though Mr. Balmford had done something completely corrupt and wrong. Therefore, Mr. Balmford, in defending himself, made it quite clear that what he had done was not unusual under either this Government or its predecessor. He referred to an occasion, giving the time and date, when the previous Treasurer, the late Mr. Chifley, did exactly the same thing. Therefore, it is clear that the Leader of the Opposition has talked about bringing Mr. Chifley into this matter only to divert attention from the real issue. One of the charges made was that business was transacted’ on a Sunday, and the charge was answered by pointing to a precedent’ that had been established. If every honorable member who was approached by a con- stituent on a Sunday and asked to deal with an urgent matter said, “ I am sorry, old man, but I do not do these things on the Sabbath “, many people would suffer great inconvenience. It is to the credit of Mr. Balmford that he sacrificed some of his leisure time, because that is what it amounted to, to try to do a public service.
Let me deal with the question whether he should have issued the consent. A lot of sinister insinuations have been made about him. The honorable member for East Sydney has asked, “Why did he alter the date? Why was a secretary brought specially from .Sydney?” The tone of voice in which the questions were asked suggested that Mr. Balmford was a party to a conspiracy by one newspaper organization against another.
– I remember that Jock Garden brought his own paper into a Minister’s office.
– The Government parties subscribed to his defence fund.
– Order! This cross-fire must cease.
- Mr. Garden not only brought his own paper into a Minister’s office but also signed it.
– He is a friend of the Liberal party.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must obey the Chair.
– In conformity with his usual practice, the honorable member for East Sydney made suggestions and insinuations but not direct charges. It is usual for him to make insinuations which cannot be nailed down but which leave a smear on the character of the person against whom they are directed. In this instance, he has indulged in a smear campaign against a. highly placed and honoured servant. Last night, the Prime Minister made it quite clear that Mr. Balmford really could not refuse to consent to either applications because, as far as the Capital Issues Board was concerned, neither had anything to do with defence. I point out that consent was given to both newspapers concerned. There was no favouritism. Nobody was placed at a disadvantage. Mr. Balmford only did hia duty. As I have already said, this was a formal matter. There may be something to be said in favour of the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that the time has come to review the operations of the Capital Issues Board, but, as shave floatations might conflict with the defence requirements of the country, it is still necessary to make a formal examination of all major proposals. I believe that when only small sums are involved no permit is required, but the Capital Issues Board still examines proposals that involve very large sums, although, to a large degree, its functions are only formal.
It has been insinuated that because the chairman of the Capital Issues Board rang somebody on the telephone or drove some people to their hotel he did something that was sinister. On examination, accusations of that kind fall to the ground. If the Leader of the Opposition really believed what he said this morning, he would have jumped to his feet last night and came to the rescue of the honorable member for East Sydney when that honorable member was under direct attack. However, he preferred to sleep on the matter overnight. Probably his action this morning was prompted by the honorable member for East Sydney, who said “ For goodness sake, try to pull me out of the mess into which I have got myself “.
– What about Mr. Irish and the budget?
– As everybody is aware, there is always tremendous speculation about the contents of a budget. One newspaper says one thing and another paper says something else. If enough suggestions are made, one of them must take the tote dividend, so to speak.
– Mr. Irish struck the jackpot.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is indulging in his usual practice of interruption. I ask for the protection of the Chair.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney and other honorable members on my left to refrain from interrupting.
– Almost everybody in Australia speculates about budget proposals. Recently, many people decided not to buy motor cars, furniture, wireless sets and other things until the budget had been presented, because they expected that substantial reductions of excise duty and sales tax would be made. For a few weeks before the presentation of the budget, business transactions were influenced by guesses about the budget proposals. Mr. Irish came to Canberra, a place which was seething with all kinds of rumours and speculations about the budget. Pressmen, members of Parliament and other people were saying that they had the good oil and knew, as it were, what would win . the next race. Over a period, one might win’ or lose. A person could form a judgment or make a guess from information he had picked up around the city from various people who had engaged in speculation. That is exactly what happened. Is it suggested that Mr. Irish saw a particular individual? The honorable member for East Sydney implied that some Minister must have divulged the information. He endeavoured to use the process of elimination. He asked questions. He wanted to know the names of Ministers who were in Canberra on a particular Sunday. He thought that if he could narrow the prospects down to a single person, he would nail the culprit. It happened that the Prime Minister was the only Minister in Canberra on that day. I think that the right honorable gentleman last night gave an unqualified answer to the honorable member for East Sydney that satisfied this committee and every person in Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that there is nothing exceptional in the actions of the Opposition in this matter. Certainly there is nothing exceptional in them so far as they apply to the honorable member for East Sydney. The Leader of the Opposition has claimed that the criticism is fair. He said that it was the duty of the Opposition to inquire into these matters. Is it the duty of the Opposition to smear the characters of persons who are outside this Parliament? Hardly one honorable member on the Opposition side would endorse that point of view. Almost without exception, honorable members on both sides of the chamber believe that the privileges they enjoy should not be directed against persons who cannot answer them. Except in isolated cases, they have a scrupulous regard for their responsibilities. The honorable member for East Sydney is an exception, as everybody knows. He has no regard for the character of anybody.
The Leader of the Opposition has advanced a belated defence twelve hours after the Prime Minister spoke in the committee last night. The Leader of the Opposition could have had the next call then. I sympathize with him. All honorable members know the difficulty of his task. He has to try to extract the honorable member for East Sydney from the mess into which he has got himself. I believe that the statements of the Prime Minister last night on this mutter will be remembered for a long time by honorable members and by the people of Australia.
– I remind honorable members that Mr. Irish gave sworn evidence in a court in New South Wales about his visit to Canberra and the approval by the Capital Issues Board of the raising of a sum of money exceeding £600,000. In cross-examination, Mr. Irish said that he had had discussions about the budget in Canberra. He did not say that anybody told him anything, but, according to his own words, from what he knew, he was able to calculate the amount of tax that his company would have to pay. He had an idea first that there would be a reduction of company taxation. Then, by some extraordinary process of divination, he was able to ascertain that the tax reduction on the first £5,000 of taxable income would be ls. in the £1 and that the reduction on income above £5,000 would be 2s. So he made his calculations accordingly. He calculated so satisfactorily that he was able to record a saving in the balancesheet of his company. If all that happened fortuitously and adventitiously, Mr. Irish was a very lucky man. It was the best-educated guess that has ever come to my notice. It meant a fortune for some people.
That is briefly the effect of the sworn evidence given by Mr. Irish, and I say to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that the position cannot be left there. The right honorable gentleman cannot say, in effect, “ Mr. Irish has given sworn evidence and that is the end of it “. The people outside the Parliament want more than a mere assertion that so far as the Government knows, no Minister or official associated with the budget gave any information to anybody. The Opposition is not . charging any Minister or any official with having divulged the information, but the fact remains that only Ministers and certain officials could have had that information and Mr. Irish, by his sworn evidence, has imputed dishonour to somebody. The Government should say that Mr. Irish is not telling the truth. The matter should not be left where it is.
– It was a fatal admission.
– As the learned and honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has reminded me, the judge who presided at the hearing said that it was a fatal admission. The Opposition claims that the circumstances surrounding the action of Mr. Balmford in granting the approval of the Capita] Issues Board, first to Consolidated Press Limited and later to John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited, for the issue of capital to purchase a Sydney evening newspaper, was somewhat extraordinary and very mystifying. I deny that anybody has the right to say to Mr. Balmford or to any public servant, “ You come in on Sunday afternoon and do a job for me. If you do not, the Australian and New Zealand Bank Limited, which holds a £1,000,000 debenture from the Sun newspaper, may put a receiver in the Sun office on Monday and the stock exchange of Sydney will suspend dealings .in the shares of Associated Newspapers Limited “. Nobody, whether representative of big or small interests, has the right to go to a public servant and demand an immediate and favorable decision upon an application of that kind so that something will not happen on a stock exchange. That is not sufficient reason for immediate action by the Capital Issues Board. I have a warm respect for and a personal friendship with Mr. Balmford, and I have not tried to harm him. I paid him a tribute in this chamber only recently. But there is something wrong with the Government set-up that obliges Mr. Balmford to make such decisions on a Sunday. The Capital Issues Board could be abolished if that sort of thing is to happen.
– It should have been wiped out in 1949 on that argument.
– It was suspended in 1950 by this Government, which ordered the board to give automatic approval to everything that came before it. Then, because honorable members were told that another world war might break out soon, the board was re-established and reinforced under a special act of Parliament, the Defence Preparations Act 1951. A regulation setting up the board was held to be valid by the High Court of Australia as an exercise of the defence power of the Commonwealth. It cannot be argued that the grant of approval to newspapers to increase their capital, whether it bo to one newspaper or another, or to any number of newspapers, has anything to do with the defence power. We should have to strain our imaginations to believe that a newspaper war is a war in the generally accepted meaning of the term. I do not suppose that the Government or Mr. Balmford would place such a construction on the word “ war “ as it relates . to a conflict between newspapers. However, we say that the Government ought to make the position demonstrably clear, so that nobody else will pester any public servant, in Canberra or elsewhere, to perform such a duty on a Sunday afternoon or outside normal working hours.
– Why should they not work outside normal working hours when necessary ?
– Why should they not ! The honorable member is not available at week-ends.
– Yes he is.
– He will need to be when he wants to win votes for himself in the coming general election. A public servant should not be available in the way it is suggested he should be. What we should like to know from the Government is how many applications have been received by the Capital Issues Board in, say, the last month, how many have been granted, and what has been the total amount of capital involved? No revelations that would harm anybody would be involved in the provision of that information. That kind of information is given by the taxation authorities.
– The honorable gentleman should put the question on the notice-paper.
– The Treasurer should have given the information immediately the matter was raised. I invited him to come clean on the adjournment of the House and tell us everything about it.
– The whole thing: occurred during one of the few week-ends I was not in Canberra.
– There is the story of Dr. Wilson’s meeting with Mr. Balmford. It was legitimate for Mr. Balmford to report to the head of his department, but surely the head of the department should have told his ministerial head about the matter almost immediately and not have allowed him to wait until he read in the press some weeks later that an extraordinary incident had happened, and that extraordinary approval had been given for the issue of an extraordinarily large amount of capital, the issue of which must affect the inflationary position. It was certainly a matter connected with theeconomy of the country, so why was not, the Treasurer told about it? He should have been told.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) tried to burlesque last night’s proceedings. He alleged that the honorable member for East Sydney had noregard for anybody’s character. I say that that was a most- insulting and objectionable remark. The honorable member for East Sydney is a very hard hitter and a hard fighter. He takes as much as he gives, and he does not squeal. ThePrime Minister had no right last night, under cover of an attempt to extricate his Government from a difficult situation, to make a bitter and vulgar attack on the honorable member for East Sydney, and completely misrepresent the position in regard to the royal commission of 1943’- by saying that the royal commissioner was given power to inquire into a number of matters when, as a matter of fact, the whole question before the royal commissioner revolved round the absence of a particular file and nothing else. The honorable member for East Sydney was advised by his counsel not to go into the witness-box before the commission. If he had disregarded the advice of his counsel, his counsel would have walked out on him. Everybody engaged in legal cases is advised by counsel. The Treasurer himself refused to appear last week in this capital issues case when it was before the court in New South Wales.
– That is not so.
– I am not making that statement offensively.
– I know, but it is not true. I was not called upon to attend the court. Mr. Balmford was subpoenaed, and I submitted an affidavit.
– Order ! The Treasurer may deal with that matter in a personal explanation only, and not by way of interjection.
– The Treasurer refused to allow the documents of his department to be produced, and he refused to allow his officer to go into the box. He pleaded privilege. Are we to infer from that that there was something wrong and dishonest in this matter, as the Prime Minister did last night with reference to the failure of the honorable member for East Sydney to go into the witness box at the royal commission ? We do not improperly make any such accusations or implications, and neither should the Prime Minister have done so last night. He should not have aspersed the character of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– The honorable gentleman is indulging in more smear !
– Some of the greatest adepts at smear tactics in the Parliament are seated to the right of the Chair. They are continually attacking the honesty of the Labour party inside and outside this Parliament. It would be better for the Parliament if such attacks and that kind of tactics were dropped. The Prime Minister himself should set an example in that connexion.
I think that the Treasurer might very well consider the question of the future of the Capital Issues Board, and I ask him now, without notice, to give me the information for which I have asked about the recent activities of the board. I also ask him to have a further look at what Mr. Irish said. This matter is not just an argument between members of the Parliament, and I ask him, in order to allay public uneasiness, to provide that information. Public uneasiness has naturally arisen as a result of the sworn evidence of a man, given either to make himself look more important as a financial adviser to, or, a director of, a newspaper, or for some other purpose, or because he was saying something be believed to be the truth, or perhaps because he wanted to embarrass some of his opponents in this deal. He did not say that he had been told certain things, but he implied that he had received information which enabled his company to get a benefit. No company should be able to get a benefit in such a way. It is idle for the Postmaster-General to say that people can come to Canberra, talk to pressmen and members of the Parliament, and find out what is going on. In order to get the right information it is necessary to talk to the right people. Mr. Irish let it be believed that, somehow or other, he got some information which enabled him. to make a calculation which would have been impossible if he had not been told the exact details of the budget. I am not saying whether he got the information or not, but I am saying we should be told more about the whole matter. I have no doubt that the Treasurer is upset by the matter, and I sympathize with him, but, in the interests of the Parliament, I think that the position ought to be cleaned up.
.- While this discussion on capital issues may be interesting and enlivening, I am rather concerned to get back to discussion of the matters actually contained in the budget. It seems to me that the committee is spending a great deal of the time available for the debate on the Estimates discussing a matter which, though it may be important, could well be discussed at some other time. I refer the committee to the vote, under the Prime Minister’s Department, for the Commonwealth Office of Education. I believe that the fact that the Commonwealth finances this activity has led in large measure to the considerable misunderstanding that exists in the States regarding the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States in connexion with education. I know that other honorable members are in a similar position to me, and that parents and citizens organizations and other bodies constantly write to them asking that the Australian Government make more money available for education.
-i.br. - Why does it not? That is a fair question.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) should be aware of the constitutional provisions regarding education. If he is not, then I am afraid I have not the time at my disposal now to educate him in them, but I am prepared to take him in hand later and tackle an apparently impossible task. The Constitution provides that education is the responsibility of the States. It is true that the Commonwealth collects taxes on behalf .of the States in consequence of an agreement reached between the States and the Commonwealth. Under an agreed formula the Commonwealth reimburses the ‘States with the amount of taxes collected on their behalf, and also gives them considerable additional sums. It is the responsibility of the States to allocate among various services the money available to them. They do so in accordance with their own ideas of priority. Yet the proposition is repeatedly advanced that the Commonwealth should make more money for education available to the States. Such assertions are based on an entirely erroneous premise. The States have accused the Commonwealth of seeking to interfere in their administration in relation to matters other than education. It is certain that if the Commonwealth told the States how much of their revenue was to be expended on education and how much on other things, the States would immediately protest on the ground that the allocation of the money was not the Commonwealth’s affair. The fact that the Commonwealth maintains the Commonwealth Office of Education may be a contributing factor to the present misunderstanding of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities in regard to education. I do not know exactly what the functions of the Commonwealth Office of Education are. Unfortunately, owing to the way in which the Estimates are framed, honorable members must undertake a careful investigation in order to ascertain the total provision proposed to be made in respect of the Government’s activities in the education field. I am aware that expenditure is incurred in the circulation of books and publications of all kinds; and I shall have something further to say about that aspect later. However, whilst, under the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department, we are now being asked to approve of an expenditure of £151,500 for education, we should not deceive ourselves that that is the total sum proposed to be provided under the heading of education for the current financial year. The sum that I have mentioned includes an amount in respect of the University Commission. Unfortunately, no indication is given of the amount that is to be provided in respect of that body. But elsewhere in the Estimates we shall be asked to provide a further sum of £1,033,000 for the Commonwealth Office of Education. This provision includes amounts in respect of scholarships, and assistance to the University of Sydney and also provision for the teaching of foreign languages. In addition to the two amounts that I have mentioned, the Estimates contain an item of £325,000 in respect of running expenses of the National University and also a special appropriation of the same amount for the same institution. Thus, we are being asked to make provision for a total expenditure of £1,834,500 in the education field. However, there is a still further item of £975,000 in respect of capital works expenditure for educational purposes, making a grand total under the heading of education of £2,809,500.
Thus, for the current financial year the committee is asked to approve provision of expenditure in the education field of nearly £3,000,000, at a time when the States urgently require additional financial assistance for their own educational purposes. Probably £1,000,000 of that amount will be expended on buildings, but what has the Australian Government to show for the expenditure of the balance of £2,000,000 of the total proposed provision for education? Excepting the provision for scholarships and the provision of a lot of books and publications which are circulated with the object of raising the standard of education, I frankly confess that I am unable to see any results for such expenditure. Consequently, I make two suggestions to the Government. The first of them is that it should endeavour to define the functions of the Commonwealth Office of Education in such a way as will remove existing misconceptions that exist in the States about its activities in the field of education. Secondly, the Government should detail to the committee the activities of the Commonwealth Office of Education. I am aware of some of those activities, and I do not think that some of them can be justified. I am, in outlook, rather materialistic. I am concerned about the fact that we should be making provision for so much expenditure, both in money and energy, in respect of what might be called cultural uplift. Whilst it is all very nice to circularize a lot of books and publications, a ton of culture will not add an ounce to a baby’s weight or provide an additional home, a stick of furniture, or one article of food for infants.
– What about horticulture?
– I know all about the value of horticulture. At the moment, I am speaking of other kinds of culture. I should like the Government to assure me that the proposed expenditure of £2,000,000 in respect of the Commonwealth Office of Education is justified, having regard to the need to make provision for more fundamental requirements of our education system. I believe that an arrangement should be made in connexion with the Estimates so that honorable members will be able readily to see the total amounts involved in each item. For instance, the total vote for the Department of External Affairs is shown as £1,915,000. Anybody looking at the Estimates would believe that the Department of External Affairs is costing us about £1,915,000 a year. But that belief would be totally wrong. If honorable members go through the Estimates they will find other items appearing under other headings which relate to costs concerned with maintaining our relationships with other countries, and conducting our foreign affairs. Those costs amount to considerably more than £1,915,000. I have endeavoured to discover what our connexion with the United Nations is costing us, and at some later stage I hope to have an opportunity to question whether our participation in that organization is worth while. However, 1 had to go right through the Estimates to discover the cost of our relationship with foreign countries.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mir. WARD (East Sydney) [11.43].- I return-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has already spoken once in the debate on this group of the Estimates, and many other honorable members have not had any opportunity to speak. I suggest that the precedent that has been set by Mr. Speaker should be followed. That is the practice of calling honorable members who have not spoken at all in a debate, whatever side of the House they may be on.
– I also rise to order. Some honorable members have bees given an opportunity to speak during the budget debate and some have not had that opportunity. Nor have some of the latter honorable members had an opportunity to speak on the Estimates. I suggest that when calling honorable members ‘ that matter should also be taken into consideration.
– I have considered in advance the matters put to me ‘by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), but I propose to follow the rule of calling speakers alternatively from opposite sides of the House. After all, the Opposition voted against the “ guillotine “ and it must have a fair share of the debate.
– I return to the matter of the Capital Issues Board, and I shall not be deterred by personal abuse from stating my views in regard to this matter.
Before I proceed to develop the argument from where I left off last night, I desire to reply to one or two of the personal attacks that have been made upon my record and character. I have been directly interested in two royal commissions in this country.’ The first, to which reference has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), concerned allegations regarding a missing government file that I made in this Parliament, and elsewhere, some years ago. The terms of reference of that royal commission were so restricted that they confined the proceedings of the commission to a consideration of one matter only. That was whether a file was missing. None of the material matters in my allegations regarding the defence strategy decided upon by a previous government of the same political colour as the present Government, were included within the terms of reference. Consequently, those matters could not be examined. It is quite true that on the advice of my counsel, who is now Mr. Justice Barry, of the Victorian Supreme Court, I did not enter the witness-box. The reason why I was not permitted to enter the witness-box was that Mr. Barry contended that the matter of parliamentary privilege was involved, and that it was a far bigger issue than the consideration of the allegations that I had made. Mr. Barry said that parliamentary privilege did not belong to any individual member, but belonged to the Parliament and the community. He said that if parliamentary privilege should be destroyed or weakened, the position of Labour members who desired to expose corruption in this country would become very difficult, because they would expose themselves to expensive litigation.
The other royal commission was presided over by Mr. Justice Ligertwood, a judge who had been appointed by a non-Labour government. If honorable members take the trouble to read his report they will be compelled to admit that I was more completely exonerated than has any person in this country who has been subjected to examination by a royal commission. He said, “I see no reason to doubt one word of the evidence given by the honorable member for East Sydney “.
Mr. Hulme interjecting,
– I suggest that the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) would have a great deal of difficulty in obtaining such a recommendation from such a learned judge. The matter of the Capital Issues Board has not yet been satisfactorily cleared up, and I now desire to refer to the case of Mr. Irish. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and the Government, must recognize the seriousness of any foreknowledge of the contents of the budget. They must realize the use that could be made of any such knowledge. Mr. Irish made a sworn statement that he was able to get more than just the opportunity to make a shrewd guess, and was able to base his calculations on material that he had obtained during his visit to Canberra. I ask the Government whether Mr. Irish has yet been interrogated by any member of the security service. Surely, if he has given this evidence in court, then, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) said, that was a very fatal admission. Apparently the investigation service has not attempted to interrogate him about whom he interviewed when he was in Canberra, and from whom he obtained the information upon which his allegedly shrewd calculations was based. I remind honorable members that it was such a “shrewd calculation “ that he actually knew the income limits upon which the highest and the lowest rates of taxation would apply. Therefore, I. suggest that there is something more to this matter than merely a shrewd calculation.
I know that information can sometimes be picked up as a result of indiscretion, and not as a result of deliberate action by a member of the Government. For instance, I recall an incident, that has been referred to in this chamber, which does show the possible avenues that are available in Canberra for the obtaining of information. Just before the outbreak of the war with Japan, a big party was held at the Hotel Canberra. I have statements from members of the staff to the effect that certain members of the then Government, and one gentleman who is a member of this Government, were put to bed in a drunken state by Japanese who were at the party.
Tie CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member will withdraw that reflection on honorable members. We are not here to cast aspersions on the character of honorable members.
– Very well, I withdraw it. Now, Mr. Balmford indicated, in his statement, that to the 31st August the Treasurer had no knowledge of what was taking place in regard to these transactions. Mr. Balmford decided that he would submit to the Treasurer a report setting out exactly what had happened. That was on the 31st August. But on the 16th September, when I raised the matter in the Parliament for the first time, the Treasurer assured the House that he had- only learned of this matter on that night, and then only from the daily press. I made a note of his words at the time as he uttered them. According to my note, the right honorable gentleman said -
Through reading a newspaper report that waa brought to my attention only to-night, I understand that Mr. Balmford was requested to take some action in connexion with an application for approval of a capital issue sought under the Capital .Issues Regulations.
So that on the 16th September the Treasurer had no knowledge of this matter other than what he had gleaned from the daily press. What had happened to Mr. Balmford’s report? According to the document that was placed before the Parliament, Mr. Balmford stated that following a consultation that he had with D.r. Wilson he decided to submit the report. Why had not that report reached the Treasurer before the 16th September? Quite a long period of time had elapsed, and I should like to be informed why the report had not been received by the right honorable gentleman. As I said before, there is something rather peculiar about the matter. At least the Treasurer is under an obligation to explain to the House whether Mr. Balmford had actually submitted the report, whether it had been received by the right honorable gentleman and whether it had been considered.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) spoke about Sunday transactions and tried to make out that it was quite a regular thing for governmental business to be done on a Sunday. He also referred to the activities of the former Government, and to the work that mem bers themselves do during the week-ends. That is an entirely different matter. If, during week-ends, Ministers or other members of Parliament see fit to interview their constituents or other people who want to place before them details of matters that require attention, that is not unusual or improper. But does any honorable member suggest that it is not unusual for a government department to open up on a Sunday in order to issue a document? That is the point. I know of no other instance of a government department having been opened up by the man in charge on a Sunday for the issuance of a document. That is vastly different from members of Parliament discussing with their constituents details of matters that require attention. Reference was made in Mr. Balmford’s report to Courtaulds (Australia) Limited. In that instance the representatives of that company desired only to place before government officials a matter for consideration. They did not ask for the issuance of a consent on a Sunday, as was done in this instance. Do honorable members opposite suggest that the same consideration would have been extended to poor old John Citizen who had some business to transact with a government department? Do they suggest that if he could not obtain leave from his work on a Monday, and wanted the issuance of a document on a Sunday, the head of a government department would be available to open up the department and issue a document to him ? Do supporters of the Government think that if John Citizen rang up the head of a department about midnight to discuss a matter, John Citizen would not be subjected to very grave abuse for disturbing the official in the middle of the night? As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has correctly stated, it is of no use for the Government to try to brush this matter aside, saying “Let the members of the Opposition make specific charges and then we will set up a royal commission or have some other investigation of these matters “. The respon sibility rests on the Government. The Opposition does not claim that all of the facts in this particular matter available to the Government are known to it, but why does not the Government take the Parliament into its confidence ? Why does it not produce to the Parliament the files containing the facts ? We could then judge whether there had been any improper conduct. I accept what has been said in relation to Mr. Balmford. Although I criticize the fact that he opened up a government department on a Sunday to issue a document, neither I nor any other member of the Opposition has suggested any corruption on the part of Mr. Balmford. What I have said is that the method by which this consent was obtained was irregular and improper. I repeat that charge. It was irregular and improper Aor this business to be transacted in the way that it was transacted. Therefore, I consider that there is an obligation on the Government to institute an inquiry. The security service should interrogate Mr, Irish in order to find out whom he met in Canberra, with whom he discussed the matter, and from whom he obtained his information.
Supporters of the Government have referred to smear campaigns. It is only a week or so ago that the “ McCarthy “ of this Parliament made a statement, which was published by the press under hig headlines, suggesting that the Labour party had been connected with some questionable transactions. Honorable members opposite only become concerned about’ smear campaigns when they themselves, or big business, are affected. I make it clear that they may keep up their personal attacks on me for as long as they like. I am not afraid of their attacks. I assure this Parliament - and I believe the general public recognizes this fact - that I do not regard any of those who have attacked me as my personal f riends.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As the proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast, the people of Australia have been treated during the last hour and a half to a discussion that has had no relevance whatever to the matters to which we are supposed to be directing our attention. They must be disgusted, because after all is said and done it must be obvious from what has taken place, both in this chamber and in another place, during the past week, that there has been an attempt by the Opposition to engage in a smear campaign without making a specific charge against any person. The challenge of the Opposition was answered very effectively last night by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). To-day, although the smear campaign has been continued, a charge has not been made against any person. Indeed, honorable members opposite have specifically stated that they make no charge against Mr. Balmford or any one else, yet they continue to discuss the matter. It is notorious that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) uses these tactics to engage in a smear campaign. There are two aspects of the matter. The first relates to the issue by Mr. Balmford, on a Sunday, of a capital issues consent, and the second to an alleged leakage of certain budget information. I contend that what Mr. Balmford did was entirely his own concern, and was of his own volition. It had nothing to do with the Government. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did not know anything about the matter, and did not need to know anything about it.- Honorable members opposite have referred to evidence that was given by Mr. Irish. That had no bearing whatever upon the transaction involving the acquisition of shares in a newspaper company. Whether or not there was to be a reduction of taxation, and whether or not Mr. Irish knew about it, that had nothing at all to do with the transaction, which was based upon different considerations altogether. Therefore those charges fall. to the ground. I do not know whether any honorable member has read his Honour’s judgment in the equity case, particularly the portion of it that dealt with the alleged impropriety of Mr. Balmford’s action. His Honour said that there was nothing unreasonable about it and that no inference could be drawn from it. The case was dismissed in specific terms by the judge. Honorable members opposite are endeavouring to make a mountain out of a mole-hill in an attempt to convince the people that there is something sinister in this matter. There is really nothing in it that concerns the people. No budget leakage took place. Everybody was guessing about the contents of the budget. Only idiots would have failed to guess that it would contain generous tax remissions, because this Government is known to be a low taxation government. As the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other members of the Government had openly stated that taxes would be reduced, one did not need to be very clever to deduce that handsome remissions of taxation would be included in the budget. The fact that the Government’s intentions were correctly deduced by certain newspapers and individuals has no bearing on the case with which the Opposition is endeavouring to link it. Why continue to stress this matter and waste the time of this Parliament discussing it? The public has heard enough about it. The answer to the Opposition’s case, given first by the Treasurer, who presented a complete report on the matter by Mr. Balmford, and, secondly, by the Prime Minister last night, who challenged Opposition members to make specific charges, and promised that if they did so he would institute an appropriate inquiry, completely disposes of the whole matter. To continue to debate it in the way it has been debated is merely to drag down the prestige of this Parliament. The people hear too much wrangling and arguing about matters that are of no interest to them. It is time that we gave this matter away. This discussion has been kept alive by the Opposition only for the purpose of endeavouring to smear certain individuals. It is completely wrong to suggest that the decision in relation to this matter was prompted by an ulterior motive for which the Government is or may have been responsible.
I turn now to quite a different matter. I, and many other .people, have been concerned for many years about the fact that a large number of public servants attached to the central administration of the various departments are still located in Melbourne, notwithstanding that the seat of government has been established in Canberra for very many years. At the time of federation the seat of government was located in Melbourne and Commonwealth departments were established there. When, in 1927, the Parliament was moved to Canberra, the government of the day and successive governments had a duty to transfer Commonwealth departments to the new capital city as quickly as possible in order to ensure maximum efficiency and lower administrative costs. Inquiries reveal the fact that approximately 7,000 public servants are still attached to central administrations located in Melbourne. Early action should be taken to facilitate their transfer to Canberra. I know that certain buildings are being erected in Canberra to accommodate some of them. Everything should be done to expedite the completion of the buildings and the transfer of the officers concerned. The continued location of the central administra’tions of certain departments in Melbourne is very adversely affecting the commercial community in that city, where office accommodation is at a premium partly because of the continued occupation of large buildings by the Commonwealth. A similar state of affairs exists in almost all of the major cities of the Commonwealth. I know that certain action is now being taken in Melbourne to overcome the problem in that city. However, I do not want to deal with that aspect of the matter. Administrations of the past have failed to root out many officers and! remove them from Melbourne to their proper place in Canberra. The removal of all central office staffs to Canberra may not result in a substantial saving of accommodation costs because of the high cost of building construction but it should) effect a major saving in administrativecosts. The present system has brought about a lopsided set-up in other capital cities. It has had the effect of concentrating major financial influence in Melbourne to a degree that is disproportionate to the proper place of that city in the Australian economy. I have no desire to comment upon the growth of Melbourne which may be attributable to that fact. I merely say that Melbourne hasbecome the financial centre of the Commonwealth, not because of its importance but because certain central administrations have been allowed to remain inthat city. They should be removed toCanberra, not because I am greatly enamoured of Canberra - I take it as I find it - but because they should b® located here. As the years roll on, perhaps in the next 50 or 100 years, Canberra may take its place as the capital city of Australia. I do not want honorable members to gain the impression that I believe that this Government or, indeed, its immediate predecessor, has been at fault in this matter. I realize that great difficulties have had to be overcome in the building of offices and houses in this city, particularly since 1939 ; but we have now reached the stage when building operations here can be accelerated. The Public Service Board should be prompted to direct that the transference of these officers to Canberra shall take place at the earliest possible moment. Their removal would result in considerable saving in administrative costs.
– A saving would also be made by the Melbourne City Council.
– That is so. As we all know, municipal rates are not levied on properties occupied by the Commonwealth. The loss of rates by local governing bodies throughout Australia that results from the continued occupation of properties by Commonwealth departments is growing to enormous proportions. Governments are prone to build or rent property in the heart of the major cities when their needs could be equally as well met by less valuable properties located on the outskirts of the cities. Public servants, because of the power that they possess, seem to be able to secure the best buildings in the best positions in the cities. In my opinion, they should not do that. First consideration should be given to the development of these cities and the needs of private, commercial and industrial organizations. The growth of this country does not depend upon the public servant or the Public Service Board or the situation of their offices. It depends on the activity and progress of private commercial and industrial interests.
– Is the honorable member ref erring to resumptions of property ?
– I am referring to buildings that the Commonwealth has acquired by means of resumption, rental, or any other method. It seems that it has come to be accepted that governments can take possession of buildings in the major cities. I do not wish to discuss a certain matter which is now under consideration, but in every city governments have taken buildings in the best positions and have frustrated the development of the cities.
– And they have not occupied the buildings for five years.
– Yes. This is happening in Sydney, in Melbourne, in Brisbane, and in Perth. It is time that we changed our outlook and gave first consideration to the commercial and industrial growth of the cities. All governments seem to have considered that their needs should take precedence over those of private enterprise. That should not be so. No doubt it would dislocate the domestic affairs of public servants to leave Melbourne. I can imagine their objecting to being transferred to Canberra.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In the few brief moments that remain for the consideration on the departments under review, may I say to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that irrespective of how the Government might attempt to explain the happenings in relation to the Capital Issues Board the simple fact remains that to the minds of the ordinary people whose contact with bureaucrats has taught them that they must arrive at their office at an appointed hour if they wish to be seen, it is obvious that in this case a government department and the Government has been dragged at the heels of big business. Of what national concern is it that a newspaper pirate .should outdo another newspaper pirate? If this had been a matter of importance to the development of the country one could understand the chairman of the board dealing with the people concerned on a Sunday and being rung up in the middle of the night. It is obvious from the facts admitted by the Government that when big business wants something that merely concerns its own private war, the Government can open a department and drag public officers out of bed in the middle of the night and run them around all the week-end without any difficulty. Every honorable member knows that if he, as a member of Parliament, were to attempt to do the same thing with the head of a department he would immediately be told that the proper place to see that head was at his office and that the appropriate time to see him was during the fixed office hours. So no protest by the Government can overcome the impression in the minds of the people that these newspaper nabobs can open departments as they like and drag the whole machinery of the Government into their own private quarrels. That is an accusation that the Treasurer must answer. The people are entitled to an answer to it and they are entitled to an assurance that in the future there will be equality before the Capital Issues Board as well as equality before the law.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament, and the proposed votes for the Prime Minister’s Department, the Department of External Affairs, the Department of the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department, has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £3,510,000.
Department of Works
Proposed vote, £2,274,000.
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed vote, £10,858,000.
Department of Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £3,370,000.
Department of Health
Proposed vote, £1,281,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to devote some time to the discussion of the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs. I wish particularly to draw attention to a matter which, whilst of local importance, will have a great effect on the whole of Australia because it will affect every industry. During the war a big chemical works was established at Ballarat for the manufacture of ammonium sulphate. The factory is owned by the Australian Government but is operated by contractors, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. Ammonium sulphateis a fertilizer of great importance to the agricultural industry. Honorable members may recall that this industry suffered considerably last year. Such a large chemical works must work at full pressure or close down. This great factory had to close down from time to time last year. Only maintenance staff was retained. At Christmas time numerous adjustments had to be made in the employment of staff, many of whom worked for only a part of the Christmas period. At other times of the year the staff remained completely out of work. This was a serious position for those engaged in this great industry. As a result of action taken by the Government, the factory was enabled to open again at full pressure and all its workers were re-employed.
– I rise to order. The item being discussed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) is hot covered by the vote for the Department of Trade and Customs. The matter relates to defence production and, as Minister for Defence Production, I shall be happy to inform the honorable member on this subject when the estimates for that department are being dealt with.
– As soon as I have developed my subject, the Minister for Defence Production and Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) will see that it is relevant to the Department of Trade and Customs. As a result of the imposition of import controls, this industry was made more secure and its output continued to assist the people of Australia. But the Government is now relinquishing its import controls as improved supplies of foreign currency become available. As a result, about 4,000 tons of ammonium sulphate is about to be brought into this country and this great factory is facing another period of broken operating time which will result in waste of plant, diminshed efficiency and other difficulties. This trouble is similar to that which began in November of 1951. Men are being put out of work. This matter is most important, because it raises the whole subject of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I make special reference to the employment situation, because it is particularly bad in the Ballarat district. I have not obtained official figures from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), but my own estimate of the position is that-
– Order ! The honorable member should raise this matter when the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service is under consideration next Wednesday,
– According to my estimate, approximately 750 men are seeking work in Ballarat at the present time.
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss that matter now.
– The Department of Trade and Customs regulates the importation of ammonium sulphate, and I point out that unless the importation of this commodity is prohibited, unemployment in Ballarat will substantially increase. This matter is so urgent that I have raised it here at the first opportunity. The Government must act immediately to prohibit the importation of ammonium sulphate. Indeed, all importations of goods and materials similar to those made in Australia should be carefully reviewed. The Government may reply, that the Tariff Board is a proper authority to make recommendations on the control of imports. I agree that the board can do a great deal in this matter, but I point out that it is not in such a position to take effective action as is the Department of Trade and Customs. One big omission from the functions of the Tariff Board is that it is not required to take account, of the usefulness of an industry for defence purposes. I emphasize that the manufacture of ammonium sulphate at Ballarat is of vital importance to our defence effort. I shall not be permitted to discuss the defence aspect at length at the present time, because the Minister for Defence Production has suggested that the matter he deferred until the estimates for the defence services are under consideration next Thursday. It is most unfortunate that the Tariff Board is not empowered to consider the importance of certain industries to our defence effort. These great industries were established during wartime, and are still owned by the Commonwealth. Action should be taken immediately to ensure that the manufacture of ammonium sulphate will not be interrupted, and that the importation of this commodity shall be prohibited so that the factory at Ballarat may continue its valuable operations.
– Has the factory dismissed any of its employees?
– The unions have told me that their members face unemployment. My purpose in raising the matter now is to obtain action before men lose their jobs. Such a course is infinitely better than waiting until unemployment occurs, particularly about Christmas time. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade should be thoroughly reviewed. Of what use is it to Australia if other countries pick and choose what they will huy from us, and demand that we purchase from them whatever they like to sell to us? Meanwhile, I urge the Government to ensure the continuance in operation of the factory at Ballarat, and prevent the dismissal of any of its employees.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) has raised this matter by a subterfuge. He wished to speak about the ammonium sulphate factory at Ballarat, and he was well aware that such a matter should be raised when the Estimates for the defence services are under consideration next week. However, he endeavoured to relate his remarks to the possible importation of 4,000 tons of ammonium sulphate, and claimed that such a matter was within the functions of the Department of Trade and Customs, the Estimates for which are now under consideration. I have had the various factories which produce ammonium sulphate for defence purposes investigated and I have taken steps, together with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), to ensure that no action shall be taken that will materially affect employment in them. As the Minister responsible for defence production, I shall not allow the efficiency of a factory under my control to be destroyed, unless it has reached the point at which it is without hope. When the honorable member for Ballarat was speaking, I asked him whether any of the employees of the factory at Ballarat had been dismissed. That interjection is indicative of the interest that I take in this matter, because if any dismissals have occurred, I shall ascertain why my instruction has not been carried out.
Mr. Ward intersecting,
– If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will just close his face for a few moments, I shall be able to see the honorable member for Ballarat behind him.
– Dear me, Her Majesty will be impressed!
– The honorable member for East Sydney carries on a smear campaign in this chamber and causes upsets, and then endeavours to obstruct me when I am giving a most reasonable answer to a matter raised urgently by one of his colleagues. The honorable member for East Sydney has no sense of proportion. The honorable member for Ballarat has rightly asked for some information about employment at a certain factory in Ballarat. The honorable member for East Sydney, in his customary clowning way, seeks to prevent me from furnishing that information. I propose to ignore him in future.
I ask the honorable member for Ballarat to advise me at any time if employees are dismissed from the factory, and I shall be happy to take appropriate action. The importation of supplies of ammonium sulphate is being closely watched by the Department of Trade and Customs, particularly in view of the possible effect of imports on one- of our vital defence industries. If I find that importation of unduly large quantities of this commodity is likely to affect Australian factories which make ammonium sulphate, I shall certainly raise the matter personally with the Minister for Trade and Customs.
.- A glance at the Estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation shows that, apart from the defence departments and the Postmaster-General’s Department, it is the largest spender of revenue. The proposed vote of the Department of Civil Aviation amounts to £10,850,000 this year and, in addition, the sum of £5,600,000 is provided under the heading of Capital Works and Services. There fore, a total of £16,450,000 will be available to the department this financial year. Admittedly, the department will receive a return of £4,060,000 from the payment of airmail freights, and the repayment by airlines operators of approximately £700,000 for the use of aerodromes and aviation facilities, but that still leaves an expenditure of £12,000,000, or 50 per cent, of the entire reimbursements paid to the various airlines operators for air travel and freight.
I concede that the department is doing an excellent job throughout Australia, but I consider there are ways and means by which this expenditure can be reduced. I propose, in the brief time at my disposal, to mention some of those ways, and I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) will examine them. No doubt, he has already examined some of them, but I hope that he will give them further consideration with a view to ascertaining whether some improvements can be made. First I should like to know whether it is necessary for us to try to develop all-weather aerodromes at small inland centres throughout the Commonwealth. Already there has been a substantial expenditure on such aerodromes, some of which probably have a daily passenger tally of ten or twenty at the most. For instance, more than £100,000 has been expended in converting the Warrnambool aerodrome to an all-weather field. In the Riverina electorate, also, about £100,000 has been expended on the Narrandera aerodrome for the same purpose. The gain from that expenditure will only be that the Narrandera airport will be open for about an extra ten days a year. In my view the aerodrome was already quite ample for all landings by reasonably sized aircraft on all but about ten days of the year. In fact, this year it would have been open all the time because it has been a dry year. Surely it would have been a simple matter for aircraft that were unable to land at Narrandera because of adverse weather to go on to Wagga Wagga or Griffith. From either of those aerodromes the passengers could have been taken to Narrandera by service car. Probably in next year’s Estimates, provision will be made for the conversion of Deniliquin airport to an all-weather aerodrome, even although it is quite satisfactory at present. I do not think that this expenditure is warranted.
The second matter with which I shall deal is the retention by the department of unused aerodromes which could well be disposed of and the proceeds from their sale returned to the Commonwealth. The maintenance of these aerodromes is very expensive. I do not know what the position is throughout Australia generally, but in my own electorate, there is an aerodrome which, apart from an aerial pageant held recently, has not had one passenger aircraft on it for more than a year. The aerial pageant could easily have been held on a nearby paddock. The value of that aerodrome may well he more than £25,000, and there must be many others like it throughout Australia. I hope that the Minister will examine this matter with a view to selling airfields that have outlived their usefulness.
I ask also whether everything possible has been done to lease portions of aerodromes which are not required by the department. I know that the Canberra aerodrome is actually under the control of the Department of Air and not the Department of Civil Aviation, but I invite honorable members when they next visit this airport to look at the vast area of land it occupies compared with the small area actually in use. Apart from some light aircraft, few planes use anything but the runways. Surely it would be perfectly simple to lease the adjacent grasslands for the growing of crops or for grazing. Probably 200 acres could be released for this purpose. There are 209 departmental aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth as well as 262 licensed aerodromes. The total area of those landing fields approaches 500,000 acres, and a substantial proportion of that land could be leased for agricultural and pastoral purposes. I realize that if the land were used for grazing purposes fences would have to be erected, but they need not interfere with the use of the aerodrome. I am pleased to see that the department has already done this at Corowa, but I hope the practice will be more widespread because it could yield substantial revenue each year. Normally on departmental aerodromes there are two runways running at right angles and probably out of a total area of about 700 acres, only 100 acres is actually in use. Only a few light aircraft use areas other than the runways.
Is it necessary for the Department of Civil Aviation to stick rigidly to the standard International Civil Aviation Organization specifications for aerodromes in this country? It is true that we are a signatory to the International Civil Aviation Organizations agreement relating to commercial airline operations which establishes rigid standards for aerodromes on international air routes ; but there is no necessity for us to adhere to those standards throughout the Commonwealth. Naturally one does not want to do anything that might interfere with safety standards, but the general opinion of airline operators in this country is that those standards are very much higher than they need be. At my home town of Albury, for instance, there is a runway 2,700 feet long. Regularly DC3 aircraft land there. Admittedly, they do not always take off with a full load, but before that aerodrome can be licensed for the operation of those aircraft its runway must be increased to 5,700 feet. I believe that to be excessive. Airline operators, too, consider it to be excessive, and surely an airline operator would be the last person to advocate anything that might endanger the safety of the public. No airline company can afford to have crashes because whenever an air accident occurs the number of passengers travelling by air diminishes. I believe, however, that if standards could be altered without interfering with safety as I am sure they could be, substantial savings could be made throughout the country.
Are Ave in this country expending an excessive amount of money on navigational aids’ I am not in a position to answer that question, nor is any one else in this chamber because we have no airline pilots here. One point that occurs to me, however, is that the Estimates now before us provide the sum of £330,000 for the establishment of electricity plants at various aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth. Auxiliary lighting plants are no doubt necessary in the capital cities so that in the event of a black-out an alternative lighting system will be available, but I do not think such installations are necessary at small inland aerodromes. For instance, if there is a black-out at Canberra - there has not been one for a long time - aircraft could either be told to keep circling the aerodrome until the lights were restored, or they could be instructed to go on to Sydney. Most aircraft would be carrying enough petrol to reach an alternative airport. There would be no great disadvantage in having to circle over Canberra pending the restoration of lighting. Surely this provision in the Estimates is excessive when we consider the benefit that is to be obtained from it.
I should like to know from the Minister what is being done about the fitting of the McLaren castoring undercarriage to aircraft. The use of these undercarriages makes only one runway necessary. The system has been given exhaustive tests and has been approved by the Department of Civil Aviation. Of course, airline operators will not go to the expense of fitting the new undercarriages while aerodromes are provided with three runways ; but if an agreement could be reached under which the Department of Civil Aviation would agree to bear some of the expense, the amount of land necessary foi landing strips and the cost of laying runways could be greatly reduced. The castoring undercarriage has been found to be satisfactory in the United States of America. Ten years ago in England 1 had an opportunity to fly in an aircraft fitted with a castoring undercarriage. They could easily be adopted in this country, but an agreement between the Department of Civil Aviation and the airline operators would be necessary. 1 ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to give consideration to the matters I have raised. Although I concede that the department does an excellent job in Australia, I believe that some of its expenditure is excessive. I think it is time we examined the .department’s activities thoroughly to see whether any savings can be effected.
– I wish to comment 11DOn the provision for the Electoral Branch and the Meteorological Branch in the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior. My interest in these instrumentalities is directed to the administrative rather than the physical aspect of their activities. The amounts shown against these two divisions do not cover the entire estimated expenditure. The proposed vote for the Electoral Branch this year is £480,000. It is a well-known fact that the Electoral Branch incurs considerable expenditure that is not debited against it. I refer to postage on electoral matter, large quantities of which are sent out each year, particularly in the years when general elections are held. The cost of postage in an election year is approximately £100,000. These amounts have not been charged against the Electoral Branch for many years. As a member of this Parliament and a representative of the people, I like to be presented in the Estimates with a complete picture of the activities and the expenditure of every governmental instrumentality. The Postal Department is charged with the postal expenses of the Electoral Branch. I urge upon the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) the desirability of altering the system of presenting accounts so that the Estimates each year will present a complete picture of the branch’s expenses. There are many reasons why such a change is desirable. People who are interested in statistics and accounting endeavour to obtain full details of the costs of any project in which they are interested. They also endeavour to place responsibility for expenditure on those who incur the expenditure. The Electoral Branch expends on postage large sums which are not recorded in its accounts. The public and members of this Parliament consequently know nothing about them. Under this system, there must be a tendency for the branch not to exercise initiative in trying to reduce the number, or the weight, of the documents that it posts to electors. That is an important aspect of this item. Every government, authority should be held fully responsible for all costs of its activities. The administrative staff of the Electoral Branch has a duty to ensure that its work ?hall be clone as efficiently and with as little cost to the Government and the people as is possible. When costs are charged to another department, there is always a danger of expenditure being allowed to reach excessive proportions. Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– In the Estimates of a recent year, I noticed that expenditure of more than £1,000,000 had been incurred in the sending of meteorological information, but no reference ‘to that amount could be found in the votes of the Department of the. Interior, although the sending of the information is the function of the Meteorological Branch of that department. Instead, the expenditure was shown in the Estimates of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. As I pointed out in relation to the Electoral Branch, it is bad administration for one department to disseminate information throughout the Commonwealth and beyond it, and for another department to do the accounting in respect of those services. I am of the opinion that those who expend money should account for its expenditure. Money which is expended on behalf of the Department of the Interior should not be charged, in the Estimates, against the Postmaster-General’s Department. I understand that this practice is of long standing, and I make no charge against the present Government. However, it seems to me to be a matter which requires examination as soon as possible.
The members of this Parliament should be able to find out, without having to turn up a lot of documents, just what ser. vices of this kind are costing the people of Australia. We should not have to go from one document to another, pick up fragments of information here and there, piece them together, and, as likely as not, arrive at the wrong conclusion. It is the task of the various departments to see that we know what the various government services and instrumentalities are costing the people. I know, of course, that for various reasons, it is sometimes difficult for the departments to do as I have suggested. I know, also, that to do so might give rise to difficulties in connexion with the treasury regulations. However, it is the function of this Parliament to concern itself, not so much with that aspect of the matter, as with ensuring that the accounts reach the Parliament in a readable form, and that when the members of the Parliament read them they are able to see what is being done on behalf of the people. It is also concerned to see that the costing is done correctly.
A service which costs the country approximately £1,250,000 a year is by no means a small one, and it seems to me that there may be room for economy. If the department which is responsible for sending out this meteorological information is not charged with the cost of doing so, it is not obliged to review the expenditure each time the Estimates are being prepared, and may fail to inquire whether a more efficient service could be instituted, at perhaps less cost. If another department is debited with the cost of the work involved, the department which performs the service can hardly be expected to worry itself about the cost. If the department incurring the expenditure is charged directly with the cost of the services I suggest that it will be much more keen to look for ways to reduce costs.
Lest it be thought that I propose to confine my remarks to the Department of the Interior, I turn now to the proposed votes of the Department of Works. I admit that this department has had a somewhat peculiar career during the last fifteen to twenty years. During the war, of course, it was most important that there should be a large central organization which could undertake major defence and other works. However, I have noticed that, of late, certain departments have become dissatisfied with the progress which the department has made in connexion with their construction works. In my opinion, the functions of the Department of Works should be reviewed. I . do not suggest that each department should have its own building organization, for instance, but I do suggest that the big technical departments, such as the Postmaster-General’s Department, could handle much of their own construction work. In Victoria, the Russellstreet telephone exchange, which was commenced before 1948, has. not yet been completed. The need for that exchange has existed for approximately ten years, yet it is still not ready to meet the requirements of the public. Consequently, the public is suffering because of the delay, and the Postmaster-General’s Department is still obliged to pay rent for other premises in order to house staff. A similar set of circumstances applies to Essendon aerodrome, which has not been completed because of differences of opinion between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works regarding the facilities that should be installed. In this connexion, I am not criticizing this Government or any other government. I merely say that these old costing techniques and procedures should be examined by the Government in the hope that the people might thus receive, not only a greater measure of service, but also more efficient service.
.- I wish to refer to war service land settlement, which is under the administration of the Department of the Interior. There appeal’s to be considerable -confusion in the minds of ex-servicemen in Queensland about the facts associated with the abandonment of the war service land settlement scheme in that State. The exservicemen are anxious to know why war service land settlement in Queensland has been allowed to lag behind that in other States. Why has the scheme been an abject failure in Queensland from its inception ? Why was an announcement made by the Queensland Minister for Lands that the scheme had been dropped there? Why, only yesterday or the day before, did the Premier of Queensland contradict the statement of the Minister for Lands and say that the scheme had not been dropped but was in abeyance? Ex-servicemen in Queensland do not want the scheme to be abandoned. They are most anxious that the Queensland Government shall continue the scheme for twelve months, even if only at the present rate of progress so that, before the next meeting of the Australian Loan Council is held and a decision binding on the Commonwealth is made in connexion with the allocation of loan funds, consideration can be given to making Queensland an agent State for the purposes of the scheme. Unfortunately, the confusion lias been accentuated by a report that Sir Raymond Huish, the president of the returned servicemen’s league in Queensland, told a meeting of returned service men last week that he held the Commonwealth entirely to blame for the failure of the scheme in Queensland. To be quite honest, I doubt that Sir Raymond made such a statement. I know him well, and I know he is not the kind of man who makes irresponsible statements. However, if he did make the statement, I think it was completely irresponsible, because I am certain he is familiar with all the facts associated with the scheme.
Let us analyse the progress of the scheme since its inception, and compare the record of the Queensland Government with that of the governments of other States. I suggest that, from the inception of the scheme, at no time has the Queensland Government been particularly interested in making a success of it. In support of that statement, I invite the attention of the committee to a table which shows the percentage of loan funds appropriated for the purposes of war service land settlement by Queensland and the other principal States between 1946-47 and 1952-53. It is as follows :-
Those figures show that in relation to war service land settlement the record of the Queensland Government, compared with that of the other principal States, is disgraceful. The figures indicate only too clearly that the Queensland Government has failed completely to discharge its responsibilities to ex-servicemen in that State and has failed to recognize the contribution which Queensland, as a primary producing State, should make to the economy of this country.
Let us examine the propositions that were put to the Queensland Government by the Chifley Government at the inception of the scheme. The Chifley Government stated that the Commonwealth was prepared to pay 100 per cent, of the cost of acquiring and developing properties, to accept 100 per cent, of the financial responsibility in regard to advances to settlers, to pay 100 per cent, of the expenses connected with remission of rent and interest charges during the assistance period, 100 per cent, of the losses on advances to settlers, 100 per cent, of the cost of training applicants, 100 per cent, of living allowances for trainees, 100 per cent, of other costs arising directly from settlement, 100 per cent, of the Commonwealth’s administrative costs and 60 per cent, of the write-off of excess of cost over valuation. If the Queensland Government had accepted that offer, it would have become an agent State of the Commonwealth in the administration of the scheme, and would have been responsible only for 40 per cent, of the write-off of excess of cost over valuation and its own administrative costs. The Queensland Government rejected that proposal. It refused to become an agent State and claimed that it should administer its own war service land settlement scheme. The alternative proposal of the Commonwealth was that if Queensland elected to become a principal State, the Commonwealth would pay 50 per cent, of the write-off of excess of cost over valuation, 50 per cent, of the cost of remitting rent and interest charges during the assistance period, 50 per cent, of the losses on advances to settlers, 100 per cent, of the cost of training applicants, 100 per cent, of the living allowances for trainees, 100 per cent, of the living allowances for settlers during the assistance period and 100 per cent, of the Commonwealth’s administrative costs. That was a very fair offer to any State prepared to run its own war service land settlement scheme, yet, even with that degree of assistance, Queensland has failed completely to honour its obligations. In March of this year, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) became very disturbed by the position of the war service land settlement scheme in the principal States. He called a conference of State Ministers administering war service land settlement to discuss the proposition. The Queensland Government’s proposal was that it would continue to be a principal State and make a success of war service land settlement if the Australian Government would give it the same amount of money and assistance as that given to agent States, but allow it to retain complete control over the expenditure of the. money. No responsible Australian Government could possibly agree to such a proposal and no other principal State would agree to Queensland getting such preferential treatment.
The Queensland Government decided to use land settlement of ex-servicemen as a political football. Soon after the representatives of the State had returned to Queensland, the Minister for Lands issued a press statement on the 7th April to the effect that a scheme for war service land settlement involving greater development was in process of accomplishment. The Queensland Government followed that statement by announcing that it would drop war service land settlement because it was not getting enough money from the Australian Government. If the Queensland Government had been sincere, its appropriation of money from the funds available for land settlement of ex-servicemen would have been far greater than it was. Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not want to make a political football of this matter. We want the Queensland Government to keep the scheme going in Queensland for another year and then inform the Australian Government that it is prepared to become an agent State on the same terms as the other agent States. If that were done, development in Queensland would proceed as it has done in Western Australia where approximately £19,000,090 has been spent on land settlement of ex-servicemen since the inception of the scheme, compared with a. paltry £4,500,000 in Queensland. The Queensland Government cannot say with truth that it has not enough money to keep the scheme going for twelve months, because it has spent only about half of the £675,000 that it appropriated for the purpose last year. Therefore, it has between £200,000 and £300,000 at least that could be used to continue the scheme in Queensland. It also has the money that is included in the appropriation from the Loan Council for this year for that purpose.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and to his statement that the Queensland Government has failed completely to fulfil its obligations to ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Lilley and other honorable members from Queensland on the Government side spend most of their time in this chamber attacking the Labour Administration in that State. They would be better advised to give more attention to national affairs. Those honorable members opposite who attacked the Queensland Labour Government have also accused honorable members on this side of the chamber of failing to honour their responsibilities to ex-servicemen. About 75 per cent, of honorable members who support this Government boast of honorable war service in the armed forces, for which I give them credit, but the same Government proposes to give the* ex-servicemen and their dependants a miserable 2s. 6d. a week rise in their pensions.
– Order ! The honorable member knows better than to discuss social services when that matter is not before the committee.
– I was anwering a charge that honorable members on this side of the chamber had not honoured their promises to ex-servicemen and women. In another place in this Parliament, two of Australia’s most distinguished exservicemen were bundled out of positions in the Parliament by the Liberal-Country party coalition Government without regard for the great service that they gave to the nation over a period of many years.
– Order! If the honorable member does not devote his attention to the departments that are under discussion he will resume his seat.
– It is good stuff, Mr. Chairman.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will maintain order during the debate.
– J bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Lilley was speaking of land settlement of ex-servicemen in Queensland, and he referred to statements on the matter that had been made by the president of the Queensland branch of the returned services league. That gentleman put the blame for the condition of the war service land settlement scheme in Queensland upon the Australian Government and its followers. Their treatment of the scheme and of other matters affecting exservicemen has been attacked by the Federal President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Sir George Holland, and the State president of the organization in New South Wales, Mr. Yeo. I repeat that the honorable member for Lilley would use his time to better advantage if he devoted his attention to national matters instead of trying to mislead the Parliament about the alleged incapacity of the Queensland Labour Government, which has no marked shortcomings. The honorable member has been trying to push an old horse that will not gallop.
I direct the attention of honorable members now to the department that is under the control of the absentee Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). Instead of going to a conference in Holland and telling the world what a great medical scheme we have in Australia, the Minister for Health should have stayed at home and explained to honorable members the details of the scheme. Then he should have printed a booklet so that we could ascertain its ramifications. Honorable members do not know or understand the details of the medical scheme. Frauds are taking place in the Department of Health and charges have been heard in police courts involving the issue of free medicine, but the Minister is an absentee. He had six months to go abroad during the parliamentary recess, and he should not have left to a Minister acting for bini, . the responsibility of trying to explain his national health scheme. That is an impossibility for any man who takes over the department that is administered by this Minister for Health. A document dealing with the progress of the national health scheme to which I referred recently in this chamber was printed after it had been read and distributed at a world health conference by the Minister for Health.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. Is it in order for the honorable member, while the estimates of the Department of Health are under discussion, to refer to a booklet that has been printed privately outside the Parliament?
– Order ! If the reference is to the general subject of health I shall allow it. Actually, the discussion is not in order if the expenditure involved does not come under the control of the Department of Health, but I am prepared to be tolerant if the honorable member will be reasonable.
– The document is an official document that has been issued by the Minister for Health. I wish to refer to the printing of the document. Has it been printed by a ‘company of which the Minister for Health is a leading director and a major shareholder?
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The point of order that I raised was that the printing of the pamphlet or booklet to which the honorable member has referred was not paid for by the Department of Health. The cost was met privately and I contend, therefore, that it is not a proper matter for discussion in this debate.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is in order, because the document carries the coat of arms of the Commonwealth and is in the same form as official documents. According to an answer that I obtained from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) after questioning him upon the matter recently in this chamber, the booklet is, to all intents and purposes, a semi-official document, and it should be available for quotation in this debate.
– Order ! I am prepared to be tolerant and the honorable member may discuss the matter so long as he does not overstep the boundaries of the debate unreasonably.
– Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your wisdom. The document has been issued with the compliments of the Minister for Health of the Commonwealth of Australia. It bears the crest of the Parliament and deals with the progress of Australian national health. It contains a report of an official address that was given by the Minister for Health. It was printed for him and the taxpayers are paying for it. For that reason, if for no other, it should be discussed. I repeat that honorable members on this side of the chamber believe that the Minister for Health should be here to explain to the committee in the course of this debate the expenditure that has been incurred in administering the national health scheme. Not even the Minister himself understands the scheme fully. Probably it is only a coincidence, but why did the Minister decide to go abroad just at the time when national health matters were to be discussed in the Parliament? Does it not indicate that he was not capable of giving a suitable explanation of his health scheme to the people and the Parliament?
– Order ! The honorable member will serve no good purpose while he continues to cast reflections upon the Minister for Health. He must devote his attention to health matters.
– I was merely asking why the Minister for Health was not here to explain his health scheme.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) will maintain silence. If he does not cease interjecting, he will not be allowed to remain in the chamber. If honorable members do not remain silent I shall invoke Standing Order 303.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) will apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize, but-
– Order ! There are no buts about it.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member will leave the chamber.
– I shall leave the chamber,but when I return I shall ask that I get some fair treatment.
The honorable member for Wills thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– Yesterday I directed to the Minister for Social Services, who is the Minister acting for the Minister for
Health, a question relating to a statement that the Minister for Health was reported to have made at the world health conference in Holland. The Minister for Social Services said that the Minister for Health would he back next Tuesday and that I should ask him the question on his return. In other words, it is obviously not possible to obtain information about important health matters from the Minister for Social Services. That is why I was indicating the vital necessity of having the Minister for Health himself here in order to answer such important questions.
– The debate on this item of the Estimates should be postponed until the Minister for Health can be present.
– That is an intelligent suggestion. The debate on this item should be postponed until the return of the Minister for Health, if the Minister for .Social Services cannot give us the information that we seek. I read a newspaper report which attributed to the Minister for Health a statement to the World Health Conference that provision is to be inserted in our health legislation to provide for the Government’s health scheme to be binding on the electors for a period of three years. I want to know how that is going to be done, why it is to be done, and why that statement was made by the Minister for Health when he was abroad, while we in this chamber know nothing about the matter. In the printed copy of the speech that the Minister for Health made to the World Health Conference this scheme is held up as the be-all and end-all of medical services anywhere. At page 20 of the document, the Minister for Health is reported to have said to the conference -
I trust I have not wearied you with excessive detail, but it is necessary to show clearly how smooth and harmonious working is obtained from a scheme whose keynote is cooperation.
That statement shows that the document is in itself misleading, because the main thing lacking from the Government’s health scheme is co-operation. I also take strong exception to the Minister’s going abroad and opening a discussion on health and the medical services of this country with an attack, which takes a full page of the printed copy of his speech, on the Australian Labour movement and on the Labour Government. I believe it is necessary for the Minister to be here in person to answer questions that are asked about important health matters, because when we on this side of the chamber endeavour to raise such matters during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) rises with due dignity and moves the closure. I should also like to know further details of certain frauds that are taking place in connexion with the medical service, and certain occurrences in the service that are of vital interest to us all. I am mentioning these matters in order that the committee will know that we are not satisfied with the general administration of the scheme. Whilst I pay due credit to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) for his integrity and competence, the fact remains that he is not in a position to answer questions, such as the one I asked yesterday, about important matters concerning health. I consider that the points I have raised are of importance and should be answered. That is why it is regrettable that the Minister himself is not here. I conclude by again asking the Minister for Social Services to provide an answer to the question which I have asked and to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), if it be possible to do so, that the debate on this item be postponed until such time as the Minister for Health returns to the chamber, in order that we may be sufficiently informed in relation to his capacity to administer the medical service.
– I wish to say a few words regarding the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). His main point appears to be that he does not understand the Government’s health scheme. I point out that even if the honorable member does not understand the scheme, the tuberculosis pensioners understand that they received only £134,000 a year under the previous Government, and are receiving £4,500,000 a year under this Government’s scheme. They understand all about it. The age pensioners understand all about it, too.
– Order ! The Minister may not proceed on that line.
– I am merely replying to the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler.
– I called the honorable member for Grayndler to order for going outside the ambit of the debate.
– The honorable member for Grayndler apparently does not understand the scheme, and I am giving him some information about it. Age pensioners receive free medical treatment and free medicine. At the same time, the hospitals of this country have received funds which have enabled them to extricate themselves from a disastrous financial position and to recover solvency. [ give credit to the Labour Government for having provided under its pharmaceutical benefits scheme free medicine to the value of £149,000; but the fact is that this Government has provided more than £S,000,000 under its pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Persons who have been supplied free of charge with costly biotics, such as aureomycin, know all about the present scheme. If the honorable member for Grayndler does not understand it, 1 can only say that he is in a minority. T am confident if he applied his mind to the subject he would understand it completely.
– The debate on the Estimates provides an opportunity-
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. Is it your intention to continue the previous practice of the Chair of giving, the call alternately to members of the Government parties and members of the Opposition?
– I intend to follow that practice; but in this instance the remarks made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) were unusually brief.
– I protest against your action. Mr. Chairman, in giving the call to a member of the ministerial party immediately after a Minister has spoken. That has not been done before by the Chair.
– I rise to order. I have been a member of the Parliament for many years. When the Chifley Govern ment was in office, Ministers, in the course of the debate on the Estimates, made a practice of replying to each point as it was raised, and thus deliberately curtailed the opportunities of members of the then Opposition to express their views.
– I rise to order. Like the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) I, too, have been a member of the Parliament for many years, and I say that his recollection of the practice that was followed when the Chifley Government was in office is entirely faulty. I cannot recall any occasion in the course of discussion on the Estimates on which the procedure which you propose to adopt, was followed, that is, that after a Minister has spoken the call should be given to a member of the ministerial party instead of, alternately, to a member of the Opposition.
– I assure the Opposition that I shall be as fair as I possibly can in giving the call. However, I have called the honorable member for Macarthur.
– The discussion of the Estimates provides an opportunity to honorable members to ascertain whether the Government is exercising due care and diligence in watching public expenditure. It is common in the atmosphere that exists to-day to take it for granted that all Government expenditure is unduly high and that much of it Ls probably wasteful. When the Parliament reassembled I, like some other honorable members, had formed the opinion that in many respects the Government’s expenditure was too high, and I decided to ascertain the facts in that respect. To my astonishment, I now find that the Government has actually displayed unusual skill and energy in its control of public expenditure. I paid close attention particularly to the Department of Health, the Department of Works and the Department of the Interior, and examined the number of personnel who had been engaged, or whose services had been dispensed with, in those departments. As a result of my investigation I formed the conclusion that the Government has really been most successful in controlling expenditure in those departments. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) referred to the health and medical benefits scheme. The provision proposed to be made during the current financial year in respect of nine items under the National Welfare Fund totals approximately £31,000,000. In respect of our population that expenditure averages approximately £3 10s. a head. If the Australian Labour party had been successful in implementing its health and medical benefits scheme, which, however, that party found would just not work, the cost of that scheme under a Labour government to-day would most probably be as much as that of the British scheme under a socialist government, namely, £8 2s. a head. This Government has been able to reduce the average cost of health and medical benefits to £3 10s. a head of the population because under its scheme at least 10 per cent, of the cost of treatment must be borne by the patient and 40 per cent/ to 50 per cent, of the cost by approved organizations. That is to say, the Government will not pay more than half of the cost. The cost of the New Zealand scheme works out at £5 2s. a head of the population. This Government has saved £40,000,000 as a result of the methods that it has employed in making provision for free medical treatment and free medicine. Under the budget proposals, it has been able to effect reductions of tax on the income of individuals amounting to £39,000,000 for the current financial year. It has been able to make such provision, principally because of the savings that it has effected under its health and medical scheme.
When the Government assumed office the Public Service was indoctrinated with the socialist views and theories of the pink government which preceded it. Up to June, 1951, the Department of the Interior had been resuming properties of all kinds in the cities and in country areas. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) discovered to his astonishment that, as Minister, he was controller of a large number of properties. As soon as he took over the administration of that department he proceeded to return such properties to private enterprise. Recently, I read an article which stated that the Minister was the landlord of tenants in three blocks of flats situated near the naval yards in Sydney.
The Minister promptly disposed of that property. Up to that time, the department was continuing to resume shops and properties of all kinds which, I am glad to say, are now being returned to private ownership. The department acquired a shop situated next door to the post office at Penrith, in my electorate, and for a period of two years that shop remained unoccupied. I understand that it is now to be returned to private enterprise. I discovered that amazing things were being done in the Department of Works. In one town in my electorate that department, on one of the best blocks in the area, erected, on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, four telephone boxes and a shed for the housing of machinery. I was informed officially that the erection of those structures cost £6,000, whereas a private contractor could have done the work for £300 or less, using the best materials and workmanship. Such action on the part of the Department of Works was scandalous. The excessive cost was due to the fact that men were paid penalty rates for working on Saturday afternoons, but instead of remaining of the job, many of them spent much of their time drinking in a hotel in the locality. Two of those employees were discovered in that hotel when they should have been on the job. One of them said that he was going across the road for a saw and when his mate called out to him to bring back a hammer also, the first man relied, “ No, you come and get it yourself “. Local residents were shocked by that scandalous waste of public money, which was due to bad supervision under a Labour government. I am glad to be able to say that that sort of thing has now been stopped, because the thinking of senior public servants has been revolutionized.
I recall an occasion on which I was commissioned by the Government to do a small job with respect to flood and bushfire relief. I interviewed a senior departmental officer in Canberra and told him that although there was a grave shortage of materials, they could be obtained at a pinch. I was staggered when he then asked me if I would set up an organization to obtain the materials. I replied that private enterprise was expert in the buying and distribution of such materials, and were also familiar with railway freights and despatch practices, and that it was unthinkable to set up another government organization to do work which could be done at half the cost by private experts. I mention those facts in order to indicate the state of mind of departmental officers at the time when this Government assumed office. To-day, a complete change has been effected in that respect. Senior departmental officers are displaying a readiness to get rid of things that previously were causing them worry and which involved the expenditure of public money. I congratulate the Government on effecting that change. The number of employees in the five departments now being discussed by the committee has been reduced by 2,000 compared with the number that they employed in June, 1951. Whereas, at that date, the total number of officers in those departments totalled approximately 29,000, that figure has been reduced to 26,771. About 6 per cent, of the men have been dismissed, and yet those departments are still as efficient as they ever were. In 1948, and again in 1949, the Labour Government employed about 20,000 additional men; and because of the way the Chifley Government had educated the heads of government departments, the Public Service continued to grow until June, 1951. Then this Government, which has been charged in some quarters with spending too much public money, found that it could dispense with the services of 15,000 employees. Those persons loft the service between June, 1951 and January 1952. ‘ Now, for reasons outside the control of this Government, the cost to the Government of employing persons has been increasing steadily since 1947. In the financial year 1947-48, the average salary of a permanent government employee was £426 per annum. In 1948-49, it was £461 per annum, in 1949-50, it was. £505 per annum and last financial year the average salary for a permanent government employee was £776 per annum. The latter figure represents an increase of about 80 per cent, of the average salary of 1947-48. Under such conditions, government expenditure must increase. Moreover, it costs a substantial amount of money to service a public servant, because he must have floor space to work on, travelling expenses, pens and ink and,, in many cases, technical apparatus.. Considering all these matters, I should say that it would cost more than £1,000 per annum to keep the average public servant in employment.
This Government was able to do without about 15,000 public servants and would, therefore, according to the figures that I have mentioned, have saved about £15,000,000 in one year. That sum applied to the present year, represents almost half of the reduction of taxes for individual taxpayers. I congratulate the Government on its actions in that respect. The fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is in such magnificent form is a good omen for Australia, and it is also a good omen for the general elections that will take place next year. The Estimates at present before the committee reflect the determination of the Prime Minister and the other members of the Cabinet to do the best that they can for Australia by the exercise of diligence, patience, and hard work. The action of the Commonwealth in reducing its departmental expenditure is in direct contrast to the actions of State governments and public authorities which have increased, their expenditure. In 1951-52, State and’ semi-governmental authorities employed an additional 16,000 men and women. Surely, that indicates clearly that while the Commonwealth was endeavouring toeconomize and make its public servants more efficient, the States, although blaming the Commonwealth for not supplying them with enough money, was doing theexact opposite. It is quite clear that State governments are expending moreand more money as the years go .by, while the Commonwealth is endeavouring toreplace inefficiency with efficiency and to tighten its control of the public purse.
– Order! Thehonorable member’s time has expired.
.. - It is of the utmost importance that this Parliament should endeavour to promote the health of the nation, but honorable members on the Government side are complacently overlooking their obligations to the people. They have brushed’ aside the ugly features of our present medical and hospital benefits schemes, and they have ignored the failure of those schemes, which, of course, have never been adequately explained to the Parliament. I join with the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in protesting at the absence of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) while the estimates of his department are being discussed. He should be here to explain to honorable members the complexities of the proposals in regard to health that have been submitted to this chamber and the nation. The position about the health schemes is so obscure that from time to time worried members of hospital boards have been obliged to come to Canberra to have the terms of the Minister’s proposals explained to them. It is deplorable that the Minister for Health should see fit to be out of Australia while a budget is before the Parliament, and while the estimates for his own department are being discussed. He should be here to tell honorable members something about the financial affairs of the organization that he controls.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) entitled to make a personal attack on a Minister who is not in the chamber? Should he not devote his -attention to the subjects under discussion?
– The honorable member may discuss the absence of the Minister, but he has no right to reflect upon his capacity.
– I mentioned the Minister’s absence overseas merely to draw attention to the importance of health, and to the fact that he should be here to explain his schemes to honorable members so that they and the people might understand more fully their com.plexities. The present health legislation is out of date. For more than twenty years in New South Wales and other States public wards in hospitals were free to all those who needed hospital attention. To-day, public wards are not free, despite heavy taxation, large social services contributions and large sums of money raised for hospitals by all sorts of outside organizations. At present, if a person seeks hos.pital attention he immediately faces a means test that has been imposed by the Government under the health scheme invented by the Minister for Health. After a person has explained his financial position, the hospital authorities determine whether he shall be accommodated in a private, intermediate or public ward. I suggest that a person’s accommodation in a public hospital should not be determined according to his bank balance, or his profession or occupation, but that it should be determined solely by his medical condition. If a person needs special care and attention he should receive it irrespective of his bank balance.
Let us consider two persons, A and B, who go to a public hospital for accommodation. A has lost his job through the actions of this Government. He goes along to the hospital and has to undergo a means test. After his affairs have been investigated, the hospital authorities say, “Yes, A, you are unemployed, so your accommodation will be in a public ward “. However, A may be in a very serious state of health and he may require the most expert medical attention and private ward care. Nevertheless, he is forced into a public ward. Then person B goes along to the hospital. It is discovered that he is a wealthy professional man. Although he may not desire to go into a particular ward, irrespective of his desires he is put into an intermediate or private ward. The hospital takes that action merely because of his bank balance, or because he has more adequate financial resources than A. That state of affairs is not in the best interests of the health of the community. I have been connected with hospital work for many years and I hope that the Government will abandon the present system in favour of a system under which the provision of hospital treatment will be related to the needs of the people rather than to their financial resources. The introduction of the present system was a retrograde step. I recollect that about twenty years ago Mr. R. W. D. Weaver, who was then Minister for Health of an anti-Labour government in New South Wales, was courageous enough to stand up to the British Medical Association in order to preserve the principle of free treatment in public wards. Although supporters of this Government have claimed that tremendous strides have been made in connexion with the provision of health and medical services, I do not consider that a person who is required to pay tax should be obliged also to join an organization in order to become eligible for hospital benefits. In many respects the present system has destroyed the community spirit that existed formerly. In days gone by it was customary for the members of a community to organize functions in order to raise funds for their local hospital, so that free hospitalization would be available for persons who needed attention. But it has come to pass that persons are now required to pay a contribution to an approved organization in order to become eligible for hospital benefits. I sincerely hope that those clear-thinking members of the Government who have been stampeded in the past by the organizers of hospital schemes will throw them overboard. I choose to think of hospital funds as schemes, because the present system amounts to a scheme to hoodwink the people. It is a scheme, rather than a plan, to extract more money from the people of this country who have been deprived of the benefits that they have hitherto been eligible to receive without payment.
I take this opportunity to appeal to supporters of the Government to endeavour to alleviate the plight of the unfortunate people in the community who have been afflicted by the dread scourge of tuberculosis. This is a matter of the utmost importance, which affects all sections of the community. It extends beyond political and State boundaries. Honorable members opposite should not be so complacent about this subject. Insufficient is being done to cure people who are suffering from this disease and to rehabilitate them. It is true that allowances are paid to sufferers from tuberculosis, and that voluntary organizations conduct chest survey’s in various districts. But there the matter rests. We need additional tuberculosis sanatoria, and there should be established a government organization to assist in the rehabilitation of persons who have been cured. The Citizens T.B. League is already performing valuable service in this connexion. Most of the members of the league have been afflicted by tuberculosis in the past and know what is required. They are tackling this problem in a noble manner. It has been evident to me from the answers given to questions that have been asked in the House about this subject from time to time that the Government considers that, having provided for the payment of allowances to sufferers from tuberculosis, and grants to the States for use in combating this disease, it has done enough. We should consider health on a national basis rather than on a State basis. If we fail to do so we shall be guilty of neglect of our bounden duty to the sufferers from tuberculosis. We should all get together and come to grips with this problem in order to effectively cure the victims of tuberculosis, so that within a short period of time this scourge will cease to be a menace to Australia. For so long as there is a shortage of sanatoria in this country, and the administration adopts the attitude that once the sputum test of a person who has been suffering from tuberculosis shows a negative result he should be forced back into employment, the problem will remain. The Citizens T.B. League has made representations to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) on a number of occasions about the problem, and the Minister has outlined what the Government is prepared to do in the matter. The Minister informed the league that the Government is prepared to pay an allowance to a sufferer from tuberculosis until the disease has been arrested, or until his sputum test shows a negative result and he is considered to be no longer infectious. I point out that once the stage has been reached where the department considers that the hapless person is not likely to infect other persons in the community, his allowance is replaced by an invalid pension, the amount of which is insufficient to enable him to buy protective foods. Therefore he is forced to seek work and compete against healthy members of the community. Because the person is obliged to take risks with his health it is not long before it is necessary for him to return to a sanatorium for further treatment. I urge the Government to review the present system with a view to continuing the payment of the allowance to a sufferer from tuberculosis until be has been completely cured and his health restored sufficiently to enable him to compete satisfactorily with other workers in industry or establish himself on a farm or in a small business. There are government-owned buildings situated in my electorate which could be used for the purpose of rehabilitating such persons. Although I admit that the care of tuberculosis patients is primarily a matter for the States, I point out that the National Parliament is the centre of finance in Australia, and the Government should do all possible to rid this country of the scourge of tuberculosis. I urge the Government to take heed of the suggestions that I have made.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to add to the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) about the attitude of the Queensland Government towards the scheme for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. In spite of the fact that some honorable members opposite do not appear to relish the idea, it is our duty to attack our State governments when we believe it to be in the interests of the State and the Commonwealth so to do. If honorable members opposite believe that the behaviour and administration of State governments are perfect, I suggest that they should spend some time in the States so that they may quickly learn that certain State governments are very much open to criticism. The honorable member for Lilley has said that the Queensland Government, in relation to its administration of the war service land settlement scheme, may be accused of having obtained money by false pretences. Over a period of years that Government has received large amounts from loan funds to be used for the development of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen, but this year it suddenly decided that it would no longer continue the scheme and tried to place the blame on the Commonwealth for its alleged inability to do so. The State has already received this year’s allocation of loan moneys for that purpose. In addition, an unexpended balance of approximately £300,000 was left over from last year. I understand that the Government has eighteen properties in the Taroon- -Wondoan area which have been developed to such a degree that they are almost ready for ex-servicemen to take them over. For the Queensland Government to decide at this juncture to throw the properties open for settlement other than war service land settlement is an outrageous crime. Other properties which are almost ready for settlement are located in the Fairymead and Nerada areas ; with the moneys which the Queensland Government already has in hand it could quite easily complete the development of those properties. The Government’s announced intention in regard to those properties is bad enough, but it is made even worse by the statement of the Premier, on his recent return from his visit overseas to attend the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen, that he has a wonderful scheme in hand designed to bring immigrants to Queensland for settlement on the land. Normally, I should wholeheartedly favour such a scheme, but in present circumstances, the Premier knows quite well that he will not be able to attract immigrants of the kind he wants from the United Kingdom, but will be forced to bring them from Germany, Italy and Holland, which are the most likely sources of supply. I cannot regard it as anything but a tragedy. To contemplate the bringing of immigrants to Queensland from foreign countries for settlement on the land at a time when the Premier is misusing moneys received from the Australian Loan Council for the land settlement of ex-servicemen - of whom some thousands have been waiting for years - is disgraceful. The Commonwealth is greatly concerned about the manner in which the Queensland Government is using the funds which it receives for this purpose.
I turn now to a. matter which was mentioned by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). The honorable member referred to what I think he described as “ certain rackets “ that are developing in the national health scheme. I am glad that an honorable member from New South Wales should take an interest in tracking down some of these malpractices. I am sure that Opposition members are doing a little more ferreting now than they did before, and bringing to light some of the things that are happening in States governed by Labour administrations so as to ensure that they shall not happen again. I am concerned at the possible development of a monopoly in the organizations established to carry out the medical and hospital benefits insurance schemes. The argument could be advanced that a large organization should be able to administer a scheme of that kind at lower cost than a smaller organization, but, in practice, some of our larger organizations are demonstrating that they are not capable of dealing with the claims of their members with sufficient rapidity. A contributor to a hospital benefits scheme who is forced to enter a hospital because of illness needs the benefit in the shortest possible time if he is to make use of it. A person who has to spend £40 or £50 for hospital or medical attention is usually not in a position to wait four or five months before he receives the benefit to which he is entitled.
– Yet that is happening.
– That is so, and the fact that it is happening gives me cause for concern. It will be .incredibly difficult for small organizations to commence operations. The greater the competition in this field, the better the service likely to be rendered to those who contribute to these insurance schemes. There are many people who do not need encouragement to start one of these schemes. Too many people are ready and eager to nip in and put a swift one over the people. But there are many others who band themselves into small, genuine groups that are eager to commence activities. It will be very difficult for them to keep their Costs of administration down to the prescribed 25 per cent., as required by the department. I cannot see how an organization, in its first year of operation, is likely to keep its administrative costs below the prescribed percentage. I suggest that those who are interested in forming small organizations, provided they can give reasonable evidence of their sincerity and probity, should be allowed a period in which to prove that they are capable of conducting their organizations at reasonable cost. I raise the point because I believe that there is a danger that one or two of the big insurance organizations will obtain a complete monopoly of this form of insurance in Australia. That would react to the detriment of the individuals who subscribe to the schemes.
.- I propose to relate my remarks to the subject of import policy, which comes under the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs. Tariff protection is needed in Australia for several reasons. It enables our people to maintain a high standard of living. Our industries, which have been established on the basis of relatively good working conditions for employees and wages which, unfortunately, have become less adequate in recent years, experience difficulty in competing with the products of nations that have neither achieved nor aspired to achieve our high standards. Many of our industries have been established for a comparatively short period. Some years must elapse before they will be able to perfect the manufacturing techniques that are employed by olderestablished industries in other countries, particularly those in highly industrialized countries such as the United States of America. Finally, our industries are burdened by the effect of inflation which has increased the cost of commodities produced or manufactured for export and for the home market. Our products have to compete in the home market against the products, not only of Japan, but also of the western nations. Because of the inflation which has occurred during the last three and a half years our industries can no longer effectively compete with imported goods.
The last available Tariff Board report states that during and after the war there was a period of comparative stability with a steady but small acceleration of increasing costs up to the end of 1949. But the report states that since that period the pressure of increasing costs in Australia has borne more and more heavily on the capacity of industry to compete, particularly as prices have increased in Australia more than they have risen overseas. The board found that Australian protected industries were, in general, operating efficiently and as economically as permitted by circumstances over which they have no control. There are two markets for Australian products, the overseas market and the home market. The home market is the closest market, and if Government policy will permit, it can remain the most sure market. My request is that the Government should examine its import policy in relation, to the inflation of the last three and a half years and ensure that protection will be given during the present stage of the economic cycle to those industries on which so many of our workers depend for full employment. Through our secondary industries, we must concentrate more and more on supplying our home market with some of those manufactured goods which we have been accustomed to import from overseas. A natural tendency of protection is to increase costs or to prevent prices from falling as much as they might if the industry were not protected. But I suggest that first things must come first. Our first task should be to ensure that Government policy will not drive our own industries out of the Australian market. After we have assured the capacity of the nation ‘ to retain these industries operating at their full capacity, then we can devote ourselves to implementing a policy of cost reduction.
From 1951 until 1952 the policy of this Government in relation to imports had dire effects on the economy of the country. Many goods were admitted to Australia in great quantities, irrespective of whether or not they were wanted and of the effect that they had on employment. Following that flow of imports, tens of thousands of Australian workers, particularly in the textile industry, lost their employment. Ever since that time this nation has been endeavouring to recover from the conditions under which it suffered in 1951 and 1952 owing to a misguided import policy. That is why I call for an intelligent protection policy devoted to the continuance of employment which will give scope for an increase of population both of native-born Australians and immigrants. The relaxation of import restrictions takes on a new significance in view of the inflation which is dominating our scene. Import restrictions were imposed with a view to improving the balance of payments condition which deteriorated greatly during the present Government’s term of office. More than the balance of payments is involved. In relation to neither our tariff policy nor our import control policy must we take a step which will expose our home industries to unfair competition from overseas countries with lower standards of living or a lower degree of inflation than our own.
Of course, it is necessary that essential imports should not only be permitted but encouraged. Certain raw materials and items of plant which are so sorely needed if this nation is to be mechanized must be admitted to Australia. There is a need for a review of general policy in relation to these matters, but above all there is a need for a review of Tariff Board policy. It is necessary to establish the future basis on which the Tariff Board will consider various matters. The Government should endeavour to accelerate hearings before the board. At present twelve months’ delay occurs between the initial hearing of an application and the submission of the board’s report and recommendation to the Government. Then further delay takes place while the recommendation is in the hands of the Government. I submit that during an inflationary period, when Australian costs and prices are out of gear compared with those of competitor countries, delays of that nature cannot be countenanced. Probably the Government is considering means of remedying the position, but there is at least a need for certain specialist committees or a duplication of committees in order that those industries which are now suffering the effect of overseas competition in the Australian market may * swiftly obtain decisions which might determine whether they are to continue or not.
Another aspect of this matter is the threat which Japanese-produced goods have constituted, and in future could constitute, to the home industries of Australia. The textile industry is in sore straits and could be threatened by uncontrolled Japanese imports. What policy does the Government propose to apply to Japanese imports ? Above all, we must ensure that a nation such as Japan with low wages and a low standard of living should not be encouraged to send a flood of cheap imports into this nation which will throw Australian workers out of employment.
– There is no sign that the Government will encourage that development.
– Only recently, further items of Japanese production such as textiles and cotton piece goods have been permitted to come into this country. The textile industry suffered only two years ago and it can suffer again. It is quite true that we are selling wool to Japan. It is also true that Japan has a currency problem, but Australian workers in our textile factories should not be called upon to solve it. J apan itself must realize that it has an accumulation of dollars, but a shortage of sterling. Let Japan face that situation. But do not ask the workers in our factories to solve the problem for our large wool-growers or Japanese producers. I ask the Government to devote its attention to this urgent need to protect Australian industries, particularly from the importation of Japanese goods, and also from the goods of other nations which have not suffered the degree of inflation which this Government has permitted in Australia.
.- My object in taking part in this debate is to make one or two observations about the Department of Civil Aviation, but before I do so, I feel that the closing comments of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ewert) call for some remarks in refutation. There is probably no member of this chamber who has as good a know- * ledge or as great a detestation of the Japanese as myself, but as a matter of plain economics, we cannot continue thi3 extraordinary, lopsided trading arrangement with the Japanese. What is true of Japan also applies to other quite considerable buyers of our wool on the continent, such as France and Italy. It is apparent that unless we are prepared to allow the entry in reasonable quantities of Japanese, French and Italian articles - admittedly with adequate safeguards for our own workers - our great wool industry which, never let us forget, is the foundation of the prosperity of this country, will be sadly endangered.
As I said a few moments ago, my object in participating in this debate is to make one or two observations concerning the Department of Civil Aviation. First, I should like to congratulate the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) and the department, on the general state of Australia’s air services. It cannot be emphasized too much that our safety record is unexcelled, and that it is the envy of every other nation.
– Because of TransAustralia Airlines.
– The real contributing cause is the healthy, active competition between Trans-Australia Airlines, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, and other air lines operators. I believe that the great majority of Australians hope that it may long continue. Secondly, I congratulate the Minister, the department and those involved in the air industry on the relative cheapness of fares. Those of us on both sides of the chamber who have had the good fortune to go overseas this year have returned to Australia most impressed, despite the lamentations heard in this country from time to time, with the relative cheapness of our air fares compared with those of other countries. In my experience, air fares in Australia are about 60 per cent, of the charges made by British European Airways and the British Overseas Airways Corporation on a comparable mileage and service basis.
Having said that, because I am not here simply to praise and to flatter the Minister the whole time, I ask him to take some action to remedy a state of affairs which should no longer be tolerated at our airports. I refer to the general condition of passenger buildings in our principal capital cities, and also in some of our country aerodromes. I understand that, in recent months, improvements have been made to these buildings in the country, but I have seen no evidence of it in my own electorate. Renmark is the principal town in the electorate of Angas, and as honorable members know, it is one of the mo3t important irrigation settlements in Australia; but air facilities there are a disgrace. More important, however, is the state of the passenger accommodation at some of our big capital terminals. All of us are only too painfully aware of the sad and sorry spectacle at the Kingsford Smith aerodrome at Mascot, especially as it strikes one on returning from abroad, lt amazes nic how, in a city as great as Sydney, with its multiplicity of charms-
– Hear, hear!
– I assure the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that honorable members from other States can be generous about the capital city of the State from which he comes; but it astonishes me that, with all that Sydney possesses, the Kingsford Smith aerodrome can still be one of the ugliest and most discreditable airports I have seen in any country. Upon touching down there on returning from overseas, the traveller gets the impression that he is arriving at a series of slag heaps surrounded by slums. If he is unlucky enough to get into a bus or a car and is driven into Sydney, he sees something which, he feels, is a blot on the whole of Australia. That condition, I hasten to add, is not the fault of the Minister, but it is a disgrace to the municipal authorities in Sydney and the New South Wales Government. .1 suggest to the Minister, however, that the accommodation for passengers at the KingsfordSmith aerodrome is within the purview of his department, and should be remedied.
If the traveller continues his flight to Melbourne, he finds that the TransAustralia Airlines buildings are shabby, temporary structures, which are quite inadequate to meet the demands on them. I should say, judging by their appearance, that they were not erected with any idea of permanency.
– They were army huts.
– That is so. The traveller certainly gets the impression that he is entering an army hut. The structures were erected during the regime of t ,he ‘ previous Government, but now that another government is in office, as we believe for quite a number of years, I. hope that, if not in these Estimates then at least next year, the Minister will take action to remedy this situation at the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome, Essendon, Cambridge in Tasmania, our growing airport at West Beach, in South Australia, and at other capital cities. Buildings worthy of the cities for which they cater should be constructed in the shortest possible time.
There are other arguments that can bc adduced for this long-delayed work of reconstruction to be promptly done. The first is the event to which the whole of Australia is looking forward with great avidity - the Royal visit within the next few months. The second important argument to Sydney and Canberra is tho Forthcoming British Commonwealth Economic Conference, to be held next January. The third is the increasing number of overseas travellers. The extraordinarily damaging effect that an unfavorable first impression creates in the mind of a new arrival to a strange land must be avoided. Fourthly, I suggest that if the public is provided with the better facilities to which they are entitled, tho popularity of air travel will be increased, and this country will become what it should be - completely air minded.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to refer to the employment situation. I raised this matter in the House recently, but I wish now to refer to a different aspect of it.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question bc now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior - C. K. Waller.
Repatriation - T. Crisp, J. T. Quinlan.
House adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The operations of the Lady Gowrie child ventres are under the supervision of the Department of Health, which has recently undertaken an examination of their functions. As a result of this examination it is not proposed to enlarge the present grant.
Contemporary French Art Exhibition.
d asked the Minister for Immi gration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Department, furnished with proper means of identification, should at all times have free access to the premises of any subscriber to carry out repairs.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
a asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530925_reps_20_hor1/>.