House of Representatives
9 September 1954

21st Parliament · 1st Session



Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 1093

DISTINGUISHED VISITOR

Mr SPEAKER:

– I have to inform the

House that we have, within the precincts, the Bight Honorable Clement B. Attlee, O.M., C.H., M.P., Leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom House of Commons, a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and also, be it remembered, the Deputy Leader of the war-time National Government in the United Kingdom. I have very much pleasure, with the concurrence of honorable members, in asking him to take a seat on my right hand on the floor, and assure him of a very warm welcome from the House.

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !

Mr. Attlee thereupon entered the cham

page 1093

QUESTION

UNITED NATIONS

Mr MAKIN:
STURT, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I ask the Prime Minis ter whether, in view of the imperative necessity, and the ever-increasing importance to world peace, of support of the United Nations, he will consider making a more adequate amount of money available for the work of the United Nations Association in Australia. Is the Prime Minister aware that the curtailment of the grant to that organization has seriously affected its work?

Mr MENZIES:
Prime Minister · KOOYONG, VICTORIA · LP

– I have no reason to suppose that Australia does not make a full contribution to the work of the United Nations and its various agencies. If any one of them seems to the honorable member to have escaped proper attention, I should be glad if he would mention it to me.

page 1093

QUESTION

HEALTH AND MEDICAL SERVICES

Mr CRAMER:
BENNELONG, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Can the Minister for Health informthe House of the progress that has been made under the medical benefits legislation that was introduced by this Government? Can he give any figures to indicate the number of people who have joined approved organizations ? Has any extension of the original benefits approved been found possibleand, if so, to what extent?

Sir EARLE PAGE:
Minister for Health · COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I have given instructions to the various insurance organizations that we are much more anxious to have them pay claims rapidly than to furnish us with statistics. The furnishing of statistics may, therefore,be delayed to some degree because of concentration on the more rapid payments of claims. However, we have been able to obtain a fairly exact indication of the growth of the organizations, and the extent of their membership, from the steady payment of Commonwealth benefits, in addition to the ordinary benefits paid by them. In the last quarter, that is to say, from April to July, the number of services paid for was between 400 per cent. and 500 per cent, above the level of the last quarter of the last calendar year, that is to say, from October to December 1953. The services provided by oneorganizationincreased by approximately 1,000 per cent. At the rate at which progress is being’ made, it is quite obvious that . during this year approximately 10,000,000 services at the very least will be paid for by the organizations and the Government.

Mr THOMPSON:
PORT ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I ask the Minister for Health whether he is aware that the medical benefits scheme provides that a patient shall receive 6s. from the Government and 6s. from an approved society in respect of a visit to the doctor, and that when such a person is required to have a simple injection the patient is entitled to a further 6s.? When a patient visits a doctor, - and also lias a simple injection, the doctor may charge 30s. and the patient may get back 12s. only from the Government and the society, which is 40 per cent, instead of 90 per cent, of the fee. If the Minister is not aware of this contingency, will he investigate the matter and ensure that people shall not be penalized when given an injection at the same time as they, visit a doctor, when only by visiting the doctor can they have such an injection?

Sir EARLE PAGE:

– I shall bc pleased to examine any such cases that the honorable member may bring to my attention.

Mr Thompson:

– I have such a case before me now and I shall be glad to give the honorable gentleman the details of it;

page 1094

QUESTION

GOVERNMENT LOANS AND FINANCE

Mr EDMONDS:
HERBERT, QUEENSLAND

– Will .the Treasurer inform the House whether his attention has been directed to a statement that emanated from Queensland to the effect that the reason why no national projects have been undertaken in that State is that the Queensland Government Las hot approached the Australian Government for financial assistance! Further, has the right honorable gentleman ever heard of the Burdekin Valley, Tully Falls and Dimbulah schemes? Has any request been made by the Queensland Government for financial assistance for those schemes and, if so, what has been the result ?

Sir ARTHUR FADDEN:
Treasurer · MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND · CP

– Tes, my attention has been directed repeatedly to complaints that have emanated from the Queensland Labour Government alleging that the Australian Government has starved it of funds, but the fact is that the Queensland Government has unexpended funds, including reserves and unexpended money of its own, with’ which it could finance its own projects if it wished to do so.

page 1094

QUESTION

THE PARLIAMENT

Mr TURNER:
BRADFIELD, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, following a telegram that I received yesterday. The telegram states -

Re-broadcast question time edited to exclude apology by Evatt re police state interjection this in particular and editing in general destroys spontaneity and informality and i? pussy foot stuff.

Will, you, sir, in a considered statement, elucidate for the information of the House and the public the principles upon which the Australian Broadcasting Commission edits the re-broadcasts of questions?

Mr SPEAKER:

– I shall be happy to prepare a’ statement for the next sitting of the House.

page 1094

QUESTION

AMMUNITION

Mr JOHNSON:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– Is the Minister for Supply aware of the acute shortage of 303 ammunition that has been used by pastoralists in Western Australia for. the destruction of kangaroos and other vermin ? If so, can the Government assist in this matter, as properties are becoming seriously overrun by these vermin?

Mr BEALE:
Minister for Supply · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– I am aware that in Western Australia, and also in several of the western districts of other States, a serious position has arisen in relation to’ the kangaroo pest, and that there is a shortage of .303 ammunition which is used for its destruction. In the past, the Government has done much to assist in this direction. With the ready cooperation of my colleague, the Minister for the Army, surplus army .303 ammunition has been released from time to time. The difficulty at the present time is that there is no surplus of .303 ammunition. Realizing that there is a real need for such ammunition, the . Department of Supply has been doing its best to obtain some. It, has located a considerable quantity of continental ammunition, but the cost is prohibitive. The cost is between £50 and £70 a thousand rounds,’ and, naturally, pastoralists do not wish to pay that much. More recently, as a result of our inquiries, we have ascertained that British ammunition will be on the market within a month or two - certainly before the end of the year - and that it will be available at not more than £30 a 1,000 rounds. Although this matter is not the direct responsibility of the Department of Supply, because it is a purely civilian matter, the department has done its best because it has realized that the constituents of the division which the honorable member represents, and of other divisions, are in great need.

page 1095

QUESTION

WHEAT

Mr DRUMMOND:
NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to inform the House of the initial payment that will be made to growers on delivery of wheat from the forthcoming harvest ? What procedure will be followed in relation to any further payments in respect of the coming harvest?

Mr McEWEN:
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP

– Under existing legislation the entitlement of growers to repayment for their wheat will be based upon the realization from its sale. In those circumstances, no attempt to estimate what the pool might return will be made at this stage. The honorable member knows that a proposal for wheat stabilization is under consideration by the Australian and State governments and will be balloted upon by the growers. Obviously, this Government must await the result of the poll. The final determination upon the first advance will be influenced to a degree by the decision on the stabilization plan and by a judgment on the likely realization of the pool nearer to the date initially fixed, which will be about the 1st December next. Payments subsequent to the first one have always been based upon realizations from the sales of wheat.

page 1095

QUESTION

SOUTH-EAST ASIA

Dr EVATT:
BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question in relation to the conference in the Philippines, called the Seato Conference, at which talks are proceeding in relation to a proposal to establish an organization somewhat analogous to the North Atlantic Treaty

Organization. Up to the present, if I may say so, Mr. Speaker, the information about that conference that has been published seems to be confined mainly to the special garb that the Minister for External Affairs is wearing. It is called a barong tagalog, and is apparently a light, shirt-like garment, woven from pineapple fibre, and worn outside the trousers. That being the type of information that we are receiving about the conference, I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for External Affairs and of any Minister representing that Minister in this House, whether he will introduce a more serious note into the reports and inform the House now, or as quickly as possible, of the important matters dealt with, because the conference may result in provisional commitments that the Parliament must consider.

Mr MENZIES:
LP

– I do not wish to make any comment on the opening gambit in the question, which related to some sort of garment.

Mr Haylen:

– The Prime Minister also would look well in a barong tagalog.

Mr MENZIES:

– The honorable member for Parkes would not look well in anything. On the serious aspect of this matter, within the next few hours a check will be made to ascertain any possible errors in transmission of the reports from the Philippines. Subject to those matters being confirmed, I hope to put before the House, when it meets on Tuesday, the full text of the agreement reached at the conference. I propose, also, that the Parliament shall be asked formally to ratify the agreement, and an ample opportunity will be provided for honorable members to discuss the terms of the treaty and the significance of the whole matter.

page 1095

QUESTION

FLAX

Mr FREETH:
FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether the Tariff Board has completed its inquiry into the flax industry, and, if so, when its report will be made available? Will the Minister inform the House as soon as possible about the Government’s policy in relation to flaxgrowing in Australia, because the present state of uncertainty is not having a good influence upon the industry ?

Mr McEWEN:
CP

– The Tariff Board has completed its’ investigation of and report upon the flax industry, and the report has reached the Minister for Trade and Customs and has been available for my study in the last week or fortnight. We should be in a position at an early date to make a report to the Government upon which it willmake its policy decision. I can give an assurance that there will be no measurable delay in reaching that decision and that the well-being of the industry, as well as the general public interest, will be taken into account.

page 1096

QUESTION

SOCIAL SERVICES

Mr BARNARD:
BASS, TASMANIA

– The ; Treasurer stated in his budget speech that an amount of £1,500,000 would be made available on a £1 for £1 basis to assist churches and charitable institutions to build homes for the aged. I ask the right honorable gentleman when the details of this scheme will be made available. Will he tell me whether Tasmania is to receive a definite allocation, and, if so, how much it will be ?

Sir ARTHUR FADDEN:
MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND · CP

– FADDEN. - The requisite information will be placed before the House in due course. The details of tha scheme ave under consideration at present, and the matter will be ventilated when: I arn in* a position to- do so.

page 1096

QUESTION

COMMONWEALTH PROPERTY

Mr FALKINDER:
FRANKLIN, TASMANIA

– The, Minister for the Interior will recall that recently I raised’ in this House the question, of the very seriously overcrowded conditions under which public servants are forced, to work in Hobart offices. Has the Minister been able to take any positive step to overcome this circumstance by providing either additional or alternative accommodation ?

Mr KENT HUGHES:
Minister for the Interior · CHISHOLM, VICTORIA · LP

– Negotiations have been, proceeding for some time between the owners of Tattersalls building and the Government on the possibility of purchasing, that building and, although the price asked at the start was too high, the owners have finally made an offer st a certain price which, with the approval of the Treasury, I have* authorized my officers to accept.. This includes, certain furnishings and’ fittings, but the owners of the building insisted on the right te remove the barrels; and marbles. As far as I am concerned, the Government hasno intention of entering into competition with Labour Premiers in placing the heaviest taxation on the shoulders of those least, able to bear it, and so we had no hesitation whatever in saying that we would agree- to- such a clause in any contract. I hope the contract will be signed very shortly.

Mr DUTHIE:
WILMOT, TASMANIA

– I direct a further question to the Minister for the Interior. Does the purchase of Tattersalls building in Hobart mean that the Government has abandoned plans to erect- new

CoTnm.onwea.lth offices in that city?

Mr KENT HUGHES:

– Yes.

page 1096

QUESTION

BROADCASTING

Mr ALLAN FRASER:
EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I ask the Postmaster-General will he have a word with the Australian Broadcasting Commission - that is if he thinks it is the slightest use. Last night, while parliamentary questions and answers were being rebroadcast over one network, the choice of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for. the other network, incredibly enough, was. a rival show called “Any Questions?”,, in which a selected gathering asked questions of a panel of Australian. Broadcasting Commission pundits and received answers on such matters as the future of Seato and whether husbands should wear wedding rings. Apart altogether from the- fact that the questions were far less intelligent than those asked in this House and the answers only slightly more intelligent, will he take up with the. Australian Broadcasting Commission the: question of this, programme, which deprives listeners of any variety of choice and drives those who seek entertainment into the arms of the commercial stations ?

Mr ANTHONY:
Postmaster-General · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I did not know that there was any similarity between tb» questions asked in this House and the quiz, programme of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It might- occur that some odd questions might come together, but in general it is a very interesting programme. Yesterday I heard the honorable member discuss the question of the advisability of the Australian Broadcasting Commission being permitted to put on entertainment programmes in certain circumstances. This is ian entertainment programme, and the listening audience is very large indeed.

page 1097

QUESTION

WINE

Mr LINDSAY:
FLINDERS, VICTORIA

– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate whether there are any arrangements under which gifts of parcels of Australian wine can be made to people in the United Kingdom by submitting an order, and payment in Australian currency; for delivery ex stock in the United Kingdom ? If such arrangements can be .made, will the Minister advise where information oan be obtained regarding the names of the companies or organizations which will handle this trade?

Mr McEWEN:
CP

– Yes. In the course of endeavouring to stimulate the sale of Australian wines in the United Kingdom, an arrangement was made under which Australian people can place an order in Australia, pay in Australian currency and have the wine delivered to the indicated addresses in the United Kingdom. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture, or the Australian Wine Board, will be glad to supply to any interested person the names of the Australian companies that are willing to carry out this arrangement.

page 1097

QUESTION

OVERSEAS TRADE

Mr WIGHT:
LILLEY, QUEENSLAND

– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is it true that .under the terms of the ‘Ottawa Agreement, the amount of protection extended to certain commodities which Australia exports to the United Kingdom has depreciated, in some cases by as much as 70 per cent. ? Conversely, commodities exported by the United Kingdom to Australia receive an .ad valorem tariff protection which has appreciated very greatly in money value since the inception of the agreement. Further, is it a fact that the British Board of Trade has actually encouraged and, at times, directed British manufacturers to exploit this situation to a point where a special Australian export price is operative on certain commodities which is far in excess of the export price for those commodities when exported to other countries ?

Mr McEWEN:
CP

– It is in accordance with the terms of the Ottawa Agreement that -while a certain range of Australian products exported to the United Kingdom enjoy a preference there on an ad valorem basis, there are other important products which enjoy protection in the United Kingdom on the basis of specific duty negotiated at the time of the Ottawa Agreement. Dried fruits are one of those products, but wine is the most affected of them. In consequence of the steep increase in the value of -wine since the Ottawa Agreement was negotiated, and in the ultimate selling price due to increased excise duties, what was no doubt, a pretty important preference at the time of Ottawa has been reduced to a completely ineffectual preference. This has been a matter of repeated representations and negotiations by Australia from the Prime Minister right down to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, but, I am sorry to say, without success up to the present time. It is true that a wide range of United Kingdom products enjoy the benefit of substantial preferences in the Australian market as against foreign competitors, and the Ottawa Agreement provides that there shall be a stated range of minimum preference for United Kingdom products. In the nature of things, Australia is not easily able to achieve a balance in these reciprocal arrangements, because some of our most important exports, notably wool and wheat, do not lend themselves to preferential customs treatment. The whole problem is regarded by the Government as serious. It is, broadly, as indicated in the honorable member’s question, and it is an issue which will be taken up by the Australian representatives in the United Kingdom at an early date.

page 1097

QUESTION

STEEL

Mr McLEOD:
WANNON, VICTORIA

– My question to the Minister for Supply is prompted by the inability of industries in country districts to obtain supplies of Australian steel.

In the interests of decentralization, will the Minister ensure that a priority for a quota of materials shall he given to country firms?

Mr BEALE:
LP

– I think that a similar question was addressed to me last Tuesday. The matter falls within the jurisdiction of’ the Minister for National Development. I have already drawn his attention to the difficulties which have been referred to in the House previously. I shall do so again, and supply the honorable gentleman with an answer to his question.

page 1098

QUESTION

WATERFRONT EMPLOYMENT

Mr OSBORNE:
EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I wish to ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and Nation ;tl Service a question arising from a question which I asked him earlier this session. I asked him whether he would ca 11 for a document said to have been signed by six or more senior officers of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board concerning information allegedly given to members of Parliament. I now ask the Minister whether he has obtained the text of that document, and as it is obvious from questions I have asked this session that I am. one of the members concerned, will he let me see the text of the document?

Sir PHILIP McBRIDE:
Minister for Defence · WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– I have already shown the honorable member one letter in connexion with this matter, hut I have not yet obtained the document to which he has referred. I shall see whether it can be located.

page 1098

QUESTION

RICE

Mr BRUCE:
LEICHHARDT, QUEENSLAND

– If an agreement is entered into to lease land in the Northern Territory for rice-growing, will the Minister for Territories have included in that lease a clause in regard to the class of labour to be employed on the project?

Mr HASLUCK:
Minister for Territories · CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– I should like to assure the honorable member for Leichhardt and the House that no development can take place in Australia except in accordance with Australian laws, and those laws include our immigration laws.

page 1098

QUESTION

OLYMPIC GAMES

Mr TURNBULL:
MALLEE, VICTORIA

– Oan the Minister for the Interior tell the House what amount the Australian Government has guaranteed towards the cost of the Olympic Games to be held at Melbourne in 1956? Does he know what amount has been guaranteed for this purpose by the Victorian Labour Government? Has the Victorian Government refused a request by the Olympic Games Committee that charges for admission to the games be exempt from entertainments tax? Is it true that entertainments tax has never been levied on Olympic Games ? Will the Victorian Government, by its intended action, make a large profit out of these time-honoured games?

Mr KENT HUGHES:
LP

– I am not the only person in this House who is embarrassed by dual responsibility. I do not intend to follow the lapse on the part of the other person and, therefore, as Minister for the Interior, I do not know anything about the Olympic Games.

page 1098

QUESTION

DAIRYING

Mr FULLER:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I preface a question which I address to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by pointing out that the return to dairy farmers for butter consumed in Australia is approximately ls. a lb. more than the export parity price. Is it a fact that the export guaranteed price on butter applies to a quantity equal only to 20 per cent, of Australia’s annual butter consumption? Will the Government liberalize the export guaranteed price to cover all butter that is exported?

Mr McEWEN:
CP

– In broad terms the honorable member, in his question, has stated the position correctly. The situation that he portrayed is broadly the outcome of the Government’s policy. It was brought to form in negotiations with the dairying industry, and it was approved by this House, with the honorable member himself, if he were then a member, supporting it, because there was no opposition to the arrangement.

page 1098

QUESTION

PROPOSED OVERSEAS PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATIONS

Mr MULLENS:
GELLIBRAND, VICTORIA

– In view of the importance of American opinion with respect to Pacific affairs and their relation to Australia, will the Prime

Minister consider the advisability of sending an all-party delegation as a goodwill mission to that country?

Mr MENZIES:
LP

– I think that there arc a fair number of travelling parties on foot at the moment - if not on foot, in the air. Perhaps, on foot is a little wrong.

Mr POLLARD:
LALOR, VICTORIA

– In view of the fact that there is no doubt about the lasting friendship established between the American and the Australian people, will the Prime Minister arrange for an allparty delegation to visit Russia to ascertain whether it is possible to resolve any of the difficulties that exist between the Russian Government and people and the Australian Government and people? I mention the fact that the -Conservative Government of Great Britain has arranged an all-party deputation or delegation to Russia. Will the Prime Minister follow, or arrange to follow, the excellent precedent set by the Conservative Government of Great Britain?

Mr MENZIES:

– I shall give to the suggestion made by the honorable member all the consideration it merits.

page 1099

QUESTION

DR, H. V. EVATT, M.P

Mr JEFF BATE:
MACARTHUR, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Under Standing Order 143, I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he will explain to the House why he considers that his conduct recently does not infringe section 24 of the Royal Commission on Espionage Act. [ ask ray question because I presume that the right honorable gentleman, as leader of a party in this Parliament, upholds the just administration of the law, and also having regard- to the fact that when he was Attorney-General he sponsored a similar section in legislation which he introduced into this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order! I do not see how the honorable member’s question has anything to do with the business of the House. The matter that he has raised is one for the Royal Commission on Espionage.

Dr Evatt:

– I am prepared to answer the question, Mr. Speaker, but it may take me half an hour to do so.

page 1099

QUESTION

TEA

Mr W M BOURKE:
FAWKNER, VICTORIA

– In view of the hi-,h price of tea in Australia and having regard to the fact that imports of tea place a heavy strain on our overseas reserves, will the Minister for Territories explain why the Government has not pushed ahead more rapidly with the development of the tea-growing industry in New Guinea? When is it expected that tea-growing will be established on a commercial basis in the Territory?

Mr HASLUCK:
LP

– The position with regard to the growing of tea in New Guinea is that, over a number of years, our agricultural stations in the Territory have been carrying out experiments in the growing of tea. In addition, there is one station at Garaina which devotes its activities solely to the growing of tea for the purpose of producing seed and planting material; and quite an amount of seed and planting material has already been made available to planters who wish to embark on the growing of tea. In addition to that, two years ago, we brought from Ceylon an acknowledged world expert on tea-growing who made a survey of the whole problem and furnished “a detailed report to the Government. A substantial part of his report has been published in the Agricultural Gazette in Papua and New Guinea. So; information has been made available on the subject. There are decided limits on the capacity of New Guinea to producequickly tea in large quantities. First, tea is a crop which takes three years or so to come into production. Furthermore, an effective limit is set by th’e availability of labour of a type suitable to tea-growing. The effect of one of the most significant passages in the report that we received from the expert whom I have mentioned was that it was only with mechanical aid for the plucking of tea that we could engage in large-scale production. Some tes production is going on, and tea has been made available in limited quantities to Australia: but I cannot hold out ally prospect of an early and dramatic expansion of production to a degree thai would meet Australia’s requirements.

page 1099

QUESTION

TELEPHONE SERVICES/

Mr SHEEHAN:
COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fac’ that an electrical company in New SouthWales has evolved a small machine for the recording of the number of outward calls made by subscribers on their telephones? Has the department any intention of installing this machine to assist telephone subscribers, and if not, why not?

Mr ANTHONY:
CP

– I do not know to which machine the honorable member may be referring. A number of such inventions has been placed before the department. They have been examined, but for various reasons associated with technical aspects, they have not been adopted. For example, a machine that records the number of telephone calls does not record separately the trunk line calls made, and most of the expense to a subscriber arises from trunk line calls. However, if the honorable member cares to submit any particular project, I shall be glad to have it examined.

page 1100

QUESTION

KENAF FIBRE

Mr SWARTZ:
DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND

– Will the Minister for Territories indicate to the House the progress that has been made in the development of the kenaf industry of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Have the early experiments with this fibre been successful, and is it proposed to proceed with production along commercial lines in the near future?

Mr HASLUCK:
LP

As the House knows, kenaf is a substitute for jute. Over a number of years we have been conducting experiments both on our own agricultural stations, and with the aid o’f private enterprise, into the growing of kenaf. There is no doubt that it grows, and grows well in the Territory, and that the fibre produced is suitable for sacking, hessian, wool packs and that type of thing. In addition, wool packs aave been tested on Australian stations md in Australian wool stores. Those made from kenaf have been found to be quite suitable for Australian purposes. Ve have now reached the stage where we teed the co-operation of private commer;lai enterprise in carrying the results >f these experiments into practice. Last rear, private enterprise, principally a firm mown as Eriama Estates, planted and harvested about 225 acres of kenaf. The lew planting season is approaching, but I im not quite sure: what part, private enterprise will take this year. We have reached a stage where we must look to private commercial enterprise to join with us in the experimentation..

page 1100

QUESTION

TRADE

Mr BIRD:
BATMAN, VICTORIA

– Has the Prime Minister seen me figures that were issued yesterday by the Commonwealth Statistician, which show a trade deficit of £22,000,000 for the month of August, and a deficit of £40,000,000 for the first two months of this financial year, compared with the surplus of £26,000,000 for the corresponding two months of the last financial year? Is the Government contemplating any measures to stop this alarming drift, which, if unchecked, could have serious effects on the Australian economy ?

Mr MENZIES:
LP

– The answer to the first question is, “ No “. I have not seen the figures to which the honorable member has referred. I have, of course, in common with other members of the Cabinet, maintained a close interest in the movements of our overseas balances. The Government has that matter well in hand.

page 1100

QUESTION

AUSTRALIAN MILITARY FORCES

Mr GRIFFITHS:
SHORTLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES

-I ask the Minister for the Army whether, in view of his recent statements, and the production of statutory declarations signed by persons who were not called to give evidence in connexion with the recent Stockton Bight disaster–

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order « I think the statutory declarations were produced in the committee. I had a look at the Hansard report. The honorable gentleman may not ask in the House a question about something that happened in the committee.

Mr GRIFFITHS:

– No statutory declarations were produced in this chamber by the Minister. I leave it to you, Mr. Speaker, to ask him whether they were produced. The honorable gentleman made statements that he had received them from people who were not called to give evidence in the recent Stockton Bight disaster. In view of the fact that at least one of those persons personally informed me that he did not drive1 an amphibious vehicle on an inspection of the sea on the 8th March’, will the

Minister now place on the table of the House all the papers in connexion with this matter for the purpose of clarifying statements which appear to be of a conflicting nature, and of ascertaining whether some form of conspiracy has been indulged in by somebody desirous of covering up the real cause of the disaster.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order !

Mr FRANCIS:
Minister for the Army · MORETON, QUEENSLAND · LP

– I shall reply to only one part of the honorable gentleman’s observation by saying that one of the persons who tendered a statutory declaration did .not tell the honorable gentleman

Mr Griffiths:

– He did tell me!

Mr FRANCIS:

– The honorable gentleman is entirely out of control. I am singularly sorry for him, because he has been out of step and wrong throughout the whole issue. The only point in the honorable gentleman’s statement to which I will reply is the statement that the driver of the commanding officer’s duck told him that he had not gone out beyond the breakwater-

Mr Griffiths:

– That is right!

Mr FRANCIS:

– The honorable gentleman unfortunately - and I have a statement from the lad himself - went to this young lad, and said to him “ Did you drive the commanding officer out in your duck at 8 o’clock beyond the breakwater ? “, and the boy said “ No “.

Mr Griffiths:

– Where did the Minister get that from ?

Mr FRANCIS:

– From the boy.

Mr Griffiths:

– Well, produce the statement.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order !

Mr FRANCIS:

– That was a very wrong question to put to this lad.

Mr Griffiths:

– I did not put that question to him.

Mr FRANCIS:

– The honorable gentleman knows that the commanding officer went out at 1.20 a.m. and not at 8 o’clock, and he selected 8 o’clock in order to mislead the lad.

page 1101

QUESTION

NATIONAL SERVICE

Mr GALVIN:
KINGSTON, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is intended to alter the system of calling up youths for national service training, and to institute in its place a system that will provide for exemption for youths engaged in certain trades. If so, when can we expect the Minister to make a statement on the matter ?

Sir PHILIP McBRIDE:
LP

– When a decision is made on the matter I shall, of course, inform the House of it.

page 1101

QUESTION

CHILD WELFARE

Mr FITZGERALD:
PHILLIP, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Is the Prime Minister aware that a great deal of work has been done throughout New South Wales to raise finance to assist sub-normal children. In most cases, that work is being performed under the auspices of municipal councils. In view of the huge task with which these people are confronted, will the Government subsidize on a £1 for £1 basis the amount that is raised?

Mr MENZIES:
LP

– I do not knowenough about this matter in a precise way; I merely have a general idea about it. If the honorable member has some particular information about the work that is being done, and if he cares to let me have it, I shall have the matter considered.

page 1101

QUESTION

QUESTIONS

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member for East Sydney–

Opposition Members. - Hear, hear !

Mr SPEAKER:

– I object, once and for all, to cheering when the honorable member for East Sydney is called. This week, the honorable member has received’ four calls for questions. The only other honorable member who lias had four calls is the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who got the call just now because he had had three calls as against the number of calls that the honorable member for East Sydney had received. I vigorously object to the suggestion that any discrimination is being shown against the honorable member for East Sydney in giving the call for questions. If Oppomsition members desire the honorable member for East Sydney to have the call, there is a very simple method by which they may ensure that he receives it. They should retain their seats until he has received the call.

Mr Pollard:

– I rise to order.

Mr SPEAKER:

– No point of order may be raised.

Mr Pollard:

– I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! What is the question ?

Mr Pollard:

– I am intrigued to know by what manner or means you interpret the cries of “ Hear, hear ! “ when you call the honorable member for East Sydney as indicating that such an ovation conveys any reflection upon you in your selection of speakers.Rather does it not convey that honorable members know that the honorable member for East Sydney will ask an excellent question?

Mr SPEAKER:

– It is intended to convey a reflection on me, and is therefore out of order.

Mr Pollard:

– That is not so, sir.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable mem ber for East Sydney may proceed to ask his question.

Mr Menzies:

– I ask that further questions be postponed.

page 1102

QUESTION

ESTIMATES 1954-55

In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 8th September (vide page 1090).

Parliament

Remainder of proposed vote, £743,000.

Prime Minister’s Department

Proposed vote, £2,164,000.

Department of External Affairs

Proposed vote, £1,714,000.

Department of the Treasury.

Proposed vote, £7,911,000.

Attorney-General’s Department

Proposed vote, £1,407,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)

Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -

That the amount of the vote - “Department of the Treasury, £7,911,000” - be reduced by £1.

Mr BLAND:
Warringah

.- In the few minutes that are at my disposal, I wish to direct the attention of the committee to the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, which are set out on pages 9 and 146 of the printed volume. I direct particular attention to the number of administrative duties that are imposed upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in addition to his duties as Leader of the Government and Prime Minister of Australia. It is true that some of the departments that are under his control are autonomous. The Audit Office and the Public ServiceBoard are almost free from ministerial control, but there is a degree of administrative work associated with each of those and other departments. It seems to me that the Parliament is much more concerned about having duties discharged than about the manner in which they are discharged and the consequences that flow fromimposing those duties upon particular Ministers. I imagine that any one will agree that the time of the Prime Minister is more than fully occupied in his capacity as Leader of the Government and leader of the nation. If he is to be responsible also for the administrative activities of a large number of departments, the physical strain that is involved, quite apart from the mental strain, is a burden that ought not to be imposed upon him.

Throughout the world in recent years, and more particularly in the United States of America, Canada, and the United Kingdom, efforts have been made to examine the machinery of government with a. view to ascertaining how the various activities could be distributed most effectively so that they might be performed by the most suitable people and so that people who had more important duties to perform might be relieved of strain. In respect of this matter alone, we ought to do what the American people did. The President’s Committee on Administrative Management reviewed all of the nation’s administrative activities, and it came to the conclusion that those activities might be performed more effectively if they were re-arranged on a functional basis and were re-distributed amongst the Ministers who assisted the President. It was agreed generally throughout the United States of America that the re-arrangement was entirely satisfactory. A similar thing happened in Canada. I repeat that it would be wise for the Parliament, even in ite own interests, to consider whether the present administrative arrangements could be improved. To do so would necessitate the establishment of a committee by the Parliament. I hope that the Prime Minister can see his way clear to agree to the establishment of such a committee with a view to ensuring that administrative arrangements are overhauled so that they might be implemented more effectively. I think people are much more concerned about having things done than about the way in which they ought to be done. I believe that the way in which tilings are done frequently destroys the value of those things.

Later, 1 should like to make a suggestion in relation to the Department of Social Services. I suggest that it is desirable that the Government should consider an examination of the manner in which the various activities of that department are performed with a view to ensuring a more efficient performance of them. I should like to have said something about the Audit Office, but that branch of the Prime Minister’s Department will be dealt with under a special bill. I do not wish to make further reference to it, except to express my wholehearted agreement with the proposed retention of the services of the Auditor-General beyond the expiry of the statutory term. I think that is a very desirable course to follow.

I wish to direct attention now to the Public Service Board. The mere management of the Public Service must place a great deal of strain upon the Prime Minister. I should like him to be relieved of the burden of that function, and I question whether the organization of the Public Service Board, which, in its present form, dates from 1923j is entirely adequate for the satisfactory performance of its tasks. We should follow the example of the United Kingdom., the United States of America and Canada, and regularly examine government administrative agencies with a view to ascertaining whether their organization is suited to present-day conditions. A body that was brought into existence 31 years ago is hardly likely to be adequately organized for the job that it must do under modern conditions, especially in the light of the great expansion in government activities that has taken place in recent years.

When the Public Accounts Committee, of which I have the honour to be a member, last year discussed the problems of administration with representatives ‘ of a number of departments, the members of the committee were amazed to learn how many departmental officers who appeared before the committee had not thought of investigating the way in which things had been done for many years. Some procedures had been followed for 20 or 30 years, and the reasons for them and the results achieved by them had never been considered and appraised. It came as a dash of cold water to those officers to consider that their positive complacency about their administration was entirely misplaced. In almost every instance, the committee found departmental officers willing to consider matters again and to inquire whether the committee’s proposals might* be adopted with beneficial results in the departmental administration.

The Public Service Board, which is responsible’ for the administrative organization and the personnel management of the Public Service cannot afford to be behind the times in its organization. Tn Great Britain, all administrative organizations are examined at ten-year intervals, to ascertain whether they are doing their jobs effectively. A similar appraisal is made in the United States at least as frequently, and sometimes at shorter intervals, by a succession of reorganization committees that have had the most beneficial results in the public service of that country. I want to implant the idea that we must not be content with things as they are. It is worthwhile to examine all our administrative institutions to ascertain the degree to which they are doing the job for which they were brought into existence. If they are not working as efficiently and as faithfully as they should be working, we should have no compunction in altering their organization. We must try to get a general acceptance of that idea. The departments themselves are usually so busily engaged in the necessary day-to-day work that they scarcely have time to consider what should be done to improve their organization. But consideration of that matter is far more important than the conduct of the ordinary administrative work from day to day. In every department a body of planners should be congregated, with their feet on a table and blowing smoke rings, while they deliberate about the way in which the departmental administration should be conducted. Planning groups of that kind would be of the greatest advantage in stimulating the department in the conduct of its daytoday work.

As I have said, the Prime Minister should be relieved of the burden of many routine administrative functions by a new functional re-organization of government activity. For example, the tedious task of. signing letters of introduction for Australians who travel abroad imposes an intolerable burden upon the Prime Minister, who, in any event, is required to sign his name on innumerable occasions in discharging the more important functions of his office. The Public Service Board was brought into existence 31 years ago when the Commonwealth Public Service was a comparatively small organization, and it should now be examined to ascertain whether, as at present organized, it is capable of administering with the greatest possible efficiency, a service in which a manifold increase in the staff and the type of work has occurred in the period since the board was formed. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that everything is in order because the Public Service Board lias functioned in the same manner for 31 years.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON:
BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I propose to follow the line taken by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) in discussing conciliation and arbitration, and I shall give to the committee an outline of the picture of arbitration in Australia. The proposed expenditure listed in the Estimates of the Attorney-General’s Department, under the heading Division No. 55 - Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, docs not relate to the functions of the court as such or of the conciliation commissioners as such. But it gives us the picture of arbitration and conciliation if we examine it carefully. These two activities should go hand in hand. A study of the situation, however, reveals a danger, because . it “ shows that conciliation is fast dying out. On numerous occasions I have heard honorable members from .both sides of the chamber suggest that employers and employees should work ‘more closely together on the problems of improving production. Yet we find that in the last financial year the small sum of only £25 was expended on compulsory conferences. Conferences are the first need in the endeavour to obtain understanding between employers and employees. Those of us who are closely associated with conciliation and arbitration have been concerned for some years at the. tendency in Australia to get right away from conciliation and to rely solely on arbitration. The conciliation problem requires examination. There is a tendency in industry to adopt new methods. For example, the Government exhibits a tendency to suggest that the trade union movement should be influencing its members to accept incentive payments, which can be introduced only by understanding between employers and employees. The understanding between employers and employees in Australia was never at a lower ebb than it is to-day, as the meagre expenditure of £25 on compulsory conferences last financial year serves to emphasize. Under Australia’s present system of arbitration, no attempt is made to achieve understanding between employers and employees. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has taken under its own control all the major functions of conciliation.

The honorable member for Warringah, on numerous occasions, has warned honorable members of the great dangers that are inherent in centralized government. In arbitration, control by a central authority is now killing any hope of effectively regulating the relationship between employers and employees. This relationship is vital to the acceptance of incentives. I am aware that most people regard incentives calmly as some new form of industrial arbitration. The incentive payment system in industry has become all-important in Great Britain and the United States of America. There is a fellowship developing between employers and employees in those countries that does not exist here, and we are not doing anything to encourage such a relationship. It can be developed only by means of conferences between employers and employees which lead to the cultivation of mutual understanding. Yet this item to which I have referred provides for the allocation of only £100 this year for compulsory conferences between parties in industry. It is a frightening situation, because unless we do something to encourage economical production in Australia we shall be in a hopeless position. Never mind about the intrusion of Japanese goods! We cannot even compete with costs of production in Great Britain, and English materials are displacing our own on the Australian market. These are facts that must not be ignored.

I do not think that any honorable member would suggest that Australian workers are not as good as any workers in the world. They can produce goods equal to anything produced in other countries. That was conclusively proved during World War II. Yet here we are, in 1954-55, with the Government proposing to provide only £100 for compulsory conferences between employers and employees. Incentives should not be looked upon merely as a method worked out between employer and employee to achieve something better than is already provided in industrial awards. Incentives must be worked out on the basis that the goods produced under the system can be sold on the world’s markets at prices equivalent to those of goods . manufactured in other countries. We can achieve that result by considering the problem of incentives in the proper light. The trade union movement has a responsibility in this matter, but I shall deal first with the type of unscrupulous employer who misuses the incentive system, as distinct from the man who deals honestly with his workers. Such an employer “will introduce an incentive scheme and will pay bonuses to his employees. This will be satisfactory to the workers for the time being, but after five years the employer will eliminate incentive payments and demand from the workers the same rate of production for ordinary award wages.

There is no provision in our conciliation and arbitration machinery to protect theworkers against .such injustices.

The trade union movement alsohas an obligation in relation to incentive schemes. It seems to me that, the movement will have to train some of its leaders to help in the establishment of proper incentive systems in industry. The problem is an important one, and many employers have appointed special men for the purpose of introducing incentive schemes into their industries. Unfortunately, the trade union movement is not taken into their confidence at that point. It is not actually consulted until a scheme has been worked out and thrown into the laps of the workers. In view of these circumstance.8, I am- led to wonder, when I see in the Estimates an item of only £100 for conferences between employers and employees, whether the Government has lost sight altogether of the need for economical production in Australia. We must , be able, not merely to compete with our opponents in the Australian market, but to enter foreign markets competitively if we are to survive. I advise the Government that the only way to achieve the degree of understanding between employers and employees that will lead to proper efficiency of production is to encourage conferences between the two parties.

Let us not imagine that relationships between employers and employees can be improved by the presentation of a case in the court before three, four, five, or even seven judges. Such hearings lead only to a bitter fight across the table and an increased tendency on the part of the parties to distrust each other after they leave the court. I have dealt with this subject at such length because I believe that the encouragement of co-operation .between workers and managements is of tremendous importance to the future progress of Australia.

I pass now to another important matter which affects the trade union movement. The budget for 1953-54 provided an amount of £1,200 for court-conducted trade union ballots, but the actual expenditure exceeded £7,000. The Government proposes to allot £4,000 for the same purpose this year. I think that it has not been getting value for the money that it has expended on courtconducted ballots. I have in mind, for example, the great difficulties that we have experienced in New South Wales during the last three or four months. The Boilermakers Union has adopted the practice of banning overtime and engaging in various other tactics in order to protest against the pegging of margins. Yet the officers of that union were elected as a result of a ballot controlled by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. If one calmly analyses the situation, one can only reach the conclusion that it is time that the Government reviewed its policy on this matter and returned to the trade union movement responsibility for conducting its own ballots according to its own laws. I said when the present system, was introduced that the Government’s policy was wrong and that courtcontrolled ballots would not succeed.

The result of handing over control of a ballot to the court, and the consequent tabulating of thousands of names of unionists, was to bring to light every Communist cell in every workshop where those unionists worked. That is the reason why the Boilermakers Union is in such a strong’ position to-day and is halting work in industries here, there and everywhere. Communist cells have become active wherever the legislation that provides for court-controlled ballots has been used against the better judgment of experienced trade unionists.

The Government should consider the matters that I have raised very carefully. Unless we can promote a better understanding between employers and employees, we shall not be able to institute a nation-wide system of incentive’ payments in industry. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has tried twice to introduce incentives and has failed each time. The trade union movement in general, and the Communist section in particular, object to the adoption of incentive payments at present because, in the main, the men do not understand certain features of the plan. Before it is possible to frame a plan of incentive payments that will be acceptable to the workers, there must be a complete understanding, on an award level, between employers and employees. Then, having obtained that understanding, the workers must be made to realize that the whole future of Australian industry depends upon their capacity to produce goods efficiently. I direct the attention of the Government to these facts with the utmost vehemence because our industrial production must be economical enough to enable us to compete successfully with other countries in the world’s markets. I hope that it will give earnest consideration to my proposals.

Mr LESLIE:
Moore

.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has presented a really remarkable argument to the committee. I shall deal with it briefly before I discuss one or two other matters that I have in mind. I could not agree more with the submission that conferences should be held between employees and employers, and I could not disagree more with the submission that compulsory conferences can achieve anything in the nature of peaceful and harmonious industrial relations. I see no difference between a compulsory conference and an arbitral body. A voluntary conference, where mutual understanding exists between employer and employee, will certainly achieve that which I believe the honorable member for Blaxland had in his mind when he spoke so forcibly about mutual understanding. However, to talk of compulsion is to talk of arbitration, because compulsion is no different from arbitration. The fact that last year the total sum expended on compulsory conferences was only £25, is a tribute to the effective operation of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in bringing parties together in reasonable conferences where mutual understanding can exist between employer and employee. Indeed, the low expenditure is also a tribute to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) for the way in which he and the officers of his department have handled employer and employee relationships.

The honorable member for Blaxland damned his own case for better employeremployee relationships when he himself showed the degree of suspicion and. distrust which exists in the minds of employee bodies. He mentioned a case in which an employer could introduce a bonus system as an incentive to his workers to work harder and who at the end of, perhaps, five years, would insist on production during the term of the incentive system becoming the norm for ordinary production in the factory. Therefore, the honorable member for Blaxland, right on the threshold of a plea for better relations between employers and employees, ruined his case by saying in effect “I know at the 3tart that employers are a damn lot of crooks and rogues and everything else - “.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! The honorable member must use proper language in this chamber.

Mr LESLIE:

– That was the approach of the honorable member for Blaxland.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the unparliamentary words that he has used.

Mr LESLIE:

– I withdraw them. I did not apply those words to any honorable member of the committee. I merely used them to indicate the approach of the honorable member for Blaxland to any endeavour to secure better employeeemployer relationships. Obviously the only result that can follow from a compulsory conference, is a compulsory decision which is no different from a decision given by an arbitrator.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON:
BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.

Mr LESLIE:

– I know that a compulsory conference is not a conference in which employers and employees can get together in a spirit of mutual trust and understanding. Employers should accept the fact that they are dependent on the employees for the success of their industries, and employees should remember that they are dependent on the good management and understanding of the employers for their livelihood. Compulsion has never achieved anything worthwhile.

Mr Curtin:

– What about compulsory military training?

Mr LESLIE:

– I say to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) that one volunteer i3 worth two pressed men at any time. Compulsory systems achieve something, but they do not achieve the best that c::n bc achieved. I now turn to the Legal Service Bureau, which is administered by the Attorney-General’s Department. It is proposed to vote £54,000 for expenditure by that bureau. If this is the bureau that was set up to help ex-servicemen, and to provide legal advice for them after the last war, I was under the impression it had gone out of existence some time ago. However, it appears to be still alive, because the Government intends that £54,000 shall be voted for it. It should be noted that provision is made in the Legal Service Bureau for a staff of 24, composed of a director, nineteen legal officers and four clerical assistants. I suggest that this is a bureau, that the Attorney-General might well examine in order to ascertain exactly what its duties are. I have availed myself of the services of the Legal Service Bureau on numerous occasions, on behalf of ex-servicemen. However, it is three or four years since I have had any occasion to approach the bureau, and I do not believe that the post-war reconstruction committee in my State has referred any cases to it during that time. If the bureau is doing important work, well and good; but I shall be glad to have information about it, because I believe that it needs to be carefully examined. I have no objection to the Legal Service Bureau continuing to operate, but if it is necessary I believe that its facilities should be given wider publicity in order to make them more generally known to ex-servicemen.

Yesterday I was delighted to hear the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) support certain remarks that I have made on a number of occasions in this chamber. At least I have one convert now, and I hope that as a result of his conversion I shall get more and more until eventually we shall introduce reforms into this place in connexion with the consideration of the Estimates, which will justify the existence of the Parliament. I have previously referred to the way in which this institution considers the Estimates. The sole original, purpose of the Parliament was to resist extravagant expenditure by the Crown, and unjust levies and taxes imposed on the people by the Crown. The Crown, as the controlling financial authority, has now disappeared, and its powers have passed to the executive government. The executive body of this Parliament now stands in the same relationship to the Parliament as the Crown did in earlier days. Therefore, it is the responsibility of honorable members to examine and deal with the expenditure and taxation proposals put before them by the Government, in exactly the same way as members of earlier parliaments dealt with such matters set before them by the Crown. While the Parliament accepts the submissions of the executive body, and does not subject them to minute criticism and deal with them on a non-party basis for the benefit of the people who have to pay, the Parliament’s existence is not justified.

Mr Daly:

– Why does not the honorable member resign ?

Mr LESLIE:

– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) cannot possibly justify his existence in this or any other Parliament. Now let me give honorable members an instance of how utterly and completely neglectful the Parliament is of its responsibility. The preparation of the Estimates costs a tremendous sum of money, and involves a lot of work. When the Estimates are under consideration in this chamber, departmental officers are in attendance, and they have all the information that honorable members require about the various items. The preparation of that information is costly, and occupies a considerable time. In addition, those officers, when they are here, are losing valuable time because they are not able to get on with their ordinary duties. Some of them travel from Sydney or Melbourne, wherever their head-quarters may be, in order that they may be in attendance here to satisfy our requests for information. Those officers are also present in the Senate when the Appropriation Bill is under consideration. But how often are they called upon to give information?

Last night, for the first time in my experience as a member of this Parliament, a Minister replied to questions that had been asked about the proposed vote for his department. I refer to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). He replied to three or four questions that had been asked, and I heard comments such as, “ That is the sort of thing we want “ when he was doing so. If the Estimates were dealt with in that way, we could discuss them in detail for weeks. I disagree completely with the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) yesterday that the whole. time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates would be taken up by Ministers if they were to deal with the Estimates for their respective departments, i believe that a Minister should introduce the Estimates for the department which he administers and explain variations between this year’s Estimates and last year’s expenditure, and the activities of his department. I have asked on three or four occasions for the introduction of that practice. It can be done. If it were done, honorable members would be able to discuss the Estimates, and matters relevant to them, and would not be involved in party political arguments and discussions about anything but the items before them. The Minister responsible for the administration of the department whose estimates were under consideration could answer in two or three minutes various questions that were addressed to him.

If that system were adopted, members would be better informed about the Estimates, and a Minister would be obliged to be in the chamber when the Estimates for the department for which he was responsible were under consideration, and he would be called upon to justify his actions in respect of policy and administration. We should then have control over the administration of this country, and when all is said and done, that is the purpose for which this Parliament exists. No honorable member can claim with justification that the Parliament is nowdoing the job for which it has been established. I do not say that we are not doing the job which the people have elected us to do. As a matter of fact, because our electors have no idea what our real functions should be. Most of us are secretaries and go-betweens between electors and various government departments, instead of doing our proper job here. Until the present system is changed, we shall not be doing our job.

The stage has been reached in the Commonwealth sphere when the financial ramifications of the National Government are so wide that even if the Parliament devoted additional time and more careful attention to the examination of the Estimates, we should still need to appoint committees to examine specific sections of them. I believe that provision should be made for the appointment of Estimates committees to examine the Estimates and report to this chamber upon them. In that way, the Parliament would be enabled to do the work for which it has been established.

I am glad to note in the Estimates evidence that my attack on a previous occasion on the item, Incidental Expenditure, has met with some success. The total provision for such expenditure is being steadily reduced, but I still consider that much of the money provided under this heading should be allocated under more specific headings. The total amount for incidental expenditure this year runs into millions of pounds. I direct attention to the fact that the proposed vote for the Superannuation Board is limited to salaries and” incidental and other expenditure, £6,000 “. No explanation is given of the kind of incidental expenditure for which provision is made. I endeavoured to obtain an explanation, and the answer which I received was, in effect, “ Oh, well, it covers such things as office cleaning and sanitary paper “. Yet the provision for incidental expenditure amounts to millions of pounds.

Sir Arthur Fadden:

– Provision is made in incidental expenditure for the cost of conveying honorable members to and from their homes.

Mr LESLIE:

– That is necessary, but the allocations should be properly classified. I hope that the example which the Treasurer set yesterday, when he replied to questions about the Estimates, will be followed by other Ministers in the course of the consideration of the proposed votes for their departments.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired. The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Department, the Department of External Affairs, the Department of the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department, has expired.

Question put -

That the vote to be reduced (Mr. Calwell’s amendment), be so reduced.

The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr.c. F. Adermann.)

AYES: 46

NOES: 53

Majority.. . . 7

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the negative.

Proposed votes agreed to.

Department of the Interior.

Proposed vote, £3,513,000.

Department of Works

Proposed vote, £2,503,000.

Department of Civil Aviation

Proposed vote, £11,082,000.

Department of Trade and Customs

Proposed vote, £3,457,000.

Department of Health

Proposed vote, £1,252,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)

Mr BRYSON:
Wills

.- I direct attention to the unsatisfactory accommodation that is provided by the Department of the Interior for certain members of the staffs of the Electoral Branch. I refer particularly to the accommodation that is provided for the returning officer for the Division of Wills and his staff. I am aware that housing and office accommodation is difficult to obtain. However, I should think that during the period of five years since the electorate of Wills was formed the department has had sufficient time to provide proper accommodation for these officers. They are accommodated in what can best be described as cubicles. A space along the wall of a storeroom has been partitioned into socalled offices. The partitions are about 8 feet in height. The entrance to the building is through a tunnel, which is approximately 60 feet long, 4 feet wide and 10 feet high. The tunnel is not the property of the owner of the building in which these officers are housed but of a pastrycook who carries on his trade next door. The offices occupied by the returning officer and his staff are situated right beside that pastrycook’s kitchen. When one is about to enter the electoral office one is not sure whether one isgoing into a cookhouse or a government office.

I made representations on this matter to the Minister for the Interior on a number of occasions. The accommodation that is provided for these officers is a disgrace, because it can be described at best as a storeroom. I urge the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to ensure that as soon as possible, and at least during the current financial year, the department should provide proper accommodation for these officers. They find it practically hopeless to perform their clerical duties under present conditions. The occupation of such accommodation by clerical personnel is an insult not only to the returning officer and members of his staff but also to the Government itself. The duties of these officers bring them into constant contact with members of the general public. The department should not tolerate conditions under which members of the general public are obliged to penetrate a long tunnel in order to gain access to one of its offices. I trust that action will be taken as soon as possible along the lines that I have indicated.

The owner of the building in which these officers are obliged to work has been endeavouring for the last five years to obtain possession of it. The building was taken over by the Government during World War II. at a time when office accommodation was scarce, and it was used originally to house officers of the Department of Labour and National Service. When the Division of Wills was formed the returning officer and his staff were provided with this accommodation. Some years ago, proper accommodation was found elsewhere for the staff of the Department of Labour and National Service. I am afraid that unless representations on this matter are pressed home the electoral officers to whom I refer will be left there for a considerable period. Perhaps, immediately after the Division of Wills was formed, the depart ment had no alternative but to accommodate these officers in that building, but they have been working there under hopeless conditions for the last five years. As I have said, the owner of the property has been endeavouring for the last five years to obtain possession of the building which he desires to sell with vacant possession. I understand that the Government is paying a reasonable rental for the whole of the building. The point is, however, that whilst it pays rental for the whole of the building the returning officer requires only about onefifth of the available space, and for most of the time during the last four years the remainder of the building has been vacant. As I have said, the building is suitable only for storage purposes, and I understand that at times it has been used for such purposes by either the Department of the Interior or other departments. I have made repeated representations about this matter and I have been informed that the department has been seeking alternative accommodation without success. I have noticed that a large number of shops in the same vicinity have changed hands during the period, and that other businesses have been able to find accommodation in the same street. Apparently, however, this government department appears to be unable to find alternative accommodation. The department I have been told contemplated buying a block of land on -which to erect a building to accommodate the divisional returning officer, but as far as I can learn the negotiations have not proceeded very far. Even if the department, purchased the land on which to erect a building, to judge by the rate of construction that I have seen in parts of Melbourne, it is fair to assume that the divisional returning officer will still be housed in a storeroom for possibly another four or five years. I appeal to the Minister to take immediate steps to have proper accommodation provided for the divisional returning officer, who is entitled to work in decent premises, and to galvanize his department and the officers concerned, who have been dallying with the matter for four or five years, into some sort of immediate action. Any business executive that was looking for premises in that street, or in any other street in any Melbourne suburb, would not be walking round in circles for five years and still have no idea where to find accommodation. There is vacant land in the vicinity that the department could have bought at any time in the past five or ten years, but it appears that negotiations for the purchase of land are going along at a snail’s pace. In the meantime, the owner of the property concerned has offered to sell it to the department. The department has said that it does not want to buy it; yet it still occupies one-fifth of the building, behind which there is an unused block of land that it could purchase. The department contends that the building is not a suitable place for the accommodation of a divisional returning officer ; yet it leaves him to work there and in God’s good time or somebody else’s good time, or by sheer good luck, it may some day find him alternative accommodation. I appeal again to the Minister to stir up the officers of his department who are responsible for the provision of accommodation of this kind, and to setthat they take steps to ensure that the divisional returning officer will, in the very near future, be accommodated decently, and that the owner of the building will be able to obtain possession of it for such purposes as he desires.

Mr McCOLM:
Bowman

.- I think most honorable members know that 30 years ago a very great Australian had a vision. He was the Reverend John Flynn, commonly known as “Flynn of the Inland “. About 25 years ago the vision that he was told originally was completely impractical, began to take shape, and the Flying Doctor Service as we know it now was established. I believe, as I am sure other honorable members do, that that service is not only a State responsibility, but is also a responsibility of the Commonwealth. That fact is proven by the provision in the Estimates of financial assistance, unfortunately of small measure, to flying doctor services. I should like to refer briefly to one section of the Flying Doctor Service. Admittedly I could be accused of being parochial in connexion with this matter because I wish to speak mainly of the Queensland division of the service. In actual fact, the Queensland division of that service does more than 50 per cent, of the total work done by the Flying Doctor Service in Australia. The Queensland division is running into financial difficulties.- I know that many other concerns have run into such difficulties, but I think that all that can be done to assist that division should be done, because of the invaluable work that it has performed in the past 25 years. “We recognize it as a Commonwealth responsibility, but it should be regarded as even more so, because the service is of value not only in relation to the development of our outback country, hut also in relation to defence, as was shown in the war years, when the transceivers set up purely for the Flying Doctor Service were used extensively by the voluntary observer corps, and in other ways in connexion with the war effort. I think that they would again be invaluable to us in the event of war.

In the last year the Queensland division of the service handled no fewer than 49,000 radiograms for the Postmaster-General’s Department. Another of the activities of the service which assists in either defence or development arises from the fact that the people who are being helped by this scheme are providing, to a large degree out of their own pockets, air strips, which, although they may be of only a very temporary nature, are at least known landing grounds that aircraft may use. Those airstrips are of a definite defence value to the Commonwealth. We all realize how much costs have increased since before the war. For instance, the cost of flying a plane in 1989 was between ls. and Ls. 2d. a mile. To-day it is as high as 5s. a mile. We know that the cost of building new houses and hangars, and of providing wireless base facilities on an ever-increasing scale, has increased considerably. Doctors’ salaries have increased from £1,000 to £1,500 a year. Personally, I do not think that that salary is enough for the work that is clone. Where doctors did not have cars before, they now have cars provided for them.

It was possible to build houses for the staff in the outback for about £1,000 or £1,500 before the war, but the cost is now about £3,000 a house. I ‘cite as one instance of the increase of costs the fact that in Cloncurry, where the service was erecting a small building, the junior of the two carpenters who were working on it for a long time, was receiving £30 a week. I >do not know the wage of the senior carpenter, but it must have been more than that amount. The junior carpenter left the job to go to another job at £40 a week. I mention that matter to illustrate the tremendous increase of what may be described almost as incidental costs in running the service.

One of the most important and inescapable capital costs of the wholescheme has increased out of all proportion. It was possible to buy an aircraft for £1,500 or £1,600 before the war, but today the cost is anywhere up to £16,000 or £17,000. The Queensland division has been working under an agreement with Trans-Australia Airlines, under which Trans-Australia Airlines bought and provided the aircraft, and the flying doctor paid on a monthly basis for the use of them. I think it was calculated that the cost of amortization would be worked out over eight years. At the end of that time the aircraft would still be owned by Trans-Australia Airlines,, and the flying doctor service would have nothing for its expenditure except the use of them. Insurance costs are also high. Recently Trans-Australia Airlines announced that it would not continue with that agreement, and that the service would have to provide its own aircraft, whilst Trans-Australia Airlines would be prepared to man and fly them. That means that suddenly the Flying Doctor Service in Queensland will have to find up to £64,000 for the provision of four new aircraft for its service. The division has at present about £87,000 in assets. The whole of that amount is represented by the three base wireless stations, buildings and cars. It has, in liquid assets, about £42,000 in Australian Government bonds, which, unfortunately, would produce only £38,000 if realized at present.

The annual cost of running the service this year is estimated at approximately £51,000. It can be seen therefore, that in liquid assets the division has just about enough to cover the expenses of one year’srunning only. It can be, and has been said, that it is the responsibility of the State Government to provide the financenecessary for the division to obtain the required aircraft, or at least to give substantial financial assistance in that respect. I am not often complementary about the work of the Queensland Government, but in connexion with this matter I think it is being extremely reasonable. It subsidizes the service at present on a £1 for £1 basis, and if the service succeeds in raising subscriptions above the amount that it raised in the previous year the subsidy from the State is increased to 25s. to each £1. In the course of the last year the State Government paid, if I remember rightly, about £28,000 towards the cost of the service in Queensland. The division will receive from the Commonwealth grants amounting to .between £5,000 and £6,000. I venture to suggest that that is not a very happy position because, apart from the purchase of the aircraft, there is a great deal of work in building hangars that has to be carried out. On top of the cost of the aircraft, which will be £64,000 or perhaps £66,000, there is the insurance rate to be considered. At a rate of 10 per cent, insurance payments would amount to another £8,000. Increased amounts have been provided in the budget for all these things. The Government is increasing its financial assistance to the service on an Australian-wide basis from C12,500 to £20,000, whilst the subsidy for operating expenses is to be increased from £12,000 to £15,000 a year for three years from the 1st July last, on a £1 for £1 basis. That means an increase of £7,500 & year of one figure and an increase of 65,000 a year on the other. The point I should like to make is that somehow or other the Queensland division has to raise the additional sums to which I have referred. The service is of immense value to the Commonwealth ; it is of immense value to the people of the outback ; and it could be of very great value from a defence point of view. If the Australian Government cannot provide the money that is required for the purchase of aircraft, I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) to discuss with the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the possibility of the Government lending to the Flying Doctor Service - it does not matter whether it is lent to the federal division or the Queensland division - money to enable it to purchase the aircraft that it requires. If the Government cannot lend the money, I ask it to try to make it available through the Commonwealth Bank, or to assist the Queensland division of the service to obtain it from any banking organization that is willing to lend it. I do not think that that is an unfair request. The estimated expenditure for this year of the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service, which is conducted by the Australian Government, is £51,000. I am not making an objectionable comparison, but I am merely making a statement, when 1 say that that service does not help” as many people, nor does it cover nearly the same area as is covered by the Queensland division of the Flying Doctor Service. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to consider my request.

Mr Townley:

– It is a matter for the Department of Health, not for the Department of Civil Aviation.

Mr McCOLM:

– I direct my request to the Minister for Civil Aviation as the Minister who is sitting at the table, irrespective of which department is involved.

Silting suspended from 18.81 to 2.55 p.m .

Mr. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) 1 2.55]. - I should like to make some observations on the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs. That department has a considerable influence on Australia’s internal and external trade. Significant signs are appearing in our economy and the Government should pay attention to them. I invite attention particularly to the trend in Australia’s foreign trade in the last few months. Statistics published recently reveal that, at the end of July last. Australia’s gold and balances held abroad had fallen to £478,500,000- £11,000,000 less than at the end of July, 1953. The Government took credit to itself during the budget debate for the fact that, at the 30th June last, Australia’s foreign balances were some few million pounds greater than they had been al the 30th June, 1953.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Adermann:
FISHER, QUEENSLAND

– - Order ! What is the honorable member leading up to? I remind him that the committee is now considering the second group of proposed votes listed in the time-table.

Mr CREAN:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA · ALP

– I propose to discuss the administration of the Department, of Trade and Customs, and particularly the activities of the body known as the Tariff Board. It is not possible to develop the points that I wish to make without considering the general level of Australia’s trade, both internal and external. The most recent figures published by the Bureau of Census and Statistics indicate that for the month of August last we had a trade deficit of £22,500,000. This demonstrates that the trend that was apparent at the end of July last is continuing. It should be regarded with considerable seriousness by the Government.

Under the heading Division No. 78, Tariff Board, the amount proposed to be voted for salaries and payments in the nature of salary totals £45,500, whereas the vote last financial year amounted to £30,700. The principal reason for the increase is that the Tariff Board has been enlarged. In effect, there are at present two tariff boards. The board is concerned with the development of secondary industry in Australia, and it takes into account the competitive position in the Australian market of Australian manufactures relative to articles manufactured in other parts of the world. We have reached the stage at which we must consider whether the machinery of the Tariff Board is adequate for the evaluation of all the circumstances relative to the future of Australian secondary industry. Secondary industry and the distributive trades generally must be relied upon for the maintenance of our level of employment. Approximately 2,700,000 persons are at present employed in Australia, and the basic field of employment is secondary industry. Consequently, the activities of the Tariff Board on the one hand, and of the Department of Tradeand Customs on the other hand, in regulating the flow of imports into Australia are of importance to the economy.

Our overseas balances are depreciating considerably, and that situation is aggravated by the present trend in the price of wool, which is Australia’s principal export commodity. Wool prices now show a tendency to decline from the top levels that have been maintained recently. Two trends were revealed in the trade figures for the last financial year. On the one hand, imports were approximately £170,000,000 greater than in 1952-53, and on the other hand exports were about £30,000,000 less. Allowing for a few capital adjustments, the net decline in Australia’s trade position was approximately £200,000,000. The tendency to a worsening of the trade position is continuing. Last evening’s press published the figures for the month of August last, which indicated a further downward drift of at least £22,500,000, in visible items alone. That figure takes no account of the invisible items such as transport.

Mr Haylen:

– The drift was the worst since 1951.

Mr CREAN:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA · ALP

– It was the worst since 1951, when a crisis over imports occurred. Opposition members pointed out during the budget debate, and I now repeat, that the Government’s negligent approach to the economic problems that existed in 1951 threw the Australian economy into such confusion that full employment was destroyed. At the 30th June last, the total level of employment in Australia was no greater than it had been in July, 1951, despite the fact that in the intervening three years the population had increased by approximately 500,000 persons. These facts are of considerable significance for Australia’s economy. In 1927, when Australia’s economy had been thrown into considerable confusion, the government of the day, under the Prime Ministership of Mr. S. M. Bruce, who is now Viscount Bruce, appointed a body to make a special economic inquiry, which was known as the Australian Tariff: an Economic Inquiry. The investigating body was composed of expert economists and other persons who were well versed in the intricacies of Australia’s trade, and those gentlemen investigated the effect of tariffs on the economy. A similar inquiry should be made now to safeguard the economy. The solution of our present problems seems to be beyond the capacity of the Tariff Board, even though it has been enlarged by this Government. As I have said, the board now operates, as it were, in twin form, though the one chairman is supposed to control both its parts. In Australia’s present situation, I doubt whether in this form the Tariff

Board can adequately tackle the problems that we face.

Certain- honorable members on this side of the chamber have asked the Government whether it will lay its cards on the table in relation to Australia’3 commitments at the next meeting in Geneva, or wherever it may be held, of the signatories to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is colloquially known as Gatt. The decisions of that conference within the next month or two will have considerable significance for the development of Australian secondary industry, but the Government has shown itself most reluctant to indicate the theoretical line that its representatives propose to take, or to ask members generally, and particularly Opposition members, to make known their views on this important question. It is true, as the Administration is inclined to suggest, that the decision that Australia should participate in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was made by a Labour government. But I point out that during the term of office of that administration all sorts of hopeful aspirations as to the future of world economic development were expressed, and the general agreement was merely one aspect of a broader plan that it was hoped to bring into effect. An international trade organization failed to materialize, largely owing to the attitude of the great economic power, the United States of America. Nevertheless, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade has continued in existence, and it has been of value at least in . keeping tariff levels at reasonable heights.

We must consider the recent developments in Australian industries. I cite in particular the textile industries, in which dangerous factors are evident. Some industries, of course, are more readily, fostered and developed than are others, and in Australia the textile industries were in this category. At present, the textile industries employ some thousands of people fewer than they employed three or four years ago, and there seems to be little restraint upon imports into Australia of competitive textiles from other parts of the world, par ticularly from Great Britain. The textile industries face a difficult future. The level of imports, and future commitments under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, are the most important matters for the signatories to the agreement to consider at their next conference. 1 urge upon the Government the need for a full-scale debate on those problems in this chamber before Australia’s delegation to the conference departs. The situation of the Australian economy is at present serious. Not only are the prices of staple exports falling, but also the flow of imports seems to be unabating In spite of these facts, the Government, during the budget debate took credit on itself for the fact that at the 30th June last the level of Australia’s international balances was higher than it had been previously.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Mr GULLETT:
Henty

.-1 should like to say a few words, under the heading of the Department of the Interior, about the development of our National Capital at Canberra. What I propose to say is to some degree critical of the Government, or of its administrators and advisors, but it seems to me that, on a subject of this sort, which is entirely nonpolitical, one should be able to say what one thinks without in any sense embarrassing the Government or having any other aim than to direct the attention of honorable members to certain things going on here which should not be allowed to occur. I know that, until quite recently, many people in Australia have regarded the establishment of the National Capital at Canberra as a mistake.

Mr Lawrence:

– Hear, hear!

Mr GULLETT:

– I notice that that point of view has its supporters amongst honorable members, but the fact remains that the National Capital is now an established fact. Whether we like it or not, we have it, and it is here to stay.

Visitors from abroad come to Canberra and say, “ This is the capital of Australia “, and we are judged to a great degree on our performance and achievements here. I have spent a great part of my life in and around this district, and

I say that, in. my lifetime, the National Capital has never been so badly run as it is at the present time.

Mr Peters:

– Well, look at the Government that is in power.

Mr GULLETT:

– I said at the outset that I considered this situation to be some reflection upon the Government. Let us tackle the problem at the beginning. The fact is that the Minister who is responsible for Canberra is also responsible for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, and it stands to reason that he cannot find time to devote his attention to all those other national activities as well as to the development of the Capital City. Indeed, the development of the National Capital has been sadly neglected. I shall refer to one or two examples. For a start, I point to the most woeful waste of public money in Canberra. In no other city or municipality in the world would the production per man-hour he allowed to be so low as it is in this place. The work that is done on roads, public buildings, parks, gardens, and so forth, is far below a reasonable standard. Far too much money is spent in Canberra for far too little result. In addition to that, there is a sad lack of vision in the planning of Canberra’s development. It seems to me chat at this stage there can be no excuse for putting up additional temporary buildings.

We have in this National Capital enough books, pictures and so on to fill a very impressive national library, national gallery, or whatever it might be called, but we have no building suitable to house them.

Mr Peters:

– Very few people would look at them.

Mr GULLETT:

– I believe that people would look at them, and certainly they would benefit if they did so, because these are the records of our country and our people. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) himself would gain some advantage from looking at them. Only a few months ago a sorry collection of old army huts was erected to house a part of our National Library records. It is a miserable looking group of buildings, which honorable members often see from the air as they arrive in this city. It is time that proper permanent buildings were erected in Canberra - if we are to erect any more here. There is that delightful building opposite the Hotel Kurrajong which, I am informed,, is a telephone exchange, although from its appearance its true purpose could be anybody’s guess. One might be excused for misjudging it from its external’ appearance.

Any government that hopes to leave a good record behind it ought to devotesome serious thought to the development of this National Capital. Many people come to Canberra, and the average Australian would like to have a capital that he could be proud of. Go to Washington and see what great things have been done there in a relatively short time! The parliamentary buildings and other public- buildings are places in which every American takes pride. Come to Canberra and see the makeshift buildings that are going up, and the utter lack of vision on a national scale which, unfortunately, is not a symptom of times past but is still being prolonged in the things that are done in this city! I am sorry to say that the only decent buildings in Canberra are the National War Memorial and the American Embassy, for which neither this Government nor any previous government had any responsibility. There is not one decent building in Canberra that has been erected by any government, either present or past. As we have this National Capital, which is, in a sense, the centre of our national life by which we shall be judged, let us do the job properly, work out a reasonable plan, and go ahead with it. At present, to my belief, it is developing just like a great outer suburb, without character, distinction; or even convenience.

I must say also that, from the point of view of the people who live here, nothing could be less satisfactory than the way in which the city is now developing. I know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has little time to spare from his other great responsibilities. In Heaven’s name, then, let us appoint somebody who will have time! It is of no use to say, “Unfortunately the Minister is engaged on matters of greater importance and cannot attend to the affairs of Canberra “. We know and understand that. But in the old days there was an administrator of this Territory, Sir John Butters, under whom the capital made such progress as it has made. Now that the Minister is unable to spare time to concentrate on the development of Canberra, we should have a commission, an under-secretary, or somebody with authority who should be responsible for giving to the nation a capital city of which we can be proud and which will be a convenience to the people.

Mr PETERS:
Burke

.- I agree with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that the Government lacks national vision. Unfortunately, this lack of vision is not reflected only in the provision of temporary, makeshift accommodation to meet the convenience of temporary politicians in Canberra. The Government lacks vision in more important national fields. The Department of Trade and Customs and the Department of the Interior do, or leave undone, things that affect the whole economy of the nation. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has drawn attention to the trade situation. I remember asking the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in November, 1951, whether, in view of the fact that Australia’s overseas balances had depreciated during the previous six months by about £200,000,000, it was not of the utmost importance for the Government to do something to rectify the trade position. The right honorable gentleman replied that it was a complicated economic question, but that I could be assured that the Government had its eyes on the matter. A similar question was directed to the Prime Minister recently, and he again said that the people of Australia could be assured that the Government was watching the position closely. “What is the position to-day? The position is that, in June, the value of our imports was £20,000,000 more than the value of our exports. During July the value of imports exceeded the value of exports by £17,000,000, and in August the adverse balance was £18,500,000. During the same three months of 1953, our exports were worth £57,000,000 more than our imports. Those figures mean, of course, that our trade position over a period of three months has deteriorated since last year by £115,000,000. I remind the committee that the Opposition warned the Government, in November, 1951, of the deterioration of our trade balance at that time. In April, 1952, a member of the Opposition moved a motion for the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the growing unemployment caused by the actions of the Government in relation to imports. There were then 100,000 unemployed people in Australia. When we pointed to the danger of the situation, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) rose and said that everything in the garden was lovely and that our overseas balances were all right. He declared, in effect, that the Government was manipulating the national economy in order to divert manpower ‘and materials from unessential industries to primary industries and basic secondary industries. But the Parliament had scarcely gone into recess when the Prime Minister went to the microphones and said to the people of Australia, “ You must face difficulties, trials and tribulations because we have to save the country from insolvency “. That was the result of the policy of which the Vice-President of the Executive Council boasted! So, in order to save Australia from overseas insolvency, the Government imposed the most savage and rigid restrictions possible upon imports.

Mr Hamilton:

– What did the honorable member say then? ‘

Mr PETERS:

– I said that, if the Government had followed the Oppose tion’s advice, there would have been no need for import restrictions. I pointed out that the iniquity of the restrictions lay in the fact that they would cause further unemployment because the Government, in addition to restricting theimportation of goods that could be made by Australians in Australian workshops,, restricted the importation of raw materials and other goods that were necessary for the development of the Australian economy.

A similar situation is developing today. In a short time the Government will be forced to impose import restrictions again in order to save Australia from national insolvency. That is only to be expected when members of the Government parties profess to be supporters of a free trade Government.

Sir ERIC HARRISON:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP; LP from 1944

– I rise to order. I understood that the committee was discussing the Estimates, not the policy of the Government in relation to import restrictions or overseas trade generally. I ask for your ruling on this point, Mr. Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN:

-Import restrictions and related subjects obviously may be discussed under the heading of the Department of Trade and Customs.

Mr PETERS:

Mr. Chairman, you are a Solomon. The economic position in this country to-day is exactly the same as the position towards the end of 1951 and at the beginning of 1952. The Government has to protect our industries, or it certainly should do so, because those industries give employment to our people and produce the wealth without which we cannot continue to develop.

Mr Leslie:

– On a competitive basis ?

Mr PETERS:

– I shall reply to’ the honorable member in this way. Let us consider what is happening in the world at present. Every country is trying to secure markets. Every manufacturer in every country is manoeuvring to place his goods on the markets of the other countries of the world, and their goods are getting there despite the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and any other agreements on tariffs and trade that might operate. For example, Prance is a party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and because of that, France gives favorable consideration to the goods of other parties to the agreement. But before the imported goods have been put on French markets, France imposes an additional tax on them of 10 per cent, to 12 per cent., in order to protect its own internal industries against the competition of imported goods from other countries. That is the sort of thing that is happening under the agreement, and that is the way in which Australian industries are beginning to be destroyed.

At the present time Japan is trying to secure entry into Australian markets as a most-favoured nation, and if it does so that will be another blow at Australian industry. I am not one of those who talk about our goods being priced out of the markets of the world, because any country that has a higher standard of living than its competitors at once commences to price itself out of the markets of the world. I suggest that we should be willing to price ourselves out of certain markets in order to protect the standards of living that we have built up in this country. But the free-trade Australian Country party tail wags the Liberal dog in this Parliament, and the Australian Country party insists on the destruction of Australian industry. On numerous occasions I have brought before this chamber the unfavorable effect that the importation of commodities is having on this country. Let us consider textiles for example. The greatest exporter of textiles in the world to-day is Japan. That country buys our wool, and exports manufactured textiles. Japan also exports semi-made textiles to the United Kingdom and elsewhere, where they are finished and then exported to other countries of the world, including Australia, where they are sold in competition with Australian products. Of course, they can undersell Australian textiles, because the cost of Japanese labour involved in making the articles is less than one-tenth the cost of the labour used in Australian-made articles.

Mr Haworth:

– In other words, the honorable member wants it both ways.

Mr PETERS:

– I want the development of a self-reliant and prosperous Australia, and I want our people to remain in employment. I want what the supporters of the Government call “ overfull “ employment. I want more jobs than men to fill them. I want so many jobs to be available that people from other countries can come to Australia, secure employment and help to develop the country during its time of need and crisis.

Mr Haworth:

– Does the honorable member want to sell our wool ?

Mr PETERS:

– Of course I do. We certainly want to sell our wool, but the honorable member should remember that the countries that buy our wool do not buy it out of love for Australia ; they buy it because they need it.

Mr Haworth:

– One way traffic.

Mr PETERS:

– Japan -bought about £85,000,00 worth of wool a year or so ago. Does the honorable member suggest that we should take anything in return for our wool? Japan exports to Malaya and elsewhere and it could supply us with rubber from Malaya and cotton from elsewhere in return for our wool, and these are goods we need. We import certain things because we need .them, and so do other countries. The attitude of the Government seems to be that if other countries buy from us what they need, and what is absolutely essential to them, we should take all sorts of products from them in return, whether we need them or not. We should take textiles, light machinery, pottery ware and other goods that we are quite capable of producing in Australia. That sort of attitude must lead to unemployment among the people. If that is the attitude of the Government, it certainly is not the attitude of the Opposition.

There are two major needs in this country. The first is the need to settle people on the land, and the second is the need to develop our secondary industries. Last year the secondary industries of Australia produced more wealth than all our primary industries combined. Secondary industries produced about £1,024,000,000 worth of goods, and primary industries produced about £931,000,000 worth. But the Department of Trade and Customs, under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) takes actions that this Parliament is not aware of. The Minister issues licences to this one or that one, and restricts imports here or there, and no other member of the Parliament knows anything about his actions. Nevertheless, the issuing of import licences is of major importance in this country, and surely the type of goods to be imported should not be decided solely by the Minister with the aid of a bureaucrat, or by a bureaucrat with the aid of the Minister.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order! The honorable member’s time’ has expired.

Mr FAILES:
Lawson

.- According to his speech, the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) appears to have indulged in some woolly thinking. He has confused import restrictions with tariffs, and has dragged into the whole matter the Australian standard of living. He also mentioned the encouragement of secondary and primary industries. He was prepared to ignore the fact that our overseas trade balances depend on our exports, the great bulk of which come from primary producers. He has talked about developing secondary industries, which supply very few of our export goods, although it is our export goods that build up our favorable trade balance which is essential for manufacturers who want to compete in the world markets, because they cannot buy goods outside this country unless we have favorable trade balances. The honorable member missed the essential .point that restrictions were not placed on the importation of . goods in place of tariffs. When restrictions were imposed, the Government stated that they were for a purpose quite remote from any tariff proposal. The honorable member said that the result of import restrictions was to threaten employment in this country, but had those imports been allowed to continue to flow in the great stream that had developed, there would have been a large amount of unemployment here because importers would not have been able to meet their overseas liabilities.

I desire particularly to refer to the Department of Civil Aviation. I draw the attention of the committee to the proposed vote for this department, which exceeds last year’s vote by £2,000. It is quite satisfactory to find that this department is growing, and that the vote for it has had to be increased. The point that I want to make is that the estimate has not been increased sufficiently, because as Australians become more airminded year by year the growing demands of this department must continue to be met in order that civil aviation facilities may be maintained and expanded. I suggest that the Government should consider that this department may increase its activities. Country people are vitally interested in civil aviation. I speak for my own State in particular, because I am more aware of the circumstances in New South “Wales. In that State we have a railway service which is totally inadequate. If I attempted to make the return trip from Canberra to my home town by train, it would take me almost a week.’ Even if I caught a train from Sydney one night I would not reach my home town until late in the afternoon of the next day. In comparison with the slowness of that form of travel, by using an air service I can get home from here in a little more than an hour. Honorable members will well understand why people in country centres are becoming more air-minded as time goes on.

The general policy of the Department of Civil Aviation is to encourage local authorities to build air strips and get air services running, and then to consider taking them over. If it takes over the services, the department maintains them. While the whole responsibility is placed on the local authority until the department takes them over, once they are taken over, theoretically the department will fully maintain them. I say “ theoretically “ because the department has limited funds at its disposal. At page 39 of the Estimates, under Division No. 71 - Maintenance and Operation of Civil Aviation Facilities - provision is made for “ Telephone services, £35,000 “. If a local authority establishes an aerodrome with the assistance of the Department of Civil Aviation, and an airways company is prepared to give service to the aerodrome, it then needs a telephone. An approach is usually’ made to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and in many cases the company is told that the number of calls does not warrant a telephone service being connected. That is probably a quite reasonable attitude from the viewpoint of the Postmaster.General. But surely there should be some co-operation between the two departments so that telephones can be supplied, because they are definite necessities, and great conveniences at airports or landing strips. So I suggest that the Minister should seek the co-operation of the Postmaster-General’s Department in respect of aerodromes which have not been taken over by the Department of Civil

Aviation, to see whether an arrangement can be made to provide a telephone. That applies to new airports at Baradine and Coolah in my electorate, and to Mudgee, where an aerodrome will soon be established, because I have no doubt the same position will arise there.

The other matter to which I wish to refer is the assistance provided by the Commonwealth to aero clubs and gliding clubs. Again, I am please to note that the proposed vote for the current financial year is considerably more than the actual expenditure in the last financial year. However,.. I suggest that the amount is still not sufficient, although I realize thai probably it is all that can be provided from the allocation to the department. I have mentioned before in this chamber that we should encourage in peace-time those organizations which will be of valueto us for defence purposes. That applies not only to commercial enterprises, businesses, factories and so on, but also very definitely to such organizations as aero clubs and glider clubs, because we can establish in the days of peace a service which will be of inestimable value to us in war-time. One might almost suggest that this is a defence matter, because the training of pilots by aero clubs and glider clubs throughout Australia must be of tremendous importance and value to the services if, on any unfortunate occasion, they should need a nucleus of men trained in this particular skill. Therefore, I suggest that every possible encouragement should be given to aero clubs and glider clubs to develop to the full their activities.

Aero clubs and glider clubs are composed mostly of youngsters who are approaching the age when they feel that they can take part in this activity. They are always ably assisted by men who were pilots in the last war, or previous wars, who give of their time, to a large degree, in a voluntary capacity. I consider that it is always good policy to subsidize people who are prepared to help themselves. I know that the Minister for Civil Aviation, like his predecessors, is most sympathetic to this organization, and I raise the matter now to strengthen his arm, if I may, in securing a greater allocation next year for his department in order that he may he able to give more grants^ to aero clubs and gliding clubsHonorable members may have heard this morning the broadcast news that the Dubbo gliding club,, which has only a handful of members, has constructed, its own glider at a cost of some £1,800, and now proposes to lease or buy another glider from South Australia, because one machine is not sufficient to. train the pilots that it has in prospect. I know that this club also proposes to enlarge its activities by constructing another glider, and that will be done almost entirely from its own efforts-, plus a small subsidy from this Government. So I repeat that every possible encouragement should be given to these clubs to assist them in their valuable work, and in the valuable contribution which they are making to our national defence.

Mr COUTTS:
Griffith

.- 1 listened? with great attention to the speech of the honorable’ member for Henty (Mr. Gullett)-, and noted that he expressed himself in favour of the proposal that Canberra should be developed on a national basis, and that something should be done to provide facilities that tourists will be pleased to see when they come here. I do not propose to develop that, theme. I desire to express- some opinions about the work which members of the Parliament have to do in this place, and E shall make an appeal to the Minister for Works- (Mr. Kent Hughes), a most reasonable man in his approach, in the hope that he- may be prepared to take some notice of my requests.

Each of us has been in the position that I am in to-day, namely, that of being a new member of the Parliament, but I think that many honorable members have not experienced the embarrassment and frustration that I, together with several new members on this side of the chamber, have experienced since we have been here. A few minutes ago, I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) deliver a brilliant address in which he referred to the sovereignty of Parliament.. According, to my interpretation, that, expression suggests that Parliament is supreme. It is tragic,, then, to find that honorable members, who come here with the approval of their electors, and want to work, have no place in which to work. I came here from a. very humble local authority, which was considerate and decent enough to supply me with a table and a typist, and a place where I could file my papers. But the only space that I am given in Parliament House in which to do my work is a pigeonhole 6 inches by 10 inches by 20’ inches which, if my calculation is correct, gives me 1,200 cubic inches in the National Parliament building in which to file my papers, put the reports which are given to me from time to time, and keep the letters which I receive from my constituents. I am sure that all honorable members will agree that this provision is absolutely unreasonable.

Mr Morgan:

– The Government likes pigeonholes.

Mr COUTTS:

-That may be so, but 1 do not propose to- subscribe entirely to that view. Perhaps the situation has not been brought to the notice of the Minister for Works, and I may be speaking selfishly, but I am making an appeal for each honorable member to be given at least a table on which to write and two or three drawers in which to put his papers, and the letters that he receives from his constituents. We must have an opportunity to undertake a little research work,, and engage in some study, in reasonable, quiet.. I am compelled to do my research, and prepare my speeches, in a commonroom which is used intermittently, by about 86 members. With telephones ringing and honorable members conversing on innumerable topics, the position is almost intolerable. So- I make the suggestion that the Minister, in his kindness and desire to assist new members, may consider this matter seriously and sympathetically. I am aware that some members of the previous Parliament who. occupied rooms are no longer with us. Possibly, those rooms may be made available to new members. I would not. be, so impertinent as to suggest that a room should be made available to an individual member. If two or three honorable members were placed in the one room, they would be well satisfied with the situation. I am happy to see the Minister in the chamber at the moment. I note, that the sum of £30,000 is to be provided for repairs and maintenance to Parliament House-

Mr George Lawson:

– It is a matter for Mr. Speaker.

Mr COUTTS:

– I hope that the Minister will pass this matter on to Mr. Speaker at an appropriate time. I feel that the Minister and Mr. Speaker are desirous that honorable members shall have facilities made available to them so that they may carry out their jobs as they should be carried out. To be elected to the National Parliament is one of the great honours that can be conferred on an Australian by the Australian public.

Mr TOWNLEY:
Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation · Denison · LP

– I do not wish to occupy the time of the committee unduly, but I have listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) about the administration of, and expenditure by, the Department of Civil Aviation, and I consider that I should place a. fewfacts and figures before honorable members. The first criticism offered by the honorable member is that the Department of Civil Aviation does not receive a sufficiently large vote. I agree with him, and I am sure that any other Minister will agree with similar criticism of the vote for the department that he administers. We all want a little more money than Ave have been allocated. The second matter mentioned by the honorable member for Lawson is the policy in regard to the acquisition of country airports and the development of airports, particularly in the remote areas of the Commonwealth. I think that it may be as well if we have before us some facts and figures relating to those matters. We all are very interested and enthusiastic, but there are certain limits beyond which we cannot go. The Estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation this year, apart from capital works expenditure, amount to approximately £11,000,000. That, we know, is an enormous amount of money, but if we look merely at the Estimates and at the figure of £11,000,000, we do not get the true picture. Of the sum of £11,000,000, no less than £3,519,000 will come back to the Government in airmail charges and £400,000 in air route charges which are paid by commercial aircraft companies. There is also an amount of £180,000 which is collected by the Department of the Interior as revenue, but which should rightly be credited to the Department of Civil Aviation. The industry also pays to the Treasury no less than £1,600,000 in duty on aviation spirit. Although £11,000,000 seems a lot of money, the net expenditure is not nearly so much.

Mr ALLAN FRASER:
EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– What is the balance ?

Mr TOWNLEY:

– About £5,000,000. Then another matter should be remembered. All other forms of transport in Australia receive, directly or indirectly, some form of assistance from the Government, that is to say, from the taxpayers. A post-war study of costs borne by the community for the provision of facilities and assistance to transport media shows that governmental assistance for coastal shipping was 15 per cent., road transport 11 per cent., railways 10 per cent., and air transport 14 per cent. So it can be seen that assistance given to civil aviation is at least comparable with that given to other forms of transport.

The growth of civil aviation in Australia is one of the most dramatic stories in our record as a nation. It is only a little more than 30 years ago when the first commercial air service operated from Perth to Derby, in Western Australia. The number ‘of passengers carried in 1928 was 900, but ten years later it had grown to 100,000. In 1947, the number of passengers carried by air in Australia had increased to 1,000,000 and in 1951 nearly touched £2,000,000. Australia to-day is one of the great aviation countries of the world. Last year, aircraft flew 700,000,000 revenue passenger miles and on the domestic services alone, apart from our international services, aircraft flew 30,500,000 ton miles of freight. That is just the story of our domestic operations. On international air routes, due largely to the operations of Qantas, we have, to-day, 45,000 miles of unduplicated services in a network which covers four-fifths of the globe. In this respect, Australia ranks fifth among the countries of the world. On a per capita basis or on that of passenger miles, ton miles or mail miles, Australia ranks easily first in the world to-day. Assessing our position on an aggregate basis, Australia is second only to the United States of America in all categories of commercial aviation with the one exception that in respect of mail ton miles Canada ranks second and Australia third.

The magnitude of the work of the Department of Civil Aviation is not generally realized. Our internal network of air services covers 71,000 miles, and we own, or control, not less than 500 aerodromes. The honorable member for Lawson suggested that that was not enough. I agree that we have not done all that we should like to do or that we need to do, but I point out that since 1949 this Government has established 45 new aerodromes of the government type and that we have licensed 171 private aerodromes whilst improvements costing, in each case, £5,000 or more, have been carried out on over 65 country aerodromes. Thus, quite a lot of work has been done in recent years. “With the increase of the speed and wing loading of aircraft, it has been necessary to put down paved strips, and these strips, to-day, arc the equivalent of 1,600 miles of highway. At the same time, 100 miles of lights have been provided for night landings.

These comparative figures convey some idea of the magnitude of the work that is being carried on. A very interesting illustration was given by Mr. Anderson, of the Department of Civil Aviation, in an address that he delivered in Canberra about a week ago, when he pointed out that in this country an aircraft is taking off, or landing, every minute between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Whilst, in considering matters of this kind, we are prone to have foremost in our mind, the aircraft that are being used and the pilots who fly them, we must not forget the men who provide radio navigational aids. Commercial aircraft can maintain close touch with the ground over an area in excess of 1,500,000 square miles. Our safety record in this country is due in no small measure to those who man and maintain these radio navigational aids to aircraft. As I have said on previous occasions, Australia has a safety record in aviation equal to that of any other country, although figures received recently from the United States of America would appear to indicate that that country is getting into a more favorable position, perhaps, than we now enjoy in that respect.

These facts indicate that tremendous progress has been made during the last 30 years. Progress of such a character will always produce appropriate challenges. It is a far cry from the days of the ‘twenties, when the first air service in this country was provided from Derby to Perth, to the fast, pressurized, heavy aircraft with an enormous carrying capacity that are now flying on Australia’s international air routes. A Constellation aircraft, for instance, requires 120 horse-power to drive its engine supercharger, and this is sufficient power to fly a light aeroplane. A Constellation’s refrigeration plant would suffice to service 340 domestic refrigerators, whilst that aircraft has 350 electric circuits, 450 switches and 240 lamp bulbs. So the story goes. Of course, this development of aircraft has been matched by the increased cost of services which involve the provision and maintenance of airports, strips and radio navigational aids to which I have referred. When Bert Hinkler landed at Mascot in 1928 a sum of £8 was expended to clear- away scrub in order to enable him to land safely. In 1938, the sum of £55 was expended to prepare the aerodrome service at Mascot in order to enable Miss Amy Johnston’s aircraft to land. “We remember her with great respect and affection. Yet, on that aerodrome, to-day, we have expended over £1,000,000 in preparing one strip. Honorable members from Queensland are aware that we are preparing a strip at an aerodrome in that State which is estimated to cost £1,250,000. At Port Moresby, we have had to re-surface one strip that was used during the war, and the cost of paving that surface alone is estimated at £235,000. It must be borne in mind that all this progress has been achieved by relatively a handful of people in a country which is approximately the size of the United States of America. At the same time, we have been obliged to make progress in other spheres as well. I believe all honorable members will agree that what we have achieved during the last 30 years in the sphere of civil aviation is little short of a miracle.

With respect te the” point made by the honorable member for Lawson, we shall delude ourselves if we think that there is no limit to the amount of money that we can provide for the development of this branch of transport! All honorable members have the urge to press on and are convinced that civil aviation provides lis with one of the most effective means of developing our great outback. We want more aerodromes, airports^ modern lighting installations, better strips and better terminal buildings; but, above all, we must not lose sight of the fact that modern aviation is an extremely costly business. The cost of aircraft is tremendous, and great expenditure is involved in operating them. There are physical and financial limitations to what our population can afford to do in this sphere in a country of Australia’s size. Another limiting factor, which must not be forgotten, is that no matter how much we may desire to progress and expand we must never sacrifice safety. It is far better to have what we now possess and to enjoy our record for safety, which is unsurpassed in any Other country, than to have airport’s established everywhere at the expense of reducing our safety margin even ito a small degree. However, having sounded that note of caution as to what we can and cannot afford, I emphasize, a’t the same time, that We must have vision in developing civil aviation. As I have said, bur progress during the last 30 “years falls little short ‘of a miracle. I believe that our achievement’s during ‘the “next 30 years will match our record up to date in this sphere.

Although we must be cautious in order to, maintain safety and must not undertake expenditure in excess of our resources, we must, at the same time, keep in mind the enormous potential of aviation. Perhaps, I can best emphasize this point by giving a few simple illustrations. For example, only five modern internationaltype aircraft are needed to carry more passengers across the Atlantic in a year than Queen Mary is capable of carrying on 46 crossings. This potential is ‘of enormous defence significance. If, tomorrow, we desired to “drop 1,000 men, say, at ‘Singapore, we could do so. -By immobilizing or-, perhaps, embarrassing our ordinary commercial air services, we could land 5,000 men at Singapore by tomorrow afternoon. The aviation industry iri this country is enormous. It employs 27,000 men and women. It has real defence significance. Pilots, technicians, and aircraft control men could be of enormous value in a time of war. I ask honorable members to compare in terms of war potential the value of the factors that I have already enumerated. The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) spoke of the value of the Plying Doctor Service. .We know of the search for uranium by aircraft usingscintillometers, and the value of aircraft as a means of rescue and of providing aid in emergencies, such as floods and bush fires. These are intangible thingsthat cannot be expressed in the - Estimates, but they are of very real value as national assets. When the Constitution was framed in 1901, the Wright brothers had not made their first flight. Consequently, the Constitution makes no> provision in respect of aviation. When steps are taken to revise the Constitution, much attention will have to be given to this subject. I have given to the committee a few facts and figures about development of civil aviation in this country. This progress has been achieved at tremendous cost. No matterhow enthusiastic we may be to expand existing services^ we must remember that we are subject to ‘certain limiting factors. At the same time) however, I believe that our achievements in this sphere during ‘the next 30 years will be even more ‘dramatic.

Mr ALLAN FRASER:
EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– In view of the progress that has been made in civil aviation, can the Minister, at this stage, give any assurance “with respect to theconstruction of an aerodrome at Merimbula, on the south coast, on which preliminary work has already been authorized ?

Mr TOWNLEY:

– I am unable, offhand, to ‘give any assurance in that respect.

Mi EDMONDS (Herbert) [4.7] .- The presence of the Minister -for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) at the table -indicates that he is interested in the consideration of the Estimates of hisdepartment. His remarks have been most -interesting, and have conveyed to honorable .-members -a picture -of what has been done in ‘the -past. (However, members -of the ‘committee -are interested most not in what ‘has happened in the past ‘but in what is happening -now and in what the ‘Government -proposes to do in this -sphere -in -t’he future. ‘Over l30 years ago, I saw :a man -parachute from a. balloon, and, having regard to the stage .aviation had .reached at that time, the performance was almost incredible. Today, jet aircraft are breaking the sound harrier. .Although the Minister has just assumed -control of civil, aviation, “I renew ,a p’lea which I .made to his predecessor. ‘The Minister is highly regarded ‘for his courtesy and conscientiousness. T, .myself, shall reserve judgment about him until “I am advised of his decision on the .matter that I am about ,to raise. In the past, .my representations have been ignored. However at the moment, I -shall igo so far as to say that if he replies to my representations, I :shall have received .more from him. than -I received from his predecessor.

I “regret ‘that I did not hear all the remarks ‘o’f ‘the honorable ^member for Lawson (Mr. Failes)** when he -was dealing with the -subject o’f country aerodromes. About 1947 the ‘Chifley Government [initiated a ^scheme “that was designed to encourage the establishment and development -of country aerodromes. That Government saw something that is -still obvious to-day - that it was absolutely -essential to provide for the inevitable expansion of :air travel. We have from the .Minister figures that prove that the Chifley -Government was right in tha -view. The Chifley Govern?ment told the local authorities that if they proceeded -with the establishment of country ‘aerodromes and could prove 4o “the ‘Commonwealth that the aerodromes established were justified, the Commonwealth would not only reimburse each local authority concerned with the cost of .establishing the aerodrome, hut would also acquire it, expand it, and maintain tit in -the future. The Chifley Government put (that agreement into effect. I challenge -the .Minister, or -anybody else, to :Say -that -there is lone local authority in Australia which, -up to .1949, established an aerodrome under that agreement ana did not have its initial costs reimbursed to it, and the aerodrome that it had established acquired by the Department of Civil Aviation. That position existed until the terrible election of 1949, when Labour was defeated. No indication has been given, either through or by the Department of Civil Aviation, to any local authority, that the policy has been altered. One would have expected that ‘at least, if ‘the policy has been changed, the local authorities would have been notified of the fact. But there has not been one word to them about the alteration. I -am sure that the conditions that now apply in -my own electorate -regarding aerodromes -apply also in your electorate, **Mr. Chairman, and in all country electorates. “Does anybody suggest that the people o’f the Ayr, Ingham, Proserpine ‘and Innisfail districts are ‘not entitled ‘to air services? I suppose other honorable members could mention other ‘areas -that are in u similar position. The Minister talked about the amount -of money that the department had expended. It is true that a considerable amount of ‘money ‘has been expended on aerodromes, but the mrs.take -made by this Government is the same mistake as was made “by the Government that I supported. .It has concentrated -on [expanding the city aerodromes, .-and .has ignored the expansion of country aerodromes. I have said before in this elam.ber and I repeat, that the .fact that .the Chifley Government made a .mistake is. -no reason why that -mistake should .be allowed to continue under this .Government.

The Ayr .Shire Council, .which has a limited ability to obtain finance, expended about ,£15,0.00 On the establishment of asn aerodrome in the honest and .sincere assumption that that .money would be refunded to it when it .had proved to the Department .of Civil Aviation that an aerodrome at Ayr was justified. .The figures submitted .by me to the .Minister’s predecessor proved conclusively that ,an aerodrome (there was justified. But out of the clear blue sky came a repudiation of the arrangement made by the Chifley Government. The local authorities were told .’that they would not -hav.e refunded to them any of the £15,,-000 they had expended on the aerodromes, ‘and also that if they wanted to have the aerodrome at Ayr maintained in serviceable condition they must bear the expense of the maintenance. It is just pure stupidity to suggest that any shire council has the financial ability to maintain an aerodrome. At Ayr we have a fair-weather aerodrome that consists of a strip, with a little shed where an official can collect passengers’ tickets. “When wet weather comes there is, in effect, no aerodrome. Even if the department is not prepared to reimburse the local authorities for the cost up to date, it should acquire and expand the aerodrome, and convert it to an allweather aerodrome. I know that when I mention the Lower Burdekin area honorable members from Queensland will ask, “ “Why does not the honorable member refer that complaint to the Queensland Government which failed to build a bridge over the Burdekin River, as the result of which the Ayr district was isolated for weeks in the last .flood, because trains could not get across the river and planes could not land ? “ I ask the Minister - and I shall not take up any more time unless he is prepared to listen to me-

Mr Townley:

– I rise to order. I think ‘ that the honorable member is speaking on proposed votes that come under the heading Capital Works and Services.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I am allowing discussion on matters associated with the administration of the departments whose Estimates we are discussing, because such matters are relevant.

Mr EDMONDS:

– Personally, I do not care on which section of the Estimates I make my remarks on this matter. This is a matter that comes within the purview of the Department of Civil Aviation. Where the Minister gets the money from is his business. We on this side of the committee believe that matter to be related to the Department of Civil Aviation, and I raise it on the second occasion in order to appeal to the Minister, who, as I said earlier, is believed to be conscientious, sincere and courteous, so that he will be able at least to give me something that I shall be able to forward, or take, to the local authorities concerned. If he. refuses my request, I hope that he will be able to give the committee a real reason or excuse for so doing. If it is not a refusal, I am sure that every local authority, and I, will say, “ God bless him ! “ I appeal to him to take into consideration, in respect of the expenditure of money on aerodromes, the willy-nilly talk of decentralization that we hear. It is futile to talk about decentralization unless we are prepared to do something realistic about it. If .we decentralize at all, we must decentralize all facilities, including modern facilities like civil aviation. If he is going to talk about the expenditure of money, I hope he will not rise here and tell us once again that all the money has been expended in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Brisbane, but will be able to tell us that at least something has been expended in country areas. I ask the Minister to tell us whether there has been any change in the attitude of the department about the acquisition of the civil aerodromes after they have been established by local authorities. If there has not been a change, I ask. him why the department has not acted according to the arrangement, in at least the places I have mentioned. If there has been a change in policy, will the Minister tell me why on earth the local authorities, or at least the members of this committee, were not told about it before this?

Mr FAIRBAIRN:
Farrer

.- 1 desire to speak, on a matter other than that raised by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), but I should like first to say that I sympathize with the honorable member. I realize, also, however, the difficulties that face the Department of Civil Aviation. I do not consider that we have reached a stage where we can scatter all-weather strips throughout the country. The honorable member for Herbert must realize that the cost of these strips is extremely heavy. One all-weather strip, in one direction, would cost about £100,000. If that amount of money were expended on each of, say, 200 aerodromes throughout Australia, the expense would be beyond the ability of the Department of Civil Aviation. I am not familiar with the conditions in the honorable member’s electorate, but I know that in many instances there has been a tendency on the part of the department to put in all-weather strips where they are not really justified. In some instances they have been laid at aerodromes that are out of service, because of weather conditions, for only a few days in the year. Aircraft which normally land at these aerodromes could, in wet weather, easily be diverted to other aerodromes 30 or 40 miles away and the passengers could be taken to their destination by car. I cannot see that it is economically feasible to convert, at great expense, many aerodromes to allweather strips merely because they are not usable for half a dozen days in the year, when alternative usable aerodromes are available nearby.

I rose to speak principally on the Estimates for the Department of the Interior, and. particularly the proposed vote of £463,000 for ‘ the Electoral Branch. I am glad to see that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is now at the table, because I desire to speak about the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which is administered by his department and which. I think is in radical need, not so much of alteration, as of overhaul. The present time is an excellent time for us to examine the act, because it is unlikely that there will be another general election within about two years. In the meantime, we could appoint an all-party committee that could overhaul the act and make recommendations on non-party lines to the Government. After all, much of this act was introduced in 1902, and it has largely remained unchanged ever since. There are a number of anomalies in it which should be investigated. One of them is the statutory obligation on every candidate for election to this Parliament to sign a form to the effect that he has not spent more than £250 on his electoral campaign. Not only has the candidate to sign that form, but the organization that directed his campaign also has to submit a return regarding the amount of money it expended. This is a complete farce and a waste of time. There has never been, in the 52 years since federation, one case before the courts of anybody charged with having spent too much money on an electoral campaign. In any event, under the act an organization can spend on an election campaign any’ amount it wishes, so that all that happens is that an organization which, conducts a campaign goes to a lot of trouble to submit to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer a return that is never used, and never could be used. Surely it is absurd to maintain such an anomaly. I do not believe that the expenditure of money influences the electors to any great degree. In the State electorate embraced by my division, during the last State election a candidate spent an enormous sum of money on his campaign, yet it was found when the figures went up that he had reduced the sitting member’s majority by considerably less than the swing against that sitting member’s party throughout all of the State.

Mr Fuller:

– What electorate was that?

Mr FAIRBAIRN:

– It was the Albury State electorate.

Mr Fuller:

– Well, they swung the kitchen sink at him.

Mr FAIRBAIRN:

– The second matter that should be investigated is the easting of an enormous number of informal votes, particularly at Senate elections. There are an awful number of candidates for election to the Senate, and one might almost say there are a lot of awful candidates. We should investigate the possibility of excluding so-called no-hopers without removing the opportunity for a genuine candidate to nominate.

Mr J R FRASER:
ALP

– Surely the honorable member does not want to deprive the Government of its majority!

Mr FAIRBAIRN:

– I am amused by the remark of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). In 1902, provision was made for the payment of a .deposit as a means of excluding the so-called no-hoper. That deposit was £25. In times past, doubtless many people almost had to pawn their shirts in order to obtain the £25. I have heard of very many instances in which the candidates raised the money when the electoral office was about to close on the last day fixed for the receipt of deposits.- Great changes have occurred, but the deposit has remained the same’ as it was 50 years ago. We know that on the occasion of every general election, a number’ of Communist candidates, nominate: knowing’ that each of them, will lose: his’ deposit. But they know also that, from the point, of: view of political, propaganda, it is the best investment of: £25 they could possibly make. As soon as. they are endorsed, no radio station can refuse them time unless it can show just cause- or that it has: not sufficient time to allot to them:. There is a very strong’ case for a considerable increase of the deposit. It would eliminate the candidates who have no prospect of being returned, but it would not affect those who’ are returned or who have had a good run for their money.

The third matter to which I refer is the distribution of “ How to Vote” cards. Many honorable members, including myself, represent country electorates. There are 129 polling booths in my electorate but, try as we may, it is impossible for each, party to man all of those booths for 12 hours during polling day. The result is that many people, particularly on the occasion of a Senate election, attend the polling booth without having any clear idea of the manner in. which they should vote. I refer to elections for the Senate particularly, because the names of twenty Candida tes may be listed. Although the electors know the candidates for whose party they wish to vote,, they do not know many others such as Communist and Henry George candidates. I think this difficulty could be overcome in two ways. The first and: it seems’ to me the more satisfactory, way of overcoming the difficulty would be to* place on the ballot-paper the name of. line party by which the candidate has- been endorsed! 1 see no reason why that cannot: be. done. In. England^, cards are sent through the post before- the election,, but it is- illegal for’ any person to try to influence a voter by handing him a “How to Vote” card on polling day. The other means by which the difficulty could be overcome would be to place in each, polling booth, on behalf of. each party that is: contesting the election, a “ How to Vote “ card printed in large type. It. could be- placed in- such a position that’ every voter, could see! how each particular- party wished him’ to vote; Such a system would eliminate, the time that is wasted in distribut- ing How to Vote “’ cards:. As all. honorable members know,, quite- often there aire brawls on polling day.. In New South Walesa we- might even be able to: open the hotels on polling day if there were- no brawls’ outside the’ polling booths.

Mr Daly:

– There are no fights in Labour electorates.

Mr FAIRBAIRN:

– The. statement of the honorable member is in conflict with a certain report, from the division of Hume. The fourth matter to which I refer is the alphabetical order of candidates’ names. As the Temporary Chairman, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) knows, it was very difficult on the occasion of a recent election to decide whether the name McLeay should precede the name Macleod. The advice of solicitors was sought before the matter was resolved. The same thing has happened in relation to Senate elections. The Australian Labour party made a complete farce of the position in New South “Wales when it adopted the practice of entering a team of three candidates whose names began with the letter A. The result was that the names Amour, Armstrong and Ashley appeared together. Of course, those candidates topped the poll.

Mr Daly:

– They won on merit.

Mr FAIRBAIRN:

– It became necessary to alter the system, and it was altered so that the different parties in a Senate election could ballot for the first position on the election ballot-paper. I think the same system should’ be adopted in relation to elections for the House of Representatives.. I say so,, as a man whose name, because’ it commences’ with the letter E,, normally would appear fairly high on a ballot-paper, and not as one whose name begins with the letter W or a letter even: lower in the alphabetical order:

Finally, I think we should review the hours that are fixed for voting. The hours within which electors mav vote have remained the same since 1902 or earlier, although there have been great changes in methods, of transportation during that period. The. same hours applied in. the days of plural voting: when a1- man. used, to- cast his vote, in one elector-ate, then harness a four-in-hand and drive flat out to -another place where he owned some property and where he was entitled to -a .second vote. It was considered necessary to give him twelve hours to get ‘from one place to the other Surely there is no necessity, nowadays, for having polling booths open for the whole of the present prescribed time. In Queensland State elections the hours are S a.m. to 6 p.m., hut in the remaining States and .in Commonwealth territory voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Queensland practice could be adopted very easily. The Commonwealth should confer with the States, and a uniform set of hours should be adopted. If the Queensland practice were adopted, the returning officer would have an easier time and would be able to announce his results very much earlier. I think the time has arrived when we should appoint an allparty parliamentary committee to inquire into the whole -subject of voting with ,a view to improving the electoral laws.

Mr J R FRASER:
ALP

– I commend the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) for his ‘suggestion that the Commonwealth Electoral Act should be revised and that the revision should be undertaken ‘by an all-party parliamentary commit’tee. The undertaking that a candidate has not expended more than £250 during an ‘election campaign is one that he ‘cannot give .honestly, and its retention in the act is simply an inducement to honorable members, or organizations, to sign a false declaration. I have yet to sign such an undertaking.

I refer now to the statement o’f the honorable member for Henty ,(M-r. Gullett), in which he emphasized ‘the meed for a national outlook in the development of the National Capital. I most heartily agree with that statement. The honorable member touched upon matters a’bout which I have spoken in this chamber from, time to time, and I am very pleased indeed to ‘have received support from -such a distinguished resident in the electorate that I represent. He stated that we should not perpetuate the erection of .temporary buildings in the National Capital, and he expressed the -opinion that there were only two ‘worthwhile buildings in this city. The honorable member could have stated also that there are only two permanent completed government buildings in Canberra. The fact that we have so many temporary structures may be due, partly, to a reluctance on the part of public servants to make a decision in relation to anything of a permanent nature. .1 believe there is a reluctance on the part of senior public servants who are charged with the responsibility of administration to decide to erect a permanent building. If they erect a temporary building and any criticism is -voiced about its design or function, they can reply, “.Of course, i;t is only a temporary structure “. indecision should be made to proceed, with the development of the National Capital in a full and proper sense, and I hope that the support that has been given to my pleas by the honorable member for Henty will lead to the appointment of an all-party parliamentary committee to supervise that -development.

The honorable member also made some perhaps harsh, perhaps unkind, or perhaps true, references to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). I think I am correctly quoting the remarks of the honorable member when I say that he stated that the National Capital had never been administered in a worse manner than it is being administered at the present time. I completely agree with that statement. The majority of .the residents of this city would agree that there was a very good Australian word which I am sure that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, would not allow me to use,, but which would describe what the Minister for the Interior has done to Canberra during his term of office. I hope that the honorable gentleman will yet see the light, and .that he will seek the advice o’f such a committee as has been suggested. Ministers come and Ministers go, just as governments come and governments go, but the administration of the Public Service continues to function, and probably not all of the blame, nor indeed all df the praise, for acts of government should be visited upon the Minister for the time being in charge o’f ‘the Department o’f the Interior. I think ‘that the senior officers of the Public Service who are charged with the duty of administration must accept their share of responsibility. I believe also that, to a large degree, their decisions form the basis of the Government’s action. .

I think it is proper that, when honorable members are discussing the administration of departments, they should illustrate the manner in which that administration is being conducted. For that purpose, I refer to a proposal to provide a water supply for the village of Hall, which lies within the Australian Capital Territory. The village of Hall was in existence long before the National Capital was established, and to-day it is quite a pleasant little settlement. Throughout the years the residents of Hall have been without facilities that should have been provided, one of which is an adequate water supply. My understanding of the history of this matter goes back to 1939 when the Secretary to the Department of the Interior informed the people of Hall that, from a financial point of view, it was then impracticable to extend the water supply from the naval wireless station, Belconnen to Hall. The next step was in September, 1944, when the Secretary to the department informed the progress association that the Minister had approved the supply of water as soon as labour and materials became available. The Secretary pointed out that some considerable time might elapse before labour and material became available. My history of the matter shows that hopes were raised .on the 27th March, 1945, when the acting Director of “Works forwarded a schedule showing the unimproved capital value of the blocks of land in the village, indicating the means by which the water rates for each block could be . calculated, and notifying the charges that would be made for water and for the renting of meters.

On the 28th November of that year, Hie Minister for the Interior of that time confirmed that no charge would be made for water carried to Hall during periods of drought, and advised that further consideration was being given to the question of a permanent water supply. On the 23rd January, 1946, the Minister for the Interior wrote in these terms to the people of Hall -

I And from inquiries that there is little likelihood of pipes and fittings being available for some time to nome if the housing in Canberra is to have first priority as at present. Furthermore there is an all round shortage of labour at Canberra and it is expected that all available labour will bc absorbed for work in Canberra itself, and that none will be available for the extension of the water supply to Hall.

After indicating that he had decided that the present was not the appropriate time for undertaking the extension, and that the matter should be deferred for the present, the Minister had added -

I might mention that I agree that the residents of Hall should have a water supply available to them and when the position in respect to more urgent matters, such as housing, lias improved further consideration will be given to your proposal.

To demonstrate further how the administration of the Department of the Interior and of the Department of Works affects the lives of the residents of the Australian Capital Territory, I point out that on the 25th March, 1946, the Minister for the Interior, by letter, assured the progress association at Hall that the matter would receive consideration at the earliest possible moment. On the 3rd April of that year, the Minister advised that the matter would be reviewed as soon as circumstances would permit. On the 19th March, 1951, the Surveyor-General, writing for the secretary of the department, replied to my fresh representations in the following terms : -

I have to advise that it is regretted that this matter of necessity had to be deferred as there appeared no likelihood of the Department of Works and Housing being able to carry out this work in the near future, owing to the requirements of the Canberra programme, mid the fact that the position regarding the unavailability of pipes, <fcc, still obtain.

The Surveyor-General sent a similar letter to the chief officer of the Hall Bush Fire Brigade, which supported the local representations. The Bush Fire Council expressed the opinion that the supply should be provided.

Following those representations and the presentation of the history of the case to the present Minister of the Interior, we were offered some hope, and on the 13th July, 1952, the present Minister wrote -

I am advised that the cost of providing the proposed water supply to the village of Hall is £18,000, but in view of the limited funds available for all new works, I see little prospect of the work being commenced in the near future.

The language was departmental, but the signature was ministerial. The Minister pointed out that a financial return on the capital expenditure would be expected and he undertook to arrange for officers of the Department of the interior to go into the matter with representatives of the Hall Progress Association. The concluding paragraph of the Minister’s letter read as follows -

This will be necessary to ensure that before the commencement of the work is approved, the residents are, in fact, prepared to pay for the service.

On the basis of the estimate of £18,000, the annual interest charge was estimated at £900. The people of Hall received that news gleefully, and they undertook to meet from their own resources the interest charges on a capital expenditure of £18,000. However, by the time senior officers of the Department of the Interior had negotiated with the representatives of the village of Hall, it was found that the estimated cost had increased to £22,000. The residents of Hall accepted that estimate and gave a written undertaking that they would pay, in respect of both occupied and unoccupied blocks of land in the village, an annual rate that would meet interest charges on a capital expenditure of £22,000. Despite repeated representations since that time, the work has not been put in hand, nor has it been listed in the works programme. The people of Hall are still without a water supply, and are still being fobbed off by the department and the Minister, and in the meantime the estimated cost of providing the water supply has increased to £40,000. It is completely beyond the capacity of the residents of the village to meet interest charges on that large amount. The Minister should proceed with the water supply scheme for Hall on the basis of the undertaking of the residents to pay interest charges on the amount of £22,000, which was the estimated expenditure on which the negotiations were conducted, and not on the present inflated estimate of £40,000. I cite this long history from 1939 to the present not only to emphasize that the Minister may review the need of the village of Hall for a water supply and provide for the work to be undertaken, but also to show that promises made by officers of the Department of the Interior and by Minister’s who from time to time have administered that department have not been honoured. The departmental mind seems to be content to continue to make promises with little intention of honouring them.

Mr.BRIMBLECOMBE (Maranoa) [4.46]. - I wish to make some observations about the Estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation. I heard with great interest the remarks of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) about the record of the air services in Australia since their inception. Their record of safety and of service to the people who depend upon them is indeed wonderful. I support the observations of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) about country aerodromes, and particu larly his remarks in relation to the construction of all-weather aerodromes, which are vital to the interests of citizens in the far west. I do not want it to be thought that I propose that the Government should indiscriminately construct all-weather landing strips throughout the country areas. A proper plan should be formulated, but I do not believe that at present the Department of Civil Aviation has a long-range construction programme for country aerodromes. The Minister for Civil Aviation has said that the money for the construction of additional aerodromes must first be found. Every honorable member, when he addresses the committee, has his own electorate in mind, because he knows conditions there better than he knows conditions anywhere else. It might fairly be said that the conditions that apply in one country electorate apply in most others. In the Maranoa constituency, a number of aerodromes have been taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation, which doubtless first made a survey and chose to take over those aerodromes that it considered to be the most important. The department has done nothing to improve many of the landing fields that it has taken over. I refer in particular to the Goondiwindi aerodrome, which was taken over by the department two years ago. The Government has stated that it cannot find the money to put these strips in proper order for landings in all weathers, but. many shire councils are able to find money for the purpose.

The Minister pointed out that aerodromes in country districts are a wonderful help in enabling relief to be provided for the local citizens in times of bush fire and flood. Goondiwindi, which is situated on a railway, has been cut off from outside contact three times in the last three yearsby floods. On two occasions it was necessary to institute a haylift to feed the local stock. The first haylift was organized from Tamworth, and the second from Brisbane. An all-weather landing ground at Goondiwindi would have saved the local graziers thousands of pounds in their battle to provide feed for their stock to keep them alive until the flood waters subsided. There are many other aerodromes in my electorate that are unusable after a few points of rain have fallen. At the outset I qualified my remarks by saying that I did not believe in the indiscriminate construction of airstrips throughout the country districts. If would not be economic in the long run. However, I do suggest that when the Department of Civil Aviation takes over an aerodrome it should give a definite undertaking to improve it. As the honorable member for Herbert rightly said, many shire councils are putting aerodromes in a condition in which they can be used in all weathers. The Chifley Government promised to take over and maintain aerodromes that had been put in a specified condition by the local citizens. In common with the honorable member for Herbert, I should like to know whether this Government subscribes to that policy, and, if not, whether shire councils have been advised of a change of policy so that they will not. needlessly spend money on aerodromes in the hope that the Government will take over their maintenance.

I agree that the Department of Civil Aviation cannot constructa landing strip for less than £100,000, but some allweather landing grounds are being constructed by local residents for at little as £18,000 or £20,000. The entire question of country aerodromes should be reviewed to ascertain whether the Government can make better provision for them. Many citizens of the far west are ready to help, if the Government will give them encouragement. The residents of the Goondiwindi district are willing to subscribe to a loan for £100,000, if that will be the cost, for the specific purpose of putting the Goondiwindi aerodrome in a condition in which it may be used in all weathers. I am told that, under the Constitution, the Government has no authority to enter into such an arrangement. If the local citizens are willing to subscribe to a loan that may be repaid by the Administration over a period of years, for the specific purpose of having an aerodrome constructed, the Constitution, if necessary, should be altered to allow the Government to enter into an arrangement for this purpose. The people should be encouraged to help themselves. The Goondiwindi proposal would not be uneconomic, because in dry weather at least one aircraft a day uses the aerodrome. I trust that the entire question of the construction of country aerodromes and their maintenance will be reviewed in the manner suggested by the honorable member for Herbert, and that the Government will formulate a definite policy so that the expenditure at present being undertaken by shire councils will not. be in vain. I could name half a dozen shires in my electorate that are proceeding with aerodrome works in exception of the Government taking over the landing grounds when they are completed.

Resumptions of land by the Department of the Interior is the next subject to which I shall refer. Land is compulsorily acquired from an individual and the person is compensated, sometimes after a lot of argument. Frequently, however, after a lapse of time, the Government decides that the land is not needed for the purpose for which it was resumed. The policy is then to offer the block for sale at public auction without first offering it to the person from whom it was acquired. I maintain that this policy is wrong and that the owner prior to acquisition should have first preference as a purchaser. The present practice has caused much confusion in the electorate of Maranoa. It is being carried on by the Queensland Government, but there is no reason why it should be carried on by this Government. If the original owners want to have their land back, they should have the first right to purchase it from the Government.

I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to .examine this matter which, as he knows, has caused both him and me a lot of trouble. It is unfair and unjust to take land from a man and then, if the Commonwealth does not want it, to submit it for sale at public auction. Prices, in such circumstances, sometimes rise to ridiculous heights. .1 know of instances in which, ‘because of strife between individuals in small country towns, people have bid against each other in order to prevent the original owner from buying the land back. I ask both the Minister for Civil Aviation and ‘the Minister for the Inferior to give earnest consideration to my representations on ‘the two subjectsthat I have discussed.

Mr ALLAN FRASER:
Monaro · EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

£’4.57,].- I wish to raise with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) the question .o’f the construction of an aerodrome at Merimbula on the south coast of New South Wales. There is no part of Australia which suffers such transport isolation as the south coast of New South Wales, which has no railway service and very inadequate roads, .and to which the coastal shipping service was .suspended some time ago. The need for the provision of an aerodrome at Merimbula has long been recognized, and official approval has been given to the project. I have here a file dealing with my representations to various Ministers on this subject - a file which ‘goes back to April, 1947, and is full of repeated comforting assurances -by ^successive ‘Ministers that the work is about to begin. However, it has still not begun,: and my sole purpose in now pressing the Minister on the matter is to -request -him, as the new incumbent of this /department,. to examine the present position -of the project and to ensure that the aerodrome is i constructed in the present financial year

As long ago as 1948, the then Minister, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), visited the district, personally inspected the various sites for an aerodrome to serve the far south coast of New South Wales, approved the Merimbula site, and authorized construction work. Unfortunately, the Department of Works, which then had a very heavy programme, was unable to put the Merimbula aerodrome in hand in that year - 1948-49. I then received an assurance that the aerodrome would ‘be constructed in the year 1949-50, and I ‘have. here letters which I “have abstracted from this lengthy file <for >each ,of the .successive years, and An each (of those years the ;same promise was «made. The .work w.as to be done in 1948- 49. “It could not ‘-be done. A promise >was then made that it would be done in 1949- 50. I have not -the least doubt that the Merimbula aerodrome would have been constructed in 1949-50, because the then Minister was determined to see that it was done, but for the calamity of the defeat of the Chifley Government.

Mr Turnbull:

– That was not a calamity.

Mr ALLAN FRASER:
EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– ‘It was a calamity from every point of view, and it has been recognized by the people of the south coast as a calamity in that the only Minister who had personally visited t’.io district and made himself familiar with the problem, and who -was determined to ensure the construction of the aerodrome, had to pass from the control of that portfolio. But here is ia letter dated the 28 th June, .1951, from the .PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), who was then also the .Minister for Civil Aviation -

The provision of this aerodrome is regarded as one of the highest .priority in the Civil Aviation Works Programme, and I can assure you that every possible effort will be made to have the work commenced .during the. ensuing financial year.

Coming to October, 1951, the Minister was compelled to inform me that -

Drastic curtailment of Government expenditure is planned during this financial year and the Department of Civil Aviation Programme has necessarily been considerably reduced.

He was therefore compelled to withdraw his assurance that the work would be done in that, financial year, but- he added -

However, I can ,say that if sufficient money is available’!!. shall be pleased to authorise the ie.omtnencementi.of -the- work. . -

Then we come to 1952, and once again the Minister gave me assurances. He told me that -

The Department of Works, as the Commonwealth. Constructional Authority, has prepared Hie working drawings for the proposal and has provided an estimate of cost for the work.

However, the commencement of the work depends mainly on the moneys made available for expenditure by the Department of Civil Aviation, on aerodrome developmental works, mid, due. to the present uncertain financial position, I am unable to say when it will be possible to authorise this project. in the meantime I can only confirm my previous advice that the construction of this aerodrome is regarded as one of the highest priority by my Department and give a further assurance that the work will be put in hand at the first opportunity. I will keep you advised of any further developments.

And so passed 1952, until September of that year when Senator McLeay, as the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, was able to inform me that -

Provision has been made in the Estimates to commence work on this aerodrome during the current financial year.

The Draft Works Programme is at present being considered by the Cabinet Sub-committee mi Works, and when a decision is received. shall be pleased to communicate with you again.

Well, the Cabinet sub-committee on works failed to include the Merimbula aerodrome in the programme of works for that year.

In 1953 I received a similar assurance from the Minister - this time an assurance that £75,000 had been allocated for an immediate commencement of work on the first portion of the Merimbula aerodrome project. The whole of the year passed, and not £1 of the promised £75,000 was actually expended on the aerodrome work. On the 21st July, 1953, I received the following communication from the Minister, then acting for the Minister for Works, who is the present Minister for Civil Aviation: -

The Merimbula aerodrome project has been included on the Draft Works Programme 1003-54, and the plans are well advanced, but, until the Programme has been endorsed by the Cabinet Committee, I regret that I am not in a position to indicate when the work will be started

Once again, apparently, the Cabinet subcommittee failed to endorse the work, and the project has still not been started. It has recently, however, reached the stage that preliminary clearing work has been authorized. Indeed, it was authorized very many months ago. That covers the clearing of the flight strip and approaches to the aerodrome.

Tenders were called in the early part of this year, and the tenderer in fact was required to state that he would complete the work, if his tender was accepted, within sixteen weeks. The tenders were submitted and the contractors got their machinery ready to do the work, but until yesterday - I do not know what has happened to-day - the necessary authority for the commencement of even this preliminary work had been withheld. The latest difficulty, I understand, has been the necessity to obtain from the Mew South Wales Department of Lands its authority for entrance rights. Well, because I had heard of that difficulty, I personally approached the New South Wales Minister for Lands, Mr. Hawkins, who immediately gave that permission, and I cannot imagine now what is still holding up the commencement of this project, which is so vitally necessary to the development of the far south coast of New South Wales, an extremely isolated area, the value and. importance of which has been recognized by successive Ministers in successive governments, and which has been the subject of repeated promises and assurances until the people of the south coast have come to the belief that they are unable to rely upon the word of responsible Ministers of - an Australian government. That is a very unfortunate position indeed, because, year after year, the promise is given and accepted in good faith. It is published under large headlines in the local newspapers, and then the people see that, although the promise is made, action is not taken. The next year comes. Another promise is made. Again the headlines appear, and again there are letters and messages of thanks from the people of the district to the Minister for his promise. But again no action is taken.

We now have a new Minister for Civil Aviation, and I therefore take this opportunity to present the matter to him. He informed me earlier this afternoon that he was not able offhand to give me any report on the progress or prospects of this work. I now ask him to give it his personal attention and to tell the people of the south coast, in terms that will be honoured, either that this work is to go on or that they can, indeed, place no faith in the pledged word of Ministers of this Government. I do not believe for a moment that the Minister is unwilling to complete the work. I am sure that, if he investigates it personally, he will agree with the report that has been made by every one else who has investigated it on behalf of this Government and the preceding Government that it is a vital work urgently necessary for the development of the south coast for strategic and other reasons, and that he will, if he gives it his attention, ensure that it receives the highest priority in the construction programme for the current financial year.

Mr TOWNLEY:
Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation · Denison · LP

– I shall reply briefly first to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) on the matter of the Merimbula aerodrome project. As I told him earlier, I am not conversant with this matter. I know that some developmental work is going on in that district, but I am not sure just what it is. I believe that the approaches are being cleared and that preparations are being made to put down a strip, but I do not know where the project stands on the works programme. However, I undertake to find out and inform the honorable member. I give him my assurance that, if I tell him that the work will be done, it will be done. He understands, of course, that works of this nature are not within the administration of the Department of Civil Aviation. They are passed to other departments to be carried out.

As two or three honorable members have referred to similar matters, I shall take this opportunity to read several paragraphs from a statement which indicates the general policy of the Government in relation to the acquisition of aerodromes. The general policy is the same as it has always been, although there may have been one or two minor changes. The document states -

The Commonwealth is prepared to accept some responsibility for the provision of aerodromes in those locations where there is evidence that a permanent need for a regular air service exists - this need can be indicated by traffic statistics over a period of at least twelve months - provided, however, that the Commonwealth will not accept any responsibility for an aerodrome in close proximity to one already established.

I think honorable members will readily appreciate the reason for that policy, and its wisdom. I point out, in passing, that originally the Commonwealth owned only three or four aerodromes in capital cities. I believe our only aerodromes were at Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. There were other municipal airports, such as the Hobart Municipal airport and the Launceston municipal airport. During the war years the Commonwealth took control of those. The statement continues -

The implementation of this policy is, however, conditional on funds sufficient to carry it out being made available by Parliament.

In putting this policy into effect, the Commonwealth will implement its responsibility in one of the following ways: -

the payment ofan annual maintenance allowance to the owner - generally in localities where traffic is light;

hire or lease from the owner;

acquisition and consequent complete ownership where, in the opinion of the Director-General of Civil Aviation, the traffic justifies Commonwealth expenditure in the provision of buildings, runways, lighting, radio, &c. In the case of acquisition, the amount paid to the owner will be at the valuation of the Department of the Interior.

Developmentby Local Authorities.

Because of the very large number of requests for aerodromes it is not possible for the Commonwealth Government to undertake the work, and therefore the original development by local authority is preferred and recommended.

To encourage this procedure, the Department of Civil Aviation, within its capacityto do so, will provide technical advice to local authorities so that the money spent will be in the development of aerodromes which meet present-day standards, and are capable of expansion to meet possible developments in civil aviation such as, for example, the introduction of larger aircraft.

Once the aerodrome is completed, licensed, and the permanent need of a regular air service clearly indicated by the traffic developed by an air service calling there, the Commonwealth will accept responsibility for its operation and maintenance either by the payment of a maintenance grant, or by the hire or acquisition of the aerodrome as the case may be.

I considered that I should make those points clear to the committee.

Mr WENTWORTH:
Mackellar

. - I believe that I mentioned some time ago ‘that I proposed, if fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Chairman, to speak on each group of the Estimates, as they were before the committee, about the need for defence works and for organization in case of atomic attack. Let me repeat that the only protection that our cities can have, in view of the fact that Russia now possesses, or soon will possess, the power to obliterate them, lies in our power pf retaliation - which may deter Russia- and in our power to survive so that Russia will have the feeling that it will lose any war that might develop between the two groups of powers in the world to-day. Therefore, civil defence is a matter of great importance. Let me reiterate that these defences must be put in hand, not during a conflict, but before a conflict, if they are to be of any use at all. Some of them may be expensive but some are not expensive. I propose, in going through the Estimates before the committee, to draw attention to certain things that might be done, and which in many cases do not involve great expense, but which would give a. greater measure of survival power in the event of our cities being obliterated.

I shall deal first with the Department of the Interior. I do not intend to speak about civil defence as such, because I hope to be able to do that in a later stage of the debate when the Estimates for civil defence come before honorable members. However, the Department of the Interior controls the development of Canberra. Canberra is a decentralized city, but it is not decentralized in the sense that any part of the city will be protected from one atomic explosion occurring in the centre. So, if we are wise, we shall look to the future development of Canberra as occurring not simply along the lines, of the present system of extending from the centre, but rather from the viewpoint, of satellite towns- or villages being established around Canberra,. That might be a little inconvenient, and,, perhaps, more, expensive, but it would not involve great expense. A little intelligent re-planning now can have a great effect on our security in the event, of any contingency such as we have unfortunately got to envisage

The Department of Works is still ‘contemplating spending large sums on main buildings in capital cities. It is obvious that if our resources are meagre, then attention should be directed not to building in capital cities, in the main, but to building in the locations which would be safe from the effect of one single bomb, or one group o’f bombs. It may well be that, for the sake of convenience, Commonwealth departments have to be located in cities. If that is so, our resources may be expended in building outside the cities in order to move out the less essential and thus make accommodation available for the more essential Commonwealth departments. Although I believe that shelters are not of very great use, it might be advisable to include shelters in every new building, including Commonwealth buildings, in capital cities. It might also be desirable to expedite the transfer of Commonwealth departments to Canberra, so that in decentralized locations around the city they could be accommodated without any buildings having to be constructed over and above the present contemplated programme. Those arethings that can be done, and which will not disturb the whole economy; although I believe that the impact of’ the present emergency is sufficiently serious to justify the disturbance of theeconomy. However, they are practicable moves, and do not involve any drasticincrease of expenditure or any drastic re-allocation of resources.

We now come to the Department of Civil Aviation. The committee has been considering aerodromes in the past few minutes, and it would perhaps be desirable to decentralize aerodromes. Another matter that might b.e considered is the possibility of reverting more towards the use of seaplanes-, whose landing placescannot be entirely disrupted by a bomb. I realize that a bomb can disrupt a harbour or a port, but the number of potential aerodromes in smooth water around the Australian- coast is so great that some would always remain availablefor the use of seaplanes. It certainly seems that a little more emphasis might be directed t.o the development of theseaplane, particularly in view of thoi fact that the perfection of the- jet engine has- made it <no (longer necessary to have a high .clearance for the propeller of an aircraft, and so has made possible the construction of a machine of much greater aerodynamical efficiency than earlier aircraft. I do not, of course, suggest that our present planes or aerodromes should be scrapped, or that their development should be entirely curtailed. All I -suggest, in this case, is some small change in emphasis.

I now turn to the Department of Trade and Customs. I shall not reiterate what I said to the committee yesterday about the possibility of smuggling atomic bombs into this country. That is a real possibility, and it exists at this moment. The United States of America is taking certain precautions against it, and I believe that we should be insisting upon at least corresponding precautions. I do not believe that those precautions will be quite watertight, but that is no reason why we should not be instituting them now

The last department in the present group is the Department of Health. One of the services that might be needed if an atomic explosion should occur over a city is hospitalization. I know that there will be very few survivors in the centre of a city that has been attacked, but on the periphery, in the outlying suburbs, there will be numerous survivors. There will he no hospitals in the centre of a bombed city to treat those persons because in the event of an atomic attack everything in the centre would be destroyed. In consultation with the States, we must consider the positioning of hospitals on the periphery of cities. They will be available in case of emergency because they will not be in the centre of the cities which have been destroyed. In that connexion, provision for hospitals could be made probably without any great increase of expenditure, but simply by a sensible re-allocation of funds. Honorable members may not have realized the important fact that nearly all the supplies of drugs, medical stores and other goods of that character are ‘held in the cities where they might be -destroyed. We must establish outside the cities, not at one place but ‘at numerous ‘places, stocks of those requisites -and others “tha’t I -hope to have an opportunity of mentioning to the ‘Committee later.

I suggest to the committee that it isjustified in taking action at the present - and I emphasize at the present - in view of the emergency that is upon us, even if that action involves a considerable re-allocation of our resources and a disturbance of our national life. In general^ the matters that I have mentioned to-day are not in that category. Provision can be made for them without any great increase of our expenditure or any major re-allocation of our resources. It is time that we awoke to the fact that the situation has changed. It is of no use trying to defer our realization of that truth. It is useless to pretend that the change has not occurred or that the dangers lie only in the far-distant future. Although a catastrophe of the kind I have envisaged may not be possible at this vary moment, it will become possible in the near future if the present .situation develops. Whatever happens and whether or not we think that Russia willactually attempt to obliterate our cities, we must prepare to survive without them. If we do that, we shall increase Russia’s reluctance to attack and may even save our cities.

Mr RIORDAN:
Kennedy

. - I propose to refer briefly to some of the problems that confront the very fine organization that is operating in western Queensland and i3 known as the Flying Doctor Service. Twenty-five years ago, the Australian Inland Mission, inspired by such great men as the Reverend John Flynn, to whom a memorial has been erected, began the task of establishing in the outback a service that would bring to Australians living in isolated areas not only wireless communication that would enable them ‘to establish social contact, but also a service that would help them to break their isolation. That service was to enable them also to call a fully qualified doctor at all times by radio communication. Colour, creed and financial standing were to be ignored, and the service was to be available to all, entirely free of charge. That provision was in keeping with the hospital system that had been established in Queensland by the State Government. “The organizers hoped that public-spirited people of means would join with the Australian Government and the Queensland Government in assisting the Australian Inland Mission to establish, maintain and expand the service that it proposed to inaugurate. Their confidence in the people of the outback has been justified. The service that was established by the mission has proved a great boon to the people who live in the areas of great distances. The name of the Flying Doctor is well known to every man, woman and child who lives in the outback.

Those concerned believed that Australia would realize the enormous value of such a service and the belief was justified, under the conditions that prevailed until recently. New problems have now arisen. In 1939 the cost of flying was ls. 4d. a mile. Doctors were content with an income of £1,000 a year. Houses for radio and medical staff could be built in outback towns at a cost of £750 each. Now the cost of flying is 5s. a mile. The salary of competent doctors has been increased to £1,500. Houses that cost £750 now cost about £3,000. As a result, the commitments of the volunteers who run the organization has grown enormously. In 1939 the Australian Aerial Medical Services, as the Queensland section of the Flying Doctor Service was then known, extended the mantle of safety to 47 outpost stations that were able to call for aerial medical help by pedal wireless. The annual costs were about £4,300 a year. To-day nearly 300 outposts are spread over two-thirds of Queensland’s outback. They receive daily medical advice by radio and more than 100,000 flying miles are recorded annually from bases at Cloncurry, Charleville, and Charters Towers. In that way all outback accident and emergency illness patients are conveyed to hospital. Four doctors and four aeroplanes are fully occupied in providing those services. Three expensive wireless base stations arc constantly busy in communication with the outback people and they handle about 50,000 telegrams a year. The little Traeger transceivers enable lonely women of the bush to talk to each other over the air although they are 100 or maybe 200 miles distant from each other. A mobile dental unit now adds to the service that is available to isolated men, women and children in the outback. The Flying Doctor Service has a mobile dental laboratory mounted on a big truck and equipped with X-ray and it is as modern as any leading dental surgery in Sydney or Melbourne. It is interesting to look back over 25 years to the early days of the Flying Doctor Service that now averages at least five flights a week. I have some statistics which I shall give in a few moments.

Four doctors are practising, and four aircraft are in use to-day, and the cost of the service is approximately £60,000 per annum. The major funds provided from governmental sources are based upon the voluntary donations which are made to the service. A big percentage of the voluntary donations come from picnic race meetings, rodeos, raffles and the like, held in the outback areas. The Queensland Government subsidises the finances of the service on a £l-for-£l basis. The service appreciates the fact that . the Commonwealth subsidy for operational expenditure has been increased from £12,500 to £20,000 per annum, but I point out that the cost of operating this service is about £60,000 per annum. It is estimated that this year no fewer than 25S flights will be made, and that the aircraft will fly at least 114,000 miles. Records which I have here showthat the service expects to attend 3,076 white people and 1,340 aborigines in the twelve months. The estimate of expenditure for the period is £51,850.

The organizers of the Flying Doctor Service are confronted with a serious difficulty. They have to consider whether or not the service should purchase four aircraft. The cost of the aircraft which it would be desirable to secure is £16,000 each, or £64,000 in all. The Flying Doctor Service has certain financial re7 serves and it would be quite easy to raise the money required for the purchase of the aircraft, but that financial burden would fall upon the people who now make donations to the maintenance of the service. Other factors that must be taken into account are that more than £4,000 per annum would be required for insurance charges, and approximately £8,000 per annum for amortization. Those moneys would have to come from the subsidy given by the State Government, which is based upon the donations of the residents of outback areas.

The Plying Doctor Service does not complain. The organizers know full well that they would have no difficulty in raising the money for the purchase of the aircraft, but they are concerned about amortization, insurance charges, and increasing operational costs, and they fear that the service may not be in a position to continue in the future. Many of those people give their services voluntarily, and attend to the executive side of the service. The Flying Doctor Service in Queensland serves about twothirds of that State, and has a reserve in Commonwealth bonds of £38,000, but is financially handicapped by future obligations. The assistance provided by this Government, and the Queensland Government is appreciated, but I consider that the attention of the Government should be directed to the difficulties which this service may have to face. A big decision must be reached shortly about the purchase of aircraft. A conference was held early in August to try to arrive at a decision on a suitabletype of aircraft for the service, having due regard to the conditions under which it operates. The people of Queensland ask that the men and women who are saving governmental authorities so much money, and providing the residents of outback areas with the medical and social lifeline without which living in some parts would be virtually impossible, shall be given the maximum assistance in this financial problem, which is nonrecurring, and is the result of an accumulation of responsibilities not of their own making.

I remind honorable members that no charge is made by the Flying Doctor Service to any person in the outback parts of Queensland for medical or dental attention. The service is rendered to all sections, all colours and all creeds. I ask the Government to give favorable consideration to the needs of this service, notwithstanding the generosity which it has already shown.

Mr CRAMER:
Bennelong

– I desire to deal with a few matters that come within the scope of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works. I do not wish anything that I say to create the impression that I am in any way criticizing the Minister (Mr. Kent Hughes), or the two departments under his administration. Indeed, I desire to congratulate him on the attitude that he adopts towards public works. He has taken the view, and rightly so, that we should plan our works in accordance -with a system of proper priorities and within the possibility of performance. If we were to examine the files of this Government, or any other government as far as I know, we should find packed up everywhere plans and programmes for various projects. The preparation of those plans doubtless occupied thousands of hours, and cost much money, but nothing has materialized. This is symptomatic, apparently, of the governmental or semi-governmental approach to such matters. Fortunately, the present Minister does not look upon the matter in that light, and I understand that he is prepared to insist that projects shall be considered only on the basis of their urgency and possibility of performance.

One may also carry these statements a little further, and into the sphere of the States. Some State governments have refused to discuss their works programmes with representatives of the Commonwealth, or agree to a form of coordination. The result is that a serious state of affairs exists throughout Australia. An over abundance of labour is offering in some places, and a shortage of labour exists in other places because there is no proper planning or co-ordination between the States and the Commonwealth in respect of public works programmes. Time after time, an appeal for coordination has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the States, and time after time Labour-governed States have refused to listen to him. That is not the only criticism that one may offer, and I hope that the Minister will take note of the suggestions that I am about to make, because the conditions to which I shall refer are very real, and have been in existence for a long time. Those conditions should not be permitted to continue any longer.

I refer now to the power of resumption and acquisition that is vested in the Commonwealth for its purposes, just as the power of resumption and acquisition resides in State governments for their purposes. This is one of the reasons for the popularity of the name bureaucrat “ as applied to public servants. There is a tendency on the part of many, officials to refuse to confer with outside individuals and authorities who should know what is best for the community as a whole. That is happening everywhere. I can give two instances in my own electorate. I realize that there is much in the view of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that we should not be adding to our cities at all, but if things are really as bad as that I am sure that many people would prefer to be dead. “We cannot stop progress. As an illustration of the kind of behaviour to which I refer, I point out that recently certain land was resumed in the progressive Sydney suburb of Crow’s Nest for a new post office, but as usual, more was acquired than is necessary for that purpose. As the Postal Department’s works programme is well in arrears, it is not possible to erect a new post office immediately, and it has been decided to use the land in the meantime for transport facilities for the department. The result is that land which is worth anything up to £500 a foot is to be used for parking departmental vehicles. But that is not the worst aspect of the matter. The resumption of the land for government purposes is interrupting the progress of a magnificent shopping and commercial centre.

That is the kind of thing that happens through lack of consultation with local governing authorities, chambers of commerce, progress associations and the like, all of which could give sound advice. At Ryde, in my electorate, a telephone exchange is to be built on land which, although vacant at present, is opposite a developing shopping centre. The result will be that, right in the middle of this promising commercial area, we shall have a building’ with three or four hideous rows of shutters. There again, no- consideration has been given to the public need. At least the exchange building could have been designed to conform to the manner in which the area is developing, by having a row of shops in it. That is just another example of the lack of consideration on the part of governmental authorities. They go straight ahead and pick what they consider to be best for their own purposes. Their attitude is, “ This is beautiful. It will suit us well “. They do not consider how the property could best be used in the interest of the people of the locality. So, we find everywhere valuable sites occupied by buildings which could just as easily, and at much less cost, have been erected elsewhere.

Is there any reason why a telephone exchange should be built on a principal highway where commerce is the logical development? I could give several instances in which that has actually happened in Sydney. I hope that in the future before a decision is made to purchase a building or land for government purposes, there will be proper consultation, not only with local governing authorities, but also with voluntary public organizations such as chambers of commerce and progress associations. The general public must conform to local government by-laws, and to ordinances and regulations issued under local government acts, but governments, both State and Federal, need not do so, and in fact they do not in many instances. This causes antagonism in the minds of the people. I believe that governments should always endeavour to co-operate with the people instead of waving the big stick of authority as some of them are doing to-day. I know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is thinking very much along those lines to-day, but I appeal to him to encourage a similar outlook in the minds of his officials, because obviously no Minister can keep track of every matter that is going on in his department. This lack of willingness to consult with public organizations is being exhibited by many departments and I appeal to Ministers to impress upon the officials with whom, they come in contact the fact that considerable savings could be achieved, and much better public relations established, if the views of the people at large were taken into consideration in determining matters such as these.

The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. B. Fraser) referred to-day to certain matters that he considered were inhibiting the development of Canberra. I believe that the development of this city has been inhibited by the original decision to establish the leasehold system exclusively. This has- discouraged the investment of private capital and I am certain that had private capital been given some inducement to come here, many of Canberra’s present difficulties would not have arisen. All the money that has been spent on the development of Canberra has been government money. I understand it is not possible for an investing builder to acquire an area of land which he can subdivide and in which he can provide roads, footpaths,, and other necessary services. In other places the responsibility for that development can be placed upon the person who subdivides the land-. If land were available here for subdivision by builders, they would be encouraged to open up new areas and build! houses for sale, but investment of that kind is not possible. I do not want to go too far into this matter because I admit my knowledge of it is not very wide-. I do know, however, from people who have, investigated the position, that there is no encouragement for the private builder te set up. an organization to build homes for sale to the people. I am, sure that many more homes, would have- been built in Canberra had that system been adopted1. The time must come, when the present policy will have, to be changed. I am not so- sure that we shall not be obliged to alter the present system of leasehold title because, as values, are now re-appraised periodically, the average person prefers to rent rather than purchase a house. Such a system tends to encourage conditions, which this Government, certainly, does not favour. They are. not kr the best interests, of the nation because they do not encourage home-ownership. Many things– in the- Australian Capital Territory could be altered with the object of giving to Canberra a fuller status a?, the! National Capital. The same observation applies to commercial! enterprise- in the Territory

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Mr MORGAN:
Reid

.- The honorable member for Benelong, (Mr. Cramer) has touched upon a perennial problem which no government seems to be prepared to tackle. I trust that as he is a. supporter of the Government he will be able to persuade it to put a stop to the practice of departments which, instead of carrying, forward unexpended balances that they may have- towards’ the close of the financial year, thereby effecting economies, expend that money in a rush in order to obviate a reduction of their vote for the succeeding year. In this respect, I cite expenditure by the Department of Works under the heading of repairs and maintenance. Although, last year, of the sum of £895,000 that was voted for that purpose, only £783,774 was expended, leaving a balance of £111,226, the proposed vote for the- same purpose this year is £929,000, an increase of £34,000. over the. amount- voted and an increase of £145,226 over the amount that was actually expended last year. In respect of the Attorney-General’s Department, the: sum- of £19,000 was- voted for repairs and maintenance last year, and of that, amount the sum of £1-8,302 was actually expended. Yet,, we find, this year, that the sum of £27,000’ is being sought for’ repairs and maintenance in that department. What is the reason for this proposed increase? Perhaps an examination of items of this kind might indicate ways in which economies could be effected.

I should like the- Minister who represents the Attorney-General in this chamber to- explain whether this increase is being sought in order to meet expenditure that was incurred recently in the provision of facilities for certain judicial proceedings. It seems to me that considerable expenditure is being incurred by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department because of the lack of proper accommodation for the increasing number of tribunals that are being set up as a result of the ever-growing jurisdiction of the Australian Government, involving prosecutions in respect of rustom, and excise duties, breaches of health regulations and proceedings under the. Crimes Act or in relation1 to security.

The time is fast approaching when the Attorney-General’s Department should make provision for permanent accommodation for the various tribunals that come under its jurisdiction. In Canberra, for instance, the Supreme Court is located in the Patent Building, and occupies valuable space that could be made available for administrative purposes. Whenever proceedings are held in the court, it is not uncommon to see litigants, witnesses and members of the general public who are interested in the proceedings waiting on the lawns outside the Patent Building because accommodation cannot be provided for them in the court-room. Such a state of affairs is entirely unsatisfactory. In the various capital cities, tribunals under the jurisdiction of the Attorney-General’s Department are obliged to utilize State courts when these are available. Temporary court-rooms are provided in the Commonwealth Bank building in Sydney. At present, an important prosecution is proceeding in one of those court-rooms, involving a large number of defendants, with the result that the court-room is over-crowded and litigants, witnesses and interested members of the general public, for whom no seating accommodation is available, are obliged to stand in passageways which they obstruct. The space occupied by court-rooms in that building could be utilized by the bank.

In Canberra recently, the Government resorted to a makeshift arrangement for the purpose of providing a venue for certain proceedings which are now receiving the widest publicity. I refer to the Government’s action in requisitioning for this purpose the Albert Hall, which is a concert hall. Thousands of pounds were expended for the purpose of providing those facilities in that building. The result was that the proceedings were conducted in the atmosphere of a Hollywood melodrama, facilities being provided for television and broadcasting and also for large numbers of press representatives so that the proceedings could be blazoned to the world. As those proceedings lasted for one day only, one could be pardoned for presuming that they were staged merely for the purpose of putting on an exhibition. It may. be that the proceedings were so quickly discontinued be- cause the judges concerned insisted upon the provision of proper accommodation for the conduct of the proceedings in an atmosphere of dignity and calm appropriate to judicial proceedings. Only in an atmosphere in keeping with the dignity of British justice can the truth be brought out in a proper way. But the atmosphere in which these proceedings were conducted resembled that which is created in other countries when similar proceedings have been undertaken. Whether the proceedings were confined to one day because of climatic conditions or because the judges concerned objected to the atmosphere, I do not know. In any event, thousands of pounds was expended in providing facilities for those proceedings to be held in the Albert Hall. Some one blundered badly in requisitioning that hall for that purpose.

Having regard to instances of that kind, the Government should consider the provision of adequate permanent accommodation for hearings that ‘ are held by various tribunals that come within the jurisdiction, of the Attorney-General’s Department. Perhaps, it is a case of everybody’s business being nobody’s business. Whilst the Government adopts a cheese-paring policy in these matters, it appears to have plenty of money available for less essential purposes. In this respect, I cite its refusal to increase pensions. The Government’s money is flowing in many directions. In fact some people do not even have to ask for it, but have it foisted upon them, whether it be a sum of £5,000, or the purchase price of a poultry farm. Nobody seems to care to ascertain the circumstances in which such payments are appropriated or authorized, or to ascertain the limit to which money can be expended in such circumstances. A similar attitude prevailed during World War II. The public mind, is distracted from what is going on in this respect. Nobody seems to care how much is being expended, or for what purposes. It is time that proper supervision was exercised over expenditure in circumstances of the kind that I have indicated. Those who are entrusted with the handling of such money should be more careful to honour the trust that is reposed in them.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8.20 p.m.

Mr MORGAN:

– I want to draw the attention of the committee to the predicament of a very worthy and deserving section of the community. I refer to the wives and dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. I am- sorry that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) is not in the chamber. Apparently he is not very interested in the proceedings of the committee. His attention was drawn to the position of the wives and dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen when the National Health Bill was before the Parliament. I and other honorable members pointed out to him that the bill made no provision for free medical treatment for these people. The Minister said they were covered by repatriation legislation, but that is not so. Totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals, but their wives and dependants are not so entitled unless they become widows and orphans. It is a very sorry state of affairs that they must wait for the death of the pensioner to become entitled to the benefits of the repatriation legislation. The wives and dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen have been overlooked in both the national health legislation and the repatriation legislation. ‘ The Minister promised that he would look into the matter and ::f what could be done before the National Health Bill was considered by the Senate, but nothing was done. Questions have been directed to him on this matter by honorable members on both sides, but apparently he declines to do anything about it. I say that a very serious anomaly exists, and that it should hu rectified immediately.

The position of these people has been summed up very aptly in letters to the press. One correspondent wrote -

This grand and silent band of women whose lives have been dedicated to the care of their husbands deserve the very utmost a grateful country can bestow on them. By their love, devotion and self-denial in the face of manifold difficulties, they have earned the admiration of all. Not only should these benefits be approved immediately, but I suggest the Government should grant to the wife the full inheritance of her husband’s T.F.I. pension upon .his death.

Another letter was written by the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner who described herself as “ Badly Treated “. She stated-

Mrs. Preston Stanley Vaughan ia to becongratulated for bringing under the notice if the public the unfortunate plight of the T.P.I, ox-servicemen’s wives. My own life ils the wife of a, T.P.I, ex-serviceman has been a sud one. My husband left a good job to go overseas in defence of- his country in World War 1. He returned a bad shellshock case. I had to nurse him, and our home changed from a happy home to one of discord and fear: his nerves were in such a bad state. Finally, lie was admitted to a mental hospital. .Alter a. considerable time he got well enough to come home, but on several occasions had to lureadmitted to hospital. Often my husband would leave home, and when he” went hismilitary pension went with him. Our seven children and I. had to scratch on what little way on our pension book.

Duri ug one of my husband’s absent periods I became so ill that I was granted a part invalid pension. The medical card that went with it was a godsend to me. Recently my husband came back to live at home and because our joint income (his pension and mine) was £1 a year (or 4-Jd. a week) over the amount allowed, they took my invalid pension off me. medical card and all. I feel I cannot keep going much longer. I have tried to get work but am told tha.t at 62 I am too old.

That is a very sad state of affairs. If the Government can afford to give income tax concessions of £500 or £600 a year to people with large incomes, surely it can afford also to do something for this worthy and very deserving section of the community. There are about 9,000 totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, and I understand that about 8,000 of them are married and have wives and children dependent on them. Surely their services in World War I. and World War II. entitle them to some consideration from the Government. As I have already said, other people in a much better position than these pensioners have been given concessions in the budget. One honorable member opposite has said that the Government has the interests of these pensioners very much at heart. I suggest that it do something practical to help them. I am asking, not for charity but for common justice. These pensioners fought for this country. The Government should at least ensure that, during their lifetimes, their wives and dependants will receive free medical treatment when they need it to the same extent as civilian pensioners do.

Mr LUCK:
Darwin

,- I want to refer to civil aviation facilities and aerodromes in. Tasmania, particularly in my own electorate. I .suppose members of this Parliament have been reminded for at least the last half century that it is necessary to maintain communications between Tasmania and the mainland. It is well understood that Tasmania labours under a disadvantage because it has no rail or road communications with the majority of the people of Australia. Civil aviation aerodromes in Tasmania are not as good as they could be, and the majority of them are unable to accommodate aircraft in all weathers. The major aerodromes in Tasmania are those at Launceston .and Hobart. The new aerodrome at Hobart will be able to accommodate air traffic at all times, except in fog and particularly bad weather. The three aerodromes in my electorate are at King Island, Wynyard and Devonport.

I shall deal first with King Island. The Tasmanian Government is building an abattoir from which beef and other meat will be sent from the island. The runway of the aerodrome is not long enough to permit aircraft to take off with full loads. As honorable members realize, if aircraft have to take off underloaded, freight rates will be increased correspondingly. Suggestions have been made for a number of years that the runway of the King Island aerodrome be lengthened. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation .(Mr. ‘Townley) to give early consideration to this matter. At the end of this year or very early next year, facilities for killing stock and sending meat ‘by air from King Island will have been completed. Therefore, it is very necessary for the aerodrome runway to be lengthened

There is .another aspect of the King Island .air .services to which I want to draw attention. Passengers travelling to and from the island by air are restricted to one airline - Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited .’ The fares charged on -that route .are among the highest in Australia. The charge per passenger mile on the King Island service is 7.1d., compared with 4.8d. on the Adelaide-Melbourne and the MelbourneSydney routes, and 5.5d. on the SydneyCanberra route. Figures .that I have taken from the official statistics of the Department of Civil Aviation show that the number of passengers travelling on the King Island run is higher than on other lines -that cover .similar distances, and higher even than the figures on the AdelaideMelbourne, Sydney-Canberra or Melbourne-Sydney routes. On the MelbourneKing Island-Tasmania run the percentage of paying passengers in the last three months has been 74.6. That means that every flight is three-quarters loaded with paying passengers. On the Sydney-Canberra run the percentage is 63.3 per cent. On the Melbourne-Swan Hill run, where the percentage is much lower than even the King IslandMelbourne run, the passenger loading is 50 per cent. Such examples appear throughout ‘the statistics issued by the department. I think that there is a committee which deals with this particular matter, and I am certain that if the Minister would discuss this matter with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, action could be taken at least to give some relief to the people of King Island, who must rely on air transport because no passenger ships trade to the island. At present they are charged rates that are higher than those charged on other airways routes in Australia.

Another point I should like to mention in connexion with this matter is that recently the minimum rate for parcels sent from King Island ‘by air -has been increased from 4s. to 5s. The minimum rate is payable irrespective of the size or weight of the parcel. The anomalies I have mentioned require Close examination. A further point to which I wish ‘to direct the attention of the committee is the need for lighting .at the Wynyard aerodrome, which has three runways, but is not usable at all times because of the lack of lighting. Last year, more than 21,000 passengers moved by air in and out of Wynyard, which is -one of the important airports on the north-west coast of Tasmania. There is lighting at the Devonport aerodrome, but that aerodrome is restricted in use because it nas only one air .strip. Until the department, which has the job .of putting a second strip in hand, really gets down to work that aerodrome will be inadequate.

My. remarks clearly show that.- there; is work, to ha done by the: department to improve ancillary civil aviation services in the: north-west of, Tasmania. The laying down of a second runway at Devonport, is not a big. job. It has already been planned and costed. There is no need for concrete, bitumen or gravel, because the pilots who use the aerodrome say they would he satisfied if a grass strip were available in. the event of a cross-wind blowing. The lack of a second strip throws a. great, strain on the pilots. Because of the competition, between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines, pilots who use this aerodrome, are not prepared to abide strictly by the. regulations laid down by the department.. If a. pilot took, off along the present strip in. a cross-wind that was a little, stronger- than the regulations allow a. plane, to take off in, and anything unfortunate happened, the pilot would have to take the blame. This throws a strain on the loyalty of the pilots. If the Government can see its way clear in the near future to attend to the matters that I have raised, particularly in regard to the aerodromes on the north-west coast of Tasmania, and King Island, the people in these areas will be extremely grateful.

Mr GALVIN:
Kingston

.- I shall direct my remarks to the construction of the Adelaide airport at West Beach. Work on this airport was commenced’ in. 1947, during the Chifley regime, under the ministerial direction of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), and it was hoped when the project was started’ that it would’ be completed in. a reasonably short time, not only because of “ its importance for actual civil’ aviation purposes, but Because it has also a defence potential. Before- 1 proceed I should’ like to compliment the present Minister for Civil Aviation (‘Mir. Townley)’ on his quick action, since he took over his portfolio, m making a- decision that- the airport could be: used while? work of only a temporary character had1, been d’one. on it, instead of allowing the; people; of South Australia to wait until permanent facilities had been completed. I understand that the Minister, stated publicly some time- ago that, the airport would he. in use this side of Christmas; An honorable member has asked, “ Which Christmas ? “ I really believe that this time it will be this Christmas, although that is not the Christmas by which it would have been in use if the Labour Government had remained in office. That. Government would have had the job done by now.. Unfortunately a change of government took place, and this: urgent project was not completed. However, to give credit where credit is due, I believe that the present Minister intends to see that, this airport; is in use very shortly with the facilities, available.

Mr Thompson:

– Work on it has been in hand for seven years.

Mr GALVIN:

– That is so. Both runways are now completed and the airport is ready, if necessary, for aircraft to use it. I hope that the departmental, buildings and passenger terminals of ‘ an emergency nature that are to be erected will really be only temporary. The Minister, for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes), who is now at the table, will, appreciate the point I am making. L wish to be sure that they are erected as temporary measures only, and I hope that, as soon as they have been completed, and aircraft begin using the airport, the foundations of permanent buildings will be laid. I and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) and, in fact, all honorable members from S’outh Australia, have been pressing for the. completion and opening of this- airport. When we pressed for it, to- be opened’ on an emergency basis it was not our intention that the buildings to- Be constructed should be regarded as permanent structures-. I am glad that the Minister for Civil Aviation, has entered the chamber, because I. can repeat in. his presence my remark that I congratulate him on his early and courageous stand, in directing that this airport is to be used at a very early date,, thus, avoiding further the long wait and the inconvenience that the South Australian, public has already suffered, and the expense that the airline, companies, have been occasioned.

I emphasize my, hope, that, as soon as possible after the, Department of Works has completed the construction of the temporary buildings, money will be provided for the permanent structures, which will be erected at the earliest possible opportunity, so that Adelaide airport will be able to cater, adequately, for the vast travelling public, and become a most useful defence asset. 1 point out that both Trans-Australia Airlines, which is operating VickersViscount aircraft, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is operating DC6 aircraft, are following closely the development of this airport. I hope that the Minister will assure those airline operators that, within a very short period, Adelaide airport will be functioning very efficiently. We do not want a repetition of an incident that occurred shortly before the Minister for Civil Aviation took over his present portfolio. The pilot of an aircraft which had been unable to land at Parafield and flew over West Beach, signalled that he could quite easily land on the air strip there, but was told that, as instructions had been-given that West Beach could not be used as an emergency landing ground, he should take the aircraft on to Mildura. The Minister took prompt action after he found out, about that incident. I hope that he will be equally prompt in announcing that the construction of permanent buildings at the Adelaide airport will be proceeded with in the near future, to enable aircraft f.o land there regularly. I suggest that a more appropriate name for the Adelaide airport would be the Melrose airport. It would then serve as a memorial to that great airman, Jimmy Melrose, whose mime will live long in South Australia.

Mr WIGHT:
Lilley

– I wish ro direct the attention of the committee to certain .aspects of the administration of the Electoral Branch, for which provision is made in the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior. I urge the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to give serious consideration to the many representations that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the committee with relation to polling hours. I take this opportunity also to pay a tribute to the work of the officers ‘of the Electoral Branch, who, during the last few months, have been busier than ever before to my knowledge. They have handled simultaneously, both a federal general election and a census. Although that dual task imposed a great strain on them, they have carried out their duties in a very efficient manner. The Government should give fair treatment to these loyal servants by considering, very seriously, reducing the number of hours during which votes may be cast on polling day. During the four years that I have been a member of the Parliament, I have heard many members on both sides express the opinion that the period of twelve hours - from 8 a.m. to S p.m. - is far too long. The Queensland electoral legislation provides that polling for State elections shall be between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. No difficulty has been experienced by any section of the community in that State in recording votes in that period of ten hours. Although I have heard it said that members of certain religious sects would not be able to avail themselves of the voting facilities between the hours of sunrise and sunset, I do not think that any difficulty has been experienced in that connexion in Queensland. If people who belong to those sects consider that, because of their religious impulses, they would be unable to record their votes on polling day between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., they could take advantage of the postal voting facilities provided under the Electoral Act.

A reduction such as I have mentioned would not deprive the members of any section of the community of an opportunity to cast their votes. I point out that twelve hours of continuous work at a polling booth is far too much to expect of electoral officers. It must be remembered that their work does not finish when the polling booths are closed; they have then to undertake the count, which requires meticulous care. I submit that, after twelve hours continuous duty, an electoral officer is unable to give to the counting of votes the degree of meticulous scrutiny that would be possible after only ten hours duty. ‘ In some country electorates, where electric lighting is notinstalled, voters have to record their votes with the aid of hurricane lamps. However, that circumstance is not peculiar to the country districts ; at times, hurricane lamps have had to be used in my metropolitan electorate.

There are certain difficulties associated with the meals of electoral officers on polling day. In order to open a polling booth at 8 a.m., an electoral officer must report for duty not later than 7.30 a.m. It is therefore necessary for him to partake of an early breakfast. Usually, the electoral officers partake of a parcel lunch at midday and again for their evening meal, and are unable to obtain hot refreshments until they return to their homes about midnight, probably after travelling many miles to take the ballotboxes to the counting centres. In the past sufficient consideration has not been given to these factors, probably because of pressure brought to bear by certain religious organizations. I can see no valid reason why the number of hours for voting on polling day should not be reduced.

I come now to a consideration of the practice of distributing “ How-to-Vote “ cards on polling day. I understand that it has been advocated that this practice should be made unlawful. I agree with this opinion. Why should people be expected to stand around polling booths, intercepting voters and handing to them “How-to-Vote” cards? I - think the difficulty could be overcome in either of two ways. First, on the ballot-paper that is distributed at the polling booth there could be included, after the name of the candidate, the political party to which he belongs. Alternatively, we could adopt a wider conception of the matter and recognize the fact that any elector who does not know who is .the Liberal or who is the anti-Liberal candidate should not be entitled to a vote, because he has failed to recognize his responsibility as a citizen in a democracy. I support the suggestion that further consideration be given to making it unlawful for scrutineers to stand in the vicinity of polling booths and distribute “ How to Vote “ cards.

Mr JOSHUA:
Ballarat

.- I direct the attention of honorable members to the proposed vote for the Department of Trade , and Customs in particular, because I believe that the Tariff Board, for which provision is made under that heading, is subjected to considerable abuse. The Tariff Board has done, and is doing, a valuable job for Australia. I do not think abuse should be levelled at the board. The case that was presented by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), and which was supported by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters),- is clear to all honorable members. The value of Australia’s imports is increasing month by month and the proceeds of its exports are declining, with the result that our overseas reserves of currency are dwindling. That is ‘a serious position.

We use the machinery of the Tariff Board for the purpose of protecting our industries from overseas competition and total destruction. The Tariff Board ensures that sufficient protection is given to industries to enable them to maintain production. The imposition of tariff duties is a somewhat inflationary measure; it drives the demand for goods into Australian factories, which in turn require a greater number of workers. The Government encourages imports to overcome the inflation. At times, it has encouraged imports on a large scale, but that policy has led Australia into so much difficulty that it has been obliged reluctantly to abandon it. In its place, the Government has imposed import restrictions, with consequent further disturbance to industry. The Government has been obliged to follow that course to preserve its overseas reserves of currency. The imposition of import restrictions was even more inflationary than the measures that were adopted by the Tariff Board. The only relief seems to lie in the removal of import restrictions, which action the Government has taken during the last few months. However, the result has been the same ; our overseas reserves have continued to dwindle.

We must not confuse import restrictions with tariff protection. Although import restrictions assist Australian industries and protect them, they are not applied for that purpose. They are applied entirely for the purpose of conserving our overseas reserves of currency, but, in spite of our efforts to conserve them, they may dwindle because our exports are not returning sufficient income. Australia is confronted by a very serious position in relation to most of its primary products. Butter, wheat, sugar, dried fruits, wine, cheese, and eggs, are bringing very poor prices indeed, and our income from the export of those commodities will be very much lower this year. Even returns from the sales of wool seem to be declining. The amount of our wool cheque this year is a matter of speculation. Therefore, we must face a situation in which our overesas reserves of currency may not be maintained, in which import restrictions will be applied and in which, to conserve overseas reserves, the Tariff Board will be obliged to do a very much bigger job than it has been obliged to do in the past. In some of its recent reports, the Tariff Board has pointed out the enormous increases in tariff protection that are necessary to give relief to Australian industry. In its report of the 5th May, 1954, in relation to formaldehyde, the Tariff Board stated that a duty substantially greater than 4.6 per cent. would be necessary to enable the Australian product to compete with the imported product. In relation to slide fasteners, the board stated that a duty of 78 per cent. would be needed to equalize the landed cost of fasteners from Czechoslovakia. In its report on electric lamps for automobiles, it stated that equalizing duties ranging up to 108 per cent. under the British preferential tariff, and from 58 per cent. to133 per cent. under the intermediate tariff would be required.

It has been stated that the Tariff Board cannot give effective protection to Australian industry. I think the pressure could be taken off the Tariff Board by applying a very much better form of control. The Government states that it does not believe in the use of controls. However, it does apply controls, and I do not blame it for doing so. The Australian Labour party has applied controls, and affirms that, if returned to office, it will use controls wisely and for the benefit of the people. There is nothing to be ashamed of in the use of controls, but it must be remembered that import controls and tariff protection are onlv short-term methods of overcoming a difficult situation. I suggestthat the Government should consider an alteration of the rate of exchange. I think it should consider a further depreciation of the £1.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order! The honorable member may not discuss that matter at this stage.

Mr JOSHUA:

– I repeat that tariff protection is an inflationary means, and that import restrictions are an even more inflationary means, of protecting industry. I believe that some other type of control should be introduced to relieve the pressure that is being brought to bear on the Government. Careful consideration should be given to the introduction of a form of control that would increase our overseas reserves of currency and encourage the sale of our primary products. Further inquiry may be necessary, and perhaps further time must elapse before the necessary action is taken, but so often we are accused of pointing out the difficulties but not suggesting adequate remedies.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of the Interior, the Department ofWorks, theDepartment of Civil Aviation, the Department of Trade and Customs. and the Department of Health has expired.

Proposed votes agreed to.

Department of Commerce and Agriculture

Proposed vote, £1,678,000.

Department of Social Services

Proposed vote. £2,439,000.

Department of Shippingand Transport

Proposed vote, £946,000.

Departmentof Territories

Proposed vote. £165,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)

Mr.THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [9.1]. - The vote for the Department of Social Services is of great concern to the people of Australia.Honorable members may recollect that, during the consideration of the Estimates last year, I spoke on the necessity for examiningthe positionof the A class widow pensioner with dependent children. At that timeI read a letterthat hadbeen sent to me by a widow whose husband had died at the age of about 35 years after an illness of about twelve months. ‘This woman had been left with four children. One of the children suffered from poliomyelitis yet the whole income of that woman comprised the social services payment of £3 15s. a week and the child endowment. [ then appealed ‘to the ‘Government to make an extra payment available in respect of the children of such widows. From the. speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) it would not appear that any action has been taken in connexion with that matter.

A special weekly payment is made to war widows in addition to the pension, although their pension is considerably more than the civilian widow’s pension. The same lady has written to me this year regretting that she has not been able to see any ‘statement in the Treasurer’s speech which indicates that anything is to be done for ‘cases such as hers. Provision rs to be made for the permissible income of a widow pensioner to be increased from £2 a week to £3 10s. a week, but it is not possible for a widow who has been left with four or more children to go out and work and earn any additional income. 1 again appeal to the Government -to give -some consideration to A class widow pensioners with several children to keep. This is a matter which has been sadly over-looked, not only by this Government, but by previous governments. I am not trying to make a sentimental appeal nor am I trying to make political ‘Capital -out ‘o’f this matter. I freely admit that nothing has been done for :the children of these widows by -any government up to date. The only special assistance ‘thai; is given to these women is -the .payment of ‘an additional -5s. in respect of the first child which brings the pension up to £3 l’5s. instead of £3 10s. a week. ‘This is one of the harsh aspects of ‘our social Services ‘and the Minister for Social ‘Services ‘(Mr. McMahon) should endeavour to give further assistance to these people. I ‘do not wish to reflect on the Minister for Social Services who ‘has just received his portfolio, nor on ‘the previous Minister, because this ^practice has continued for many years, but I regret ‘that no ‘action has ‘been taken in this regard this year despite the very strong case that I put forward last year.

The Minister might reply that this is a matter of policy. If it is a matter of policy I think that it should be given early and earnest consideration by the Government. The Minister may say that it would be a new departure in social services to make any special payment in respect of the children of widows in addition to the 5s. that is paid in respect of the first child. I admit that it may be a new departure, but the Government is continually breaking new ground in connexion with its expenditure on publicworks, social services and taxation. The Government broke new ground two or three years ago when it decided to exempt from the payment of income tax people in receipt of incomes up to the amount of the age pension. The Government considered that it was entitled to break that new ground because the pensioner was exempt from the payment of income tax, and therefore it considered that other people in receipt of incomes which were only equal to the pension should be exempt. The ‘Government has recognized that a war widow with dependent children should receive certain payments additional to her pension and the Government has -even increased the amount of benefit paid in respect of those children during its term of office. I am asking that the civilian widow should be given the same consideration as the war widow. I do not desire to ‘go into the case of the widow between -50 “and *60 years of age. There is a case for the increase of the pensions of those widows also. But on this occasion I want to make a special appeal to the ‘Minister ‘and the Government to do more for the widows to whom IT have referred.

Mr THOMPSON:

– Tes. I am referring to A class widows with ‘dependant children. The B class widow has no children dependent upon her, so that my remarks can apply only to the A class widow. I am asking that in addition to the amount that is paid to the A class widow at present, a special pay”ment should be. made in respect of each dependant child. According ‘to the statement which “the Treasurer himself has provided for the information of honorable members, the A class widow receives only £3 15s. a week pension whether she has one child or six dependent upon her. In these times, quite a number of fairly young women, between 30 and 40 years of age, have been left with families, and a number of them have up to six children. The woman to whom I have referred, who is aged 35 and is the mother of four young children, will receive an allowance of £3 15s. a week, and she may earn in addition up to £2 which will be increased to £3 10s. a week. How in the name of fortune can she go out to earn an income? She told me that she is trying to earn a little income as a grocery agent selling for a grocery firm. She used a little capital that Jut husband had left her to buy a motor car, but, owing to sickness and the need to put the child afflicted with poliomyelitis in hospital for treatment, she has been able to earn little up to the present, and what she has earned has been absorbed by hospital expenses. The home undoubtedly must suffer.

I do not suggest that we on this side of the chamber are more humane than are supporters of the Government. Let us all raise our standard of humanity a little higher so that we may help unfortunate widows with young children to rear. In South Australia, before 1924, assistance that was paid by the State Government in respect of children was paid only to foster parents. I recall that a widow, who lived next door to my home when I was a child, had to slave at the washtub daily to keep herself and her five children. She received no assistance from the State. In those days, no widow’s or other federal pension or social services benefits were paid. When a South Australian Labour Government agreed to make a payment of 5s. for each child direct to the mother, and not only to foster parents, I was filled with pride at the humanity of the decision. I shall again feel proud if I can play any part in influencing this or any other government to assist widows to feed and clothe themselves and their dependent children. I do not want the Minister for Social Services to debate this matter, because I have sprung it upon him., I am merely trying to get it on record as a matter worthy of consideration by the Government and the Department of Social Services in an endeavour to ascertain whether something can be done to help widows with dependent children. . The mother may go to the Child Welfare Department in some of the States and point out her position, and the State department may make a small allowance for the purchase of food in an effort to alleviate her position.

Mr ALLAN FRASER:
EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The New South Wales Child Welfare Department will make an allowance of 12s. 6d. a week.

Mr THOMPSON:

– That is not done in all the States. We have a duty to assist those who are left in need. I am sure that in this plea I have the support of honorable members generally, who, T have no doubt, acknowledge that the needs of widows with young dependent children should receive consideration. My proposal would not entail a heavy drain on the revenue, but it would be a tremendous boon to widows. I recall the time when the Lyons Government reduced the pension of 17s. 6d. a week by the amount of income earned, even if it were only 2s. 6d. a week. I recall one elderly couple on whose behalf I made representations for assistance of 2s. 6d. a week each, which was granted. That gave me the biggest lesson that I have ever had in my life. The old couple were dependent on a daughter for their care, and their plight made me realize just how much 2s. 6d. a week could mean to an elderly couple with no means except the pension. I appeal to the Government to give earnest consideration to the suggestion that I have made for the relief of widows with young dependent children.

Mr LESLIE:
Moore

.- I wish to discuss the social services estimates, with particular reference to Division 92 - State Establishments. The Department of Social Services is responsible for a host of activities, including the payment of social services benefits, and also, for the conduct and maintenance of rehabilitation centres and facilities in the States. I do not know whether a rehabilitation centre exists in every State,, but I have an intimate knowledge of the one at Melville, in Western Australia. Persons who have suffered injury at their work or who have some physical defect that would either enable them to claim the invalid pension or prevent them from returning to their normal occupation, are trained at these rehabilitation centres in an endeavour to enable them to resume normal life, or at least to ‘reduce to the minimum their claims for invalid pension. I am sure that the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) would describe that activity as humane work. It is one of the finest activities that any government could undertake. It serves to restore the greatest and most important thing in human nature - the dignity of work, of self-support and of self-dependence - and nothing could be more worthwhile. I believe that the rehabilitation centre at Melville was the first to be established in Australia, and that the centres in the other States were patterned on it. If we care to be materialistic, we may note that these centres save the Government money, because they obviate pension payments out of public funds to incapacitated and physically handicapped citizens who otherwise would be entirely dependent on pensions.

The rehabilitation centres are designed to meet the needs of adults. I am concerned about physically handicapped children who, at present, are entirely outside the scope of the social services benefits until they are old enough to claim invalid pensions. The Department of Social Services should give assistance before those children reach that stage. Help would have to be given in conjunction with the State Health Departments. It is primarily a Commonwealth responsibility, though the States undertake a considerable amount of work in relation to handicapped children. At present, State assistance is not enough and the bulk of the work at present being done for physically handicapped children is undertaken by voluntary organizations. I want to refer in particular to the spastic children’s organization and treatment centres, which are now established in all the States’ except Tasmania. These voluntary organizations have assumed a tremendous financial responsibility in undertaking to educate these children and to provide the necessary medical treat- ment, so that, they may acquire the dig nity of self-dependence and be enabled to take a part in the ordinary life of the community. The work of these organizations enables afflicted children to enjoy the things that we enjoy, to walk, talk, laugh, play and, perhaps, work. These children of whom I speak are not mentally defective, or anything like that. On the contrary, they are normal, mentally sound, healthy children. The intelligence quotient of some of them is above average. Because of an accident prior to birth, or at birth, and about which the medical people cannot tell us very much, they suffer from an injury to their nervous system which limits their power of expression. They cannot take their place in schools with normal children and learn as quickly, or make as rapid progress. Special facilities must he provided for them. At the present time, such facilities are provided, at great cost, in each of the States by voluntary organizations. In Western Australia we have the Sir James Mitchell Spastic Centre which costs about £800 a week to run. It is a voluntary organization.

The Department of Social Services must come into this picture. If these facilities were not provided by voluntary organizations, the State governments would be required to train the children to enable them to play a part in civil life, and, in some cases, to provide them with a pension. At that stage of their lives the possibility of doing anything at all for them would have disappeared entirely. The children must be taken almost in babyhood, if the best results are to be achieved. I, therefore, say to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who is now at the table, that I consider this matter to be the responsibility of the department which he administers. This is a social problem, and the Department of Social Services should concern itself with the work which is being done by these voluntary organizations. It should also consult with the Department of Health in order to see where that department might come into the picture and render assistance. Money should be provided from the National Welfare Fund for the purpose of giving financial assistance, either on an individual basis or by way of a grant to each, of the centres. That is a matter which can be discussed and arranged. I believe that this problem cannot longer be left entirely to voluntary workers. The financial burden is great and the voluntary system is- not reliable. There is a possibility of its- breaking down, although God forbid that that should happen. The generosity of the average Australian is maintaining these institutions at present, but whether it will maintain them to the1 degree that is necessary, I do not. know-

In Western Australia, we established a centre to> provide for 40 children, which was our estimate of the number of children who- would attend the- centre. Within twelve months of the centre being opened, we found ourselves with 115 children on our hands. That indicates how quickly- this- problem has grown. In two years we established the centre that is there to-day. The- situation is similar in other States. Recently, we formed’ an. Australia-wide council of spastic organizations, known as the Australian Cerebo-Palsy Council-. We have, therefore,, organized on-, ai Commonwealth basis, and we- invite- the Minister- for Social’ Services- and the departmental officers: who are1- concerned with the- rehabilitation of physically- incapacitated persons to; discuss the; problems: with U3 audi help to solve- them. The. material and equipment which is< necessary in such centres; costs, a great’ deal of money. Everything has to. be specially made: In addition, the- cost of providing’ professional staff is great..

I suggest that this is: a fieldi which ultimately can be: most rewarding’ to the Minister,, the department: and’,, indeed,, to all: Australians. The humane nature) of the work is. itself a rewards The States obtain a material” reward because, owing to, the work done; by the voluntary organizations, many of these; children are? not dependent, upon, charitable social services benefits- from the’ Government,, such as the invalid; pension. It is- soul-destroying for; people to -know- that they are* helpless and: dependent upon: the kindness and generosity of: a- benevolent: government. Nothing could- create, greater bitterness in the i minds of people than-, the: knowledge that they are being denied,, either deliberately or. because- of unfortunate; circumstances, tie right to> do what their fellow men. are able to do; This is particularly so in respect of those who have the- mental capacity to work, but who are physically handicapped, because; of injury to- their muscular or nervous- systems. The spastic child in the family sees his brother or sister doing something which he knows he should be. able to do. but because of his incapacity, he is unable to do it. Imagine the bitterness1 that must grow in his mind against his parents and his brothers and sisters. We can remove that bitterness. A tremendous amount of good can be done, but it cannot be done if this work is left entirely to the voluntary organizations..

I do not want the Minister to- say, “Well, this- is a matter for the Department of Health “.. Education, health and vocational training are all tied up in this problem. It is a matter for three or four departments’, and requires the efforts of a co-ordinating department. That department must be none other than the Department of Social Services, because, unless something is- done, these children will, become the responsibility of that, department ultimately.. The time to- assume responsibility for them is now. when something can be done for them, not when it is. too. late to assist them.

I- wish to compliment the previous Labour Government,, and also the present. Government, for establishing rehabilitation centres; in each, of the States; Those centres; are doing- a; wonderful, job; and the people who. conduct, them- deserve all the- credit that we: can give them’.. They are patient, tolerant and; understanding. They Have a peculiar, ability to deal successfully with adults; who- suffer injuries and- who. find themselves’ limited in: their* ability to work.. Such people;, as a; result, are: likely to become embittered and. not easy, to handle. The’ staff, of these rehabilitation centres;, with great human- understanding,, restore* the; confidence: of these’ people- in themselves, and, what is most: valuable’, their faith in their fellow mem. By means; of” this: work, incapacitated; people- are; made: to: appreciate that our much vaunted social system and democratic; form» of government anreal. They know- that, they will not he left in the gutter like pariah dogs, as the injured Indian or Chinaman is left, but that an attempt will be made to restore their self-respect and their dignity.

Mr McMAHON:
Minister for Social Services · Lowe · LP

– I rise, not to interrupt the debate, but only to give the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) the assurance of myself and the Government that this matter is being considered in the most sympathetic way possible. During the last few months, the senior medical officer of the Department of Social Services has visited many countries overseas to investigate the problems to which the honorable member referred. A paper has been prepared, for the consideration of the Government, in which it is recommended that action be taken along the lines suggested by him. Again I assure him that the problem of those who suffer from some mild handicap is being thoroughly Considered in a most sympathetic way.

Unfortunately, it is a big subject, as he will know, and I am not able to bring down concrete recommendations at the present time. However, I hope that, within the course of the next three or four months, I shall be able to give it thorough consideration and make positive recommendations to the Cabinet. I am fairly certain that, when he knows of the recommendations, he will be satisfied, but, knowing his very great personal interest in this problem, I will instruct the department to consult with him before the recommendations are finally brought before the Parliament. In conclusion, again I say that we are considering the matter sympathetically. The problems he has discussed are within the knowledge of the department. When they are being considered, everything he has said will be brought to its attention and certainly to the attention of the Cabinet.

Mr ALLAN FRASER:
Monaro · EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I want to bring to the notice of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) some suggestions for the decentralization of the administration of his department. These suggestions are based on my own day-to-day experience in dealing with officers in various social services matters. What I have to say is in no sense a -criticism of those officers, or of the way in which they perform their duties. My own experience of the Department of Social Services is that it sets a very high standard of courtesy and care in the performance of its duties, and, from the Director-General downwards in order of seniority, I have not found any departmental officer who has not been most punctilious and careful and kindly in the consideration of representations made to him. There appears to be inside that department, not merely a desire to adhere to the letter of the law but a real desire, as far as is possible, to examine each problem on a human basis and to do the very best that can be done for each df the persons on whose behalf representations are made. Nevertheless, in New South Wales at least, within the last twelve months particularly, there have been what are undoubtedly excessive delays in the handling of social services applications. This refers particularly to child endowment matters and, to a lesser degree, to age pension applications.

In some cases, the delays have been a matter of several months. In ‘quite a number of eases ‘of child endowment applications, the department appears to ha ve been unable to trace the applications. Files have been missing, or lost entirely, and mothers have gone without the child endowment assistance to which they are entitled by law. In the electorate of Eden-Monaro, I suppose I have had well over 100 such cases brought to me individually by mothers who have been unable to obtain the child endowment payments to which they are entitled, and whose correspondence with the department has brought no useful results. I believe that these delays affecting child endowment were to some degree due to difficulties associated with the introduction of a new system of filing and of arranging such payments inside the department. Some internal change that was being made in the department’s administrative methods contributed to this extremely unfortunate situation. I am hopeful, and on indications it does appear, that that situation is now being overcome. Nevertheless, the delays are still longer than I think should properly occur, and in quite a number of cases the necessary investigations which have to be made by the department before an application can be approved appear to take longer than an outsider would think, on the basis of common sense and reason, should be necessary.

Two or three months ago the Sydney Sun published a series of articles exposing this extraordinary delay in the Department of Social Services, and officers of the department quite frankly at that time admitted that the delays were longer than should have been the case and gave some assurances that the new system that was then being adopted would contribute to a more expeditious handling of applications. It appears to me that there is no real merit in the administrative system which provides for a director and an organization on a State basis. I can see no real reason why you should say that you need in Tasmania, with 350,000 or 400,000 people, one director with full powers in respect of that State, and one staff to handle all matters arising from that State, and that, in New South Wales, with perhaps ten times the population, you still should have only one director, and one central staff under him, giving a final decision on all applications coming in from that State. It appears to me that the organization in Sydney is too large. It is overloaded, and although, as I have said, many senior officers in that office work, as I have found in my experience with them, exceedingly long hours and make every possible endeavour to perform their duties efficiently, the real remedy needed is the decentralization of the administration of the department.

Instead of having that administration on a State basis irrespective of population, it should be on a basis of provinces or areas fixed by the Minister or the Director-General. For example, I see no reason why there should not be a director at Newcastle, one perhaps at Wollongong, and another at Canberra to cover the Monaro and south coast area, each with full powers subject to the DirectorGeneral. I think that throughout New South Wales, on the basis that Tasmania requires one director and one staff, there could easily be at least half a dozen provinces, each controlled by a director with full power except on such matters as have to be submitted to the discretion of the Director-General. I am very glad to see that the Minister is interested in this proposal, and it appears perhaps that he is already giving some thought to it. I gather, from the attitude that he has taken to the remarks that I have made, that even before I had spoken, and in the brief period for which he has already been the ministerial head of this department, he has come to realize that there are arguments in favour of this decentralization proposal. I hope that it will have his most earnest consideration.

Mr BLAND:
Warringah

.- Nothing made it clearer that we needed an investigation into our social services system than the campaign that was waged during the last general election, and the speeches that have been made in this chamber in connexion with the AddressinReply and the budget. To-day, I desire to put forward a plea for an inquiry to be held into the whole range of our social services, in order to ascertain just where they are leading us and just what the possibilities are of our being able adequately to provide for them in the future. Somebody has said that in our interest in humanitarianism. Ave may well spell the end of humanity. It is worthwhile finding out whether we are proceeding on a path which may lead us to destroy humanity because of our excessive zeal for humanitarianism.

The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has indicated that he is at present conducting investigations into certain aspects of social services. I suggest to him that he should widen the scope of those inquiries in order to follow the direction of inquiries that have been proceeding in England, and of which I am quite sure the Minister is fully aware. I desire to refer him to a report of the British National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women, and I should also like to remind him of the work of the other committee on economic and financial problems of the provision for old age. In the report of that body he will find a lot of startling information. The conditions that the committee investigated are not completely similar to our conditions in Australia, but the information contained in its report will have to be taken into account by us. That will have to be done because once the trend of population sets in that we found existing in the days before 1939, we shall have to consider the ratio of the people who receive social services to the people who are employed, and who provide social services. Linked up with this matter is the whole question of how long people shall work, and at what age they shall be retired. The finding of an answer to that question involves an investigation into the whole matter of population trends. The National Advisory Committee on the employment of Older Men and Women did not deal peculiarly with aged people; it dealt with older people. The report of the committee reads, inter alia -

By “ older “ men and women we mean not only those who have reached their pensionable ages but all those who on account of ago meet with special difficulties in retaining or obtaining employment. The point at which this difficulty arises varies with the individual, the area and the occupation; and it depends not only on the individual’s physical and mental ability but on the nature of the work, the attitude of the employer and workmates, the state of the local labour market and other factors. It may arise comparatively early in working life; the term “older” does not mean “ aged.”

If we consider the way in which we, as a community, are getting older, it does assist us in considering the problem of the provision of social services. Perhaps honorable members will be interested in these figures. In England in 1900 the expectation of life for a boy was 44 years, and for a girl 48 years. In 1951 the expectation of life for a boy was 66 years and for a girl 71 years. Also, in 1951 the expectation of life for a nian of 60 years was fifteen more years to the age of 75 years, and for a woman of 60 the expectation of life was another eighteen years, to the age of 78 years. One has only to look at the number of people who are at present receiving social services to realize the importance of the new age groups. The changed age structure of the population is shown clearly by the fact that in 1900 ten people out of every hundred were over pensionable age, but that in 1950, twenty persons out of every 100 were over pensionable age. Moreover, it is expected that by 1965, 30 persons out of every 100 will be over pensionable age. In 1951, 135 persons out of every 1,000 were over pensionable age; that is, two in every fifteen. In ten years’ time, it is expected that one person in every five will be over pensionable age. I urge upon the Government that the changing age groups of the people should be investigated in Australia, so that we shall be able to understand the nature of the problem that will face us in the near future. My own inclination is to suggest that we should completely revise all our views in regard to retirement and pensionable age. Retirement should not be a matter of chronological age so much as a matter of physical age; and we should make it possible for people who have the necessary physical capacity to carry on particular occupations, to remain in employment in those occupations. If we are to be faced with the necessity to provide additional man-power as a result of our commitments in South-East Asia, we cannot continue to allow people to leave the ranks of industry as they attain the ages of 60 and 65 years. I suggest that it is imperative that they should be encouraged to stay at work. We shall also find that if we do encourage people to stay at work, we shall give them an opportunity to retain an interest in life, and we shall also relieve the burden that falls upon our exchequer in meeting our social services . commitments.

The Government has indicated its intention to put aside £1,500,000 to subsidize housing, and matters connected with housing, for aged people. It has long been my hope that around the district and base hospitals throughout the country a system of community homes should be developed for aged people. At present as aged people leave employment, they are compelled to go to the cities to enter large institutions. I should like to see them housed in bungalows and groups of cottages around the country hospitals, s«i that it would be easy to give them medical and nursing attention. Moreover, the hospitals and the grounds of the hospitals would benefit by the work that could be done by these people. I should think that they would give their labour for this purpose with great zest and delight. A project such as I have mentioned would help to keep aged people in neighbourhoods with which they are familiar. They would not be separated from their friends by being sent to larger centres of population, and this scheme would be one way in which the churches and voluntary organizations could help to relieve the loneliness of people who otherwise would have to pass out of the environment in which they had spent a large part of their lives.

We provide institutions for the aged, but every honorable member who has visited those places must feel rather unhappy about them. I hope that the Minister will appoint committees, not only departmental committees but also other committees, to conduct investigations into the problems of ageing individuals. They could also investigate the number of aged persons in relation to the general population and in relation to the number of persons employed in the community, with a view to assessing the future cost of pensions and social services. I also hope that he will consider whether the whole of our public service legislation, and most of our social legislation that aims at the retirement of people at 60 or 65 years, should be revised with a view to encouraging people who are capable of working to stay at work rather than having to retire on inadequate incomes. I repeat, for the sake of emphasis, that I should like to relieve the lot of the aged and lonely people by the erection of cottage homes near district and base hospitals so that they would be in contact with friends and relatives instead of having to go away from the areas in which they have lived and which they love to places where they are entirely unknown and unbefriended

Mr DALY:
Grayndler

.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) delivered a constructive speech in connexion with the budget proposals and the provision that the Government proposes for social services. It was heartening to hear the honorable member refer to housing for the aged and other matters of importance to those persons who are in the group that is covered by the Department of Social Services. Before I proceed to speak of the Estimates that are under discussion, I wish to offer some criticism generally regarding the conduct of the debate by the Government.

The departments that are under discussion are the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Department of Territories. The Department of Social Services alone covers a proposed expenditure this year of almost £200,000,000. The other departments that are under discussion involve the expenditure of many millions of pounds on services, as well as administrative costs running into several millions of pounds. Yet we have the unhappy spectacle of one Minister only, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), sitting in this chamber during the debate to hear the speeches of honorable members. What can the Minister at the table tell me about matters related to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture? What can he tell me about shipping and transport and the problems of the Department of Territories? Surely honorable members are entitled to have Ministers in the chamber, ill-informed as they are on the matters that we are discussing, to hear the criticisms offered by honorable members and to answer them.

According to some reports, the Minister for Social Services, who sits alone at the ministerial table, did notable work when he had another portfolio, hut so far as I can ascertain he has been demoted to his present portfolio, and is also expected to be a walking quiz kid to answer questions concerning all the departments that are now under discussion. The Government has restricted the debate, it refuses to allow members unlimited time to speak and, with utter contempt for the Parliament, it has sent into the chamber one Minister who has not even a grasp of the affairs of the department that he administers. The Government reduces the debate to a farce when honorable members are not able to obtain even the presence in the committee of Ministers so that they can hear honorable members. If it were not for question time, T doubt whether honorable members would ever see the Ministers gathered together in this chamber. I make that comment in passing because I believe it is time the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) took action, even if the Vice-President of the

Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) will not do so. The Prime Minister should see that Ministers are present so that they may at least listen to honorable members, and obtain from their departmental experts the answers that should be given to honorable members.

I should like to know why the price of butter has been allowed to soar from 2s. 2d. per lb. when the Chifley Labour Government was in office to 4s. 2d. to-day, and why the subsidy that is necessary to reduce the price of butter to 2s. “2d. would total £44,000,000 compared with a fraction of that amount that was required to keep the price down when the Chifley Government was in office. Why has the Government allowed prices’ of dairy products to get out of hand? Australian consumers everywhere, including those persons who are covered by social services payments, have to pay almost 100 per cent, more for butter than they did five years ago, but this Government has not granted an increase of social services payments to allow them to meet the additional cost of butter. Why is not the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) present to give the committee information about the dairying industry and matters associated with it? Certainly the dairy-farmers, and their employees are entitled to a fair return for their labour, but this Government stands condemned because it has allowed the price of a basic commodity like butter to rise, while refusing to give any commensurate increase of pensions. As a result, the purchasing power of the pensioners has been whittled down. It is scandalous that a subsidy totalling £44,000,000 would be required to reduce the price of butter to the rate that prevailed when the Chifley Labour Government was in office.

This Government has refused to send Ministers into the chamber to answer questions upon matters of importance to the people, and yet it has told the electors that, by its efforts, it has stabilized the economy, reduced the cost of living and ensured that the people shall get fair value for the money that is in their pay envelopes. Honorable members had been given the impression that the Minister for Social Services was a man with a merciful outlook, a man of tolerance and understanding, yet in his first effort as Minister for Socia’’ Services, he has shown complete disregard for the needs of pensioners and others who receive social services benefits. At the same time the Minister has subscribed to the Government’s policy under which it reduced by millions of pounds the taxes of persons who are in the high income groups and are well able to pay. Honorable members who represent the Australian Country party appear to be restless under my criticism. I am not perturbed by their reactions. Their party is a long hours and low wages party, and if we waited for them to give more generous social services benefits, we would wait a long time. The Minister for Social Services is just as heartless as are the members of the Australian Country party in his attitude to those who are in the low income groups. Little heed has been paid by the Government to the invalid pensioners, the wives of pensioners, those who are entitled to maternity allowances and child endowment. The Government has left unaltered the child endowment payments of 5s. a week for the first child and 10s. for each subsequent child up to the age of sixteen years. The Government must consider that 5s. for the first child is sufficient encouragement to people to increase the- population.

According to figures that were produced in this chamber, the value of the £1 has fallen by 61 per cent, since this Government was first elected in 1949. In a booklet on social services that was produced by the present Government in conjunction with its policy speech in 1949, the statement was made that the Chifley £1 was worth only 12s. 2d. If we accent the Government’s own valuation at that time and take off 61 per cent, for the fall in the value of the £1 since the Government took office, the Fadden £1 now is worth no more than 4s. lid. That means that the 5s. child endowment that the Government provides for the first child of a family is worth about ls. to-day. The Government has not in creased benefits to compensate for the reduced value of money. Persons who were eligible received £10 funeral allowance when the Chifley Government was in office, but the cost of everything has risen in the meantime. Nevertheless this Government expects the persons concerned still to pay for all death costs out of £10. This Government merits condemnation for its heartless approach to these problems. In my own electorate there are many thousands of pensioners and persons who are entirely dependent upon social services payments. I have found that thousands upon thousands of persons are unable to meet ordinary living costs, and yet the Government proposes to give to exservicemen and others an increase of only 7s. 6d. a week. At the same time the Government has wiped off entirely the most needy section of the community, and expects those people to exist under its inflationary policy. Why, the only reduction that the Government has made is in the price of jelly beans, or the like, under the sales tax proposals !

The Government is prepared to grant a tax remission of £13 a week to a person in receipt of an income of £15,000 a year, yet people in the lower income group are to receive no tax reduction and pensioners are not to be given a higher pension. When a government, regardless of its political beliefs, allows inflation to run riot, as this Government has done, and permits the price of every basic commodity to double, it cannot justify a refusal to give to the aged, the sick, the infirm and. the other recipients of social services an increase of benefits, and the granting of tax remissions to the wealthy section of the community. Why does not the Government take an additional few hundred thousand pounds in tax from that struggling enterprise, General Motors-Holden’s Limited in order to make a contribution to the relief of the aged, the sick and the infirm? Could not an enterprise of that kind well afford to make an additional tax contribution to Consolidated Revenue?

I am sorry for the Minister for Social Services, because he has such a heartless collection of rank-and-file members behind him. They sit stolidly in their places, and refuse to stand up for the rights of the people. If Labour members did not speak, the consideration, of the Estimates would be completed in one and a half days. Every constructive proposal about basic problems is made by a member of the Labour party, because we understand and appreciate the needs of the people, whereas the government of the day is concerned with only the wealthy and influential few who put it into office and are now getting their reward.

I regret that I have to speak in this strain. I should greatly prefer to discuss the thousand and one anomalies which exist in the pensions legislation that has been introduced by this Government in the last few years. But the fact remains that I feel that criticism of the nature I am levelling is necessary in order to awaken any feeling of mercy which may lie dormant in the heart of the Minister for Social Services, so that in the next budget, or even beforehand, he will give some relief to the needy who have been completely overlooked on this occasion. We realize that we cannot expect the introduction of legislation at the present time to benefit those people who are not covered by the budget proposals, but I am astonished that the Minister has not made retrospective to the 1st July last the benefits that are to be conferred on the people. Evidently, his officers did no give him advice on that matter, so that persons who are to benefit slightly from the modification of the means test would become entitled to the benefit a little earlier. Even such a slight concession as that has been overlooked by the Government, because it does not think that the people in the groups I have mentioned are worthy of any consideration.

I regret that I have not more time to discuss this matter, but I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the tolerance that you have displayed in allowing me to deal with a few matters which, possibly, are outside the scope of this debate, but which are undoubtedly all-important to the people. I record my regret that the Minister for Social Services has shown such a heartless approach to the requirements of the needy section, and that the Government has refused to give effect to a policy which would relieve the plight of people who are dependent on social services and are suffering economic privations forced on them to-day.

I have nothing but contempt for the government which asks a new Minister for Social Services to take his place at the table to reply to our questions and criticisms on social services, and which refuses to send three other Ministers into the chamber to answer questions about the allocation of huge sums of money, for the expenditure of which they are responsible. I hope that the Government, in its next budget, will give effect to a more humane policy and will see that Ministers stand up to our challenge to them to explain inefficiencies in their administration and the reason for the allocation of huge amounts to their respective departments. They should not run for cover at the only time in the year when we have an opportunity to discuss the matters for which they are responsible.

I am opposed to the Estimates now under consideration, because no relief is given to pensioners and many other recipients of social services. I hope that some action will be taken to remedy the evil and distress that have been caused by the Government’s policy. I record my regret that I was not able to proceed further with criticism of these Estimates, because the responsible Ministers are not present, and it is idle to waste the time of the committee by directing to the new Minister for Social Services questions that he cannot answer.

Mr PEARCE:
Capricornia

.- I am continually amazed at the ability of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) to fill in time in the way he does. He is able to talk for a quarter of an hour, yet say very little. I noted with a good deal of regret his remarks about the attendance of Ministers in the chamber while the Estimates of the departments for which they are responsible are under consideration. The position is that many Ministers have been present during the consideration of these Estimates. While I am amazed at the ability of the honorable member to talk on and on, I am doubly amazed at his chameleon qualities. I wish that his electorate would change daily as well as he does. If my memory serves me correctly, the honorable member complained during the consideration of the Estimates last year that Ministers were occupying too much time, to the exclusion of Labour members, who were not given sufficient opportunity to speak. Last year, he complained that Ministers talked too much, and this year he complains that Ministers are speaking too little. What does he want?

I regret that the honorable member for Grayndler chose to direct somewhat derogatory remarks at the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon). It is to the credit of the Minister that, having been allotted a new portfolio, he has been able to make a revolutionary step in respect of our social services. The modification of the means test will benefit a vast number of people who, to date, have been denied pensions, and will thereby confer a great measure of relief on needy persons in the community. The social services programme of this Government, which was started in 1949, has progressed another step towards giving complete social security to all members of the Australian community.

Earlier in the debate, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) spoke about what he regarded as the necessity for the decentralization of the Department of Social Services. For some time, I have been seeking advice from the Minister about the decentralization programme. Representing, as I do, a country electorate far removed from the central office in Brisbane, I find that many anomalies occur. People who are in dire need have to wait for long periods because no one in their respective districts is able to deal satisfactorily with their claims. For instance, all claims in Queensland for child endowment are dealt with by the Brisbane office. That means that a claim made by a person who lives in Cairns or Cooktown in the north of Queensland, has to be sent to Brisbane to be dealt with, and then be returned to the applicant. A good deal of time is wasted in that way. Perhaps it does not matter much when an original claim is made, but it is important when a mother loses her child endowment book and cannot ‘collect endowment until she has received a replacement book. Her claim is transmitted by mail, with the bulk of other country correspondence, and the whole matter has to be dealt with in Brisbane. Personally, I see no reason for that.

I believe that where there are large towns such as Rockhampton and Townsville, with hinterlands in which, say, 300,000 people live, we should establish in those centres a provincial director or a regional director. It does not matter a hoot what title he is given so long as he has complete authority to deal with social services claims on the spot, so that people shall not be delayed and suffer hardship.

Much the same position applies in respect of pensions. Although people make application through registrars in various centres scattered throughout Queensland and the other States-

Mr Drummond:

– It might also apply to taxation.

Mr PEARCE:

– Yes, I believe that a similar argument can be advanced in respect of taxation. When a person lodges a claim for a pension and a case is made out in support of it, a recommendation goes to Brisbane. In the normal course of events, even if there are no queries about the claim, there is a. waiting period of five or six weeks before the matter is settled and the person receives the first pension cheque. I have a very high regard for the officers in Brisbane^ a-nd I believe that they are doing all they can in this matter, but because the system is so centralized, an ordinary claim about which there is no doubt whatever still takes five or six weeks to be finally settled. That delay could be obviated if we had provincial or regional directors with full authority to deal with these matters and with the necessary staff and machinery. Within a. few days of a claim being made, provided there was no objection to it, the pensioner could receive his first payment.

Mr Thompson:

– Even if there is a delay, the pensioner gets the back money that is owing to him.

Mr PEARCE:

– Yes, but that does not help the pensioner to pay the grocer or the milkman in the meantime. When a person applies for a pension he or she is in need of it immediately and I cannot see why an applicant should have to wait for five or six weeks. If there is some doubt about a pension claim, perhaps in relation to the means test or one of the many other points that we, as members of Parliament, know can be raised, the form goes to Brisbane with a recommendation from the registrar at the centre. The examining officer at central office then makes a decision. He may reject the claim forthwith although the registrar; with his knowledge of local conditions, may have considered that a pension was warranted. Once again, five or six weeks may elapse before the claimant is advised that all is not well with his application. I know of cases in which four or .five months have elapsed before a pension claim has been finally settled to the satisfaction of both the department and the applicant. That is absolutely wrong. In the first place, an examiner sitting in an office in Brisbane cannot be expected to have a knowledge of local conditions. That is something that we cannot avoid, but a regional director who had full power to deal with these matters, would know the local conditions and would be able to decide some cases on the spot. If that were done, applicants would not be penalized by having to endure a long waiting period. That is very important. The Minister for Social Services has been extremely sympathetic when I have brought individual cases to his notice in the past, but I urge him to try to impress the importance of this matter upon Cabinet. When we are dealing with pensioners we are dealing with human flesh and blood. We are dealing with people who have feelings. These dreadful waits that occur are shocking in the lives of people. We pay pensioners little enough as it is. The money they get is of vital importance to them, and I believe it should be the aim of the Department of Social Services, as I am sure it is now, to see that pension payments reach the. hands of pensioners as soon as possible. Under the present system, that is completely impossible in the large States.

I believe, too, that the system I have proposed would serve a very useful purpose within the department itself. Most of us know the executive officers of the department. They are men for whom we on this side of the chamber at least have the highest regard, and we appreciate the tremendous interest they take in their task, but we should realize that, unfortunately, many of them are getting up in years and will soon retire.

Therefore, it. is necessary for the department to train executive officers from within its own ranks. The appointment of provincial or regional directors would be an. excellent way to enable younger nien to get valuable experience in all fields of social services in the smaller centres so that eventually they could be trained quickly to take the place of senior executives as they retire. We cannot go backwards in the field of social services. No government will ever be brave enough to do what a Labour government once did and reduce pensions or other social service benefits. We must move on. Therefore, it is necessary that we should have in the Department of Social Services officers who will be able, because of their training and experience as well as their academic qualifications, to take over the higher offices of the department. The main need for the appointment of regional officers is to av.oid delays in the payment of pensions or other social service benefits. However, I believe, too, that the knowledge of local conditions that regional officers would receive, would assist us as a parliament to serve those people for whom we legislate in the field of social services. Thirdly, the scheme would provide an opportunity to train executive officers.

Unfortunately, not only in the Department of Social Services, but also in all other departments throughout the Commonwealth, we are expecting officials to work under conditions that we ourselves would not like to work under. The Department of Social Services in Brisbane is hopelessly overcrowded. How people can churn out their work there I do not know. The office is also lacking in amenities such as retiring rooms and other facilities which are taken for granted in private enterprise. If the Minister were to look around the War Service Homes office in Brisbane he would find that there is no retiring room for ladies, and no retiring room for men except a little box. There is no refrigerated or even cooled water available although Brisbane can be very hot at times. I believe that all Ministers should make a thorough examination of the working conditions of their staffs throughout the Commonwealth. This is not a trifling matter. It is a matter that should concern every one <-f vp. Finally, I welcome the appoint ment of the present Minister for Social Services to his new portfolio. I believe he brings to it an active and clear mind, and a sympathy and understanding that will be reflected, not only in the legislation that is now before the Parliament, but also in all legislation that will be brought down in future for the betterment of those members of the community who need the help that a government alone can give them.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON:
BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I am astonished that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) should accuse the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) of wasting the time of the committee when he, himself, with the exception of the last portion of his remarks, did exactly that. He spoke about the need to provide better amenities for members of the staff of the Department of Social Services. With his remarks on that point, I agree. I believe that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) will examine the conditions under which the staffs of that department are working and that if everything is not as it should be he will have the conditions rectified. Members of the Opposition are in complete agreement with the honorable member when he says that consideration of the claims of pensioners involves consideration of flesh and blood. He claimed that the concessions made under the budget to pensioners were revolutionary in character. The only revolutionary feature of the budget is that whilst it provides for a reduction of taxes by £35,000,000 in the aggregate, it makes no provision for an increase of the rate of pension. Under the budget, pensioners are to be obliged to continue to subsist on the pittance which they now receive. Yet, the honorable member for Capricornia urged the committee to deal expeditiously with the Estimates so that pensioners would bo enabled to receive as soon as possible the benefits which, he claimed, are to be made available to them under the budget. What benefit, in fact, is to be made available to them? Certainly, provision is not being made for a benefit that would render urgent the passing of the Estimates.

The honorable member also complained about the delay in dealing with applications for social services benefits. He said that applicants in north Queensland experience a delay of up to six weeks before their claims are attended to. . I inform him that applicants who live in my electorate, which is in a metropolitan area, have experienced delays of up to two months. However, having regard to the fact that such communications can be handled expeditiously by airmail, I do not agree that special offices should be set up in remote areas to deal with applications on the spot. We are now being asked to vote the sum of £2,439,000 in respect of the administration of the Department of Social Services. Honorable members will agree that that is a very substantial expenditure under that heading for one department. Efficient airmail services which operate throughout Australia bring persons in remote areas into practically as close contact with government offices as are persons in metropolitan areas. Rather, the Government should give more attention to liberalizing the rate of pension and the conditions of eligibility for pension. To-day, it is treating the pensioners in a miserable fashion, and that point should cause most concern to honorable members.

The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) urged that the age of retirement for public servants should be extended. He claimed that this would tend to reduce total expenditure on social services benefits, particularly age pensions. The problem cannot be solved so easily. This subject is being pedalled in the press which would have the public believe that a great number of public servants are being retired on account of age when they are capable of continuing to perform their duties efficiently and desire to be permitted to remain in the service. I have in mind instances in which persons on their retirement from the Public Service draw their superannuation in a lump sum and take a job outside. It cannot be said that those retired public servants are obliged to waste their time under the present system. The suggestion that the honorable member for Warringah made opens up a very wide field. If it were adopted it would tend to destroy initiative both in the Public Service and in industry generally, by limiting opportunities of promotion for younger employees. I can think of no more effective way of destroying initiative on the part of younger public servants. They would be discouraged if their opportunities of advancement in the service were reduced as a result of the extension of the age of retirement. I call to mind the case of a resident in my electorate who is 61 years of age. For the last seven weeks he has had his name on the books at two offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service. On every occasion when he has been directed to aPply f°r employment in private enterprise, he has been informed that if he is over 45 years of age he is not wanted in industry. The honorable member for Warringah cannot have it both ways. The Government should affirm that . it will not be a party to any proposal, such as that made by the honorable member for Warringah, which would have the effect of destroying incentive on the part of younger members of the Public Service. At a time when wages and margins are pegged and when men, upon reaching a certain age, are told that their flesh and blood has not sufficient earning capacity, it is hypocritical for the honorable member to> make the suggestion that he has made to-night. Let the Government be honest in its approach to this matter and insist that private enterprise put its house in order in this respect. I am reminded of a story that is told about conditions in American industry. A visitor to the United States of America, in the course of investigating conditions in a certainindustry, remarked that only young men were employed in it, and asked, “Where are the old men in this country?” The manager of the organization took him to a window and, pointing to the tombstones in a cemetery, replied, “ There they are “.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order! The committee is discussing not industrial conditions but social services. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the proposed votes before the Chair.

Mr E JAMES HARRISON:
BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I am aware, Mr. Chairman, that you are not constantly in the chair. I am replying, as I submit I am entitled to do, to remarks that were made by the honorable member for Warringah. However, I bow to your ruling.

Mr Gullett:

– Never mind about bowing to the Chairman’s ruling. What about obeying it?

Mr E JAMES HARRISON:
BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– When the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is in the chair, I shall be prepared to take some notice of him, but until such time as he occupies the chair, I shall disregard him. After all, the honorable member for Henty has not managed to get into the Cabinet. If he were in it, he might spend more time in the chamber. If the Minister proposes to take any notice of the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia, let him have a look at his department. In many instances it takes much more than six weeks to finalize applications for the age pension in metropolitan areas. I do not condemn the officers of the department. I believe they are overworked. But if there is to be any extension of the organization of the Department of Social Services, let us make sure first that the central administration is of a high standard. Then delays will not occur. If that is done, the contribution to the debate by the honorable member for Capricornia may prove to have been of some value. Otherwise, I suggest that, from the national viewpoint and from that of people who need assistance, it is not half as valuable as that made by the honorable member for Grayndler.

Mr. SWARTZ (Darling Downs) f 10.31]. - I refer to the Estimates for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) referred to the price of butter, and I gathered from his remarks that he considered it to be far too high. I assume that, if his party had the power to do so, it would reduce the price of butter or increase the subsidy substantially. I remember that in the course of a debate on the prices of dairy products last year, the honorable member criticized the Government very strongly because the price of butter had not been increased, but to-night he has criticized the Government because he believes the price of butter to be too high. I remind him that there is a dairy industry stabilization plan which is subscribed to by the Commonwealth and the States. The ex factory price of butter is fixed by the Commonwealth under authority given to it by the States. The State parliaments and this Parliament have passed complementary legislation. As honorable members know, authority to fix prices is not vested in the Commonwealth, but can be referred to it by State legislation. Authority to fix the ex factory price of butter has been vested in the Commonwealth by State legislation and confirmed by complementary Commonwealth legislation. Last year, on the recommendation of the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee, the price of butter was not altered. The Government decided that for the financial year 1953-54 it should remain at 4s. 1.29d. per lb. ex factory. The Opposition criticized that decision very strongly. During that year, the subsidy was maintained at a very high level in order to keep the price as low as possible to consumers. This year, as the committee knows, the price was fixed again at 4s. 1.29d. per lb. Let me say for the information of the honorable member for Grayndler, who apparently is not aware of it, that for the last two years the ex-factory price of butter has remained unaltered. In the Estimates for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture this year, there is an item of approximately £15,600,000 in respect of a direct subsidy on butter to keep the price down. The subsidy this year will be approximately £210,000 greater than last year. I think most people will agree that that is a substantial effort by this Government to keep the cost of living stable.

I want to discuss one or two matters which have been referred to me recently in the department and which I believe are of some significance to our overseas trade. Overseas trade is engaging the attention of authorities not only in Australia but also -in other British Commonwealth countries and the United States of America. One of the matters referred to me was the disposal of a quantity of canned fruit by the United States to the United Kingdom under section 550 of the United States Mutual

Security Act. I refer to this transaction, not because it is significant of itself, but because of its relationship to the disposal of the large surpluses of certain commodities that are being held in the United States at present. Section 550 of the American act authorized the use of up to 250,000,000 dollars for the sale of agricultural products to friendly foreign countries for payment in local currency. The local currency proceeds were to be used in connexion with the mutual security programme, to provide military assistance, to purchase good’s or services required by the United States or allied countries, to increase production or to develop new markets. Principal trading channels were to be used whenever possible, and certain precautions were to be taken to protect the normal marketings of other countries, including Australia. Those precautions were, first, that to the maximum degree practicable selling prices should be consistent with maximum world prices; secondly, that foreign exchange earnings which would otherwise accrue to the United States of America or other friendly countries should not be displaced ; thirdly, that purchasing countries were to give assurances that the commodities would not be resold without special approval; and fourthly, that appropriate emphasis should be placed on undeveloped and new market areas. That legislation expired on the 30th June of this year.

It has been replaced by another measure known as the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act 1954. The provisions of that act are somewhat similar to those of section 550 of the previous act. They permit the disposal of up to 700,000,000 dollars worth of agricultural surplus in exchange for foreign currencies. In addition, 300,000,000 dollars is provided for gifts of surplus commodities for famine relief and other assistance. That act, which will remain in operation for three years, will expire on the 30th June, 1957. The precautions prescribed by the previous act to protect the normal marketing procedures of other countries have been watered down to a great degree in the new act, which is, therefore, of great significance to Australia. One section, states that the President of the United States of America is to safeguard the usual marketings of the United States and to assure that sales made under the authority of the act will not unduly disrupt world prices of agricultural commodities. That is of great significance to us, in view of the fact that we have surpluses of some agricultural products, particularly wheat. It is also of significance in relation to the marketing of other commodities in connexion with which we are encountering some difficulty at present. .

Under section 550 of the old act, America sold some canned fruit to the United Kingdom. Although at that time there was a shortage of that particular commodity in the United Kingdom, and Australia was protected by its contract with the British Ministry of Pood, and therefore was not greatly concerned with that particular item, we were concerned with a matter of principle when we discovered that the negotiations had been concluded before Australia was invited to participate. We protested, through the normal channels of our representation in the United States and the United Kingdom, to the two governments concerned. We submitted that Australia should have an opportunity to participate in discussions on matters of that nature, as we also subscribed to the principles of this mutual security programme. We indicated at the time that, whilst we had no objection to that particular transfer of commodities, we wished to be consulted in future negotiations which take place between the United States and the United Kingdom in relation to any similar transfers. We are, of course, aware of the problems that face America because of the huge surpluses pf many primary commodities that it holds at present, and, naturally, both the Government and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture have to watch very closely the effect that these surpluses might have on our future trading arrangements. Honorable members may rest assured that everything possible is being done, not only to keep an eye on the situation, but also to ensure that we shall participate actively in negotiations with the countries concerned if any case of this nature arises in the future.

I have referred to that matter because it is of great importance to our overseas trade, in view of the present circumstances in Australia. I hope to have an opportunity later during this debate to refer to some other matters, and to deal more precisely with the Estimates now before us. I should like to say, in conclusion, that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture carries out some highly important duties. The Estimates cover most of the detailed work of that department, and I think that the full value of the work undertaken by the department is appreciated by honorable members who have studied the Estimates. Australia faces a wide variety of problems in relation to marketing arrangements. Not the least of those problems is that of ensuring that we shall bc able to compete with other countries in overseas markets, not only in relation to prices, but also in relation to the efficient merchandising and advertising of our products. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture plays a big part in our overseas trade through one of its branches known as the Trade Commissioner Service. Whilst we hear a great deal about our diplomatic representation overseas, we hear very little about the splendid work that is performed by our trade representatives. The trade commissioners are doing a wonderful job for Australia at present. The importance of their work has been realized in the past, and I think we can appreciate that its importance is increasing now and will continue to increase. We have many trade problems overseas. Those burdens, and many of the other burdens to bo borne in connexion with our marketing overseas, will be carried by the Trade Commissioner Service. That service is being extended at present, although, as the Estimates show, the financial allocation has not ‘been substantially increased this year. However, some expansion is called for in- view of the necessity that now faces us to enter a new era of competitive trading. We have already taken steps to increase substantially our trade services in the United Kingdom. A special publicity officer, attached to the Trade Commissioner Service in London, has been appointed with a view to the promotion of sales of our commodities in Great Britain, which is our most important market. I pay tribute to the fine work being done, and

J believe that equally good work will be done in the future by this very important branch of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.

Mr TOM BURKE:
Perth

.- The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) assures us that the Government is keeping an eye on tho overseas trade situation. We have been given that assurance frequently. However, even if the Government is keeping a close watch on all that is going on, the situation still appears to be completely beyond its comprehension, because conditions are worsening every day. Insurmountable problems for this country in the field of commerce and agriculture, and industrial production, are steadily accumulating every day. The honorable gentleman referred to two particular matters. One was the tinned fruit industry. What is the problem there? As in every other branch of Australian industry, the problem in that industry is the inflated costs of production brought about by the sins of commission and omission of the Government. The honorable member very gently, and in somewhat stilted phrases, attempted to take the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) to task, and said he did not know the meaning of the honorable member for Grayndler’s statements. The honorable member for Grayndler said that costs had increased enormously during the lifetime of this Government. The answer of honorable members opposite to that statement is that the price of butter has not risen in the last two years. It has not risen simply because, although the found cost of production rose, the increase was not passed on to the public. The reason for that is, that an increase of price would not help the dairying industry of Australia. If the increase of the cost of production, which was found by the industry’s own survey, had been passed on, it would have put Australian butter right out of the realm of competition in overseas markets, and would have made a lower consumption on the home market inevitable. Whilst the Government claims it has held the price of butter Stable for two years, it is ignoring the really vital nature of the costs problem, because it does not comprehend the seriousness of the situation to the full.

This Government has been unwilling, or unable, to face up to major responsibility in this respect, as in other respects. The honorable member for Grayndler said that while the prices of commodities, including butter, had risen enormously during the life of this Government, and whilst butter remains a basic item of food for people in the lower income ranges, the purchasing power of these people has not been increased to enable them to maintain the standard of living that they formerly enjoyed. Butter consumers, including people whose diet must necessarily include a large quantity of this vital primary product, cannot afford to buy enough butter. The honorable member for Grayndler said that neither had costs been held stable, as they could be held by positive and sensible action, nor had the plight of the pensioners and others been recognized. The reason is that the Government is deaf to the entreaties of people, including pensioners, who need assistance. The Government has not dealt with the evergrowing problem of costs that confront us. That is the crux of our industrial problem, and the crux of the future of every major industry in Australia. Th Government gazes at the problem constantly; but, while keeping its eye on it, it shrugs its shoulders. When it is told that positive measures might be taken to reduce costs, so as to put us in a position to maintain even the present situation, let alone better it in the face of increasing world problems, it waves all suggestions aside.

The honorable member for Darling Downs, who is Under-Secretary to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, dealt to some degree with the problem presented by America’s huge surplus of primary products. The Congress of the United States of America passed a measure to provide that vast quantities of half a dozen different categories of those commodities could be sold in various countries for local currency. We have always previously held our place in relation to the sales of agricultural products, because of the scarcity of dollars. But now this law has been passed, authorizing the President of the United States of America to sell for sterling, francs, lire, or any other cur- rency, the surplus products that have been accumulated in that country during the last few years. There is a mountain of food of various kinds stored in America. That situation presents us with two major problems. The first is the effect that such sales may have on our industries. The second involves a humanitarian approach to world conditions, because many thousands of people in various countries are either starving or have been reduced nearly to that level. I assume that the honorable member for Darling Downs accepts a large degree of responsibility for the policies that are formulated by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Yet he believes, apparently, that the only major problem involved is that, some time in the future, the result of the new American policy may affect the investments of people who have spent their lives in Australian agricultural industries. Certainly it may! The Government is not prepared to face this problem. A humanitarian approach to the needs of the various countries of the world demands that this huge quantity of food shall not continue to be locked up in America. By co-operation, the problem could be solved equitably. This Government remains spineless, in spite of the desperate world food situation. As it is unwilling to act, because somebody might be harmed, it puts the problem off for a succeeding government to deal with. The people have suffered considerable hardship under this Government’s administration.

The truth of the many criticisms that have been levelled at the budget from this side of the chamber is revealed in almost every line of the Estimates. The budget is not anti-inflationary. It will not reduce costs by any degree. The problems of the men and women of this country will be accentuated by every line of the Estimates. A unique situation has just developed, in that, at last, a Minister has come into the chamber to listen to a criticism of the Estimates for a department under his administration. Day after day, during a criticism of the budget - the largest ever presented in this country - no Minister was present in the chamber to answer criticism.

Mr Leslie:

– That is not right.

The CHAIRMAN:

– That subject is not under discussion.

Mr TOM BURKE:

– At least to-night we have the distinction of one Minister being present in the chamber. I have no doubt that the moment I conclude my speech the lord high executioner, in the person of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison)

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order ! The honorable member knows better than that.

Mr TOM BURKE:

– I withdraw that expression. I have no doubt that the Minister will move a motion that progress shall be reported.

Sir ERIC HARRISON:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP; LP from 1944

– Hear, hear!

Mr TOM BURKE:

– He will not rise in his place to answer the trenchant and pertinent criticism that has been made of various items of the Estimates. If one had the time to do so, he could criticize every line of the Estimates. I shall mention only a few of the many matters that deserve criticism. The vote for the last financial year for the administration of the Department of Territories was £159,000, of which only £153,503 was expended. If a great increase of the financial provision for that item were necessary in this financial year, surely the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) should make an explanation to the committee. The proposed vote for that item in this financial year is £165,000, which is nearly £13,000 more than was expended during the last financial year. Yet the Minister has not offered a. word of explanation, and there does not appear in the Estimates any note of the reason for such a substantia] increase. The vote for the item “ Salaries and payments in the nature of salary “ for the last financial year was £131,700, of which £124,019 was expended. The proposed vote for this financial year is £133,300, which is more than £9,000 higher than the amount that was expended on that item in the last financial year.

I shall cite only one more example, because of the limitation of time. In the last financial year, £1,652,000 was voted for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. As the supporters of the Government have claimed, repeatedly, that a stage of stability has been reached, one would assume that the proposed vote for this financial year would be no greater than the amount voted for that department in the last financial year. Of course, it is usual for a Minister to justify the Estimates for a department that he administers, and it is necessary for the under-secretary of a department to justify his existence. In this instance, the proposed vote is £26,000 greater than the vote for the last financial year, despite the fact that £22,244 of that vote was not expended. That is typical of the position in relation to other departments. The proposed votes for all departments are greater than the votes for the last financial year, but no explanation has been offered for the increases.

During the general debate on the budget the Opposition pointed out to the Government methods by which the costs of production, and governmental expenditure, could be reduced. Why should the Government set itself out to establish new records in expenditure? The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has stated repeatedly that, when it is sought to make increased financial provision for a department, the responsible Minister should explain the necessity for the proposed increase. The Opposition has never objected to increases when additional money is required by a department in order to provide greater services to individuals and industry. Whenever honorable members on this side of the committee have directed the attention of the Government to various factors associated with the Estimates, supporters of the Government, in attempting to defend Government policy, have invariably asked, “What did the Opposition do about the matter when it was in office ? “ Not one member of the Government parties has offered a word of explanation in connexion with the proposed increased expenditures. The watchword of the Government should be economy. It stands condemned by the budget, and by every line of the Estimates now before the committee. .

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Progress reported.

page 1168

ADJOURNMENT

Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr WHITLAM:
Werriwa

.- Mr. Speaker–

Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -

That the question be now put.

The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)

AYES: 49

NOES: 36

Majority…. 13

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1168

PAPERS

The following papers were presented : -

Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year 1953-54, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.

Ordered to be printed.

Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1954 -

No. 35- Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia and others.

No. 36 - Commonwealth Telephone and Phonogram Officers’ Association.

No. 37 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.

No. 38 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 39 - North Australia Workers’ Union.

No. 40 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.

House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.

page 1168

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

The following answers to questions were circulated : -

Education.

Shipping

Mr Riordan:

n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -

  1. Why has Bowen been omitted as a port ot’ call by shipping companies whose vessels call at north Queensland ports ?
  2. Did the’ SS. River Mitta leave Brisbane this month for Cairns, without cargo, to load sugar ?
  3. Has the SS. Macedon left, or is it about to leave, Newcastle, without accepting any cargo for north Queensland, for Lucinda Point ?
  4. Why has one or other of these vessels not been allocated to accept general cargo for Bowen from Brisbane, with Adelaide and Melbourne transhipments held there, and either messel load sugar at Bowen for the south?
  5. Do numerous overseas vessels call at Bowen to load sugar and meat, which work is being performed by Bowen waterside workers with satisfaction to employers?
  6. As coastal vessels are sent to other ports and overseas vessels to Bowen, is this tantamount to a boycott of the port of Bowen with general cargo?
  7. If loading of sugar and meat on overseas vessels is proceeding with satisfaction to employers at Bowen, does this indicate in the absence of any complaints from shipping companies in regard to meat and silenT, that conditions are favorable on the Bowen waterfront?
  8. Are small consignments sent from the south for Bowen through the port of Townsville by SS. Manunda and SS. Manoora and then sent south by rail to Bowen; if so, does this add to the freight cost of goods for Bowen residents.?
  9. In forwarding Bowen cargoes by ship to Townsville’ and then south by rail from Towns ville, is there a possibility of trouble being caused on the waterfront in Townsville?
  10. Is it a fact that many months have elapsed since a cargo vessel from Sydney has called at Bowen; if so, why should Bowen residents be penalized by shipping companies?
  11. Will he overcome this boycott of the port of Bowen and arrange a regular cargo service from the south to north Queensland and include the port of Bowen in such a service?
Mr Townley:
LP

– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information: -

  1. This port was served principally by Bidelia, operated by John Burke Ltd. The vessel was subject to continual delays at Bowen which made it impossible to maintain regular schedules to other Queensland ports.’ In an endeavour to reduce delays to the service as a whole the owners were reluctantly compelled to omit the call at Bowen. 2: Yes.
  2. Macedon lifted 3j760 tons of steel at Newcastle for Brisbane.
  3. River Mitta completed her four yearly survey on the 16th August at Brisbane and immediately sailed in ballast to meet an urgent sugar fixture at Cairns, where she is now loading sugar, timber and general cargo for Melbourne. Macedon, after discharging steel at Brisbane, sailed in ballast to load sugar at Lucinda Point. The agents received no requests for the vessel to load cargo for Lucinda.
  4. Overseas vessels call at Bowen to load meat and sugar, but shipowners are far from satisfied with the loading rate. During 1953-54 employers’ comments on the efficiency of labour at the port were 44.3 per cent, favorable and 55.7 per cent, unfavorable. Shipowners have recently had discussions with the Waterside Workers Federation to see whether some improvement cannot he effected.

    1. No. But it illustrates the losses which the community suffers from the restrictive practices of some waterside workers.
  5. See answer to No. 5. Conditions on the Bowen waterfront are most unfavorable. The percentage of time lost by disputes is the worst at any main Australian port. During the year 1053-54 a total of 281,977 man-hours was worked at Bowen and 38,977 man-hours - 13.8 per cent. - were lost through disputes. The average sugar loading rate of 17.28 tons per net gang hour for 1953-54 was the worst in any Queensland port, and the average meat loading rate for the same period, 7.54 tons per net gang hour, was the second worst in Australia, it may be added that it was at this port that the waterside workers adopted such an irresponsible attitude that troops had to be used to avoid dislocation in the sugar industry.
  6. Yes.
  7. It is trusted that Townsville waterside workers would not be so lacking in a sense of responsibility as to add to the current difficulties by refusing to handle cargoes at Townsville.
  8. Yes, for the reasons mentioned above. 1.1. Under existing conditions it is impossible to maintain a regular service to Bowen, but shipowners will endeavour to serve the port as availability of cargo and the labour position permit.

Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool

Mr George Lawson:

n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and .Transport, upon notice -

  1. Has the Government yet made a firm decision with respect to the disposal of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool.

    1. Is it a fact that, in the absence of such a decision, the large body of employees employed by the Pool, and also the business people of Brisbane, are being held under considerable suspense.
    2. In. order to allay the fears of unemployment among the employees of the pool, will he make a definite statement to the House giving the Government’s decision regarding the pool equipment.
Mr Townley:
LP

y. - The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : -

  1. No. 2 and 3. The whole question of the disposal of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool is under active consideration by the Government.

Papua and New Guinea

Mr Ward:
EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -

  1. Has the Commonwealth Government disposed of all or any of its inter-island vessels in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea?
  2. If so, will he furnish the following information regarding the transaction - (a) were the vessels soldby auction; if not, what method of disposal was adopted; (b) wore the vessels sold as one lot, or separately: (c) what was the name, tonnage, age, cost of purchase or construction and the disposal price of each vessel sold; (d) to whom were the vessels sold; (e) were there any special conditions contained in the contract of sale: if so, what are the details; and (f) since the disposal of the Government vessels, has there been any variation in passenger fares or freight rates: if so, what are the details?
Mr Hasluck:
LP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. . The Commonwealth Government has disposed of all of its inter-island vessels. 2. (a) No; the vessels were sold by public tender in most cases and the others by negotiation. (b)In three cases the vessels were sold in lots, viz., one of seven, one of five and one of two. The remainder were sold separately.

Most of the vessels were constructed during the war at high cost and had been subject to heavy depreciation while working in the tropics and without adequate maintenance in the immediate post-war years. In all cases the price received compared very well with the valuation made by an independent valuer. The sale obviated an annual loss on operations of approximately £100,000 per year.

  1. Steamships Trading Company, eight vessels; Island Shipping Service Limited, two vessels; Colyer Watson (New Guinea) Limited, two vessels; Catholic Mission of the Divine Word (Wewak), one vessel; Burns Philp (New Guinea) Limited, five vessels; Chin Pak, one vessel; Catholic Mission, Vunapope, one vessel; Trustees G. and M. Shipping Company, one vessel.
  2. The conditions of sale included - (i) vessels to be used in the Territory trade, except with the consent of the Commonwealth Government.: (ii) sold with all faults but in some cases subject to certificate of seaworthiness: (iii) purchase price to be paid on tender of delivery but before delivery; (iv) each vessel to be at risk of purchaser from the time of tender of delivery. Steamships Trading Company gave an undertaking, in respect of Papua, to maintain a comparable service for not less than three years and to maintain the ships in good condition. Separate agreements were prepared for each sale and there were minor variations in the terms of the agreement to meet the circumstances of individual vessels.
  3. The rates charged by single operators where they carry for the public are not known, but are believed to be in accordance with prevailing rates. There is no knowledge of any increase in fares or freight but one of the large operators has actually reduced the rates.

Government Loans and Finance

Mr Makin:

n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What, were the prices at which each3 per cent, loan maturing after 1900 was selling on the stock exchange of Australia on the last day of trading in 1949?
  2. What were the prevailing prices on the same stock exchanges at the close of trading on the 31st August, 1954?
Sir Arthur Fadden:
CP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. There were two 3 per cent. Commonwealth securities maturing after 1960 on issue at the end of 1949. On the last day of trading on the stock exchanges in 1949, the 3 per cent. 1962 issue was sold at £100 10s. in Sydney and £100 15s. in Melbourne. The price of the 3 per cent. 1963 issue was £1006s. 3d. in Sydney and £100 7s.6d. in Melbourne.
  2. On the 31st August, 1954, the price of the 3 per cent. 1962 issue was £92 2s.6d. in both Sydney and Melbourne, and the 3 per cent. 1963 securities were priced at £9016s. 3d. in Sydney and £91 in Melbourne.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1954, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540909_reps_21_hor4/>.