House of Representatives
23 September 1954

21st Parliament · 1st Session



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

page 1526

QUESTION

QUESTIONS

Mr SPEAKER:

– Before Icall on questions, I wish to direct the attention of the House to the proceedings yesterday, when many questions were directed to Ministers who were not responsible for the matters about which they were questioned. That applied particularly to the Prime Minister. Although the right honorable gentleman is the head of the Government, he cannot be expected to know the details of every department under its administration. As for Ministers in the Senate, questions to them must be placed on the notice-paper.

Dr EVATT:
BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES

– On that subject, Mr. Speaker, will you examine the procedure of theHouse and see that arrangements are made so that all honorable members may ask some responsible Minister in this chamberquestions in relation to any or every branch of government? I think that is the purpose of having representatives in this chamber of Ministers in the Senate. I mention this matter only because, unless my request is adopted, there will be a distinction between departments which will be quite illogical and under which the Ministry will not function satisfactorily.

Mr SPEAKER:

– That is not my view.

page 1527

QUESTION

INDUSTRIAL ARBITRATION

Dr EVATT:

– I ask the Prime Minister a question which follows upon a question asked recently in relation to the margins case before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in which, as the Prime Minister pointed out, the Government will intervene. All honorable members on this- side of the House, and particularly the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Blaxland, would like to have an opportunity to hear a statement on behalf of the Government of the views to be advanced on its behalf in court before the situation actually develops, so that we may make suggestions in relation to the submissions to be made to the court, and perhaps for the modification of the Government’s proposals. Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of following that course of action so that the House can have an opportunity to debate the matter?

Mr MENZIES:
Prime Minister · KOOYONG, VICTORIA · LP

– No, Mr. Speaker, I will not.

Mr WEBB:
SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– Following on the question that the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister relative to the margins case, to which the Prime Minister replied, “ No “, I direct a question to the right honorable gentleman. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has agreed to begin the hearing of the margins case on the 28th September, and bearing in mind that the New South Wales, Western Australian, Victorian and Tasmanian State Governments have agreed to intervene in support of the claim made by the Australian Council of Trades Unions for increased margins for all workers in receipt of margins, will the Prime Minister reconsider the expressed intention of the

Australian Government to intervene in support of increased margins for skilled workers only, and will the Government support the application by the Australian ‘Council of Trades Unions for increases for all workers who receive margins? If the right honorable gentleman is not willing to support the claim of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, how can he reconcile the Government’s attitude with ministerial references to the “continued prosperity of the country “ ?

Mr MENZIES:

– I disregard the part of the question which is purely argumentative. I repeat that the answer to the remainder of the question is “ No “.

page 1527

QUESTION

URANIUM

Mr DAVIS:
DEAKIN, VICTORIA

– I ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact, as stated by the Victorian Minister for Mines, that the Commonwealth is responsible for the planning and making of aerial surveys in the search for uranium, and that its performance has lagged behind its promise to provide aerial scintillometer surveys in Victoria? Can the Minister tell the House the position in relation to this matter ?

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

– I have seen a report of a statement attributed to the Victorian Minister for Mines, and I must say that, if he made such a statement, he was misinformed. We in the Commonwealth have no exclusive responsibility to conduct aerial scintillometer surveys, and it is rather peculiar that a State government should charge us with failure to. do our duty because most State governments are the first authorities to protest about their sovereign rights. The fact is that, at the request of the Atomic Energy Commission

Mr Ward:

– The Minister must have had some notice of this question. He is reading the answer.

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order ! The honorable member will maintain silence.

Mr BEALE:

– This is only intelligent anticipation, with which, of course, the honorable member is not familiar.

Mr Ward:

– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether a member can ask, during the period Set aside for questions without notice, a question of which the Minister concerned obviously has had notice because he has come to the chamber with a prepared answer.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! This was done repeatedly, even when I was in Opposition. I think it is high time that we had a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee so that we may get away, if possible, from the dreadful system of questions that we have at present.

Mr Davis:

-I wish to make a personal explanation. The question that I asked relates to something that has been widely known in Victoria and in this House, and, in one form or another, reference to it has been made on numerous occasions.

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order ! Has the honorable member been misrepresented?

Mr Davis:

– I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The matter to which my question related is common knowledge in Victoria.

Mr BEALE:

– I hope to make the answer common knowledge in Victoria also. The fact is that, at the request of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of Mineral Resources undertook to carry out scintillometer surveys, when it could do so, in the States and territories of Australia, and extra aircraft and equipment for this purpose were bought by the bureau with Commonwealth money. Members of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission discussed uranium research in Victoria with officials of the Victorian Government late last year, and in December, at the instance of the commission, the Bureau of Mineral Resources wrote to the Victorian Department of Mines stating that it was proposed to undertake airborne scintillometer surveys in the States, and asking the Victorian department to nominate areas for the 1954 programme and, if possible, for later years. Early in 1954, the Victorian Department of Mines nominated the north-eastern area and other areas in Victoria. Nominations of areas were received from the other States, with the exception of South Australia.

Mr Calwell:

– I rise to order. The Minister is obviously making a statement, which he is not entitled to make without leave of the House. I submit that he is abusing the Standing Orders by making, in the guise of answering a question, a statement that he has not been given leave to make.

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order ! The whole system of answering questions, constitutes, in approximately 90 per cent. of cases, an abuse of the Standing Orders. There is no reason why Ministers should not abuse the Standing Orders if honorable members do so.

Mr BEALE:

– On receipt of nominations of areas from the States, an integrated Australia-wide programme for the remainder of 1954, and for 1955,. was prepared, and in August the Victorian Department of Mines was advised of this programme by letter in confirmation of an oral discussion that had taken place a little earlier. At no stage was the department informed that airborne scintillometer surveys would begin in Victoria before a date near the end of 1954, and that time has not yet been reached. We are having some difficulty in getting aircraft for the purpose, but there will be no unnecessary delay. In the meantime, there is nothing whatever to prevent the Victorian Government, if it so Wishes, from making its own surveys, as the South Australian Governmenthas done.

page 1528

QUESTION

SUGAR,

Mr BRAND:
WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND

– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether there is a shortage of labour in the sugar industry, and if there is will he say what is being done to overcome it? As it is likely that it will be necessary to continue to provide immigrant labour to make good labour deficiencies in the sugar industry, does the Minister consider that it would assist in the recruitment of the right type of immigrant if representatives of the industry were sent overseas for the purpose? If so, will the Government approve a scheme to have immigrants selected accordingly?

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

– It is true that there is a shortage of labour in the sugar industry of Queensland, and, indeed, in New South Wales, and the Department of Labour and National Service has been active during the last few years in allocating immigrant labour to that industry. I believe that at the moment there is a shortage of about 250 cane-cutters in Queensland, and 170 in New South Wales. I point out that up to the present time the department has allocated to this industry more than 700 immigrants from those who are coming to this country. The department is aware of the present position, and proposes to allot as many immigrants as possible from the immigrants who will be coming forward in the near future. There are three ships containing immigrants on the way to Australia,, and allocations of suitable immigrants from those vessels will be made to the sugar industry. It has always been the practice of the department to discuss these matters with canegrowers, the mills and the Australian Workers Union, and that practice will be continued. I question whether it is desirable to send representatives overseas to select immigrants, but that is a matter that the Minister will consider.

page 1529

QUESTION

NATIONAL SERVICE

Mr JOSHUA:
BALLAARAT, VICTORIA

– My question i3 directed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, and follows the statement made to me by the Minister for Labour and National Service that the Government’s policy is that every youth without distinction should undertake national service training. Since the commencement of the national service scheme, has the Government called up all eligible youths, excluding those exempted for medical and hardship reasons. If not, what classes of youths were not called up, and what was the reason? Were such deferred call-ups confined to special areas?

Sir PHILIP McBRIDE:
LP

– It has never been the policy of this Government to have universal call-ups. The policy announced originally when national service training was introduced was that there was a universal obligation to register, and the practice has been that all classes of youths have been called up in all except very remote areas. The call-up has been confined to the number required to meet the needs of the services from time to time, but there has been no exemption of classes except in the very remote areas where call-ups have not been made.

Mr THOMPSON:
PORT ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House whether the report that young men engaged in primary production or living more than 5 miles from the nearest drill hall are to be exempt from national service training is correct? If so, does the Government intend to bring the proposal before the Parliament in order to have it discussed before any alteration of the present system is made?

Sir PHILIP McBRIDE:

– As soon as the Government has made a decision on that matter, it will be announced in the House.

page 1529

QUESTION

RAIL TRANSPORT

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

– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the importance of rail standardization, particularly between the east and west of Australia, the great value of which to our economy and defence has been highlighted by the introduction of diesel electric power, will the right honorable gentleman give sympathetic consideration to setting up a joint parliamentary committee representative of both Houses of the Parliament, and the three political parties in them, to consider, first, the desirable priority order in pushing forward with the plan of standardization; secondly, the cost involved in the various phases of standardization that are to be undertaken and how that cost can best be met; and thirdly, all other matters related to the implementation of a firm policy on rail standardization in Australia, removed from party politics and parochial considerations and not circumscribed by State boundaries.

Mr MENZIES:
LP

– I shall, of course, give consideration to the proposal of the honorable member, but I do not guarantee that it will be favourable consideration.

Mr WIGHT:
LILLEY, QUEENSLAND

– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Queensland Government, after some delay, has at last tabled in the Queensland Parliament the report of the findings of the Kemp committee with regard to the economic practicability of building the Dajarra railway, he will indicate to the House whether the findings of that committee suggested that the construction of that link was not, in fact, an economic and practical proposition? Would the right honorable gentleman care to make any further comment on that report?

Mr MENZIES:

– I shall examine the matter, and see whether I can put myself in the position to answer the question.

page 1530

QUESTION

HOUSING

Mr LEMMON:
ST GEORGE, NEW SOUTH WALES

– My question i3 addressed to the Minister for Social Services, who administers the War Service Homes Division. In view of a report by the Director of War Service Homes that building pressure groups were endeavouring to boycott the building of war service homes under the War Service Homes Act, simply because the War Service Homes Division was requesting that the specifications be faithfully and honestly carried out, will the Minister give consideration to the re-introduction of building by day labour in conjunction with contract, as was carried out previously by the Department of Works and Housing, as a warning that this Government will not tolerate interference by pressure groups with the construction of homes for ex-servicemen under the War Service Homes Act?

Mr McMAHON:
Minister for Social Services · LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– I think I should say that the statements contained in the honorable member’s question are wrong. I do not think that he will find those words anywhere in the report of the Director of War Service Homes. I have gone carefully through the document, and I did not see those words. It is to be deplored that an honorable member should rise in this chamber, and pervert the true meaning-; -

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order !

Mr McMAHON:

– The honorable member for St. George made a comment and introduced a debatable statement into his question, and I think that I should be permitted to do exactly the same thing. Some evidence is given in respect of group building that quotations have been increased, and it is quite understandable that they should be increased at this particular “time. The honorable member asked, in the final part of his question, whether the Government would consider the reintroduction of building by day labour instead of by contract. I hope that the Government will not do so, because such a policy would mean a return to exactly the same conditions of inefficiency, high prices and black markets, that were so well known during 1948 and 1949.

page 1530

QUESTION

AUSTRALIAN MILITARY FORCES

Mr LESLIE:
MOORE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– The question which I direct to the Minister for the Army relates to the fact that primary producers in Western Australia are not enjoying as good a season as they could wish in respect to the availability of stock feed to carry them over the summer, and also to the fact that military exercises are to be carried out in the neighbourhood of the Northam camp. In view of the shortage of feed, will the Minister instruct the officers in charge of training to have prior consultations with the farmers, before the exercises are commenced, to ascertain the paddocks which can best be used by the troops so as to cause the minimum amount of damage to. standing stock feed? The farmers are quite willing to allow their paddocks to be used for training purposes, but they suggest that the Army should co-operate with them in this matter, and refrain from entering paddocks in which there is standing feed, and so cause damage to it, when feed is so short. Will the Minister issue an immediate instruction” to that effect?

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

– I am sure that every honorable member regrets that primary producers in Western Australia are not having as good a season as they would like to have. I inform the honorable member for Moore that the Army does not at any stage enter a property for the conduct of military exercises before it has obtained the consent of the owner of the land. I advise the honorable gentleman that the Chief of the General Staff, Sir Sydney Rowell, and Major-General Dougherty, the Citizen Military Forces member on the Military Board, are attending the exercises in

Western Australia. I am quite sure that neither of those officers would allow an occurrence such as the honorable gentleman anticipates is likely to happen. However. I shall send a signal on the matter to Western Australia.

page 1531

QUESTION

COLOMBO PLAN

Mr BIRD:
BATMAN, VICTORIA

– Will the Prime Minister arrange for the Minister for External Affairs, when he returns from the meeting of the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee in Ottawa, to make a full report of the proceedings to the House in order to allow a debate on the whole subject ?

Mr MENZIES:
LP

– Yes.

page 1531

QUESTION

PAPUA AND NEW GUINEA

Mr SWARTZ:
DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND

– Can the Minister for Territories inform me whether it is a fact that salvage operations, which were being conducted by a private company in Rabaul harbour, have now been discontinued ? If that is a fact, was this action taken on economic grounds, and is there any possibility of a renewal of salvage operations in Rabaul harbour in the future? Will the Minister indicate at the same time the stage that has been reached in the rebuilding of Rabaul on the present site?

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

– I understand from public report that certain salvage operations which were being conducted by a private’ company in Rabaul harbour have been discontinued. The matter does not come under my administration but I assume that the people engaged in those operations found that it was no longer payable to recover material from the wrecks. Regarding the rebuilding of Rabaul, under the section of the rebuilding that comes within the Government’s responsibility, a sum of the order of £130,000 was expended last year on houses, wharfs, roads and constructions of that kind. Under the current budget, that amount will be increased to approximately £430,000, which amount will include a sum of over £100,000 for work on the wharf. The more rapid and significant part of the rebuilding of Rabaul has been carried out by private enterprise. As a result of the Government’s decision regarding the site of the town, people who had been waiting for many years to rehabilitate themselves have done so, and a good deal of private building has followed the making available of land to them. Remarkable progress i3 being made in private building in Rabaul.

page 1531

QUESTION

ALUMINIUM

Mr DUTHIE:
WILMOT, TASMANIA

– Will the Minister for Supply say where the Australian Aluminium Production Commission will obtain its requirements of bauxite when the plant at Bell Bay goes into production? Will it obtain the ore from overseas; if so, from which countries? Is there any intention of using Australian deposits? Does the commission intend to charter ships owned -by private shipping lines for the transport of the bauxite, or will it use Commonwealth-owned vessels for this purpose in order to reduce expenditure on freights?

Mr BEALE:
LP

– I am afraid that the honorable member is asking me to do a little crystal gazing in the matter that he has raised. We shall commence the production of alumina, which is the first stage in aluminium production, in January next, a- few months hence, and we shall use bauxite from a stockpile which we have available.

Dr Evatt:

– Where was that bauxite obtained ?

Mr BEALE:

– I think it is stockpiled Malayan bauxite. The reason for that is that when production is to be commenced with a new plant it is better to use a grade of bauxite with which, technically, we are familiar at present. The ultimate plan will be tq use Australian bauxite. We have to use the supplies on hand in the existing stock-pile; but whilst the source from which bauxite will be drawn will depend upon developments in the future, I have no doubt that we shall use Australian bauxite.

page 1531

QUESTION

CIVIL AVIATION

Mr DRUMMOND:
NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation been informed of the disappearance of an aircraft which was used to transport newspapers to the north coast district and tableland in New South Wales? Has his attention been directed to the fact that the circumstances in which this aircraft disappeared are similar to those in which a number of aircraft used for a similar purpose have disappeared in the past? As the pilots in a number of those instances were obviously men of great experience including experience of flying conditions in this district, are there peculiar hazards attached to this particular class of work, or, alternatively, is it possible that such accidents have been due to mechanical defects or to lack of maintenance of the aircraft that have come to grief?

Mr TOWNLEY:
Minister for Air · DENISON, TASMANIA · LP

– There are no differences really. Pilots who are licensed to fly aircraft on commercial routes are licensed in various categories. The pilot of a commercial aircraft must have a commercial licence. If he is in air transport, or. carrying passengers, he has what we call an “ air transport pilot’s licence “. Aircraft themselves, whether belonging to civil airlines or aero clubs, or whether used for the commercial purposes referred to by the honorable member, are all licensed by the Department of Civil Aviation, and must have the navigational aids and so on that are considered to be appropriate for the particular work for which they are used. In the past some rather strange things were done in connexion with the delivery of newspapers by air. It was not unknown for a small aircraft to carry a load of newspapers and try to drop them in front of the shops of newsagents. Obviously action was taken to prohibit that sort of thing. The aircraft which, regrettably, was lost the other day, was a Lockheed Hudson. It was fully licensed, and was flown by an experienced pilot. He was cleared V.E.R., which means “Visual Flight Rules”. The conditions under which he could fly according to Visual Flight Rules had existed, but the weather closed in, and from 2.45 p.m. onwards on that day he could not be contacted by radio. I am sorry to say that, although everything possible has been done, we have not yet located the wreck.

Dr EVATT:

– The Minister has said that in this particular case the weather closed in. Will he prepare a more comprehensive report for the benefit of the

House regarding whether or not precautions could have been taken against the eventuality of the weather closing in, and whether there is sufficient protection against such hazards, which a commercial passenger aircraft would not be permitted to run the risk of encountering? My intention in asking that question is to ensure that such accidents as that to which the honorable member for New England rightly referred can bc explained to the House on the assumption that such aircraft as the one concerned receive the same protection in every respect, including protection against weather hazards, as passenger aircraft receive.

Mr TOWNLEY:

– I think the Leader of the Opposition has misunderstood me. The aircraft concerned wa.= cleared V.F.R, which, as I have said, means “ Visual Flight Rules “. That is to say, the pilot was to fly in clear air only, and not in cloud. There were very bad conditions on that particular day, but the weather conditions at his terminating point, which was Taree, were quite good and safe. There should have been no reason, as far as ordinary flying considerations are concerned, why he should not have reached Taree, but if he got ofl his track and got into cloud that could conceivably be the reason for the disappearance of the aircraft. Invariably, when an aircraft leaves on a commercial run, whether it is delivering newspapers or carrying passengers, a terminal weather report is provided to the pilot, which always provides for a wide safety margin. The pilot is also given an alternative landing ground the object being that if anything goes wrong, and the weather closes right down so that a visual landing cannot bc made at the terminal aerodrome, he has another landing ground to which he can go. It is also provided that he must have a certain fuel capacity to allow him -to reach that alternative landing ground. I do not think that it would be possible to have regulations that provide for greater safety than those we have to-day, which is proved by our magnificent safety record in civil aviation in Australia.

page 1533

QUESTION

POULTRY

Mr JEFF BATE:
MACARTHUR, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Treasurer, whether, in order to ease the rapidly a pproaching crisis in the poultry industry, be will kindly take steps to have a survey or a re-examination of costs in the industry carried out as expeditiously as possible. By way of explanation, I say that Australian export eggs meet world price competition in England, since decontrol, while our huge stocks of wheat and stockfeed have an internal price support which keep prices up in Australia.

Mr MENZIES:
LP

– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s suggestion to the notice of the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.

page 1533

QUESTION

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

Mr FAIRBAIRN:
FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Can you, Mr. Speaker, inform the House whether the portrait of the Prime Minister, which had to be removed from the King’s Hall in this building after it had been slashed by vandals, can be repaired? As the Prime Minister will soon have held that office longer than anybody else in Australian history, will you have a replacement portrait painted if the slashed canvas cannot be repaired?

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !

Mr SPEAKER:

– I am not aware at the moment of the position in regard to the restoration of the portrait, but I shall obtain the facts and advise the honorable member of them at an early opportunity.

page 1533

QUESTION

GALVANIZED IRON

Mr BARNARD:
BASS, TASMANIA

– Some time ago I asked the Minister for Supply a question in which I referred to the unsatisfactory supply of galvanized roofing iron to Tasmania. The Minister pointed out that this was a matter for consideration by the Minister for National Development and said that he would bring it to his colleague’s attention and provide me with a reply. The building industry of Tasmania is seriously affected by the shortage, and I now ask the Minister whether he will try to expedite the furnishing of the information for which I asked ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! This is an excellent example of a question that should be put on the notice-paper.

Mr BEALE:
LP

– I brought the matter immediately to the attention of the Minister for National Development and I am sorry that the honorable member has not yet had a reply. The Minister for National Development is usually very prompt in these matters. I shall see that a reply is forwarded as soon as possible.

page 1533

QUESTION

BUBONIC PLAGUE

Mr KEON:
YARRA, VICTORIA

– Has the Minister for

Health seen the reports of widespread outbreaks of the dreaded bubonic plague in South American countries with which Australia has occasional direct shipping contact? As the disease is carried by rats, will the Minister say whether the responsibility for supervision of the proper fixing of rat-guards on ships’ mooring lines is a matter for the States or for the Commonwealth? If it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, is the right honorable gentleman aware that, on almost every wharf in Australia at present, the regulations in relation to the proper fixing of rat-guards are not being carried out, and that it is a common sight to see mooring lines without such guards, or with guards fixed in positions in which they are of no use? If it is a responsibility of the States, will the Minister, in view of the possible exposure of Australia to bubonic plague, take immediate steps to advise the State ministers of the urgent necessity for the tightening of the regulations?

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

– I have not recently made a tour of the various wharfs of Australia, hut my experience in Sydney hasbeen that there is a great deal of care with regard to this matter because several epidemics of plague have come into the country in that way.I shall ascertain the exact situation and inform the honorable member.

page 1533

QUESTION

SECURITY

Mr WARD:

– I ask the Prime Minister to statethe reason for his absence from this chamber for the whole of the time that the Estimates of expenditure listed under the heading “Miscellaneous Services”, which included the proposed vote for the security service, were under discussion in committee ? Is it a fact that the security service is solely and directly responsible to him as its administrative head and that no other member of the Cabinet would be in a position to answer any inquiries or criticism offered in respect of that organization? Can his absence be interpreted as meaning that the Parliament is not to be given any information on this governmental activity, even if the inquiry, by a stretch of the imagination, could not be classified as endangering national security or adversely affecting the work of the security service ? If this is not the case, will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that the security service has endeavoured to enlist the services of certain members of the clergy as agents and has requested them to furnish reports on members of their congregations? Is it also a fact that the clergy who have been approached in this matter have refused point-blank, on theological and pastoral grounds, to have anything to do with the proposal ? Finally, was this action of the security service taken at the Prime Minister’s direction, or with his knowledge, and is it a procedure of which he, as the administrative head of the service, approves ?

Mr MENZIES:
LP

– I have read all this in Hansard, but I do not mind it going down again as a question upon notice.

page 1534

QUESTION

WATERFRONT EMPLOYMENT

Mr OSBORNE:
EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I wish to ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service a question concerning employment under the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, and it arises from his answers to two questions upon notice during this parliamentary session. I ask the Minister, first, whether he has related the answer which he gave to a question asked by the honorable member for Macarthur, to the effect that only 24 specified positions had been advertised recently by the board and that all of them were to fill existing vacancies in the board’s establishment, to the answer which he gave yesterday to a question which I asked upon notice, to the effect that three anonymous advertisements for positions vacant had been inserted by or on behalf of the board? Is the Minister satisfied, in view of the answer to the second question, that the information given by the board on which he had answered the first question was full and frank? Will he examine this matter most carefully to ensure that he has not been most seriously misled by the board ?

Sir PHILIP McBRIDE:
LP

– I personally saw both answers, and my feeling on the matter was that the second answer was more complete. However, I point out to the honorable member that these things are not static and that it is possible to have additional information at a later date. I shall again examine the two answers and see whether, in my opinion, there is anything wrong about them.

page 1534

QUESTION

HANSARD

Mr WENTWORTH:
Mackellar

.- I move-

  1. That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the proper preparation, production and distribution of the Hansard- ot this House, the facilities necessary therefor, and matters connected therewith.
  2. That the committee consist of Mr. Speaker, the mover, and seven other members to be appointed by the House; five to form a quorum.
  3. That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament, to adjourn from place to place, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken. (4.) That the committee report to the House on the 28th October, 1954.

I think the motive for this motion lies in the general realization among honorable members that the production of the Hansard of this House is not as good or as speedy as it should be. One compares it, both with the practice in the United Kingdom and with the practice in the several States of Australia, and even, to a certain degree as regards speed, with the practice which used to obtain in this House itself, ‘and one comes to the conclusion that improvements are possible. This is a proper matter for a select committee to consider. I remind the House that the House of Commons Hansard reached its present form and excellent position largely as a result of a select committee which inquired into it in 1907. I do not want to anticipate the matters which may come before the committee, if the House thinks fit to appoint it, nor do I desire to canvass the general question. Can I perhaps shortly set out the objectives to which I think we ought to work? First, I refer to the report itself. Our Hansard staff, in common with the Hansard staffs of other parliaments, has a difficult task to perform. That task, I think, goes beyond mere verbatim reporting. The principles of the Hansard reports are laid down fairly clearly in May’s Parliamentary Practice, which regards Hansard as a report - and I quote from page 255 of the fifteenth edition -

  1. . which, though not strictly verbatim, is substantially the verbatim report, with repetitions and redundancies omitted and with obvious mistakes corrected, but which on the other hand leaves out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument.

That is the ideal to which we might properly strive to attain. I do not know whether it is possible to supplement the work of the Hansard staff with some kind of mechanical recording. I am certain that it is not possible to substitute mechanical recording for the Hansard staff, but I have heard opinions expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House on the question whether the task of the Hansard reporters might be made easier by some help from a mechanical recording device. I shall offer no opinion on that matter until I have heard evidence before the proposed committee.

Secondly, as regards the speed of publication, as honorable members know, the Hansard of this House is often issued so long after the speeches recorded in it have been made, that it becomes almost an antiquarian curiosity rather than a live adjunct to the debates in this House. This should not be the position. Other Parliaments do better. May I read one sentence from a definitive description of the House of Commons Hansard, as follows : -

When first the Official Report of the House of Commons appeared in 1909, it waa hailed as a miracle of reporting because for the first time all the speeches of Members of Parliament were fully recorded all day long, and the complete report was brought out by the printer and publisher for sale early next morning. That miracle has been repeated every Parliamentary day for forty years

If the House of Commons has been able to publish its Hansard so expeditiously since 1909, it seems not unreasonable to expect this House to attain to similar facilities in 1954. We do, I think, want a daily Hansard available for members, for the use of the House, and for the information of the public, on the morning following the debates that it records. I think, also, that honorable members are entitled, on the day following that on which they have made speeches, to a relatively small number of additional copies of their own speeches so that they may circulate them to newspapers in their electorates and to persons and bodies that might be interested in them. I do not think that we need large numbers of copies for this purpose, but I am sure that every honorable member would be glad to receive a small number of copies on the day after that on which the speech was made.

I have with me examples of the Hansard reports of the House of Commons and of some of the Australian State parliaments. A comparison of the Hansard of this House with that of the House of Commons and of some of the State parliaments does not, I think, redound to our credit. The form and printing of Hansard could be significantly improved. When honorable members need a large number of off-prints of a particular speech, which they are able to obtain now at their own expense, of course, those copies should be produced with reasonable expedition and perhaps in a more attractive form than has been the case in the past, though I gratefully admit that in regard to the last point there has been improvement recently.

Next I turn to the indexing of Hansard, which leaves much to be desired. As honorable members probably know, the House of Commons Hansard publishes a weekly index. Improvements could be made in the index of the Hansard of this House, not only in expediting publication, but also in the form in which it is collated. Lastly, I refer to the distribution of Hansard, which depends largely upon the speed of production, because a Hansard that is up to date has an interest and a readability that an outofdate volume lacks. I regard the proper treatment of distribution as depending, to some degree, upon the considerations that I mentioned earlier. I do not want to anticipate any discussion that might occur at the meetings of the proposed committee.

The first paragraph of the motion is in wide terms, and is designed to give the proposed committee power to inquire into all the matters that I have mentioned. I have suggested objectives. I believe, also, that I could suggest machinery by which those objectives could be obtained. I could not be certain of this until the matter has been discussed by the proposed committee and until the officers of the House had given their views on whether this machinery would be practicable. I am still less certain that it would be the best machinery. Other honorable members may be able to suggest better methods, and I trust that, if the committee is appointed, all honorable members will feel free to approach it and tq make constructive suggestions for the improvement of our Hansard.

The second paragraph of the motion provides for the number of members to be appointed to the committee, but does not name them. It was drafted in those terms because I considered that this should be a non-party matter and that it would be a good thing if the Opposition would join with Government members in considering it. Yesterday I received from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) a very courteous letter in which the right honorable gentleman informed me that the Opposition intended to support the motion. If the Leader of the Opposition is now in a position to intimate the names of the Opposition members to be nominated for the committee, I would hope perhaps at some later stage to ask for leave of the House to withdraw the second paragraph of the motion and to substitute in. its place a paragraph naming the members that it. is proposed shall be appointed. The fourth paragraph of the motion calls for a prompt report by the proposed committee. I do not think that it need sit at length. It should be in a position to make a determination and to submit recommendations for discussion in this House fairly quickly.

May I say, finally, that I do not criticize, and I should not want to be thought to criticize, the work of the Hansard staff. I certainly am, and I think all honorable members are, appreciative of the consideration and perceptive treatment that we have had at the hands of the Hansard staff. I criticize not the staff in any degree, but rather the system. I point out to the House that the House of Commons saw fit, when the form and manner of presentation of its own Hansard were called into question, to refer the entire matter to a select committee. This is the procedure that I now propose. I thank the Government for affording me the opportunity to submit the motion, and thus, briefly, I commend the proposal to the House.

Dr EVATT:
Leader of the Opposition · Barton

– I second the motion. As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has stated, I intimated to him, on behalf of my colleagues on this side of the House, that the Opposition would support the motion. I should like to begin where the honorable member ended his remarks. I pay tribute to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. Campbell, and his staff for the work that has been done by Hansard. The staff has a very difficult job in this Parliament. The demands made on it are considerable, and have increased enormously in recent years. I am certain that the House will understand that the discussion of this motion involves no criticism of the work of the Hansard staff. But the positive objective of obtaining a daily Hansard ought to be achieved. The Clerk of the House, Mr. Green, has referred me to a report on the procedure of the House of Commons, which was made by the Clerk Assistant, Mr. Tregear. At page 62 of the report Mr. Tregear states -

Mansard is available in paper bound form the following morning recording the proceedings up to 10.30 p.m. Should the House sit later, then a typescript of the debates after 10.30 is placed in the Library by 10 a.m. the following day.

A further note from Mr. Tregear states -

Members may see the typescript with the assistant editor.

That is in the evening, before the material goes to press. The note con1tinues in effect -

Corrections restricted to minor, not substantial alterations. No proofs received. The copy is then published, but in preparing the copy the reporter may confer with the member.

If the objective there set forth could be achieved, honorable members would be in possession of Hansard each morning, subject to the qualification about the House sitting later than 10.30 p.m.

I believe that the proposed committee could well consider a far wider distribution of Hansard under such conditions, than we have at present - that is to say, a daily Hansard having a wide circulation throughout Australia. The conditions under which the press of this country works at present, make it impossible for the press to follow the practice that it used to follow in this country. In the early days of federation, and up to World War I., the newspapers of Australia - at any rate the great daily newspapers - provided practically a verbatim report of the proceedings of the House of Representatives. Certainly, that was the case when the Australian Parliament conducted its sessions in Melbourne. The only newspaper in Great Britain that follows the practice to-day is the London Times. In Australia, some newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald try to give a fairly full account of the proceedings of the House, but unfortunately even the Sydney Morning Herald publishes only a fraction of the total proceedings. The demands on the modern press are very great.

I believe a great deal of knowledge could be provided to the people about the proceedings of the Parliament, and about the views expressed by the people’s representatives in the Parliament, if we made available a daily report of the proceedings of the House. I believe such an objective is a worthy one, and it is now more necessary than it was in 1907, when the House of Commons commenced its present practice. The difficulties of the Hansard staff are considerable, and to adopt the suggested new practice may involve some additional expense. However, that must be so. I suggest that such additional expense would be well worthwhile, and the Opposition considers that the move of the honorable member for Mackellar is a positive step forward to enable the people of Australia, as well as honorable members, to obtain a daily record of the proceedings of this House.

As the honorable member for Mackellar has anticipated, the Opposition has considered this matter. His motion provides for a committee to be constituted by the Speaker (Mr. Archie Cameron), the mover of the motion and seven other members, making nine in all. I suggest that of the seven ordinary members it would be reasonable to appoint four honorable members from this side of the House. We have considered the matter from that viewpoint, and we nominate as members of the proposed committee the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). We support the motion of the honorable member for Mackellar.

Mr WHEELER:
Mitchell

.- I also desire to support the motion before the House, and I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in recording my appreciation of Mr. Campbell, and those members of his staff who have served this House so well during the time that I have been a member of it. It has been claimed by. some honorable members that Hansard distorts their speeches. But may I, as a private member, say that on many occasions Hansard has made a very worthy speech out of some of my utterances in this House. I now desire to deal with some of the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar about clause 2 of his motion, and in this respect I am supported by the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Opposition as a party had considered this matter, and that as a result of that consideration he nominated certain members of the Australian Labour party to take part in the deliberations of the proposed committee. I have no quibble with that at all, because I believe it is right and proper that the Opposition should appoint its own members to this committee. However, I ask the honorable member for Mackellar for an assurance that he does not desire to arrogate to himself the right, as mover of the motion, to nominate honorable members from his side of the House to serve on the committee. I make that observation because the Government parties are also concerned in this matter, and if the honorable member for Mackellar wishes to carry out on his own account the selection of the members of the committee he would be attempting to take away the rights of the honorable members who support the Government. As the Leader of the Opposition, acting on behalf of the Opposition, has nominated honorable members from his side of the House as the result of a party discussion, I would prefer that the honorable member for Mackellar should npt have the right to nominate members of the committee from this side of the House. I repeat that I desire an assurance from the honorable member for Mackellar that any such selection of members to serve on the committee from among the Government supporters shall be left to the Government parties.

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

– I support the motion before the House, and I believe that it is most important that we should devise, if possible, a way in which an accurate report of the proceedings of this House shall be made available for general reading as quickly as possible after the proceedings have taken place. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has referred to the reporting of parliamentary proceedings by newspapers in the first quarter of this century, and I remind honorable members that I had the opportunity of reporting the proceedings of the House in Melbourne from 1922 to 1927, when the Australian Parliament was moved to Canberra. In those days the procedure of the Melbourne Argus, for which 1 was then a parliamentary reporter, was to give a straight report of three and a half columns each day of the proceedings of the House of Representatives. The report commenced with the words, “ The Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and offered prayers “. From then on the report was a straightforward account in summarized form, of everything that had occurred in the House during that day. If anything of unusual interest had taken place, that matter was taken out of the summarized report and put elsewhere in the newspaper, and a reference was made in the main report to the page on which the unusual happening was reported.

The whole thing was a straight report of parliamentary proceedings. In addition, the chief of staff of the Melbourne Argus visited the press gallery daily, and maintained a personal oversight of the report of the Parliament. The chief leader writer was also present during debates, and obtained for himself the information upon which he based the leader which he published the following morning.

The reports published in the Melbourne Argus were sent to the Sydney Morning Herald and other leading morning newspapers throughout Australia. In that way, even though the publication of Hansard was delayed, all those interested in the proceedings of the Parliament had an opportunity the following morning to- get, in a summarized but lengthy form, an accurate report of what had happened in the House of Representatives the previous day. In those days the circulation of newspapers was much more restricted than it is to-day. It was not the custom in the 1920’s for every one of adult age to read a newspaper. The circulation of newspapers was largely restricted to professional and business people, and others who took an interest in public affairs. The reduction of the length of the published reports of the proceedings of the Parliament, and the lowering of the standard of that reporting, began from the time when newspapers set out in competition with each other for mass circulations, and from that day, the function of the newspapers, as such, ceased to b.j the reporting of the world’s events in the order of their importance, and events in the world were reported in the order of what the news editor regarded as their human interest.

In those circumstances, and with a desire on the part of the newspaper proprietors to persuade and induce every one in the community from the age of ten years upwards to buy at least one copy of a daily newspaper,.it was inevitable that the newspapers could no longer carry out the function of being accurate and careful reporters at length of the proceedings of the Parliament. That statement is not a condemnation of newspapers as such. It is an explanation of the completely different function and character of newspapers to-day, and that being the position, and having to be accepted as the position, a gap has appeared, and a need arises, for those people who formerly were able to look to the newspapers for an account of the important political and parliamentary events of the day in an impartial form, to have now some new medium in which they can obtain that information. Therefore, the motion submitted by the honorable member for Mackellar is of great importance.

Mr JEFF BATE:
Macarthur

– I support the motion, and I join with those honorable members who pay a tribute to the courtesy and co-operation of the Hansard staff, which have to be seen and felt to be believed. The service rendered by the staff obviously is extremely good, and we all appreciate it greatly. The motion is designed to obviate the delay which occurs after the report of the debate leave the Hansard office. This material, when it reaches the Government Printer, meets with competition from the heavy demands by the Government for printing, .and at that point, the publication of Hansard is delayed. Since the commencement of Hansard in the Australian Parliament, a number of things have happened very quickly, and some of them have happened recently, to alter the situation. News travels very fast, and the reports of parliamentary proceedings, which are published slowly, encounter a great deal of competition. For instance, the broadcasting of these proceedings enables the spoken word to be heard immediately by those persons who care to listen. Perhaps, they are few in number, but the fact remains that the words spoken in this chamber can be heard over the air immediately they are uttered. Then again, reports of speeches, as soon as they are prepared by the newspaper reporters, are despatched instantaneously by teleprinter service to newspaper offices in capital cities, and are available to the news editors.

A very different state of affairs occurs here. The first proof of the reports of to-day’s debates will reach honorable members next Tuesday, or five days after the speeches have been made. After the proof has been corrected, a number of copies of the report will reach the honorable member concerned at some future date. Then, after a further delay, the pamphlet is issued. I understand, that the publication of the pamphlets has been speeded up as the result of a visit to you, Mr. Speaker, by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and myself, and also as a result of our visits to the Government Printing Office, where we examined the situation. Nevertheless, the first pamphlet is not published for weeks, and its contents are then very stale news indeed. Those of us who visit our closest supporters are apt to see large stacks of Hansard pamphlets in one of their back rooms, and our friends would probably be very unhappy, to admit that they have never read them. Therefore, public money is wasted on the printing of out-of-date material, because the pamphlets have lost their news value when they are available for distribution. In short, the money spent on the printing of Hansard reports, by the time the pamphlets reach the public, is wasted, because of the long delay in publication.

Mr McLeay:

– The Hansard pamphlets are never opened.

Mr JEFF BATE:

– The 35 persons on my mailing list at least open the Hansard pamphlets, even if they do not read them. The supporters of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay), according to his statement, do not even open their pamphlets, and, therefore, the money that has been expended on printing them is wasted.

The delay in the publication of our Hansard comes as a great shock to honorable members who have been members of the New South Wales Parliament. I recall that the proof of a speech made in the State Pari liament is ready a few hours after the completion of the speech, and, in a few more hours, at least twelve copies are available to the honorable member in a very acceptable form for mailing to newspapers and the like. At that time, the first pamphlet’ is ready. I believe that the New South Wales Government Printer works all night in order to get that work done speedily. The second pamphlet, which is more carefully edited than the first, is published a few days la tei-, and after further careful correction, the material is embodied in the permanent volumes. The service provided for members of -the New South Wales Parliament in this respect is most efficient and satisfactory, and makes some sense of the” printing of reports of parliamentary debates.

This motion is a very proper one for the House to pass. The matter should be carefully examined,” particularly from the stand-point of the waste of public money on the printing of completely out-of-date material. By the time .the pamphlets reach the persons to whom they are addressed, the matter has no news value, because the proceedings have been broadcast, and .reported in the newspapers. The scientific advances which - -.-r C, been made in the dissemination of news, and the introduction of the teleprinter service mean that the delayed publication of Hansard reports is a waste of public money. It is a cause of great irritation to an honorable member when he does not receive the corrected copies of his speech within a reasonable time for despatch to the newspapers in his electorate while the material still has some news value. When we receive .the corrected copies of our speeches, it” is too .late for -the newspapers to publish them. This motion comes at a most opportune time. As a matter of fact, I consider that it should have been submitted much earlier. I hope the House will agree to it.

Mr ADERMANN:
Fisher

.- I oppose the motion. I do not consider that any good purpose will be served by making provision to publish this dry matter earlier than is done at the present time. Apparently, some honorable members want to glamorize themselves. They think that the whole world is waiting to read their words of wisdom. The picture would be complete if our proceedings were televised, and the handsome features of honorable members could be viewed by the Australian audience.

Speaking seriously, however, I point out that the proposals which have been made by various honorable members in this debate would increase the cost of printing Hansard tremendously. The Government Printer’s staff would have to work overtime, and the only effect would be that the reports of our speeches would be published earlier for despatch to our friends, whom we expect to be loyal to up and support us .anyhow. Even our friends will not read all the matter in Hansard, because I think that most of the speeches made .here are spoken to the gallery for party political purposes, and lack sincerity. If the press were to publish summaries of our speeches, we would get a better report. Therefore, I contend that no good .purpose is to be served by the earlier publication of reports of speeches. Every one agrees, of course, that the Hansard staff, under Mr. Campbell, is doing an excellent job; and that the Government Printing Office also is doing a .good job.

What will be involved in the production of a daily Hansard? Honorable members will .have to rush to censor their speeches. This will involve interviews with the Hansard reporters on the night that speeches are made, in order that honorable members shall be assured that their views shall not be incorrectly presented in any .particular. The Hansard reporter cannot be expected to know everything about everything. Very often, an honorable member deals with matters relating to his electorate which are news to the reporter and, naturally, the latter may be obliged to check certain figures or statements. The censorship by honorable members of their speeches will add to the processes now involved in reporting them, and the production of a daily Hansard will add heavily to the cost of Ilansard. Frankly, I disagree with the motion because, after a-11, what matters to the public is not the speeches that honorable members may make but the work that they perform on behalf of the electors whom they represent. If an honorable member does that job effectively he has nothing to worry about. He does not need to glamorize himself by making particularly good speeches or by getting out reports of his speeches as soon as possible. If he does his work effectively on behalf of those whom he represents, he will get votes , and, of course, he must get votes in order to retain his seat in the Parliament and to keep the right Government in office. I believe that I am supporting the right government. I repeat that the production of a daily

Hansard would involve unnecessary cost. I cannot see any merit in the proposal. The honorable member for Mackellar has, in his motion, presented the matter in its right perspective in that he seeks to have it investigated by an all-party committee. 1 suggest that each party, if it be possible, should have equal representation on such a committee. However, the production of a daily Hansard for the purpose of enabling honorable members to glamorize themselves in their electorates and to distribute as quickly as possible reports of speeches which they now make primarily to the gallery, will impose a substantial additional cost upon the taxpayers. So far as I am concerned, we are getting sufficient publicity at present.

Mr HAYLEN:
Parkes

.- The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) takes a very humble view of his own speeches. Who am I to deny him the right to assess his contribution to the Hansard of the future ? I suffer from no such inhibition, and I do not think that any other honorable member does either. The move that has been suggested by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is a forward and sensible one. It is that, in 1954, Hansard should be something that belongs to our day and age. At present, despite the capable work that is done by the reporting staff, Hansard, when it is published, is out of date. The very things about which the honorable member for Fisher complains, he, himself, desires to cure. There is nothing in the suggestion that Hansard is stored away in a barn along with the bags of potatoes. The Opposition believes that it should co-operate - such occasions are rare - in doing something useful that has been suggested from the Government side of the chamber. We should have a Hansard that can be of use immediately. I shall not weary the House with a repetition of the argument that Hansard, at present, i.s not up to date, and that the machinery for its production is too slow. All that we desire to do is to remedy those disadvantages. There has been, of course, a complete deterioration of the reporting in this House, due largely to the human angle. Some honorable members live on wisecracks, hut, in my view, that is a detectable way of getting publicity.

At the same time, other honorable members who make sober contributions to debates in this chamber are not reported. The important thing is to have, somewhere, not only an efficient but also an up-to-the-minute -record, the publication of which should be properly timed. There are things which at least should not he said, but, like Cromwell’s portrait, we have it, “ warts and all “. In this day of confusion of mass publications, Hansard, with its truth and timely issue, would be an illuminating thrust into the murk of early morning journals. I should like to see a daily Hansard. I have been nominated ‘by the Opposition for membership of the proposed committee.

No great issues are involved. .Certainly, the proposal will involve additional expenditure. However, I am horrified at the views that have been expressed by the honorable member for Fisher who typifies the reluctance of members of the Australian Country party to do anything new.

Dr Evatt:

– Their attitude is ante.deluvian

Mr HAYLEN:

– That is so. We must get away from that sort of thing. The humility that the honorable member for Fisher displayed in respect of his ability to make speeches is undeserved. 1 think- that he will find, although he is now in juxtaposition with other honorable members, that the proposal will produce good results.

There are two points that are important. If this motion is persisted in, and if the proposed committee does its job as it should do it, the system in this Parliament will be placed on all fours with the British system. Our various courts to-day are able to publish a complete record of their proceedings a few hours after the hour of their adjournment. We must have the record of proceedings in the Parliament made available swiftly and in permanent form, and this can be done without moving away from the standard of clean reporting by Hansard. I reiterate the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) with respect to the Hansard staff. Over the years, members of that staff have done a magnificent job in straight reporting, which is a most difficult task, and in the way that it is sub-edited Hansard seems to get into the minds pf honorable members in reporting their speeches. The reporters do their best in reporting “ in the round “. To some degree, the newspapers, in the days when they devoted three and a half columns to reports of proceedings in the Parliament, achieved that purpose. A new and modern Hansard delivered with the morning papers and with the morning milk would be an innovation and would be of interest to the people. Despite the fact that Hansard is alleged to be dreary, every honorable member has a waiting list of persons desirous of being supplied with Hansard. From time to time every honorable member goes through his Hansard mailing list and asks himself whether he can eliminate “old Bill”. In each case, that list could easily be extended. When Hansard is made available as news, it will be of benefit to the Parliament, to honorable members and to democracy generally.

Mr DRURY:
Ryan

.- I commend the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for bringing this matter forward. Perhaps, honorable members generally have been remiss in failing to do something about it earlier. I am pleased that in this, the Twenty-first Parliament, a definite forward move is being made to bring Hansard more into line with the system that prevails in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and in other countries, and in keeping even with the standard that has been set in the production of Hansard in some State Parliaments. I was amazed by the ultraconservative approach to this matter by the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann). I believe that he has approached it in entirely too narrow a spirit, and that he has, missed the whole purpose of what the honorable member for Mackellar ha3 in mind. I am pleased that honorable members opposite have seen fit to make this a non-party matter, and I congratulate them in that respect. [ do not think that many honorable members agree with the honorable member for Fisher that the additional expenditure involved in the production of a daily Hansard will not be -worth while, that there will be no virtue in providing earlier proofs of honorable members’ speeches, or that we are glamorizing ourselves by seeking an earlier Hansard. I do not agree with him on any of the points that he has made. We should look to the question of public relations and, after all, Hansard is one of our principal media for the presentation of the Parliament to the public. At present, we have only limited media for that purpose. The broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings, at any particular time, reach only a comparatively small percentage of Australians. Many people would like to listen to those broadcasts but on account of their occupations, or pursuits, are unable to do so. Those who can listen at night perhaps form the biggest percentage of the community. I wish very often that all the people of Australia could come here to Canberra and see their National Parliament in session. Unfortunately, the number of people who can do that in the life of any one parliament is necessarily small by comparison with the total population. Very few newspapers, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, make any serious attempt to present the sum total of parliamentary proceedings in their daily news. There are one or two exceptions, but the majority of newspapers condense reports to such an extent that they do not always present an accurate picture of the proceedings, nor do they even accurately report what honorable members say. We had an example only a day or two ago of one leading newspaper in Sydney having attributed remarks to one honorable member which he did not make at all. Hansard is the only true record we have of proceedings in this House. It is the only true guide to what Sir Winston Churchill has described as the “ citadel of parliamentary liberty, the foundation of our laws “. Far from attempting to glamorise ourselves, I believe that it is our duty as members of Parliament to do what we can to raise the prestige of Parliament, and to make known to the people of Australia what takes place in this national assembly to which we have been sent. I agree with the points that have been made by the honorable member for Mackellar. I shall not elaborate those points, nor shall I attempt to anticipate what the committee will investigate and what its findings might be. But I do believe that the general machinery can be made very much more efficient, and that the whole production and distribution of Hansard can be speeded up with advantage not only to individual members of the Parliament, but also to the Parliament itself and to the reading public. I feel also that if Hansard were presented in a more attractive and interesting form, which it Could be, it would have a considerably wider reading public, and therefore the work of this Parliament, which is all too little known and publicised, would be much more widely known, better understood and more appreciated. I believe that, contrary to the conception of the honorable member for Fisher, it is part of our duty, and our responsibility as members of Parliament, not only to enhance in any way we can the prestige and standing of the Parliament, but also to publicise its proceedings and make its work thoroughly known.

I have been surprised, when speaking to people who have come to Australia from overseas, to learn their reaction to the attitude of so many people in this country to Parliament and parliamentarians, in comparison with the attitude, for example, in the United Kingdom. Perhaps we, ourselves, as parliamentarians, are. largely to blame for that. The sten now being made is a step, I believe, in the right direction. Hansard is an integral and important part of our whole process of democratic parliamentary government. That has long been recognized in the United Kingdom. The Hansard Society, which was set up at the instigation of Commander Stephen King-Hall some years ago, has done an enormous amount of valuable work in publicising the work and proceedings of Parliament in the United Kingdom. Its purpose is set out in a book which I read a few days ago. Its mission is to improve the public relations between Parliament generally and the people, and it has succeeded very well in that work. I do not say that we should necessarily set up a Hansard Society in this country, but I believe that the appointment of a select committee, along the lines set out in the motion moved by the honorable member for Mackellar, is a forward step which will be approved by the people of this country, or at least by the thinking people who appreciate the standing, and the necessity for publicizing the work, of thi3 national assembly.

Mr J R FRASER:
ALP

– I rose earlier for the call from the Chair when I felt that an answer was needed to the argument advanced by the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann). Other honorable members have given the necessary answer, so I do not propose to take up the time of the House, which, I think, has already given sufficient time to this debate. It is clear that the overwhelming opinion of the House is in favour of the motion so capably moved by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), and capably supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I support the motion. The information that will be adduced by the select committee will be for the benefit of the Parliament and the people, who must be. given the best and fullest opportunity to judge this Parliament and its members by being able to hear and read reports of debates as quickly as possible.

Mr DOWNER:
Angas

.- Like the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. E. Fraser), I do not wish to delay the House unduly, and had it not been for the surprising move by the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) I do not think that I would have risen at all. Let me say at once that we on this side of the House anticipated that this motion would go through with very little debate, and honorable members opposite have preferred to co-operate in that respect. Accordingly, it was all the more remarkable to hear so prominent a Government supporter as my friend, the Chairman of Committees, make a speech, which, if I may say so with all respect to him, was in essence quite reactionary. I was surprised when the honorable member said - I think I took down his remarks aright - that there was no need to circulate the speeches of members of this House earlier than is now done. If he really believes that, his views are at variance with the established custom of most parliaments in the world, I feel, a.nd I should think that the majority of honorable members feel, that the public is entitled to know, as expeditiously as possible, exactly what honorable members say in this House. As to the cost factor which my honorable friend introduced, I would suggest that it is simply infinitesimal compared with the great issues involved, and the value of the early circulation of ideas uttered in a democratic legislature.

Mr ADERMANN:

– It goes over the air.

Mr DOWNER:

– The honorable member says it goes over the air, but the statisticians and the Australian Broadcasting Commission state - and I deplore this myself - that a decreasing number of people are listening to the debates in this chamber. However much one may deplore that, one must accept this information and mould future policy to cope with the situation that has arisen. I agree with what other honorable members have said generally about this issue, and I add only one or two things. First, I feel that from time to time it is most necessary, in the interests of the Parliament, that there should be a periodical review of Hansard reporting. We are all grateful, as the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members have said, for the work of the Hansard staff. The last thing in the world that I would like to be is a Hansard reporter. I think Hansard reporting would be extremely arduous work, and I can well imagine that at times it would not be particularly interesting and I hope that the members of the Hansard staff, who are doing unquestionably a fine job of work, will not regard what has been said in support of this motion as being in any way critical of themselves.

The other things I wish to say relate to .the fact that I have felt, ever since I have been in this Parliament, that Hansard is not an exact record of what is said in this chamber. I was under the impression, before I became a member of Parliament, from a study of Hansard published in other parts of the world, particularly the House of Commons Hansard, that Hansard was supposed to be an exact reportage of what members said, I think even the best friends of Hansard, and the Hansard staff, could not claim that that is the current practice here. Sometimes we find that a press report will get the language of the phrases used by an honorable member more accurately than the Hansard report.

Mr Haylen:

– What does the honorable member want - justice or mercy ?

Mr DOWNER:

-Furthermore, I think we are all aware, and I think that perhaps the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who has interjected, might be aware too, that Hansard has developed a jargon of its own. For this, of course, Hansard cannot be entirely blamed. I suspect that that officer moving mysteriously behind the scenes, the Government Printer, is in part responsible. But the fact remains that, between Hansard and the Government Printer, perhaps acting conjointly, they have phrases and persist in using phrases and a form of circumlocution which are not used, by and large, by members in this House.

There is another aspect which I hope will appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, and it is a matter in which I find fault with the existing system of Mansard reporting. I refer to the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, are assumed very often not to exist. Now that is a state of affairs which, I am sure, you would not be prepared to countenance; nor would those who support you on this side of the House. If honorable members will examine the House of Commons Hansard, they will notice that, when a member of that House begins his speech, the report is always prefaced by “ Mr. Speaker “, and ‘ they will find the various references to the Chair reported accurately during the course of those speeches. I would suggest to the committee that that is one of the things that it deliberate upon. I agree with my friend, the honorable member for Mackellar, that one should not anticipate the examination of the committee, its investigations and its finding, and so I will say no more on this point, but I do hope that my friend, the honorable member for Fisher, will not find supporters, that it will not be necessary to press the matter to a division, and that, without further ado, the motion will be carried.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Later:

Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -

That, in addition to Mr. Speaker and the mover, Mr. Wentworth, already appointed, Mr. Bowden, Mr. (Downer, Mr. Allan Fraser, Mr. J. E. Fraser, Mr. Freeth, Mr. Haylen and Mr. Luchetti be members of this select committee appointed to inquire into the preparation, production and distribution of the Hansard of this House.

page 1545

TAXATION BUILDING, BRISBANE

Report of Public Works Committee

Mr KENT HUGHES:
Minister for the Interior · ChisholmMinister for the Interior and Minister for Works · LP

.- I move-

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations, namely: - The erection of the Taxation Building Brisbane, Queensland.

As a result of the Public Works Committee’s Report, certain investigations were made, particularly respecting the allocation of space in the proposed building. Consequent upon these investigations the committee agreed that the proposed building should proceed subject to the agreed amendments and modifications. The proposal provides for the erection of a building to accommodate the Taxation Branch in Brisbane, and approximately five floors of the building will be available for the accommodation of other Commonwealth departments. The frame of the building will be partially of rigid steel construction encased in concrete, having granite or polished stone for the external walls of the lower floors with the upper floors faced with brick and non-ferrous metal components. The estimated cost of the building and services is over £1,500,000. The committee has recommended that this building should be erected as soon as possible, and, following a survey of the requirements of all departments in Brisbane, that the Commonwealth offices building recommended by the committee in 1948 should be limited to stage one for the present. The motion before the House is a part of the ordinary mechanics of the procedure that is followed when a project is referred to the Public Works

Committee. After the committee has submitted it3 report, a motion of this character is put to the House before work can proceed on the proposed building.’

In submitting this motion, I should like to pay a very well-deserved tribute to the work which has been done by the Public Works Committee and of which this report is an excellent example. Members will notice that the original recommendations were referred back to the Department of Works and that, as a result, several improvements have been made in the plans, both in the design of the building and in its use, which will provide, I think, not only for certain economies but also for the more effective use of the building. One of the main conclusions of the committee was that the average accommodation provided in the plans was practically double that required in normal office space. In other words, the planning of the building was on a rather lavish scale, which has been considerably reduced as a result of the revisions which have been made. But it is notable - and I think honorable members might take note of this - that the useable office space has been allocated in accordance with the recommendations of the inter-departmental committee on accommodation requirements which met on the 10th June, 1953, and recommended an area of 90 square feet per person. I must confess that, from a business point of view and my knowledge of the business world, if every person in a business office had 90 square feet of space, the cost of living in this country would increase very considerably. Very few businesses could afford it, and I should say that the average accommodation at the moment, partly due to overcrowding because we have not had many office buildings erected in our capital cities since World War II. started, is somewhere about 50 square feet. I should not think that many businesses, even if they had the accommodation, could afford more than 70 square feet per person.

Another recommendation of the committee was that the cafeteria should be moved to the basement and the resulting space used for office accommodation, and that the installation of equipment costing £4,000 for the provision of threecourse means was unnecessary in Brisbane and should be eliminated. The cafeteria, originally to be situated on the eleventh floor, has now been reduced in area and planned in the basement. The kitchen equipment has been modified, to provide for light meals only. The other important recommendation that the committee made was that the ratio of service areas to total floor space should be reduced to the minimum consistent with the provision of adequate staff facilities. In the revised proposal, consideration has been given to the reducing of the proportion of service area to the total floor space, and, on a typical floor, the percentage usefulness of floor area has been increased by 9.5 per cent. This provides a total efficiency of 77.4 per cent., compared with 67.9 per cent. in the original proposal. I mention those main items of the suggestions made by the PublicWorks Committee, not merely to show that they have been carried out, but to support my remarks that the committee is doing very important work and that, when projects of this nature are referred to it, its recommendations are of considerable value. The total office space available in the building will be 176,000 square feet, as against 148,000 square feet in the original submission. I concur in the committee’s recommendations and am satisfied with the revised plan. Instructions to proceed will be issued accordingly, provided that the motion is passed by the House.

Mr CALWELL:
Melbourne

.- The Opposition agrees with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that this work is very desirable, that the Public Works Committee is a very good committee and has done excellent work, and that, as a result of the reference of the plans back to the Department of Works and the improvements that have been made by that department, the people of Australia will save money and will obtain a much more efficient building than otherwise would have been the case.

Mr CRAMER:
Bennelong

.- Briefly, on behalf of the Public Works Committee, I want to say to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that I appreciate very much his words of congratulation to the committee. It is, I believe, a committee that can do valuable work in the interests of the people of Australia. There is very much to do, as honorable members know and as will be demonstrated later when another subject comes before the House, on the matter of public works in Australia. The Public Works Committee was faced with some unusual features in relation to the proposed Taxation Branch building in Brisbane. Our officers in the Department of Works, in general, do a splendid job of designing, and there is nothing that one could say against their efficiency. But, in this case, there was a considerable difference of opinion over the original plans submitted by the officers who customarily do that work, and the committee thought that, on this occasion, it was justified in seeking information from other sources in relation to certain matters that had been raised. Following this closer investigation of the project, the plans were referred back to the department with certain suggestions by the committee, as a result of which, I believe, a considerable amount of money has been saved and a more efficient building planned.

The Minister mentioned the arbitary figure of 90 square feet of office space for each person in commercial premises. That figure was arrived at, of course, as a result of investigations conducted by the Department of Labour and National Service. I think that allocation is altogether too extravagant for commercial use. In fact, if honorable members will examine local government ordinances in relation to the construction of homes, they will find, certainly in New South Wales, and I think in most other States, that 80 square feet is considered to be quite sufficient for a kitchen which may be used by a number of people. A room measuring 8 feet by 10 feet is the minimum size for an enclosed bedroom to accommodate two people.

Mr Hamilton:

– There is plenty of room still left in this country.

Mr CRAMER:

– It is the question of costs that is important. I should say that, if commercial premises throughout Australia were to provide 90 square feet of space for each person, it would be literally impossible for the economy to carry the burden of costs that would be imposed upon it. Therefore, I believe that this matter should be treated with great discretion. In the allocation of space, much may be dependent upon the particular function of the office accommodation concerned. In some instances, for example, there may be more departmental section heads than other officers. Thus, the allocation of space depends entirely upon the function of the offices concerned. Each project must be examined on its merit. To speak in general terms and say that the minimum provision should be 90 square feet for each person is quite wrong, in my opinion. I am very glad that the work of the Public Works Committee is appreciated, and I hope that it will go on to do more good work.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1547

AUDIT BILL 1954

Second Beading.

Debate resumed from the 2nd September (vide page 878), on motion by Sir Eric Harrison -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Mr CALWELL:
Melbourne

– Under this bill, the Government proposes to do three things. It proposes to pay the Auditor-General an additional £150 a year for his services. It proposes to empower itself to extend the term of office of the present Auditor-General by a period of no longer than one year, for reasons which the VicePresident of the Executive Council (.Sir Eric Harrison) stated in his secondreading speech. It also proposes to amend the principal act in order to provide that subsequent Auditors-General also may have their terms of office extended by a period of twelve months. The Opposition agrees with the first two suggestions. We believe that the AuditorGeneral was right in asking that any increase of salary should be given by amendment of the Audit Act, and not by an appropriation of the amount by the Parliament. In his view, that would make him subordinate to the Ministry of the day, whereas he is the servant of the Parliament itself. The Opposition believes that the Government is right in taking the action it has taken in respect of the Auditor-General’s salary.

We do not like the idea of extending the period of service of any public servant as a principle, but there are exceptions, and the Ministry of the day is empowered, by section 86 of the Public Service Act and sub-section (2.) of section 7 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to extend the term of office of public servants. The Government has made its decision and has advanced convincing arguments. The Opposition does not challenge the decision in relation to the present Auditor-General, but it does nol. like the idea that the Audit Act should be amended to provide that any subsequent occupants of the office of AuditorGeneral shall have their term of office extended by the government of the day when the age of retirement is approaching. In our view that would be dangerous because it would make the AuditorGeneral seemingly dependent for favours upon the government of the day, whatever might be its political colour. The Auditor-General, as a servant of the Parliament, should not be placed in a position in which any action that he might take in reporting to the Parliament on the activities of the government of the day might seem to be tinged with some fear that if he did his duty he would not receive an extension for which he might reasonably ask or which he might reasonably expect to receive. On the other hand, he should not be put in a position in which, as the end of his service approached, he might be tempted to do certain things that would seem to give the appearance of currying favour .with the government of the day in the hope of receiving an extension. The government of the day, when an Auditor-General is about to retire, and if it has good reason for wishing, to extend his period of service, should introduce legislation for the purpose, as this Government has done on this occasion.

For the reasons that I have advanced, I propose, when the bill is being considered in committee, to move the following amendment: -

That clause 4 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “Notwithstanding the provisions of section five a of the Principal Act, if. in the opinion of the Governor-General, it is desirable in the public interest that the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth holding office at the date nf commencement of this .section should continue in the performance of the duties of his office after he attains the age of sixty-five years and the Auditor-General is able and willing to do so, the Governor-General may direct that the Auditor-General shall continue in his office for such period (not exceeding one year from and including the date on which the Auditor-General shall attain the age of sixty-five years) as the Governor-General determines.”

I shall move also -

That the title be amended by adding the words “, and for other purposes “.

If those amendments are carried, the effect will be to extend the term of office of the present Auditor-General, but not of his successors. The Ministry should not be empowered to extend the period of service of persons who may in the future hold the- office of Auditor-General, and there are good arguments against such extensions for public servants in general If the bill were passed as it has been drafted, it would mean that whereas 99 per cent, of public servants would bc expected to retire at the age of 6.5, the Auditor-General from this time on would retire at 66. The Opposition thinks that that would not be in the public interest. The Opposition supports the bill generally, mid I trust that the Government will consider the principle I have enunciated in the amendments that I have foreshadowed.

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

in reply - I listened with a great deal of interest to the observations of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I am pleased to know that he accepts one of the principles that the Government has outlined in the bill. However, he has raised some doubt about bis acceptance of the second principle contained in the measure.. I cannot go all the way with him in agreeing that the Auditor-General would lose his independence if the bill were passed as drafted, because I cannot conceive that any officer of the status of the Auditor-General would be likely to sell the high principles of the Public Service and his own high principles to obtain an extension of his term for twelve months. It would be ridiculous to assume that a man of the standing of the Auditor-General would, for a paltry gain of an extension of his term for twelve months, be ready to sink, not only his own high principles, but also those of the Public Service which he had embraced throughout a long period of service.

Mr Ward:

– The Vice-President of the Executive Council would do it for even less.

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

– An interjection that I have just heard causes me to say that some honorable members not very far from me would readily sink all their principles. Surely the honorable member who interjected would not .place himself in .the category of the AuditorGeneral as a man of high standing in the Public Service. The Government accepts, in principle, the substance of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Melbourne. It is willing to meet his objection to giving the extension of the term of office of the Auditor-General general application to the successors of the present holder of that office. But I point out to him that circumstances in relation to the obtaining of Royal Assent to the measure make it imperative that the bill should be passed speedily, and, if his proposed amendment of clause 4 were accepted, it would be impossible to achieve the object that the Government has in view. Consequently, I suggest to the honorable member for Melbourne that, before the measure is considered in committee, he- might consider wording the amendment differently to overcome difficulties that otherwise might prevent the bill from having full effect. That course would avoid the need to recommit the measure after some clauses have been agreed to. It is not the intention of the Government to make it possible for any officer of the Public Service to have undue advantage over other public servants in relation to the retiring age. If the honorable member can put his amendment into suitable terms the Government will have no hesitation in accepting it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee :

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 - (1.) Section three . . . (2.) The remaining provisions of this Act shall come into operation on the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent.

Mr CALWELL:
Melbourne

– I accept the suggestion made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) at the secondreading stage. I am glad that the Government and the Opposition are in agreement. I would not think at any time that an Auditor-General would do anything to disgrace his high office, but I do not believe in allowing temptation to be placed in the way of any one. We have always kept the Auditor-General out of. politics and free from control by the Executive of the day. That is a sound democratic principle. I move -

That sub-clause: (2.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause : - “ (2.) The remaining provisions of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the twenty-fifth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-four.”

I am sure that this will give effect to the wishes of both the Government and the Opposition.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 -

Section five a of the Principal Act is amended -

  1. by omitting the word “The” (first occurring) and inserting in its stead the words “ Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, the “ ; and
  2. by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: -

*’ (2.) When the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth is about to attain the age of sixty-five years and, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, it is desirable in the public interest that the Auditor-General should continue in the performance of the duties of his office and the Auditor-General’ is able and willing to do so, the Governor-General may direct that the Auditor-General shall continue in his office for such period (not exceeding one year from and including the date on which the Auditor-General will attain the age of sixty-five years) as the Governor-General determines.”.

Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to-

That clause 4 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ 4. Notwithstanding the provisions of section five a of the Audit Act 1901-1954 but subject to the other provisions of that Act, the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth holding office at the date of commencement of this section shall continue in. his office for a period of one year from and including the twenty-sixth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-four, being the date upon which the Auditor-General will attain the age of sixty-five years.”

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Title.

Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to-

That the title be amended by adding the words “ and for other purposes “.

Title, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments and with an amended title; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

page 1549

QUESTION

ESTIMATES 1954-55

Additions, New Works and Other Services Involving Capital Expenditure

In Committee of Supply:

Ordered -

That the Estimates - Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1954-55 - be considered as a whole.

Proposed vote, £99,783,000.

Mr CLARK:
Darling

.-I want to direct attention to several items in the Estimates under consideration. I ask the Government to give proper consideration to these matters. According to the Estimates, the Government expects to spend £104,633,000 this year for capital works and services, and I believe that that money, which will come almost wholly from taxation, should be raised by way of loan or bank credit, because the present generation of Australians should not be called upon to pay for substantial capital works that will cost £104,633,000 when the benefit from them will last for many generations. Of course, the people of to-day will receive some benefit, and therefore they should contribute according to the benefit that they will receive. But the people of future generations will also receive benefits from this expenditure and therefore they should contribute towards the cost of these works.

I suggest that Australians should not be paying at present more than £100,000,000 a year to carry out capital works and services, because if this money came from loans their taxes could be reduced. It is difficult to discover from the Government the particular works or services that are actually being carried out, or I will be carried out. I have carefully studied the Estimates, and I have discovered that the Government will provide less money this financial year for aerodromes, and services connected with them, than it provided last year. Last year, £6,600,000 was provided for these services, and this year only £6,150,000 is shown in the Estimates at page 220. I believe that the cost of carrying out all public works has increased materially in the last year, and consequently more money should be made available to carry out even the same volume of works as was carried out last . year, and “certainly more to increase the volume of works.

I have received promises from the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that aerodrome construction work in my electorate would be placed on the Estimates, but I have now been informed that a very important work, that is, the provision of an aerodrome at Cobar, which the Minister said would be provided for in the Estimates, has not been included in the works programme. I am astonished that the Minister has not carried out his promise in that regard. Cobar is a very important centre, and serves a far-flung area of New South Wales. It has needed aerial facilities for a long time, but there are no facilities there to-day, even of a limited nature. The cost of an aerodrome at Cobar was placed on the draft estimates; but it does not appear in the final works programme. I want to know why it was eliminated when it was considered to be of such an essential character that it warranted being placed on the draft estimates.

Why should the Government incur enormous expenditure in the maintenance of flying-boat bases throughout Australia? I understand that at Rose Bay the Government is at present expending about the same amount of money as it expended when that base was used much more extensively by the New Zealand flying boat service. Honorable members may see launches running around Rose Bay all the time, each carrying a large number of men, and each no doubt costing a large sum of money. It would be interesting for honorable members toknow exactly how much it is costing in respect of each aircraft that lands or takes off from the flying-boat base at Rose Bay. I believe that honorable members would find the sum to be beyond’ all reason, and would decide that the Government should not undertake such enormous expenditure. I suggest that private companies should be called upon to pay a greater amount towards the maintenance of this base if they desire to continue their flying-boat services. Seaplane services are much more expensive than land ‘plane services, because of the large,number of men and ancillary services that are associated with flying-boat bases.

Another matter that needs attention is the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during the general election campaign of 1949. The right honorable gentleman then said -

We put forward a positive decentralized national programme for rural production, to be carried out co-operatively with the States and with local and regional authorities. Over a period of five years we shall raise loans totalling £250,000,000, the interest and sinking fund on which will be provided out of the petrol tax.

Then the Prime Minister pointed out that money from the £250,000,000 would be made available to local authorities to develop feeder roads, but I ask honorable members to consider how little has been done in that direction. In fact nothing has been done at all, and no money has been made available. The Prime Minister said that soil conservation work would be carried out, but no money has been made available to local authorities for that purpose. The same thing applies to rural housing, where again no money has been made available. The Prime Minister said that his rural housing scheme would embrace the construction of groups of workers’ homes in seasonal labour areas, but no such work has been carried out. The Prime Minister also promised that something would be done about floods, that light and power would be provided for rural areas, and that money would be set aside for vermin and noxious weed destruction. All those services were to be paid for out of the £250,000,000, which was to be made available, free from interest and principal repayments, to local government bodies such as municipal and shire councils. But nothing of that kind has been done. I have brought this matter up on previous occasions and the Prime Minister has stated that all these services would be provided over a period of five years. He made his promises in November, 194’9, and we are now almost at the end of the promised five years, but no attempt has been made by the Government to honour its promises. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was far more vocal than the Prime Minister in putting forward promises. He said -

We propose a gigantic and vigorous scheme of rural development. This will not be like the mirage of blueprints held before your eyes by the Socialists as a remote antidote to some future depression caused by their own policies. It is a positive programme. It will be . implemented here and now to make Australia great and prosperous and replace present-day scarcities with an era of abundance.

For this, we will raise £250,000,000 by public loans, in addition to such moneys as have been hypothecated for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, which will not be interfered with. The interest and sinking fund will be met by annual appropriations from the petrol tax. The Commonwealth will assume sole responsibility for financing the scheme which will be administered by a special Minister through a National Works Council, comprising representatives of the Commonwealth and States.

I remind honorable members that the Treasurer said that the work would be carried out “ here and now “, and that it was not a matter of blueprints. I do not know whether the Treasurer has even reached the blueprint stage yet, but wc have certainly not reached a practical stage in carrying out the promised works. I have asked numerous questions of the Prime Minister on these matters, but he has deliberately evaded the issue and has not faced up to the promises that he made. Indeed, his promises were designed only to hoodwink the people.

I shall refer now to housing. The housing loans that will be provided by the Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement amount to £32,000,000. The money provided last year amounted to £37,200,000. Honorable members will well understand that the money to be provided this year must supply fewer houses than the money provided last year, not even allowing for the increased cost of house construction.

Again, the Government is not facing up to the housing problems of this country. The provision of adequate houses is urgently necessary for the people of Australia, but the Government’s actions will certainly not overcome our problem. Again, the £32,000,000 to be provided for housing is to come out of taxes, whereas it should be raised by way of loan. The people of this generation should not be required to pay taxes for buildings whose benefits will extend over many generations. Loans or bank credit should be used to finance housing, and not taxation. Again, if this money were not being provided from taxation, our taxes could be reduced. The Government intends to provide £6,744,500 for war service land settlement this year, but the amount should be far greater. The Government will provide £30,000,000 for war service homes and again that money will come out of taxation whereas it should come from loans. War service land settlers and authorities will repay £1,744,500 to the Government this financial year, so that the Government will have to provide only an additional £5,000,000 for this important service. If we are to carry out a substantial scheme of land settlement for ex-servicemen, more money should be voted for that purpose.

Another important matter is the expenditure of the Postal Department on works and services, which is estimated to be £27,215,000. Out of that sum, broadcasting and Commonwealth railways will receive £1,532,000. Again, that money will come from taxation and not from loans, and again the people are being slugged to pay for the future. In spite of all the money being expended by this Government on the Postal Department, telephone facilities in country areas are still not adequate. I have made continual appeals to this Government to improve the telephone service at places such as Brewarrina, Bourke and Nyngan, where the service is most inefficient to-day. It is almost impossible to get a good connexion on a trunk line from Brewarrina, because the calls have to go such a roundabout way. I understand that the reason for this inefficiency is the lack of a building at Nyngan to house certain equipment. Such a building is long overdue, and it should be provided to give better telephone facilities and a better trunk line service to the people in the far west of New South “Wales. The people in those areas are doing much to develop this country, and they are entitled to some amenities. I suggest that adequate telephone facilities for trunk line services at Nyngan are essential, and will help the people who are developing this country.

For a number of years the Government has promised radio telephone services to the people in the far west of New South Wales. For a period of years experiments have been carried out at Broken Hill and other places, and it has been established that a radio telephone service is most practicable and can be installed in suitable areas. But there is no provision in the Estimates for such services for the people of the outback. Those people are entitled to such a service because of the great distances that they are from post offices, and because of the extortionate cost of ordinary telephone lines. I appeal to the Postmaster-General’s Department to do something for those people.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Adermann:
FISHER, QUEENSLAND

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

Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr FAILES:
Lawson

.- The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has peddled the old story thai public works should be financed out of loan money, and not out of revenue. H« has completely overlooked the fact that since the Menzies Government has been in office, the States have received all the loan moneys that have been subscribed in Australia, and, in addition, have accepted substantial financial assistance from the Commonwealth to enable them to carry out their public works programmes. The Commonwealth is entitled to 20 per cent, of the loan moneys raised by the Australian Loan Council, and had the Government accepted its share of those raisings, the amount available for State works would have been correspondingly reduced. The total loan raisings in the last financial year amounted to only £125,500,000, and it is easy to see that, had the Government claimed its share of that money, the effect on the public works programmes of the States would have been adverse indeed.

This old story that public works should be financed out of loan money, and not out of revenue, has been pedalled time after time by the socialists because they hope that Australia will experience inflationary pressures which will ultimately be to their advantage. There is nothing that they would prefer to see more than an orgy of inflation, and the issue of money without any basic backing for it, so that the country would be brought to a state where it would be ready to accept the socialist policy.

The honorable member for Darling went even further, and referred to the developmental loan of £250,000,000, to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to in his policy speech in the general election campaign in 1949. The honorable gentlemen evidently had to search back in the records five years before he considered that he had found material for his speech. I do not propose to go back five, ten, or fifteen years, as I could well do, and refer to the policy speeches delivered by leaders of the Labour party, and point to various promises that have not been given effect to. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech in 1949, said that £250,000,000 would be made available to State governments and instrumentalities for developmental works and the like. The Government, in the intervening five years, has carried out that proposal magnanimously. As a matter of fact, the Government provided more than £250,000,000 for developmental purposes in .a period of three years.

Mr Costa:

– The Government did not provide that money.

Mr FAILES:

– We provided that money for the States. That fact is borne out by figures that I shall now read to the committee. In 1950-51, the amount of £38,000,000 was made available by the Commonwealth to the States to boost loan raisings, which totalled £165,000,000. In 1951-52 this Government contributed £153,000,000, and the total loan raisings amounted to £225,000,000. In 1952-53, the Government contributed £131,000,000, and total loan raisings were £190,000,000.

In those three years alone, this Government raised a total of £580,000,000 on behalf of the Australian Loan Council for the capital works programmes of the States, and, in ‘addition, contributed £322,000,000, or considerably more than the sum proposed by the Prime Minister in his policy speech in 1949. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) reminds me that the assistance which I have mentioned was distinct from loans raised in the United States of America for developmental purposes. The Government set out, in accordance with the promise given by the Prime Minister in his policy speech in 1949, to raise dollar loans to finance the purchase of equipment for the primary and secondary industries. That equipment could not be obtained in Australia, or from sterling sources, and had to be bought from the dollar area. Various items have repaid many times the amount spent on their purchase in the increased production that they have made possible.

Before I leave this interesting subject of the loan market, I should like to point out that this Government in 1953-54 contributed £74,000,000, and the total loan raisings were £200,000,000. It appears that the Government will have to contribute a similar sum this year in order to supplement loan raisings for the State governments. Yet members of the Labour party have the temerity to say that the Government has failed to honour its promise to raise developmental loans of £250,000,000. I point out that the Government has assisted the States with the provision of both loan moneys and outright grants. Those matters are conveniently overlooked by Opposition members. The Government has also assisted road authorities throughout Australia by increasing the allocation from the petrol tax from £8,000,000 to £22,000,000. The Government has enabled the man on the land to increase production by giving him the benefit of deductions for taxation purposes in respect of capital improvements to his property. He is permitted to claim depreciation over a five-year period as a tax deduction. Generally speaking, the Government has done everything possible to carry out the basic principle that the Prime Minister put forward on behalf ofthe Liberal party and the Australian Country party in his policy speech in 1949. It is futile for members of the Labour party to try to dig up something five years old, and claim, on that evidence, that the Government has fallen down on the job. We propose to continue to give effect to the policy that we have announced. We shall continue, for instance, the extension services which have been made possible by grants to the States, so that farmers may be kept informed of the latest methods of meeting their problems. We also set out to increase the production of the goods and materials which farmers require. The production of superphosphate, steel products and the like has been doubled in the last few years, but the demand for them is so great that shortages recur from time to time.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order ! I remind the honorable member for Lawson that the committee is considering the Estimates for capital works and services.

Mr FAILES:

– Quite so. I apologize, Mr. Chairman, for trespassing on the time of the committee. I have done so only to refute statements made by the honorable member for Darling. I should like to refer to some items of loan expenditure in relation to war service land settlement, and Commonwealth and State housing matters, but I must remind the committee, with great respect to you, Mr. Chairman, that honorable members would not be in order in debating those subjects at the present time. We shall have an opportunity to consider them when the relevant bills are before the House.

The honorable member for Darling referred to what he called the inadequate services of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I invite the honorable gentleman, who lives in the same district of New South Wales as I do, to glance at the telephone book for that part of the State in 1949, and he will find that it contains 131 pages. The telephone book for the district in 1954 contains 176 pages of small type. I have mentioned this matter before, and I have no hesitation in mentioning it again that, in the last four years, the number of telephone subscribers is one-third greater than the greatest number hitherto recorded in the history of the Commonwealth. Yet the honorable member has criticized the Postmaster-General’s Department on the ground that it has not provided a telephone service somewhere in his electorate. We know that a considerable number of people still require telephones. I receive correspondence about that matter almost every day. We realize the position, and we also realize that it is poor comfort to unsatisfied applicants for telephones to be told that a. great improvement has taken place, but it is a comfort to them to know that the Government is really intent on bringing the telephone services of. the Commonwealth up to the high standard at which it has aimed.

I now propose to refer to a problem which has come about through the development of civilization. We all are keen to preserve, as far as possible, the natural things in this great country. We are eager to preserve our fauna and flora, but, unfortunately, we find it necessary at times, when development takes place, that timber should be chopped down. The destruction of tree3 occurs when power lines are run through country districts, and when the PostmasterGeneral’s Department erects poles for telephone services. Of necessity, there is some destruction of natural timber at such times; but it has been suggested very forcefully to me, and I concur heartily in this suggestion, that re-afforestation should be practised when timber is destroyed for those reasons. Perhaps government instrumentalities other than the Postmaster-General’s Department are placed in the same position. I make a strong plea, that wherever timber is destroyed in public places, it should be replaced through some scheme of afforestation. Some of us have a feeling, which is borne out to some degree by scientific observations, that many trees give certain protection against erosion. We have waged a fight against erosion, and we shall wage the battle with evergreater intensity against erosion of our wheatlands and pasture country. In order to do so, we must preserve belts of timber here and there to give protection against the wind and prevent erosion from becoming an even greater problem. I hope that the Government will consider this matter. It is not the concern of any particular department, but it is one that has a fairly general application. When I make these remarks, I do not mean that timber is unnecessarily destroyed. Often, timber is necessarily destroyed for economic reasons. But I suggest that, at such times, reafforestation should be practised. I believe that the local governing bodies are quite prepared to undertake the work, but they ask for financial assistance to enable them to do so.

Mr CREAN:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA · ALP

– The committee is now considering the estimated expenditure by the Commonwealth of £104,000,000 on various capital works and services that fall within its province. Approximately £30,000,000 of these proposed votes is for war service homes and £28,000,000 is for postal activities. The remaining £40,000,000 is to be devoted to various other capital works, including £14,000,000 for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. I point out, and my remark is prompted to some degree by the speech of the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), that this Parliament is the only legislature within the framework of government in Australia that is in the happy position of being able to make expenditures on capital works and services out of its annual revenues. Most State governments, when they are contemplating developmental expenditure of this kind, have to finance the work out of loan moneys. The honorable member for Lawson made great play of the fact that the Commonwealth had assisted the States to solve the problem of the financing of their works programmes. The States are obliged to approach this Government for consideration because of the shift that has occurred under our Constitution, in the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. The Australian Government gets the first bite out of the general revenue that is derived from the taxpayers. That revenue exceeds £900,000,000. This Government can choose deliberately to set aside £100,000,000 for capital works and services of various kinds. That position is not advantageous to the States, because, for the most part, they depend for their revenue upon payments made to them in accordance with the tax reimbursement formula. If the States desire to undertake certain capital works and services, they must rely mainly upon the generosity of the Australian Government, on the one hand, and the returns from the loan market on the other hand. It is arguable whether public works ought to be financed from revenue rather than from loan. To-day, this Government is paying for public works out of revenue; but it is the only government in Australia that is in a position to make such a choice. If it is right for the Australian Government to finance public works out of revenue, it must also be right for the States to do likewise. Why should it still be right for the Australian Government but impossible for the States to finance public works out of revenue? I repeat that the Australian Government alone can make a choice in this matter.

From time to time considerable discussion, in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has joined, has taken place on whether a national works council should be appointed to determine priorities of public works in respect of not only this Government’s undertakings but also those of the States. I repeat that the only body that has much say in determining the proportion of the national income that shall be devoted to capital works and services as distinct from other activities is the Australian Government. Despite the largesse that the Australian Government has handed to each of the States in the last two years, it has made such payments only after it has determined the works that it will, itself, undertake. We have this picture in the aggregate that £100,000,000 worth of capital works are “being undertaken by this Government, and about £200,000,000 worth of public works, exclusive of semi-governmental activities, are being undertaken by the States. Is it right that the Australian Government should be able to say that it is entitled to undertake £100,000,000 worth of public works and that it will permit the State to undertake only the works for which any surplus revenue is available or raisings on the loan market? Taking post offices as an example, this Parliament is able to say that the Australian Government will expend £30,000,000 on capital works this year for the Postal Department, although so large an allocation may, or may not, be proper theoretically when other things are taken into account. At the same time, the States may require finance for particular public works. Victoria, for instance, may require to expend £15,000,000 on the provision of education facilities. But none of the States can make a choice of that kind. The States are given only what is left over after the Australian Government has planned its works programme.

If the proposed national works council is to be established, there must be much more giving away on the part of the Australian Government than is the case at present. I think the Prime Minister is of the opinion that we should set up a federal body which could glibly say to the States that this or that work should have priority. The States themselves are in a far better position to determine the proper priorities of works to be undertaken in the States than would be any supra body that it may be possible to develop in the years to come. Personally, I believe that we must plan our works programmes on a national basis. The problem is where the initiative should lie, and the degree to which the States should surrender their sovereignty to a body of that kind. That is a delicate problem. Under our federal system, it is a perennial problem to determine the proper relationship between the States and the Australian Government. It is true that the financial power has gravitated to the Australian Government, but it is doubtful whether this Government, during the last four or five years particularly, has shown a proper sense of responsibility nationally so far as the aggregate amount that should be provided for capital works and services is concerned.

Repeating the example that I instanced earlier, it is a matter of how many schools in proportion to post offices should be built; and, primarily, the number of schools that can be built is determined by the number of post offices that the Australian Government considers it should provide in a particular year. In this matter,, this Government has the; initiative, and the luxury of mating tha* choice. It. is. left to,- tha States themselves to determine how the. surplus money. available for works shall bes distributed among them;.. The States- are. members- of the Austraiian Loan Council. Although the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) says that the council makes; its: own decisions, basically the Australian Government decides bow much shall be made available to the States for capital works, and service®. This Parliament, can determine ho,w.- much the Australian Government will expend out of revenue and how much it will’ expend! out of loan funds’. Although, at the moment, we, are considering only works, and services, it, is difficult to segregate: these undertakings from other governmental activities for which the States- seek finance through; the Australian Loan Council, because, the requisite money, whether it is raised by loan, or by taxation,, is a part, of the broad aggregate picture. o,f the national income. The Australian Government should adopt a more sympathetic approach to this important question than it adopts at present. It ill-behoves honorable members: opposite to chide the States in respect- of their requirement for capital works and services on the score- that they are impecunious.

Mr Osborne:

– New South Wales could not expend all the money that, was allocated to it last year.

Mr CREAN:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA · ALP

– I suggest that the States are not in a position to expend, in one particular year, the funds that are made available to them principally because of the paralysis that has come upon our economy as a result of the action that this Government took three years ago which caused works programmes as a whole to come to a standstill. To-day, we face the problem that, basically, most of the constitutional responsibility for the important functions of government still reside with the States but, unfortunately, the real power has gravitated to this centre. Because of that paralysis and because of the failure of this Government to grasp this situation, the States are not in a position to plan in advance necessary developmental works.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order! I ask the- honorable member to confine, his remarks to the question before the Chair.

Mr CREAN:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA · ALP

– I make the- point, finally, that the States- have- not been able to undertake essential capital works- because this Government is taking- too much of the cake- and is leaving- too- little to them. This- Government is undertaking too great a volume of public works relative to the national need. Whilst the Snowy Mountains- scheme is a splendid project, and should fee encouraged, the fact remains that essentially it does not differ from some of the schemes- which the States are undertaking; hat the method! of financing- the Snowy- Mountains scheme is- very different from that by which the States ave obliged to finance similar schemes-. The fact that £14,000,000 is- to be provided this year out of revenue in respect ©£ the Snowy Mountains scheme means that there will be so much less in the- national aggregate for other essential works-. We are reaching the. stage at which the States cannot get ahead because the Australian Government Mindly ignores the- fact I have just stated. I have pointed to the important constitutional problem that now confronts us. I trust that the Australian Government, in particular, will be more sympathetic towards the States and, perhaps, a little more cautious in utilizing its own resources. I shall leave the matter there because, in view, of your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I may transgress if I proceed to develop that theme. I have simply indicated the position as it exists to-day. I trust that the Government will be a little more conciliatory in its treatment of the States and that honorable members opposite will not be too critical of the States on the one hand and too laudatory of this Government on the other hand.

Mr DRUMMOND:
New England

– I intend to address myself to the proposed vote for capital works and services for the Postal Department. The total amount proposed to be provided under that heading is £27,215,000;, excluding a sum of £332,000 which is to be provided for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and broadcasting services generally. It is impossible to view this matter in its correct perspective unless one bears in mind the total financial provision that is being made for the Postal Department for the current financial year. As honorable members will recall, that total provision is of the order of £102,000,000, which is a very large sum, indeed. Thus, not only is the sum of £27,215,000, plus the sum of £332,000 for the Australian Broadcasting Commission being provided under the heading of capital works and services, but also the sum which is being provided from ordinary revenue. A further analysis reveals that the sum of £71,500,000 is being provided from revenue for the Postal Department and that, of that amount, the sum of £39,700,000 is being provided for telephone services. I said that it was necessary that we should refer to those figures in order that we might view in proper perspective the financial provision that is being made in respect of capital works and services for the Postal Department.

Reference to Division 47, which contains an itemized list of the works, shows that £23,015,000 of the total to which I have referred is to be devoted to work on telephone exchanges and trunk line services. As the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) has rightly pointed out, there is a great deal of public criticism, and there are many complaints, that people who want telephones are unable to obtain them. Anybody who studies the figures in these Estimates will understand the great work that the Postmaster-General’s Department is doing to overcome the difficulties that it faces. The expenditure of £40 000,000 on telephone services is in itself a large item. When the total of £23,850,000 to be expended on capital works and services by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is added to that figure it becomes an even more impressive sum. In my opinion, complaints about the lag in the provision of telephones cannot be justly directed at the PostmasterGeneral, ‘ who is doing a magnificent job, and gives detailed attention to every complaint referred to him by honorable members, particularly in relation to telephones.

The large figures in these Works Estimates pose a problem in respect of any undertaking that requires more than pure manual skill, and that problem affects the whole community. The rate of work that can be carried out in every branch of our economy is affected by the same factors as those which affect the Postmaster-General’s Department perhaps to an even greater degree. Our economy is increasingly requiring men with more than ordinary technical skill. Honorable members who listened to the debate on Hansard this morning know that there is a tremendous shortage of linotype operators, compositors and other skilled operatives required by the printing trade. Newspapers, job printing concerns and government enterprises are scrambling for an adequate number of printing employees. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department faces the same kind of problem. Recently I took the opportunity to point out during the debate on the General Estimates that, in my opinion, one of the most urgent needs in this country is the establishment of schools, not only for the training of technicians, but also for the training of men to take charge of jobs in which leadership is essential. I have heard honorable members contend that if the Government were to let more contracts the rate of Government work would be speeded up. That is a matter which has received the attention of the Postmaster-General.

If I may be permitted to be parochial enough to refer to my own electorate, I know of one unhappy circumstance in which the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department called for tenders for work that had been long delayed, in connexion with the provision of telephones in a certain district. I was interested in this matter, as my predecessor had been. The contract was let but, shortly after the letting of it, the contractor disappeared, leaving his geat behind him. The last I heard of the position was that the officers of the department were vainly attempting to locate the contractor. They had no wish to cancel his contract. All they wanted him to do was to get on with the job, because they knew that if they cancelled the contract they might have great difficulty in finding another contractor willing to do the work. There is a real desire on the part of the Postmaster-General and his officers to carry out that particular job.

I fail to follow the reasoning of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) who suggested, by implication, if not directly, that if we raised money for works by means of loans and not from revenue the economy would benefit. I suggest, with all due respect to the honorable member, that that line of reasoning is haywire. It is not a question of providing more money or of getting the trained staff necessary to do the actual work that the Postmaster-General’s Department or any other department has to do, but it is also a matter of getting the trained staff to manufacture the essential equipment. I am satisfied that what we are suffering from is not a shortage of money or a shortage of materials, but a shortage of trained men. The great trade union movement should examine that aspect of the matter more carefully, for the sake of the economy generally and the future of young Australians who may be debarred by present apprenticeship rules from entering occupations that will be to their advantage after they have reached the age of 21 years and become eligible to earn the basic wage. At present many youngsters can earn higher wages in unskilled occupations than they would earn if they took up training such as is offered by the Postmaster-General’s Department. As a result, when they reach the age of 21 years they also reach the limit of their careers, unless they are extraordinarily able people. They are in dead-end occupations. I support entirely the Government’s financial policy, but the problem now is more than a problem of merely letting loose a lot of money on the community, at a time when there is an obvious tendency for costs to rise as a. result of the unsound competition for men and materials. It is a problem of trained man-power.

I shall refer briefly now to a particular aspect of the programme of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The total amount provided for works in relation to broadcasting services is £332,000. It has been suggested that the introduction of television would seriously affect our capacity to provide telephones in the required number. I believe that the kind of technicians who are used in connexion with electronic developments are not, generally speaking, the kind who are engaged in work connected with postal and telephonic installations, so that there would be little, if any, competition between the electronic industries and the Postmaster-General’s Department for trained men. Moreover, it is apparent that with a total vote of £108,000,000 for the Postmaster-General’s Department, and with £23,015,000 out of a total of £23,850,000 for capital works and services, being devoted to the provision of telephones, the cost of introducing television, which, it is estimated, will be about £500,000 a station, in two capital cities, spread over two or three years, would not constitute great competition for available money. Honorable members should take these considerations into account in relation to this particular matter. When the motor car ousted the horse-drawn vehicle people found it impossible to continue to contrive to use buggies and sulkies when their neighbours were using motor cars. To-day we have entered the flying age, and the electronic age, and it is no more possible to prevent the development of flying, television and other innovations, without stultifying community life, than it would have been possible to exclude motor cars and rely on horse-drawn vehicles. Recently I read an amusing book, which was based on the proposition that influences outside the earth had rendered the whole of our electrical development null and void, and that the use of electricity on earth was impossible because any current generated would be absorbed by forces manipulated from outside the earth. The book then dealt with the idea of going back to horse-drawn vehicles, which have a nostalgic attraction for some people even to-day. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia and other countries behind the iron curtain have television. There are 4,000 miles of communications in Western Europe which are tapped by the British Broadcasting Corporation television service in London. It is futile to suggest that we can keep abreast of modern developments without training young people, not only in commercial and government activities, but also in relation to the provision of amenities. I think it is beside the point for anybody to argue that we can.

The CHAIRMAN:

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

Mr COSTA:
Banks

.- This morning the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) referred to the promise made in 1949 by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in respect of a specific loan for capital works. The honorable member for’ Lawson (Mr. Failes) later referred to the same subject, and attempted to excuse the Prime Minister for his failure to honour that promise.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I have already ruled further discussion of that matter out of order. It has been mentioned and has been answered, and I shall not allow further discussion on it.

Mr COSTA:

– Very contradictory statements are being made about it, and I think it would be only fair that every point of view on the matter should be expressed.

The CHAIRMAN:

– I shall not allow discussion on it.

Mr COSTA:

– I consider that if it is right for one honorable member to speak about it, it is right for another honorable member to be allowed to answer the statements made. However, as I am not to be allowed to speak on that matter, I shall turn to a subject with which I dealt yesterday in general terms. I refer to the great lag in the supply of telephone services to all sections of the community. To-day I wish to refer particularly to that position as it affects my electorate. We have an opportunity every blue moon to have a “ grievance day “, and since it rarely occurs, I take this opportunity to say a few words about telephone services in my electorate. Yesterday I said that there were more than 3,500 outstanding applications for telephones in my electorate. I said that the proportion of outstanding applications there was greater than in any other electorate. I shall go into more detail now, and mention the exchanges that are affected. The indicator board at the General Post

Office in Sydney, on which outstanding applications are listed, shows that the number of outstanding applications for connexion to the exchange at Hurstville, which is a very important centre in my electorate, is 1,492. The number for the exchange at Lakemba, which is another important centre in my electorate, is 751. Revesby, another important part of my electorate, has a total of 400 outstanding applications. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) interjected to say two exchanges were put in there yesterday. I know that the age of miracles is not past, and it is possible that that occurred. There are 338 outstanding applications in Bankstown and 393 in Peakhurst. Most of the applicants are engaged in important industries. Not just a few, but hundreds of industries of all kinds have been established in that electorate in recent years, and the owners are unable to develop them fully because they cannot communicate efficiently without telephones. The south and west wards of Bankstown municipality are almost a factory area now, but they have been sadly neglected by the Postal Department.

The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) said the real cause of these shortages was the lack of trained men to do the ‘ necessary work. Well, the honorable gentleman supports a government which, in 1952, I suppose for the sake of satisfying the experts who prepare the annual estimates of revenue and expenditure, sacked 10,000 public servants, about one-half of whom were trained men employed in the engineering services of the Postal Department. That action was scandalous. I blame the Government for it, not the Postal Department. The policy of the department is to extend the services that it provides for the people, but this Government, because it developed some sort of phobia that impelled it to reduce expenditure, sacked 10,000 public servants, including about 4,500 technicians such as trained linemen and conduit workers, the kind of workers the PostmasterGeneral is now trying to recruit so that the department may overtake the lag in telephone installation. If is extremely foolish for any government in a young country like Australia, which is in need of development, to dismiss persons engaged on important work of that kind.

We are lagging sadly already, and any time that we lose now will never be regained. The sacking of hundreds of Postal Department technicians was shortsighted, and the Government cannot excuse the deliberate misuse of its powers.

The technical courses conducted by the Postal Department are very elaborate, and the training of the officers who were sacked had cost it a “great deal of money. Every section of the department has a training school, and the cost of training technical workers is very high because the courses, which occupy the men full-time while they are on full wages, last for periods up to twelve months. The 4,500 trained technicians who have been lost to the department are not engaged on similar work outside the Public Service, because very few private companies contract for work of that sort. That is why the Postal Department employs all the best communications engineers in the country. Infact, its engineering services probably constitute the most efficient engineering concern in the world, largely because of the facilities that it provides for the training of technicians.

I have previously mentioned the high telephone rental charges. The PostmasterGeneral has used the excuse that it would not be right to reduce the charges while there is such a heavy demand for telephones as exists at present. I consider, that he should allow for the needs of people who urgently require telephones, such as old people and invalids. There should be some humanitarianism in the administration of the department.

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order! Telephone charges do not come under the heading of capital works.

Mr COSTA:

– I maintain that the Postal Department should be allotted a much larger sum of money than is provided for in the Works Estimates in order to enable it to overtake the serious lag in its works programmes. Its building programmes are falling behind because of the shortage of money, and many post offices throughout Australia lack amenities because the department has been unable to obtain the necessary finance. We owe it to the department to draft a plan that will enable it to bring its services up to date. The PostmasterGeneral should examine these matters carefully and prepare a comprehensive plan for development of Postal Department services so that the public will know how much has to be done and how soon it can be completed.

Mr CRAMER:
Bennelong

.- I want to direct my remarks to the subject of public works in general. I do not believe that anybody in Australia to-day would disagree, after examining the Estimates before the committee, that many more works than those listed ought to be undertaken. Australia is a growing young country and, as honorable members heard in a recent debate, the rate of immigration is .far beyond anything attempted by any other country in the world. In order to keep pace with the expansion required by this immigration programme, and in order to enable Australia to progress properly, it is necessary for us to carry out as quickly as possible all the public works that are already sadly needed throughout the country. I should like to see, if it were possible, a great extension of the number of new telephone exchanges and other capital works required by the Postal Department. It has been my privilege to travel through Australia with the Public Works Committee, and I have seen everywhere evidence of the sad need for new post office buildings.

A similar urgent need exists for Commonwealth offices. We know that circumstances do not permit the erection of more buildings than the Government contemplates at present, because we could not physically accomplish a larger programme. Nevertheless, new Commonwealth offices are needed in every capital city in Australia. In Sydney, Commonwealth departments are occupying premises that are owned and badly needed by private enterprise simply because the Commonwealth has not enough accommodation of its own. The same situation exists in Melbourne. Honorable members recently approved of the construction of the first of a series of buildings for a Commonwealth centre in Melbourne. They also approved this morning of the construction of a large building at Brisbane, but still more such buildings are needed. Plans for a repatriation building at Perth have been approved by the Parliament, and it is awaiting construction. In these circumstances, it is obvious that we could usefully expend more money than the Government proposes to provide for public works if we had the physical capacity to carry out the new works. However, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has rightly said, the problem is not one of money.

Even if we increased the proposed appropriation for capital works by £200,000,000 or £300,000,000, we simply could not carry out the projects that we should like to undertake. Similar problems beset State governments and local governing bodies, and we know that commercial interests wish to expand in all parts of Australia but are hampered by their inability to have building works carried out. There is a keen demand for houses in all parts of Australia. Honorable members heard earlier to-day, from a former Minister for Housing, a suggestion - an extremely stupid one for a gentleman who has held that portfolio - that we should revert to the day-labour system for the construction of war service homes. I shall have more to say about that proposal later. However, the urgent demand throughout Australia for houses, as well as for other buildings, accentuates the seriousness of the situation. The chief problem in relation to public works is the shortage of trained labour and vital materials. I do not agree with the honorable member for New England that it is exclusively a problem of trained labour, because our economy is already showing the effects of a very serious shortage of certain important basic materials.

Mr DRUMMOND:

– Is that not due to a shortage of trained labour?

Mr CRAMER:

– I agree that the fundamental problem is that of the labour shortage. In view of that fact, no matter how much money we gave to the States for public works, or how much revenue we obtained from the people by extra taxation, we simply would not have the physical ability to carry out the works that we need. That fact does not seem to have been sufficiently impressed upon the minds of honorable members opposite who have discussed the subject of capital works. They appear to believe that the problem is simply one of providing sufficient money, but that is not so.

Those of us who are associated in any way with building know that it is almost impossible to-day to obtain qualified and experienced tradesmen in certain categories for that industry. That applies particularly to plasterers, plumbers, carpenters and bricklayers. The Labour party must take a great deal of the blame for this state of affairs. During World War II. and immediately afterwards, one of the major building industry, trade unions was controlled by a very well-known Communist, who sent forth the edict that only certain numbers of men were to be trained as tradesmen. This limitation on the number of men permitted to enter certain key industries, which was imposed with the approval of the Labour party, which is closely associated with the trade unions, is one of the prime causes of our present difficulties. As an aftermath of the administration of a control-minded Labour government, we are up against a terrible shortage of labour which the Labour party has not tried to relieve in any way. The limitation of entry to trades is still being practised by some trade unions. This practice has affected the production of basic materials as well as the supply of labour for actual building work. In other words, because of the shortage of labour we have a shortage of bricks, roofing tiles, steel and many other building materials. This is a very serious state of affairs, and it threatens the future development of Australia.

What should we do in such circumstances? We know, of course, that the Labour party will say, “ The Government should bring in controls to regulate these industries “. That is Labour’s traditional attitude. It considers that the cure for a shortage of labour and consequent competition for labour between employers is a bunch of controls. The truth is that we cannot solve our problems in that way. The Labour party’s policy is completely fallacious. In fact, our troubles to-day are entirely due to the system of controls that was put into effect by the former Labour Government. It would be tragic if controls were to be imposed again, and bring with them, as they inevitably would, black-marketing such as we knew in the past and the irresponsibility that is encouraged when men are working under such a system. Controls retard progress, and are not common sense.

A common-sense approach to public works should be made. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has time and again appealed for a system of priorities in relation to public works. The Commonwealth has its own works and the States have theirs. It is not of much use to try to complete them all at once. Ve all know that that is impracticable. Is it not common sense that the Commonwealth and the States should discuss the matter and decide which are the most urgent works so that the available materials and labour may be used to the best advantage? But party politics enters into the matter and Labour-governed States declare that they will not give up any - of their independence in the matter of public works. The rigid party political ideas of Labour are preventing Australia from making the progress that it should make. We all know that commercial interests must be allowed to develop. Governments, both Commonwealth and State, must not take the attitude that they are entitled to use all of the available materials and labour. Australia cannot prosper unless its economy is balanced, and for a sound economy it is necessary that commercial and industrial interests shall he allowed to work hand in hand with governments and local authorities and share the available resources.

All honorable members are aware that a great shortage of homes exists. I do not want to deal in detail with the housing shortage to-day, because I shall have an opportunity to do so in another debate that is to come. But I should like to say, incidentally, that home construction is essential to the general soundness of the economy and to orderly progress. Rising building costs are greatly disturbing the people. Frequently, the increase in construction costs is used for partypolitical purposes as an excuse for conditions of which the causes are plain. No one can doubt that the real cause of increased building costs was the early introduction of the 40-hour week, which save the first big impetus to the increase of costs. Homes are at present so costly that it is almost beyond the ability of the average person to buy them. The 40-hour week would be reasonable enough if a full 40 hours of work were done, but developments in industry have resulted in only approximately 30 hours of effective work, being done. The committee knows that some trade unions have introduced dargs

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

– In which industries ?

Mr CRAMER:

– In the building industry. As a result of the encouragement that they have received to take things easy, bricklayers at present lay no more than 350 bricks daily, whereas formerly they would have laid 800. There are also other causes of the present high costs of construction.

The Government, in an endeavour to overcome the present serious shortage of building labour, should undertake a scheme for the introduction of British building workers particularly. A basic feature of the scheme should be the provision of homes for building workers who are brought to Australia. I am aware that many people will maintain that we must first provide Australians with homes, but unless we are able to obtain more trained building workers, who will be needed in greatly increased numbers for. many years to come, we shall not lift ourselves out of the mess, into which we have fallen in relation to home construction and both public and private capital works. A building tradesman brought here from overseas should be secure in the knowledge that the first job on which he worked would be a house for himself, which he could buy on especially easy terms. If such a scheme were advertised in the countries from which Australia wishes to obtain immigrants, and especially in Great Britain, many thousands of trained building workers would come to Australia and help to get us out of our present dilemma. Trained construction workers are essential if we are to build homes and undertake the works that are necessary for Australia’s development. Unless large numbers of skilled workers are obtained, however we go about getting over our difficulties, the process will be slow, and it will be many years before we overtake the lag in construction and development works. I appeal to the Government to consider the introduction of a scheme such as I have proposed to obtain from Great Britain and Europe skilled building workers of the type that we want in Australia to help advance our development.

Mr LEMMON:
St. George

.- The only suggestion worthy of consideration made by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), in addressing the committee for fifteen minutes, was hi3 proposal for tackling the housing problem, which, incidentally, is not related to the Estimates under consideration. The honorable member said that I had made a stupid suggestion this morning in asking a question about war service homes, which is relevant to -these Estimates. Calling a suggestion stupid does not destroy its value, and the honorable member has not advanced any reasonable arguments in support of his contention that my suggestion was stupid. He said, also, that the 40-hour week was the basic cause of the tremendous increase in the cost of home construction. A report prepared by the War Service Homes Division in 1951 stated that labour and materials were in satisfactory supply and that the construction of war service homes had reached record levels. I remind the honorable member that the 40-hour week was introduced in 1948. The same report stated that the average cost of constructing a war service home in the Australian Capital Territory was £2,401. The present cost is £4,160.” The increase cannot be said to be the result of a failure of prices controls administered by the States. The Australian Capita! Territory is not subject to State prices controls, but is solely under the administration of this Government. I propose to make a comparison with costs in New South Wales, because that is the logical State with which to make comparison, owing to the geographical position of the Australian Capital Territory. The cost of a war service home in New South Wales has increased by £799 since 1951, whereas the increase in the Australian Capital Territory is £1,659 or more than double the increase in New South Wales. The enormous increase in the cost of war service homes in the Australian Capital Territory under the administration of this Government began to take effect - and this is where the “ stupidity “ of my suggestion comes in - from the time when day labour construction, which had been in competition with contract building, was stopped. If the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes), who is now seated at the table, were to give the committee the appropriate figures, we should learn that, in the first eighteen months of his administration of the department, construction was cheaper by day labour than on contract.

Mr Kent Hughes:

– That statement is not true.

Mr LEMMON:

– The figures compiled by the department demonstrate that it is true. Officers of the department reported also that the maintenance of homes built by day labour was less costly, because they were of better workmanship than were contract-built dwellings.

Mr Kent Hughes:

– That was stated because the officers wanted to develop a construction section within the department.

Mr LEMMON:

– I am surprised that the Minister should make such a charge, because it is tantamount to saying that the reports submitted by officers of the department were not based on fact. I am sure that the Minister does not intend to charge officers of the department with making false reports.

Mr Kent Hughes:

– All the facts were not given.

Mr LEMMON:

– It is a most serious thing to suggest that officers of an important department such as the Department of Works doctored reports for the purpose of endeavouring to keep the services of some employees. I am surprised that the Minister should make such a charge. The fact remains that it is advantageous to have competition between contract building and day labour construction. It enables the constructing authority to ensure that the contractor does his job properly, and at the same time the tradesman who is working on day labour knows that if he does not do as good a job as the contractor doe3 he will receive no further work. But if building is solely on contract, or by day labour, there is no competition. The competition between contract building and day labour building was maintained under. the administration of the Chifley Government. Day-labour construction proved highly successful then, and it would prove highly successful now if it. were re-introduced.

Mr Cramer:

– It has never proved successful.

Mr Fitzgerald:

– That is the echo of an estate agent.

Mr LEMMON:

– It does sound like the echo of an estate agent, but I did not intend to mention that fact. There is ample evidence, in the reports concerning the construction of war service homes, that day labour should be re-introduced. An increase in costs that is twice as great as the increase in New South Wales, is good reason for re-introducing day labour, so that home- construction for exservicemen may be undertaken as cheaply as possible.

Mr Brand:

– Does the honorable member set one method of building against the other?

Mr LEMMON:

– I do. It is wise to have competition between day labour and contract building, and thereby reduce construction costs. The cost of war service homes in the Australian Capital Territory is far too high under the existing system, which has dispensed with the use of day labour.

I want to refer now to a change in the policy of the War Service Homes Division in relation to -the taking over of private mortgages. Ex-servicemen who had existing mortgages with private financial institutions were formerly allowed to transfer them to the War Service Homes Division and obtain the benefits provided under the War Service Homes Act 1918-1951. I believe that that was an unjustifiable alteration, and that it took away many rights which exservicemen had and which they should still have. It has had a serious effect in limiting the benefits of the legislation which was designed to help ex-servicemen. In 1951-52 the financial benefit given to ex-servicemen by allowing them to take over existing mortgages and finance homes bought by them that had already been built, was enjoyed by no fewer than 11,143 individuals. During the financial year 1953-54 only 6,209 ex-servicemen were able to obtain that particular financial benefit. Of course, honorable members should remember that in the financial year just ended the volume of homebuilding has continued to expand in this country, and that the War Services Homes Division has been doing excellent work. Nevertheless, the number of exservicemen who have benefited under the financial provisions that I have mentioned has been reduced from 11,143 to 6,209. That is a reduction of almost 50 per cent.

Therefore, honorable members will well understand that the alteration of policy has caused many ex-servicemen to be deprived of the benefits of the legislation. Any ex-serviceman so deprived of this benefit suffers heavy financial loss. If he cannot get finance from the War Service Homes Division he has to go to other lending institutions such as the building societies, the Commonwealth Bank or insurance companies. If he borrows money from any of those organizations he has to pay about 5 per cent, interest. For a 30-year loan of £1,500, and £1,500 is not much to borrow on a house, he has to pay £632 more than he would have had to pay if he had borrowed through the War Service Homes Division. Therefore, a large number of men, about 5,000, will ultimately be deprived, because of the alteration of policy, of about £632 each. I consider that is morally wrong, seeing that all Australian governments including this one, gave definite promises to ex-servicemen that they would be assisted in all possible ways. Honorable members well know that not a very satisfactory type of house can be bought if £1,500 represents about 60 per cent, of its value, but even so the additional interest that will be paid by ex-servicemen borrowing that sum will amount to many hundreds of pounds over the years of the life of the mortgage. I say that this Government stands condemned because of the policy which has given rise to that situation.

Mr LESLIE:
Moore

.- I suggest that the comparison drawn by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) of the cost of building in the

Australian Capital Territory and the cost of building in New South Wales was most unfortunate. Surely the honorable member knows that the production of all basic building materials in the Australian Capital Territory is under socialistic control, whereas in New South Wales all basic building materials are produced by private enterprise. Therefore, if costs in this Territory are so greatly disproportionate to costs in New South Wales, that is a clear condemnation of socialist control of industry. However, I do not disagree with the honorable member that the best system to work under is a system of free competition; but surely he and his colleagues realize how they condemn the average working man by constantly praising the day-labour system as against the contract system of working. Do they not know that a contractor employs day labour? Is it suggested that the day labourer working for a contractor needs to have the whip of government control held over him before he will do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay? Basically all costs represent the cost of labour, and if the contract system is to be condemned because it is too costly, which I do not admit, then the men giving their labour to the contractors are not giving enough for the wages that they are paid. That is obviously suggested by the honorable member for St. George and by honorable members of the Labour party when they condemn the contract system.

As an ordinary individual, or as a member of the Parliament, I should be afraid to cast the slur on the average working man of this country that is continually being cast on him by the Labour party. The Labour party suggests that if a man works for a private individual he does far less than he would do for the Government. -As I am reminded by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand), it is quite possible that honorable members of the Opposition use the contract system in order to get their own homes built.

The remarks of the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) also attracted my attention. He said that Australia’s building programme was lagging badly. I wonder from where he obtained his information, because honorable members of this chamber have never at any time been supplied with details of the country’s building programme. In that regard let us consider the Estimates now before ns. What information about capital works is supplied to honorable members in those Estimates? We are asked to provide £104,633,000 for capital works and services, and that amount is shown in the Estimates as split up into lumpsum provisions for buildings, works, furniture, fittings and a few other items. No provision is made about where the buildings are to be erected, what they are to be for, what they are to cost and so on. I know that that information is available if we care to ask for it from the Ministers in the form of questions, but it is not possible for all honorable members to ask questions about everything in the Estimates.

On page 226 of the Estimates £4,400,000 is provided for buildings, works, fittings and furniture for the Postal Department. Where are those buildings to be erected? I suggest that this Parlament is the place where representations should be made about the spending of money, and where specific projects should be criticized. But we are not told anything about the details of proposed expenditure. It is easy to say that the Government is not spending enough, or that it . is spending too much, because no private member has to decide whether the total amount is too much or not enough, but if the Government had to submit specific propositions, then the Minister in charge of them would have the specific responsibility of sponsoring the particular expenditure that he advocated. I desire to know whether provision is made in the spending of that £4,400,000 for a building to replace the worst post office in the Commonwealth. That is the post office at Morawa in my electorate, where last year the persons employed in that old building had to work in a temperature of about 112 degrees. I can justify expenditure on a new building there, and I venture to say that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), whose electorate is about the size of a postage stamp, would find it difficult to justify the erection of a building in his electorate on the grounds that the employees in the old building were obliged to work under conditions like those that I have just mentioned.

Another item, -which may be seen in the Works Estimates for the Department of Immigration, is, “ Hostels for migrant workers, £260,000” Those who care to look at the report of the Public Accounts Committee on immigrant hostels presented during the last Parliament, will find some criticism of these buildings. We discovered that a lot of existing hostels were not being used. I do not suggest that none of the proposed new hostels is not required, but we need to be told why some hostels are lying idle or are only partly used, while £260,000 is required to build new ones.

I now refer honorable members to the item under the Department of National Development, “ Bureau of Mineral Resources - Plant and Equipment, £280,000.” What is that for? Is it for another deep well sinking plant, like the one that the Commonwealth previously bought and which has now been put to good use, or what is it for? I refer also to page 221 of the Estimates, under the Department of Repatriation, “Buildings, works, fittings and furniture, £386,000.” I suggest that the necessity for a repatriation building in Western Australia is greater than. the need for such a building anywhere else. At present, repatriation officials are housed under most undesirable conditions in Western Australia, and it is a wonder that the Department of Health has not condemned the building in which they work. What is the £386,000 for? On page 220 of the Estimates honorable members will see that £6,150,000 is to be spent by the Department of Civil Aviation. What is it to be spent on? Where are aerodromes to be built, and what additional facilities are to be provided? I know that we can ask questions about these matters, and that the Ministers, after consulting with their officials, will answer those questions. But if we took that course we should spend twelve months on the Estimates alone.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON:
HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · ALP

– Why does not the honorable member write a letter about it?

Mr LESLIE:
MOORE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · CP

– I suggest that the honorable member for Hindmarsh should take an interest in his job, and justify his election to this Parliament. The schedule of works is available here at the present time, and officers of the Department of Works are now available here and prepared to give information to honorable members through their Ministers. I suggestthat the schedule of works should be available to honorable members. We should not have to ask for it, and we should not be obliged blindly to vote £104,633,000 for capital works and services when we frequently have no knowledge of the purposes for which we are voting the money. T remind honorable members that we are not told the estimated expenditure on ‘ some works in the current financial year, and their estimated total cost- We are entitled toreceive that information.

I do not blame the present Government for this position. The fault is attributable to successive governments almost since the establishment of this Parliament, and is due partly to the deplorable attitude of men like the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who cannot take his duties in this chamber responsibly, as a member of the Parliament should. We have the responsibility of approving or rejecting the plans of the Government for major works. We are elected by the people to act as the custodians of their rights and property, and their property includes the money that they pay in taxes to finance public works. I urge honorable members to support my representations on this matter to Mr. Speaker, or to the departments concerned, so that we shall be supplied automatically with the information that we require about works programmes. When we have that information, we shall be able to discuss the Estimates intelligently.

Honorable members should also take advantage of the discussion of these Estimates to submit for consideration works that they have in mind. Their suggestions would then be open for examination, and, possibly, criticism by other honorable members. We should riot have to make holeinthecorner representations to a Minister behind doors. The decisions about works should be made in this chamber. Honorable members cannot claim, with any assurance, that the building programme is lagging, because we have not been informed of the building programme, or told whether or not it is lagging. The allocation for the building programme this year is £104,633,000. The Government may expend the whole of that amount in this financial year, and if it does so, no honorable member will bc able to say that the building programme is lagging. The Government will have spent all the money provided by the Parliament for capital works and services but whether its programme will have been fulfilled will be quite another matter. I venture to suggest that the cost of the programme of works which the Government has in mind is probably three or four times the amount of the Estimates under consideration, and that the committee, if it sanctions these Estimates, will probably commit the Parliament to considerably more millions of pounds. “We all know that once a government enters into a contract as the result of an initial appropriation by the Parliament, the contract has to be fulfilled. The contract is binding on the Parliament.

I require a lot of information about these Estimates, but I know that I cannot possibly obtain it, unless I devote a tremendous amount of time to the task. The details should be made available to us in a schedule of works. New works, the estimated cost of which is £10,000, £20,000 or £30,000, should be shown on the schedule. As a matter of fact, the schedule should show the following: - The cost already incurred, the estimated cost for the current financial year, and the estimated total cost of the project. Information of that kind should be submitted about any new work before a blade of grass is cut, or a sod is turned, because this Parliament has the responsibility of saying whether a work should be undertaken. Until the Parliament wakes up to the fact that it has not been given an opPortunity to fulfil those duties-

The CHAIRMAN:

– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.

Mr DALY:
Grayndler

.- I desire to make special reference to the proposed vote for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In doing so, I shall direct attention to the. provision of telephone exchange services and other facilities of that kind. I notice that £17,725,000 has been allocated this year for telephone exchange services. That may appear to be a considerable sum of money to cover the extensive improvements which are necessary in this section of telephone services, but I find, on checking the Estimates for 1951-52, that £17,850,000 was provided for telephone exchange services in that financial year. The value of money has fallen by 61 per cent, in the meantime. I also find that £4,900,000 was allocated for trunk line services in 1951-52, and that £5,290,000 is provided for that item in the Estimates for the current financial year. The provision for telegraph and miscellaneous services in 1951-52 was £1,050,000, and in the Estimates now under consideration, the sum of £835,000 has been set aside.

The point I wish to make is that the allocations in those two financial years are practically identical, although the value of money has declined considerably in the meantime. The fact cannot be denied that none of the works undertaken by the Postmaster-General’s Department is more necessary than works under the three headings I have mentioned. A few days ago, I asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) some questions about telephone exchange services, and he replied that, as at that date, 64,998 applications for telephones were outstanding throughout the Commonwealth. It is true that the number has been reduced from the figure in 1949 or 1950, but one fact is significant, as 1 shall proceed to show. On the 31st December, 1953, approximately 56,000 applications were outstanding, so that within the short space of nine months the number of outstanding applications for telephones has risen by more than 8,000. Does not that fact indicate that a greater allocation of money should be made in these Estimates for the provision of telephone facilities in the metropolitan area of Sydney? I speak of that part because of my own intimate knowledge -of the situation there. The demand for public and private telephones alike is not being satisfied. People have been waiting for telephones for years, and have no real hope that they will be provided in the near future.

When I make, these statements, I do not criticize the employees or administrators of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The provision of money for telephone services is government policy, and a reasonable allocation should be made by the Government in these Estimates in order that departmental officers may provide telephone facilities for every applicant without undue delay. I have in my possession letters from the Postmaster-General in relation to telephone facilities generally, and in my own electorate. I suppose that every honorable member is inclined to consider that his own problem is the most important, but the fact remains that I know of no worse area for telephone services in the metropolitan area of Sydney than the electorate of Grayndler. I have here a letter from the Postmaster-General’s Department, dated the 8th September last, which deals with the Newtown, Mascot, Undercliffe and Petersham areas. The letter states that relief cannot be given in respect of telephone facilities for twelve months or, in some cases, two years. The Government admits that the lag in the provision of telephones is not being overtaken, yet it refuses to provide additional money to relieve the existing congestion. Some applicants for telephones have to wait two or three years before they are given a service.

I also asked the Postmaster-General to inform me of the shortest time and the longest time respectively that applications from persons in my electorate had been on the departmental list. I was told that the average time was from two to two and a half years, and that the maximum time was seven years. Only a few days ago, I succeeded, after years of genuine concentration, in obtaining a telephone for one of my constituents, who had waited nine years for the service.

Mr Falkinder:

– Grayndler needs a new member of Parliament.

Mr DALY:

– The simple solution to this problem is a change of Government, because the only effective way in which money will be provided for the improvement of telephone services and the like is by the election to office of the Labour party. I find a great contradiction in the items in these Estimates. The report of the Postmaster-General’s Department, in a survey of development for the fouryear period ended the 31st December, 1953, contains an amazing statement. I shall relate it, Mr. Chairman, to the subject of telephone facilities, as I proceed. The report states -

Despite tremendous demand for facilities, staff had been reduced by 4,000 in the year 1951.

What justification was there for a reduction of staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department, including the skilled personnel required to provide telephone services, when people were urgently in need of telephones ? Why does the PostmasterGeneral take pride in saying that he reduced the 3taff of his department by 4,000 in 1951, when people in my electorate have waited for as long as seven years for telephone services? -Is it not time that the Government examined the position, and provided a greater sum of money on these Estimates for telephone services and the like? Why should this generation of people in Australia, even though we have an incompetent government, be obliged to wait almost indefinitely for telephone facilities which, in these days, should be readily available to every householder?- The whole matter should be reviewed, and the outstanding applications should be speedily satisfied.

I believe that it has now become the accepted principle, not only in the Postal Department, but also in other departments and avenues of life, that people must wait for facilities of various kinds. Why is not the shortage of telephone services met, where necessary by the erection of a sufficient number of exchanges? Why does not the Government make sufficient money available for the provision of the necessary equipment so that people will not have to wait indefinitely for this important facility? I hope that the Government will review the matter.

As I have shown, the proposed vote for telephone services this year is approximately the same as the provision made in 1951-52, yet the value of money to-day is about 60 per cent, or even 70 per cent, less than the value of money in 1951-52. The result is that we cannot possibly get the facilities, unless a greater allocation is made for the work. The report of the Postmaster-General’s Department states that wages increased by approximately 150 per cent, in four years, yet rates have risen “by less than 75 per cent, over all. The point I make is that the PostmasterGeneral himself agrees that wages have risen by 150 per cent, in the last four years. Does not that fact alone justify a greater provision for telephone services ? I refer particularly to private telephone facilities, although, at the same time, there is a great need in the community for additional public telephones. It is almost as difficult to get an additional public telephone provided in the area that I represent as it is to win first prize in a lottery. The department can give no indication of the date on which it may be able to supply glass cabinets for public telephone booths. Persons who may not be able to afford the cost of installing a private telephone are denied the use of public telephones which are not being provided because, we are told, equipment is not available. A wellknown firm in my electorate which used to manufacture various articles required in the installation of telephones was obliged to sack several hundred employees because the Government withdrew its contract. That company went out of existence because it could not get orders from tie department for products that it was established to manufacture. The Government should have been prepared to use the resources of that company for providing facilities which, to-day, are denied to many residents in metropolitan areas. No doubt similar difficulties exist in country electorates.

I pay a tribute to the competent and efficient manner in which the departmental staffs are carrying on this great socialist undertaking. Those employees are deserving of commendation. However, this Government has not at any time since it assumed office evolved a practical overall programme to provide essential services to the community. Those who have the responsibility of administering the Postal Department are hamstrung because of lack of funds and lack of planning on a ministerial level. The fact, that these facilities are not available is proof of that statement. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who, at present, is absent from the chamber, was very critical, when he was in Opposition, of the administration of his predecessor. Much as I regret to say so, his performances do not nearly measure up to those of his predecessor, when allowance is made for the difficulties that confronted the Chifley Government during the post-war period. I regret that the Government does not propose to make a greater allocation for the provision of telephone services but is prepared to allow the position to remain as it was three years ago. To-day, over 64,000 people are being denied telephone services, which they urgently need, because of the inability of the Government to make funds available for this purpose. I have examined these Estimates, and I believe that the provision being made in respect of many items could be considerably reduced so that increased funds might be made available for the extension of telephone services. I regret that the Government has not curtailed expenditure in other directions in order to meet that need. I sincerely trust that it will make a genuine effort, during the next few years, to meet the demand for private telephones and telephone services for business people, and also to make available an increased number of public telephones.

I hope that the Government will take to heart the constructive comments that I have made. I have not dealt with this matter in any party political spirit, because these facilities are urgently required by all sections of the community and persons of all shades of party political opinion have sought my aid in this respect. The fact is that the departmental staffs could provide these additional services if the Government, first, made the requisite finance available; secondly, if it abandoned its policy of sacking skilled personnel; and, thirdly, if it laid down a practical programme and genuinely endeavoured to carry it out. I trust that the attention of the PostmasterGeneral will be directed to the remarks I have made, and that in the next budget, if not before, the Government will provide more money to extend existing telephone facilities and overtake the present lag.

The CHAIRMAN:

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

Mr SWARTZ:
Darling Downs

– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has complained about the period for which applicants are obliged to wait for telephone installations. I inform him that in my electorate I have received the greatest co-operation from officers for the Postal Department whenever I have made representations on behalf of such applicants. Although, obviously, some delay, occurs, due to shortage of materials, it has not been of anything like the duration which the honorable member has alleged. I suggest that he should keep in close touch with departmental officers in his electorate. If he did so, he might overcome many of the difficulties about which he has complained. There has been a serious backlog of outstanding applications since the end of World War II., but the department is catching up on the time lag. The waiting period for telephone installations has been considerably reduced. As supplies of cable and instruments become more plentiful, the position is becoming reasonably satisfactory compared with that which exists in respect of telephone services in other countries. On such matters, all honorable members invariably complain, and, probably, always will ; but the honorable member for Grayndler should not complain unless he first attempts to have his complaints rectified by raising them directly with departmental officers in his electorate.

I desire to deal with proposed votes for items that come within the scope of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I refer first to the item, “ Jute and jute products - Imports”, in respect of which a sum of £2,661,000 is being provided. As was the case last year, it is estimated that an amount equal to the proposed vote will be recoverable from sales, and that this item will be selfadjusting. I shall outline briefly the position in respect of jute control. That control was introduced during World War II. This Government, so soon as it was able to do so after it assumed office, examined the position because it believed that the control should be lifted in order to enable the industries concerned to operate on a normal basis as they did before the outbreak of World War II. With that object in mind as soon as the necessary adjustment in respect of stocks and finance could be made, the Government, last year and early this year, called several conferences with representatives of interested business organizations in the community and the industries concerned and discussed with them the possibility of lifting control over jute and jute products at the earliest possible date. As a result of the earlier conferences, the Government decided that it would lift the control, and, at the same time, it gave some indication of the date when it would be likely to be able to do so. However, due to the matter having been raised again by the grain-growing industries, it was decided, following the last meeting three months ago, that the control of jute and jute products other than cornsacks would be lifted at a date to be fixed, and that control of cornsacks would be retained, through the agency of the Australian Wheat Board, in order to ensure the maintenance of supplies. It has been decided with the full concurrence of the industries and business interests concerned that control over the supplies of wool packs will terminate as from the 1st January, 1955. and that control over chaff bags and raw jute will be lifted at a date that has yet to be determined. The position in respect of cornsacks will be reviewed in the course of discussions between the Government and representatives of. the industries concerned in order to ensure that during the changeover period no undue hardship will be placed upon those primary industries in respect of price levels and the maintenance of supplies. The Government is taking fully into consideration the desires of those industries and business interests in that respect.

The third item to which I refer is, “ Flax Production Committee - Capital expenditure “. for which purpose a sum of £42.000 is being provided. This sum represents working capital of an amount of £15,000, and other capital item? amounting to £27,000, to maintain the operations of the committee. No special significance attaches to this proposed expenditure, and, so far. no query has been raised in respect of expenditure on capital items including material and plant provided at Mount Gambier and at other centres.

The next item is, “ Special food investigations - Machinery and plant”, for which the sum of £31,000 is being allocated. Honorable members may be interested to hear about some of the investigations which have been carried out for special defence considerations in the dehydration of food in Australia. An inter-departmental committee has been established for this purpose for some years, and it has arranged a programme covering certain projects in the various States. A plant has been established at Scottsdale, in Tasmania, for the purpose of investigating the dehydration of vegetables and the production of food powders. Although that work may not appear to be very significant, it is important from a defence point of view. Additional plant is to be installed at Scottsdale, and the experiments that have been conducted there up to date have been reasonably satisfactory and give promise that the venture will be successful. A plant has been set up at Adelaide for experiments in the dehydration of eggs, antioxidants and fats, and those experiments also, have been satisfactory. Experiments are being carried out at Ballarat in the processing of dehydrated meats. This work is of substantial defence value. If, at any time, Australia should be faced with an emergency, this activity would be a valuable adjunct also from a commercial and civilian point of view. Similar plant has been established at Homebush, in New South “Wales, for the processing of dehydrated meats. Provision is made under these Estimates to cover the maintenance of that particular plant. Although these experiments are fairly extensive, very little is known about them in the community. They may not appear to be significant in comparison with other activities, but they are of considerable importance in relation to defence preparations, because they vould enable us to maintain food supplies in the event of an emergency.

A sum of £300,000 is being provided for the item, “Nitrogenous fertilizer - Purchase of stocks “. -The explanation of this proposed expenditure is relatively simple. During the last season there was a drain on the ammonium sulphate stocks that were held in the government pool, and it is necessary to build those stocks up again before the 1955 season. This allocation has been made for the purchase of 9,000 tons of ammonium sulphate for that purpose. That chemical is most essential, especially for small farms in irrigation areas. The last item in the division refers to the allocation of £30,000 for buildings, works, equipment and furniture for overseas establishments. This allocation has been made to enable the equipping, and, in some cases, the re-equipping of the offices and posts occupied by our trade commissioners and their staffs overseas. In a previous debate recently I referred to the increasing importance of our trade commissioner service. I said that although much public recognition is given to the work of our diplomatic service, we hear very little about the trade commissioner service. I think that in future we shall hear a lot more about it, because the people have come to appreciate the real importance to our economy generally of the work of that very valuable service.

While I am dealing with the subject of overseas trade I should like to refer also to a trade mission that was organized by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and sent to South Africa a few months ago. The sending of this trade mission to a country in ‘which Australia has valuable markets, and where there is a big potential market for Australia, was an experiment. As an experiment it has proved to be very successful, and I should like to quote an extract from the report of the mission, which was released recently. Under the heading “ General Conclusions “ the report states-

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr McLeay:
Minister for Shipping and Transport · BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– Order! Is the honorable gentleman able to connect the quotation with the subject-matter before the Chair?

Mr SWARTZ:

– It is related to the allocation of money in this division of the Estimates for equipment for the trade commissioner service. The work undertaken in relation to the organization to the mission to which I have referred was carried on by the trade commissioners. I propose to refer, in a moment, to another trade mission that will he undertaken soon. You will see, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that there is a definite relationship between the trade commissioner service and the proposed votes that we are now discussing.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I do not think that the honorable member has linked it up yet with the subjectmatter before the Chair.

Mr SWARTZ:

– With all due respect, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I consider that it has a definite relationship to the allocation of money for the equipping of posts for the trade commissioner service. As I have said, the mission to South Africa was organized by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and most of the work that was done overseas in connexion with that mission was carried out by the very people who are associated with the posts, the equipping of which is to be financed by this allocation. So I think, with respect, that that subject has a very direct relationship to the item before the Chair. I should like, therefore, to quote an extract from the report of the mission to show the importance of the trade commissioner service and the necessity ‘for an allocation of this nature. The quotation reads -

If the Trade Mission proved anything, it proved- the need for wider publicity overseas ari’d the benefits of the co-operative approach to overseas markets, lt proved that, in Africa we have many of the basic problems which we face in most overseas markets. The most important of these is the ignorance of the : buyer of Australia’s potential, combined with ‘the lack of knowledge of the seller as to ‘the conditions prevailing in the respective markets. Apart from extensive- publicity campaigns, a Trade Mission appears to be one of the most effective and cheapest methods nf tackling these problems. ft also highlighted the excellent reputation of many of our secondary products in the African markets, and showed the extent to which this acceptance could be built up in other -areas. It demonstrated ‘the absolute necessity of personal visits by manufacturers ;md their agents to selected markets overseas. In the present buyer’s market, it is unquestionably a fact tha*t mail order selling in expo’rt business has practically ceased.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:

– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired. t

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

– I rise mainly because the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) touched on a very important subject, and dropped what might beregarded as more than a hint that it is time that the trade union movement took, stock of itself regarding the provision of skilled personnel. He indicated that his opinion is that our problem is not lack of money, but is a lack of skilled personnel to perform the work that confronts us as a nation. 1 do not think that anybody who understands the great difficulties that are likely to confront this nation in the near future, could find much fault with his argument; but the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) attempted to take over, and enlarge on, the theme of the honorable member for New England in a way that makes those of us who are associated with the trade union movement feel disposed to measure swords with him. To attempt to lay at the door of the trade union

Movement the total responsibility for providing skilled artisans, is to display a lack of understanding about where the responsibility really lies, and I cannot allow the honorable member’s statements to remain unchallenged. There arc certain things that the ‘trade Union movements can do -in relation to trade personnel, but there are also many other things that it cannot do. One thing it cannot do alone is to meet the challenges thrown out by private enterprise in connexion with the lower levels of employment. I refer to the attraction to unskilled work o’f young men who could be otherwise given skilled training. That position poses a problem that must be solved. I can tell the honorable member for New England that there is no shortage of labour in any big city in Australia in suc’h establishments as drycleaning shops. The reason is that private enterprise of that kind, in which no training is necessary, is paying to boys wages that are sometimes in excess of the basic wage. Those boys should be learning trades, and if we are to do something on a national level-

Mr Kent Hughes:

– Many of them are driving lorries.

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

– That is so, but I would not be much concerned a bout that, because the driving of - lorries Ls important to our economy.

Mr Kent Hughes:

– It is the high level of wages that attracts young people from skilled trades.

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

– That may be so, but there is also the fact that young people who enter skilled trades nowadays find, after they have completed their apprenticeship and become journeymen, that they receive no financial recognition for their skill. Not long ago I saw an advertisement in the Sydney press which had been inserted by the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board. That instrumentality advertised for tradesmen and offered a wage of £15 a week. The same advertisement palled for labourers at a wage of £14 12s. 6d. a week. That advertisement alone illustrated why we on this side of the chamber have been endeavouring, during the last few weeks, to get the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to amplify, in this chamber, the statement on margins that was made last June by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who is at present overseas.

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

– It was the trade unions who ruined the margins ease. # Mr. E- JAMES HARRISON.- The Minuter for Labour and National Service made a statement about the submission of a principle by the Government to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when the next hearing on margins is held. 1 say to the honorable member for New England that this is not a matter that rests entirely on the shoulders of the trade union movement. It rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the trade union movement in conjunction with the government of the day and the employers concerned. I agree with the statements of the honorable member for New England about the shortage of skilled labour, but how can we. hope to get that third leg of the national requirements into the scheme of things if we -cannot get ‘clear thinking aand clear application on the part of :the Government? We ‘have not been aattempting, although the Prime Minister seems to ‘think that we have, to jam the Government in relation to what it proposes to do. We believe, as the honorable member for New England believes, that this is a great national issue.

I do not agree with the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) that the trade unions destroyed the margins case. For several days we have listened to statements about the shortages of equipment needed by the Postmaster-General’s Department. It all comes back to the fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department does not have the trained artisans that it needs. That was the theme of the honorable member for New England. It lacks the artisans to perform the work necessary for our second most important industry, communications. It is not merely fitters, bricklayers or carpenters who go to make up the framework of the staffs required to conduct and develop this great communications organization. We differ from me Government in that we believe it is necessary to get away from the belief that the only men who are required to build this nation to-day belong to two sections of the community - that is, that they are either highly skilled tradesmen such as fitters, carpenters, boilermakers and so on, or they are labourers. We now face the need to develop the training of a group that lies between those two groups on what might be termed the “machinists’ level”. As far back as 1922 the late Mr. Justice Powers could not at that stage determine what should be done about that intermediate group of workers, but it is certain that that group must not be neglected. We are now in the machine age, and we reap great advantages from the work of the men who are trained as machinists. Anybody who has watched the development of the machine age, in the Postmaster-General’s Department or in any other sphere of activity, must recognize that the time has arrived when there must be more straight talking between the employers, the government of the day -and the trade union movement.

I say to the honorable member ‘for New England that the plan that is necessary cannot be finally hammered out in the trade union movement alone. That is why we have asked the Prime Minister to make a full statement on margins and so give us an opportunity to discuss the whole matter, which we believe to be of tremendous importance to the future progress’ of Australia. “We do not believe the problem can be settled merely by four or five Arbitration Court judges saying “Yea” or “Nay” to a proposition that is presented to them. We believe it is so big that there must be some common understanding in relation to our objective. We have appealed to the Government, through the Prime Minister, to let us have a discussion in this place so that the Parliament, instead of the Government alone, can play its part in determining what that objective shall be. I say to the honorable member for Bennelong, who said that responsibility for the fact that building costs had risen so high rested on the trade union movement, that the Government is encouraging the establishment of a monopoly in the building industry. What happens in the industry to-day? First of all, a set of people obtains a contract for a building project. Then it farms out different parts of the work to other groups. For example, a carpenter will engage a number of semitrained workers and will obtain a contract to erect the frames for a number of houses. Another contractor will come along and tender for another part of the work. This system is destroying the very sort of organization that could produce efficiency, not only in the building industry, but also in every other industry that we want to expand.

Mr Hulme:

– The honorable member does not think that acrimonious debate in this place is likely to produce a considered view, does he ?

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

– That is the sort of interjection that I like to hear, and I welcome it. If we, as members of the National Parliament, have reached a stage at which we can only indulge in acrimonious debate, it is time that those who sent us here had a look at our records. That comment applies to all honorable members. Upon our capacity, as members of the National Parliament, to analyse these serious problems and hammer out policies designed to solve them may well depend the whole of the future development of Australia.

I do not run away from my responsibility.

The trade union movement has been challenged by the honorable member for New England, although I do not think that the honorable gentleman intended his statement to be a challenge. He said that it was time for the unions to do something about the labour shortage in the building industry. I hand the challenge back to him, and I say that it is time other people associated with the industry also played their part. I am proud to be associated with the leaders of the trade union movement. We are nationally minded, and we know full well that this labour problem cannot be settled merely by a group of judges adjudicating on a case presented to them in the court. We know that the judges are concerned, in the main, merely with a narrow view of the major problem. They do not have the opportunity to consider all of its implications. I do not condemn them for that, because they must do their job in their own sphere. The fact is that they lack the national associations that we should derive from our connexion with the trade union movement and the people whom we represent in this Parliament.

I return to the remarks of the honorable member for Bennelong. When he talks about State governments and industrial workers as he did to-day, and has often done before, he does great harm to the future progress of Australia. That is not the way to approach the problems that confront Australia to-day. I agree that we need more skilled tradesmen, but we also need more semi-skilled workers between the top and the bottom levels of their trades. In this machine age, the demand for semi-skilled workers will continue to grow. I submit that the Prime Minister, by continuing day- after day to deny to this Parliament the right to discuss the margins case and determine the view that should be presented on its behalf in the Arbitration Court, is withholding from the nation the opportunity that the honorable member for New England has said should be given to it.

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

– Would the honorable member agree that the lack of skilled tradesmen, in the main, is the outcome of the restriction of apprenticeships over the years?

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

– The answer to that question can be derived from two facts. The first of these is the lack of opportunity for skilled tradesmen. This situation was brought about when the 1950-51 budget checked the great impetus that had been given previously to the apprenticing of young men to skilled trades.

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

– That is not the answer, and the honorable member knows it.

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

– That is only part of the answer, as I have explained to the committee. Until we can educate young men to appreciate and accept their national responsibility, we cannot fairly blame them for grabbing the adult wage at the age of seventeen if it is offered to them. Therefore, there is an educational aspect to the problem as well. The Government says that it will not have any form of control. Then it must offer an attractive wage to apprentices or educate young men so that they will undertake apprenticeships. At present, nothing is being done to promote a national approach to this great problem of the shortage of skilled workers.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:

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

Mr DEAN:
Robertson

.- I did not intend to enter this discussion until I heard the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who was the next speaker on the Opposition side of the chamber after the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I hope that the honorable member for Blaxland will not think I am indulging in acrimonious debate, because I believe that he approaches these matters from a national point of view, but his remarks, to my mind, omitted certain important points, one of which was the background to the interjection of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) when he was speaking of wage margins. It is completely true that the executives of the trade union movement are responsible for the increase of the basic wage and, therefore, for the reduction of the margin that was enjoyed previously by the skilled worker.

Mr.Curtin. - Where did the honorable member learn that one?

Mr DEAN:

– I do not wish to indulge in argument in reply to the noise from Watson. It is a simple fact that, before the trade union executives took up the fight for a higher basic wage, there was a larger margin for skilled workers than there is to-day. The executives, whether rightly or wrongly, did not take up the case of the skilled worker when they applied for a wage increase. Instead, they pressed the case of the unskilled operative and the labourer, and their representations were successful.

Mr Curtin:

– In what book did the honorable member read that comment?

Mr DEAN:

– That is not booklearning. It is a fact that anybody with any intelligence can see.

The honorable member for Grayndler, when referring to Postal Department works, spoke of the department as “this complete socialist enterprise”. I am afraid that the honorable gentleman’s description was quite accurate. The Postal Department, under the former Labour Administration, was made a socialist enterprise and, during the years that this Government has been in office, it has not been able to do away with that complete central socialist control that Labour established.

Mr Bryson:

– Give us an illustration

Mr DEAN:

– I thank the honorable member. I was about to do so. One illustration is to be found in the fact that, prior to the advent of the Labour Government, district telephone officers had the responsibility of plotting the connexions and the development of lines within the territories to which they were assigned. I speak now only of New South Wales, but I imagine that in the other States also responsibility has been taken away from districts. At any rate, responsibility in New South Wales is now entirely located at Sydney and, as a result, the departmental officers there are completely bogged down. Honorable members encounter evidence of this state of affairs from time to time. Prom personal contact with officers of the department in local districts, one learns that it is possible for lines to be laid in a certain area or for a new trunk line connexion to be established. Yet, when one makes application for such new services through the normal channels, the reply usually is that the work cannot be done. I have even received, in the same mail, a letter from the department to express regret at its inability to provide a particular service and a letter from the person concerned to thank me for my assistance in obtaining the service for him. This is not an isolated instance. I do not blame the particular officer concerned. Such things happen because of the system of administration that has been adopted by the department. I think it has become bogged down, as the honorable member for Grayndler said, in socialist enterprise, and the sooner we give greater freedom of enterprise to individual officers and allow them to assume direct responsibility within the districts where they work, the better it will be for the general public. These officers have been trained and fitted for their jobs, and they should be allowed to carry them out.

I return, finally, to the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland, on the subject of the help that various sections of the community can give in promoting the expansion of our capital works programme. I agree entirely with the honorable gentleman that the responsibility does not devolve upon one section of the community alone. He said, very truly, that responsibility rests on the trade union movement, the employers, the public services and the Parliaments of this nation. I concur in that and support his statement, but it so happens that Australia is’ once again approaching a condition of full employment. If honorable members do not believe my statement they can verify it by studying the appropriate figures. This circumstance places added responsibility, not only on the employer, but also on the employee. The worker must ensure that he does his job well, and the employer must administer his business wisely for the benefit of his employees so that he can render efficient service to the community. Once again I refer to the Postal Department for the sake of example. Gangers, or shift bosses, employed by the department find that they have the utmost difficulty in controlling some of the men under their direction when on the job. They find, for instance, that, if they speak to certain individuals who have failed to carry out the tasks that they have been directed to perform, those men leave the job immediately. The shift bosses, or whatever they may be called, point out that there is little that they can do about the situation, because any man they employ in place of a worker who has left may be just as unsatisfactory. Therefore, I say to the honorable member for Blaxland that there is a heavy responsibility upon the executives of the trade union movement and employers to try to instil a greater sense of responsibility in workers who perform tasks for the benefit of the community. I have brought these three points to the notice of the honorable gentleman because, although I agreed with many of his statements a few minutes ago, I believe that he omitted these points which, to my mind, are important.

Mr DUTHIE:
Wilmot

– I shall refer, first, to the Postal Department, secondly, to the Department of the Interior, and thirdly, if I have sufficient time, to the Department of Shipping and Transport. This debate gives honorable members a chance to discuss some of the difficulties that are encountered in the electorates they represent, in connexion with the services provided by that vast undertaking, the Postal Department. Honorable members receive more representations about the multitudinous activities of that department than about anything else. I want to refer particularly to line depots. At Swansea, on Tasmania’s east coast, and at Exeter, in the West Tamar district, new line depots are urgently needed. At Exeter, the linemen are forced to work under shocking conditions, which the secretary of their union has described as approximating the conditions of a gypsy camp. In rainy weather, the men have to take shelter under strips of bark. The depot is completely devoid of facilities for the line staff of the rapidly-expanding West Tamar area, in which the population has increased more rapidly than in any other part of my electorate. I have referred the conditions at the Exeter depot to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), and I trust that the department will decide to build at Exeter a modern line depot similar to those that have been built elsewhere in my constituency and in other parts of Tasmania. At the line depot at Swansea, almost no provision is made for housing the vehicles and equipment. The tragic feature of bad line depots is that much expensive equipment has to be left out in the open in all kinds of weather. The ravages of snow and rain cause a great deterioration in expensive equipment, which is bought with the taxpayers’ money.

In the long run, the department would save money by constructing up-to-date line depots with provision for the secure housing, out of the weather, of trucks and equipment. Up-to-date depots also would give the men a sense of well-being. They would feel that they were being looked after, that they were something more than mere cogs in huge machines, and that they were enjoying conditions worthy of human beings. The work of the linemen takes them out in all weathers and at all hours of the day and night in emergencies. “When the ordinary citizen is alseep in bed, the linemen are hard at work keeping open the lines of communication between the capital cities and other towns of Australia. Rough weather is experienced in Tasmania, particularly in the southern part of the State. Heavy snowstorms break wires in isolated areas and the linemen must restore communications. The work of the line staff is the most difficult in the department, and the linemen deserve adequate facilities. The new type of line depot being constructed is a credit to the department. In the last two years four of those new depots have been provided .in my electorate at Oatlands, Deloraine, Sheffield and St. Marys, which are widely scattered centres. From every point of view the new depots are fine establishments. Excellent garages for the trucks are provided, and storage rooms are available for all types of equipment. All nuts, screws, bolts, spades, shovels and ladders are stored according to a plan under the one roof in a suitably designed building. All necessary toilet facilities are provided for the staff, in addition to a room in which they may have their meals. A room is provided also for the district inspector’s use when he visits the depots. If modern depots of this type were constructed throughout Australia, there would never be any trouble with the line staffs. I have inspected the new depots in my electorate and have found that the men take great pride in them and look after them.

Problems in relation to private telephone installations are not so great in my electorate as they are in the constituencies represented by some of my colleagues on this side of the chamber.But to achieve this position I have had to make constant representations and give continual attention to the problem. It is necessary to have goodwill between the department and the local member. I do not believe in dictating to or bullying a departmental head. The men in charge of departments should be treated by members of Parliament as fellowworkers in a great enterprise. The relations between members and departmental heads should always be characterized by goodwill, frankness and mutual understanding. I have always found this to be the position. It will be eight years next Tuesday since I was elected to this chamber. My election was, of course, a great event in my life. Throughout my service in the Parliament, I have received the wholehearted co-operation of the heads of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Hobart and of the departmental staff throughout my electorate. Between us we have achieved a great deal, and many outstanding problems in relation to the installation of telephones have been overcome.

The main difficulty at the present time seems to be the shortage of cable. Telephone sets and other equipment are available in quantity, but cable is in short supply, and cable-jointers are notavailable in the required numbers. The result is that a great number of telephone installations have been delayed. Time and again, I have received from Mr. Bohan, the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Hobart, letters expressing regret that the department could not undertake specific projects until fresh supplies of cable arrived, and. pointing out that it was impossible to know when they would be available. Twenty or 30 years ago, perhaps three or four new homes would be constructed in new streets in towns, and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department would install cable for telephone services. The department never contemplated the likelihood that, by 1954, perhaps 60 homes, every one of them wanting a telephone, would have been built in the street. The demand for telephone services entails the laying of many miles of cable, not enough of which is available, and the facilities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, in common with the services of many other departments, are lagging far behind the requirements of rapidly expanding urban populations throughout Australia. This is particularly so in respect of the provision of homes.

Farmers in isolated areas are having a difficult time. I suggest that the Government give consideration to amending the provision of the law that prescribes the conditions under which telephone services are installed in isolated areas. It is sometimes necessary for an isolated farmer to erect a mile or a mile and a half of line at his own expense because the department, under the provisions of the law, may not erect lines beyond a specified distance from exchanges. The needs of isolated farmers are gradually being met, and the slight additional expense that would be involved in erecting lines a greater distance from exchanges at departmental expense would be amply repaid in attracting new business to the department. Farmers particularly need telephones. A farmer is just as much a businessman as is the person who sits behind a shiny, flat-topped desk in an office in the city, and the farmer is as much entitled to a telephone as is the businessman.

I condemn again, as my colleagues on this side of the chamber and I have done on many occasions, the Government’s shocking action in sacking 4,000 employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department in 1951. Eyer since that action was taken, I have received from the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Hobart letters expressing regret that installations could not be undertaken for. at least twelve months. Before the employees were dismissed, I had never received from the department a communication in those terms. That is conclusive proof that the delays were caused by the sacking of employees. The backlag in telephone installations is now so immense that it is almost frightening to contemplate, and probably 50 per cent, of the delay is the result of the dismissal in 1951 of 4,000 key employees, such as technicians, cable-jointers and linemen.

I turn now to the proposed expenditure for the current financial year on trunk-line services. I regret to see that it will be almost £1,000,000 less than was expended last year. I do not see how the Government can justify the reduction, because the increased population in cities and country towns has caused a great deal of congestion on trunk-line channels, and the position is becoming worse. The Postmaster-General’s Department has done a good job in increasing trunk-line facilities in Tasmania. Hundreds of miles of new trunk lines have been provided, but many areas are still urgently in need of more lines.

Mr Curtin:

– There is a delay of one hour on calls between Sydney and Canberra.

Mr DUTHIE:

– That is so. An expansion of trunk-line services is needed throughout Australia, and the reduction in the allocation of funds for expenditure on trunk lines means that the necessary expansion will not occur.

I should like to mention also the excellent programme of constructing new post offices that has been undertaken. I congratulate the department on the new postal buildings that it is erecting throughout Australia. In the last five years two new post offices have been opened at “Westbury and New Norfolk in my electorate. The buildings are outstanding for postal purposes and are a credit to the engineering staff of the department. The facilities and amenities provided in the new post offices are completely adequate for the staffs from the exchange girls right down to the telegraph hoys. I congratulate the department, also, on the number of automatic exchanges that it has installed in my constituency during the last five or six years. Approximately fifteen or twenty rural automatic exchanges have been opened, in addition to new automatic exchanges in urban areas such as East Devonport and Riverside. The new rural automatic exchanges are a boon to farmers, who now have the benefit of 24-hour services.

Largely as a result of Labour’s administration, the status and conditions of non-official postmistresses and postmasters have greatly improved in recent years. Throughout the Commonwealth, there are 9,000 non-official post offices. Before Labour came into office, the staffs of non-official post offices were forgotten people, and were completely neglected. But their conditions have now improved and they are proud of their status. They have an association of their own to look after their interests, and the non-official officers are giving wonderful service to the nation.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Adermann:

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

Mr JOHNSON:
Kalgoorlie

.- I want to avail -myself of this opportunity to raise my voice in protest against the inadequate allocation of funds to the Postmaster-General’s Department for the construction of telephone exchanges and the provision of telephone services. Foi many years, construction work has been a great problem. I appreciate the fact that in the post-war years shortages of materials and man-power prevented the department from providing the facilities required by residents in the back country. But that condition has now passed, and it should be possible to do more to provide services to which country residents are entitled. I note at page 226 of the Estimates that the amount allocated for buildings, works, fittings and furniture in the Postal Department was £4,200,000 last year, but that this year the estimate has been fixed at £4,400,000. That is a very miserly increase, of only £200,000, to overcome some of the disabilities of the people of the outback, particularly those in my electorate. If honorable members compare the value of money last financial year with its value at present, they will perceive that the additional £200,000 represents practically no increase at all because the value of money has decreased. Notwithstanding the great increase of our population, and the great demand for postal facilities such as telephones and telephone exchanges, the increase in respect of those items for the forthcoming financial year is a mere £200,000. It will be appreciated by honorable members on both sides of the chamber that people who are prepared to go out into the country in order to develop our outback areas, are entitled to facilities that are at least reasonable when compared with all the amenities that are available to the people in the cities and the metropolitan areas.

I now desire to mention the town of Geraldton in Western Australia. That is considered to be one of the most progressive towns in the State, outside the metropolitan area. During the Royal visit to Australia the people of Geraldton were anxious for Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to visit their town. They hoped for quite a while that the visit would eventually take place, and consequently they co-operated loyally with the Geraldton Municipal Council to give the town what is commonly called a face lift. Buildings in all the main streets were repainted, and the streets were decorated in order to make the town a pleasing spectacle to Her Majesty, and one that she would have appreciated. But it is noteworthy that the only building in that town that was not repainted or redecorated, indeed that was completely neglected, was the post office - a building owned by the Commonwealth. In 1947 the then PostmasterGeneral visited Geraldton, and met a deputation consisting of residents and representatives of the municipal council. The Postmaster-General’s officers made certain investigations, and the Minister told the people that following those investigations they would be provided with a new post office because both he and his officers considered that it was needed. Preparations to build the new post office were made, but, unfortunately, in 1949 the Labour Government relinquished office and this Government took over the administration of the country. Since this Government assumed office nothing has been done to fulfill the definite undertaking given by a responsible Minister of the Australian Government in 1949.

Unfortunately the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is absent from this chamber because of illness. In reply to a question that I asked him about this matter recently lie said that he was not responsible for undertakings given by a previous Minister. I believe that that is treating this matter very lightly, because I consider that when a government is elected it receives a mandate to govern for the whole of its term of office. A responsible Minister of such a government, after thorough investigation, informed the people of Geraldton that their claim for a new post office was justified; therefore it is the responsibility of this Government to provide the money for it. This Government has carried out the decisions of the previous Government on many occasions; for example it did not stop work on the Snowy Mountains scheme, which was begun by the Chifley Government. But the Postal Department is sadly neglecting the back country in my electorate. During the regime of the Chifley Government, a number of post offices were provided in the northwest of “Western Australia. Some of them have been completed by this Government, and indeed, only recently I represented the Postmaster-General at the opening of the post office at Wittenoom Gorge. That building was long overdue, as were post offices at Fitzroy Crossing, Hall’s Creek, Turkey Creek and other towns where buildings were recommended for erection by Ministers of the Chifley Government. In only two cases have such buildings been completed by this Government.

With regard to the eastern goldfields area, not only has the Government failed to provide proper facilities for the people, in that area, but it also has abolished facilities that existed there when the Government assumed office. For instance, the Government has closed the post office at Menzies, and also the post office at Laverton. If the population of Laverton continues to increase, because of the opening of two mines in that district, the post office that the present PostmasterGeneral has pulled down and sold will have to be replaced. Such actions by this Government do not encourage people to go out into the back country in order to do what the Government claimed that it would help people to do when it came to office - that is, decentralize industry and develop the country. T submit that this Government has not taken any action at all to develop the country or to decentralize industry. Mount Ida is a mining town of about 400 people. It is one of the most isolated places in the eastern gulf area. It is 60 or 70 miles from the main road, and has no telephone communication with the outside world. Time after time I have informed the Postmaster-General that if a serious accident should occur in that town, theonly means of obtaining medical assistance would be the pedal wireless. I suggest that it would not cost very much money to provide a telephone line from Menzies, so that the Mount Ida people could get in touch with civilization. Notwithstanding all my representations I have received little or no encouragement from this Government.

Mr Bowden:

– Or from the previous Government.

Mr JOHNSON:

– That line to Menzies was not in existence when the Chifley Government was in office. If the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) were taken away from Gippsland he would never find his way back. I want to pay a very sincere tribute to the officials of the Postal Department. No matter where one goes in the bush, or what hour of the day or night one needs advice or attention from postal officials in isolated towns, one will find them ready to act as his guide, philosopher and friend. It does not matter whether the matter concerns their business. If a car is broken down or a service is required at any ‘ time, the whole-hearted cooperation of the officers is available. I have often admired the standard of service that is provided by them. Many of them, particularly in the outback, give a service beyond the call of duty. I appeal to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), who are seated at the table, to give- greater consideration to the people who are living, by their own choice, in outlandish places. Surely they are entitled to telephonic and other communications.

I note that the provision for the extension of trunk-line services has been reduced by more than £1,000,000. A trunkline system is essential for those who live in the far outback. The service between Mullewa and Wyndham that was started by the Chifley Government and has nowbeen completed provides a reasonably good service for the people in that area. Previously, with the old line that was erected when I was a boy, the people were often without means of communication for many weeks, but the new line from Mullewa to Carnarvon has given them some continuity of service. Such services give to those stout-hearted people the encouragement that they deserve. I hope that the term of this Parliament will not end before the people of Geraldton are given a new post office. The lack of that amenity is the only weakness in the progress of that area, and work that is a national responsibility should not be lagging behind the progress of any town or district. It is the responsibility of the Government to encourage the people to go into the back areas and develop the country. I have had personal consultations with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) about the Geraldton post office. I am not satisfied that sufficient attention is given to the matters that are discussed in this chamber by honorable members. Nine times out of ten, the Ministers who are responsible for the matter under discussion are not in the chamber at the time.

The CHAIRMAN:

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

Mr POLLARD:
Lalor

.- I regret that the Minister for Social Service? (Mr. McMahon), who is responsible for the administration of the War Service Homes Division, is not in the chamber because I wish to refer to that matter. 1 have not had sufficient time to digest the report of the Director of War Service Homes, which was tabled only yesterday, but I propose to make a few comments on it. I noticed with great interest a statement in the report to the effect that the War Service Homes Division had underspent its allocation during the financial year ended the 30th June, 1954, by £1,000,000, notwithstanding the fact that the waiting list for war service homes throughout Australia is as great as it was at the end of the previous financial year. I know that the Director of War Service Homes has made a valiant attempt to explain why it has not been possible during the year to spend the full allocation. I shall review briefly the reasons that he has advanced. First, he has stated that wet conditions were experienced in Brisbane. Then there were cyclones on the New South Wales coast and an earthquake in Adelaide. Bricks, tiles and other materials were in short supply. Some unsatisfactory homes were submitted to the War Service Homes Division for approval, and I do not doubt that. Holidays were increased. Applications were delayed following an announcement that the maximum amount of loans was to be increased. There were also other delays. However, I should like the Minister to explain another matter to my satisfaction. The director stated in his report -

It will be readily understood that, although the programme was organized and proceeded for the first half of the year to spend the whole of the provision without creating n liability which would cause that provision to be exceeded . . .

Other words follow and I do not wish to mislead anybody, but it is perfectly obvious from that extract that in the first half of the year, there was a considered plan by the directorate to ensure that half the amount available would be expended and that that sum would not be exceeded. If I interpret the report correctly, the amount that was available for the first six months of the year, as well us the amount available for the rest of the year, was not expended. That was partly due to the difficulties that I have mentioned. I do not blame the directorate exclusively, but direct criticism also at the Government. Is it essential in this country, where the great need is housing, particularly housing for exservicemen, that the calculations and considerations of the directorate should leave £1,000,000 in the kitty because no allowance had been made for acts of God? Such an amount of money would provide a substantial number of homes for war service homes applicants. Houses were available. Some were under offer by builders. Alternatively, new homes could have been constructed, but the policy followed was such that the allocation of money by the Parliament was not to be exceeded under any circumstances.

In all probability, the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division will state that it is not the practice or the policy to exceed the allocation of money provided for a particular purpose, or that there is no justification for doing so. The Minister and every honorable member knows that in certain circumstances a residual power rests with the Government under which an instrumentality can be provided with the essential funds it requires if the Treasury or the government of the day so desires. At a later stage, the overspent funds can be dealt with when the following year’s allocation is being determined. My point is that by virtue of the direction apparently issued by the Government, that an allocation must not be overspent by £250,000 at the end of the year, the allocation of funds to an instrumentality such as the War Service Homes Division can be underspent by £1,000,000 simply because of acts of God. That, surely, is a deplorable state of affairs. Many more ex-servicemen could have had homes made available to them, had it not been for this great care exercised by the head of the division, who, no doubt, was carrying out a duty imposed upon him by his Minister.

I find another astonishing statement in this report, and I’ should like the Minister to explain the precise meaning of it. I should like this situation clarified. I want to know whether this is an attempt to intimidate members of the Parliament, or anybody else, who from time to time may make representations on war service homes to the director or the Minister. I shall read the exact words of the director, and I assume that he is voicing the opinion of his Minister, because Ministers have to accept responsibility for reports of this kind. The report reads as follows: -

An unsatisfactory position developing is that collective and unreasonable pressure in groups-

I do not know what groups they are, whether they are parliamentary groups, builder groups-

Mr McMahon:

– They are not parliamentary groups.

Mr POLLARD:

– Apparently no other groups have any rights, either -

An unsatisfactory position developing is that collective and unreasonable pressure in groups, resulting in political and other representations on matters in respect of which the applicants have neither legal nor moral rights, is causing some of our good builders to discontinue building under the Act. I cannot stress too strongly that in the interests of exservicemen as a whole, these groups should not be allowed to come under the influence of persons who will make unreasonable demands.

Mark the words, “should not be allowed”. What does this mean? I cannot understand it. It is strange that people are not to be allowed to make representations, in effect, to make unreasonable demands. Surely .a person has the right to make an unreasonable demand, and the director or the Minister has an equal right emphatically to refuse an unreasonable demand. Is it the outcome of complaints from honorable members regarding jerry-building for which some contractors have been responsible? Is it the outcome of the fact that, on one occasion, I made complaints in this Parliament about war service homes? The Minister who was in charge of war service homes at that time ridiculed and pooh-poohed my complaints, but, subsequently, after a- personal inspection, he had to yield, and admit that the complaints were justified.

Is the director referring to groups of purchasers of war service homes who have organized themselves into groups and associations, and have sought the assistance of their local member to ventilate their complaints in this Parliament, or to the Minister or the director? It seems to me to be a mighty strange paragraph to appear in a report. I want to know why the Minister invented this paragraph, and had it inserted in the document. I want to know why he authorized it, because reports, before they are laid on the table of the Parliament, should go to the Minister for his approval, or at least for his perusal. Any matter prejudicing the rights of people to form organizations, or to submit complaints, should be treated with the greatest caution. Nothing should be stated in a report that is in the nature of a coercive threat to those who make complaints or attempt to bring pressure to bear.

I have nothing but contempt for people who endeavour to bring pressure to bear, based on a falsity; if they know it to be false; but I have great respect for people who state a case which they consider to be justified, and who believe that they have a legitimate cause for complaint. When a paragraph of this kind is incorporated in this report, the Minister should elucidate its meaning. Who are the people and the groups responsible for “ collective and unreasonable pressure “ ? They may be builders, building combines or groups of manufacturers endeavouring to bring pressure on the director. I have no doubt that, from time to time, they do so, and I consider that names should be given, not of persons, but of the groups they represent. If there are organized groups of exservicemen applicants or occupants of homes, who are endeavouring to get concessions in regard to the terms under which they occupy the homes, or who are endeavouring to point out constructional defects or prove that some one has been “ jinking “ the tenant or the War Service Homes Division, we should be informed who they are, and the names of their organizations should be given.

The statement is also made in the report that “ the applicants have neither legal nor moral rights “. We should know why they have neither legal nor moral rights. I should like the Minister to elucidate the whole matter. There may be an explanation of the reason why the paragraph has been printed. I do not know, and it excites my suspicions.

Mr Bowden:

– It has enabled the honorable member to make a good speech.

Mr POLLARD:

– Does the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) agree with my remarks ? I have no doubt that he wishes to hear the Minister’s reply. I remind him that this matter possibly affects numbers of his constituents. I remind him, too, that last year, I had something to say about war service homes and that my complaints were amply justified. The matters in question were remedied. But they would not have been remedied, in my opinion, had it not been for the activities of groups which were directly involved, to wit, the organizations representing the occupying and purchasing tenants. The Minister who was in charge of the War Service Homes Division at that time pooh-poohed my complaints. Subsequently he yielded, and I thank him for having done so. He attended a meeting at which 130 or 140 of these men were present. They stated their case, and the War Service Homes Division, very rightly and justly, made some redress of the grievances which were expressed. If the paragraph in the report is an endeavour to prevent that sort of thing in future, it is to be regretted. There may be some good reason for its publication which is obscure to me. I ask the Minister this question : Is this the outcome of the fact that, at a particular time last year, somebody conveyed information to me about an instruction issued within the War Service Homes Division and I stated the. terms of that instruction in this Parliament? Subsequently, the security service, mark you, was put on the trail, and a man was cross-examined in Western Australia, in effect, as if he had been guilty of espionage. I have never disclosed th? source of my information. The matter was simply the text of an instruction from one section of the department to another. It indicated a change of policy which, I considered, was detrimental to persons interested in war service homes. I expressed my opinion on that particular instruction, which was made necessary, no doubt, by the failure of the Government to provide the necessary finance for

Avar service homes. Those matters should be cleared up. The War Service Homes division does the best it can with the funds at its disposal. Up to this year, the division has been very frank in all its reports, and has stated its difficulties in regard to finance. In the report for the year ended the 30th June, 1953, the division even informed the Parliament, and I applaud it for having done so -

It is essential that additional funds should be provided.

Now we have complaints about pressure groups-

The CHAIRMAN:

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

Mr McMAHON:
Minister foi Social Services · Lowe · LP

– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has drawn attention to the last paragraph on page 1 of the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year ended the 30th June, 1954, and he seems to be under the impression that something is wrong, because the director has made such a statement in his report to the Parliament. I desire to assure the honorable member I consider that the director acted properly. I think it was his duty to draw attention to a practice which could prejudice the interests of ex-servicemen who apply for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. It would be wrong to adopt the idea that the director should not draw attention to practices which would be prejudicial to the interests of ex-servicemen. That is exactly what he has done. He has acted, in my opinion, properly, in an attempt to prevent abuses which could only prejudice applicants for war service homes. What has happened is this: Various individuals have banded together in groups to try to get privileges and advantages that they are not entitled to under the terms of the war service homes contracts.

Mr Pollard:

– Does that mean returned servicemen?

Mr McMAHON:

– Not the exservicemen themselves, but groups supporting them.

Mr Pollard:

– Does that mean the league ?

Mr McMAHON:

– If the honorable member will wait I shall try to give him a complete explanation. An exserviceman will take possession of a home. After he has been in possession for perhaps three months, six months, or longer, a pressure group will make a report to the effect that certain improvements should be carried out, or that better maintenance should be provided over and above that specified in the contract between the ex-serviceman and the War Service Homes Division.

Mr Pollard:

– That is the Glenroy story all over again.

Mr McMAHON:

– In other words, they are asking for something to which they are not entitled.

Mr Pollard:

– Why did they get it?

Mr McMAHON:

– If the honorable member will keep quiet I shall tell him.

He had an opportunity to put his case and, having made an awful mess of it, he has not the patience to listen to the true explanation. Some of these groups to which I have referred ran to the newspapers and attempted to get publicity on a false issue. Some of the best builders in Victoria have said, “Look, we do not get very much profit out of war service homes. We do not like this adverse publicity. Therefore, unless this practice stops we will withdraw from the building of war service homes “. In that way we are losing the advantage of the cheaper houses that can be built by these builders who are more efficient than many others. In other words, due to this adverse publicity about matters for which they are not responsible, these builders say, quite frankly, that as they have taken on the building of war service homes largely to help exservicemen, they are compelled to withdraw their assistance to the War Service Homes Division, because of the improper demands that are being made. That is exactly what it means. I believe that most honorable members on this side of the chamber will agree that it would be in the best interests of ex-servicemen to eliminate this practice, and so, by avoiding unfavorable publicity, keep these economic builders in the field. I am very sorry that the honorable member for Lalor misunderstood the tenor of this particular paragraph, and that he has conjured up the most extraordinary ideas about intimidation and threats because nothing of the kind was intended. I have said before, and I emphasize now, that the director was properly attempting to draw attention to a practice whichcould have adverse affects on the building of war service homes, and, therefore, on the applicants themselves.

I wish to make it clear to the honorable member that the groups that protested were not ex-servicemen’s organizations. There is a building committee of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which works in the most happy and complete liaison with the War Service Homes Division. The committee has no complaint to make, and is quite satisfied with the activities of the division, and with the efficient way in which it carries on its operations. So, again, the honorable member has unfortunately misunderstood the position.

Mr Haylen:

– It is in very strong language.

Mr McMAHON:

– It may be, but the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) should have given his colleague a little more information before he rose to speak. It was the honorable member for Lalor who was provocative and not me. What I am attempting to do is to give an explanation that will moderate his anger and permit him to know the facts from which he can draw sound conclusions as to what was intended. The honorable member for Lalor asked whether it was the intention to threaten members of the Parliament. I assured him across the table that the groups referrred to were not members of Parliament. What was being done was that these groups were bringing political pressure to bear to get better conditions than the contracts provided. That is the complete answer to the honorable member. The division acted properly, and I think in the best interests of exservicemen and I am quite certain that ex-servicemen’s organizations will approve of the action taken by the Director of War Service Homes.

I regret that I was not in the chamber when the honorable member for Lalor commenced his speech, but it is not always practicable for a Minister to be here at every hour of the day. It is certainly not possible for a Minister to foresee what is in the minds of honorable members when they come into this chamber, and to gauge whether they are likely to speak about subjects which concern the administration of his department. The honorable member criticized trenchantly the fact that a certain proportion of the funds allotted to the War Service Homes Division was not spent during the last financial year. I should have imagined that the explanation given in the report of the Director of War Service Homes would be adequate. I think it shows clearly that what happens is this: The Director is compelled to budget for each month’s expenditure throughout the year. He cannot overspend in one month without taking the risk of finding, perhaps nine or ten months later, that he has over-spent his allocation and has to slow down building activities. Most honorable members on both sides of the chamber will agree, I am sure, that the building industry must know with reasonable certainty the amounts that are to be allocated month by month for war service homes. It is proper, I think, that the applicants, too, should know with reasonable certainty that the amounts to be expended will be expended regularly. For that reason, the Director of War Service Homes is compelled to budget for the amounts that he will spend month by month.

I suppose that most honorable members will admit that, on odd occasions, the director can make a mistake, not because of something that he has done, but because nature can play all sorts of tricks which can throw his programme out of balance. That is exactly what happened on this occasion. The Director planned to spend a particular amount in each month so that the total allocation would be spent at the end of the twelve months; but, due to the eight factors mentioned in the first paragraph of the report, particularly the earthquakes in South Australia and the cyclonic conditions in New South Wales and other matters of that kind, it was not possible to complete the programme as he had intended. Notwithstanding those facts, however, I think that honorable members will agree that the performance was most meritorious. After all, our concern is whether homes are being provided in accordance with the needs of exservicemen and to the maximum efficiency of the division. I venture to say that those who have read the figures, particularly those relating to the building of new homes, will concede that, as they show a steady increase over the last few years, the director and his staff deserve the commendation, rather than the criticism,of honorable members opposite. I have mentioned in this chamber during the last few days that the number of war service homes being constructed has steadily increased, and that the number being provided is satisfactory and is something of which the War Service Homes Division can be proud.

Another factor in this matter which is frequently misunderstood by honorable members opposite is that the building industry, to-day, is over-fully employed. It would not be practicable economics, or good finance, at this stage, to pump more money into the industry. If that were done, it would lead, as the Treasurer (Sir ArthurFadden) has pointed out, to inefficiency. As the industry is fully employed, any attempt to overtax its resources still further would result in the dilution of labour ; the available material would be spread over too many jobs, and the sum total would be inefficiency and a lower rate of completion of buildings at higher prices - in fact, everything that goes with inefficiency in an overexpanded economy. The Treasurer made it clear in his budget speech that the Government does not intend to permit conditions of that kind to develop. Therefore, the provision of £30,000,000 this year for the War Service Homes Division was determined as being an adequate amount to be made available, having regard to the necessity to ensure that the building industry shall not be over-taxed, and, so far as it lies within the capacity of the Government to do so, that the maximum efficiency shall be maintained in the construction of war. service homes.

I believe that I have answered the questions that the honorable member for Lalor has raised. I have not been associated with the War Service Homes Division for a very long period, but I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the director and his staff. They have impressed me with their ability, as they have impressed most honorable members who have come to my office seeking information, or to make certain representations. Those honorable members have been high in their praise of the division. The director and his staff are anxious to help by supplying information and by achieving efficiency in the division’s operations. They are always prepared to help exservicemen. I have already had discussions with the director with a view to seeing whether we can make pertain that the amount that is allocated this year shall be expended. He has assured me that, having regard to what happened last year and to the lessons that have been learned from such events, the total allocation will be expended. I trust that I have answered all the questions that the honorable member for Lalor has raised. Far from the director attempting to intimidate people, he has attempted to protect the interests of ex-servicemen and to ensure that the best type of builders in Victoria shall not be driven out of the industry because of adverse publicity and the making of demands over and above the conditions stipulated in contracts.

Mr POLLARD:
Lalor

.- Mr.

Chairman–

Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -

That the question be now put.

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

AYES: 48

NOES: 37

Majority . . . . 11

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -

That the following resolution be reported to the House: -

That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £99,783,000 for the services of the year 1954-55, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz.: -

Resolution reported.

Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.

In Committee of Ways and Means:

Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -

That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of. the year 1954-55, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £68,655,000.

Resolution reported and adopted.

Ordered -

That Sir Eric Harrison and Mr. Kent Hughes do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

page 1587

APPROPRIATION (WORKS AND SERVICES) BILL 1954-55

Bill presentedby Sir Eric Harrison, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.

page 1587

AUDIT BILL 1954

Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.

Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.

page 1587

SOCIAL SERVICES BILL 1954

Second Reading

Mr McMAHON:
Minister for Social Services · Lowe · LP

– I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This is a bill relating primarily to the modification of what is called the income and property means test. The effect of the application of this test is that a person may be disqualified from receiving a full pension, or, alternatively, the maximum pension payable is reduced, because of the amount of his other income or the net value of his property. Modification is desirable because in some cases the test creates anomalies, and is a penalty on thrift, particularly in the lower income groups. It is an essential element of Liberal policy that people should be given incentives to work and save, and by this means to increase the amount of property owned by them. Both work and savings are necessary if we are to ensure full employment and progress, with a reasonable level of stability for the purchasing power of money.

The Government’s economic and financial programmes have been devised in order to encourage savings and investment of private funds, and progressively to remove anomalies and injustices associated with thrift. The modifications of the means test in this bill provide incentives to work and savings. The amendments will make law the Prime Minister’s policy pledge of “continuing vigorously the work of modifying the means test” to provide these incentives. But progressive reforms of this kind can seldom be introduced as a whole. They must be introduced gradually. A scheme for the complete abolition of the means test in a single budget session is not practicable. This could only be done with substantially increased taxation, or large inflationary finance.

For these reasons the problem of the means test is being approached with caution, and changes are made only after the most careful study of the effects on the economy generally. Our approach is not theoretical. It is essentially empirical and practical. In no economic climate is social security less likely to thrive than in one in which there is instability of prices, more particularly when this instability takes the form of a decline of the purchasing power of money. With quickly rising prices the real value of benefits is destroyed or diminished as soon as the rates are fixed.. To-day, the pensioner is relieved of the fear that rising prices will destroy the purchasing power of his pension and deny to him the goods and services that he needs. The pension to-day has a greater purchasing power than it did when Labour left office. Let there be no doubt on this score, nor any failure to recognize that the pensioner has been treated more understandingly by this Government than by the former Labour Administration. The official figures irrefutably tell the story.

When Labour left office in 1949 the C series retail price index was 1428 and the rate of pension was 42s. 6d. a week. To-day the index is 2324. Based on these index numbers a pension of 69s. 2d. to-day would have the same purchasing power as a pension of 42s. 6d. in the latter months of 1949. The pension is now 70s. a week and thus more than the equivalent when Labour was last in office. The Menzies Government has a proud record of social services improvements and reforms. It has removed many anomalies and has progressively increased the value of pensions and the number of people enjoying them. Never before has the expenditure of the Commonwealth Government on all social services been as high a percentage of the national income as it is to-day. The figures are -

In Labour’s last budget year of 1949-50, Commonwealth expenditure on social services was 4.03 per cent, of the national income. In 1953-54 social services expenditure was 4.68 per cent., an increase of 16 per cent, of the percentage.

In the bill before the House the permissible income for pensioners - that is, the income that may be received without reduction of pension - is being increased by 75 per cent., that is, from £2 to £3 10s. a week. This is the largest increase ever granted by any government. During the eight years in which it was in office between 1941 and 1949, the Labour Government increased the permissible income by 17s. 6d. a week, that is, from 12s. 6d. to £1 10s. a week. The Menzies Government has increased the permissible income by £2 a week since it assumed office in December, 1949. The effect of the increase is that a single pensioner will be able to receive, by way of income and pension, a total of £7 a week, compared with £5 10s. at present. A married couple, both eligible for pensions, will be able to receive by way of income and pensions a total of £14 a week, instead of £11 as at present.

The increase of permissible income will be of particular benefit to persons receiving fixed incomes, such as superannuation. For example, a single pensioner whose age pension is now reduced to £2 a week because be receives superannuation of £3 10s. a week, will receive an increase of 30s. a week in pension, raising his total receipts from £5 10s. to £7 a week. Similarly, in the case of a married couple, where the husband i3 receiving superannuation of, say, £7 a week, each pension will be increased from £2 to £3 10s. a week, a- total increase of £3 a week, bringing their total receipts up to £14 a week. The increase will also bring many thousands of people into the pension field for the first time. For example, a person receiving superannuation or other income of £5 10s. a week, and therefore disqualified for pension, will become entitled, subject to other qualifications, to an age pension of 30s. a week, bringing his total receipts up to £7 a week. A married couple receiving superannuation or other income of £11 a week between them, and therefore disqualified for pensions, will become entitled, subject to other qualifications, to pensions of 30s. a week each, bringing their total receipts up to £14 a week.

The bill also raises from £1,250 to £1,750 the maximum property limit for age and invalid pensioners. The maximum property limit is the maximum amount of property a person may own and remain eligible to draw a pension. Where a person owns property between the amount of the complete property exemption, to which I shall refer later, and this maximum, the rate of pension payable to him is reduced according to the net value of the property owned.

The value of a pensioner’s home, furniture and personal effects is disregarded entirely. Certain other types of property are also disregarded, such as reversionary interests in estates and the surrender value of life insurance policies up to £750 for each person. The complete property exemption is being raised from £150 to £200. This is the amount which a pensioner may have without any reduction of pension.

The scale for progressive reduction of an age or invalid pension on account of the application of the property means test has been considerably liberalized and simplified. The present method of reducing the pension is somewhat complex. The reduction is £1 a year for every complete £10 above £150 up to £450, and £2 a year for every £11 up to £1,250. The new scale will be a straight taper of £1 a year for every complete £10 of property above £200 up to the new limit of £1,750. Every pensioner whose pension under the present law is reduced on account of property will, under this bill, receive an increase, firstly, as a result of the increase of £50 in the exemption and, secondly, in consequence of the liberalized scale of reduction. Where the amount of property, other than the pensioner’s home, furniture and personal effects, is between £150 and £209, the pension will be increased to the maximum rate. Where the amount of property, excluding the home, is between £210 and £1,250, the pension will be increased by amounts ranging from £5 a year up to £69 a year. For example, a pensioner owning property of exactly £1,250, apart from his home, may at present receive a pension of only £8 a year, but under the new scale the rate of his pension will be £77 a year.

A fundamental change relating to the means test made by the bill is the exclusion from the income test of income derived by a claimant or pensioner from any property owned by him or by his spouse. Hitherto, the income from property has been taken into account in applying the income test, and the capital value of the property, except where it is the pensioner’s home, has also been taken into account in applying the property test. This concession, of course, does notmean that there will be no limit to the amount of income from property which a person may have and still qualify for fi pension, because the capital value of the property, apart from the claimant’s home, will be taken into account in applying the property test. Consequently, where the total value of such property, other than the home, exceeds the new limit of £1,750, or £3,500 in the case of a married couple, a pension will not bs payable.

The amendment will be of great assistance to claimants and pensioners who own houses but, due to the operation of State tenancy laws, cannot obtain possession and, meanwhile, are receiving rent from tenants. Already the DirectorGeneral of Social Services has discretionary power to exclude the value of the property in such cases from the application of the property test. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) indicated, in his budget speech, that this discretionary power will be exercised freely in future in such circumstances. The result will be that claimants and pensioners who are taking all reasonable steps to obtain possession of their property for a home will not be penalized in any way under the means test.

This particular amendment, however, goes further and will mean that not only rents from houses but also income, such as dividend on shares and interest received on bonds, or on money in bank, or investments, will be disregarded in applying the income test. This liberalization, combined with the increase of £1 10s. a week in the permissible income, the rise of £50 in the property exemption, and the liberalized property scale, will have the effect of giving substantial increases to many thousands of pensioners. Later in my speech, I shall give honorable members particulars of some of the actual cases in which these increases are being made.

Honorable members will be pleased to hear that it will now be possible for a single pensioner to have an income of £3 10s. a week and receive the full pension of £3 10s., a total of £7 a week, whilst owning bis home, furniture and personal effects, without limit as to value, other money or property up to £200, and life insurance policies with a surrender value up to £750. A married couple will be able to have an income of £7 a week between them and receive full pensions of £7 a week, a total of £14 a week, whilst owning their own home, furniture and personal effects, without limits as to value, and have other money or property up to £400 and life insurance policies with a surrender value up to £750 for each of them. It can, therefore, truly be said that, as a result of the liberalizations now being made, eligibility for pension in many cases will no longer be on a needs basis. Before passing from the property liberalizations, I may point out that since this Government took office in December, 1949, it has raised the property limit by £1,000, that is, from £750 to £1,750, whereas during the eight years of Labour rule, from 1941 to 1949, the property limit was raised by only £350, or from £400 to £750.

The liberalizations of the income and property means tests will apply also to widows’ pensions. Permissible income will be raised from £2 to £3 10s. a week. This will enable a class A widow, that is, a widow who has one or more children under sixteen years, to receive a full widow’s pension of £3 15s. a week and have income or earnings of £3 10s. a week, plus 10s. a week for each dependent child under sixteen years. Thus, a widow with, two children under sixteen may have income or earnings up to £4 10s. a week and receive the full pension of £3 15s., a total of £8 5s. a week, or £9 a week including child endowment. In addition, she may own her home, furniture and personal effects, without limit’ as to value, and other property up to £1,750 in value, and she may also receive income from that property.

A class B widow, that is, a widow over 50 years who has no children under sixteen, will be able to have earnings or other income, apart from income derived from property, up to £3 10s. a week and receive the full class B pension of £2 17s. 6d. a week, a total of £6 7s. 6d. a week. In addition, she may own her home, furniture and personal effects, without limit as to value, and other property up to £200 in value, instead of £150, as at present. Where her property exceeds £200, the pension will be reduced by £1 a year for every complete £12 of property above £200 up to the new limit of £1,750. This is considerably more liberal than is the present scale which requires a reduction of £1 a year for every complete £10 above £150’ up to £450, and £1 a year for every complete £7 above £450, up to £1,250.

It will be known to honorable members that the act specifies certain ceiling limits on the total amount which a person may receive by way of civil pension plus war pension. For convenience, I use the term “ civil pension “ to cover age, invalid and widows’ pensions. These ceiling limits were first introduced in 1948. The Government has decided to increase the ceiling limits for all classes of pensioners, and for the information of honorable members I now quote the present and the proposed new ceiling limits for each class of pensioner. The amounts given are weekly -

The ceiling limits apply only to the total of Commonwealth payments by way of civil pension plus war pension. The pensioners -concerned may, of course, receive additional income from any other source, exclusive of income from property, to bring their total receipts, with pension, up to the appropriate limit of income plus pension.

A second fundamental change relating to the application of the means test will be made. Honorable members will recall that the Menzies Government, in 1951, introduced the first free-of-means test pension under the Social Services Act; this was the pension of £3 a week for blind persons. Additional pension of 10s. a week has been payable subject to the means test which applies to blind persons. As announced in the budget, the Government has decided that there shall be no means test on either income or property for blind persons. Some 950 blind persons who now receive pensions of £3 a week, free of the means test, will have their pensions increased by 10s. to £3 10s. a week.

The bill also contains an amendment affecting the income test for unemployment benefit, which is consequent upon the increase in the permissible income for pensioners. Under the present provisions of the act, where the wife of a person receiving an unemployment benefit is in receipt of an age or invalid pension, so much of that pension as does not exceed 30s. a week is excluded in the application of the income test for the husband’s unemployment benefit. This exemption of 30s. will be raised to £2 a week.

Because of the very large increase in the pension list, which is expected as a result of the liberalizations of the means test, efforts must be made to simplify the administrative work of the Department of Social Services and -the other Commonwealth departments which assist in the work of paying pensions. Three changes are being made in this bill which will simplify assessments and calculations and lighten the detailed work of paying pensions. Two have already been mentioned; they are the disregarding of income from property, and the new scale for calculating the progressive reductions of pensions on account of property. The third is the decision to make the fortnightly payments of pensions in even multiples of ls. This will enable the number of separate fortnightly rates of payment to be reduced by 75 per cent. - that is, from about 554 to 140. The act requires the amount of a fortnightly instalment to be ascertained by dividing the annual rate by 26.

The bill provides that, where the amount of a fortnightly instalment is not an even multiple of ls., payment shall be made to ‘ the nearest multiple of ls. Where the fortnightly amount ends in 6d. or upwards, payment will be made at the next higher multiple of ls. This will greatly facilitate the assessments of rates of pensions, recording of grants, preparation of certificates, cash sheets and cheques and statistical work, and it will give much-needed relief to post offices in making the many thousands of individual fortnightly pension payments. The amendment will also bring the practice in regard to pension payments into line with the practice regarding income tax. Another, amendment shortens the short title of the act by omitting the word “ Consolidation “. When the ‘Social Services Consolidation Act was passed in 1947, it was largely a consolidation of previous acts relating to social services. No purpose is now served by retaining the word “ Consolidation “ in the short title. The act will in future be known as the “ Social Services Act “.

A further amendment . concerns the adjustment of double pension payments, which sometimes occur where persons receiving social services pensions are subsequently granted war pensions, or increases of war pensions, with retrospective effect. A typical case is where an invalidpension is granted, and subsequently, the disability is accepted as due to war service. A war pension at the special rate is then granted, dating back over the whole or part of the period during which the invalid pension has been paid. As the invalid pension payments would not. have been made had the war pension been payable at the time, it is right that the double payment should be adjusted.

This has hitherto been done,where possible, by arrangement with the pensioner, who has authorized the amount of the double payment to be adjusted from the arrears of war pension. There have, however, been a number of cases where the pensioner has refused to authorize the adjustment, with the result that the double payment has had to stand because there is no power to adjust it. It is wrong that certain pensioners should benefit by receiving double pensions merely by reason of the fact that, owing to an element of doubt as to their eligibility for war pension, the establishment of their right to the war pension has been delayed.

There are similar cases where a civil widow’s pension is granted and subsequently the husband’s death is accepted as due to war service and a war widow’s pension is then granted, with retrospective effect over the period for which the civil widow’s pension has been paid. In such cases, the civil widow’s pension would not have been granted if entitlement to the war widow’s pension had been established at the outset. There has also been overlapping of sickness benefit payments and war pension payments in similar circumstances.

The relevant amendment being made to the Social Services Act is complementary to an amendment which will be made to the Repatriation Act, under which the Repatriation Commission will be empowered, in such cases, to adjust the double payment from the war pension. The Repatriation Commission already has this power in respect of double payments arising in similar circumstances where war pensions are granted to persons in receipt of service pensions. The amendment of the Social Services Act provides for the DirectorGeneral to certify the amount of pension or benefit that would not have been paid to the person concerned if the war pension, or the war pension at the increased rate, had been paid during the period for which the social services pension or benefit was paid.

Persons who have become qualified to receive Australian age, invalid or widows’ pensions under the reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom, which came into operation in January last, will be eligible for increased pensions under the liberalized means test where the rate of pension is at present reduced on account of income or property. This will apply also to persons receiving Australian pensions by virtue of the reciprocal agreement with New Zealand. It is estimated that about 71,000 persons will come into the pension field for the first time as a result of the liberalizations contained in the bill. This figure comprises 56,000 age pensioners, 9,000 invalid pensioners and 6,000 widow pensioners. This will, of course, materially reduce the number of persons at present debarred from receiving pensions under the means test..

It is estimated that the number of persons in Australia of pensionable age - that is, men over 65 and women over 60 - is now approximately 950,000. Perhaps at least 10,000 would be ineligible because of insufficient residence or because they are not British subjects. Of the remaining 940,000, 405,000 are receiving age pensions, leaving 535,000 at present disqualified by the means test. Deducting the 56,000 who are expected to qualify under the bill and allowing for a few thousand who would be receiving invalid pensions because they are not yet residentially qualified for age pensions, the number of persons of pensionable age in Australia ineligible for pensions by reason of the means test will be reduced to about 475,000.

There are approximately 94,000 age, invalid and widow pensioners receiving reduced pensions under the means test. As I have already indicated, they will all receive increases and in many cases the increases will be quite substantial. In this regard, I give honorable members the following particulars which have been supplied to me by the Director-General of Social Services, who has compiled the table after an examination of nearly 12,000 of the 22,000 actual cases to be re-assessed in the Victorian office of the department : -

I think honorable members will agree that these increases, together with the admission of some 71,000 new pensioners, are a significant indication of the extent and value of the liberalizations of the means test provided for in the bill. The increased rates of pensions will be payable from and including the first fortnightly pension pay-day after the bill becomes law. There is an immense amount of administrative work to be completed by then, because in every case where less than the maximum rate of pension is being paid a re-assessment of the rate of pension has to he made. This work, however, is already well advanced and it is hoped that it will be possible to pay the increased rates to all pensioners entitled to them on the first pension payday after the amending act receives the Royal assent. Where, for any reason, that is not possible, the increased rates will be paid on the following pay-day, with retrospective effect.

The cost of the liberalizations provided for in the bill is £6,277,000 for a full year. The cost for 1954-55 will be £4,500,000. The cost of providing social services benefits in 1954-55 is estimated at £159,000,000, and of the national health scheme, £35,000,000. In 1949-50 the costs were £85,300,000 and £7,500,000 respectively.

We live in a world of uncertainty. Most of us want a reasonable degree of social security. Those who have responsibility for the welfare of the community must be careful, in attempting to attain that objective, not to destroy individual effort and initiative. The Government’s policy has been to remove from the means test many features that have been found to be unjust or restrictive. This Government has kept in mind the needs of those who have little or nothing other than their pensions. It has continued to give incentives to production and thrift. Savings and investment, both private and public, create the resources out of which social security is built. We have endeavoured to stimulate and encourage production and development, so that future generations shall be able to sustain and expand the social services the Government is now building up. To do otherwise, would be barren and improvident. The future, as well as the present, is in our keeping.

The bill before the House is a further example of the Government’s progressive and liberal policy. It is an example of the Government’s policy of giving a. fair deal to the Australians of to-day, and of building up an economy that will give a fair deal and prosperity to the Australians of the future.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.

page 1593

REPATRIATION BILL 1954

Second Reading

Mr FRANCIS:
Minister for the Navy and Minister for the Army · Moreton · LP

– I move-

That the hill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to increase the rates of pensions payable under the Repatriation Act to ex-servicemen and war widows, and to extend to service pensioners the benefits arising from amendments which are being made to the Social Services Consolidation Act in order to alleviate the means test. At the same time, opportunity is being taken to effect other amendments of a machinery nature. When this Government assumed office in 1949, it undertook to keep under review the benefits available under the Repatriation Act to those who gladly gave so much in the service of their country in two world wars, and their dependants. Just how faithfully the Government has honoured this pledge, is shown by the increased annual liability in respect of repatriation pensions. In 1949, before we came to office, that liability was £20,500,000. It increased to £39,500,000 for the year ended June, 1954, and will rise by a further amount in excess of £2,000,000 as a result of the increases provided in this bill. In other words, the present (government has increased the amount expended on war pensions alone by more than £21,000,000. It has more than doubled the amount expended annually on repatriation by its predecessor. But it has not regarded these substantial increases of pension rates and allowances as a. discharge of its obligations. This Government has always regarded repatriation in the wider sense, as a means of providing, not only a measure of monetary compensation, but also a scheme for the rehabilitation of those who suffered from the ravages of war, either personal incapacity, or the loss of a father or a husband. All aspects of repatriation have received our attention. Opportunity has always been extended to the representatives of exservicemen’s organizations to place their views before us. The free and frank discussions that have taken place with them have been most helpful to all concerned. The best medical skill and attention is made available, at both the repatriation hospitals and the out-patient clinics. Under the local medical officer scheme, an ex-serviceman has a free and wide choice of doctor, thus preserving the private relationship of doctor and patient. Of course, as honorable members are aware, such attention is given free in relation to all war-caused disabilities. A recent extension was the institution of the local dental officer scheme. I shall pass now to the particular matters with which this bill is concerned.

Honorable members will recall that this Government, in the first budget that it introduced after taking office, made a comprehensive review of repatriation pensions, and granted substantial increases. In each succeeding year, further increases were made. In spite of essential heavy commitments for national security and welfare, and economic stability, consideration of the war pensioner was given a high priority. It will be observed that fortnightly rates of pension are specified in the bill. This is because pensions are payable “fortnightly. However, for the convenience of honorable members I shall follow the usual practice, of referring to weekly rates. “At present, a person in receipt of a war pension at the full general rate, under the first schedule to the act, receives a pension of £4 2s. 6d. a week. This bill increases that pension by 7s. 6d., to £4 10s. a week, or 35s. a week higher, than it was in 1949. If the member is married, his wife also receives a pension of £1 15s. 6d. a week, and 13s. 9d. a week is paid in respect of each child. The total amount payable in respect of a man, his wife, and two children will, therefore, be £7 13s. a week. This increase will necessitate a similar increase in the rate of medical sustenance payable under regulation 71(1) of the Repatriation Regulations to a member who, because he is undergoing treatment for an incapacity due to war service, is prevented from following his usual occupation.

This bill gives to war widows, also, an increase of 7s. 6d. of their weekly rate of pension, making the new rate £4 a week. As a result of the increase, the war widows’ gratuity, on remarriage, will rise from a minimum of £188 10s. to a minimum of £208. Of course, this is the basic rate of a war widow’s pension, and is by no means the limit of the benefits available to her. In addition to the pension, a domestic allowance of £1 14s. 6d. a week is paid to a widow in the following circumstances: “Where she has a child who is under the age of sixteen years, or who is undergoing education or training and is not in receipt of the adult wage; or where she is over the age of 50 years, or unemployable. In addition to the rate of domestic allowance being raised from 7s. 6d. a week to £1 14s. 6d. a week during the life of the present Government, the basis of eligibility for the allowance has been widened. Formerly, the allowance payable to a widow with a child, ceased when the youngest child reached the age of sixteen years. Last year, the Government decided that the allowance would be continued for so long as any child of a war widow was undergoing education and training and not receiving the adult wage. This gives every encouragement, both to the parent and the child, for the child to take full advantage of the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme, and. so enhance its prospects of a successful career. I should like to pay a tribute to the members of the Education Board in each State, who have devoted much of their time and ability - many for a number of years - to helping the scheme. I know that they ask for no thanks, and regard as a sufficient reward, the success that has attended the scheme. As well as the increases in widows’ pensions and the domestic allowance, which I have mentioned, since 1949, substantial increases have been made in the rates of pension payable to the children of widows, and in the allowances under the education scheme.

Further, war widows and their children under sixteen years of age are entitled to medical benefits at departmental expense. These benefits are made available direct through medical practitioners. The medical benefits scheme is limited in that it does not cover specialist, X-ray, hospital or other special services. However, in certain circumstances, and if a bed in a female ward is available, approval may be given for a beneficiary to be admitted to a repatriation general hospital for treatment of acute or subacute ailments. Service pensions may be granted to a former member of the forces who is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, or who served in a theatre of war and is permanently unemployable or has attained, in the case of a man the age of 60 years, or 55 years in the case of a female. These pensions are paid at the same rate as age and invalid pensions payable under the Social Services Consolidation Act, and are subject to the same means test as are social services pensions.

Honorable members will observe that the bill provides for an easing of the means test in relation to service pensions. Under the amended provisions, as promised during the last general election campaign by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech, the limit of property that a service pensioner may possess, has been raised from £1,250 to £1,750, and the amount of property exempted from the means test has been raised from £150 to £200. In the case of a married couple, the above amounts are doubled. This means that every service pensioner whose pension is at present reduced on account of property will receive an increase in pension, first, because of an increase of £50 in the exemption, and secondly, because of the rise in the maximum amount of property from £1,250 to £1,750. This has also enabled the scale of progressive reduction to be considerably liberalized. In addition, provision is made for income from property owned by the pensioner, or his spouse, to be disregarded when the means test is applied in assessing service pensions. This is provided for by amending the definition of income in section 83 of the principal act. The Prime Minister promised, also, in his policy speech that the amount of other income that a pensioner would be permitted to have before his rate of service pension was affected, would be raised from £2 to £3 10s. a week. This is being done. There is no need to make specific provision for this in the principal act. An appropriate amendment is being made to the Social Services Consolidation Act, and it will, by virtue of section 84 of the principal act, automatically apply to service pensions. Those concessions represent a considerable benefit to service pensioners. The single pensioner will now be able to receive, by way of income, plus pension, an amount of £7 a week, and a married couple £14 a week.

Section 91a of the principal act imposes a limitation upon the amount that a pensioner may receive by way of war pension, service pension, or social services pension. These limits are commonly referred to as ceilings. This bill provides for those limits- to be increased by 15s. a week in each case. The new ceiling for a single man will be £5 12s. 6d. a week. For a married couple; where both are service or civil pensioners, the new ceiling will be £9 12s. 6d. a week, and for a married couple, where one person only is receiving a service or civil pension, the new limit will be £8 5s. a week. As well as the above amounts,- the single man may have other income of £1 7s. 6d. a week, making a total income of £7 a week before his rate of service or civil pension is” further affected; likewise the married’ couple may have between them a. total income of up to £14 a week before their pension is affected. The amount of war pension received by these pensioners is, of course, free of the means test. For example, a single man, who is incapacitated to the extent that he receives up to 45 per cent, of the general rate pension, -could, when he reaches the age of 60 years, or, if he becomes unemployable through illness not due to war service, receive the full rate of service or civil pension of £3 10s. a week in addition to his war pension. Likewise, a married couple who are being paid war pension at 40 per cent, of the general rate could receive between them, in addition to that pension, a further amount of £7 a week by way of civil pension. The increases in war and service pensions resulting from the amendments proposed will take effect from the first pension pay day after the bill receives the Royal assent. The other provisions in the measure, which I have referred to as machinery amendments, deal with matters of administration and will be more fully explained at the committee stage.

Before I conclude, there are two further matters I wish to mention. Where a former member of the forces is admitted to hospital for treatment, he may be paid medical sustenance at a rate equal to the rate of pension paid for total and permanent incapacity. The amount is £11 0s 6d. a week for a man and his wife, and 13s. 9d.- for each child. At present, any salary, wages, earnings, or sick pay that the member might receive during the period is deducted from that amount. It has been decided that, in future, sick pay will not be deducted. The effect of this will be to preserve the ex-serviceman’s sick leave credit so that it will be available to him, if later he suffers from an illness not due to his war service.

Mr Daly:

– About time, too!

Mr FRANCIS:

– The honorable member was one of those who objected to that proposal. Earlier I spoke of the rehabilitation side of repatriation, and there is one aspect of this on which I should like to elaborate. At the beginning of last year, a scheme was instituted for the training of former members of the services who are substantially handicapped through war-caused incapacity, and’ for the training of widows of ex-servicemen whose death has been accepted as due to war service. The object of this scheme is, through training, satisfactorily to reestablish those former servicemen and widows in civil life, having in mind, not only their . immediate needs, but also their future security. The training is provided for a wide range of occupations, both vocational and professional, according to the needs and capabilities of thi-, trainee. At present, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), is having a review of the scheme made in the light of experience up to the present time. Although the scheme is only in its early stages, the results to date are most encouraging. The success of the scheme depends upon the co-operation of the various persons and bodies concerned in it. I should like to express, on behalf of the trainees, the Government and myself, our thanks to the training authorities, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Universities Commission, and the employers’ and employees’ organizations for the valuable work that they have done in assisting in the training and placement of trainees under the scheme. I should like, also, to thank those representatives of the various departments and organizations who have performed valuable service on the central, regional and industrial committees, which play an important part in the administration of the scheme.

Mr HAYLEN:
Parkes

.- Though the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis) read his speech with great gusto, it revealed very little new provision to meet the needs of repatriation pensioners. It recounted the good work done by the Repatriation Department in the past - and honorable members all agree that the department has done good work. The Minister also hurled selfcongratulatory remarks at himself about the manner in which benefits have been provided by the department. The development of the education scheme and of other proposals mentioned by the Minister is to be applauded, but the real issue has not been tackled in this legislation. That is the subject of pension rates generally. This legislation will place the utterly vulnerable repatriation pensioner in ‘an unfortunate position. I want to remind the House of the promise that was given by this Government, the supporters of which include a high percenatge of exservicemen with distinguished records. In 1 949, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition, said -

Repatriation remains a great and .proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.

They are brave words. They are toweringwords. They are magnificent words. Unfortunately, the Government’s performance has not come within measurable distance of its promises. What happened? What became of the deep and proud responsibility? A perusal of Ilansard will show that the Government’s first exercise of its great and proud responsibility resulted in an increase of 2s. 6d. a week for pensioners under the famous Woolworth budget - nothing over 2s. 6d. It drew anguished cries from representatives of ex-servicemen all over the country. Mr. Laraghy of the Limbless Soldiers Association said that, due to the fall in the value of money, the increase was worth ls. lOd. a week to limbless ex-servicemen. A representative of the war widows pointed out that it was worth a half a pound of tea. This was the way in which the Government fulfilled its deep and proud responsibility. When big words are used, big performance should follow. It was pointed out at the time that those who were receiving 10 per cent, of the general rate of pension would receive an increase of only 44d. a week. That was the outcome of the quivering desire of the Government to accept its financial responsibility in relation to pensioners. The Government’s announcement concerning the increased pension rate drew a startled query from Mr. Teo of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Sydney as to why the exservicemen on the Government side of the House let the Government get away with it. That question has not been answered, and I venture to say that it will not be answered. If this bill had been presented in the Prime Minister’s finest hour, I do not think very much of. it. Neither do ex-servicemen consider that the matter has been handled in keeping with the high words of the Prime Minister, which I repeat -

Repatriation remains a deep and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.

The Government has not discharged its financial responsibility and, naturally, the human aspect of the matter is affected by the amount of finance that is made available.

It is true that expenditure on exservicemen has risen with inflation and with the development of the country, but the need to recompense them will never be met by a two and sixpenny budget nor by the increase of 7s. 6d. a week that is proposed in this bill. ‘I have compared the Government’s performance in words with its performance in deeds. I have measured the coruscating eloquence against pounds, shillings and pence. Exservice pensioners have not been properly provided for by this Government in the past and they are not properly provided for in the bill before the House. Labour governments learnt from experience that if pensions were increased, all rates should be increased. On the one occasion on which the Labour Government increased only some pension rates, it recognized its mistake. But the Government seems incapable of recognizing its mistakes. I shall put a resolution to the House shortly which will test, not only the strength, but also the patriotism of honorable members opposite.

The first aspect of the Government’s proposals that strikes the citizen, the soldier or the parliamentarian, is the paltriness and the narrowness of the proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the base rate. An increase of 7s. 6d. a week has been proposed for war widows. That is good. I wish it were more. But, having discharged its duty to war widows, the Government has left the. most vulnerable pensioners, the sick men with very little time left, whose sands are running out, with no increase at all. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has not explained that omission, although he spent some time in gabbling about how good the Repatriation Department was and what a fine history it had. I appeal to the Government to make history by amending this legislation to- provide a. minimum increase of 7s. 6d. a week in all pensions. The cold, hard, uncomfortable fact is that, an increase of 7s. 6d. a week has been proposed only for the base-rate pensioner who, in some cases, can earn some money. No increase is to be given to the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner or the tubercular pensioner.

Mr Bowden:

– What are they getting now?

Mr HAYLEN:

– They are not getting enough. They should receive £12 10s. a week.

Mr Downer:

– They are receiving more than the Labour Government gave them.

Mr HAYLEN:

– That may be so ‘in terms of money, but in terms of value they are not. The sick and the dying among ex-servicemen have been neglected by the Government in this bill. It is a case of too little too late so far as the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, the blinded exservicemen, and the tubercular exservicemen are concerned. Let us consider how much it would cost the Government to increase the pensions of these men. There are 401 blinded ex-service pensioners in Australia, 293 of whom have attendants. Pensions and allowances for these men cost about £4,000 a week. The time spent in preparing morning tea in the departments of the Public Service represents a greater outlay. I do not say that public servants should not have their morning tea. I am only making a comparison. The sum of £4,000 is not a lot of money in a budget of £1,000,000,000. It is a trifle, a bagatelle. The Government prates of overweaning prosperity. It contends that a cornucopia of plenty is pouring its riches into this country. Yet the Government will not admit that pension increases should be given to all classes of pensioners. The Government should have made some increase in all pensions instead of making a piecemeal adjustment. The. totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners number about 11,870, of whom 620 have attendants.

Their pensions and allowances cost £110,000 a week. That is not an immense sum, measured against the services that these people have rendered and the compensation that they deserve. It is not an immense sum ‘measured against the amount that is being spent on preparations for a third world war. These people have been forgotten entirely. We know that repatriation payments total about £40,000,000 a year, but that is little enough in view of the services that have been rendered by these men.

As I have said, the Prime Minister indulged in proud words. They were trumpeting words but they have not been honoured in pounds, shillings and pence and that is the only way in which to honour them. Otherwise they may be termed political babble. They are not worth listening to, and should not be embalmed in the records of this House. In 1953 the Government’s two and sixpenny budget became the laughing stock of the world. Honorable members remember the increases of repatriation pensions that worked out at 4 1/2 d. for a man who was receiving a 10 per cent, pension. The present proposals, by granting 7s. 6d. a week extra to the exserviceman on a 100 per cent, pension, will partially restore the position that existed before this Government assumed office. Then, as the percentage of the pension is reduced, so will the increase be reduced. Consequently, this Government has left many real sufferers to receive very little by way of increased pension. But this Government sets itself up as a paragon of virtue in its dealings with exservicemen, and continues to tell lies about the Chifley government’s attitude towards their needs. Members of the Government continue to talk about percentages of this and that, and are continually attempting to get economists and statisticians to work out percentages of pensions and percentages of the C series index. However, in spite of all their arithmetic, it is quite plain that the Chifley Government’s pensions were higher percentages of the then basic wage than this Government’s pensions are of the present basic wage. This Government attempts to manipulate the figures of the C series index without reference to anything but the cost of living, and then claims to get answers favorable to its contentions. But if the pensions are considered’ as direct proportions of the basic wage, the pensions given exservicemen by this Government are less than those given by the previous Labour government.

The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has stated that, the full pension for an ex-serviceman is now 35s. a week more than it was in 1949. But he is condemned out of his own mouth because the basic wage has increased by just about double the amount of the increased pension. Therefore, it is quite apparent that the ex-serviceman is receiving less in real money to-day than he received in 1949. Ex-servicemen do not haunt these corridors and seek interviews with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and private members for no reason at all. They do not want to come here as mendicants, but they are forced by their organizations to interview members of the Parliament. But almost always the ex-servicemen put their case to us after the matter has been resolved and the budget has been presented. Then, with the best will in the world, honorable members from both sides of this House are unable to help the ex-servicemen. That is the story of the failure of this Government to honour the promises that it made to the electors with such a flourish of trumpets. I can perceive uneasiness among honorable members on the Government side because they know that I am putting “facts before the House that cannot be challenged. They can be talked about and argued, but they cannot be proved wrong.

The Minister spoke about the activities of the Repatriation Department. As I said before, many of its activities are most worthy, and the department has, in most cases, acted well. But again the picture is patchy, and there are certain things that we believe the department has not done which should be done at once. One of those is to improve the application of the onus of proof provisions in the Repatriation Act. The onus of proof comes before honorable members every time there is a debate on repatriation, for the simple reason that this section of the act is not being administered properly. No matter how hard the Parliamentary Draftsman, may strive to make clear how the onus of proof provision shall be applied, since, the days of the late “William Morris Hughes when it was first introduced into, the act, it has not been interpreted as honorable members or ex-servicemen believe it should be. In order that the onus of proof provision shall be applied in the way in which we believe that it should be applied, I shall place an amendment before honorable members. I move -

That all words after “ That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “a parliamentary select committee be appointed to inquire into the decisions and interpretations made under section 47 of the Repatriation Act “.

If there is anything more calculated to put agony into the administration of the Repatriation Act, it is section 47. It is the bete noire of the act, the blessed word Mesopotamia. We never seem to be able to get satisfactory decisions under section 47, despite the multiplicity of appeal tribunals that have been set up. That is because the interpretation of that section is bad. That section has been argued and fought oyer on numerous occasions, and I intend now to try to bring the whole matter out into the open and arrive at a true and satisfactory interpretation. Section 47 reads -

The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal, shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt …

That should be the most extraordinary satisfying section that could be found in any measure, because it states in effect that if there is the slightest possibility of the applicant being entitled to a pension the onus of proof to show that he shall not get a pension shall lie on the administration. In other words, the onus of proof shall lie absolutely and solely on theadministration. But let us consider how that section is applied in practice. I have no doubt that every honorable member of this House can tell a tale of woe about some cases that have been excluded under this section, which have moved him to sympathy and have caused him to battle with the Repatriation Department because an applicant has been told that for some small reason he will not be able to get a pension. I suggest that this section, which was inserted by the late Mr. William Morris Hughes, is clear enough. Every honorable member knows how poignant some of the cases are that come before , him, and every ex-serviceman knows that if he did not get his form A.46 filled up with trifling crimes, he has up to 30 years in which to go to the Repatriation Department to get full credit for his war services. Of course he then has to make out a case for himself. He may be sick, and nobody may know whether his illness is due to war-caused injuries, age, or a combination of both. Because of the doubt in such cases this provision was drafted with the general approval of all sections of the community, and was put into the act. But it has not worked properly. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), and the, honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), to mention only a few honorable members who come to my mind, have all approached the Government in regard to ex-servicemen who, on plain humanitarian grounds, are entitled to pensions, but who somehow or other have found that they are not able to get them.

Therefore, the Opposition appeals to the Government to set up a select committee to consider some, of those cases. Such a committee could call for papers, take evidence and ascertain whether this bottleneck can be smashed. The exservicemen of World War I. are getting old, and if a solution is not found to their problems under section 47 itwill soon be too late to do anything, for them. I suggest that we should bend over backwards in order to give them pensions if there is the slightest evidence in their favour. If we cannot do that through section 47, 1 suggest that another solution would be to give every man who saw service in a war a pension at the age of 55 years. Our repatriation legislation now has holes in it through which a horse and buggy could be driven, and I suggest that we should try to block up some .of those holes. We appeal to the members of the Government, especially the exservicemen members, to support my amendment so that a select committee may be set up to investigate the onus of proof provisions in the act, and, to draw up some legislation which will embody the original intention of the late Mr. Hughes and the Leader . of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to give pensions to those who otherwise were debarred by the old onus of proof provisions. However, we want to keep away from the repatriation angle, and direct attention to the real difficulties of section 47. If the Minister were prepared to say that he would support a select committee what would be wrong with that? Where would any injustice lie? If he passes it by, he will earn a great deal of criticism, if not worse, from ex-servicemen. Surely the Minister will not object that this is a working section of the act? He will not resolve one idea in that way. This amendment has been put forward in good faith, and I hope that the Minister will accept it in that spirit. If he does not, it will redound to his discredit and not to ours. From my personal knowledge of the human problems that come to every member of the Parliament, I can say that there is something wrong, not so much with the administration of the section, as with the obligation involved. Wherever the weakness lies, surely we, as members of the Parliament vested with power to initiate an investigation, should be able to agree to a select committee to satisfy ourselves whether everything is all right, and suggest remedies, if things are not in order. Are we going to allow our doubts to be sidetracked on this subject year after year while old fellows die off in the backrooms of the nation? I appeal to honorable members to approach this matter in a good spirit. It would mean no loss of prestige to the Government. It may do something to alleviate the weakness of a provision that was framed with good intentions but in practice has proved to be a veritable hell of frustration, despair and misunderstanding.

I now shall mention briefly other matters connected with the Repatriation Act that we should like to consider and in relation to some of which, at any rate,

I intend to move amendments. The circumstances associated with the hill give the Opposition that opportunity. The amendments will be moved at the committee stage. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Repatriation Bill is really a committee bill, but I shall mention’ some of the matters now. We believe that the rate of pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen is too low, and it is the policy of the Labour party to increase the pension to £12 10s. a week. That was announced publicly some time before the last general election. We shall move an amendment at the committee stage accordingly. We believe that the dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners who care for the pensioners require a little thought. We believe that a woman, probably the wife more often than not, or a devoted daughter or sister, who looks after a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner, should have some consideration. We suggest that such women might be given medical and hospital benefits through social services. In many cases, a woman who nurses a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner may be almost as sick as he is because of years of nursing, and the provision of treatment for women of that character should be agreed to. We propose to move accordingly.

The Opposition believes that many problems of the partially blinded ex-servicemen merit attention and that the rate of pension provided in the act is inadequate. The representations that have been made on behalf of those exservicemen have always been directed towards an increase of the pension rate to 75 per cent, of the general rate war pension. The argument has considerable validity. The pension for an ex-serviceman who has lost one eye is assessed at 50 per cent. The pension rate of a partial amputee who has lost an arm below the elbow or a leg below the knee is fixed at 75 per cent. I .suggest to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation that that position is completely anomalous. The plight of an ex-serviceman who has partially lost his sight .is as grievous as that of a partial amputee. The partially blinded pensioners who have made representa- tions for an increase of pension have said frankly that they are not tenvious of the higher rate of the pension that is provided for the partial amputee, but they believe that they are justified in asking for the same rate’ of pension. . When the representatives of the partially blinded ex-servicemen came to Parliament House, they demonstrated the difficulties of seeing and moving about with one defective eye. They gave me a test by clouding . one side of my spectacles and getting me “ to walk across King’s Hall. I found that the partial obscurity of my vision caused acute physical discomfort and required a complete reorientation of my approach to my surroundings. It must be extremely difficult for partially blinded people to move about freely, and they are certainly suffering a disability up to 75 per cent. The Opposition proposes to discuss that matter later in connexion with the amendments that will be submitted at the committee stage. We believe that the proposals could easily he accepted by the Government.

There is a strong need for the provision of treatment in repatriation hospitals for all ‘ex-service men and women whether their disabilities are caused by war service or not. I propose to advance several arguments to support that statement. First, such provision should be made because an ex-serviceman who is ill likes to be among his own kind while he is undergoing treatment and during his convalescence. The repatriation hospitals are available, and the -Opposition hopes that the Government will look upon the suggestion reasonably. The Minister may correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that although civilian hospitals are crowded, beds are available in repatriation hospitals. Doctors ‘ and nurses are also available. Indeed, there are civilian sections in the repatriation hospitals. I shall move an amendment in committee for the provision of that service. It would not involve additional cost in the long run .because the health of the nation is already provided for by means of social services and various funds, portion of which is found by the Government. The Opposition believes that war widows should , receive similar consideration; ~.

The Minister did not mention neurosis cases. What will become of them? What recent developments have taken place in connexion with the treatment of ex-servicemen who are suffering from neurosis? Have the- cases become better or worse? I believe the Minister will agree that there has been deterioration in most cases. The Opposition believes that there should be automatic acceptance of the condition of those men for repatriation purposes, and will support that contention with evidence at the committee stage. That matter will be the. subject of one of the amendments that I have foreshadowed.

I intend to refrain from speaking on this matter for a longer period than the time that was occupied by the Minister in his second-reading speech. I hope that other honorable members will be as brief also so that as many honorable members as possible may speak on this measure because it is of vital importance. I shall conclude with a brief summary of my general case. First, I believe that the Government, has not discharged its full responsibility with regard to pensions. A partial increase of pensions to certain groups amounts to nothing more than stalling. It makes other groups feel lost and unwanted. In the case of the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, the extremely sick and vulnerable, it amounts almost to. a transgression of duty to neglect them altogether. Is the balancing of the budget to mean merely a little off here and a little on there and robbing Peter to pay Paul ? I hope that when the next budget is presented some human values will be applied to it. This lifting of one pension and ignoring of another is a deplorable procedure which is bad for all exservicemen and not to be encouraged as an act of common sense. My second point relates to section 47. As the pensioners from both world wars get older, there is evidence that they are seeking pensions in greater numbers. When they do so they run into conflict. They meet a stone wall of opposition a multiplicity of boards and decisions until they are hazy and sick. They depart frustrated and hating the words “ pension “ and “ repatriation “ for the remainder of their lives. We believe that we should be able to make section 47 better than it is.

The Minister’s speech contained worthy suggestions and explanations, and we have nothing but praise for the educational side of repatriation, the allowances to wives and others, the attendant’s allowance and the development of artificial limb factories. They are part of the useful and historical background - of repatriation. But the Opposition has taken this opportunity to pick out the flaws in the repatriation provisions. Accordingly, the Opposition will present its amendment with sincerity. We suggest that the Government should help to adjust these matters and in committee we shall take the matter further with the series of amendments that I have foreshadowed.

I have nothing more to say on this matter, except that I think that, regardless of the political views of the Govern- . ment in office, we shall sooner or later determine a formula which covers, all the people who seek pensions. I hope that one day we shall be able to lift pensions out- of the arena of party politics, and place them under some kind of trusteeship, so that they may be discussed without the heat- of battle which is engendered when there are protagonists on each side of the table here. That matter is important, too, but it is not extremely relevant at the moment. I impress upon Government supporters that we require pensions which cover all the people who are particularly vulnerable, and we want, above all, a select committee to examine the causes of the inability of section 47 to cover the ageing war pensioners, and ascertain whether we can shatter the thing to bits, and mould it nearer to the heart’s desire. That desire is to do the right thing for those persons who, long since, in an almost forgotten war, did the right thing by us.

Mr SPEAKER:

-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Is the amendment seconded?

Mr POLLARD:

– I second the amendment.

Mr DEAN:
ROBERTSON, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

.- I do not support the amendment. The honors able member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has expressed the hope that other honorable members who take part in this debate will not make unduly long speeches. I hasten to assure him that I do not intend to speak for as long as he has spoken. It will not require lengthy speeches from honorable members on this side of the House to approve the proposals of the Government for the granting of repatriation benefits, and to dispose of the excuses which have been made on behalf of the Opposition. Before I reply to statements by the honorable member for Parkes, I. should like to read some passages from the report of the second-reading speech of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) on this bill. Perhaps, I should explain that the extracts which I propose to read are of no greater importance than other passages in the speech, but the parts to which I sh-ill direct attention provide the background for my general remarks. The Minister made the following statement: -

Just how faithfully the Government has honoured this pledge is shown in the increased annual liability in respect of repatriation pensions. In 194!). before this Government took office, that liability was £20,500.000. lt had grown to £39,500,000 for the year ended the 30th June, 1904, and will ‘ increase by a further amount in excess of £2,000,000 as a result of the increases provided for in this bill.

The Minister also stated -

Opportunity has always been given to the representatives of ex-service organizations to place their views before us .

It is well known that we on this side of the House have our ex-servicemen’s committee, which has done a great deal of useful work in that respect, and has been able to obtain advice and listen to the expressions of opinion of the representatives of various ex-servicemen’s organizations. The Minister has recognized, in his second-reading speech, the good that has been done by this free and frank discussion. The Minister, later in his speech, made the following statement : -

A member in receipt of a war pension at the full general rate -under the first schedule to the act at present receives a pension of £4 2s. fid. a week.

I gather that this bill makes provision for an increase of pension of 7s. 6d. a week, so that the total pension is to be £4 10s. a week, which will be £1 15s. a week more than the rate in 1949. The Minister continued as follows: - if the member is married his wife also receives a pension of £1 15s. Od. a week, and 13s. 9d. a week is paid for each child. The total for a man, wife and two children would therefore be £7 13s. a week.

This bill also increases the weekly rate of pension of war widows by 7s. 6d. a week, and the new rate will be £4 a week. This increase will mean that the war widow’s gratuity, on her remarriage, will rise from a minimum of £188 10s. to a minimum of £208.

We observed the smooth approach of the honorable member for Parkes as he glossed over some uncomfortable facts in relation to increases of pensions granted by the preceding Labour Government. I made a note of some of the phrases used by the honorable gentleman. For example, he referred to the paltriness and narrowness of the increases. He said that he wished that the increases were greater. He spoke of the cold and uncomfortable fact of the Government’s approach to this matter, and he stated that he had noticed some uneasiness among Government supporters on the subject of repatriation. I shall cite some facts about the history of rates of war pensions and allowances. When I give the rates which pertained in the period from 1946 to 1949 I do so because the Labour Government did not increase the rates in 1945.

The general rate in the period from 1946 to 1949, when Labour was in office, was increased by 5s. a week, and has been increased since the Menzies Government has been in office by £1 15s. a week. That is a cold, uncomfortable fact for the honorable member for Parkes. I continue the comparison. The special rate was increased by 10s. a week by the Labour Government, and by £3 14s. by this Government, which is another cold, uncomfortable fact for the honorable gentleman. The . allowance for the wife was increased by Labour by 2s. a week, and has been increased by this Government by lis. 6d. a week. Allowances for children were not increased by the Labour Government, but they have been increased by the Menzies Government by 4s. 9d. a week.

The Labour Government increased the war widow’s pension by 10s. a week, and this Government has increased it by £1 a week. I present that cold and uncomfortable fact to the honorable member for Parkes and other Opposition members.

The Labour Government did not increase the allowance for the first child and second child of a widow, but this Government has increased the allowances payable in respect of them by 9s. a week, and by 6s. a week for all subsequent children. That, too, is a cold and uncomfortable fact for the honorable member for Parkes and those who sit with him to accept,

I should like to say one thing further about the approach that we on this side of the chamber make to our repatriation responsibilities. Almost every suggestion that was made by the honorable member for Parkes, who led the Opposition in this debate, would, if adopted, involve additional spending. Every week honorable members have cases brought to their notice for consideration and help. On human considerations alone, one is inclined to give every possible assistance to the persons involved, because almost without exception, their claims are just. Nevertheless, it is the Government’s responsibility to determine how it willspend the money that is available to it. Not only the honorable member for Parkes, but also all other members of the Opposition who have spoken in previous debates during this session, .have urged the Government to -spend more money in one direction or another. But no one has told us how to raise more money although obviously a primary responsibility of any government is to find equitable methods of raising revenue. Therefore, we on this side of the chamber would be greatly assisted if honorable members opposite, who are so free with their advice about spending money, would offer some suggestions on how the additional money could be raised. During the election campaign, the public at large noticed that Labour had a solution for all financial problems. For any one in the community who wanted more money, Labour had a promise. Labour, if returned to office, would make that money available. Of course, there was considerable differences of opinion about the probable cost of Labour’s promises. The Leader of the’ Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Oppo: sition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) all had different estimates. Nevertheless the main idea was the same. If. any one in the community wanted anything, Labour would provide it. But no spokesman for the Opposition said just how the money required for the increased benefits that were to be made available would be obtained. As I have said, repatriation is a human problem, but we on this side of the chamber approach it with a sense of responsibility because we realize that money has to be raised before it can be spent.

Earlier to-night we listened with interest to a second-reading speech on social services legislation by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon). Although repatriation benefits and social services are sometimes linked in the public mind, in my view they are on an entirely different basis. Social services are provided to assist people, who often through no fault of their own, find themselves in necessitous circumstances. As the years have progressed, the earning section of the Australian community has become increasingly aware of its responsibility towards the aged and the sick. Undoubtedly those unfortunate members of our community deserve assistance, and I am glad to say that Australia as a nation has been prepared to face up to its responsibility in this regard. But repatriation benefits are slightly different, because the principle of repatriation is the care of the men who offered their lives for their country, and of their dependants. If a man returned from war service suffering from disabilities as a result of that service, provision is made for him and for his dependants. If a man did not return, his dependants are cared for to the maximum degree possible. Therefore I say that repatriation and social services generally are distinct from each other, although, as I have said, in the public mind they are often linked. That is something that should be taken into consideration by the Opposition in debating the proposals now before the House, because I noticed in the speech of the honorable member for Parkes, an inclination to associate repatriation and social services. I do not think that should be done.

I have spoken of the repatriation responsibilities of t« Government and l-have mentioned briefly the part that is - played by ex-servicemen’s organizations. I have not dealt with the latter point in detail because I believe that all members of this House, and of the community at large, are aware of the great work, that those organizations do in assisting ex-servicemen. I wish however to draw the attention of the House to the valuable work that is being done by certain individuals. I shall cite the case of one man - and he is only one of many - who was a prisoner of war. He returned to this country in ill health and is suffering from some major disability. Nevertheless he has been able, by his energy and spirit, to start in business and so to provide for his wife and children. If he were to die in the near future as the result of his injuries, he would know that at least he had made adequate provision for his family. But he has done more than that. He has started community centres. He was organized play centres and sporting activities for children, and so has made a valuable civic contribution to the town in which he lives. He was not satisfied with having made a contribution to our national safety by fighting in World War II. He considered that he still had a responsibility to his fellow men, and he has sought to discharge that responsibility by making a contribution to community welfare. I mention that because I believe that in addition to the responsibilities of government and the good work of ex-servicemen’s organizations, there is a third factor. That factor is the individual co-operative effort of the citizen. If we believe in that, as we do, and consider this matter against the background of the Minister’s speech tonight regarding the increased payments that are being made available, and if we can have continued co-operation on the three levels that I have briefly indicated, we shall truly be able to give effective assistance to ex-service men and women and their dependants.

Mr JOSHUA:
Ballarat

.- I am amazed that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) does not support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I remind the House that the Opposition, also, has a repatriation com mittee. That body examined this matter and gave a good deal of thought to it, and it is as a result of its deliberations that the amendment has been proposed on behalf of the Opposition. I am further amazed that the honorable member for Robertson does not support the amendment because, as he must be aware, the Repatriation Act has not been overhauled since 1943, when the Labour Government arranged for such an investigation. Since that time, we have gained much additional experience in these matters, and I should have thought that honorable members opposite would agree that the present is an opportune time to arrange for another examination of the operation of the act, particularly its provision in respect of the onus of proof.

Before I deal with that provision, I propose to say something about the approach of honorable members opposite to the subject of repatriation that has been typified by the honorable member for Robertson. Government members apparently believe that the Parliament should approach this matter from a Treasury angle and that the Parliament’s first consideration should be how the money required to provide additional benefits for ex-service personnel is to be raised. Surely, the thought that should be foremost in the mind of any government in dealing with a matter of this kind should be that it must recognize its inescapable obligations to do what it can in the interests of ex-service personnel. That should be the first thought in our minds. The financial aspect of these obligations can be examined later. However, the Government’s approach to this subject is similar to the approach that it makes to everything else. It is prepared to be dictated to by the Treasury. It is obvious from the speeches of honorable members opposite, not only on this subject of repatriation, but also on social services generally, that the Government is satisfied in the knowledge that it has raised war pensions by a few pence over the 1949 rates established by the Labour party and, ‘ consequently, the position must be satisfactory. Members of the Opposition do not accept that view for one moment. The maximum conditions in respect of war pensions that were laid down in 1949 were the best that could be provided in the circumstances that existed at that time. But, surely, this Government, bloated with prosperity after many splendid seasons, can do better than provide the meagre provision that is being made under this bill. Its approach to this problem is scandalous.

I turn now to the contentious provision in respect of the onus of proof. I support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Parkes which proposes that a select committee should be .appointed to inquire into decisions and interpretation of section 47 of the principal act. Last year, honorable members raised a great outcry about the administration of that section. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) had much to say about the dissatisfaction that existed in that respect. At that time, he raised doubt in my mind; and, during the intervening period, I have examined that provision. I now propose to put forward strong reasons why the principal act as a whole should be thoroughly examined by a select committee. I cannot understand why Government supporters are not disposed to support the amendment, because if they reject it they will merely put off the evil day. Every one is aware of the doubts that exist in the community with respect- to the administration of section 47 of the principal act. All honorable members frequently receive representations from ex-servicemen, who are in poor health, and also from war widows. Invariably, in such instances, the widow claims that her husband’s death was due to war-caused injury. She may point out that he was on active service in 1914, or 1915, and may refer to his heroic efforts in that conflict. In most cases, such statements, having regard to the sincerity with which they are made, cannot be doubted. The widow also points out that her husband had, for a considerable period, endured pain and suffering but when asked whether he had applied for repatriation benefits, the reply usually made is, in effect, as follows : “ No, he was a member of a lodge, and he went to his lodge doctor “. In most instances, no record is available to show that he approached the repatriation authorities. He bore his suffering as best he could and met the expenses that he incurred for medical treatment. The consequence is that much misunderstanding arises when the widow applies for relief to the Repatriation Department. Usually, no doubt is left in the minds of honorable members, as a result of such interviews, that the death of the ex-serviceman was due to warcaused injury. In some instances, when an honorable member inquires into cases of this kind, he discovers that the condition of the ex-serviceman had been made known to the repatriation authorities which diligently inquired into the case, and that a careful diagnosis was made.

I have no doubt that repatriation officers act conscientiously in every such case. After a diagnosis has been made, the question arises of whether the exserviceman’s condition was due to warcaused injuries. I have found, in many instances, that the decision arrived at by the repatriation authorities has been perfectly correct, that full sympathy has been extended to the ex-serviceman, or the war widow, as the case may be, and that, in the case of the ex-serviceman, his condition has been relieved. At the same time, however, I emphasize that although repatriation doctors act conscientiously and to the best of their ability in making their diagnosis, they are not infallible and, therefore, in some instances, they make mistakes. Having regard to these circumstances, an urgent need exists for the appointment of a select committee to examine the operation of the provision in respect of onus of proof. It has been my experience that when the claim of an ex-serviceman, or a war widow, comes before the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal great difficulty is experienced in establishing it. On that ground alone, the House should agree to the appointment of a select committee for the purpose set out in the motion before the chair. The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal was set up by the Labour Government. It usually happens that, despite the assistance which applicants receive from the department itself, ex-servicemen’s organizations or bodies such as the Legacy Club, nothing ‘comes of their appeal. Such applications should be looked into more carefully. In some instances, the applicant, being of an independent character, has been disinclined to take his trouble to the repatriation authorities, and, consequently, there is a blank in his medical history. There is a full medical record for the time he was in the Army, but from the time he left the Army there is nothing except fragmentary evidence. I have found that it is very difficult to get these cases reopened by the appeal tribunals. The tribunals will not re-open a case unless fresh evidence can be produced. Some one must find that fresh evidence. Some one must have the ability to find it. Some one must have enough sympathy with the soldier or the widow to help to find it. That is the first difficulty that arises, although it seems never to bt’ recognized by this Parliament. Who does this work? Perhaps it is done by a friend, perhaps by a member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, or perhaps by a member of the Parliament. Whoever does it must have enough time, energy and determination to get the evidence necessary to have the case re-opened.

There is’ a second difficulty. Let us assume that the entitlement appeal tribunal is prepared to re-open a case. I know from my experience that the tribunals are prepared to re-open cases if the appellants can produce evidence, however fragmentary, which the tribunals did not have before them previously. When a case has been re-opened, who is to present the case on behalf of the widow ? It is a matter of getting all the evidence available, however fragmentary, to substantiate the widow’s story. Generally, it is a most sincere story. One can see written all over her face that she is telling the truth. All that is required is some kind of written evidence to support her story - some evidence from her husband’s comrades in the war, or some evidence from people who knew him in civil life. But can a widow be expected to get that evidence? Of course she cannot. It is terribly difficult for her to do so, She has no knowledge of the subject, and no knowledge of what is required. Often she depends on a social services pension and has no money to spend on chasing evidence. But she has got to get the evidence, so she must find some one to get it for her. Then she strikes a snag. She has to get medical evidence, but sometimes the doctors who treated her husband have died. In two of the cases that I handled, the soldier was attended by a doctor for several years after his return from World War I., but I found that the doctor had died and there were no medical records available. In such circumstances, the widow has to rely on later medical evidence, and she has to be helped to get it. In most cases, the person who is assisting her has to go after the evidence himself.

Then we go to the appeal tribunal with a case, set out clearly step by step, which we hope proves that the soldier’s death was due to his war service. Often the tribunal says, “ That is all very well, but we have evidence which contradicts the evidence you have produced. We have evidence from experienced repatriation doctors which puts the case beyond all doubt. You cannot claim the benefit of the doubt, because we have medical evidence which shows there is no doubt at all. However, if you can find better evidence than ours, perhaps we shall consider it “. Where do we go then ? We go to our specialist friends and to university professors. We use them all up, so to speak. Sometimes we get the medical evidence we want, if we have enough time to spare and have enough interest in the case. When we are appealed to by these unfortunate widows, as most of u3 have been, we feel that we cannot shirk our responsibility .to them.

I dealt with the case of a widow whose husband had died from a cerebral hemorrhage ten years before she visited me. For fifteen years before his death he had suffered from gas poisoning. But the Repatriation Department would not listen to the case. On his records there was a clear determination that his death had nothing to do with his war service. He died from a cerebral haemorrhage, and he had suffered from high blood pressure for two years before his death. There was some evidence on his records to the effect that he had not been, suffering from gas poisoning, but I was able to show that he had been suffering from it, and that was admitted. Then the repatriation authorities said, “ If he was suffering from gas poisoning, how did that affect his death from a cerebral hemorrhage ? “ I said that the coughing could have caused the hemorrhage, but they said they had medical evidence that coughing could not precipitate a cerebral haemorrhage, even in a man suffering from high blood pressure. Then I wrote to a university professor, because some one who was giving me a hand with the case had told me that, according to modern medical opinion, coughing could cause a cerebral hemorrhage. Fortunately, the university professor was able tq’ quote chapter and verse and show quite clearly that the soldier’s death could have been caused by gas poisoning. The widow won that case, and was awarded a’ ‘pension ten years” after her husband’s death. One of the reasons why the section of the act which deals with onus of’ proof should be examined most carefully is’ that medical opinion changes as medical science brings new facts to light. These widows should have some kind of assistance to enable them to bring such facts to the notice of the tribunals. I could make a number of suggestions on that point, but I feel it would be of no use to make them to the House. It would be better to make them to a select committee appointed by the Parliament. That is one reason why I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes.

The second reason why I support the amendment is that there are degrees of doubt. This is a curly one. I dealt with the case of a man who died, from leukaemia, a rare blood disease. In his medical records, it was stated that the cause of the disease is unknown. Something is known about the course of the disease, but no one knows the cause of it. T” said to myself, “ Surely there is a doubt here. If we d’o not know the cause of the disease, how can anybody say tha t this soldier’s period of war service did not have something to do with his death ? “ His medical records contained ample evidence that he had suffered from blood disorders and other troubles of that nature. His medical history was not so sparse as some of the medical histories in these cases. There, were many entries of admissions to. hospital for treatment. I felt there was a strong presumption that the soldier had contracted this rare blood disease during his period of war service, and I was able to “ use up “ another of my doctor friends, who gave me a valuable certificate to the effect that, in his opinion, the disease, could have been in a state of suspension for a certain time, but later became active and caused the soldier’s death. I felt that the case for the widow was established by the doctor’s certificate and by the fact that the repatriation authorities could not definitely state the cause of the disease. So we presented our case to the appeal tribunal, which gave it every consideration. I pay a compliment to these tribunals. They examine most conscientiously the cases which come before them, and decide whether there is a doubt or not. In this case, the members of the tribunal said, “Yes, there is a doubt, but we want to tell you that the degree of doubt is not sufficient to entitle the widow to a pension “. I said, “ What do you mean by ‘degree of doubt’?”. They said, “We are bound by a High Court decision. The High Court has laid down certain degrees of doubt. The decision is that if a soldier went away to the war perfectly fit, and came back suffering from some disability, there is a strong degree of doubt, and he will get the benefit of it every time. But if he appeared to be fit when he came back from the war, and later was found to be suffering from some ‘disability, it does not necessarily follow that that disability was due to war service. In such a case, the degree of doubt is not so great as in the other case. In the absence of positive evidence to show that his disability was associated with his war service, the degree of doubt is so slight as to be negligible”. That decision binds the tribunal, the members of which have told me that on many occasions they have had a great degree of sympathy with the appellants, but could not take it into account because they were bound by the decision. They said that if they ignored the decision and granted, an application, it would be the subject of appeal by the Repatriation Commission, and the tribunal would be discredited for having given an unsound . opinion.

Can these degrees of doubt be challenged ? They can be challenged in the High Court, but can we expect a war widow, or a widow who receives a social services pension, to be able to challenge them in that court? Such a person could not lodge such a challenge. I suggest that this is a matter for examination by a select committee in order to see whether it would be possible to remove any anomaly that denies a widow or an exserviceman the opportunity to get the fair deal that she or he deserves.

Mr Falkinder:

– Has not the act been amended since the High Court decision was given?

Mr JOSHUA:

– I can only speak from practical experience. If that is not good enough, I do not know what is. The third reason for my support of the amendment is that the cost of administration of the act is very high. It costs more than £1,000,000 to administer the Repatriation Act. A study of the figures that have been most competently set out by the Public Accounts Committee shows that it costs more than twice as much for the administration of pensions paid under that act as it costs for the administration of social services pensions. Of course, there are some reasons why that should be the case, but we should have a select committee to examine the whole matter, because there are various means of overcoming some of the difficulties that exist. One suggestion might be that the act be modified in order to reduce administrative expenses. Conversely, it may be said that it would be necessary to add to the cost of administration in order to ensure that the scheme would adequately cover all the people who come under it. I do not know whether or not the solution lies in increasing or reducing expenditure, but I think it is a proper subject for examination by a committee of inquiry. I repeat my three reasons for supporting the amendment. They are: the difficulty in establishing a case; the difficulty about degrees of doubt; and the difficulty about the cost of administration of the scheme. These are all matters which should be examined by a select committee. I support wholeheartedly the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes, and I hope that every honor able member will support it, because acceptance of it can do no harm, and may do a great deal of good.

I shall use the few minutes of speaking time that remain to me to deal with a matter that affects the people of Ballarat, in particular, but affects also almost every big provincial city in Australia. I again state that the Government’s approach to repatriation seems to be that if it can provide as much as was provided by the Labour Government that went out of office in 1949, then nothing more need be done. It seems to regard the level of provision made by the Labour Government as the ultimate. I believe that the Repatriation Act, and the conditions of ex-servicemen and their dependants, must be constantly reviewed by this Parliament, and if they can be improved from time to time they should be improved. I do not regard anything that has been done up to date as a proper criterion.

The other day the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) made a speech in which he told us what a great chap the Minister for Repatriation is. One could hardly call out, “He is not much of a chap “, but I shall tell honorable members opposite of an incident that occurred in relation to repatriation facilities at Ballarat, and ask them whether they condone it, because I consider it to have been a most reprehensible action on the part of the Minister. About eight years ago, soon after the end of the war, a repatriation ward was opened at the Ballarat hospital. It contained beds for about twenty exservicemen. It was necessary to have , such a ward at Ballarat. In fact, I think it is necessary to have wards of that kind in every provincial town, although they are not so necessary in small towns, which have a district hospital, because there would be only a few repatriation patients in such . towns, and they could he put into a room by themselves. It is also not necessary to have a repatriation ward in hospitals in Melbourne or other capital cities, which have large conveniently-situated repatriation hospitals. In a provincial city, however, there is a great need for a repatriation ward. The ward at the

Ballarat hospital was in existence for eight years, when, out of the blue - last February, we were informed that it. would he closed because of building difficulties. It was stated that the ward was in ah old building that had to be pulled down. Of course that building has to be pulled down sometime, because it is already 96 years old. The fact is, how: ever, that it is still being used six months after the repatriation- ward was closed, and will continue to be used for probably many more months until such time as the hospital is ready to demolish it and erect a new building in its place. The ward was closed on the 31st March. Its closure meant that ex-servicemen who previously were accommodated in a decent ward in which they had the companionship of their fellows, were denied that accommodation and companionship. They were sent to general wards. Special amenities were arranged for them by their associations and the Australian Red Cross Society, when they had their own ward, but these also had to go by the board.

Some of the patients were sent to Heidelberg Military Hospital, but that change caused inconvenience to’ their relatives, who were put to expense when they wished to visit the patients, or had to refrain from visiting them, at all. It also meant a great waste of public money, because the cost of maintaining a patient is greater at Heidelberg than it was for maintaining a patient in the ward at the Ballarat hospital. The time between admission and discharge of a patient at Heidelberg is also much greater than it was at Ballarat. A patient at Heidelberg is lucky if he gets in and out of the place within a fortnight, even if his complaint is only minor. The doctors at Ballarat have said that they could operate and, in some cases admit and discharge, a patient in three or four days. There was a great saving of time in the repatriation ward at Ballarat in relation to admission and discharge, and another great saving of time in diagnosis and treatment. There was also a great saving of money. All these advantages were lost when the ward was closed. I wrote to the Minister for Repatriation and explained the position to him. Having received no con- elusive reply to my letter I telegraphed, him. As a result, he met a deputation at the airport in Melbourne which explained, the position to him. I accompanied the. deputation. He said that he would come and see the position for himself. When he came to Ballarat he brought a departmental officer with him who looked around the alternative buildings, of which there were a number, because the Commonwealth had supplied the money for a five-story hospital of which only one floor is being used at present. There was also alternative accommodation for the ward in an old building, which would have been very suitable. The departmental officer looked round them’ with, a jaundiced eye, and said he was not very impressed. Later, I received a letter saying that nothing could he done, and that there was no necessity to keep the repatriation ward open. That decision has caused great disappointment in Ballarat. The truth of everything I said to the Minister at the .outset has been borne out, because we are losing money and causing much unhappiness to exservicemen and their wives and children. The continuance of that ward was a simple act that could have been authorized. The value of such a ward is recognized by some people because there was a movement at Launceston and Townsville for the establishment of the same kind o.f ward, and I suppose that every other big provincial city wants one. The Minister asked me whether I thought that Bendigo and Geelong should have one. I told him that I thought they should have one if they wanted one. I do not believe that we have reached the ultimate that we can do for our ex-servicemen. That ward could have been, and should have been, re-opened. I am ashamed of the Minister for Repatriation, and I think that he should give us some explanation for the decision that was made.

Mr HAMILTON:
Canning

.- I do not propose to argue about the buildings to which the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) referred, but I take the honorable member to task for criticizing the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). The present Minister is one of the best Ministers for Repatriation that this country has had. He himself suffers from a war disability and invariably does bis very best, as I am sure all honorable members will agree, for ex-servicemen.

I wish to deal with the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who concluded his speech by saying that this matter should be kept away from party politics and out of the heat of battle. That sounded very well, but apparently the honorable member, during the twenty minutes or so of hi3 discourse, forgot about his opening remarks. He entered this debate in a very belligerent attitude and attacked a statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech on the 10th November, 1949, when the right honorable gentleman said -

Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is -speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.

The Prime Minister and this Government have stuck to that determination. The honorable member for Parkes referred to the Woolworth budget, what he called the trumpeting words of the Prime Minister, and dishonoured promises.

Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!

Mr HAMILTON:

– I am glad to hear honorable members opposite saying, “ Hear, hear ! “, because ex-servicemen will never forget the treatment that was meted out to them by the honorable members who have just interjected, when Labour was in government in 1947. I recollect a statement made by an honorable member opposite, who was then a Minister in the Labour Government, where the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who was then the honorable member for Wimmera, was endeavouring to obtain certain allowances for exprisoners of war. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, said that that would encourage servicemen to become prisoners of Avar. For the benefit of honorable members opposite, I shall read the following passage which appears at page 1102 of Hansard, volume 190, of the 25th March, 1947 :-

The plain fact is that the military authorities may view a demand for compensation of this kind as a precedent which may encourage men to become prisoners of war, perhaps in the hands of an enemy more merciful than the Japanese. These factors cannot be overlooked.

Mr Pollard:

– I do not apologize for that. [Quorum formed.]

Mr HAMILTON:

– Now that there are more honorable members in the House, I am tempted to read that passage again, but I shall have mercy on the honorable member for Lalor and refer, instead, to an incident which concerned the honorable member for Parkes, who to-night criticized this Government foi’ its efforts in respect of repatriation benefits.

Opposition members interjecting.

Mr HAMILTON:

– Honorable members opposite may squeal as much as they like. If they introduce such matters into the debate, they must be prepared to take the consequences. On the 30th March, 1947, the then honorable member for Balaclava moved an amendment of the Social Services Consolidation Bill with a view to removing the operation of the means test from war pensions, and the honorable member for Parkes, who has indulged in such a great deal of humbug here to-night, made the following remarks, which appear at page 3,187 of Hansard volume 192 : -

I think that the Minister ought to make a statement on this point. It is not a matter of party politics, but of coming to a decision. Some time ago, an assurance was given in respect of the matter now at issue. I stake my position on this issue, and I feel that an adjustment ought, in all decency, to be made.

I could also quote the words of other honorable members opposite, but. I shall not waste the time of the House. I looked up the division lists and I found that, when a vote was taken on the amendment to which I have just referred, the honorable member for Parkes, who criticized this Government so trenchantly about repatriation matters to-night, voted against the amendment. That is the gentleman who criticized the Government for its efforts in relation to repatriation matters during the last four years, and who accused the Prime Minister of trumpeting when he said that repatriation remained a great and proud responsibility of the Government.

Ex-servicemen had to wait until this Government came to office for the means test in respect of war pensions to be removed. They are not unmindful of the promises that were made by the honorable member for Parkes in 1947. It seems to me that most ex-servicemen will pay very little attention to such promises in the future. The honorable member for Parkes also stated that this Government has a habit of giving pension increases to certain groups in order to cause friction amongst ex-servicemen. In my opinion, the tactics that have been adopted by the Australian Labour party have been responsible for any friction that may exist. It is curious that the honorable member should have spoken about this matter in the Parliament tonight, because if we examine the record of the Australian Labour party, it will be found that it has been continually creating such friction. In 1946 and 1947, when Labour was in office, the general rate of pension was not increased by a farthing, although the special rate was increased by 5s. a week. Have honorable members opposite changed their opinions so quickly? Apparently, in the years between 1946 and 1949 they thought that it was in order for the general rate of pension to remain unchanged, but when this Government seeks to. remove anomalies that have arisen under the act as it was left by Labour, they accuse the Government of endeavouring to create friction amongst groups of exservicemen. Although Labour increased the pension by 5s. a week in 1948, no increase of either the general rate or the special rate was made in 1949.

When the honorable member for Parkes referred to the plight of partiallyblinded soldiers, we could almost see the crocodile tears running down his cheeks. I hope that the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) will refer to that matter later in the debate, and for that reason I do not propose to deal with it at length. However, ex-service members on this side of the House met representatives of partially blinded exservicemen and sent a deputation to . the Minister for Repatriation. We found, unfortunately, that a great deal of misinformation had been spread amongst those unfortunate men, though I do not know from what source it had emanated. If we examine any of the activities of members of the Opposition when, they were in power and had an opportunity to help those victims of war, we find that they did nothing useful. They talked about supplying motor cars to men whowere paralysed from the hips down, but they only talked. Not one motor car was provided. They boasted of what they would do for war widows. What did they do when the acid test was applied? They refused to give anything to widows who were going to remarry. The colossal disgrace which will stand forever to the discredit of the Labour party was its refusal to accept the eligibility of war widows for war service homes. Such widows, according to the Labour Government, did not want war service homes. I do not hear any members of the Opposition interjecting to deny that statement. Yet they persist in returning to this chamber time after time to mouth their protestations of sympathy for exservicemen, and usually finish by proposing amendments like that moved by the honorable member for Parkes, with which I shall deal later in my speech.

Mr Ward:

– Will the honorable member support it?

Mr HAMILTON:

– The honorable member for East Sydney will find out in good time. What about the poor, unfortunate ex-servicemen of World War I. who, because of war disabilities, did not marry before 1931 because they did not wish to be a burden to any one? Some of these men decided finally that they were well enough to marry and raise families, and they did so. But the Labour party, when it was in power and had the opportunity to help them, refused to grant their wives or offspring even a part pension. It was left to this Government to rectify that anomaly.

I could go on almost indefinitely citing anomalies in the act which the Labour party had the opportunity to remove but about which it did nothing. Now, because this Government has stepped in to correct those weaknesses in the legislation, honorable members opposite are indulging in all sorts of tactics with the object of driving a wedge into the ranks of ex-servicemen and causing friction, but their efforts will be wholly unsuccessful. An examination of the pension increases that have been granted since this Government has been in office shows that it has at least endeavoured to establish rates appropriate to the disabilities suffered by ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Parkes came into this House to-night, and after dealing with some of the matters to which the bill relates, moved an amendment-

Mr Ward:

– The honorable member has said that nineteen times.

Mr HAMILTON:

– Well, I shall say it for the twentieth time for the benefit of the honorable member, who has not been in the House since question time this morning. He has only just entered the chamber. The honorable member for Parkes has moved -

That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - a parliamentary select committee be appointed to inquire into the decisions and interpretations made under section 47 of the Repatriation Act”.

What does that mean? It means that, if the House accepted the proposal, the bill would be delayed and disabled exservicemen, about whom members of the Opposition have had so much to say, would be unable, for the time being, to obtain the benefit of the increases for which the bill provides. The provisions of the bill will not come into operation until the date on which it receives the Royal assent. Even though the measure provides for an increase of only 7s. 6d. a week in the general rate of pension and the war widows’ pension, as well as for other improvements which I shall not enumerate, it comes very ill from members of the Opposition that they should now try to delay the increases.

The honorable member who has moved the amendment, and many of his colleagues, have been in this Parliament long enough to understand its procedures. In fact, they are too well acquainted with procedural tactics. They know that they could use the machinery of which” the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) took advantage this morning in order .to provide for the establishment of a select committee.

Mr Pollard:

– I suppose the honorable member knows that the Opposition will not delay the bill if the Minister agrees to the appointment of a select committee ?

Mr HAMILTON:

– I am not worrying about that. The honorable member and his colleagues know very well that the issue upon which they seek to have a select committee appointed has been debated repeatedly in this House. This difficulty of the onus of proof in relation to appeals against the disallowance of pensions has been satisfactorily resolved. It is the bounden duty of an appeal tribunal not to require an appellant to prove that he is deserving of a pension. Instead, it has the onus of establishing that the appellant is not entitled to a pension.

Mr Griffiths:

– That procedure is not carried out.

Mr HAMILTON:

– I am sorry that the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has made that interjection, because I have vivid recollections of honorable members opposite, when they were in power before the honorable gentleman was elected to this Parliament, sacking an appeal tribunal because it would not toe the mark for the Minister for Repatriation at that time.

All this humbug and waste of time over the proposal to appoint a select committee does not cut any ice with honorable members on this side of the House who were here when the Labour party was in office. The submission of the amendment is an absolute waste of time from start to finish because honorable members opposite know very well that this Government has laid down that the onus of proof shall rest with the appeal tribunal in every case, and, so far as I am aware, that direction is being carried out. I sincerely hope that other members of the Opposition will not endeavour to emulate the honorable member for Parkes, who has already indicated that he will propose several more amendments at the committee stage. This sort of thing is just humbug and a waste of time and honorable members opposite will gain no credit from their tactics. The Government will stand by what it has done and what it proposes to do, knowing that it has decided upon the right and proper course of action to help ex-servicemen who suffer from disabilities as a result of war service.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.

page 1614

ADJOURNMENT

Australian Stevedoring Industry Board

Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr OSBORNE:
Evans

.- I am sorry to take the time of the House at this late hour, but I wish to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a matter of very great seriousness which concerns the procedures of the House. I believe that, due either to carelessness or deliberate deception by one or more government officials, an untrue answer has been given to a question asked on notice in this House. On the 19th August last, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) gave notice of questions to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Sir Philip McBride). I shall read the questions -

  1. Is it a fact that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, a statutory body normally employing some 200 persons, has recently advertised for applicants for a number of vacant senior positions varying from medical officer to executive assistant?
  2. If so, how many such positions have been advertised, what are the positions and what are the salaries?
  3. Are any of them new positions or arc the advertisements intended to fill vacancies in existing positions?

Answers were given on the 31st August detailing 24 positions which had been advertised for, and saying -

The purpose is to fill vacancies in the board’s establishment.

I draw attention to the fact that the honorable member for Macarthur had asked how many positions had been advertised, and had specifically inquired -

Are any of them new positions or are the advertisements intended to fill vacancies in existing positions?

I have drawn attention to the answers.

The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board is a statutory body of officials which is independent of all but ministerial control and comes in no way under the Public Service Board. It does not fit into the ordinary structure of the Public Service of this country. It is a controversial body, and it is believed by many people on this side of the House to have failed totally in its purpose. It is also believed by many of us, myself included, to be reaching out to extend its power and authority in new and unauthorized fields. The third question was quite clearly directed to finding out whether the board was increasing its power and authority, increasing its establishment by the creation of new positions, and so on, in the interests of preserving the status and strength of the board. There is a possible motive for playing, down any suggestion of indefinite expansion. Shortly after the answer was supplied, it was suggested to me that it was not complete. After my attention had been directed to certain advertisements, I asked the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service the following question, upon notice : -

Were the following advertisements of positions vacant inserted by or on behalf of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board: -

an advertisement which appeared on page 47 of the Sydney Morning Herald and on page 30 of the Sydney Daily Telegraph on Saturday, 21st August. 1954, beginning “Legal Officer (Chief), £1,564 to £1,750 per annum “ ;

an advertisement which appeared on page 47 of the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, 21st August, 1954, beginning “Legal Officer: Annual salary up to £1,380”; and

an advertisement which appeared on page 32 of the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday, 25th August, 1954, beginning “Accountant: Salary commences £1,300 per annum “.

The answers that were furnished to those questions were -

  1. “Yes”; (b) “Yes”; and (c)”Yes”.

None of these advertisements appears clearly to fit in with the list of positions advertised, which was given in answer to the earlier question. It would appear, on the face of the answer given, that those advertisements, which I am now informed were inserted for or on behalf of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, were for positions which were not included in the list of some 24 positions which had been advertised, referred to in the earlier question. I should inform the House that, at the same time as, or shortly before I received that answer to my question, I received a letter from the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, setting out the circumstances in which this had occurred. He stated -

As to the advertisement mentioned in (et) of your question-

Honorable members will recall that that advertisement was for a “ Legal Officer (Chief) “-

I find that my department did, in fact, 4 all about the position. It was not included in Hie reply given to Mr. Bate because we knew that a selection for the position had been made at the time the draft reply was being prepared.

The question asked related to the number of positions that had been advertised - not how many positions had been filled or were vacant ; that inquiry was not covered by the answer that was given to the honorable member for Macarthur. I consider that this is a completely unsatisfactory explanation. The letter went on -

The advertisement mentioned in (ft)-

I remind honorable members that that was the one beginning “ Legal Officer : Annual salary up to £1,380 “ - relates to the position of Industrial Officer mentioned in the answer given to Mr. Bate. I am informed that this position was advertised under the heading “ Legal Officer “ because a man with legal qualifications was sought. It was the case of a judgment of the heading which would be most likely to attract.

I contend that an advertisement for a “ Legal Officer “ is not an advertisement for an “ Industrial Officer “. They are wholly separate positions. Again, I find that answer completely unsatisfactory. The letter went on -

The advertisement mentioned in (c)-

That was the one beginning “Accountant: Salary commences £1,300 per annum “ - relates to the position of General Administrative Officer mentioned in the answer to Mr. Bate and also in the answer to your other question. It was advertised under “Accoun tant” because the emphasis of the work waa* on that side and it was felt that advertising under that heading would be most likely to attract a suitable applicant.

Again, I say that a “General Administrative Officer “ is not an “ Accountant “, and vice versa. I find that answer, also, completely unsatisfactory. I make it clear at this stage, that I accept entirely the conduct in this matter of the Minister’s staff, the head of the department, and his officers who have acted entirely in the orthodox manner. I understand that the manner in which these things are dealt with is, that the Minister refers them to his staff, and they then go through the department to the section of the Public Service which is concerned. The Minister and the head df his department are dependent, entirely, on the answers given by the officers immediately responsible. But I am completely dissatisfied with the information that has been supplied to the department, the departmental head, and the Minister by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. I asked the Minister another series of questions, upon notice, as follows : -

  1. When were the positions of Public Relations Officer and General Administrative Officer first added to the establishment of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board?
  2. When did they become vacant?
  3. Have they since been filled; if so, when?

The following answer was furnished: - 1, 2’ and 3. Both positions were added to the board’s establishment on the 7th September, 1951, as- Executive Officer (undesignated) not “ public relations officer “ - requiring respectively persons with journalistic experience, and accountancy or economies qualifications. One position, the designation, of which was changed to “ Public Relations Officer “ in July, 1954, has not been filled to date. The other position was filled when it was created but later the occupant was transferred to other duties. In December, 1953, the position was re-designated “General Administrative Officer “ and filled temporarily. An appointment to the position was made on the 30th August, 1954.

It will be seen that the board’s establishment was altered quite recently - in July, 1954 - to cover the position of public relations officer, which had not existed under that name previously. I ask the Minister to send for, and examine, the board’s minute book, in order to ascertain whether the relevant minute appears in its consecutive order. I do not make that request carelessly. I remind the House that I have never previously made any charge against any officer of the Public Service, and I do so now with a due consciousness of the seriousness of what I am doing. I emphasize that an incorrect answer has been given to a question asked in this House. If the dignity, status, importance, and effectiveness of this Parliament are to be preserved, it must be treated with due seriousness by the Public Service. The furnishing of the incorrect answer could have occurred either through gross carelessness on the part of the officer responsible for furnishing the information, or by deliberate deception. The Government should examine this matter with the utmost care and seriousness, and it should consider, very seriously, whether the administration of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board can be allowed to continue in its present hands until this matter is cleared up.

Sir PHILIP McBRIDE:
WakefieldMinister for Defence · LP

– I am pleased that the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), during the course of his revelations - if that is the proper term to use - exonerated myself, the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, and other officers, from any connexion with the charges that he has made. I can assure the honorable member that it is easy for me, and the department, to furnish any information required by honorable members on any subject, whether in regard to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, or any other organization. Such information will be freely, and, as far as humanly possible, correctly given to them. The honorable member has made a play on the answers given and those that he considers should have been given. I should like to repeat what I have already said in answer to a question in this House, that the matter of advertisements is not static. The first question to which the honorable member referred might be interpreted to relate to either how many advertisements had been published, or how many positions had been advertised. If the question was intended to cover the period from the beginning of the activities of the board, they would probably amount to thousands.

Mr Osborne:

– I said “ recently “.

Sir PHILIP McBRIDE:

– I do not know what “recently” means, but the fact is that those who prepared the reply to the question gave an answer in relation to advertisements concerning positions that had not been filled. The questions did not ask for particulars of positions that had been filled. It is a matter of opinion whether the honorable member wanted an answer about the positions filled. If he required a precise answer on these matters he should have stated a time limit. As I have pointed out, since the inception of the board, thousands of positions must have been advertised. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board is a responsible body, constituted under an act of Parliament. The Chairman is Mr. J. M. Hewitt, and the two other members are Mr. R. C. Reed, a representative of the shipping companies, and Mr. Stanton, a representative of the Treasury. I suggest that any body on which the Treasury is represented would usually examine carefully the expenditure of money, the engagement of staff, and the other matters associated with its operations. We must remember that certain functions have been delegated to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board by the Parliament, and the board has the power to employ or discharge staff as it thinks fit. Though the board is not completely integrated in the Public Service in relation to the administration of staff, care is taken that employees are engaged only for essential jobs, and the establishment of the board is related closely to the establishment of departments that are completely under the control of the Public Service Board. Similarly, though salaries are not fixed by the Public

Service Board, they are related to salaries paid in the Public Service for similar work.

The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, in common with other government bodies throughout Australia, often has great difficulty in getting the staff necessary for its normal operations. The difficulty is in part attributable to the fact that the positions advertised are only temporary, and the permanency generally available in the Public Service is lacking. The employees of the board enjoy no superannuation benefits, which would help to attract staff, and we are attempting to overcome that disadvantage. In these circumstances, much credit must be given to the board for keeping its staff together and performing its functions so well. I agree that there may be differences of opinion as to the proper functioning of the board, but, by and large, it must be admitted that over the years it has served a useful purpose. Any alterations in the organization, the functions, and other matters related to the board, that experience has shown to be necessary, will undoubtedly, as I have said previously, receive the consideration of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). In view of these facts, I do not propose to traverse the matter at greater length. I can only re-affirm my assurance that at all times while I represent the Minister, I shall do my utmost, in collaboration with the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service, to give correct information promptly to all honorable members who seek information. That is in accordance with the traditions of the Public Service and of Australian governments. It is a tradition that is prized greatly, and I trust that we shall do nothing to destroy it.

Mr FREETH:
Forrest

.- The matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) to-night is very disturbing. The Government must be very careful that it does not allow the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which is not under the administration of the Public Service Board, to build itself up into another bureaucratic empire, as it has been suggested that it might be doing. Some very disturbing implications arise in relation to the advertisements that the honorable member for Evans has mentioned. The honorable member omitted to state one particularly disquieting fact. There may or may not be a simple explanation of it, but the fact is that the positions in question were not advertised in accordance with the usual practice of advertising positions . in the Commonwealth service. The positions were advertised anonymously. An advertisement for an accountant contained the following notification: -

Confidential applications to “ Federal Organization” No. 15930, Herald.

Mr Haylen:

– An applicant could obtain enlightenment from the Public Service Board.

Mr FREETH:

– No. The advertisement does not indicate the public body or organization that advertised the position. Similarly, an advertisement for a legal officer contained the following notification : -

Applications strictly confidential “ Industrial Law”, No. 15935, Herald.

There again, no indication of the identity of the organization was given. An advertisement for a chief legal officer gave no indication of the identity of the advertiser, other than the notification -

Application may be made in the strictest of confidence to Box 3110, Telegraph, up until 25th August.

Mr Ward:

– Is that very serious?

Mr FREETH:

– It is. dangerous, because we do not “know the positions that are advertised from time to time by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The Minister should examine very carefully the sinister implications of these advertisements. ‘

Mr Ward:

– The Government should resign because of the position.

Mr FREETH:

– The honorable member may take that view. It is dangerous to allow bodies outside the control of the Public Service, which admittedly have a fairly free hand with their establishments, gradually to enlarge their staffs in this way. “When the process is coupled with the apparently .misleading answers that were given to questions asked in this House in good faith, I suggest that the whole matter should be examined carefully.

Mr HAYLEN:
Parkes

.- I accept the calm and sober statement made by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) on this subject.

Mr Beale:

– This is the only time in history that the honorable member has been able to accept so readily a statement by the Minister.

Mr HAYLEN:

– There is always a first time. I might even support the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) in due course. The Minister for Defence is on firm ground in his observations on the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The board is not within the ambit of the Public Service. Its employees are not even deemed to be within the Commonwealth service for the filling of positions advertised in the Government Gazette. The Minister has stated that he is hopeful that some day the employees of the board will be brought within the Public Service. The apparently peculiar action that has been taken in the advertising of vacancies is not extraordinary, and it constitutes no breach of power, confidence or tradition. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) has blown the matter up out of all proportion to its true significance. Mr. Hewitt, the chairman of the board, who was appointed by a Labour administration, has been the victim of sharp questions by the honorable member for Evans that have amounted almost to a vendetta against Mr. Hewitt, who has no protection under the Public Service Act. The employees of the board, also, are vulnerable. The whole set-up is difficult, as the Minister for Defence has pointed out, for that very reason. I suggest that the honorable member for Evans would have been better advised to mention the matter quietly to the Minister and to get an explanation from him in private. The facts in no way support the contentions of the honorable member for Evans and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Ereeth). A campaign is being waged against the chairman of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the officers of the board, who have done a magnificent job for Australia. I understand - and I speak subject to correction - that the honorable member for Evans is the legal representative of an overseas shipping organization, and I believe that he is working in this House on behalf of that body.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1618

PAPERS

The following papers were presented : -

South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty (signed at Manila, 8th September, 1954).

Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes at Corio, Victoria.

Public Service Act - Appointment - PostmasterGeneral’s Department - K. -L. Briggs.

House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.

page 1618

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

The following answers to questions ‘ were circulated: -

Finance

Mr Peters:
BURKE, VICTORIA

s asked the Minister who is acting for the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What countries, both inside and outside the British Commonwealth, have sterling -credit balances in London to-day?
  2. What was the balance each such country had at the 30th June in each of the years 1950, 1951, 1952, .1953 and 1954?
  3. How much did each such country have at credit at the 30th June, 1945 ?
  4. To what extent was the sterling bloc in debt or credit with (a) the United States of America and (6) Canada, at the 30th June in each of the years 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953?
Mr Menzies:
LP

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

  1. . 2 and 3. Figures of the United Kingdom’s sterling liabilities are not available in the detail requested. The following figures showinghave been published by the United “Kingdom sterling liabilities to different currency areas Treasury : -
  1. Information is not available as to the net position on short and long-term capital account between residents of the United States of America and Canada on the one hand and residents of the sterling area on the other. Movements in the balance of payments between the two areas are, however, reflected in the figures for the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area. These figures for the dates mentioned are as follows: -

Wool

Mr Ward:

d asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -

  1. Does the latest information available to the department indicate that the production of synthetic fibres and their use as a substitute for wool is increasing?
  2. Is it considered that the growth of this comparatively new and developing industryis likely to seriously affect the market for Australian wool in the foreseeable future!
Mr Anthony:
Postmaster-General · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

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

  1. The production of synthetic fibre other than rayon amounted to 385,000,000 lb. in 1953, which was an increase of 20 per cent. over that of the previous year. The information available does not indicate that the useof synthetic fibre as a substitute for wool is increasing significantly, because wool accounted for 11 per cent. of world textile fibre usage in 1953, compared with 10 per cent. in 1951. No synthetic fibre has yet been developed which is equal to wool in all respects, and direct competition between the two has lessened recently as it has become evident to consumers that many of the claims made for synthetics have been exaggerated. In general, the synthetic manufacturers have been forced to realize that, in the field of end use traditionally held by wool, their future lies mainly in blends with wool.
  2. The world textile market inexpanding fairly rapidly and natural fibres are insufficient for all requirements. It does not appear that production of wool is expanding at a sufficient rate to meet the growing demand arising from increasing world population and higher living standards. There is thus scope for further expansion of both wool and synthetics. The view is held by those competent to express opinions on this matter that the growth of the synthetics industry is not likely to affect seriously the market for Australian wool in theforeseeable future. However, this does not mean that Australia should be passive about wool use promotion. Moreover, it is highly important to sustain the supply of wool of the qualities required by manufacturers.

National Service

Mr Joshua:

a asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -

Will he furnish the following information relating to national service trainees in the Army for each of the years 1951-52, 1952-53 and 1953-54: - (a) annual intake; and (b) average total cost of administration, pay, allowances, keep and instruction per trainee?

Mr Francis:
LP

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

  1. The annual national service intake for years concerned were - 1st July, 1951, to 30th June, 1852, 27,829; 1st July; 1952, to 30th June, 1953, 28,985; 1st July, 1953, to 30th June, 1954, 28,856. (ft) The cost of training a national service trainee for 140 days, including the initial 98 days’ obligatory camp, is £530.

Rain-making.

Mr Swartz:

z asked the Minister repre senting the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and IndustrialResearch Organization -

  1. What recent progress has been made in Australia in research into artificial rain- making ?
  2. Where arc present experiments being carried out with the use of aircraft, and have any ground experiments been conducted by using additives in flue gases or other means of distribution from the ground?
Sir Philip McBride:
LP

– The Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial . Research Organization, has supplied the following information:-

It has been established quite definitely that the dropping of dry ice into the tops of high cumulus clouds or the spraying of water droplets into the base of warmer clouds, will induce individual clouds to rain. Unfortunately, these processes are not likely to be economically effective over wide areas since individualclouds must be treated. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is now seeking a more effective . method of easily and economically distributing a suitablechemicalsubstance in the atmosphere which will cause rain to fall from clouds over a wide area. These experiments arc -being conducted in south-east Australia. It has been shown quite conclusively that materials released from the ground do not rise intothe clouds in the atmosphere in concentrations sufficient to-be effective in producingrain.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1954, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540923_reps_21_hor5/>.