21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House of the proposed arrangements for the Public Accounts Committee to inquire into the Bell Bay aluminium project? Can the inquiry be conducted as a matter of urgency?
– I stated yesterday that the Public Accounts Committee would inquire into the accounts of the Bell Bay project us soon as practicable. That is all that I have to say on the matter, and that is all I can say.
– Can the Minister for Supply inform me whether it is a fact that the general manager of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is leaving the commission to erect a treatment plant in the Cloncurry area for a mining company which holds leases there? Owing to the imminence of the opening of the plant at Bell Bay, will the Minister tell the House the position?
– It is not a fact that the general manager is leaving the Australian Aluminium Production Commis-. sion. As far as I know, the only thing that could make him leave the commission would be the campaign of slander which has been going on affecting his work as general manager. In that connexion, it should be said that the general manager and his officers have made a first-class job of construction in getting the Bell Bay plant into production, as it is about to do, in so short a time. It is not true that Mr. Keastis leaving us. He did ask permission some time ago to join the board of a uranium mining company. Permission was given upon the condition that it did not interfere with his full-time duties with the commission. I am assured, and I believe, that he has kept the spirit and the letter of that undertaking, and is still doing good work for the commission.
– Can the Minister for
Civil Aviation state whether Vickers Viscount aircraft will bo used by TransAustralia Airlines on the Adelaide-Perth run? If it is intended to use those aircraft, how soon will they be introduced ? What saving in time on the present schedule can be effected ? Has Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited any plans for the introduction of faster aircraft on that run? If so, will the Minister ask Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines, in view of the necessity to have a different time-table, to examine the possibility of having staggered flights instead of the present side-by-side time-tables to which they adhere ?
– I should like to make it clear that the provision of aircraft on any of the flights of the Australian network is a matter for the companies themselves to determine. I understand that Trans-Australia Airlines intends to put a Vickers Viscount aircraft on the Perth service, and I have been informed, although I have not had any confirmation of the statement, that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited intend to run a DC6. These large aircraft will be introduced in perhaps January or February. The use of these aircraft will reduce the time for the westbound flight by approximately one hour and that for the eastbound flight by perhaps a little more than one hour. That is something that will be determined by the schedule, and whether they land en route or fly direct. The staggering of time-tables was tried on one occasion, but it was discontinued. There is an old airline maxim that the companies cannot arrange the passengers. In other words, the passenger traffic that is offering determines the schedule of the aircraft. It is of no use for a company to state that it will send aircraft at one time or another time. The time-table is determined by the times at which the passengers travel. I shall convey to both organizations the comments of the honorable member and ask them to re-examine the possibility of staggering the services.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation state whether it is a fact that a private hire car company has the monopoly for transport from the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome, Mascot? If so, will he give consideration to setting aside a special rank for general public taxis in the area? Such a service ls urgently needed by people who are travelling by air, as hire cars charge double fares and the cost of air travel is already very expensive.
– The provision of taxis and hire car services’ at Mascot i3 a matter that has engaged the attention of the Department of Civil Aviation over a period of years. There is nothing to prevent any passenger from arranging for a taxi to go to the terminal to take him away. The question that is raised by the honorable member for Cook is tho provision of a taxi rank, and that proposal was thought to have many undesirable features.
– There were hire car people operating at Mascot under licence plates issued by the New South Wales Government. I think that there were three or four persons concerned, and it was found to be more economical for one person to do the work. The plates, which were owned by three men, I think, were sold to one man who has carried on, as far as the department i3 concerned, quite a satisfactory service. But if anybody wishes to use a taxi to or from Mascot aerodrome, there is nothing to stop him from doing so.
– When the Minister for Civil Aviation is discussing the rationalization of services between eastern and Western Australia with the two companies “which are operating aircraft on that route, and when the matter of staggering services is under consideration, will he try to arrange a night service from east to west? I point out that a night, service is operated from west to east at the present time. The absence of a night service from east to west involves the sacrifice of a complete day to. persons like myself when we are travelling from the eastern States to Western Australia. Our time could be far better spent during the day than in an aircraft. A night service from cast to west would be most useful indeed. I believe that it would carry a considerable amount of traffic and would he profitable. Is the Minister prepared to discuss the introduction of this night service with the two companies concerned?
– Yes, I shall be prepared to put that proposition to the companies concerned. It should be understood that the aircraft are utilized on other routes, and a night service from, say, Melbourne to Perth would have to be determined in the light of all the commitments for the aircraft.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation request the management of Trans-Australia Airlines to carry on its aircraft a reasonable selection of Australian wines for purchase by passengers? By way of explanation, sir, may 1 say that present supplies are far too limited. Other airline concerns, notably British European Airways, provide this facility. It is one which would not only be appreciated by travellers, but would also help in a small way the wine industry in its present difficulties. For some people travelling by air a glass of wine in an aircraft is equivalent to an extra pair of engines.
– I believe that most passengers go high enough without getting South Australian wines into them. The matter is one for determination by the airline concerned, but I shall be pleased to convey the comments of the honorable member to them.
– My question is also directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Will he inform the House whether it is not a fact that the holding of an aircraft at the terminal airport in Western Australia-
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! There is too much conversation. If honorable members have matters to discuss, I wish they would discuss them outside. “Will the honorable member repeat his question?
– Will the Minister inform the House whether it is not a fact that the holding of an aircraft at the terminal airport in “Western Australia to prevent two services from departing from Perth at approximately the same time would entail the holding of a valuable asset out of traffic for a considerable period of time at a terminal at which major repair and maintenance facilities are very meagre or do not exist, and whether it would give an advantage to the operator whose aircraft was not held in that State? If the Minister gives consideration to this matter,, and if it is decided to alter the existing arrangements, will he ensure that Trans-Australia Airlines, which has operated an accidentfree service to Western Australia since its inception, does not suffer any operational or financial disadvantage as a result of that change?
– It is quite true that the utilization of aircraft is of great importance. Airline companies cannot afford to have aircraft lying about and not earning money. In any reorganization of the east-west run, that problem would have to be faced. As I pointed out to the honorable member for Forrest, it is a matter for the companies themselves and not for the Department of Civil Aviation to determine.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is operating several DC6 aircraft in Australia. Is it a fact that that company has placed an order for two new DC 613 aircraft for delivery in the near future? If so, has the Minister any idea when, the new aircraft will be available for service in Australia?
– Yes. I understand that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has ordered two DC6B aircraft. It is expected that one will arrive in February and that the other will arrive in March.
– I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which follows upon his answer to a question that was asked recently by the honorable member for New England in relation to the recent disaster on the north coast of New South Wales, and the possible effect of the change in the power of the neighbouring radio station. Is the Minister able to convey to the House any information on this aspect of the disaster?
– No, I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to the honorable member for New England. At the time the DC3 aircraft was lost in that area some years ago, attention was drawn to the fact that the beacon at Kempsey was a little out of adjustment, and it was suggested in the course of evidence given at the inquiry that perhaps this was a contributing cause to the disaster. However, the technical evidence which was supplied at that inquiry indicated that such was not the case, and that it had no bearing on the loss of the aircraft. In respect of the Lockheed aircraft which was missing a couple of weeks ago, there is no possibility whatever that a similar happening took place.
– In view of the approach of the end of the present sessional period, has the Prime Minister any further information about the proposed legislation to deal with assistance to the gold-mining industry in Western Australia ?
– I appreciate the interest that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has in this matter. I am glad to tell him that the final instructions to the Parliamentary Draftsman have already been given, and I anticipate that I shall be in a position to introduce the legislation next week so that it may be well through before the end of these sittings.
– Can the Minister for Supply say whether it is the intention of the Government to build the proposed nuclear reactor in the vicinity of the Long Bay Rifle Range? If so, has the Government taken into consideration, from a defence point of view, the close proximity of many large industrial establishments, the Bunnerong Power House, and oil refineries, and the Prince Henry Hospital ? “What will he the result of the disposal of the radio-active effluent into the sea? Will it pollute the many beautiful beaches in that district and expose to danger thousands of bathers who use those beaches throughout the summer months? In view of these possibilities, will the Government give consideration to a site for the proposed nuclear reactor away from thickly populated areas?
– The site for the research reactor has not yet been determined. Where it is to be built will be decided upon the best advice that the Government can obtain, and the honorable gentleman can be quite sure that wherever it is built it will be perfectly safe.
– Will the Minister for Supply state whether there is any truth in the report that the Government proposes to erect atomic power stations in various parts of Australia?
– I read a report to that effect which was attributed to the deputy chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. I immediately telephoned him, but he gave me an assurance - and he is obviously correct - that that report was a complete fabrication. mile:.
– I address a question to the . Minister for Health concerning the supply of free milk to school children. Does the Government exercise any control over the administration of that scheme? I have received advice that milk was supplied to the public school at Morisset for only two months last year and that no milk has been supplied to that school this year. Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to have the supply of milk restored to that school ?
– The scheme in New South Wales is controlled by the State Education Department which is eager to do everything possible to improve supplies of milk for school children. I shall take up the matter that the honor able member has raised with the appropriate authority and ascertain the reason for the interruption of supplies of milk to the public school at Morisset.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is the intention of the Government through either its own building agencies or those of South Australia to undertake a programme of building homes for aged persons who are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain accommodation.
– Only a few days ago, the Prime Minister stated that it was the policy of the Government to provide assistance to religious, and charitable organizations for the purpose of helping them to build homes for the aged. The assistance will be given direct to those organizations. I expect to be able within the next week, or at least the following week, to introduce a measure dealing with this subject, and on that occasion I shall place before honorable members the details of the Government’s scheme.
– Can the_ Minister for Social Services, who administers the “War Service Homes Division, say whether it is intended to raise or abolish the purchase price ceiling of £3,500 which at present applies to the financing of an existing home through the division ?
– A decision has been made by the Government to lift the ceiling of £3,500 on existing homes, and as soon as the bill, which will come before the House shortly, becomes law, a purchaser will be able to spend more than that sum, and perhaps an unlimited amount, on the purchase of an existing home.
– Can the Minister for Defence say whether it is correct that the heads of the two senior services, the Navy and the Army, retire at the age of 60 years, whilst the heads of the junior service retire at the age of 58 years? If this is so, does he not consider that these retiring ages are too low, provided that the persons concerned are medically fit? Will the Government consider extending these retiring ages before we lose the valuable services of two of our senior service leaders whose knowledge and experience of modern warfare is of great value to it?
– The retiring ages for the armed services follow very closely the age3 fixed in Great Britain. I am given to understand that, when these ages were determined, the services themselves were in complete accord with them. The Government has not given any consideration to the suggestion that the honorable member has made, but I shall give my attention to it and decide whether there is any justification for a variation of the present age limits.
– Has the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General taken notice of the legislation that is being introduced by the Governments’ of Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales in an effort to curb the publication and distribution of vulgar and obscene matter in newspapers and magazines? If so, will lie assist the States by using the postal regulations to prevent such matter from being accepted for transmission through the mails? Further, will he ensure that closer observation is maintained by the proper authority in order to stop the broadcasting of many of the horror plays and vulgarisms that are heard from time to time from radio stations? Some broadcasting matter is equally as offensive as the publications the State governments are trying to prohibit. I ask the Minister to cooperate with the States in an effort to curb the dissemination of obscene matter through these various channels because it is having a detrimental effect on children and adolescents generally.
– I was not aware of the action being taken by the State governments along the lines mentioned by the honorable member, who, no doubt, is well aware that such action is specifically a responsibility of those governments. Under the Post and Telegraph Act it w an offence to send obscene literature through the mails, and, although it is very difficult to police its provisions, a constant watch is kept in order to curb the practice. In relation to broadcasting. I am sure the honorable member will realize that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is the authority set up to control, or to influence, the matter that is transmitted from national stations, and that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is the authority which exercises similar influence over the commercial stations. I think he may rest assured that both these authorities are just as keen as he and the State governments are to keep the quality of radio programmes high. I remind him that only recently the Australian Broadcasting Control Board took action in regard to a serial that was being broadcast from Melbourne and communicated with the company concerned, which promptly took the serial off the air.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Supply, and 1 speak on behalf of egg producers, especially those within the electorate of Mitchell. Can the Minister say whether the Government, and particularly the Department of Supply, which, I understand, acts as the procurement organization for the defence group of departments, is able to do anything to assist the industry, particularly to ensure continuity of demand for its products?
– The honorable member has made representations in this House from time to time in the interests of the egg industry. The Government has already, through the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, done all that it can do, in a policy way, to aid the egg industry. Other departments have done their best to co-operate with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The Department of Supply has for some years now, in its procurement arrangements for the defence services, endeavoured to arrange contracts in such a way as to ensure a steady demand for eggs from the producers. It arranged contracts in that way the year before last, last year and this year. Only a few days ago, I approved a contract for the supply of £126,000 worth, of eggs over a period, which will help to give tho egg industry continuity of demand. We shall continue to do what we can for the industry. The honorable member has already said a great deal about it, and we have it very well in the front of our minds.
– Has the Prime Minister received a request from one or more of the State Premiers for a further increase in the subsidy on tea, which, at the prospective new price, will increase the burden of the cost of living on many people, and particularly on pensioners?
– I have received a communication from three or four of the State Premiers on that point.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. If all the States are co-operating in the Australian Government’s scheme for the eradication of tuberculosis, do schemes for compulsory X-rays operate in all the States? Will the Minister inform me of the action taken in the Australian Capital Territory in this matter?
– All the State Parliaments have now passed legislation in relation to compulsory mass X-rays. I am not aware of the extent to which compulsory X-ray examinations have been made. The problems encountered are difficult, and the examinations must be made gradually. In the Australian Capital Territory we have extensive equipment for a regular X-ray programme.
– Will the Prime Minister confer with taxation officials with a view to allowing taxation rebates to members of families who have to pay medical, hospital and funeral expenses on behalf of parents in receipt of age, invalid or widows’ pensions?
– I shall be glad to have talis with the Treasury on the point that the honorable member has raised.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. In view of the great shortage of building tradesmen and the serious effect that the shortage is having on the building industry generally, and, in particular, on the home-building programme, will the Minister consider . a special offer by building tradesmen from the United Kingdom and other selected parts of Europe to immigrate to Australia on the understanding that they shall have the right, within, say, two years of their arrival, to purchase and occupy permanent homes on specially attractive terms and conditions?
– I appreciate the constructive suggestion that has been made by the honorable member. I can inform him that when it became evident that a shortage of building tradesmen for housing and other construction needs in Australia was likely to occur, we made our requisitions accordingly under the various programmes of assisted immigration that we have in operation in various countries, in particular, in the United Kingdom, Holland, Germany and Austria. Under those requisitions, we are seeking, in this year’s programme, more than 2,000 building workers - 1,140 skilled building tradesmen and 1,000 semi-skilled building workers. I am informed by officers of the Department of Immigration that the recruitment of labour within those categories is proceeding according to our plan, and that those workers should arrive in Australia in various stages in the months to come. We are at all times willing to consider practicable proposals for assisting immigrants to provide their own homes. The honorable member is probably aware of assistance that has been given to certain building tradesmen from the United Kingdom who have lent their own services to the task of getting housing programmes going in Victoria, New South Wales and, perhaps, in other parts of Australia. However, we must also keep in mind the equities that should prevail iri relation to other groups of immigrants in considering any scheme of the kind that the honorable member has proposed.
– In explanation of my question to the Minister for Health, may I say that on the 10th September I asked the Minister to investigate claims that a new British drug called ronicol had proved remarkably successful in curing baldness. Has the Minister received any report from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to which he referred the matter? Will he recognize that my increasing interest in the matter is obviously shared in greater or less degree by many honorable members and Ministers?
– The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee of experts which examines recommendations with regard to free life-saving drugs, applies itself to the question of lifesaving and not hair-saving.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether he has yet arranged for an investigation to be conducted in Queensland, where there is a free hospital system, about the application of that section of the Social Services Consolidation Act which provides that the payment of hospital benefits by an approved society to a patient in a free ward of a public hospital shall be deemed to be income insofar as it applies to the payment of unemployment and sickness benefits, and also whether that section acts as a deterrent to those on low incomes in ‘Queensland to insure . with societies approved under this Government’s health and medical scheme.
– -Some time ago the honorable member raised this matter with me, and I gave him an assurance that It would be thoroughly investigated and a reply furnished to him. I have not yet seen any information about it from the Director-General of Public Health, but I shall take the matter up with him again with the object of giving the honorable member an answer quickly.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that most of the brickyards in “Victoria are producing considerably below their capacities because of their inability to obtain labour fully to man their yards? Since it is almost impossible to obtain local labour for the labouring tasks in those brickyards, skilled labour being fully available, will the Minister endeavour to provide sufficient labour from the ranks of immigrants to enable this important industry to be put back into full production?
– The brickyards, like most other sections of industry, are experiencing a shortage of labour at this time, and as brick-making is not among the most attractive of occupations, perhaps they feci the pressure more acutely than some other sections of industry. In the past we have been able to supply some of the labour they require through the movement of immigrants, and I shall keep in mind the suggestion that the honor-able member has made. It is some consolation to know that the buoyant economic conditions that have prevailed under the policies put into effect by this Government, have maintained full, and indeed over-full, employment for a considerable time.
– Will the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for the Army cause investigations to be made with a view to having a larger quantity of dried vine fruits included in the diet of men and women of the services ? The inclusion of that commodity would undoubtedly increase local sales of this primary product and, at the same time, would be most beneficial to the consumers.
– I always knew that the honorable member for Mallee was a very good salesman, and I congratulate him upon his efforts to sell commodities, the sale of which seems to be difficult. If the Navy and the Army can assist in any way, I am sure they will do so. I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Supply.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, relates to the balance-sheets and accounts of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank. By way of explanation, may I say that I found many of the items in the balance-sheets and accounts incomprehensible. Upon making inquiries in Sydney, I discovered that that bewilderment was shared by most people. Indeed, it is likely that many of the items could not be understood by people outside the staff of the Commonwealth Bank. In view of those facts, will the Prime Minister cause the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, or his representative, to attend on honorable members and answer their questions in relation to the various items or, alternatively, furnish them with reasons why their questions should not be answered ?
– I share - occasionally, at any rate - the anguish that has been described by the honorable member for Mackellar. I do not know that I should go to the point of asking the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to attend on honorable members and submit himself to cross-examination. If honorable members desire further information on some of these items, and such items are not of such a theological character as not to be understood by the laity, I shall be very happy to have answers prepared for them.
– Will the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General state whether it is a fact that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has recently authorized increased power for national broadcasting transmitters of up to 50,000 watts, while commercial stations in Melbourne and Sydney are limited to 5,000 watts, and all other commercial stations are limited to only 2,000 watts? Is this action one that is calculated to encourage private enterprise?
– I am not aware of the precise allotment that has been made to either national or commercial broadcasting stations, but I shall obtain the information and furnish it to the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that a very serious grasshopper plague threatens the harvest and the pastoral districts of New South Wales? Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been drawn to the fact that the recent beneficial rains are likely to increase the incidence of that menace, which may extend to other States and thereby reduce the national income of Australia? If his attention has been drawn to these facts, will he state whether an application ha3 been received from the New South Wales Government for assistance similar to that which was extended on a former occasion when aircraft were made available to assist in combating the menace? If not, can he assure the House that, in the event of such an application being received, it will be as sympathetically considered as previous applications that were made?
– I am not aware of any such application having been received, but I shall investigate the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that, at the 37th session of the International Labour Organization which was held at Geneva, Switzerland, in June of this year the Government was represented by two delegates ? Is it also a fact that strong exception was taken by all free world trade union delegates and employers’ delegates, including Australian employers’ and trade union delegates, to the credentials of the Communist employers’ delegates and Communist trade union delegates from Soviet Russia who turned up in force at the conference? Is it true that, on a vote being taken to decide the issue, the Australian Government supported the admission of the Communist delegates, and thereby gave Soviet Russia a voting strength of twelve delegates which was enough to swing a. vote on any question that came before the conference? Will the Prime Minister inform the House why the Government instructed its two delegates to cast their votes in favour of the Soviet delegation against those of the other delegates from the free world?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service will answer the question.
– I shall ascertain what information I can furnish to the honorable member for Watson after I have had an opportunity of examining his question.
– Has the Prime Minister given any consideration to an increase of the pension paid to Australian writers from the Commonwealth Literary Fund? If consideration has not been given to that matter, will the right honorable gentleman give some attention to it at the next meeting of the committee that administers the fund?
– Matters of that kind, as the honorable member for Phillip knows, are dealt with by the Commonwealth Literary Fund committee, over which I preside. I shall be very happy to bring the remarks of the honorable member before the committee at its next meeting.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That leave of absence for one week be given to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) owing to his absence from Australia.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Flags Act 1 953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The correct dimensions of the Australian national flag were promulgated in Gazette No. 18 of 1934. They had been approved by the Sovereign previously. When the bill to declare the Australian national flag was drafted, a typographical error occurred in table A. The outer dimension of the Commonwealth Star, that is the star immediately under the Union Jack, was described as being three-eighths of the width of the flag, whereas the correct dimension is threetenths of the width of the flag. The error has also caused some concern to conscientious flag manufacturers and to the Commonwealth services.
Clause 3 of the bill provides for the omission of the word “ three-eighths “ and for the insertion in its stead of the word “ three-tenths “. The act is to operate from the 14th April, 1954, the day on which the act became effective following the proclamation of the Queen’s assent to the Flags Bill 1953. This provision, which is made in clause 2, is designed to ensure that the continuity of the approved dimension is maintained.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Public Service Act 1922-53.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to amend the Pub.lic Service Act by clarifying certain sections without altering existing methods in respect of examination procedure and subsequent appointment action, and by repealing a number of provisions in the act which have for many years ceased to be operative, or, for one reason or another, have never been used. The most important amendments deal with appointments to the Public Service as a result of passing the normal entrance examinations. These amendments are designed to permit two methods of normal entry into the Public Service. These may be either by passing a competitive examination conducted by the Public Service Board or by passing a particular examination conducted by a university or other public examining body in Australia. The practice is to appoint to the Third Clerical, Administrative and Professional Division of the Public Service persons who have passed the school leaving or senior certificate examination, in the various States in accordance with the order of merit in which they pass that examination provided they pass the examination in subjects specified by the board. It is not intended to vary this procedure but it has been found that, with the many recent changes that have taken place in the educational and examination practices adopted by the various States, more adequate powers and more discretion must be allowed to the board under the act in order to have regard to the changes, and to equate the State examinations with the requirements of the Public Service.
In future, the board will be able to notify in the Gazette the particular examinations and particular subjects the board will require for entrance to the Public Service. The method of fixing an order of appointment or determining an order of merit and other details required to assure the appointment of the best qualified applicants up to the limit of recruits needed at any time must also be contained in the notification in the Gazette.
The present recruitment situation and foreseeable recruitment trends for the Third Division make it imperative ,that applicants should not be required to sit for a separate examination conducted by the board. However, the board still retains power to hold its own Third Division examinations if this course becomes desirable. Experience over the past few years both in Australia and other countries has shown that youths who have just passed the final secondary school examination will not sit for another examination that is specially conducted for entrance to the Public Service. If they are not accepted for appointment on the basis of their school educational qualifications, they will seek employment in the many fields available outside the Public Service.
Sir Eric Harrison.
No change is proposed for examination; for recruitment to the Fourth Division, which the board itself conducts. The provision that the educational examination for the Fourth Division shall be of an elementary character has been retained. Provision is also being made to restrict recruitment to the particular localities where recruits are needed, and adequate provision is being made for the board to fix age limits where necessary. No change is to be made in the present method of recruiting and appointment of returned soldiers. No alterations are proposed in the quota of university graduates who may be appointed each year, although the board is being given authority under the bill to appoint persons who have passed their final university examinations, but have not formally graduated. This is necessary as in most Australian universities the period between completion of the final examinations and formal graduation is often four or five months and during that period prospective recruits would be lost to other employers.
The section of the act dealing with the powers of the presiding officers of the Parliament over officers of the parliamentary departments has been amended to give to them the same powers over temporary employees in those departments as the board exercises over temporary employees in other departments. An amendment is being- made to permit persons who have retired on the grounds of ill health and receive a pension from, the superannuation fund to be reappointed if their health should improve at any age up to the maximum retiring age. Previously, such persons could not be re-appointed if they were over the age of 51 years.
A new section is being added to the act to give to the board power to determine, by a notification in the Gazette, that transfer to certain specified offices shall be in accordance with the position of persons in the order of merit gained in passing an examination conducted by the board and that such transfers^ which are technically promotions, are not subject to appeal. This provision is necessary to put beyond doubt the board’s power to transfer, without appeal, officers of the Fourth Division to the Third Division who pass the annual clerical examination. At the same time, this procedure is used in promotion to certain offices of a semi-technical nature-, such as- typist. Provision is also being- made for automatic advancement of cadets and other officers, who are undergoing training courses, to the base grade professional, or technical, positions on the successful completion of their courses without having to go through the normal procedure of promotion, and for automatic advancement of juniors, whose positions have no adult salary rate, to base grade officers on the minimum adult salary immediately they attain the age of 21 years’. Section 55 of the act, which deal:with offences by officers of the Public Service-, is’ being amended to provide tha! an officer stationed overseas shall bo deemed to be stationed in the Australian Capital Territory for the purposes of dealing with any offences against the Public Service Act that he may commit, and also to make adequate provision for appeal Boards to operate in respect of other Commonwealth Territories.
The opportunity is being taken to delete from the Public Service Act certain provisions which no longer operate. The remaining sub-sections of section 27, which were inserted in the act in 1922 to protect the salaries of officers employed under the Public Service Act of 1902 have been repealed as salary increases since 1922 have placed everybody above any salary that he or she may have received at that time. Part IV. of the act, which provides for the establishment in time of need of a temporary service with temporary departments called the provisional service, is to be repealed. During the 32 years that provision has been in the act a provisional service has never been established because at the time when a temporary structure was needed the Government has created statutory authorities to deal with a particular matter or, as in the case of the last war, it has’ passed special legislation, such as the National Security Act to provide, for the setting up of. temporary organizations: The board has, now adequate powers to handle any temporary or casual increases which may be necessary asthe work-load shifts in the Public Service.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt). adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Distillation Act1901-1952.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
. - by leave - I. move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is administrative in character, and some of the amendments which it proposes are simply drafting improvements. However, the proposals contain three new features. First, in regard to. stills not used in the production of spirits, the securities formerly demanded from the owners will be dispensed with and small laboratory stills of a capacity not exceeding one gallon will he exempted from registration. Beliance will” be placed on prosecution if the stills are used illicitly. Secondly, it is intended to empower Collectors of Customs to permit, in special circumstances, delivery of spirits in lots of less than 10 gallons, which was the previous minimum quantity: Thirdly, a more liberal policy is contemplated in respect of the use of free stores by distillers in close proximity to. their licensed premises. The original provision which prohibited duty paid spirits from being stored within 100 yards of the distillery was inserted in the act as a safeguard to the revenue. As all distilleries are now under the close supervision of the Department of Trade and Customs, that danger is so remote as to be virtually non-existent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Mr. POLLARD (Lalor) [3.271.- The committee is entitled to be given some, explanations of the proposed amendmentsin relation to distillation processes and machinery. Hitherto; persons were rer quired to. provide a surety in relation to distillation apparatus, including; apparatus for the distillation of eucalyptus and exciseable spirit. In days gone by it was essential to exercise stringent control over the use of stills. I recall that, when I was a boy, primary producers and others who wished to eke out a living or to supplement their income engaged in the distillation of eucalyptus on the countryside. In such instances, the procedure usually followed was to place a 400-gallon tank on a stand constructed of 3 x 2 pieces of timber and to run a pipe from the tank to a kerosene tin. After the tank was filled with water and eucalypt leaves, a fire was lit under it and the crude form of eucalyptus thus distilled was forwarded to market. Those people were required to lodge a bond of at least £100 with the Department of Trade and Customs. There may have been some temptation for distillers in the backwoods in those days to contravene’ the act by filling the old tank with grain and water, lighting the fire and distilling a potent spirit that might have been attractive to hardened drinkers. In fact, I have heard that some of the old pioneers, particularly those who came from Scotland and Ireland and who later joined the ranks of our most reputable citizens, were responsible for distilling a drop of the doings out in the bush in crude stills of the kind I have described. But we have progressed, and opportunities for obtaining liquor in its more refined forms under greater safeguards are now more readily available than they were in those days. People also have a greater financial capacity to purchase spirits of a better quality. Therefore, apparently, the department now considers that a security bond is no longer necessary.
I should like the Minister to tell me whether the provisions of the bill will apply to people who distil perfumes. I should think that the process of distilling perfumes would produce a spirit, but I imagine it would not be very palatable and that there would be little inducement for people who distil essences from flowers to manufacture a liquor that anybody would be tempted to drink, even though I have heard that, at Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne recently, potent drinks were extracted by some means from boot polish. I ask the Minister to inform me whether the bill will exempt from the provisions of the act distillers engaged in the production of perfumes. I notice that the bill provides also that technical institutions which have small stills in their laboratories will be exempted from the requirement to lodge a bond. That is a wise reform. The measure will simplify the administrative work of the Department of Trade and Customs, and, to that degree, it is desirable. Clause 6 will amend the provision that the minimum quantity of spirits that may be moved at one time must be ten gallons. In future, officers of the Department of Trade and Customs will be able to exercise their discretion in this matter. Under clause 8, the prohibition against the establishment of a spirit store within 100 yards of a distillery will be qualified. I assume that this refers to distillers of brandy, whisky and other liquors of that character. Apparently, when the original act was drafted, it was considered that distillers were not so honest as they are considered to be to-day. The temptations to run liquor from the distillery to a store without authority were apparently so great that the limitation which I have mentioned was embodied in the act. I am glad to learn that the Government has greater faith in distillers than former governments had.
Any measure that provides for simplified administration is desirable and should have the support of the Parliament. Many anomalies and unnecessary provisions still clutter up our legislation, and the principle of this bill could be carried very much further and applied to other measures on the statute-book which deal with a wide range of subjects. All sorts of out-of-date and out-mode( requirements are embodied in acts and regulations. Such provisions ought to be repealed. In these circumstances, the Opposition will support the bill. I merely ask the Minister to assure me that distillers of perfumes will not be required to lodge bonds with the Department of Trade and Customs. These manufacturers, who distil their products from roses, lavender and other sweet-scented flowers, are gallantly struggling to establish a healthy Australian perfume industry. Therefore, I hope the exemption for which the bill provides will cover them as well as distillers of eucalpytus, whether they use the old apparatus that I have described or modern equipment. Of course, conditions were vastly different in the days when the act was first passed. All sorts of strange rumours circulated about the things that went in at one end of some of those old-fashioned stills and the products that emerged at the other end. Under modern conditions, the requirements of the act to which I have referred are no longer necessary.
– Two points raised by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) require short explanations. The honorable gentleman spoke with a certain nostalgia of the distribution of exciseable spirit from eucalyptus stills. Well, I do not know much about this subject from experience, but I have heard it said that some of the whisky and other liquor sold to-day tastes as though it has passed through a still that has been fouled by eucalyptus. Obviously, stills of the sort that the honorable member has mentioned are not likely to be used for the distillation of exciseable spirit. The Department of Trade and Customs has decided, in view of its long experience in the administration of the Distillation Act, that there is no need to demand the lodging of security bonds for such stills, which usually are situated in outlandish parts of the country. The department will rely entirely on its power to prosecute in the event of anybody contravening the law by using a eucalyptus still to distil raw whisky or other spirits. I assure the honorable member that the bill will not alter the situation of perfume distillers. The Distillation Act does not cover manufacturers of perfume. They are subject to the provisions of the Spirits Act. The honorable member has already answered for himself the other questions that he raised, and I need offer no further comments. I hope that my explanation of the two points with which I have dealt will satisfy him. Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the stabilization of the wheat industry.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has been introduced in pursuance of the Commonwealth’s obligations as a partner with the States in the proposed now wheat stabilization plan which has been developed in consultation with State Ministers and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. The plan has been approved by all the governments in Australia and has been submitted to polls of growers in all the mainland States by the respective State governments. The polls, which have just been completed, resulted in an overwhelming vote of wheat-growers in favour of the plan. The total vote was 46,584 in favour of the plan, and only 2,934 against it. This measure will be proclaimed if the States adopt complementary legislation or satisfy the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that they will do so. The intention is that all legislation, both Commonwealth and State, shall be in operation by the commencement of the 1954- 55 wheat season; that is, by the beginning of next December.
Under existing legislation, the three Australian wheat crops commencing with the 1953-54 crop and ending with the 1955- 56 crop, would be marketed under the current orderly marketing plan, which does not include stabilization features. Legislation for that plan was passed in October, 1953, by the Commonwealth, and all the States. This bill will repeal the Wheat Marketing Act 1953, which, in turn, amended the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1948, by eliminating the stabilization provisions and by inserting new provisions on which governments and growers were agreed. At this stage, it is preferable to have an entirely new measure rather than to complicate the “position lay ‘f further .amendment of earlier legislation. The bill will certainly enable the scheme to be :set out .more clearly so that it may be followed more easily by honorable members and other interested persons. Following the wheat-growers’ vote in favour of the stabilization plan, it is proposed that a new act shall supersede the 1953 orderly marketing legislation and shall operate before the next harvest. The effect of “this bill is to graft, the specific features of wheat stabilization onto the orderly marketing arrangement. These stabilization features may be briefly stated as a guarantee by the Commonwealth of export returns, the establishment of a .stabilization .fund, and a tax on wheat exported from Australia. The provision for an export tax “requires a special bill, which -will .be complementary to this measure.
The new plan “will follow directly upon the old ve-years stabilization plan, which expired with the 1952-53 crop. When the orderly marketing legislation was passed in October last, it was made ‘clear that the Commonweal It]1 “was .still “willing to legislate for a stabilization plan, but “because of lack of agreement by one State on a fundamental .point, it was unable to do so before the 1953-54 crop was harvested. It was essential that the existing wheat marketing structure, with the Australian Wheat Board in the centre, be preserved, since the new crop *“w.&s imminent and a return to open marketing -conditions at that stage “would have resulted in chaotic conditions in the industry. Moreover it would have been impossible for Australia to be a .party to the International Wheat Agreement in such -circumstances. The Wheat Marketing Act 1953., which was then passed, gave the .board power to market the Aus.tralian wheat crops for another three seasons and it was made clear at the time, on behalf of the .Commonwealth, that its stabilization offer .still held good and that the stabilization features could be grafted onto the orderly marketing plan if the necessary .agreement between all .governments could be obtained in sufficient time later in the .1953-54 season to tenable ballots of growers to be taken land the necessary Commonwealth and State legislation to be enacted. It has been necessary to make this bill retrospec- live, so that it will apply to the 1953-54 crop now being marketed by the Australian Wheat Board and give continuity to stabilization. Retrospectivity is .unavoidable in all the circumstances. The position is fully .appreciated by .all the governments and the ‘growers’ organizations.
The main points of the plan to which the Australian ‘and State ‘Governments and the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation have -agreed, may be briefly stated ‘as follows: -
The period of operation of the wheat stabilization plan shall be five years, and it shall apply to the “wheat crops of ‘the seasons 1953-54 to 1957-58, both inclusive.
The Australian Wheat Board shall be t’he sole authority for the marketing of wheat within Australia and for the marketing of wheat and flour for export from Australia for the period of the plan.
Tie Australian Government shall guarantee a return to growers -of the ascertained cost of production in .respect of up to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported from Australia from each of the five wheat crops covered by .the plan.
A stabilization fund shall be established by means of ‘an export tax to he collected at the rate of ls. 6d. a bushel when wheat export prices exceed the cost of production by this amount or more, and by that portion of ls. 6d. ‘by which the export prices exceed the cost of production when the excess is less than ls. 6d. a bushel. The export tax will apply to the 1-953-54 crop and later crops.
The maximum amount of the stabilition fund shall be £20,000,000. As the moneys in the fund accumulate .beyond this figure, repayments .from the excess accumulations shall be made, after recommendations by the Australian Wheat Board, to the oldest contributing pool so as to form a revolving fund.
When average export realizations .fall below the cost of production, export returns shall he raised, in respect of np to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat from -each crop, to the cost of production level, first by drawing upon the stabilization fund. When that fund is exhausted, the Commonwealth Treasury shall meet the obligations of the Commonwealth .guarantee.
The homer-consumption, price for f.a.q. wheat shall be not less than. the. cost of production determined for each season. This is. fundamental to the plan.. Subject to. the understanding that at: no time shall the price fall below the cost of production, however,, the home consumption price. for f.a.q. wheat sold for domestic human consumption and. for consumption, by pigs; poultry and dairy stock, shall be determined by State legislation at 14s. a bushel,, bulk, f.o.r. ports. This price shall vary downwards to conform with the International Wheat Agreement, price current, at the commencement of each season, if the International’ Wheat Agreement price at that time should be less than 14s.. a. bushel, bulk, f.o.r. ports. Similarly, if Australia should not be a party to an international wheat agreement, the home consumption price of f.a.q. wheat sold for domestic human consumption and for consumption by pigs, poultry and dairy stock, shall vary downwards in conformity with the current price for export sales by the Australian Wheat Board at the commencement of each season, if the board’s export price, should be at that time less than 14’s. a bushel, bulk, f.o.r. ports’.
A .premium- from export realizations will be paid on wheat grown in Western Australia and exported from that State, in recognition of the natural freight advantage that applies to Western Australia owing to the proximity of that State to the principal overseas markets for wheat. The premium shall be 3d. per bushel. Provision will be made for a loading on all wheat sold for consumption in Australia, to the extent necessary to cover the cost of transporting wheat from the mainland to Tasmania in each season of the plan. That will not affect the pool returns to growers in any way.
These proposals require the passage of the necessary Commonwealth and State complementary legislation. It is no longer necessary to argue in favour of the orderly marketing of wheat through an Australian wheat board. The principle- is accepted by Australian governments; irrespective of party; and it has had the unswerving support of growers’ organizations over many years. The desirability of stabilization has also been endorsed in principle long since1 by go vernments- and industry representatives; However, the formulation of.’ a- detailed, stabilization plan has followed a long; series of difficult negotiations7. At time» it has been the Wheat Growers’ Federation, which has been unwilling to agree on one point or another. At other timesit has been the inability of all States, to. agree, on all points of the proposals. A fundamental point at issue for a longtime was the determination of a uniform.’ home consumption, selling price for which all States must legislate as an integral part of the plan. It w.as only in late July this year that agreement was. finally reached on this difficult issue at the conference of Commonwealh and’ State. Ministers.
As I mentioned earlier, this bill incorporates the. provisions for ord’erly marketing which were passed by the Parliament in 195-3, and adds new features. It is these new features which thereforerequire explanation, since the others have previously come under review. The new plan covers the marketing of the five crops of the seasons 1953:-54 to 1957-58 inclusive. The first of those crops, which is now being- marketed in: accordance with the existing orderly marketing legislation, is brought withinthe scope of this bill, which also covers the following four crops. The Commonwealth will guarantee a return equal to cost of production on exports of up to 100,000,000 bushels from each of the five crops. That will provide security in respect of returns from exports in any season up to that quantity. Therefore, in a normal crop year it may be said that, as part of the stabilization plan the Commonwealth will underwrite the whole of the exports on1 a costofproductionbasis. In- a year of heavy production in which the exportable surplus may exceed’ 10fl,MO,000 bushels the returns from the sales- for export of any quantity in excess of. 100.000,000 bushels, aa computed: on the basis of the- average sales, returns hmm all exports;, will go to the pool concerned. There will” be no adjustment on such excess sales since, they a-re not covered by the Commonwealth guarantee under the plan.
A new wheat prices stabilisation fund’ will need to be- established,, since the Government has returned’ to growers’ the balance of some £9,000,000 which stood to the credit of the fund from the last stabilization plan. The lack of a definite understanding on this point was responsible for some difficulties in the negotiations for the new plan proposed. The rate of contribution to the fund by growers has been altered from that which applied in the previous plan. An export levy will be collected when average export prices for the season exceed cost of production, and any amount in excess of cost of production, up to but not exceeding ls. 6d. a bushel, will be paid into the fund. The request of the industry that there should be a reasonable upper limit to the fund has been met. The limit of the fund is established at £20,000,000. If the fund should grow to more than that sum, the excess moneys will be paid out to the oldest contributing pool. That, in effect, will establish a revolving fund, and maintain the principle of “ first in, first out “. “Where the excess is sufficient to repay in full collections from the oldest contributing pool, then the refund is mandatory. Otherwise, payments are to he made after a recommendation of the Australian Wheat Board, as agreed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in consultation with the Treasurer. Honorable members will appreciate that this is a reasonable arrangement, since at some point there may be an excess in the fund so small that it would not be a practical proposition to arrange a special distribution.
The stabilization fund is a trust fund, and it is to be used to meet the Commonwealth guarantee commitment. If the fund is exhausted at any time, then the amount needed to meet the guarantee will be transferred to the fund from publicrevenue.
The bill contains provision for the temporary retention of any balance which may remain in the fund at the end of the period, in the event that it may be required to assist in financing a continuing stabilization arrangement. The Government has stated in policy declarations that it is, in principle, prepared to support the long-term stabilization of the wheat industry. Growers’ organizations and State governments have said the same. It is generally agreed however, that it is not desirable to provide for a period of more than five years in a detailed plan. The Government contemplates, therefore, that, as the plan now proposed nears its end, there will be fresh negotiations for its projection into a further period ahead. The result of such negotiations will determine whether another term is desired, and if so, what detailed plan is to be submitted to a ballot of wheat-growers before the introduction of any legislation to implement it.
The Government is, therefore, thinking in terms of a continuing scheme, and the bill provides that any money remaining in the stabilization fund at the end of the period will he held for the purpose of carrying it forward to a continuing scheme if one is agreed to by governments and approved by growers. Therefore, repayment of any such balance will not be made unless the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture declares that it has become clear that an extension of the scheme is not desirable or is impracticable. The home consumption price provisions of the new plan are the same as those specified in the 1953 orderly marketing legislation. The responsibility for the determination of a uniform home consumption price formula under the plan, and for the passage of the necessary legislation to implement it rests with the State governments. That provides an assurance to wheat-growers that the minimum price that they will receive for wheat sold in Australia during the period of the stabilization plan will be the equivalent of cost of production.. It is therefore a most important feature of the whole plan and is complementary to the Commonwealth guarantee in respect of export prices.
The new plan also contains provisions for the payment from wheat pool funds of a premium on Western Australian wheat exported, and for a loading on home-consumption prices to meet the cost of freight on wheat shipped to Tasmania. Although those features are essentially State matters, and were incorporated in the 1953 State orderly marketing statutes, some further reference to them at this stage may be appropriate, since the present bill before the House contains complementary provisions relating to the small quantity of wheat grown in the Australian Capital Territory. The premium of 3d. a bushel from the pool on exports of wheat from Western Australia was an innovation which emerged last year in the course of negotiations between growers and governments for an orderly marketing plan. Grower organizations and governments in all the other States, conceded the justice of recognizing the advantage which Western Australia possesses in the form of a higher net return from exports because of lower freight rates to export markets.
Under the stabilization arrangements, the premium to Western Australian growers is quite separate from, and is not involved in, the Commonwealth’s guarantee; but it will be calculated and paid after the primary provisions of the stabilization plan, namely the guarantee and the tax that goes with it, have operated. It is a premium which in the first place is related to disbursement from sale realizations, and the stabilization provisions will not alter that situation. The special provision for meeting the cost of freight on wheat to Tasmania is also a feature first introduced in the Wheat Marketing Act 1953. The arrangement is that the price at which wheat will be sold in Australia on behalf of growers, will be loaded by a further l 1/2d a bushel. The extra amount will be kept in a separate fund. Wheat-growers have no equity whatever in that fund and it will be used solely to meet the cost of freight to Tasmania.
Honorable members will note that there is a provision in the bill which will enable the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to issue directions to the Australian Wheat Board on wheat selling policy, if that should prove necessary at any time. It is far from the Government’s intention that this should open th? way to government interference in the wheat-selling operations of the board, but it will be obvious to honorable members, and it has in fact been clearly stated to the Wheat Growers Federation, that as the Australian Government assumes the financial responsibility of guaranteeing the plan from public revenue then, in the interests of the taxpayers generally, it cannot be indifferent, for instance, to the price at which the board may be willing to sell wheat at some particular time or to some particular market.
An opportunity has been taken in the bill to establish uniformity in relation to the period of membership of the grower members of the Australian Wheat Board. It is proposed that the terms of office of all members of the board should run concurrently in future. At present, the terms of office of the Victorian and South Australian grower members coincide, but those of the grower members from other States terminate at different times. This is not a satisfactory arrangement, and it militates against efficient administration. It is proposed that each full board will have a definite life of three years, commencing from October, 1953, when the Wheat Marketing Act was proclaimed. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
– (1.) That in this Resolution, unless the contrary intention appears - “ prescribed “ mean prescribed by regulations under the Act; “ season “, in relation to wheat, mean the period of twelve months, commencing on the first day of October, during which the wheat was harvested: “ the Act “ mean the Act passed to give effect to this Resolution; “the Board” mean the Australian Wheat Board proposed to be continued in existence by the Wheat industry Stabilization Bill 1954; “ the guaranteed price “ have the same meaning ae that expression has in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 1054; “ wheat products “ mean a substance (other than bran or pollard) produced by the gristing, crushing, grinding, milling or other processing of wheat, and include -
Charge on export of wheat and wheat products.
That, subject to this Resolution, a charge be imposed, and be levied and paid, on wheat and wheat products -
Rate of the Charge.
– (1.) That the charge be not ‘payable in respect of wheat of a particular season exported by the Board unless the average price per bushel, expressed in Australian currency, obtained by the Board for all wheat of that season exported by the Board exceeds the guaranteed price, and that the rate of the charge per “bushel in respect of any such wheat be
Payment of the Charge.
Sales by Board for export.
The resolution now before the committee is necessary to authorize a wheat export charge bill. The bill will be complementary to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 1954.
An important feature of the wheat industry stabilization plan is a proposal that there shall be a tax on wheat exported. The tax will apply when the export price obtained for wheat exceeds the guaranteed price, and -the proceeds from the tax will form the stabilization fund. The export tax proposal is acceptable to the wheat industry and represents the industry’s contribution to its own stabilization. It means, an effect, that when wheat export prices are high, the growers themselves will provide a financial cushion against a possible future period of low export prices within the stabilization plan period. When funds available from .export tax collections are exhausted, the Commonwealth guarantee will operate to ensure that growers receive -cost of production in respect of up to 100,000,000 bushel’s exported in each season of the plan. The Government’s willingness to provide the guarantee has, an fact, been conditional upon the wheat-growers themselves makin? a contribution.
The agreement of ‘the State governments to legislate to .bring the wheat crops of their respective States into a common pool, and to provide a fixed home consumption price for wheat as part of the plan, is again complementary to the Commonwealth guarantee and the export tax. The export tax “will apply when the export price exceeds the cost of production for the season concerned. The tax rate has a maximum of ls. 6d. a bushel and it is to be applied so that it will take the first ls. 6d. above the cost of production, or the amount up to ls. 6d. a bushel by which export returns for the pool exceed the cost of production. The export charge will apply to the 1953-54 crop now being sold, and it will further apply to the four later crops ending with the 1957-58 season. It is inevitable that the application of the tax should be made retrospective to take in the 1953-54 crop. This is a result of the delay which occurred before it was possible to secure agreement of all State governments to the stabilization plan. It had been hoped that the plan would have been in operation a year ago, but general agreement was not reached until July of this year.
Wheat exports are effected by the Australian Wheat Board. There is a special provision for the board to pay the export charge each quarter, and to adjust the payments according to the average receipts of the pool concerned. This has been found to be a convenient method of collecting the tax. An appreciable quantity of our wheat is exported each season as flour, and a small part as breakfast foods and other products. These commodities will be taxed according to the wheat content of the item .concerned. As the bill is to bc complementary to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 1954, it is intended that. the two acts should be proclaimed simultaneously. I commend the resolution .to honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing -Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Sir Philip McBride and Sir Eric Harrison do prepare amd bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Philip McBride and read a first time.
Sir PHILIP McBride (WakefieldMinister for Defence) [4.8]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill 1954. It provides for a charge on -wheat exported as part of the wheat stabilization plan, and it is an essential part of the pattern of Commonwealth and State legislation which is necessary to bring a stabilization plan into effect. The charge on wheat exported is to provide the growers’ contribution to a stabilization fund in seasons when export prices are high. The points of the plan have been explained in the speech on the main bill, and the details of this bill are in accordance with the resolution which authorized it. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) - by leave - agreed to.
That leave be given to bring in n hill for an act to suspend the operation of certain provisions of the Hide and Leather Industries Act 1948-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to suspend those provisions of the Hide and Leather Industries Act 1948-1953 which have empowered the Australian Hides and Leather Industries Board to operate the Commonwealth-State hide and leather marketing scheme. The basis of the scheme has been the compulsory appraisement, acquisition and disposal of Australian grown hides under Commonwealth and State complementary legislation.
The board ceased appraising and acquiring hides as from the 14th August, 1954, following a decision by the Australian Government that it was no longer prepared to co-operate with the States in continuing a compulsory control scheme for which it considered justification no longer existed. However, the winding up of the board’s affairs will take some time to complete and in the meantime the Government considers it desirable to suspend the operative provisions of the act until it is appropriate to repeal the act in its entirety. The hides and leather control arrangement originated as a war-time measure. Shortly after the outbreak of war, National Security Regulations were promulgated which set up the Australian Hides and Leather Industries Board to control the hide and leather industries during war-time. The board continued to function during the post-war transitional period, and was still in operation when the responsibility for price control was transferred from the Commonwealth to the States in 1948. It was then agreed between the Commonwealth and the state Governments that the hide and leather marketing scheme should be carried o:i as a support to price control administration under complementary CommonwealthState legislation along practically the same lines as the war-time scheme, namely, compulsory acquisition, appraisement and allocation of hides by a Hides and Leather Industries Board. The present board has functioned since the 1st January, 1949.
In practice, the board acquired hides at fixed domestic prices and allocated then? to tanners at that price, with the exception of a relatively small proportion which was reserved for export. The higher prices received by the board for those export hides, together with lev collections on leather exported, were used to finance the operations of the board and to pay premiums to hide producers in excess of the appraised prices. In March, 1951, the excess premium rate was as high as 75 per cent, of the appraised price. Since the inception of the Commonwealth-State arrangement on the 1st January, 1949, the differentials between the home consumption prices of hides fixed by the States, and export parity levels, have fluctuated considerably. In 1951, when hide export prices reached their peak, the export price of heavy hides reached 61d. per lb. whilst the equivalent local price at that time was 7d. per lb. Since then, however, overseas prices have steadily decreased, although the Australian domestic price was increased 50 per cent in 1952. The position had been reached early in August where the difference between domestic and overseas prices of cattle hides was only a few pence per lb., although the disparity on yearling and calf skin prices was still quite substantial. At that stage, the board, after financing its own operations, was barely able to pay hideproducers the local fixed prices, and, if overseas prices had continued to fall, the board would have required financial assistance to enable it to continue operating the control scheme. It was unthinkable that the Commonwealth should be called upon to finance a scheme of this nature.
During recent years the Government has been under constant pressure from most sections of the industry, including cattle producers, meatworks, brokers, merchants and tanners, to terminate the control scheme. The primary producers have claimed that they have long been subsidizing the public by providing them with cheap footwear, and as a result, the production and the quality of hides were being adversely affected. Tanners have claimed they have had no freedom in buying the quality and quantity of hides they required and consequently they have been unable to operate efficiently.
On several occasions in the past, the State Prices Ministers Conference was informed that the Commonwealth considered the continued existence of the control scheme was unwarranted because of the relatively close relationship of overseas and local hide prices, but the Prices Ministers steadfastly refused to co-operate in terminating the control. The validity of legislation from which the board’s powers were derived was challenged in the High Court early in 1951 by certain hides and leather trade interests, and although the action was unsuccessful except on one point, further action was initiated in the High Court earlier this year on wider legal grounds.
Tasmania withdrew from the scheme at the end of June, 1952, and Western
Australia abolished price control at the end of 1953 while still maintaining its hide control legislation. Because of the legal challenge and the pending High Court action, large scale trafficking in hides outside board control had arisen and for some time the board had not been able to function satisfactorily. This was in no way a reflection on the board itself, which has been generally recognized by governments and all sections of the hide and leather industries as a most efficient organization, which functioned well over a long period of years, but which finally came up against a set of circumstances quite beyond its control.
After serious consideration, the Government decided that the justification for a continuance of hides and leather control no longer existed and that, in all the circumstances, it would be futile to pursue the administration of an arrangement which no longer had the cooperation of any section of the industry and which the board was finding it increasingly difficult to operate. The bill suspends the operation of those sections of the Hide and Leather Industries Act 1948-53 which have empowered the board to operate the control scheme. When the board has wound up its affairs, action will be taken to repeal the principal act. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th October (vide page 2124), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill makes provision for the allocation of moneys to the six States for the construction and maintenance of roads in accordance with a formula agreed upon by the six Premiers and subject to a set of conditions laid down by the Commonwealth. Those conditions are most imporportant, because they will help to rectify many anomalies that have been in existence during the last four years. I hope to refer to those anomalies later in my speech.
The principal point at issue in this debate is the manner of distribution of funds to each State from the Commonwealth Aid Roads Trust Account. Observations I have made during this debate, and prior to it, convince me that as long as the Commonwealth has the task of raising moneys, for the States, and tha State Premiers have the task of deciding how the funds shall be distributed among them, the Premiers or the Commonwealth will have cause for complaint. As everybody knows, the Premiers meet in conference in. Canberra to decide how these moneys shall be allocated to the States. Anybody who thinks, that the Premiers are not concerned with selfpreservation, and are not actuated by political self-interest in obtaining money for their respective States, is not a realist. The duty of the Premiers is to adopt a national outlook on this matter, but they have not always done so.
– They have never done so.
– That interjection is much closer to the truth. The discussion which has arisen over the disbursement of the funds, as proposed by this bill, provides another sound reason why we should abandon the uniform income tax system. The only way in which to overcome the trouble which we are constantly encountering is by a thorough revision of the Commonwealth Constitution. When that revision is successfully undertaken, we shall get closer to a solution of the problems confronting Australia. A Premier who disagrees with a formula which has been determined at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for the distribution of moneys to the States, has not much opportunity to correct any anomalies.
That fact was obvious from the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he referred to this matter in his second-reading speech on the bill. He said that when the Commonwealth aid roads formula was discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held last June, the majority of the Premiers again indicated that the.y were perfectly satisfied with the distribution. The Prime Minister proceeded to point out that the only Premier who voiced opposition to the formula was the Pi Premier of Victoria, although he agreed that the method took into account the special needs of the large and sparsely populated States, such as Western Australia and Queensland.
The Victorian Premier knew that he had no hope of disturbing the status quo when five States were ia favour of a formula which waa greatly to their advantage. I. believe that the Commonwealth must secure the alteration of our outmoded Constitution and abandon the uniform income tax system,, which has proved so troublesome ever since its introduction. State governments then, and only then, will accept full responsibility for raising their own revenues and determining their own priorities for the distribution of their funds. When the States have that responsibility they will approach these problems in a vastly different maimer. We are sick and tired of hearing the howls of the Premiers after a meek ing of the Australian Loan Council or following a discussion of works programmes. The constant howls of the Premiers that the Commonwealth does not provide them with sufficient money for their requirements are completely unjustified. We know that the manner in which States expend their revenues is decided by political pressure, and that it is not the real concern of a Premier whether a No. 1 priority should be allotted to this work and not to that work.
I am sure that every honorable member has been amazed to learn during this debate that some States have not expended the allocation that they received from the Commonwealth during the last financial year for the maintenance and construction of roads.. When Commonwealth money is provided for a special purpose, as in this instance, we expect the States to expend the funds on it. But we know that the States are not expending Commonwealth money for the purposes for which it has been made available to them. The Queensland Government is a particular example of this. We have heard that it has not expended the allocation that it received from the Commonwealth last year for the maintenance and construction of roads. Yet Queensland is to receive an even bigger allocation’ in 1954-oS for roads, and all that money will probably not be spent. Indeed, we begin to doubt whether the Queensland Government is capable of spending all its grant on such works. I am not sure whether I was told in this chamber, or whether I heard it elsewhere, that the Queensland Government has £25,000^000-, which it has received as grants from the Commonwealth, lying in reserves. Of that sum, £10,000,000 is invested in war loans, and £15-,000,000’ is in liquid resources. Yet the Queensland Government, in common with other State governments, cries to high heaven that the Commonwealth treats it badly in the allocation of funds. Such conditions will always obtain when the States are not responsible for raising the moneys that they expend. They know- that they can blame the Commonwealth for almost any situation.
Even Victoria is not without sins of omission in that regard. The Victorian Premier, Mr. Cain, has very little idea of allotting priorities to State works in order of’ importance. Recently, he spent approximately £1, 500,000’ on the conversion of the Bourke-street bus route to an electric tram route, against the wishes of the people and- the best advice given by public transport authorities. The Victorian Government is to receive £2,863,000 from the Commonwealth in this financial year for the contruction and maintenance of roads. Yet, with one swipe of the pen, Mr. Cain approved the expenditure of more than half that sum on the laying of tram-tracks in Bourkestreet. Those things will always happen while the Commonwealth raises money, and the States distribute it. The time has come when the Government must give serious consideration to the whole problem. I know that the solution will not be easy. It will be a long and difficult job to alter the Commonwealth Constitution, but unless the problem is tackled, we shall never- overcome the difficulties which constantly confront us.
I now wish to refer to the most contentious clause of the bill, namely, that which provides for the allocation of the funds to the States. As previous speakers have pointed out, the formula is grossly unfair to some States and exceedingly generous to others. It provides’ that 5 per cent, of the road grant shall be allocated to Tasmania and that the remainder of the grant shall be shared among the other States: on the basis of three- fifths according to population and two-fifths according to area. Under that formula due allowance is not paid to the position of Victoria which differs entirely from that of the other States: The fact has been overlooked that Victoria has always been most conscious of the need to provide first-class roads. The State Government has made available targe sums of money to the Country Roads Board in that State since its inception in 1913, for the purpose of improving road’s in country- areas. The people of Victoria are pleased that the Government has introduced this bill to give effect to the promise that the Prime Minister made during the recent general election campaign. Under this measure, the total, annual road grant to the States will be increased by £7,000,000 to £24,000,000. The community is pleased particularly because the Government is honouring- its promise so quickly. The additional’ funds will materially assist Victoria in dealing with problems assocated with its road system. However, local government authorities in that State take a poor view of the bill insofar as the proportion of the, petrol tax that is- collected in Victoria is greatly in excess of the amount that it is to receive for road purposes from collections of that tax. Victoria has the second largest road system in Australia. Whilst that State contributes 30 per cent, of total petrol- tax collections it receives only 17 per cent, of total road grants. With those limited fund’s it is expected to carry out an expensive roads programme. The amount so made available to Victoria falls far short of that State’s minimum requirements.
My objection to the present formula is that sufficient consideration has n.ot been given to- the varying roads policies in the different States. Victoria is obliged to contribute funds to provide aid to less populous States to enable them to develop their road, systems. At the same time, Western Australia and Queensland, which the formula is designed particularly to assist, have been unable to expend a large proportion of the money that has been made available to them in the past for road-works. That is one of the real bones of contention in this matter so far as Victoria is concerned. Western Australia and Queensland are accumulating moneys as a result of these grants because they are unable to expend all of their share of them for road purposes. Victoria is a highly industrialized State and its road system is denser than that of any other State. Consequently, it could profitably use a much larger share of these grants. Sufficient consideration has not been given to Victoria’s special position in that respect. Whilst it receives only 17 per cent, of the total aid road grants, its roads carry 29 per cent, of road traffic in Australia. One out of every three vehicles in this country uses Victorian roads. Up to date, 75 per cent, of the total expenditure that has been incurred on roads in Victoria has been derived from the resources of the State Government and local government authorities. Whilst Victoria does a great deal more in the provision and maintenance of roads than does any other State, at the same time it makes a substantial contribution towards the cost of the provision and upkeep of roads in Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia. Victoria’s share of total aid road grants should be increased to compensate it for the greater expenditure which it is obliged to incur having regard to the density of road traffic in Victoria as a result of which maintenance costs are higher than is the case in other States.
I welcome the provision of the bill which will empower State Premiers to make available a part of this grant to assist local government authorities in the construction and provision of roads in their areas. I sincerely trust the Premier of Victoria will observe that provision. Arterial roads run through two municipalities in my electorate and I instance St. Kilda and Caulfield. Ratepayers in those areas, in fact, contribute towards the cost of roads throughout Australia under three headings. First through the payment of rates they contribute towards the cost of all roads and not only the main roads in those areas. Secondly, of those ratepayers motorists pay a registration fee, and such payments are used to finance road works undertaken by the Country Roads Board in rural areas. Thirdly, those motorists pay petrol tax, part of the collections of which are made available to other States. At the same time, municipalities, particularly those in the metropolitan area in Victoria, receive very little assistance from the State Government, whose contribution to the two municipalities I have cited is limited to a grant of approximately £1,000 annually. One of the arterial roads I have mentioned serves districts in New South Wales, and the other road a highly industrial area in the electorate of Henty. Consequently, the municipalities of St. Kilda and Caulfield are having great difficulty in making ends meet in respect of their road costs. I trust that the Premier of Victoria will take cognizance of the provision of this bill that enables State Premiers to provide a proportion of this money to local government authorities for road purposes. Payments to such bodies should be made on the basis of wellconsidered priorities. The grant that is to be paid to any one State should not be used, as the Premier . of Victoria once used moneys of this kind. On that occasion, he made available a considerable sum for conversion of an electric tram track in Melbourne.
I congratulate the Government on the proposal to provide assistance to the Australian Road Safety Council. A pamphlet recently published by that body shows that since the Government first assisted it in this way eight years ago, the road accident rate throughout Australia has fallen considerably. Of course, that rate is still too high. I trust the Government will take heed of the anomalies that honorable members have pointed out during this debate, particularly with respect to the present formula for the distribution of these funds. If it is not possible to evolve a more equitable basis of distribution, the Government should consider making a supplementary grant to Victoria in order to compensate it for the disability under which it labours as a result of the anomalies in the present system.
. -As the hill as a whole is acceptable to the Opposition, I shall confine my remarks to strategic roads. These are not defined in the bill. The onus is placed upon the Minister to determine whether a road forms part of the general road system of a State and whether its standard of construction and maintenance would justify him classifying it as a strategic road. Many roads in Western Australia come within that category. I should like to see provision made for consultation between the States and the Australian Government in the classification of strategic roads. Hundreds of thousands of miles of roads in my electorate would be indispensable in a time of emergency. For the most part, those roads are dirt roads, but, whilst they could carry medium traffic, they would not stand up to heavy defence traffic. I refer, particularly, to the road that runs through Geraldton to Wyndham. Much has been said in the course of debates recently in this House about our undeveloped and unprotected north. The value of those roads from a defence point of view should be fully considered and provision should be made to enable them to be classified as strategic roads for purposes of this grant. Many roads in Western Australia that run inland from the coast were used to carry a heavy volume of traffic for defence purposes during World War II. We may again find it necessary to use them in an emergency. Consideration should be given to this point immediately. In this respect, I also mention the road that runs through Meekatharra, Marble Bar and Port Hedland to the north. Those roads, in their present condition, would not stand up to heavy traffic in wet weather. My purpose in rising was to direct the attention of the Minister to these aspects of the bill.
I am particularly anxious to see the Eyre Highway bitumenized. from PortAugusta to Norseman at least. That road was urgently constructed during the regime of a Labour government in order to relieve the trans-continental railway line of the heavy traffic it was called upon to carry during World War II. Since then, it has become very popular with visitors to Western Australia from the eastern States. It is being maintained in reasonably good condition, but it could not, in its present state, carry a heavy volume of traffic. Therefore, I suggest that the Eyre Highway be declared a strategic road and granted a share of the £S00,000 for which the bill provides. The expenditure of a considerable sum on it would be well justified. The improvement of that road has been frequently advocated, not only by myself, but also by many others. As I have said, it carries a fairly large volume of tourist traffic between the eastern States and Western Australia, and for that reason alone it should be maintained in a good state of repair.
Many complaints have been made by honorable members from the eastern States, particularly Victoria, that Queensland and Western Australia have not expended some of their road funds. There are sound reasons why that money has not been expended, particularly in Western Australia. All plant resources of the Western Australian Government have been required to fulfil other urgent obligations which have arisen during the last three or four years. That Government had to provide for construction work at Kwinana and in connexion with oil exploration in the Exmouth Gulf area and other undertakings. Honorable members who have complained that Western Australia has not expended all of its road grants need have no fears. The money will be used as soon as the necessary plant and man-power are available. The jobs are waiting to be tackled, and the State Government will tackle them as soon as possible. I conclude by repeating my suggestion that the condition of the roads I have mentioned be investigated immediately. The need for improvement of the Eyre Highway and the road through Geraldton to the “north is urgent. The Commonwealth should consult with the Government of Western Australia so that preparations can be made for an early commencement of work to put the roads in a sound condition as strategic arteries of communication.
– It gave me a great pleasure to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech last May, say that the Government proposed to make greater amounts available to the States for roads, which are vital to the development and defence of Australia. Road work, as the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) have .so clearly pointed out, is constitutionally a matter for States and municipalities but, over the years since 1923, the Commonwealth has allocated moneys to the States for roads. At this stage, I should like to pay a very high tribute to the work of municipal councillors throughout the country. They have great difficulty in keeping roads in order with the limited finances that they have at their disposal. Most councils in the area that I represent are levying the maximum rate and therefore cannot increase their own revenue. In order to indicate the difficulty that many councils have in completing their roads, I shall relate an incident that occurred in the Wimmera electorate not long ago. One councillor was seeking re-election to the local council -and, in the course of his policy speech, he said that the council proposed to complete one mile of road each year. An interjector asked, “ How many miles of road have you got ? “, and the candidate brought the house down by replying, “We have 90 miles of roads”. Honorable members will readily understand that the chances of getting good roads in such areas are almost negligible.
Since the Australian Government has accepted the responsibility for providing finance for roads, it should be careful that the money, when it is raised, is allocated fairly, and, where the circumstances warrant, it should impose such conditions as are proper. So that I should know the facts about the responsibility for the allocation of road moneys, in August last I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the following question.: -
Has the Commonwealth Government any power tn vary allocations of road grants to t’hc States?
To this question the Treasurer replied -
The power to determine the allocation of .’rants to “the States rests “wholly with the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament
The Government, realizing is responsibility, has embodied some excellent provisions in the hill now under discussion, and I am sure that most honorable members and the people of Australia will .approve of the measure. Of these excellent conditions, three are outstanding. The first provides the means by which very large increases will be made in the total amounts made available to the States. The combined grants will be raised from a total of £17,000,000 last year to .approximately £24,000,000 this financial year. The second reason why the bill deserves commendation is that it provides for the increased allocations twelve months before they need have been made under the 1950 act. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) deployed the fact that this legislation is to operate for five years, but the Government has proved its sincerity by making ‘changes when it realizes they are needed. That is why the bill provides for increased allocations a year before such increases would be necessary under the 1950 legislation. I am positive that the people will understand that the Government will be willing and ready to amend this measure favorably before its expiry date, if and when conditions make such an amendment possible. The third excellent provision which delights me is that an extra 5 per cent, of the grants shall be spent on rural roads. I shall deal with that point later, and will show the urgent need for this increase. Heavy inter-State transport traffic is, to-day, wearing out our rural roads. These excellent provisions provide .ample proof of the Government’s sincerity and its realization of its responsibility to increase the benefits whenever it can do so. They also demonstrate its earnest desire to honour its election promises.
In spite of the fact that I approve of these provisions, I am not able to arouse such enthusiasm for the provisions of clause 10, which deals with the method of distribution of road grants amongst the States. Before I proceed with a discussion of this clause I want to say that 1 accept the principle that the big States and the more developed States should make themselves responsible for assisting the development of the smaller States, but this ‘can be -overdone, and it will be overdone now that the .allocations have reached such large amounts, particularly with the conditions which now exist in Victoria. Let us consider what members of this Parliament have said about the formula for the distribution of road grants in the past. In 19.23, the Prime, Minister, who was then Mr. Bruce, said that the Government would make available tothe States the sum of £500,000 to be distributed on the basis of threefifths for population ; and two-fifths for area. There were arguments about “this, and Mr. Seabrook, who was the honorable member for Franklin, said thathe approved of distribution on the population basis but not on the area basis. He said that, under those conditions, of £200,000, Western Australia was to get £85,000 and Tasmania £2,000. He said that the method of distribution should be reviewed and that something better should be done for Tasmania.
In June, 1937, the present Prime Minister, who was then, as now, Acting Treasurer, spoke of the provision of £2,000,000 for the States on the basis of three-fifths for population and two-fifths for area, with a special flat rate of 5 per cent for Tasmania. In March, 1947, the present honorable member for East Sydney said that payments to the States would be on the same basis as under the then existing agreement, namely, three-fifths for population and two-fifths for area. InNovember, 1950, the present Treasurer said -
This formula has, on the whole, proved satisfactory in the past, and there are no apparent reasons why it should not be found at least as satisfactory (during the term of this legislature.
There was a consciousness in the past, as there is now, that Victoria had to make concessions to the less populousand larger States. We find evidence of this when we refer to the records of May, 1947, when the member for Balaclava, who is now Sir Thomas White, said -
The construction of roads is financed under a scheme of area-cum-population. Thus Victoria, the most densely populated State, is assisting to finance the construction of roads in Queensland.
Mr. Hutchinson, who was the member for Deakin, said in the same year -
I have no objection to paying a share ofthe money which will for usedtoassist larger States.
The larger States realized the truth of that statement, but I am afraid thatI have not heard many members from those States acknowledge in this debate that Victoria is making such a great contribution to their road funds.
– They have no gratitude.
– That is quite true. We receive very little, if any, gratitude from them. However, the larger States realized in thepast that Victoria was helping them. This is evidenced by a statement made in 1926 by the member for Kalgoorlie, Mr. Green, whosaid -
Irealize from a business point of view that Western Australia will do uncommonly well under this provision.
– That was 30 years ago.
– Well, the conditions are even worse to-day. The people of Victoria are not happy with the present formula. They have not always been happywith the allocation of road grants in this way. In “1926, the House divided on the motion for the second reading of the Federal Aid RoadsBill, and the motion was agreed to by 39 votes to 13 on a non-party basis. Of the thirteen members who voted against it, there were none from Tasmania or Queensland, one from South Australia, two from Western Australia, three fromNew South Wales and seven from Victoria. The honorable member for Henty, the father of the present honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). stated the attitude of Victorians whenhe said -
Had the suggested allocationof the money been fair. I should have no trouble in deciding my attitudetowards the measure.
The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), in 1937, when tracing the history of road grants over the previous ten years, said -
ThatState(Victoria)refusedtogive recognition to the principle that the money should be expended on a three-fifths population and two-fifths area basis.
In my question to the Treasurer in August,I asked -
Didthe Premiers Conference held recently atCanberra extend for another five years the existing formula for allocation of roadgrants to the States?
The right honorable gentleman replied -
As Commonwealth Aid Roads grants are made to the States under Commonwealth legislation, power to determine the allocation of the grants among the States rests wholly with the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament. On such a matter, however, the Commonwealth usually consults the States before making a decision. Thus at the Premiers Conference last June the Prime Minister asked the Premiers whether they desired the existing formula for apportioning the roads grants among the States to be included in the new Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation which is to operate for the next five years. Five of the six Premiers indicated that they desired no change in that formula.
I wanted to know what the Premier of Victoria had said at that conference, so I asked -
At this conference, did the Premier of Victoria make any claim for increased allocation of the petrol tax for Victoria; if so, what did he say?
Here is the answer -
The Premier of Victoria suggested that the proposal to retain the existing distribution formula was unfair to Victoria, particularly as that formula took no account o’f the number of motor vehicles in each State. After referring to the fact that Victoria would get no support for any change in the formula, the Premier concluded by saying that he was aware of the difficulties of the large, sparsely populated States (which the present formula is designed to assist) and that, in the circumstances, he was compelled to accept this formula as the best that Victoria could get.
I am afraid that Mr. Cain did not emphasize Victoria’s case strongly enough. Under the provisions of this bill, Victoria will continue to suffer from the existing disadvantages, which have been caused by the formula upon which distribution is based. Victoria will receive 17 per cent, of Commonwealth aid roads funds, but 29 per cent, of the road traffic in Australia will be wearing out its roads. Approximately one in every three vehicles in Australia runs on Victorian roads. People who have travelled through Victoria realize the density of traffic on the roads in that State. Large fleets of transport vehicles operate services between Adelaide and Sydney. Most of those vehicles travel the short route and bypass Melbourne. They travel approximately 200 miles through the Wimmera electorate, approximately 50 miles through the Bendigo electorate, and approximately 100 miles through the electorate of Indi. The vehicles are extremely heavy, and as they frequently travel at speeds greatly in excess of the speed limit they seriously damage the roads.
Yesterday my wife and I drove from Melbourne to Canberra. In 100 miles on the Victorian side of the border at the Murray River, we counted 32 heavy transport vehicles under New South Wales registration, five under South Australian registration, 34 under Victorian registration, two registered in the Australian Capital Territory, and one registered in Queensland. In 30 miles on the New South Wales side of the border, we counted nine heavy transports under New South Wales registration, one under South Australian registration, five under Victorian registration and one registered in Queensland - a total of 39 heavy transport lorries registered in Victoria, and 51 registered elsewhere. The position is really worse than these figures indicate. Yesterday being a Tuesday, relatively few of the transport vehicles that travel from Adelaide to Sydney would have had time to reach that section of the road after leaving Adelaide early on Monday, as large numbers of them do. The honorable member for Corangamite has pointed out that when he was returning from Canberra to his electorate after the visit to Canberra of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, he followed a heavy transport vehicle that travelled at a speed in excess of the speed limit and caused serious damage to the road. Yesterday I completed the journey from Melbourne to Canberra, which are a little more than 400 miles apart, in nine and a quarter hours. I did not waste time, but I did not exceed the speed limit, and maintained a speed of 50 miles an hour for considerable distances. Nevertheless, two heavy transport vehicles overtook and passed my car. It was clearly evident at the time that they were causing serious damage to the roads.
This bill will result in inequalities of treatment similar to those I have mentioned, which existed under the Commonwealth’ Aid Roads Act 1950. Every motor vehicle registered in Victoria contributes approximately £.16 in petrol tax, but Victoria receives back an average of less than £5 for each motor vehicle. In Western Australia every motor vehicle contributes in petrol tax an average of £15, but that State receives back from the Commonwealth an average of approximately £21 for each vehicle.
– Queensland is in an even better position.
– I have not the Queensland figures, but I should not be surprised if Queensland were in a better position than is Western Australia. Victoria contributes 30 per cent, of the total collections of petrol tax, but receives back only 17.4 per cent, of Commonwealth aid roads funds, which are paid out of the proceeds of the petrol tax. What does this situation mean? It means that the Commonwealth has accepted a very large responsibility largely on the guidance of the State Premiers. The Premier of Victoria, at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers and at meetings of the Australian Loan Council, did not emphasize Victoria’s position as firmly as he should have done. The problems with which we arc confronted to-day are much different from those that existed in 1923, when allocations of federal aid roads funds began. Thirty-one years ago the principal problem was the construction of new roads, hut to-day maintenance is the chief problem. What shall we do about it?
I must support the bill because it assures the States of increased allocations of funds for roads works. I support the view that the needs of the individual States should be investigated. It has been suggested that a special committee be appointed to make such an investigation. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) and the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) stated that funds that have not been expended by some States should be made available to States such as Victoria, which do such a wonderful job of constructing and maintaining roads, and I agree with them. The special committee should review the formula if its inquiries reveal that inequality of treatment and injustice result from it. I have no doubt that the committee will find that those are the results of the formula. I am sure that it will find also that the distribution of aid roads funds suggested by the Australian Road and Transport Federation will be satisfactory. It is a formula which I support. The federation has suggested that four-fifteenths of the funds be distributed in proportion to area, five-fifteenths in proportion to the number of vehicles, and six-fifteenths in proportion to population. In the meantime, the Government should acknowledge the fact that Victoria has made a great contribution to the collections of petrol tax and to roads works in Australia, and that it is suffering from an injustice. I sincerely urge the Government, with those facts in mind, to make a special grant to Victoria.
.- I am glad that the debate has returned to party lines. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said last evening that the House had divided into groups representative of the States, and that that was a good thing. We must consider this measure on the basis of the Government’s responsibilities and the responsibilities of the Opposition to point out that the Government lacks a cohesive plan in relation to the important matter of aid roads grants. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) attacked the Premier of Victoria for failing to put up a good case for Victoria at meetings of Commonwealth and State Ministers and of the Australian Loan Council. There was no substance iri his attack. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) also upbraided the Premier of Victoria for not attending to certain matters in Victoria, and he tried to convince the House that Mr. Cain had no idea of proper priorities for works. The fact is that the Premier of Victoria has an untidy mess to clean up after the administration of successive Country party and Liberal and Country party governments, which left undone a great deal of work that the Victorian Labour Government must now undertake. Labour has always to clean up the mess left by the anti-Labour parties when they are thrown out of office. The subject of roads is, and always will be, important. Any important matter is worth a lot of thought, but the Government has given no real thought to this subject. The second-reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is a collection of odds and ends, as were the speeches of Government supporters generally. Most Government supporters bewailed the deficiencies of this Administration, and stated that they were making constructive criticism. If they wish to make constructive criticism, why did they not make it in the party rooms before the policy-making body, if the Government parties have one? “Why did they not fight for an effective policy based on a sound appreciation of the problems in relation to roads? The Prime Minister, with his usual flair for uttering a lot of words that mean nothing, said -
The Government has therefore taken this opportunity to make a complete review . . .
He stated also -
The further increase now proposed demonstrates once again the importance attached by us to developing and improving Australia’s road system.
Those, words sound very well, but. they are not indicative of constructive thought and of a real attempt to tackle the problems.
The formula under which distributions of aid roads funds are made, which has been in operation for 31 years, is only a rule of thumb, as every one knows, and was borrowed from another country. It is an experimental formula that was put into effect to see how it would work, and it has continued to operate without reconsideration. “We must not think that a rule of thumb can provide a proper solution of the problems. A formula such as this should be watched carefully to see how it works and whether any radical defects become apparent from time to time The real question in relation to roads, whether in the city or in the country is: Are the roads being properly maintained and is sufficient money being allocated to ensure that a reasonable mileage of new roads shall be constructed ? I suppose that all honorable members have received communications expressing the opinions of various local councils in their electorates. I am no exception. I replied to the councils and asked, in effect, <cAre you getting enough money to maintain your roads in reasonable condition, to rebuild old roads, and to construct new roads?” I received from shire engineers the reply that. the councils were not getting enough money for this purpose.
Government, supporters have not. mentioned the needs of the States in relation to roads funds. The best and most constructive suggestion that has been made in this debate was made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), who suggested a national master plan to allow the problem to be tackled effectively. Such a plan must be evolved in order to ensure that the enormous amount of money that is allocated for expenditure on roads shall be. used to the best purpose. This measure provides for increased grants. Some people seem to think that therefore it is a good bill. But any measure, that provides for increased grants without proper thought, being given to the manner in which they shall, be expended is not good. A proper plan should be evolved to- ensure that the maintenance and construction of roads does not lag. At present, who can point to the progress that is being made? Costs have increased considerably,, and, in the face of the present high costs, it is impossible for any honorable member to argue convincingly that the increased funds will allow more roads to be constructed.
– A great improvement will occur all round.
– The position is slightly better than it was, but not a great deal better. New areas are being opened up in the States, and they require roads. In many instances railway lines have closed and additional roads are required. Roads have become more important in certain areas than they were previously and require more attention. The increasing use of school buses for the conveyance of children to school is another factor in the increased importance of roads.
All those things indicate that there is a need for more roads, and that a proper body should be appointed to- consider the needs of each State in conjunction with the needs of the Commonwealth. Of course, there is- also an economic side to this matter also. As well as money being available for expenditure on roads, labour must be available to build and maintain them. I directed my attention, to. that aspect of the matter in, my own. electorate, and I discovered: that, the shires are certainly not short q£ labour of any kind that they require. Indeed, they are in a position to spend more money than they are getting, .Before allocating the money for roads, the Government should have investigated the matter to ascertain how much labour was available for road construction, because I suggest that there is no better way in which public funds can be expended than by building and maintaining roads. The Government should appoint a national road council as a planning body to consider the whole of our road system from the viewpoint of both the States and the Commonwealth, because Commonwealth, State and municipal .requirements are all interdependent. For instance, the roads in New South “Wales are in need of steady improvement. The Victorian roads are of a -good standard, but over the Victorian border, only a few hundred miles from Sydney, around about Deniliquin and Hay, important roads are badly constructed. They are mainly of earth formation, and are very dusty in dry weather and muddy in wet weather. Indeed all the roads outback, including some of our highways, need improvement. Of course, there are roads in the other States that also need improvement, so honorable members will perceive that the whole matter of roads should be approached from a national viewpoint. I again draw the attention of the House to the roads mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson”), such as the road to Darwin, and that from Geraldton to Wyndham. I suggest that they are special purpose roads of great value to Australia, and .should be looked after by a special allocation of funds. At various times we develop .special areas in Australia, and new roads must be provided for them. Some of them fall within .the States’ .spheres of influence, and others are matters for the Commonwealth. Then again there are alternative defence roads which are very important, and must be built to withstand use hy very heavy traffic. On some of those roads there is a need for extraheavy bridging and other major works.
Some people appear to think that the bridging of the Hawkesbury on .the main -northern railway line in New South Wales ds quite satisfactory., but from a military viewpoint it certainly is not; and this Government should be concerned with that bridge and other works of a like nature. In fact, the condition of the roads in this country seems to indicate that this Government should set up a special council, and a minister for roads, to ensure that our road system shall operate efficiently in peace and in war. Such a council would administer our roads much better than they are administered at present under a ruleofthumb f ormula. I also suggest that State and municipal authorities should participate in the work of that council, so that money for road work may be allocated on a properly co-ordinated basis. Planning is most important in all matters of this sort.
Much has been said about the unfairness of the formula to Victoria, because it has been claimed that Victoria provides a large proportion of the money raised by the petrol tax and receives a much smaller proportion back under the formula. It has also been said that Victoria has a very great number of vehicleson its roads, that the density of traffic is much greater in that State than in some others, and that consequently, costs maintenancy are heavier than in other States. It has been said that we could take these conditions into consideration in a national council, and municipal authorities have suggested that the formula might be revised to give a more equitable allotment of funds to those States whose roads have to carry a great amount of traffic. I quite agree with that contention, and I believe that the establishment of a national planning body might be the best method of dealing with the matter.
It has been suggested that instead of the two-fifths area and three-fifths population basis of the formula, as applied to the needs of a State, area being a lesser consideration, four-fifteenths of the total allocation should be distributed on an area basis, five-fifteenths in proportion to the number of vehicles and six-fifteenths in proportion to population. If that method of allocating funds were adopted, the vehicles and the population <of a State would largely determine the allocation, and consequently States such as Victoria which have many vehicles on .their roads would receive more money. I believe that that suggestion is along the right lines, but I also think that a national, planning council and a minister for roads would be able to examine all such suggestions and ensure that the money allocated to the States would be expended in a proper way for the benefit, both of the States and the Commonwealth. It is somewhat incorgruous that money should be raised by the petrol tax, because the proceeds of the tax seem to be influenced by a great many outside factors. Fixed proportions of the tax are provided for the maintenance of roads, and for revenue, and the petrol companies try to increase the price of petrol to cover the cost of the taxes.
I am glad that the price of petrol is controlled in this country, and I am fully in agreement with that practice because it maintains a reasonable price for petrol. A great campaign is being conducted by the petrol companies to have petrol removed from price control altogether. I suggest that such a removal would make petrol dearer to the consumer, reduce the amount sold, and, consequently, reduce the revenue from the petrol tax. I believe that the petrol companies’ campaign in that direction is quite deplorable, especially as it is conducted in such a way that misleading arguments are put forward and huge amounts of money are spent on full-page advertisements and expensive pamphlets that are sent throughout this country. I hope that the campaign will soon come to an end. My main purpose in rising in this debate was to draw attention to the’ Government’s lack of planning for roads, and I suggest that instead of bewailing that lack of planning in this House, honorable members should take action in their own party meetings to ensure that the Government shall give the States a proper allocation of money and see that that money is spent to the best advantage of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) said that he believed that there should be a national plan in respect of road development in Australia. I also believe that there should be a national plan to ensure the co-operation of State governments with the Australian Government. However, the honorable member charged this Government with having nosuch national plan. ‘ As can be proved by reference to the records of this House, the Government has had a national plan for many years, and has been steadily carrying out that plan. In fact the legislation at present before the House is a further step towards carrying out the Government’s national plan for developing our roads by giving financial assistance to theStates for that purpose. As has already been stated, in the 1920’s the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page)introduced a national scheme for thedevelopment of our roads, and he negotiated the first of the federal aid road agreements which have continued, and’ gradually been materially expanded, until’ the present time. An indication of theway in which the scheme that he introduced has developed, can be seen by a comparison of the amounts made available to the States now with thosemade available to them in theinitial stages of the plan. About £500,000 a year was made available tothe States for roads when the agreement was first entered into, but in 1953-54 £16,500,000 was made available by this Government for the development and maintenance of roads in the States.
Any national plan, in order to be effective, must involve action by the Federal Government within the scope of its constitutional power, together with action by the States. But in some cases such co-operation is not forthcoming. This bill has arisen out of the legislation of this Government for its nationally planned development of our roads. In the last twelve or eighteen months a radical change has developed in our roads agreements. Previously, the Government has deducted from the duties and excise on petrol, amounts which have been credited to a fund from which advances have been made to the States. The radical change that is developing results from the increase in the refining of petrol in this country. The volume of such refining has increased immeasurably in the last year, and will continue to increase. Therefore, the fund from which the grants to the States have been paid will be steadily reduced, and if our planning for roads is to continue we shall have to find some other basis on which to make our advances to the States. The Government now proposes to make available to the States 7d. for every gallon of petrol consumed. That proposal takes the scheme off a duty and excise basis, and puts it on a basis of increasing petrol consumption in this country. Therefore, honorable members will perceive that the amount that will become available to the States from now on will steadily increase. In the present financial year, which will be the first year of operation of the new basis, the total amount to be made available to the States will be about £24,000,000, compared with £16,500,000 made available last year. That indicates that the Government has a full realization of its responsibilities to assist to develop Australian roads, and also indicates that it does not wait to be prodded by outside interests into doing something, but takes the action demanded by changing circumstances. Although there is still another year to go under the old agreement, this Government has taken action to deal with our changing circumstances, and will ensure that for the next five years the States can look forward to increasing amounts of money for expenditure on their roads programmes.
Having made those introductory remarks, I propose to confine myself to two major matters that have arisen in this debate. The first is the criticism made by honorable members from both sides of the House, of the basis of allocation of funds that has been previously applied, and which will be continued under this measure. It has been contended that the present basis of allocation is unfair to Victoria, and unduly favorable to Queensland and Western Australia. It has been said that Victoria is not getting a fair proportion of the amounts that it subscribes, through the petrol tax, to the Commonwealth revenue. I differ from those who claim that the present allocation is unfair. I believe that it is eminently fair and is properly based on the national planning that the honorable member for Ballarat so often referred to. If we adopt a national plan, and a national basis, for the allocation of the State grants, we must concede that the basis this Government has adopted is fair and equitable. It has been contended that Victoria has a greater mileage of roads than Queensland and New South Wales. Doubtless it has. It has been claimed also that the upkeep of those roads is greater and that, because more vehicles are operated in Victoria than in the other States, it should receive a greater advance. From the point of view of planning for national development, the facts to which honorable members from Victoria have referred justify the allotment of greater sums to Queensland and Western Australia than to Victoria. If we propose to develop the outer areas, they must be provided with sums of money that they themselves are unable to provide.
– Queensland and Western Australia cannot spend the money they already have.
– I shall dea. with that matter in a moment. Throughout the whole range of government, one hears the suggestion that the richer areas should be given allocations that are based upon their prosperity. When I was associated with local government many years ago, it was a common experience to hear people who were living in the towns state that the greater part of the moneys that were collected by local authorities should be expended on the maintenance of streets in the townships because the majority of the roads were located in those parts, and that less money should be expended on outlying roads. The contentions that have been advanced by honorable members from Victoria during this debate are unsound and, if they were adopted nationally, would lead to stagnation, and the development of outlying areas would be seriously hindered. The undeveloped portion of any area would be forced to rely principally upon its own resources for development. That would be a tragic national policy to adopt. Victoria is in a fortunate position, because, as a result of its being one of the early settled parts of Australia, its development commenced at an early date. As the outlying areas of Australia have been developed, the wealth and prosperity of that State have increased and will continue to increase. Therefore, it is only fair that it should now contribute its share towards the development of the more-sparsely populated areas.
Its will be noted that the bill provides that, instead of 35- per cent., of the total allocation- to the States- being expended, on- the construction and- maintenance of roads: in rural areas, 40 per cent., shall be expended, for that purpose. That aspect, of. the. bill, is highly commendable, because experience has shown, that a percentage greater than 35 per cent, is warranted for country areas. In Queensland, and I believe- in other States also, experience has- shown, that,, not only is it necessary to increase the allocation for. rural areas, to 40 per cent., but. also it is. necessary to make more stringent provision for certification of. that expenditure, by the State before further payments are .made. Clause 11 provides that payment to the States shall be subject to the condition that the State submits to the Minister a statement accounting for its expenditure out of the fund. It is provided that that statement shall bc accompanied by a- certificate from the State Auditor-General that the amounts shown in the. statement have been expended in accordance with the legislation. In. other- words, the State will be required to give to the Minister, in a form that he shall prescribe, a statement showing that 40 per cent., of the total amount received has been expended as requiredIt has become apparent, at least in Queensland, that that is an essential provision, because, as was indicated by the honorable member for. Fisher (Mr. Adermann) yesterday, the report of the Queensland Main Roads. Commission for tha last financial year disclosed that not more than 25. per cent, of the amount that, was received by the State had been used for the construction and maintenance of rural roads. In fact, the direct payments to local authorities under this head? amounted to only approximately 19 per cent, of the total amount that was received for the purpose. Even if we concede that there were other amounts pa-id indirectly and which, could- be considered to come under, this head, the total amount, that was distributed for rural roads, did not exceed approximately 25 per cent, of the- entire allocation. For that reason, this: Government is entitled: to insist upon a proper accounting by the State- before: it claims the- total amount to which it thinks it is entitled.
It. is regrettable that it: should benecessary to- include such a provision, because local- authorities, have been crying out for more money. As. a result, of heavy rains, particularly in my ownelectorate, the local authorities requireextra money to- expend, not only on the extension of existing roads, but also on repairs. When the- local authorities apply for extra money, they are very often told by the State- Government that it would be prepared to make more money available to them but that it is unable to do so as it is not receivingsufficient money from this, dreadful Australian Government. In other words, the State is prepared to. play a very cheap, form of party politics in relation to this matter, and, when its statements have been analysed, they have been found to be completely false and baseless. Financial reports, for the year 1953-54 disclose that, in that year, Queensland received a total sum of £9,500,0,00 for expenditure on road works. That sum included, approximately £4,700,000- from its own resources,, such, as tax. on motor vehicles,, and. £3,166,000 from this Government. It must be realized, that those financial statements show that, of that total, only £7,500,000 was expended and that there was a balance at the end of the year of £2,000,0.00. I am running through these figures quickly, because they have been quoted already by the honorable member for Petrie. Because this Government has been flogged from time to. time by the Queensland Government for not having provided sufficient funds,. I think that, in a debate such as this, the true position should bo emphasized. I hope the local authorities in that State realize that,, for this financial year; Queensland’s road funds commenced with a. balance of £2,000,0.00; It is to- be assumed that, during this year., the Queensland Government will receive, from, its- own sources at least an amount similar to that which was received, last year, and that it will receive, at least a further £4j0.0.0,000- as. a Commonwealth grant. That, means- to say- that theQueensland Government will have available; for. all road purposes, between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000 for this, year.
Let us. hope that that will be the position,, and that the State will take action to ensure that the money is properly distributed and expended. In that event, the State Government would have at least £4,000,000 more to expend on road, services than it had in the last financial year,, an increase of more than 50 per cent. At least 50 per cent, of the estimated sum of £10,000,000 or £11,000,00© will be free money, and therefore it may be distributed free to the local authorities. In. addition to a carry-ova- of at least £1,000,000- from last year, the State Government will receive another £4,000,000 during this year - a total of at least £5,000,000 - from the Australian Government which it may make available free to local authorities if it really wishes to help them in the development of road services. I believe that the present state of affairs is the result, partly, of the attitude of the State Government in relying too much upon the Main Roads Commission foi- the development of roads. For some considerable time, it has been apparent that the Main Roads Commission, although it has done a splendid job, has not the capacity to expend these increased sums. It has not the planning staff or the labour to do all the work that it is being allotted, whereas the local authorities have those facilities. If the local authorities- had the money, and if they could obtain the plant, men and materials, they could carry out considerably more work in their own areas. The remedy lies, not in reducing the sums that should be made available, but in action taken by the State Government to ensure that those sums shall he paid to the local authorities so that they may use them for the benefit of the rural community generally.
I welcome the suggestion of the honorable member for Petrie that the States should be informed that, if they do not expend the total amount that is allotted during the year, the unexpended portion shall not be paid into a fund that they, themselves,, determine for the purpose of boosting their own financial position, but that it shall be returned to Commonwealth revenue. The figures in relation to unexpended funds that have been disclosed during the debate prove the contention that, in recent years, this
Government has been far too generous in some- of its financial allocations to the States. When it is noted that theQ’ueensland Government,, in spite of it crying poor mouth, has- been able to invest £10,000,000 in government bonds, and that it has- another £15,000,000 in cash, it is perfectly obvious that this Government has been too generous and that it might well depart from the policy that it has pursued, over the last two- or three years of making available loan moneys to the States and of financing its own works out of revenue. Instead, it should take its own share of loan raisingsand expend that amount on developmental works which, under its plan for national development, would be for the benefit of the community generally.
.- If the Australian Labour party had been returned to office after the last general election it would have allocated all of the petrol tax moneys for road purposes. This would have amounted to some £29,000,000. The fact that the Labour party gave such a guarantee has forced the Government to do something about roads. The Government has suddenly become beneficent, and, out of the total proceeds of the petrol tax of approximately £29,000,000, it proposes to increase the road grants to the States from £17,000,000 to approximately £24,000,000. Only a short time remains in which honorable members may debate the bill, and I wish to traverse rapidly the few points that I wish to make and not to cover the ground that has been covered by other honorable members, in principle only, in a sincere attempt to grapple with the problem. This is essentially a non-party issue. The purpose of our roads has to be fully understood before the right thing can be done by the Commonwealth, the States and municipalities, and that is why I agree with those speakers on both sides of the House who have urged the adoption of a national roads policy by the federal Government. The suggestion that a minister for roads be appointed has considerable merit. Such an appointment would help to centralize the great work of organizing the more adequate and useful expenditure of money on roads throughout the Commonwealth.
The roads, like the railways, have a vital part to play in three divisions of our economy. They are, first, defence; secondly, food production; and thirdly, general development. Regarded from that viewpoint, every penny that we spend on roads is essentially a tremendous help to the economy of Australia. The defence of this country is bound up with the internal transport system of rail, road and air, but I am disregarding air transport in this speech because this bill is concerned principally with land transport. Our primary producers rely largely on roads for the transport of wool, in particular, and for the carriage of goods and produce to and from their properties. For food production alone, the road system of Australia is essential, and, therefore, the money to be allocated under this legislation for rural roads will play a tremendous part in defence, food production and the development of our outback areas. I mention, in passing, that good roads will be required when new land is opened up for the settlement of exservicemen.
The rural road problem is known to all the representatives of country electorates, because we are faced with it all the time. I agree with honorable members who have paid a tribute to our municipalities, or shires as they are called on the mainland. Those councils have raised their rates to the maximum, and are now dependent on funds from other sources to maintain their roads in a reasonable condition for farmers and travellers. Therefore, any additional money that can be channelled through State governments to municipalities will be tremendously helpful to the farmers who reside in those areas.
I agree that it is not just a matter of allocating more money to road authorities. Man-power, equipment and materials must be available if that money is to be spent. But I guarantee that 80 per cent, of the municipalities in Australia could find those three requirements if they had adequate funds. Reference has been made in this debate to the fact that some States have not expended all their Commonwealth aid roads grants. I do not know the real reason for that, but the fact remains that 80 per cent, of the local authorities throughout Australia could spend more money on roads because they could find the necessary man-power, materials and equipment.
I now wish to refer to materials. One of the great curses of our Australian country roads is the gravel material with which they are surfaced. We have not yet developed a combination of materials, short of bitumen, which hold in all weathers. We should endeavour to discover a road material that is a happy medium between bitumen and gravel. A good clay-gravel material, or good clay mixed with gravel, will last for a long time. I have seen such roads in my own electorate. Pure gravel roads are the curse of Australia, because they deteriorate into corrugated surfaces very quickly when they are used by much traffic. I believe that far more research should be conducted by Commonwealth authorities than has been undertaken to date in an endeavour to discover new road materials for our municipalities. The use of ordinary earth, or gravel, for roads is, in a large measure, one way of throwing money down the drain - if there is a drain. I stress the point that greater attention should be paid to materials for our roads than is given at the present time. When I was in England, I saw on the outskirts of London a road research laboratory where tests were being made with traffic on different types of roads. On my return to Canberra, I asked a question in the House about research of that kind, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) assured me that there was such a research station in Australia. All I can say is that we hear very little about it. In my opinion, that research station should step up its work. We should hear more about it. Reports on its activities should be presented to the House, because the discovery of a satisfactory material for our country roads will lead to a substantial reduction of expenditure on roadworks.
– Will not roads in Tasmania be made of aluminium soon?
– I do not think so. Road-making authorities in other countries have made cement play a big part in road construction. Concrete roads are very costly to make, but they require little maintenance for many years. The great roads of Germany have been constructed of concrete. We should adopt a policy under which a specified number of miles of bitumen roads would be built each year. Even if only 1 mile of a by-road or secondary road were sealed each year, it would mean eventually that the whole road would be bitumenized There is not enough planning in that respect in the governmental and municipal spheres to ensure regular and consistent progress in bitumenized our main and secondary roads.
I should like honorable members to realize that in Australia at the present time, there are 70,000 miles of State highways, trunk roads and ordinary main roads, and 20,000 miles of what are called secondary roads, or a total of 90,000 miles of classified or declared roads; but there is 192,000 miles of unclassified roads, principally rural roads, and this bill will be applicable to them. What a colossal mileage has to be kept in order throughout the Commonwealth! Therefore, the policy of the Labour party to allocate all the proceeds of the petrol tax to roads is not so silly or reckless as it may have seemed when it was enunciated during the last general election campaign, because the cost of maintenance of the 192,000 miles of unclassified roads is simply tremendous.
We in Tasmania are perfectly happy about the principle under which Commonwealth aid roads funds are allocated to the States. The Premier of Tasmania, at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, raised no objection to the formula under which one-twentieth of the total allocation is made to Tasmania. i have to pay a great tribute to the Tasmanian Minister for Lands, Mr. Eric Reece, for his vigorous tackling of tho road problem in our State. He announced a few days ago that the grant for settlers’ roads in Tasmania would be increased from £50,000 to £80,000. I am not speaking of the source of that money. I am saying that Mr. Reece is putting that money to worth-while use. We have to look after our settlers. What is the use of settling people on farms, financed with Commonwealth moneys, if we do not provide them with proper roads of access to their properties. Any money which is spent on the construction and maintenance of settlers’ roads makes another vital contribution to the economy of Australia.
The Commonwealth Year-Booh for 1953 shows that we in Tasmania spent £319,2S5 in 1939-40 on all road purposes, such as the construction and reconstruction of roads and bridges, maintenance, jetties, other road works, other works connected with transport, grants to local authorities, and administration. Ten years later we spent £1,253,991 for the same purposes. Those comparative figures indicate the tremendous increase of expenditure for purely road purposes. i do not know how that expenditure compares with expenditure in other States per head of the population, but i consider it to be a great increase indeed on the vital work of road maintenance and construction. The grant to Tasmania from the Commonwealth Aid Roads Trust Account increased from £220,000 in 1939-40 to £450,000 in 1949-50, and has been further increased in later years. i assure the House that the Tasmanian Minister for Lands is wisely and. vigorously spending grant* made to Tasmania under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. i am glad that the bill contains a provision which requires each State to furnish the Commonwealth each year with audited statements showing that the Commonwealth roads grants are being expended in accordance with the provisions of this legislation. We do not desire this money to go down the drain, as it were, on useless work, or as overexpenditure on administration. We desire the money to be spent for the purposes outlined in this bill.
The last part of my talk to-night will be about the Australian Road Safety Council. i am absolutely disgusted that the bill does not increase the grant to that organization. Let us remember that £100,000 was provided in 1950 for road safety work, and the amount is not to be increased in the current financial year. This excellent body should not be starved for funds. It is trying to reduce the killings on our roads, and I believe that the ,gr,ant this year should be at .least £150,000. What would .be .an additional £50,000 in a total allocation of £24,000,000 for roads ? T.he .money would be expended in the mighty good cause of reducing the number of road accidents. I shall describe briefly the achievements of the :road safety council since it w.a3 formed in 1947. It is estimated that more than 1,400 Australian men, women and children are alive to-day who might otherwise have fallen victims to road accidents, and that more than 27,000 persons have been spared the physical, mental and economic hardship resulting from personal injury. That is one result of the work of the road safety council. I shall now give the toll on the roads since 1939-40. Approximately 28,000 people have been killed, and 400,000 have been injured. Many of those injured persons died subsequently as the result of their accidents. What tremendous slaughter on our highways and by-ways, and in our cities’! The council is trying to reduce the number of deaths and accidents on our roads. Approximately 55 per cent, of the people who were killed were under 40 years of age. The estimated annual economic cost of road accidents in Australia amounts to £25,000,000 - a sum sufficient to employ more than 40,000 workers on the basic wage for twelve months. In cold statistics, that is the slaughter and the economic co3t to Australia of road accidents.
Two measures should be taken, and taken quickly. The first is the adoption of uniform traffic signs, and the second is the .adoption of uniform traffic codes. Australia, unfortunately, is a split personality in respect of traffic signs and codes. England and New Zealand do not suffer that drawback. Each has a central authority on traffic signs and codes. The six Australian States have six different sets of traffic signs and traffic codes. The Australian Road Safety Council is doing great work to remedy that position, and we should offer it every possible encouragement in its campaign. Already 150 recommendations on uniformity of traffic codes have .been made on speed limits, right-hand turns, qualifications of drivers, &c. All over Europe and England the traveller .sees the one set of traffic signs. We can learn a good deal from what are called the international traffic signs on roads. I believe that they should he introduced in Australia as quickly as possible.
Sitting suspended from, 6 to 8 p.m..
– Before the sitting was suspended, I had emphasized the importance of a good road system from the point of view of internal defence, food production and development of our national resources. I pointed to the great need to give to the National Parliament complete control of the road system of Australia because the present division of control among six ‘State governments places this country at a great disadvantage. ‘One realizes the degree to which we are being crucified in this respect, as it were, when one studies the unified systems of control in other countries, particularly England and New Zealand. I had also emphasized the great work that is being done by local government authorities which are at the base of our economic period in this sphere. I had directed attention also to the need for research in respect of road-making materials. Only a small proportion -of our roads are concreted. Bitumen is our main material for sealing road surfaces. From bitumen we drop sharply to gravel roads which, I repeat, are a menace to persons who use them. For that reason, research should be undertaken with a view to discovering a suitable material between bitumen and gravel for use on back roads which it would be too costly to seal with bitumen.
When the sitting was suspended, I was dealing with the work of the Australian Road Safety Council. I regret that a sum of only £100,000 is being provided under this measure for that body which is doing all it possibly can to reduce the slaughter that is taking place on our highways. A grant of at least .£150,000 annually should be made to the council, which, in spite of the importance of its work, is starved for funds. Since 1948, 28,000 persons have been killed and 400,000 have been injured in road accidents. Many of the latter have been maimed for life. We should do everything in our power to decrease the slaughter that is taking place on our highways. The Australian Road Safety Council has calculated that, annually, road accidents cause economic loss to the amount of £25,000,000. 1 again emphasize the need for uniformity in our traffic laws and traffic signs.
– Order! The honorable member is getting right away from the bill.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that as the measure makes provision for a grant to the Australian Road Safety Council I am in order in dealing with the need for uniformity in traffic signs and codes with which the work of that body is concerned. The council believes that our greatest need is a fuller education of our young people in our traffic laws. In Melbourne, such education is being carried out by means of the “Play Way” scheme under which children are taught traffic laws while they are at play. The council has invited local government authorities, motorists’ associations and rotary clubs to co-operate with it in this experiment. When I visited Scotland two years ago, I saw one of these “ Play Ways “ at Dunfermline. The “Play Way” was a model of a complete city block replete with traffic signs whilst an instructor was constantly on duty to instruct the children on traffic laws. Over 50,000 children go through that centre each year. The Australian Road Safety Council is now planning to establish driving schools in parks in Melbourne to serve the same purpose. When I returned from abroad, I urged the council to adopt a scheme of that kind and I am pleased to be able to say that the chairman of the council, Mr. T. G. Paterson, has won through and is getting the scheme going. Schools of this kind will be open to children up to eleven, or twelve, years of age, who will be taught traffic rules while they are riding tricycles and bicycles. In future, the council will allocate a portion of its funds for the education of juveniles in traffic codes. The relevant figures show that the best results are being obtained by concentrating on the education of children in this matter. Schools of this type in London have achieved remarkable results. By establishing these schools in parks, how- ever, it will be possible to build miniature roadways equipped with traffic lights. Each of the “ streets “ in the Melbourne school will be named after streets in the city. The council plans to extend the scheme throughout Australia after it has been developed in Melbourne. Mr. Paterson has expressed the hope that metropolitan councils, suburban municipalities, motorists’ organizations and rotary clubs will co-operate in this scheme. I sincerely trust that it will be extended to other capital cities.
Australia ranks fifth among the countries in the world on the basis of the proportion of road fatalities to total population. New Zealand has the lowest proportion of traffic accidents, numbering 5.6 for every 10,000 vehicles, whilst in Australia the number is 11.2 for every 10,000 vehicles. New Zealand has achieved its commendable results in reducing traffic accidents by consolidated and coherent planning of its traffic system on a nation-wide scale, uniform traffic laws and regulations, comprehensive and scientific signposts, intensive road safety education, particularly for children, judicious ‘ public relations and advertising, compulsory and impartial motor vehicle inspection and a courtesy system of traffic control.
-Order ! The honorable member must realize that traffic laws do not come under the jurisdiction of the Australian Government except in territories that it controls.
– I shall deal with traffic laws in the Territories.
– Order ! This bill does not refer to the Territories.
– With all respect, Mr. Speaker, I submit that your ruling is strange. I am referring to the work of the Australian Road Safety Council, as other honorable members have done, but I am the first honorable member to be called to order for doing co.
-Order! I have sat here and listened to twenty speeches on this bill, to which no honorable member is opposed. It is simply a prostitution of parliamentary procedure to proceed in this manner. As there is no opposition to the bill, it should be allowed to pass.
Prom now on, I shall apply the Standing Order which prohibits tedious repetition. I think that the debate should be finished in about two seconds.
– I turn to the position in Tasmania, where there are 2,187 miles of roads, including State highways, main roads, secondary roads, tourists’ roads, developmental road.* and subsidized roads, and in addition to the figure I have mentioned, there are 10,000 miles of country roads. The expenditure on country roads is the responsibility principally of local government authorities. If those bodies are enabled to obtain the necessary equipment, they will improve country roads to a great degree. The Minister for Lands and Works in Tasmania has doubled the allocation of money for roads for new settlements. That is commendable because there are several large soldier settlements in Tasmania. Indeed, the roads that have been provided in some of those settlements are much more modern than are the roads that serve old-established communities.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
-The honorable member for Capricornia, on new matter.
– I do not think that in the course of this debate any honorable member has yet said that the Queensland Treasurer, who administers these moneys, has consistently over the years diverted them to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and various other funds of the Queensland Government instead of allocating them for road purposes.
-I have heard that statement made umpteen times in the. course of this debate.
– I trust, Mr. Speaker, that you will bear with me, because I think that that statement will bear repetition. Also, sir. T do not think that any other honorable member has pointed out that the Queensland Treasurer has been completely dishonest in his handling of these moneys so far as the people of Queensland are concerned.
– Order ! I put it to the honorable member, if he is going to charge a State government with embezzlement and dishonesty, that he is taking a. serious course. If it were not for the fact that, on a division last year, the House overruled me on matters of that description, I should not allow the honorable gentleman to proceed.
– When people in Queensland ask why roads which should be built and for which this Government has allocated funds are not built, they are frequently told that no funds ure available. If 1 may cite an example–
– I am sure I ha vh heard that, too.
– I shall tell you a story that will probably interest you, sir.
The overseas port of Rockhampton is Port Alma, and I am sure you will be surprised, Mr. Speaker, to learn that, although this port has been in operation for many decades, it is served only by a railway. The people of the central district of Queensland have consistently and persistently asked the State authorities to build a road of access to Port Alma over a distance of 15 miles from the nearest principal highway. The invariable reply to their requests is that there are. no funds available for the purpose. T .=hall not remind you, Mr. Speaker, because it would bc repetition, that last year the Queensland Government left unexpended £1,500,000 of the amount that had been provided by this Government, for road works. The cost of a road of access to Port Alma would be about £230,000. If the State Government says that it has no funds available to build that road, but in fact has in its possession an amount of £1,500,000 that it is bound to spend on roads, then in all truth it, is not being honest with the people nf that district or the people of the State. In these circumstances. I support fully the proposal made by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), which has not been stressed to any degree in this debate, that the law should provide that, if a State does not spend the money allocated to it for road works in a particular year, the money should be taken from it and given to other States, or the road grant in the succeeding year should be reduced by the amount that it has failed to expend. 1 do not wish to deprive Queensland of any funds, but I wish to compel the Government of that State to devote to the construction of roads the money that thi8 Government makes available to it for that purpose instead of taking it and putting it away for other purposes. Although shire councils and other authorities are starving for funds with which to build and maintain roads, the Queensland Government is waxing fat on money that lias been provided by the Commonwealth from petrol tax revenue.
We have terrible roads throughout Queensland. Whenever one travels moro than 100 miles or so from .Brisbane, one finds that the roads generally are in a shocking state, except in particularly favoured places where it is sound politic? for the State Government to provide good roads. The country people are very badly served although, under the act passed by this Parliament in 1950, the State Government is supposed to expend 35 per cent, of the money that it receives for roads on rural roads. In fact, the Queensland Government last year expended only IS per cent, of the money it received for rural roads. This neglect is particularly reprehensible because in very many parts of Queensland - certainly in all country areas - a rainfall of 1 inch is sufficient to put the roads out of commission and keep people in their homes. One of the remedies for the Queensland Government’s policy is incorporated in this bill, which provides that every year each State government shall submit a statement certified by its Auditor-General to show just how its road grant has been used. I believe that this will compel the Queensland Government to be at least honest in the dispensing of its road funds. This subject should be reviewed again in the near future with the object of introducing some sort of control such as the honorable member for Petrie has proposed. If a State government failed to expend all of its road grant in any year, the reduction of its grant in the succeeding year by the amount of the unexpended balance would force it to improve its ways. This is an excellent measure. It provides for the payment of an additional £7,000,000 to the States this year for the benefit of road users throughout Australia. Therefore, I hope thai honorable members generally will not emulate some of Victoria’s representatives in this House but will adopt a national outlook and accord the bill a speedy passage.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland ) jS.20]. - This debate so far has been marked by two outstanding features. One is the high degree of State parochialism exhibited by certain honorable members from Victoria and Queensland. The second is the doubt that has been raised in relation to the ability of State governments to make full use of the proposed grants for road construction and maintenance in the light of the man-power and material resources available to them. For some time past, as I have listened to debates on various measures in this chamber, I have noticed consistent criticism of the Governments of Queensland and Victoria. We rarely hear such attacks upon the South Australian Government, which is not a Labour government. It seems to be a regrettable fact that, in discussing measures such as this bill, which provides for grants to the States for road purposes, this Parliament is becoming more and more prone to reduce itself to a party political level instead of considering the important problems that confront it on a national level. The provisions of this bill are intended to apply for a period of five years. You ruled last night, Mr. Speaker, that, in this debate, we are not entitled to talk of defence. I submit that we should at least think in terms of five years instead of in terms of a few months when we are considering the subject of road? to serve the nation. Last night also, Mr. Speaker, you objected to any discussion of the standardization of railway gauges. However, I wish to say in passing that there seems to bc a disinclination on the part of this Government, in dealing with the subject of transport generally, to acknowledge the need for standardization nf railway gauges for defence purposes. Therefore, I hope that I may be excused for asking for information about any plans the Government has for the construction of roads for strategic purposes, if we are not to have a standardized railway system.
When I examine the provisions of this bill I think in terms of Australia, not in terms of New South Wales, Queensland or any other section of Australia. The bill provides for the expenditure of £800,000 a year over the next five years on strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property. During that period we may well encounter all sorts of threats to our future welfare as a nation. Yet we are to be saddled with a Government decision that, for the next five years, we should be allowed to expend the immense sum of £800,000 each year on strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property! If we are not to have a uniform rail gauge in Australia in the next five years, we may well have need for strategic roads stretching from Carnarvon to Bundaberg. We must have either a standardized rail gauge or a network of strategic roads. We in Australia cannot afford in this year, 1954, to think only in terms of municipal highways and by-ways. The Government ought to acknowledge our vital need and face up to its responsibilities accordingly as a national administration. When I consider this proposal to allot a mere £800,000 a year for strategic roads, and certain other roads as well, I wonder whether the Government is really thinking in terms of national development.
– The honorable member should take a trip around Australia and educate himself.
– I think I may honestly claim to have travelled as widely in Australia as any back-bencher on the Government side of the House. I have listened to very little else but parish pump politics on the subject of roads during this debate. But I am concerned with some of the vital subjects that I have heard the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) discuss from time to time. That honorable gentleman has. warned us that, at no distant date, our seaboards may be threatened. In that event, if we lack adequate rail transport facilities with which to move away from the coastline the materials and equipment that will be essential to our national survival, we should not be thinking in terms of only £800,000 a year for the construction and maintenance of strategic roads.
I hope I may be excused for saying that the whole approach of this House to road construction and maintenance needs to be on a much broader plane than that of mere lip service to national development. When we consider the subject of strategic roads, we should realize that the time has come when even State boundaries should be set aside. Honorable members should not examine it merely from the point of view of Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales or any other State. Australia at present has all its valuable resources based on its seaboard. Grave threats may beset us during the next five years. Within the next week, a senior Minister will tell the House of the menace that may come upon Australia in the next five years, and he will warn us of the preparations that we must make. It is ridiculous, in these circumstances, that the Government should contemplate the expenditure of only £800,000 a year for strategic roads. If we seriously consider the welfare of Australia, and the situation of Sydney, Melbourne and all our other key cities, we must agree that we should make a much more substantial provision than £800,000 a year for that purpose. The . urgency of this matter should force us to put aside parochial considerations and to co-operate in order to ensure the provision of an adequate network of serviceable defence roads.
Honorable members on the Government side of the chamber have said that we must ensure that the money provided for the States shall be well used. It almost makes me sick to hear them say that the submission of an audited statement by each State government at the end of every year will ensure that road grants will be well and wisely expended. Surely we can grow up politically and realize one or two important facts. There is available in the world to-day modern road-making machinery that could be used to turn Australia into a first-class nation, from the point of view of roads, within five years. But no single State has sufficient man-power or financial resources to enable it to procure and use such machinery to do the job that Australia needs. Australia now has a population of 9,000,000, and 90 per cent, of the nation’s resources are situated on the seaboard. We should be considering our road-making problems from the point of view of co-operation and co-ordination between States.
Let us go right to the bottom rung of the ladder. Not a municipal or shire council in Australia could afford to purchase the machinery that is necessary to put roads in first-class order. If a council did buy the up-to-date machinery that is needed, it could not use that machinery for more than one month of the year, because it would not have sufficient funds left to undertake enough work to keep the machinery fully occupied. Roads works are a national need, and they should be a national responsibility. A co-ordinated organization should be developed to organize local councils in groups, possibly on a regional basis, so that modern machinery from a pool of modern roadmaking plant could be made available to councils as they required it, either on lease or on other terms. If this were done, councils would be able to utilize the most modern road-making machinery instead of sending round a man with a wheel-barrow full of sand to patch the roads, as I saw done in the municipality of Auburn, in my electorate, only last Tuesday morning.
Honorable members may criticize the administration of previous governments if they like. Australia to-day is a nation of 9,000,000 people. The population is increasing, and we hope that next year it might number 10,000,000 people. Every one agrees that Australia must have a greater population, but no civilized country can be prosperous unless it is served by first-class roads from north to south and from east to west. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) ably directed attention to the situation that would arise if it were necessary to move our principal resources and industries from the seaboard, where they are now located. Australia is so inadequately served by first-class roads that any large scale movement of people, industry and goods from the seaboard would immediately clutter the roads so seriously that transport would almost be brought to a standstill.
The Government suggests that the requirement that the States shall make available audited statements at the end of each financial year to show how their grants have been expended, will meet the situation. I am reminded of the teacher
If.- rsl] who threatens his pupil with the cane on Monday morning if his home-work is not completed. On the Monday morning the pupil receives the cane, but the homework remains undone. The Government’s proposal in relation to audited statements will mean that each financial year we shall await the Auditor-General’s report while another valuable year passes without achievement. I doubt whether we have too many more years left to us to do the right thing with Australia. The strategic road from Carnarvon to Bundaberg is not merely an idea in the mind of some one who merely wishes to talk about it. I mention it because, within the next five years, it might be a most urgent need for Australia’s future welfare and defence. But all that Government supporters do is to talk about the expenditure of £800,000 on strategic roads and the stipulation that the State? shall make available audited statements of their roads expenditures, and to criticize State governments for their failure to expend all the money available to them.
I am sure that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) will excuse me for referring to several remarks that he made. He said, among other things, that no one could make a realistic estimate of the cost of developing Australia’s roads system properly. I agree with him. Does his observation not lend emphasis to my remarks?
– I do not think so, but let the honorable member continue.
– Of course I shall continue. The honorable member for Henty knows in his own mind that new strategic roads are urgently needed for Australia’s development and defence. The honorable member for Deakin said also - I thought it was the most important thing he said - that it is not money alone with which roads are built. I heartily agree. An expenditure of only £800,000 on strategic roads does not matter much, because it will be totally insufficient for a worth-while effort. Surely the mere mention in this measure of an allocation of funds for strategic roads highlights the problems of obtaining labour, materials and machinery for roads construction. Either strategic roads are needed, or they are not.
– They are needed.
– Then let us tackle the problem realistically. The States, in their own small way, are attempting to do what they can. If the same parochial outlook is applied to roads as was applied to railways by the States, Australia’s roads system will be in the same position as is the railways system. If the States were to construct main highways to points at which they would not meet the main roads of the neighbouring States, transport and commerce would be severely hampered. That fact emphasizes the need for the coordination to which I have referred. In the United States of America, strategic roads are not regarded only on the State level. Their construction and maintenance are co-ordinated according to a plan, and the available labour and materials and the requirements of all the States are taken into account in assessing the work that is necessary. Victorian members of this House have stated that Victoria receives the worst treatment.
– So it does.
– The honorable member may hold that view. I am concerned not with the importance of strategic roads for Victoria, but with their importance to Australia as a whole.
– Victorian members said nothing about that matter.
– I am aware that they did not say anything about it. I appeal to them to consider this measure from the national viewpoint, and in the light of the possible situation in five years’ time. Every honorable member should realize that the great problem in the United States of America is not that good roads are not available. The finest of highways and strategic roads have been constructed in that country. The great problem there is the problem with which Australia will be confronted within the next five years. Fast and heavy road transport has given rise to a great national problem in the United States of America. As a solution of the problem, the Americans are trying to move as much as possible of that heavy traffic from the roads to the railways. Surely we can benefit by their experience and avoid some of the pitfalls.
The national council for the coordination of roads works that I suggest, should co-ordinate the road-building activities of local councils and governments. Every road-building activity that is not coordinated with a general plan, causes national waste, and inevitably national waste will lead to national want. I do not expect the Government to amend this bill, but I appeal to it to forget about the activities or inactivities of Labour or anti-Labour governments in the past. It is Australia’s future with which this Government should be concerned. Let us consider the bill from the national viewpoint and forget about State borders. Let us ensure that the roads systems of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria shall be co-ordinated at the borders between those States, so that the flow of commerce may be assisted and not- impeded, as it is by the lack of co-ordination in the railways systems. The need for the co-ordination of roads works was never more urgent than now. I do not want to discuss the defence aspects of this measure. I merely ask the Government to bear in mind some observations that previous speakers have made on that aspect of the bill. The expenditure on strategic roads of much more than £800,000 per annum for the next five years is needed to make provision for the possible need for the movement of goods, industries and people away from the seaboard. Co-ordination, at the top level, of all road works should ensure, also, that road-making machinery shall not lie idle in one State when it is needed in another State.
I trust that I shall now be excused for working the parish pump briefly. Each year, this Government assumes greater obligations in relation to local governing bodies in areas where Commonwealth establishments are located. I wish to refer specifically to Commonwealth establishments in the municipality of Auburn as they affect the roads in that municipality. A large Royal Australian Air Force stores depot is located at Regent’s Park, in the municipality of Auburn. A constant stream of heavy motor lorries to and from that depot destroyed the surface of two of the main streets of the municipality. The Royal Australian Air Force then directed such traffic along another route for the convenience of the Royal Australian Air Force drivers, and the process was repeated. In respect of the Newington magazine, in the same municipality, the same kind of thing happened to a lesser degree. It is unfair of the Government to expect the ratepayers of Auburn to be responsible for the cost of maintaining streets that give access to Commonwealth establishments that use a good deal of heavy motor transport. A great deal of responsibility in relation to roads has been placed upon people who are unable to bear it. They cannot afford to buy the modern machinery that is needed for the proper maintenance of roads.
Let the Government announce that from 1955 onwards - it is too late to do anything in 1954 - road works throughout Australia will be co-ordinated and that the most modern road-making machinery in the world will be purchased. Let it, by this means, ensure that Australia’s roads for years to come, shall be extended and kept in proper repair. Under such a scheme, it would make no difference for all practical purposes whether roads were situated in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, or the other .States. The available labour, materials and machinery would be used to the best advantage and directed where it was most needed, and fine roads could be developed throughout Australia. I trust that the Government will realize that it is not sufficient to require the States to make available audited statements of their expenditure of Commonwealth aid roads grants at the end of each financial year. Let it fully realize the need for strategic roads. From now on let us approach this matter in a proper way, because it is an allimportant national problem. Let us remember the warnings of the honorable member for Mackellar that our seaboard cities may be attacked. If another war should occur, and the cities on our coasts should be attacked, we shall not even be able to move the people, let alone the material; out of them. Therefore, I suggest that to lay down a plan to provide such a small amount of money to the States for a five-year period is an insult to the people of this country. I suggest that this legislation should be immediately reviewed by the Government, and if it will not make that immediate review, then it should review the matter in twelve months time when the Auditor-General’s report is available. Let us not think that £800,000 spent each year on strategic roads will make this country secure.
– 1 think that many people may sympathize with you, Mr. Speaker, because of your irritation, which i3 not altogether unjustifiable, over repetition in honorable members’ speeches on a bill which is uncontested. At the same time, I think that there is merit in the fact that for once this House has been able to address itself to a measure which is to a great extent divorced from the usual party divisions. I myself, as a South Australian, have no real sympathy with the objections put forward by Victorian members from both sides of the House, because so far as my own State is concerned, I believe that it is being reasonably well treated by this legislation. However, at least it is a welcome departure that we can break away from the usual sharp divisions which characterize so many of these debates.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison)’ rather departed from the salutary atmosphere which has so far governed this discussion. I noticed that he exhibited a very conscious sense of the responsibilities of the future and of the dire dangers that may well be confronting this country. I was glad also to notice that the honorable member for Blaxland has been accepting warnings from my colleague the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I think at times that if my friend from Mackellar received more attention in the pictures he paints of the difficulties that may lie ahead of us sooner than we expect, it would be well not only for the House but for the state of the nation. However, I say to the honorable member for Blaxland that although on the one hand he certainly tried to take the ‘long view and showed himself to be imbued with a sense of national consciousness, on the other hand when his party was facing the electors a few months ago we found very little in the policy speech of his leader which reflected the viewthat he put forward to-night. I also thought that the honorable member for Blaxland was, to say the least of it, ungenerous towards the provisions of this bill. After all, whatever we may think about it, it is the most liberal measure of assistance that any Australian government has brought down to help the State? solve their problems. It certainly involves more than £800,000, and let us at once applaud the Government for a measure which is such a quick fulfilment of the promise contained in the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
Of course, no one can possibly be satisfied with the condition of Australian roads. Our trunk highways, by and large, are far too narrow for the traffic that they have to carry, they are badly graded, their surfaces are patchy and they are, in every sense of the word, inadequate. “What is more disconcerting, their condition is relatively worse than it was in 1939. In practically every State, certainly in every State of which [ have any intimate knowledge, many country roads are classified as main mads, but one finds that they are mihi bitumenized rough, dusty, full of unexpected pitfalls, and even dangers. I am sorry to say that the majority of the highways in my own State come within that category. All honorable members will agree that our roads compare most unfavorably with those in the United Kingdom, those in practically every country in western Europe and most certainly those of the United States of America. “Without any qualification, our roads must be castigated as among the worst in the world.
The problem of our roads is a complex one, and does not even admit of easy solution. It is not simply a matter of money. The factors of man-power and machinery also enter into it. “We are confronted by the curious parodox, as one or two other honorable members have pointed out already, that while on the one hand not nearly enough money is being spent on our roads in accordance with our needs and the immediate demands of the future, on ifr. Downer. the other hand in certain States - Queensland has been mentioned - quite a number of local government authorities have not spent the quota of funds allotted to them.
It must be admitted that this delay in the expenditure of funds already approved is partly due to lack of labour. In South Australia until quite recently, only half the number of men were employed by the South Australian Highways Department, as were employed by that authority in the year just prior to “World “War II. The delay is also due to a degree of inefficiency of road labour, and to an insufficiency of modern machinery. I suggest that the remedy for this state of affairs lies in a more radical approach to the matter than that contemplated by the Government in this bill. I suggest to the Government that first it should seek to rectify the widespread labour shortage for road construction throughout Australia, by recruiting immigrants abroad specifically for road construction. Some honorable members may say that that will be difficult to do, but I would reply to them that various organizations in our country - and railways authorities are outstanding ones - have already done that. It is true that there is a considerable wastage of such labour, because it is one thing to bring people to Australia but quite another thing to bind them for a period of two years to carry out their contract of engagement. But even if we agree in advance that there will be quite a noticeable wastage - and in the case of the South Australian railways the wastage was as much as 70 per cent. - whatever man-power remains in employment is to the benefit of the nation.
When we are thinking of seeking immigrants from overseas, let us cast an eye on what could be a very valuable source of road construction labour for Australia. I refer to Italian immigrants who have been well skilled in road work. Honorable members who have any knowledge of Italy, must admit that whatever may be the faults of the Italians one of their excellencies is their engineering capacity and their genius for road making. I believe that if the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) could persuade bands of Italian labourers, well experienced in road construction, to come to Australia to work on the roads, we should he greatly advantaged by their arrival.
Secondly, I suggest to the Government that it should further the importation of heavy machinery, particularly from the United States of America and Canada. That may well involve additional dollar borrowings, but I am one of those members who do not look with disfavour upon foreign loans. I hope that while the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is in Washington, on his present visit to America, he will be able to negotiate a further dollar loan for Australia. If he does so, I hope that one of the fruits of it will be the bringing to this country of more and more heavy construction equipment, without which we shall not get very far in a short time with our roads.
Thirdly, I suggest that the Government should consider a larger allocation of funds for road construction than is provided by this bill. I would support loan moneys being earmarked for this purpose. After all, what is contemplated is an essential part of our national development. I am well aware that there is a powerful school of thought opposed to the use of loan money for roads. Those people maintain that roads could be, like railways, a fast depreciating asset, and that therefore loan moneys should not be directed towards the construction of roads. I disagree. I cannot see roads becoming obsolete as a means of communication and conveyance for the next 100 years, and I should be more than surprised if, by the mid twenty-first century, they occupied the position that the railways in many cases have now taken.
It must be apparent to all honorable members that this problem is more urgent than a great many people outside this House consider it to be. Should the worst happen, and this country be plunged into another war within the next few years, it is beyond argument that our roads, if they remain in their present state, will not meet the strain that will be put on them. As a defence asset they are worse than they were in 1939, and that is a factor which must be taken more into account in our military plans.
I now turn to clause 12 of the measure in order to make a few observations on the £S00,000 which is to be spent on the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of strategic roads, and other things specified in sub-clause (1.) of clause 12. It is only natural to expect that every State will strongly press its claims for assistance under this provision, but I should like to take the opportunity of urging the claims of the main northeastern road in South Australia, which is long overdue for proclamation by the Government as a. strategic road. I refer particularly to that section of approximately 150 miles which links Peterborough and Terowie, which are close together, with Broken Hill, just over the New South Wales border.
I suggest to the Government that this important highway comes within the ambit of clause 12, because it is now becoming the principal arterial road to the uranium deposits at Radium Hill, because it is also the maw road communication between Broken Hill and Adelaide, and also because - and this may surprise honorable members - it is not an all-weather road, despite its indispensable function. People who live in the north-eastern parts of South Australia and who have to use this road, and the citizens of Broken Hill who, when they come south, have no other alternative but to use it, are only too painfully aware that, after only 30 or 40 points of rain, large stretches of what ought to be a fine highway become simply impassable and they remain in that condition, not merely for a few hours, but for anything up to two or three days. I think the House will agree that, when we consider the potentialities of Radium Hill and the important position it occupies already in the Australian economy on defence grounds alone this is a condition that should not be tolerated for one instant longer. I am quite sure that it would not be tolerated in any country of the world other than Australia. It cannot be answered, as some honorable members might be tempted to reply, that the South Australian Government could put this road in an all-weather traffickable condition. Let me remind the House that South Australia is a State of more than 380,000 square miles, with a population of barely 800.000 persons. Obviously, it is impossible for any State government, no matter how enlightened or how progressive it is, to put all of its roads which connect a widely dispersed population in the condition that the safety and security of this country demands. I very much hope that, under clause 12, Commonwealth assistance will be forthcoming to South Australia for -this north-eastern road, and that this well-merited assistance will not be long delayed.
May I say, in conclusion, that I hope this bill does not represent the Government’s last word on road construction and road policy for the next five years. I suggest to the Government, and to the House, that a dramatic reorientation of thought is necessary if Australian roads are to be brought nearer to world standards, if they are to become, as they must become, arteries of national defence, and if they are to play their part in speedily opening up undeveloped areas for settlement. In this country, we need immediately more money, more men, more materials. It is the task of the Parliament to collaborate with the States in ensuring that those elements are quickly provided.
.- I should like to express a few thoughts in as little time as possible and without repetition which, Mr. Speaker, is as obnoxious to me as it is to you. Therefore, I shall not refer to details or percentages, or to the misdeeds of any particular State. As I am a “Victorian, I think that you, Mr. Speaker, may fear the worst, and I think that you are not unmindful of the fact that honorable members from Victoria are fighting for a principle. If we are unable to instil our ideas into the minds of other honorable members, it may be necessary, on the principle that constant dripping wears away a stone, to repeat certain points to help those honorable members to understand our ideas. I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Government upon it3 magnificent gesture in introducing this bill with a view to distributing a further sum of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000, making a total distribution of £24,000,000, to the States for road-building purposes. It is well to emphasize the fact that the total sum is £24,000,000 and not a few hundred thousands of pounds, as some honorable members tried to infer. I also congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) upon the speech that he made when he introduced this very generous and realistic measure. During the recent general election campaign, the Government promised that such legislation would be introduced, and it has been introduced with the least possible delay.
Honorable members who represent Victoria, which, unquestionably, is the Cinderella State in relation to this issue, heartily disagree, in spite of a very full sense of their national obligations, with the present method of distribution and the continuance of an outmoded formula which, although it may be satisfactory in theory, is having, in practice, an effect that it was never intended to have and which was never even envisaged. One notes that most of the arguments of honorable members from other States arc based on the fear that, if Victoria received what it regarded as a fair deal, those States would lose something. I impress upon those honorable members that Victoria does not desire the other States to suffer. Honorable members from Victoria wish to help them to retain their present position, but they wish also to obtain more money for a State which, under the present formula, is going downhill. On this issue, we have a House that is divided against itself; brother is arguing against brother, and father is arguing against son. I should like to see a division on the formula. I believe that it would provide a very interesting spectacle for the exponents of the system of government that is called true democracy. There would be a very oddly assorted mixture of political incompatabilities on both sides of the House, with the allegedly little Australians, the Victorians, on one side, and, on the other side, presumably a glittering array of those who claim a high sense of national duty and who, at the same time, would be digging in the spurs for their pound of flesh, regardless of the consequences to the victim. Victoria is perfectly happy in playing the role of Portia on such an issue. Honorable members from Victoria say to those honorable members who, if a division were taken, would be on the other side, “ Take your pound of flesh. We will help you to get it. But make sure you do not injure the victim in your method of extraction”-
An attempt to place a false construction on certain remarks of the Prime Minister during this debate has been delightfully brief, and I should describe it as a display of party politics. I shall not occupy the time of the House by correcting those statements, which were false. The Prime Minister did not intend the construction that has been placed on his statements. I repeat that the fight is between Victoria and at least three other States. Tasmania can be regarded as being neutral on this issue. That State receives o per cent, of the total allocation, irrespective of the amount that is allotted to any other State. For that reason, Tasmania is not interested to the same degree as the other States are interested. I believe that New South Wales does not profit at the expense of Victoria. When i use the words “ profit at the expense of Victoria “, let me repeat that Victoria recognizes that something is necessary for the huge sparsely populated areas, and that it is prepared to play its part in meeting the need. All that Victoria asks honorable members to understand is that it does not wish to wreck its own system of roads in meeting those needs. It simply asks for a fair deal for itself, not for an unfair deal for other States. That is something that, perhaps, other honorable members may not have grasped, and that is why I stated that a little repetition is sometimes necessary.
I ask honorable members not to look upon Victoria’s attitude as being parochial, because honorable members from Victoria believe that, under the existing formula, an injustice is being done to that State. It is their desire that that state of affairs shall be altered by the adoption of another method of approach. When honorable members from other States realize fully that that is our attitude, they will fight on our side. We accept the fact that this Government cannot alter the formula, or the method of distribution at the present time. We also accept the fact that the Premiers of the other States are not likely to forego the advantage that they enjoy, regardless of the harsh manner in which it operates against the little Cinderella. Victoria.
Honorable members from Victoria are’ of the opinion that a distribution that is based upon two-fifths as to area, and three-fifths as to population, must operate harshly against a State that has a very small area but which is heavily populated. Victoria is being penalized on both counts. None of the other States can be penalized on more than one count. I want honorable members who are so jealous of their State rights to appreciate the blunt fact that Victoria has reached the stage where practically all of its moneys will be required to maintain- the road assets that it has established at a cost of tens of millions of pounds. Recently, the chairman of the Victorian Country Roads Board, which is a public body that is without peer in this country, stated that, of a total sum of £9,000,000 that will be made available to that organization, at least £8,000,000 will be required to keep the existing roads in repair. Not more than £1,000,000 will remain for new road construction. Will any honorable member say that Victoria, which faces the prospect of losing the asset it has established at a cost of tens of millions of pounds, has not the right to demand a method of distribution that will give it an opportunity of maintaining its existing roads, and of continuing to build other roads as they are required? The House has been informed that other States have sums of £1,500,000 or £2,000,000 that are unexpended. In spite of that, Victoria, with its crumbling roads, is expected to be satisfied and not to raise a voice in the House against the attitude of the other States which are afraid that, if Victoria receives more money for roads, they must necessarily receive less.
– All roads lead to Melbourne !
– The attitude to which I have referred is a completely foolish attitude to adopt, and one that I should expect the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) to appreciate better than he does. While I am on that point, I desire to lead the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) back to the straight and narrow path from which he has wandered. The honorable member stated, at the commencement of his speech, that, although the proposed allocation was very generous, it was prompted by the fact that the Australian Labour party offered to allocate the whole of the petrol tax. I think it is necessary only to remind the honorable member that the Government’s offer was made two days before the nation was shocked by the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The action of the Labour party in offering to allocate all of the petrol tax was merely the equivalent of raiding the blind in a game of poker. The Government had only just announced its programme when the Labour party capped every single item that was proposed. I understand that the formula system was adopted in 1924, when the T-model Fords, travelling at a speed of 25 miles an hour, were tearing up the roads. The States are obliged, nowadays, to build roads that will carry loads of 15 tons and vehicles travelling up to 80 miles an hour, but the Premiers still adhere to the principle of distribution that was satisfactory in the horse-and-buggy days, but which no longer meets the demands of a country that is developing.
I wish to pose a question to honorable members and the Ministry. Must we always relate road construction to the petrol tax? The time is approaching in this rapidly developing country when the demand for road construction will far outstrip the limits of what would be a reasonable tax on petrol. We must find, and we shall be forced to find, another method of distributing funds for this purpose. I believe that the present system is outmoded now, and that we can no longer relate road construction to the meagre amount of money which we gain from the petrol tax. I repeat that good roads are essential to the success of practically every project which we may introduce, and that no developmental project can prosper in this or any other country without a sound road system. A question which may be reasonably asked is what we suggest in order to accomplish this change, and still preserve the national purpose. My answer is that it is not our business to give a cut-and-dried plan. That matter will have to be considered, but the solution should not place any State at a disadvantage, or give any State an advantage at the expense of another State. That is one principle which we are fighting for.
Although I promised not to take up too much time, I point out that one suggestion is that the petrol tax should be looked upon as ordinary revenue and placed in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and that a grant be made to each State according to its requirements. There are other suggestions which emanate from the Australian Road Federation. I wish to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that the suggestions from that body have been repeated dozens of times in the speeches made in this debate, but not one honorable member, with the exception of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) has given credit to the organization from which those suggestions emanated. All the suggestions were embodied in speeches as if they were part and parcel of them. It is necessary for me to draw your attention to them, sir, lest you think that I am associated also with some very strange bedfellows when I repeat the exact solution that many honorable members have suggested. The remarks that I am about to make will be a repetition of earlier remarks in this debate. The Australian Road Federation has suggested that the formula should be based on fifteen units, made up as follows :- Four-fifteenths area, five-fifteenths vehicles, and six-sixteenths population. The organization also suggests, as an alternative, that Victoria should get a special grant as compensation for the discrimination from which that State is suffering. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who is sitting at the table, may be interested to hear that the federation suggests that there should be a national plan, a properly constituted authority to implement the plan, and a spirit of partnership between governments, industry and commerce to get the mammoth job done. The last mentioned objective could be achieved through the representatives of the Commonwealth, the States, primary and secondary industries and the Australian Road Federation, with its national ramifications. I think that the Minister might well give consideration to those suggestions, and if they are not practical, at least the principle envisaged in them should appeal to him and to the Government.
Finally, we agree that this is a national problem. Victoria intends to approach it from a national standpoint, and will not adopt a parochial and little Australian attitude, which is suggested by men who have proved themselves to be little Australians, because they cannot see that an allocation at the expense of another State, and the destruction of the roads of another State, are indicative of a little Australian attitude. We wish to correct that, and approach the problem from the wider and more national basis. Victoria is not unmindful of its obligations as a partner in the federation. We seek to ensure that our roads will not deteriorate as the result of the retention of a system which we believe has outlived its usefulness.
That is all I have to say on this bill. 1 think I have accomplished it without very noticeable repetition, and I hope that I have given a new idea to some honorable members who look upon Victorians as parochial, selfish, mean and miserable. I think that those honorable members might have a little thought when they are demanding their pound of flesh, regardless of the consequences, at the expense of Victoria, and when they know that Victoria is suffering from the present arrangement. All we ask is that Victoria shall get sufficient without taking one penny from the amounts that other States are enjoying to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I do not desire to delay the proceedings, but I appeal to the Ministry to reexamine the amount of £100,000 that has been provided in the bill for the Australian Road Safety Council. The grant is the same as was provided in 1947. Nobody will deny that costs have risen considerably since that year. Neither will any one deny, in view of the fact that there are so many more motor vehicles on the roads than there were in 1947, that this spendid organization needs more money for its propaganda work among the people and in the schools to try to preserve lives from the terrible week-end tolls. Accidents are happening which should not happen, perhaps through too much speed, perhaps through carelessness and perhaps because vehicles are not in a serviceable condition. But whatever the cause may be, the loss of lives which might have been saved is dreadful. There is no organization that can do better work than the Australian Road Safety Council in trying to educate public opinion on this subject. I do not wish to move an amendment in an attempt to obtain a greater allocation for the council. Indeed, I suppose an amendment which sought to increase the amount provided in the bill would not be in order. But 1 ask the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is in charge of the measure, to ensure that this matter will be examined when the bill is before the Senate with a view to seeing whether more money can be given tothis splendid organization, composed, as it is, largely of voluntary workers. These people are doing a great national work.
.- In my second-reading speech, I stated that the Queensland Government was establishing reserves of money which had been made available by the Commonwealth to that State for the purposes prescribed in this bill.I do not wish to cover the whole ground again, but I asked the Government to consider that situation with the object of submitting an amendment when the bill was in committee. I believe that an amendment should be moved to provide that moneys that are not spent by a State government for the purposes described in this legislation should be refunded to the Commonwealth, or should be taken into consideration in the allocation of moneys by the Commonwealth to that State in the following year. I ask the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) whether the Government has given consideration to my suggestion, and if it has done so, to inform me of the result of its deliberations.
.- It is seldom that I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), but I must confess that I agree entirely with his remarks about the grant for the Australian Road Safety Council. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is seated at the table, will make a note of his remarks, and ascertain whether the Government can see its way clear to increase the proposed grant of £100,000. The Australian Road Safety Council is an excellent organization which has done wonderful work in helping to preserve lives and in giving the people who use the roads a better understanding of the dangers of carelessness.
– The Government should give the council greater assistance.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) may be able to make a contribution to this discussion later. Anybody who has seen the graph which shows the amount of publicity undertaken by the council during the last three years, and how the death-rate on the roads has been considerably reduced, must be most impressed, indeed. The honorable member for Melbourne has pointed out that the grant to the council has not been increased since 1947, despite the fact that our population and the number of vehicles on the roads have substantially increased. We should also not forget that the purchasing power of money has considerably declined since 1947. I direct the attention of the Minister to the increased population and the increased number of registered vehicles on the road since that year, and to the need for increased road safety publicity, which will help to make people aware of road dangers, so that the council may even improve upon the excellent record that it has established during the last two or three years. I hope that the Minister will make a note of the remarks which have been made during the secondreading debate about the excellent work of the council, so that we may give it further financial encouragement.
.- It is a rare occasion when I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Before he rose, I had in mind that I would speak in committee on the proposed grant for the Australian Road Safety Council. It has been my very good fortune from time to time to be in touch with the work of the council, and I have noticed with great appreciation the work that it has done in the saving of life with its education propaganda, particularly among the youth of Australia. A grant of £100,000 was considered to be adequate for this purpose in 1947, and it is reasonable to assume that a greater allocation should be made to the council in 1954. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has pointed out that since 1947 the population has increased substantially, and that there is a greater volume of traffic on the roads. I say, with all due respect to my fellow countrymen, that Australians are probably most casual and undisciplined users of the roads, whether they be on wheels or on foot. I believe that education in road safety should begin in the schools, and I am sure that, with the increasing number of school children, and the coverage that is given, a greater allocation to the Australian Road Safety Council would be utilized very effectively and advantageously. If the children are thus given a proper outlook in their maturing years, it will be of value to them in later life. Evidence of the fact that we are not traffic conscious was provided by the chaos that was caused in Melbourne during the last few weeks owing to the refusal of the authorities in that city to adopt the centre-road turn. This practice has long since been accepted in other cities in Australia and also in other countries, but Melbourne still refused to adopt it until this year. There is a necessity for constant education of the public in safety rules. There are many roads on which a high average speed can be safely maintained, yet accidents happen on such highways every day due to lack of judgment and care on the part of drivers of vehicles. Although our accident rate is excessively high, it would be still higher but for the work that has been done during the last few years by the Australian Road Safety Council. A very wide coverage is available to the council in its educational campaign through schools, the radio, newspapers and other mediums; but all of those mediums are costly, and, after making allowance for the decreased purchasing power of money, I believe that a greater amount should be allotted under this measure for the work of that body.
All weather roads should be provided to connect the eastern States with Perth and to connect Adelaide with Alice Springs. We are aware of the value of the road from Darwin to Alice Springs, but from Adelaide to the latter centre the journey has to be made by rail and occupies 48 hours. Having regard to the need to expand settlement and production in the Northern Territory, everything should be done to encourage the greatest possible number of people to visit that area. Motor-conscious people would readily take advantage of a good road between Adelaide and Alice Springs and we should not permit the Northern Territory to remain landlocked.
– I direct attention to clause 12 and the principles that should govern the provision of strategic roads particularly in view of the necessity to prepare for a defence situation in the light of new eventualities. I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) on this matter. I agree that the road system in a strategic sense must be correlated with other methods of transport. For instance, the standardization of railways, particularly of trunk lines, should occupy an important place in the whole scheme of strategic transport. Let me return however, to the specific question of strategic roads. We must have regard to several matters in this respect. First, we must provide alternative means of access where a road, or a system of roads, is vulnerable at a point, and where interruption at a point could dislocate a large part of the transport system. Particular circumstances in every situation must be considered. In this matter there are no general principles. Bather, we must look at the geographical situation. In this respect, one thinks of the Sydney area where the paucity of connexions across the mountains westward needs to be remedied in case the need should arise for heavy traffic in or out of the Sydney basin. One also thinks of the connexions from Sydney northwards and the vulnerable bridges over the Hawkesbury River. The road which runs a little westward through Windsor to Singleton has not been completed. Its construction was undertaken as a strategic road during World War II., but, in the meantime, it has deteriorated because it has not been surfaced. I mention particular circumstances that exist in the Sydney basin which carries half the population of New South Wales. Owing to the particular formation of the mountains and difficulties’ of terrain, it may be necessary to take special measures in that area. One also thinks of the fact that since ports might be particularly vulnerable to atomic attack-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order 1 The honorable member is getting away from the question before the Chair.
– Comparatively small amounts should be expended on the provision of alternative roads of access to the small ports in the south-eastern part of Australia, and also to accessible beaches which we might be obliged to use in an emergency. I am speaking of strategic roads in an exact sense. I am not asking that the Government should do anything elaborate. I urge it to engage in prior preparation on a small scale, because the expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money now in the direction I have indicated might pay great dividends in the future. If we are to decentralize population we may be obliged to expend money upon strategic roads in order to give access to sites which may need to be developed for manufacturing and other industries. The most important point to be considered is that, from a strategic point of view, it is useless to have strategic roads if we cannot use them, and we shall not be able to use them unless petrol supplies-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I am pointing out that strategic roads cannot be used unless petrol supplies are provided.
– Order! The honorable member must not continue along those lines. The clause before the Chair deals with the allocation of money for a particular purpose.
– This money is being provided from petrol tax collections, and,’ therefore, a proportion of it might well be used to establish petrol stores along strategic roads because, without such stores such roads might be unusable. I regret, Mr. Chairman, if I have transgressed, but I felt that what .1 had to say was germane to the clause before the Chair.
.- I was rather impressed by the statements of commendation uttered by Government supporters regarding the work of the Australian Road Safety Council. But words will not help that body to carry on its very valuable activities. The Government cannot justifiably argue that it cannot afford to expend a few more thousand pounds on the important functions of the council in educating the Australian community with a view to reducing the present high toll of the road. That is a national problem. Road accidents cause a distinct national loss. I point out to Government supporters who have commended the work of the council, that the sum of £100,000 to be provided under this bill for that body is exactly equal to the amount that was provided by the Chifley Government which established the council and developed its activities back in 1947. Everybody is aware of the degree to which the purchasing power of money has fallen since this Government took office, and that inflation has run wild in this country during that period. Therefore, Government supporters, instead of merely making speeches in the Parliament for party political purposes and in an endeavour to make their constituents believe that they approve of the work of the Australian Road Safety Council, should ensure that the Government shall provide the necessary funds to enable the council to expand its activities. Can any honorable member really argue that the sum of £100,000 will’ go as far to-day as it did in 1947? If the assistance to be provided to the council is to be limited to that amount, obviously the lack of adequate funds will have a serious effect upon the work of that body. It is useless for honorable members opposite merely to talk about the importance of the work of the council if, at the same time, they are prepared to see the Government starve it for funds. A reasonable allocation for the work of the council to-day would be of the order of £150,000, that is, an increase of 50 per cent, over the amount which it is proposed to apply for that purpose. Since 1947, the number of registered vehicles has increased by 60 per cent., and the population of this country has increased by 18 per cent. If the sum of £100,000 was considered to be adequate to finance the work of the council in 1947, that amount must be inadequate for that purpose at present. Therefore, if Government supporters really believe in the work of the council and think that it should be encouraged to expand its activities they should show their support in a practical way by demanding that the Government provides the sum of at least £150,000 for that purpose during the current financial year. Allowing for the depreciated value of money to-day, the sum of £150,000 would, in fact, enable the council to operate only on the scale on which it operated in 1947. Government supporters have the opportunity of assisting that body in a practical way if they really believe what they have said about it.
.- The existing formula provides for the distribution of the grant to be made available under this bill on the basis of three-fifths according to population and two-fifths according to area. I consider that the present formula is not satisfactory. It is true that a severe attack has been made upon the formula, from various sources, particularly from that microscopic area of this continent called Victoria, and incidentally, upon that very important State, the gem of the continent, Western Australia.
The original purpose of this fund was to finance developmental roads. A lot of irrelevant discussion has occurred on the subject of defence roads and all sorts of other roads, and honorable members should be reminded of that purpose. Victoria, for example, does not deny that it already has plenty of roads. All it wants to do is to convert those roads into highways with billiard table surfaces. But that is not the purpose of the fund. In many parts of Western Australia, we have no roads to give access to areas which would be developed if we had the roads. The purpose of this fund is to enable such work to be carried out. The money was never intended to be used for defence purposes. When I hear honorable members from the eastern States talking about a national outlook, I am reminded of a snake looking at a rabbit and trying to convince the rabbit that it is going to swallow him in order to achieve unity of purpose.
– There is no need for the honorable member to go through the motions.
– There are snakes on this side of the chamber, but they are not very true to nature. I assure the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that I am quite unimpressed by these snake types when they talk of the need for a national outlook. If the true purpose of the fund is to be served, the formula must be corrected. The figures should be reversed to provide for an allocation of two-fifths on a population basis and three-fifths on an area basis. That would give States like Western Australia and Queensland, where there are vast areas awaiting development, an opportunity to provide, not concrete-surfaced billiard table roads, but efficient access roads which would not cost the individuals in those areas a lot of time and money, but which would prevent them from being discouraged in their efforts to add to the wealth of the nation by their pioneering work.
The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who initiated this scheme to assist the development of the States, will confirm my statement that the Commonwealth aid roads legislation was never intended to be used for defence purposes or to finance the construction of roads between cities, but was designed to promote the construction of developmental roads. A road from one city to another cannot be described as a developmental road. All that it will develop is a tendency for people to drive at dangerous speeds. Victoria has done well because it occupies only a small area, and, therefore, needs shorter roads than are needed in the other States. Because the formula favours States with large populations, and also because of its small size, it has fared better than the other States. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) will ask the Government, when a new agreement between the Commonwealth and the respec tive States is being discussed, to advance the proposal that the formula be changed in order to serve the original purpose of this fund.
– I wish to refer briefly to the subject of road safety, which was discussed earlier by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I think that reference should be made in this discussion to the splendid work of the- police forces in the various States. I know that they are eager to co-operate fully, through the Australian Road Safety Council, in promoting road safety I assume that the Government has made provision in this measure for the largest possible contribution to the council and various associated bodies. However, if a sound case can be presented to it later in favour of an increased contribution, I hope that it will be sympathetic.
– Why can the Government not increase the contribution at once?
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was Minister for Transport in a previous government, and he is in a better position to answer his question than I am. Flc knows that it is very difficult to alter a financial measure because any change would affect the whole structure of the bill. However, I suggest that, if revenue from the petrol tax is high, and if road safety continues to be an urgent problem, the Government should re-examine the situation and increase the grant to the road safety council.
Honorable members should realize thai the police do excellent work by giving lectures in schools. Some of thi3 work has been done by police women. One of them, Miss Priscilla Hughes, retired from the New South Wales police and wrote a book on road safety entitled Vo Excuse, which was very well received. She and other police women, and the traffic police in all States, have marie a tremendously valuable contribution to the reduction of road accidents. This is a most serious matter. The carnage on our roads is shocking. People lose their lives or suffer injuries every hour of the day, and I hope that honorable members will trent this subject with thi? seriousness that it deserves. The former Superintendent of Traffic Police in New South Wales, Superintendent Lawrence, did wonderful work, which is being continued by his successor, Superintendent Snowden. Superintendent Snowden directed attention to-day, at a road safety meeting in New South Wales, to the need for curbing speed. I think he proposed that a maximum of 50 miles an hour should be fixed for all roads in Australia as a contribution towards the reduction of road accidents. Honorable members should be aware that the police are very prompt in moving to accidents in order to assist people. The committee also should be grateful to private organizations which have conducted research into traffic and road safety problems.
Representatives of an organization called the Australian Road Transport Federation came to Canberra and submitted to the Government a proposal for an increase of road funds by £5,000,000. I am happy to note that this bill provides for the payment of an additional £7,000,000 to the States this year. This amount, together with sums which will be made available as a result of the restriction of other expenditure, will provide nearly twice as much as the additional sum for which the federation pressed. Road transport groups have banded themselves together and have made a great contribution, not only to the improvement of transport services, but also to the cause of road safety. Many of us have been pleased with the progress that has been made with the planting of trees along roads. The Victorians particularly have done splendid work with tree-planting in order to provide wind-breaks. I understand, too, that there is a proposal to plan a memorial avenue from Sydney to Canberra. The trees that have been planted already along this route are a joy to the eye, for which posterity, as well as the present generation, will be grateful.
.- I did not think that I would have an opportunity to speak on this bill, but I am eager to discuss the method of allocating the funds that will be made available to the States under its provisions. I have listened to various com plaints on behalf of Victoria and other States about the system of distributingthe funds, but I want to say at once that I consider the method of distribution tobe entirely fair. I can readily understand why honorable members from Victoria consider that their State should receive a larger share than is provided by the formula, because so much of the petrol tax is collected in that State. The honorable gentlemen have referred to the number of motor cars that use the roads in Victoria. I think they would find on investigation that, for every 10 miles a Victorian driver has to go in order to get to a town, drivers in larger States have to go 20 or 30 miles. It would be wrong to try to base the method of calculating Victoria’s share on the number of motor cars in the State without taking into consideration as well the mileage travelled by those vehicles. Reference has been made to the number of motor vehicles from other States that use the Victorian roads. Honorable members who have used this argument have not mentioned the fact that many of those vehicles are used to transport to other States goods which are sold for the enrichment of Victoria. They should be pleased that Victorian roads are used in that way in order to add to the wealth of the State.
I travel from time to time on roads in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Victorian members may complain about the state of their roads, but I consider that they are the best of the lot in the three States I have mentioned. Honorable members cannot have it both ways. If they have the best roads, it is unreasonable of them to contend that Victoria is not receiving a fair share of the grants made to the States by the Commonwealth for road works. Many honorable members have complained of the expenditure on roads in country areas. In the Port Adelaide electorate, precious little of the revenue from the petrol tax in that area is used to build new roads. The cost of maintaining existing roads in the electorate is very high because they are used for the transportation of goods from the country to the wharfs. But the petrol tax collected from motor vehicles used to carry goods over the roads at Port Adelaide goes mainly to country districts. I think that we are entitled to indulge in parish pump politics in a discussion of this sort.
I remind honorable members from Victoria that their State is generally looked upon as the wealthiest State in Australia. They should be sufficiently Australian in their outlook to be willing to help other States which are in need of development. We are frequently told that Australia needs development. Visitors to our country complain about the great open spaces that are not being used. Victoria, because of its small size and relatively dense population, makes better use of its area than does any other ‘State. I do not think that people from overseas who talk of vast undeveloped areas have Victoria in mind. They think of large areas of New South Wales and Queensland and the outback country of Western Australia. Reference has been made to the difficulties of transporting stock from the outback country to market and to the losses that are suffered by travelling stock in times of drought. Such difficulties do not occur in Victoria. Roads are urgently needed in the north of South Australia, the Northern Territory and northern Queensland, to make those parts of Australia accessible so that they may be made productive and may contribute more substantially to Australia’s national wealth. That is the sort of thing that the world talks about. Visitors to Australia point out that we must open up the back country, develop it and make the best possible use of it. A few years ago I was told by a number of South Australians that if they were starting out on the land they would go to north Queensland where much rich country is available. There is no doubt that many people would like to take advantage of the rich land available, but Queensland needs more roads if its land resources are to be developed and put to the best use.
We have been told that a considerable amount of money that has been allocated’ to Queensland for expenditure on roads works has not been expended. That statement may be correct, but we are not dealing merely with allocations of funds for the current financial year or next financial year. We are considering a programme for a five-year period, which is designed to make more funds available for the improvement of roads throughout Australia. I am sure that all honorable members appreciate the fact that this measure will make more funds available for roads works throughout Australia. I am aware that I may not, at this stage, discuss the general principles of the bill. Without going into the reasons for the increased grants, I can say that they will be of great assistance to all the States. Victoria will receive- considerable benefit. I give great credit to Victoria for the manner in which it expends funds on roads works. It makes its expenditure wisely, and I am satisfied that it will make good use of the additional moneys that it will receive. Rut other States are far from rich in comparison with Victoria. In South Australia the northern areas are particularly lacking in road facilities. 1 give due credit to the South Australian Highways and Local Government Department for the fine work that it has done, but I am only too well aware of the manner in which the department’s roads works are limited by the availability of funds. Many good sealed roads in South Australia were constructed on insecure foundations, and are now deteriorating. It has been suggested that the allocation to Victoria be increased in order to give that State a fairer deal.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I feel that I must direct attention to the drafting of sub-clause (3.) of clause 9. I can well understand why that matter was glossed over in favour of what was called more important business. I hope that, in return for a very short speech by me on this occasion, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) will convey my remarks to the Parliamentary Draftsman, who is responsible for the drafting of bills. I should like the Minister and other honorable members who may be interested, to look at this sub-clause. I may be singularly obtuse, but I had to study that sub-clause for a good five minutes before I was able to discern daylight and understand the intention of the draftsman.
– The trouble is that the honorable member is a lawyer.
– It is true that, as a young man, I was called to the bar. It may be a little easier for those of us who have had the advantage of some legal experience to understand these matters than it is for those honorable members who have been denied that inestimable benefit. Surely all of us will agree that the primary object of a bill is that, when it is introduced in this chamber, it shall be as transparently clear as any one can possibly make it. Last year, when another bill was before this chamber, I directed attention to an equally unjustifiable piece of drafting. But it is quite obvious that, in spite of the complaints made by myself and one or two other honorable members about the type of bills that we have had to consider from time to time, no notice was taken of the objections that were made. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will discuss the matter with the Government and will cause the Parliamentary Draftsman to be instructed that, in the interests of this chamber and of the speedier passage of legislation, more care shall be taken in the presentation of bills so that they shall be as crystal clear as is humanly possible, for the general benefit of honorable members.
– I wish briefly to answer some of the observations made by honorable members. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) suggested, at the secondreading stage, that the Government give consideration to an amendment that he had in mind. The Government has considered his suggestion, but will not accept his amendment. Honorable members on both sides ofthe chamber have referred to the Australian Road Safety Council. I acknowledge, and have a great deal of sympathy for, the point of view that they advanced. However, they must realize that this measure is primarily designed to make money available for roads works. Road safety is a matter for State administration. It involves police control of traffic and the education of the, public in road sense and road safety. Honorable members will appreciate the difficulties that would occur if the Australian Government attempted’ to intrude in the field of road safety, owing to the complexity of the various transport and traffic laws of the States. No two States have uniform codes of traffic laws and traffic rules. I have heard it said from time to time that the cancellation of a certain traffic rule in one State would increase safety on the roads of that State.
The Australian Government, in 1947, introduced a scheme for the allocation of £100,000 a year to the Australian Road Safety Council, and the allocation bar been continued up to the present time. Honorable members will realize that the States themselves would certainly like the Australian Government to assume responsibility for most of the problems that are associated with the State administration of road safety. This Government must be careful about intruding upon State powers. I am in sympathy with the honorable members who have raised thi? matter, and I shall take up the matter of an increased grant with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is now acting for the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is at present overseas. If it is at all possible for the Prime Minister to accede to the request, I know that he will be pleased to do so.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and had appointed Senator Gorton, Senator Maher, Senator McCallum and Senator Wordsworth to serve on the committee.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
) That Mr. Bostock, Dr. Donald Cameron, Mr. Downer, Mr. Drummond, Air. Osborne. Mr. Roberton and Mr. Wentworth be members -if the joint committee appointed to consider foreign affairs generally and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Armed Forces - Poultry - Parliament House - -BROADCASTIN.G
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Members of the Australian Labour party on a number of occasions have directed attention to the Government’s failure to give just treatment to the dependants of service personnel who are injured or killed in peace-time. I take this opportunity of bringing the matter to the notice of the Government again. It largely contributes to the decline in the flow of recruits for the three armed services. Honorable members who are not already aware of the position will be shocked to learn what is happening. To illustrate my point, I shall refer to the specific case of a serviceman who lost his life in 1953. It was decided to destroy by fire a quantity of unserviceable equipment at a service establishment. The serviceman in question and another serviceman were directed to examine the fire to ascertain whether it was dangerous and whether all the unserviceable equipment had been destroyed. An explosion occurred while the examination was being made and the serviceman to whom I refer lost his life as a result of injuries that be received.
– In which camp did the accident occur?
– I shall give the Minister any further details that he may require later. I do not at this stage wish to mention the name of the serviceman. He died in the Lithgow hospital shortly after he received his injuries. I wish to direct attention to the callous manner in which the Government has treated the serviceman’s aged parents, who, at the time of his death, were largely dependent upon him, and would have become increasingly dependent upon him as time passed. The serviceman was unmarried. I took the matter up with the present Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who was formerly Minister for Air. I received a reply from him to the effect that this serviceman had been buried with full Air Force honours, and that, in accordance with the policy of present and previous governments, no provision was made for the maintenance of the graves of members of the services who died in the post-war period. The Minister stated that temporary crosses have been erected on the graves of such deceased servicemen. The reason that I mention that is that in the first instance, believing that they were not entitled to any compensation, the parents had merely approached me because they believed that the Government should take some care of the graves of personnel who had been killed in the post-war period.
After I had made inquiries on their behalf, the parents decided to lodge a claim, which they were entitled to do under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I have received some very misleading replies from the Government in regard to this matter, which has been proceeding for some considerable time, and I did not want to weary the House with details of an individual case, if it could be decided by a direct approach to the Minister or the relevant department. Now here is the outrageous part of the matter. These unfortunate people, after some time had passed, were asked to complete a questionnaire. They had no objection to furnishing the department with information, but let me indicate the type of information that they were asked to furnish, and let me ask honorable members whether it was reasonable to expect that any person, after a period of some months had elapsed between the date of the serviceman’s death and the time the application was made, should be expected to furnish this type of information. They were asked to state the average weekly household expenses, in some detail, of the home where the deceased and they themselves had been living. The mother answered that question as follows: -
I would estimate that it cost between £14 and f 15 per week to maintain the home. Living expenses almost entirely absorbed my husband’s pay and my late son frequently came to our aid by contributing to the household expenditure, including furnishings when required.
But this answer was not satisfactory to the Department of Air. It wanted this woman to supply more detailed information than she was able to furnish, this after months and months had elapsed, and then it wanted further information, and asked her -
State weekly household expenses in detail, e.g., rent, food, fuel, &c. - Amounts contributed by your late son and the approximate frequency.
E believe that honorable members will agree with me that if a son is assisting to maintain his aged parents, there is no question of records being kept of how much he contributes, and no question of giving receipts for payments. Therefore, there are no records in existence. These parents, who have given their son in the service of the country, should not be expected to give that information, especially when they had already replied in satisfactory terms. They were then asked to state -
The amount of the contributions of the deceased to such expenses (proof of such contributions is desirable).
The mother, in answer to that question replied -
The amounts contributed by my son were not regular in time or amount and I kept no record to which I could now refer. The amounts were not in the form of loans but were direct advances to the maintenance of the home, repayment of which was never expected. Of course, in addition my son paid his board and always returned home at week-ends, holidays and during any other leave periods.
Then the department asked for additional details. It said -
Details of amounts as direct advances is desirable as well as purposes for which moneys were used. The amount of board and the frequency of payment is also required.
Other questions the department asked of the parents, were that they should state -
The amount of the contributions of other members of the family to the household expenses. Details of expenditure incurred by or on behalf of the dependant, e.g., board, clothing, education, &c. The amount of any direct contributions by the deceased towards the expenditure incurred by or on behalf of the dependant. The income and assets of the dependant. Are you in receipt of any pension?
I know that the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), as ministers usually do, will say that the action taken was in accordance with past practice. The party which I support was in office during a war period, and no doubt if we had remained in control of this country some practical steps would have been taken to deal with cases such as this. I ask the Minister not to attempt to defend his attitude to-night by quoting a past practice, because we must accept responsibility for our present acts, and ask ourselves whether we are dealing justly with such people as those whom I have mentioned. The serviceman was an only son, and after his death as the result of the accident to which I have referred, his father became so shocked that he is now losing considerable time from his work. But this Government wants to haggle and argue because the parents have not supplied the details that the department requires. Consequently, the parents have not yet received a penny. Since the ministerial head of the Department of Air has been changed, this case has slipped back to where it started from, because in reply to a letter that I sent to the new Minister, he wrote -
I again refer to ‘ your representations on behalf of–
I shall leave out the names- parents of . . . who died on the 30th April, 1953.
If Mr. and Mrs. . . . consider that they were partially dependent on their son at the date of his death, and are prepared to furnish the required information in the form of a statutory declaration, a claim should be submitted to the Area Finance Officer of this department, Sydney, for consideration eventually by the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation.
Therefore, honorable members will perceive that these unfortunate people have to go through the whole racket again, even though they have been prepared to give information in a statutory declaration, but cannot give it in the detail that the Government requires.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I believe that it would be undesirable and regrettable if the case that has been raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) became a matter for argument. I have listened carefully to the speech made by the honorable member, and I am greatly interested in his remarks. I assure him, and assure the House, that .1 shall take a personal interest in this case. The questionnaire that the honorable member said was required from the parents is not required by the Department of Air. It is required under Treasury instructions from anybody who claims under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. As I understand the present position, the Department of Air has not received a claim from the two parents mentioned by the honorable member. They claim that they were partially dependent on their son, and under those circumstances it is required under Treasury instructions that the parents shall provide to, in this case, the Area Finance Office, all the details of the financial assistance that they had received from their son. Those details have not been received by the Department of Air as yet, but I assure the House that I shall personally undertake to see that everything is done to help these people in their distress if assistance can be given to them under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
I point out that the Commonwealth is virtually in the position of an employer of people who work, as it were, in the services during peace-time. I also point out that no other employer in Australia provides headstones, graves, funeral benefits or anything of that nature for its deceased employees, yet the Commonwealth does make a certain provision. The Commonwealth, in the event of the death of a member of the services in the course of his duties in peace-time, will accept responsibility for the funeral, and provide two of his next-of-kin with travel facilities to attend the funeral ceremonies. If the nextofkin desires that the deceased’s body shall be taken home for burial, the Commonwealth will assist to the sum of £50. The case mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney was a particularly grievous one, but somehow we have n01 been able to bring it to finality. The young man was killed in the most tragic circumstances, and I am pleased to say to the House that the mother has a1 ready stated that she is grateful for the consideration and sympathy that she was given by the Royal Australian Air Force in her bereavement. However, the matter raised by the honorable member for East Sydney still has to be settled, and it seems that its settlement is held up because we have not the particulars for it3 finalization which are required by the Treasury. I assure honorable members that this matter will be attended to, and that I shall do everything possible to bring it to finality. If the honorable member will get in touch with the parents and ask them to let me have as much information as he can of the details required under the Treasury instructions, I shall attend to the matter as speedily as possible.
– This is the first occasion since I have been a member of this House that I have risen to speak on a motion for the adjournment of the House, and I crave the indulgence of honorable members on this occasion to put a matter before them that affects my electorate and has a certain national importance. During the latter half of 1952, I raised, with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), the question whether he had funds available to establish poultry demonstration farms, and, if so, whether he would consider establishing such a farm in the Moonbi-Kootingal area of the Tamworth district in New South Wales. The object of my proposal was to have the latest techniques of poultry-farming, as well as the latest sidelines that may be developed on poultry-farms, demonstrated to poultry-farmers, also to make the poultry-farming industry more stable and capable of meeting any temporary economic reverse. The district that I mentioned is in the farming area of Tamworth, which is the second largest poultryfarming area in New South Wales. The country is of a sandy nature, and with water fairly readily available it is excellent for mixed farms. Unfortunately, most of the farms there are small, and many of the farmers are completely dependent on poultry-raising. For that reason I thought that it afforded an excellent opportunity to establish a dual type of demonstration farm.
The Minister, who was just about to proceed abroad, told me that he was sympathetically inclined to the proposal, and suggested that I might bring the matter before him in writing, but that it would be necessary for the proposal to be implemented by the New South “Wales Department of Agriculture. The reason I have brought this matter forward is that i l ave just returned from a tour abroad, and while overseas i noticed- that everything pointed to a recession in the value of primary products. How great it will be does not matter, but in the 1920’s i witnessed the complete collapse of the poultry industry in New South “Wales. At that time many soldier settlers had to walk off their farms, and i do not want to see that happen again if it can be avoided. i believe that the money involved in my proposition is only about £2,000 or £3,000, and the farm was to be on the lines of the Commonwealth demonstration dairy farms, a number of which are in my electorate. Those farms have been established in conjunction with selected privately-owned farms, whose owners have been assisted with plant bought with Commonwealth funds. The procedure adopted is that the State concerned must initiate the proposal, and then submit it to the Commonwealth which, under the Commonwealth Extension Services Grant, if it is proved that the matter comes within the rules of the grant, will agree to the money being expended. These funds are not the gift of any government, but are small producers surpluses - too small to distribute to any particular producer - but in total quite large. In the truest sense, they are the farmers’ money, they belong to the industry, and they are held in trust for that purpose by the Commonwealth.
Since 1952, there has been an incredible amount of dilatoriness. I made my approach in about October, 1952. Immediately after I was informed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture about procedure, I communicated with the member for the State electorate of Tamworth, Mr. Chaffey. Then I wrote to the Minister who was acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture during his absence. The State Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Graham, in a letter that he forwarded to Mr. Chaffey and which was dated the 9th January, 1953, stated that the matter was receiving consideration. He further stated that not one penny had been received from the Commonwealth grant for extension services, and that is still the position. Mr. Chaffey asked for a statement from the Commonwealth to clarify the position. I wrote to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the 3rd February, 1953. The Minister furnished me with a reply in which he stated that the funds were available but that apparently the State had not submitted its claim. On the 18th February, 1953, the State Minister for Agriculture informed Mr. Chaffey that an experimental station was being established at Tamworth, and that, until it was completely established, the Seven Hills poultry farm would provide all the demonstration that was necessary. Seven Hills is about 300 miles from the site at which I suggested the farm should be established. Consequently, it was of not much use. At that stage, there was a hiatus in the negotiations.
The State Minister for Agriculture, in a letter that he forwarded to Mr. Chaffey, stated that he was in agreement with the principle that progressive commercial poultry farms should serve for demonstration purposes for the less experienced producers. He further stated that, in the Commonwealth food-production grant of £50,000 to New South “Wales, provision had been made for various poultry projects, and that the poultry industry at Tamworth would receive consideration. On the 22nd June, 1954, Mr. K. Gowers. the honorary secretary of the MoonbiKootingal branch of the Australian Poultry Farmers Association, wrote to Mr. Chaffey and to me and informed us of the support of the branch and requested that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should proceed with the establishment of demonstration farms. The matter was referred to the federal Minister. Later, two letters were written by the State Minister for Agriculture to Mr. Gowers. The first letter informed that branch of the Australian Poultry Farmers Association that recommendations had been made some time previously for the provision of funds.
Time will not permit me to deal with the subject in greater detail. The plain fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth has not received an application in relation to this proposal. In 1952 and 1953, the Commonwealth made available to New South Wales two sums of £50,000, or a total of £100,000. The money has not been taken up, but the State did submit a proposal which included the provision of assistance for an experimental farm, which is not covered by the policy in relation to extension services. It seems that somebody is playing politics with this industry, which has an annual income of at least’ £36,000,000 and which supports a very large number of people. It has been made the football of certain political interests. I am not laying any charge against the State Minister for Agriculture. On the whole, he has done a good job, but somebody is wrongly advising him. He has given misleading statements to the State member for Tamworth in an effort to throw the blame on the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The correspondence proves that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has been very sympathetic, that he has been prepared to provide the money, but that an application has not been submitted.
.- Mr. Speaker, I direct attention to a matter that comes within your province. I refer to the accommodation that is available in the public gallery of this chamber. You must realize, Mr. Speaker, that over the last two years an increasing number of the public has visited this chamber to listen to the debates. I was wondering whether the accommodation in the side wing of the public gallery could be increased by placing there seats with cushions and backs similar to those that are in the northern wing rather than single chairs similar to those that are already provided. I understand that, if that were clone, ten more people could be accommodated in that section of the gallery. Would it not be possible, also, to raise the back row of seats to enable persons who occupy that row to see more of the chamber ? I do not know whether you, Mr. Speaker, have sat in the back row. but, if you have, you will have observed that one can see only half of the chamber from that position. After all. both wings form part of the public gallery, and I do not see why proper seats with cushions should be provided in one wing and only chairs in the other wing. The persons who occupy those seats are our masters. They are the electors of Australia ; we are their representatives. They deserve accommodation which, if it is not better, should at least be as good as that which is provided for honorablemembers.
– The public like to see honorable members too.
– That is so. The fact that so many people visit the chamber disproves the statements that appear in the press from time to timethat people are less interested in the work of the Parliament than they were1 in the past. I refute that statement. At 2.30 p.m. on most days many of the members of the public who wish to listen to question time are not able to obtain accommodation in the gallery, and they are forced to wait in the King’s Hall for half an hour, and sometimes longer, before they are able to obtain a seat. Many of those people come from Queensland. Tasmania and Western Australia, and they should not be required to remain in the King’s Hall when they would prefer to listen to the debates and see their representatives in action. I submit that proposal to you, Mr. Speaker, foi1 your earnest and sympathetic consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley), who is sitting at the table, to convey to the Minister who is acting for the Postmaster-General the suggestions that I am about to make in relation to suppressors. The Postal Department, probably on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, carries out inspections in any area where radio listeners complain of interference from electrical apparatus. Recently, an investigation was made by a radio inspector in a country town in my electorate. After he had located the source of the trouble, he informed the owners of the machine, and also the local-governing authority, that, as soon as possible, the owners of the machine would be given an opportunity of fitting suppressors to their machine, but that they were not then available. That seems to me to be a sad state of affairs. I think that the PostmasterGeneral should investigate the availability of suppressors, particularly in Western Australia, and that he should ensure that they are made available.
The second point that I make is much more important. At the present time, there is no law which compels the owner of an electrical machine which is causing radio interference to fit a suppressor to that machine. I am not advocating the passing of such a law at this stage, but I do think that, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth is solely responsible for radio broadcasting, and in view of the proposed introduction of television, something should be done to ensure that people who pay a licence-fee for the right to receive radio broadcast programmes are able to receive them. It is high time that action was taken to ensure that, before electrical machines were distributed, they were equipped with efficient suppressors. I know that the local manufacture . of electrical apparatus is not within the sphere of the Commonwealth control, but that it is a matter for the States. However, it is within the power of the Commonwealth to make it a condition of the disposal of any electrical machine that is capable of causing a disturbance that it shall be fitted with an efficient suppressor. I think the Commonwealth should take that action. It could co-operate with the State governments by asking them to pass legislation which would provide for the fitting of effective suppressors. I do not think the States would object to taking that action. 1 ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to convey my suggestions to the PostmasterGeneral, and to request him to investigate the possibility of taking action that will ensure for radio listeners a reasonable chance of receiving programmes without electrical disturbance. In some of the smaller towns in the area that I represent, radio reception is so poor that the slightest disturbance from local electrical machines excludes the possibility of receiving a programme. Very often their sets will receive only one station. People who live in the cities are able to tune their sets to other stations, and electrical machinery does not interfere with the reception. I do not understand the technical side of this matter, but I know that people in some parts are able to tune their radio receivers to other broadcasting stations. However, listeners who live in a large part of my electorate are limited to one station, and any interference caused by electrical machinery prevents thom from hearing a radio programme. This is a very important matter, and I hope that it will receive the attention that its importance warrants.
– I realize the importance of the matter that the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has raised. I shall see personally that the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General has an opportunity to peruse the proof of his speech, and from my knowledge of the Minister, I am sure that he will do all he possibly can to help to rectify the problem.
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). I heard with interest the remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) about the accommodation for visitors in the galleries of this House. I assure him that I have paid a lot of attention to this problem. It is not an easy one. The design of this House is completely out of keeping with its needs. How in the name of fortune any previous Parliament ever agreed to it, I do not know. It must have been agreed to on the assumption that Canberra, being a long way from all the normal lines of communication, nobody would ever want to come here unless perhaps he was under sentence.
During the consideration of the budget, when I was not in the chair, I took the opportunity to examine the position in the King’s Hall. Night after night, more than 100 people were lined up there. Sometimes the line stretched right down the steps towards the front door. The people were endeavouring to get seats in the chamber. On certain occasions, I gave instructions that members of the public may go into the gallery above the
Opposition which, after all, is not really a press gallery, and was not intended to be one, if they are prepared to stand along the wall. Certain honorable members have seen me about the matter, and several have made the suggestion that the gallery above the Opposition should be taken over again to accommodate visitors. I do not feel that I should have to make the move in all matters. I think that it is a matter for the House to decide. After all, it is not my House. I am only the servant of the Parliament for the time being.
– You put Phar Lap out, Mr. Speaker.
– Oh well, there are some people who must be much better than Phar Lap, because they are still here. At any rate, if anything is to he done, I think that the first approach should be for honorable members on both sides of the House to get together and examine the position. I am amenable to reason. I shall certainly have another look at the gallery next week-end, and see whether something further can be done. We did improve the position last year to the extent of opening a door at the south-eastern end of the side gallery, so that people could go out that way instead of going backwards and forwards over one another’s toes. I assure the honorable member for Wilmot that I shall have another look at the situation, and if honorable gentlemen on either side of the House have any views to communicate, they will always be able to find me at one time or another in the office, where we can talk the matter over much more satisfactorily than we can in the chamber.
– I was thinking of comfort as well.
– I am not over keen on comfort, because it is not always conducive to the best work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior - B. H. Taylor.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
If so, what is the basis for payment provided in such agreements?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
p asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Develop ment, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : - 1. (o) Railways, nil. (6) Roads - (a) in northern Australia, 2,951 miles; (b) in New Guinea and adjacent islands, 700 miles. The mileages above cover new construction as well as substantial upgrading; maintenance is excluded as also is the construction of 3,550 miles of tracks in the Northern Territory. Roads constructed by States with funds provided under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act are not included in the above totals, as it if not practicable as a general rule to identify any particular project with the expenditure of such funds. 2. (a) Northern Australia. 33. (6) NewGuinea and adjacent islands, 0. These numbers include new air-fields and those to which substantial improvements have been made. 3 and 4. Public works undertakings are not as a general rule classified as to whether or not they have defence value. It is, therefore, not practicable to reply to these questions.
a asked the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - 1. (a) What information is available about the so-called “ nerve gases “ reported to be available for military purposes? (b) Is there mure than one such gas?
– The answers to the, honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 October 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19541020_reps_21_hor5/>.