21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) look the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
RETURN to WRIT: James FRANCIE Cope SWORN
– I have to announce that I have received a return to the writ which I issued on the 21st April, for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Cook, in the State of New South “Wales, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Thomas Sheehan, and that, by the endorsement thereon, it is certified that Tames Francis Cope has been elected in pursuance of the said writ.
Mr. Cope made and subscribed the oath oi allegiance.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. Having received a request from the Old Age and invalid Pensioners Association of Australia that I should ask the Minister to receive a deputation representative of a large number of branches of the association, of which there are 90 in New South Wales, in relation to the present scale of pensions, I ask him whether he will be good enough to receive that deputation .at Canberra before the conclusion of the present sessional period ? I should like .the Minister to consider the request favorably.
– I think it has been the policy both of my predecessors and of the Government to consider requests submitted on “behalf of age and invalid pensioners’ associations. I shall examine the proposal that has been submitted by the right honorable .gentleman, and, if the association is one of the .recognized organizations, I shall be only too happy to receive the deputation.
– It is the ‘.only recognized organization.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation state the reasons for transferring the air terminal from Parafield to West Beach before the latter aerodrome was completely ready? Will he consider recommending some form of staggering the arrivals and the departures of various aircraft to assist in eliminating the congestion that exists at West Beach? Is the Minister likely to visit South Australia after the House rises .at the end of this sessional period ?
– The reason why the West Beach airport was used before the whole of the work was completed was that “both of the major operating companies in Australia, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans- Australia Airlines, had brought new heavy aircraft into service, or had intended to do so. Neither of the two new types of aircraft in question could have been -used on the old aerodrome at Parafield. As you. will know, Mr. Speaker, the surface was not very good, and after heavy rain the aerodrome had to be dosed and the traffic diverted to Gawler. But at West Beach there were two perfectly good strips and hangar accommodation, and it was thought that it would be of advantage to the people of South Australia and Western Australia too if West Beach aerodrome were brought into SerViCe so that DC6B and Viscount aircraft could be used. It was appreciated -that the temporary -passenger accommodation ‘and so on would not be the best, but it was thought that, even so, air travellers would prefer to have the good aircraft in service. As to the staggering of hours, that is something that I shall he pleased to -talk over with the operating companies. I think that if their schedules were staggered a little more, there would not be nearly so much congestion as there is at West Beach now.
– I remind .the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that approaches have been made tooth to himself and to the Prime Minister for assistance to the poultry industry. Om each occasion, the reply was given that no action would be taken until the cost of production survey had been completed. In January or February last, a question on this matter was directed in another place to the Minister who represents the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to the proceedings of the Senate.
– Anyhow, the answer was given that the Government could not give any assistance to the poultry industry until the survey was completed, and it was indicated that the survey would be completed in February or March this year. As an approach has been made since then, will the Minister say .when it is now expected that the survey will be completed, and what is holding up the provision of assistance to the industry?
– When the poultry industry asked the Government for assistance a couple of years ago, the Government gave the industry a very substantial measure of assistance by subsidizing the cost of feed. At the same time, the Government undertook to have conducted an objective but authoritative survey of the Australian poultry industry to disclose to the Government and to the industry itself the circumstances of that industry. That survey was conducted on an Australia wide, but State by State, basis, and the report in its complete form has been made available during the last few days. If the honorable member has not received a copy of it, I shall be glad to see that he does. I think the report will be generally accepted as a very valuable one, as it discloses certain circumstances that must be regarded as of great value to the poultry industry. For instance, it shows that, Australia wide, there is a much higher production of eggs from all pullet flocks than from flocks of older or mixed ages. It discloses, quite clearly, that where a larger quantity of feed is given to poultry than is in fact recommended by some authorities, production is much higher, and that an important factor in the cost of production is lay-out. Proper lay-out may enable one man to look after 2,000 hens whereas, in other circumstances his limit may be only 1,000 birds. All of this is very pertinent to the main question of whether or not assistance is necessary to the industry. The industry itself, and the State authorities, are now studying the result of that investigation.
– Can the Minister for Air and the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the House whether any conclusions have been reached by the court of inquiry which was established in the United Kingdom to inquire into the structure and the performance of Comet aircraft, following a number of serious accidents? If the inquiry has been completed, has a clearance been given for the previous designs of Comet aircraft, provided some modifications are carried out? Is it also a fact that a new aircraft of the Comet series, known as the Comet IV., has now been designed and is under construction, and. will shortly be available for defence and commercial operations? Have any arrangements been made for the Royal Australian Air Force and Qantas to purchase a number of these aircraft as soon as they are available, and, if so, are the major airports in the capital cities of Australia at present capable of handling this type of jet aircraft ?
– The honorable member has asked a series of questions. I think I can remember them in sequence. The inquiry that was held into the loss of Comet aircraft in England was completed, I think, about last October. The findings of the court were that the aircraft were lost through explosive decompression following fatigue of the metal, and no blame was attachable to the operators, British Overseas Airways Corporation, or the manufacturers of the aircraft. The alloy used in the Comet was, I think, S.T.75, which is a normal aircraft alloy, but, of course, the truth is that the power that can now be obtained from the thrust of jet engines, and the knowledge of that power, outstrips the knowledge that we have of aero-dynamics, metallurgy, fatigue, and all that type of thing. There were, I think, 21 Comet aircraft finished, and ten of those were destroyed in various fatigue tests. The Comet II. and the Comet III. have been developed, and, as a result of the investigations that were carried out on the Comet I., certain modifications were made, but neither of those aircraft has been passed for civil work, to the best of my knowledge. Although the Royal Air Force in England, I understand, has bought six of them, the Royal Australian Air Force has not. I do not know if the Royal Air Force intends to use them with the full pressurization, or will use them for service purposes at high altitudes with oxygen. The Comet IV. is still in the prototype stage, and has not yet become available. Qantas did have an order in for some Comet I. aircraft. I think that was an order that came about because of our partnership in British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines who had Comet I.’s on order. That order, of course was cancelled when the aircraft was found to be unreliable. No jet aircraft of the commercial variety, that is, the Comet IV., if it comes along, or the D.C.8 and that type of machine, will find that the airstrips in the major airports of Australia are too short for them. I think that one of the considerations is that in the future, but not the immediate future, we shall have vertical take-offs, and we shall not need the long runways which’ arc used to-day. It may be a long time, but perhaps we shall be able to use them for car parks.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister concerning university students. In view of the fact that a mature-age scholarship of £4 10s. a week is awarded to university students who have reached the age of 25 years and are still studying, will the Prime Minister make inquiries into the deplorable living conditions of married students of this class, whose wives go out to work? Because of this the students are deprived even of the £4 10s. a week. It is necessary to add that the matureage scholarship relieves a parent of financial responsibility on this scale even when in receipt of considerable income, but if the wife of a student earns more than £250 a year the meagre allowance is withdrawn. Will the Prime Minister examine the position with a view to relieving distress amongst advanced university students?
– I shall be glad to inquire into the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs comment on the queries that have been raised about the scarcity of the drug reserpine, and suggestions that the cost of it is apparently less than he has stated?
– I have seen comment suggesting that the drug is not in short supply, and that the price of it is very much less than I had occasion to say in the House lately. I think I need hardly say that, before I made the statement that I made, I had had many discussions with the executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. All I can say is that the price of the reserpine contents in capsules of the drug in Australia at present varies between about £25 a gram and as high as over £60 a gram. I think, from memory, that the figures I gave were “ between £30 and £40 a gram “. Perhaps, I should. add that that price refers to the reserpine content of the drug in the form in which it is usable by a patient. As to its not being in short supply, all I can say is that some of the greatest drug-manufacturing houses in the country, with world-wide connexions, are toothcombing the world for further sources of reserpine. I really have nothing to amend in, or to subtract from, the statement that I made on this subject a few days ago.
– Has the Prime Minister and his Government yet considered a question which I asked more than three weeks ago on the most important matter of whether the Government would consider the sending to South-East Asian countries, including Malaya, Indonesia, Singapore and other countries in that area, of a delegation composed of members from both sides of the Parliament, that delegation to report back to the- Parliament on the- position in SouthEast Asia in- relation to Australia,, so that members of all parties: may be better informed? If. he has, not yet given the matter consideration, will be undertake to give it favorable consideration between now and the end of this sessional period?
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong will be- glad to know that I had some discussion on this very matter in Cabinet last night. I propose; with their permission, to- have a talk with the party leaders in the House about the matter, and when I have done so; I may ho in a. po3itio.11 to say something- about it.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a remarkable performance- put up by the employees- engaged, on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project, in. tunnelling 402 feet in depth,, and 24 feet in diameter, through solid rock, in six days,, which is a world’s record performance? Will the Prime Minister see to it that performances of that kind receive the recognition that is their due in an age and generation- which has been led to believe that physical, tasks of this- nature are beyond, the capacity of ordinary mortals ?
– The day before the opening of the first power unit of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project, I. hai the pleasure of seeing the work tha.t was then being- done 011 that tunnelling job; I was; greatly impressed by the spirit- of energy and drive - and I do not use the- word? “ drive-“ in a punning sense - exhibited by those in charge, and by those who were working on the face. They told me at that time that” they hoped before long to break the world’s Record. Having had’ a good’ look at them’ I’ am not a. bit surprised! that- they did so. It. is a splendid example of getting- on. with the job..
– As the chairman of a hospital board in Tasmania-, I wish to ask a question- of the Minister for Health.
– Order !: The honorable gentleman; may ask a question, as the member for Wilmot., not as1- chairman’ of- a: hospital board.
– Is the Minister’ aware of. the serious shortage- of trained nursing staff, especially double-certificated nurs-ing sisters, im the; various States % Is he aware, that projects, for the building of new hospitals- and the enlargement of existing; hospitals arc- characteristic of all States at present,, and that long advertisements in the’ press- appealing, for trained: staff- are an, all too common sight f Is he also aware-, that many hospitals today are working: at: only three-quarter, capacity because of. shortage of staff? Will the Minister’s department help the States- with the recruitment” o£ more staff and,, with the co-operation- of the Minister for Immigration, will the Minister make a determined attempt to get immigrant nurses to help to” fill the existing vacancies so that the hospitals will be! able to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for fully trained, nursing staff?
– I assume- that, the honorable member is speaking of Tas: manian hospitals. I have- found no such distressing conditions in States- that have taken full advantage of. the hospital insurance scheme.. New South Wales,, f or instance,, has increased its revenue, from that, source by £4,000,000.
– I ask the: PostmasterGeneral whether his department uses all possible means- to- speed up- the delivery of second-class and other mail. In view of the: fact that: delay in- the sea transport of: second-class- mail between’ Tasmania and! King Island; recently extended to six weeks, will he investigate the- possibility of employing” air services where delayextends beyond one week?
– The department does its utmost to speed the mails.. As, a matter of fact, mail between, the main> land, and Tasmania, is carried by air even though airfreight is not paid. I shall go into the. question of the King, Island service and give, the honorable, member a f urther- answer later.
– Is- the: Minister for Social’. Services: yet able to give a decision ou a request that’ I made to him concerning’ the problem of certain ex-servicemen in South Australia, who, wishing to pur1chase higher priced homes from the South Australian Housing Trust, found the loan of £2,750 insufficient, and were refused permission by the War Service Homes Division to obtain a1 second mortgage from the trust? Can he say whether that policy has been changed’?
– Three kinds of transactions are undertaken by the. War Services Homes Division. In two cases the advance was for only £2,000, raised in one case to £2,750, and it was thought that if the South Australian authorities took a second mortgage in one case It would give the applicant an advantage over other applicants in the other class. When the amount of the advance was increased to £2,750j after the last budget had been, brought down, the Commonwealth’s objection, was removed. I am v<u-y glad to be able to advise the Immovable member that henceforth second mortgages may be taken, by the South Australian Housing. Trust, and That ex-servicemen will, benefit as a result. I. should like to thank the honorable member for.- bringing the matter to my notice. The new policy will be of great advantage to ex-servicemen, who fan obtain homes at a higher price than normal in South Australia.
Mb; WENTWORTH.^-1 ask the Minister for External. Affairs whether he can inform the House- of. the progress that has been made in the occupation of The Australian base of Mawson in the Antarctic Territory. Is this base proving satisfactory, and are any results of scientific value emerging from its operations?
– It turns out that, the geographic location, of Mawson has been very fortunate. It is in a very good weather area in. which a great deal of rock is exposed to geological examination. Both Mawson and Macquarie- Island1 are in a. particular area of ionospheric disturbance, about 23 degrees’ from the Pole-, through which all radio’ waves moving between Australia and distant parts of the world must pass. It is- particularly advantageous to have stations’ in that area making a constant check They have a very practical purpose so far as radio communications’ are. concerned. In the last few months,, there has. been worked out a five-year, programme of scientific work in each, of the ten main branches of science. The peak will. be. reached in the’ international, polar year. 1957-58. The station is in charge of. Mr. Bechervaise this. year,, which is; the second continuous year of occupation. At present the staff consists of fifteen, or sixteen men. We are gradually proceeding towards the culmination of the work by about 30 nations, which will take place in 1957-58. I think the station has already achieved a considerable success and that the outlook, for the scientific and other work at Mawson, particularly in regard to weather prognostication, is very promising.
– Will the Minister’ for the Navy say whether inquiries have shown that the initial capital, cost of transferring the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders, where it is now situated,, to Jervis Bay would be approximately £3,000,000, and that the cost of maintaining, the college at Jervis: Bay would be much, greater than is the cost of maintaining, it at Flinders? Do not all the reasons which were accepted for the transfer of the college from Jervis Bay to Flinders in 1930 hold good with equal or stronger force to-day? Will the Minister make a firm, announcement of the abandonment of the proposal to transfer the college, in. order to allow the proper civilian development of. the Jervis Bay area?
– The. answer to the first question asked by the honorable gentleman is that his figures, are entirely wrong. The answer to the second question is that the conditions, which existed at the time of the- removal of the college to Flinders do not exist to-day. The answer- to the third question is tba-t the matter is- being examined now and an announcement will be made when> a decision has been reached’.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that under the present policy of the War Services Homos Division an ex-serviceman who desires to purchase an existing home is excluded from qualification if he is able to obtain the title in his own name, although he does not have a mortgage on the home? Will the Minister examine this anomaly with the object of abolishing this provision?
– It is probable that what the honorable member has said is perfectly correct, but, frankly, I do not fully understand the import of the question. I shall be the happiest person in the world to discuss it with him outside the chamber and give him an answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning Commonwealth Hostels Limited and the accommodation provided by it for British immigrants. I should explain that at the Williams Creek Migrant Hostel in my electorate the three-room units which formerly were made available to couples with children have been subdivided, the two bedrooms alone being now made available to couples with children and the living room being reserved for childless couples. Was the right honorable gentleman consulted about this grave restriction? Has he been told of the congestion and dissatisfaction which have been caused by the new policy? Will he have the company’s policy reconsidered?
– I was consulted about the changes which are being made. The fact of the matter is that, owing to there not being the demands on accommodation in past years which have developed recently, we were able to make available to British immigrants and their families at the hostels more accommodation than was originally planned. But now, owing to the considerable number of British immigrants coming to this country, we have had to revert to the arrangements which were originally made for them. Notification is being given to prospective immigrants in Great Britain about the conditions which will obtain when they get here. I am advised that no trouble has been experienced so far in relation to those who have been so warned. I think that what is happening now is that some people who have been enjoying these extra facilities fear that they will lose them, and they are making their protests known. I am not familiar with the circumstances of the particular hostel to which the honorable member refers, but I have stated what I believe to be the general position. I shall examine the particular situation mentioned by him and see whether I can supplement the information I have given to the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware that there is considerable resentment in Malaya of statements made recently by members of the Opposition in this Parliament in relation to Australian forces going to that area? Will the Minister use every endeavour to make it plain in Malaya that the Opposition represents only a very small section of the Australian opinion?
– Yes, * I have already actually endeavoured to repair some of the damage that unfortunately, I believe, has been done. I have had our Australian Commissioner in Malaya make an explanation to the chief Minister of Singapore in an effort to put things into a better perspective.
– I desire to address a question to the honorable the Prime Minister.
-Order! He is the right honorable the Prime Minister.
– He does not call me the the honorable member for East Sydney.
– Order ! This matter hao to be brought to a head. I lay it down as a rule of the House that whenever ah honorable member refers to another honorable member, he must use the title right honorable, or honorable according to the designation.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Will you see that the rule is invariably observed, because in recent times, since you have first mentioned this matter, the custom has grown up whereby some honorable members refer to other honorable members as members, and some other honorable members use the term which you require.
– I noticed, particularly last Thursday, one instance on the right of the Chair and several on the left of the Chair where that was not done. I ask the House to conform to that rule.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, under compulsion-
– Order ! Will the honorable member ask his question.
Mr. Ward thereupon ashed a question for which notice was sought.
– My question is directed to the right honorable the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Under the fifteen years’ meat agreement with the United Kingdom, are Australian 7neat exporters permitted to sell a quota of their meat on markets other than the United Kingdom market? Was this allowance increased recently to 6,000 tons? Was a meat export permit refused to Swift Australia Company Proprietary Limited, of Townsville, after a sale of 180 tons of their share of the quota had been made to Ceylon, and the sale had to be cancelled because of the cancellation of the meat export permit? Why was this meat export permit refused? Has the Minister any information he can give the House on this matter?
– It is a fact that within the terms of what is described as the long-term meat agreement, there is a specified tonnage of meat which may be sold by Australian exporters anywhere in the world outside the United Kingdom. In addition to that, it is competent for the Australian Meat Board, or the meat board invoking the good offices of the Government, to negotiate with the United Kingdom Government for tonnages even beyond that provided for in the contract. This year the combination of our entitlement to export to other markets including colonies and dominions, and the negotiated additional quantity, will total approximately 25 per cent, of the total export of carcass meatFull advantage has been taken of this by exporting companies. My advice i9 that not a large quantity of lamb was sent to other markets this year, because the prices of the United Kingdom market, broadly, were higher than those ruling in any other market in the world. Substantial quantities of mutton and beef have been sent to markets other than the United Kingdom market. In addition, no restriction is imposed upon the export of carcass meats from Australia to any of the British colonies. I should be very much surprised if the company to which the honorable member has referred was not able to export meat to Ceylon. I am not familiar with the details of the matter. I shall inquire into it and inform the honorable member later.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the deterioration in all phases of telephone services throughout Australia, in both country and metropolitan areas, with particular reference to automatic exchanges and exclusive services, will the Prime Minister agree to the appointment of a select committee of this House to inquire into the causes of the existing unsatisfactory conditions and possible means of rectifying the position ?
– I do not administer the Postal Department. I was under the impression that more telephone services had been provided in recent years than in any earlier comparable period. I see no reason for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the matter.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service made any progress towards reducing the delay that occurs between the lodging of application, for naturalization and the completion of the naturalization of immigrants? The Minister may remember that considerable delays .occur at the present time between the lodging of an application and the granting of naturalization, and that many thousands of immigrants are most concerned about this delay.
– I think we have been able to make good progress towards reducing the delay to which the honorable member has referred.
– I ask .the Prime Minister whether he has yet resolved the differences between himself and the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for the Army about the Minister’s demand that he be appointed Australian Resident Minister in New York?
– The honorable member should not be childish.
– The honorable member for Franklin is just as interested in the reply as I am.
– Order ! Will the honorable member for Hindmarsh ask his question ?
– Has the Prime Minister resolved the differences between himself and the Minister over the Minister’s demand that before he vacates his position in the Cabinet he be appointed Resident Minister in New York? If these differences have been resolved, does this mean that the Minister will be able to retain his seat in the Parliament, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council was permitted to do three or four years ago? I should like to know, also, whether it is a fact that the Prime Minister does not regard the Minister as one who possesses the capacity -that is ‘normally required of a Minister of a government capable of conducting the -affairs of a country such as Australia.
– .Sometimes, t’he honorable member gets some of his statements right, but I .must congratulate him to-day on having all of his statements wrong.
– Has the Prime Minister noted the substantial dividend that has been paid recently to -shareholders of the
Peninsular and Oriental .Steam Navigation Company? As the overseas shipping interests, among which the company may be included, .have :sought increases of ‘overseas shipping freights, will the Government make all possible efforts to resist this additional charge, -which would increase costs for the Australian community?
– I congratulate the honorable member on trying to anticipate a ‘debate that I understand will take place’ later this afternoon. I do not propose to anticipate it.
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask you whether you will have compiled and present to the Parliament a list of officers who work in the Parliament, their salaries and the departments to which they are attached, whether the Parliament, the Prime Minister’* Department or the Treasury. Is it a fact that an appointment was made recently to the position of secretary of the Joint House Department at a salary in the vicinity of £3,200 a year? Is it a fact that the duties of this office were previously performed by an officer who received £80 a year in addition to his normal salary? If such an appointment was made, were applications invited for the position?
– I do not mind providing the honorable member with a list of officers of the House of Representatives and, with the concurrence of the President of the Senate, with a list of the officers of the Joint House Department, and their respective salaries. .1 shall certainly not trespass upon the rights of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer with regard to their officers. Any question concerning the salaries of officers in the departments of those right honorable gentlemen should ‘be directed to them. The secretary of the Joint House Department is classed as the head of a department, and :ihe President of the Senate .and I are jointly responsible for that appointment. We did not call for applications for the -position because we considered that we had ;a man .on the premises who -was ‘suitable for the jab aird’ who understood what we wanted. Eis salary was fixed, as is the salary of every head of a department, by the Cabinet.
– A spokesman for the Commonwealth. Scientific and Industrial Research Organization recently commented, on experiments on the modification of weather by artificially inducing ruin. Can the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization inform the House of the details of the success that has so far- been achieved with these experiments and- supply details of the methods which have been adopted ? Have experiments also been conducted by the Division of Industrial -Chemistry into the problem of de-salting water? Is contact being maintained with overseas developments in this regard?
– For the last seven or eight years, a great part of the work of the Radio Physics Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been devoted to artificial rainfall experiments under the supervision of Dr. E. G. Bowen, the chief of the division. It is not normally my habit to refer to officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization by name, but this man is the head of the division and it is as the result of his genius that the work has been developed to a stage which has put Australia in the forefront of research into weather modification. The work was commenced, as it commenced in many parts of the world, with the use of dry ice, which is quite successful for the purpose, but is very expensive and economically impossible to use. Then, under the direction of Dr. Bowen, silver iodid’e was used. The distribution of silver iodide from burners in highflyingaircraft has been very successful when suitable types of cloud have existed. Silver iodide has also been successfully distributed from burners on. the tops of high mountains such as Mount Kosciusko. The experimental work is not by any means complete, but all the prospects are that within a certain time- I cannot say how long’ - it will probably be possible to amend the weather pattern in Australia during periods when suitable clouds exist. Dr. Bowen has been borrowed from the Australian. Government- by the Administration of the United States of America, for- consultation during about six. weeks in each year. During these periods, Dr. Bowen advises the American authorities and has conferences with their officers on weather modification. He is at present overseas on this work. Work on the de-salting problem is being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization with a solar still. This still is relatively small and its use would not be economically attractive, although it is possible to de-salt water by this means. The Commonwealth Scientific and’ Industrial Research Organization is following carefully the work on this ion exchange which is being prosecuted in the United States, Holland, and other parts of Europe. I do not believe that the process is yet economically practicable, although it is technically practicable. The promise of ability to produce fresh water from salt water is of considerable significance in Australia, particularly in the south-west corner of Western Australia, in relation to which my friend, the honorable member for Forrest, is constantly in touch with m&
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Some time ago, I asked the Minister a question in relation to broadcasting services in the Northern Territory. The honorable gentleman, in his reply, informed me that those services were then being investigated. I now ask him whether any decisions have been made.
– No, not at the moment.
– I ask the Mini* terfor Civil Aviation whether it is a fact, as alleged by the Albury City Council, that the City of Tamworth was given, different terms and conditions under which- the Department of Civil Aviation would take over the Tamworth aerodrome from, those that were offered to tie Albury City Council, or whether the same Government policy was applied to both places?
– Both of the aerodomes in question were dealt with before I took over the portfolio of Civil Aviation, and I am not too sure of the exact details. I should be very surprised if there was any difference between the two acquisitions. I shall ascertain the exact particulars for the honorable member, and let him have an answer.
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether it will be possible to consider, at an early date, an increase of the power of radio station 2CN Canberra. The establishment of this second Australian Broadcasting Commission station in Canberra has been a great boon to those discriminating people in the Australian Capital Territory who enjoy classical music and who appreciate the feast of reason and the flow of wit that come from this chamber, but, owing to its low power, people with similar discriminating tastes in the adjoining areas of Eden-Monaro and Hume are debarred from those pleasures through station 2CN. I notice that my colleague, the honorable member for Hume, joins with me very heartily in requesting the Minister to consider an increase of the power of radio station 2CN Canberra.
– Radio station 2CN Canberra, was specially designed as a low-powered, inexpensive station, mainly for the City of Canberra. Other more powerful stations that have been designed to broadcast to the more distant areas of Eden-Monaro are in existence. As the honorable member knows,’ a few nights ago, I opened a radio station of 10,000 watts at Bega, which covers a very wide area. As I have stated, the specific purpose of the establishment of station 2CN Canberra, was to serve the City of .Canberra. It is a station of. I think, only 200 watts.
– Have you noticed, Mr. Speaker, that during the .,… last ten or fifteen minutes there has been constant discussion between the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Lalor at the table, all of which is going over the broadcasting service? Is it not possible for you to give some directive to members of the Opposition who engage in these constant conversations that can be heard by the listening public?
– It is quite true, as has been disclosed by my correspondence, that conversations of that kind go over the air from the centre table, but the fault, does not lie entirely on one side.
– May I direct a question to you, sir ?
– I am a little puzzled. I am not an expert on these infernal machines, but I have always understood that the microphone on my left, which is controlled by a switch, is connected to the internal system. Am I right in saying that?
– I understand so.
– And that the microphone in the centre of the table adds to the delight of the public?
– I am not a mechanical expert.
– I understand that the microphone in the centre of the table carries the proceedings to the public.
– I think so.
– Can we regard the two microphones at each end of the Clerk’s i.able as being entirely for the benefit of the press gallery?
– That clears up something.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I engaged in a quiet, whispering, conversation with the Leader of the Opposition without having any idea that it was going over the radio. As a matter of fact, the switch, fortunately, was off. I also exchanged a few words with the Prime Minister over the table. He also understood that the microphone on his side of the table was switched off.
– There are two systems of broadcasting equipment in the chamber, one of which serves the House and the gallery, and the other of which is controlled in the broadcasting room by the broadcasting staff. It stands to reason that, if a Minister is speaking or answering a question at the table, and if honorable members on my left carry on a conversation, the remarks of honorable gentlemen on both sides of the table are broadcast simultaneously. As far as I know, the switch that is provided on either side of the table is purely for the House microphones. I understand that the only other switch that enables one to turn off the broadcast of the proceedings is the switch at the Speaker’s chair. The other microphones are controlled from the broadcasting room. Heaven forbid that any one should ever want me to control them, because I do not desire to have the task !
– Is the instrument immediately in front of you, Mr. Speaker, the amplifier that carries your remarks to the public?
– Is there an additional microphone in the centre of the Clerk’s table for public broadcasts?
– I think there is a microphone in that position for the use of the Chairman of Committees.
– You, Mr. Speaker, have two microphones in front of you, whereas we have none in front of us.
– I understand that the microphone at the Clerk’s table is for the use of the Chairman of Committees when the House is in Committee. As anybody can see, the table is well supplied, because there are no fewer than eight microphones on it. Honorable members sitting at the table have the best ration of the whole battalion.
– Ear too many!
– May I raise a personal point in. relation to this matter? For about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes on two successive Mondays the instruments that are attached to the broadcasting system have been completely incomprehensible. I do not know why that should have occurred. On the first occasion, it may have been mechanical, but, on the second occasion, it seems that somebody was experimenting with the system to the detriment of those persons who, like myself, are dependent upon the clarity of the system when listening in.
– I can only undertake to make inquiries to see whether I can satisfy the honorable member in relation to his complaint.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Works a question without notice.
– Order ! The honorable member must refer to the Minister as the honorable the Minister for Works.
– I ask the Minister whether he intends, during the present sessional period, to make a report on the investigations into the alleged practice of fraud by a Sydney -firm of builders, which I raised in this House approximately twelve months ago.
– I certainly hope to be able to give an answer to I lit honorable member for East Sydney, but the matter is not in my hands. It is in the hands of my colleague, the Attorney-General. It has been a particularly complicated case, causing a very large number of inquiries. I am doing everything I can to speed it up, and I know that my colleague is doing the same.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air.
– Order ! The honorable member must refer to the Minister as the honorable the Minister for Air.
– I direct a question to the honorable the Minister for Air in relation to the aerial defences of northwestern Queensland. I ask him to indicate whether it is his intention to take over the three ordinary civil aerodromes between Charters Towers and Cloncurry and convert them for use as satellite or emergency strips for the Royal Australian Air Force, in addition to civil use.
– The answer is, “No”.
– Does the Minister for Supply intend, before his departure for overseas, to make a statement to this House in regard to the allegations of maladministration in connexion with the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s project at Bell Bay ? Does he propose to give the House an opportunity to discuss the .matter J
– I have .made several statements about this matter during the last few months. I understand that tha Public Accounts Committee will present a report on it to this House in due course. When the committee does so, I have no doubt that the curiosity of the honorable member will be satisfied.
– :I wish to make -a personal (explanation. I have been .grossly misrepresented by the Sydney .Daily Telegraph, which makes a ‘series of allegations that I .am tying up the atom in red tape, that I say ‘low power reactors can contribute nothing to research, and that I am _a party to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission conducting a war against the University of Sydney, and pandering to the commission’s ambitions to monopolize ‘the atomic energy field.
These statements are .all false. The true facts of the matter are as follows : - The nuclear foundation, affiliated with the University of Sydney, is a body of businessmen founded to stimulate interest in the industrial use of nuclear power. It has provided .a good deal of money. Some time ,ago, the foundation publicly announced an .ambitious plan of research and training involving the building of two low-power low -neutron flux reactors. These were to ‘cost in the -neighbourhood of £2,000,000 and the foundation requested that their construction should be financed ‘by government grant. The foundation did not consult the Australian ‘Government, the Australian Atomic Energy ‘Commission -or its scientific advisers before making its decision.
– L rise to order ! I understood that the Minister wished to make a personal explanation because he claimed that he .had been .misrepresented in connexion with an aspect of his administration. I submit that, under the Standing Orders, the Minister must confine his remarks to the alleged misrepresentation, and not address himself to whether .he was right or wrong.
– Order.! As the Minister wished to make a personal explanation, it was not necessary for him to ‘obtain the leave of the House. However, he must confine himself to the points on which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– I submit that my remarks are relevant to the misrepresentation of which I complain.
When the matter was put to the commission, it sought the advice of its scientific advisory committee -which consists of Professor Oliphant, of the Australian National University, .a world famous nuclear physicist, Professor Martin, professor of physics at the University of Melbourne, ‘and -also a distinguished authority on nuclear matters, Professor ..J. S, Anderson, professor of chemistry, of the University .of Melbourne, formerly deputy .chief of chemistry at Harwell, Professor Rupert Myers, professor of Metallurgy at New South Wales University of Technology, and formerly deputy chief o’f metallurgy at Harwell, Professor Philip Baxter, professor of chemical engineering at the New South Wales University of Technology, and formerly research director of “Imperial ‘Chemical Industries, London, Dr. F. W. ‘G. White, -chief ‘executive officer of ‘the ‘Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research ‘Organization, Professor Hunter, professor of chemical engineering, University of Sydney, and Mr. V. J. -F. Brain, chairman of the Electricity Authority of “New .South Wales. These gentleman -went carefully into the report and recommendations of the nuclear foundation, and -they (unanimously .advised the commission .that no reasons could be found which -would justify -the granting of public funds to the foundation to construct reactors in the manner proposed, having regard inter ‘aiia, to (existing Commonwealth facilities, including our own advanced high neutron (flux reactor to be built at Menai, rand to .the information available to gls .under our recent .agreement with the British Government. This view of the scientific advisory committee is also endorsed .by Professor WatsonMunro, formerly professor of physics in New Zealand, a distinguished nuclear physicist, who built the first British reactor, and is now chief scientist of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, and Dr. Dalton, the commission’s deputy chief scientist, formerly of the East Reactor Group at .Harwell.
– I .rise to order. I should have no objection to the Minister being given leave to .make a statement, because then .we -could .debate it. He is, in a personal explanation, -dealing with the merits of the question, ,by .arguing that certain people were right and others -were wrong. I submit that he should ask for leave to make .a statement. The Opposition would be prepared to give him leave ito do so. .Under the Standing Orders, his .-statement .could .then be debated.
– With great respect, the allegations that I have mentioned .implied that I had been :guilty .of “.bias. I am outlining the steps that were taken in this matter, which completely negative the suggestion .that, as ;a Minister, I have acted in a biased -way against a government instrumentality. Therefore, what I am saying is strictly relevant.
Faced with advice of this weight and calibre, it was : 0 br.10118 -of -course, that the
Commission and the Government could not .entertain the foundation’s request. Furthermore., if they had done -so, then every .other Australian university would have teen .entitled to similar grants, ama* 30 the millions would .have mounted up. [ .may ‘say, also, that the New South Wales Government has categorically said (that it will :not -provide this money .and has .’advised ‘the foundation to use ;Commonwealth facilities which will ‘be available.
This decision “not to -provide Government funds did not, and does not, in any way prevent the foundation or the university from having their own reactors provided from their -own funds. We have no ‘wish, .or intention, .to interfere with their undoubted rights to build their -own reactor if they want to.
A few people in the foundation, not many, resent the Commonwealth^ decision not ‘to provide this £2,000j000, and they are now using their own peculiar methods of trying to circumvent it. Mr. Packer, -who owns ‘the Baily Telegraph, is a member .of the foundation, -and chairman of its finance committee, which raises the money. His interest in the matter is as obvious as ‘that. These gentlemen cannot attack the commission and th? Government for refusing to waste the taxpayers’ -money - that horse won’t gallop - so they -allege instead that the commission and I are trying to socialize the atom and prevent freedom of academic research. We have not done so ; we will not do so ; on the contrary, <we are encouraging free -.research.
We have offered to the various universities several research contracts for specified kinds -df -research. This is a -normal and -world wide practice. If we are paying the money, we *are entitled to nominate the type of research which is to he carried on, ‘but we do not direct the manner an which it is to be tackled. The truth -of t’he matter is ‘that what is most needed in Australia in connexion with the advancement of industrial nuclear energy is .not research in nuclear .physics, although all research -is valuable, .hut research :in the problems i01 engineering, chemistry and metallurgy. Over .a year ago, I warned -the foundation of ‘our special need for .research in these matters rather than nuclear physics, .and .urged it to keep this in mind in its planning, b.ut that warning apparently fell on .deaf ears.
Recently, too, .the Australian Government gave £50,000 to the foundation. The commission has also provided no “less .£han sixteen post-graduate studentships and 22 scholarships to Australian universities for the promotion of research in fields in which the commission is interested. We do not dictate who shall apply,; we merely offer money for scholarships to enable students to pursue research in this or that field. If the university .or the students do not want it, they .need not take it.
-lan FRASER - I rise to :order. The Minister is .now going far .beyond the ambit of a personal explanation. I have been a member of this House sufficiently long to appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that your rulings from time to time have indicated clearly that, in a personal explanation, an honorable member is limited to an explanation in relation to something he has said, and which he alleges has been distorted or misrepresented, and where he, therefore, makes a claim of what he actually said. In other words, the Minister is going far beyond the correction of a misstatement, and, in his personal explanation, is dealing with many other aspects of the matter.
– Order ! The Minister has quite lately been using the personal pronoun “ we “, and explaining matters as between himself and some foundation outside. He is limited, in a personal explanation, to those points on which he has been personally misrepresented. Under the guise of a personal explanation, he cannot argue the merits of what some body - government or private - has done outside, either in co-operation with him or without his co-operation. He must confine his remarks to his own explanation.
– Very well, sir. I submit that the decisions which were made in this matter were ministerial decisions-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting far outside the scope of a personal explanation.
– “We have not attempted in any way to lay down the research which universities should conduct.
– The Minister has attempted to do so.
– I have offered to each of the Australian universities, including the University of Sydney, free facilities for research, indicating the fields in which it is desired that the research be conducted, but not circumscribing the universities in the way in which the research should be done. An invitation has also been issued to the universities to indicate to the Government the sort of work they want done in connexion with the reactors at Menai, and to discuss the matter with me. “We are still await ing a meeting with representatives of the universities on this matter. We have gone a second mile-
– The honorable gentleman is now saying “ we “. It should be “I”.
– I have gone a second mile in endeavouring to assure the University of Sydney, and every other university, that the utmost freedom of research is possible.
No man can honestly describe this procedure as tying up the atom in red tape or interfering with freedom of research. We are pursuing a similar line to that adopted at Harwell in relation to British universities, and in Canada, in both of which countries the system works well, and there is no complaint. No other university in Australia has complained, and it is only from the mouth of one or two persons in Sydney that any criticism has been raised. Others in Sydney have accepted our grants, and have personally told me how satisfied, they are with the system.
Each member of the commission’s scientific advisory committee is a distinguished academic figure in the university world, and every one of them is satisfied that the course the commission is pursuing is a fair and proper one.
– During the absence of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) the following arrangements, will apply: - I shall act as Attorney-General. Senator O’sullivan will represent me in the Senate, and will also represent the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). Senator Spooner will represent the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Mr. Casey), and Senator McLeay will represent the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt).
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented in respect of a speech which I made in this House on Thursday last. The misrepresentation that 1 allege is contained in a statement attributed to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) and published in the Canberra Times of Saturday, the 28th May, 1055. The heading on the item reads, “Minister says rent review equitable”. I propose to quote exactly the £rst four paragraphs of that report in the words of the newspaper. They read as follows: -
Through its rent equalization proposals for Canberra, the Government had, for the first time in the city’s history, achieved something approaching complete equality of treatment for its tenants.
He was commenting on statements made by Mr. J. Fraser (Labour, A.C.T. ) during the Supply Debate in the House of Representatives.
The Minister said that Mr. Fraser had claimed that increases of up to 75 per cent, in the rents of Government-owned houses would place a heavy rent burden on people starting their careers. “ This is a misrepresentation of the facts “, said Mr. Kent Hughes. “ The complaint has been - and Mr. Fraser has been a leading complainant - that those starting their careers are given the now houses carrying the higher rents. Under the proposed adjustment, these people will derive substantial benefits.
I spoke in the House for 29 minutes, and at no stage of my speech did I make the statement attributed to me in that report. The only reference I made to yoting married people, or to people starting their careers, was in that section of my speech which was devoted entirely to the present high rentals of newly constructed homes. I have an exact record of what I had to say in that respect. My speech read as follows : -
In recent years, and more particularly over the last five and a half years under the administration of this Government, the cost of construction has risen alarmingly. In 194G, a brick home cost £148 a square; in 1947, £160; in 1.048, £195; and in 1949, £233. In 1950, which was the first complete year the present Government was in office, the cost of building a brick home in Canberra rose from £233 to £285 a square. In the following year, it jumped to £315, and to-day it is £400 a square. That means that many people have been compelled to pay extremely high rentals, lt is not uncommon to find young people who are starting out in married life, or who are just commencing their careers-
– I rise to order. The honorable member, like his predecessor, had your permission, Mr. Speaker, to make a personal explanation. What have his observations on the difficulties of married life to do with a personal explanation? It is very tiresome for the House to have to listen to honorable members arguing a case which has absolutely nothing whatever to do with the matter before it. I hope that in future the honorable member will restrict his personal explanation to matters in respect of which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory claims to have been misrepresented, and he is entitled to correct that misrepresentation. In addition, it is quite possible that the honorable gentleman is looking a little way ahead.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to invoke the Standing Orders to deal with honorable members who raise frivolous and facetious objections when an honorable member is engaged in making a personal explanation to correct a gross misrepresentation of his views.
-It is quite true that perfectly frivolous points of order, which have no substance whatever, are frequently raised, I think, in an effort to break the sequence of an honorable gentleman’s speech. It is most undesirable that they should.be raised, but this is not an isolated instance. I have memories of many instances of a similar kind last week.
– I resume the quotation from my speech which it is necessary for me to make in order to refute the misrepresentation -
It is not uncommon to find young people who are starting out in married life, or who are just commencing their careers in the Public Service, paying rentals well in excess of £3 10s. a week. Some are paying in excess of £4 a week. Indeed, on some homes, the rental has been assessed at more than £6 a week, but in those cases some reduction has been effected by disregarding certain on-cost charges, and by declaring the homes to be of an experimental type. The point I am trying to make i-> that, because of the increase of building costs, rentals assessed on the capital cost have become so high as to be beyond the financial capacity of the ordinary man and woman. That is particularly so in the case of a man who is seeking to establish his home and family, who. is buying furniture and furnishings on time-payment, and who is seeking to educate his family. To him, that high rental becomes an- almost intolerable burden.
To complete my rebuttal of the misrepresentation, I quote briefly what I said later in the same speech -
Although the Minister’s belated acknowledgment of the fact that certain rentals are too high is to be applauded, and although I applaud any action, that he takes to reduce them, I find myself in complete disagreement with, him when lie adopts the policy of enriching Paul to the detriment of Peter.
I claim that the report of the Minister’s statement as published in the Canberra Times bore no relation to the speech that I made in the House, and was a complete misrepresentation of what I said.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member has completely misrepresented the factual answer which I gave to him in the Canberra Times. He did not like the answer, so he has used the forms of the House in order to make another speech.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter for urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely -
Tha failure of the Government to take appropriate action to resist the proposed freight increases of the overseas shipping combine in view of the recently announced exorbitant distribution, of profits and bonus- shares announced by the leading overseas shipping company.
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
– I want to- emphasize that this- matter of urgency is in regard to the Government’s failure to take appropriate action to resist the proposed freight increase by the overseas shipping combine. Although this party a fortnight ago took the initiative in. drawing attention to the serious result to the Australian public from the: proposed increase of 10 per cent, in shipping freights,, the Government has done virtually nothing whatever to resist that proposal. The only action that the Govern. ment has taken is to propose another inr quiry. “What, are those inquiries ? Are they just a blind to enable the subject to be put safely away for a time? That is all that appears to have happened as a result of previous inquiries. Every year we receive the annual report of the Austraiian. Stevedoring. Industry Board, and some years ago we had the Basten report on the Australian waterfront position. These reports are put on the shelf, and everybody proceeds to forget about the shipping position. I do not regard the further report which has been called for by the Government as being anything in the way of real action. It certainly does not constitute a move to resist the proposal of the overseas ship-owners. The Government did have some legislation passed, but it has not taken any action as a result of .it. So,, even the Government’s legislation has not, up to the present, been effective, and the Government should consider actually doing something of a concrete nature. The fact to which we wish to direct attention during this debate is that the Government does not appear to be prepared to take any real action. It is simply evading the issue. Up to the present nothing effective has been done, and it does not appear that anything effective is going to be done; I therefore make no excuse for proposing this matter for discussion.
In addition to other aspects, of this matter we have the extraordinary fact that, while the great overseas shipping companies are, on. the one hand, increasing their freight rates to and from AUs. tralia, they are, on the other hand, disclosing enormous profits of a magnitude probably never dreamt of by the community. We have, for instance, the report of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which shows that the company will pay a dividend of 16 per cent, this year,, and will give a share-for-share bonus to its. shareholders1. That is an enormous1 distribution- of its profits, because the distribution of a share-for-share bonus- is really a distribution of profits. The magnitude, of that distribution, of profits is. all the greater when we remember that- the company alao made- a share-f’or-share distribution in- 1953:. Therefore, what it is’ doing now, in effect, is to- give to every shareholder three shares for every one share held in 1953. The position is stated very clearly in the London Economist, at page 492 of its issue of the 7th May. Iba Economist states: -
That must, be faced. That effective dividend of 48 per cent, means that Australian shippers of export goods, and Aus, tralian consumers of imported’ goods, are paying about twice as much in freights as they should be paying. It is obvious that the overseas shipping companies have been making huge profits and sinking a great part of them into reserves. Sir William Currie, the chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental line, made it clear, in his address to the annual meeting of the shareholders, that this was not a temporary position, but was one of a substantially permanent nature. He said that the presentation of future accounts’ would disclose more hidden millions arising from the conservative valuing of assets. He said that assets shown at £107,000,000 might in future, be valued at £137,000,000.
There is no doubt that those companies have been putting away a good deal of money. The actual profits, disclosed up to the present time show that this company alone is making profits greatly in excess of those it should make. This year’s 16 per cent, dividend absorbs only £1,200,000 of a profit of about £5,250,000. It is quite clear that, with, the one-for-one share issue this year, and supposing the company maintains its 16 per cent, dividend as I have no doubt it will, only half the profit next year will be. distributed, and the remainders, will go into reserves. It is evident, therefore, that the shipping lines intend to continue to make this huge rate of: profit. It is further pointed out in the Economist that the position, we have reached now is one that is likely to be stabilized for a con.siderable time. The Economist- also states, again on page 492 of the* issue from which I have already quoted^ as follows:1 - .. . investors may feel that some, of the big shipping companies have now sighted a landmark - a point where- they have1 replaced much of their war losses with good modern tannage, husbanded their resources in the face of high taxation, mapped out their stake- in air transport and feel themselves strong enough, to absorb the probable- shocks of their constantly changing business.
That sounds very creditable-, but we must remember that Australia, as’ a big country which is dependent to a large degree on overseas shipping, has paid very heavily to help shipping companies to achieve their present position and to put away enormous profits. What the action of the shipping companies means to Australia is very clear when we consider exactly what the Australian primary producer is actually facing. The level of shipping freight rates is of tremendous importance to our primary producers. In 1953, our overseas shipping freight bill was about £150,000,000. Australia’s annual shipping freight bill rises and falls in accordance with import restrictions policy,, the volume of our harvests, and’ so on. An increase of 10 per cent, in those rates will mean that the Australian primary producer and the Australian consumer will have to pay approximately another £15,000,000 to meet the increased freight bill on good’s to and from Australia. If we take into account the enormous amount of profit being made by the shipping companies, however, we find that the actual payment by the Australian primary producer and the Australian consumer is of the order of £80,000,000 assuming that our freight bill each year is about £150,000,000. I think that such a huge sum leaves plenty of room for reduction. We need to do a great deal to reduce it, because not only primary production, but also secondary industry, in Australia is facing a very serious position.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull)- recently urged the Go,vernment to do something to help the dried fruits industry. I have no doubt that as- a result of his advocacy some arrangement will be made; whereby that industry will be assisted by the Australian public. Of course we do not want to see that industry in a serious position. [Quorum formed.’] But we feel that the Government is actually not taking any active interest in a most important matter which affects the whole of Australia.
A reduction of freight on goods sold overseas would be a move in the right direction and highly practical. The same is true of the sugar industry, which markets its product overseas and must pay expensive freights without making any profit. The Australian consumer must subsidize these enormous and exorbitant freights. The dairy-farmers are now complaining that they are getting inadequate returns for their butter, and they wish to increase the Australian price. If the Government took action to reduce freights on overseas consignments of butter it could give the farmers a better return for their labour without making the Australian consumer pay more and, thereby, reducing the standard of living. The wine industry also is meeting difficulty. A reduction in the freight on wheat would clear the silos of huge wheat surpluses. That industry also is in a difficult position. The flour-milling industry is quite profitless at present and government action to reduce freights would help the wheat industry enormously. The same argument is applicable to the flax and egg industries: indeed, every primary product is affected.
We require some action by the Government in these matters. It is not necessary to set up an inquiry. The published statements of this company and other huge shipping companies reveal the position adequately. These companies have declared that they are making huge profits. All they will do is water down their capital so that, in future, profits will not appear to be so great. There is no doubt that the present dividend of 16 per cent, represents a return of 50 per cent, on the 1949 capital. Obviously, the companies are preparing for the future payment of that rate. The only action taken by the Government seems to be to state that the fault is du» to the workers; but even in their case it does nothing.
What action do we propose that the Government should take? There is no doubt that the Government recognizes the usefulness of socializing an industry, or part of it, to break monopolies. That is the great purpose of socialism. The Government cannot deny that it uses socialism for that purpose. I shall read a statement made in the last few days by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). He said, in effect, that the Commonwealth shipping line’s present fleet of 41 ships is doing a great job for Australia. I am glad that this Government has increased the number of ships in the fleet that the Labour party established. The Minister said -
The present fleet of 41 ships with a tonnage of 216,020 tons, and live chartered ships of 46,000 tons comprised 32 per cent, of all Australian coastal shipping.
Commonwealth vessels are now shipping 39 per cent, of a total annual ironstone and limestone lift of about 3,750,000 tons and 60 per cent, of all interstate coal shipments.
The Minister added -
The Government policy has been to use Commonwealth ships in alleviating shortage of tonnage in particular trades and the relatively good present coastal shipping position is in no small measure due to the manner in which the vessels have been used.
That shows clearly that the Government regards socialism as a useful method of breaking down monopolies. The Minister himself has stated that it is very useful. I remind honorable members that a Labour government established the Commonwealth shipping line, and that Labour is a great believer in it. However, though it has been successful on the coastal runs, that should not be its only role. Obviously, the line should be extended. I hope that it does represent 32 per cent, of all Australian coastal shipping. If it represented 32 per cent, of overseas shipping it would be in a position to put an end to these huge shipping profits.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– The Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party (Mr. Joshua) has not made a very good case to-day. This issue was debated a couple of weeks ago, and it is obvious that it has been raised again as a diversionary activity to distract attention from an occurrence of a few hours ago, just as that occurrence was itself the outcome of the diversionary activity of another party.
– Now start discussing freights.
– I know that honorable members opposite’ would like me to keep off the main issue, but they know what it is and so do the public. The case that the honorable member attempted to make was founded upon the longpractised principle of hitting the big fellow. It is no part of my purpose, nor will it be found to be any part of this Government’s activity, to defend the big fellow. On the other hand, it is our policy to deal with things in a businesslike and just manner. The production of a story about big capital assets and profits is not of itself a case. The raising of the big business bogy might be useful diversionary Labour tactics, but it is of little use otherwise. It is, of course, characteristic of both the Labour party and dictatorships to identify what will favour self-interest and then decide a course of action that has no regard for facts and justice. That is characteristic of dictatorships all over the world and is inherent in the approach and policy of Labour’s Communist and anti-Communist wings. This Government stands for justice. It is following the course that I outlined to the House and to the people a week or two ago, and is allowing to” operate the machinery which the Scullin Labour Government established in 1930 to deal with exactly such a situation. I refer to the establishment of the Australian Overseas Transport Association, which comprises representatives of the overseas shipowners and the exporters.
This issue, though tremendously important, will not have immediate consequences. The contracts that would be affected by the freight increase which has been sought would not come into operation until next September. The only exception is in the case of wool, the contract in respect of which will expire in July. “We know that wool shipments will not commence in substantial quantities until some weeks after the first wool sales, which are usually late in August or early in September. Indeed, present shipping freights would stand for about another twelve months. I hope that in giving this date I shall not be regarded as not considering the issue to be important. I have made it clear both here and in the press that the issue is of the highest importance both to the Government in toto. and to me personally as a representative of primary producers. The Government will not accept a situation that cannot be justified. On the other hand, the Government will not set out to judge the issue until its own officers have carefully studied all the relevant facts, and until the parties most vitally concerned have had an opportunity to meet and discuss the situation. At the present time, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, through its officers in this country and through its representatives overseas, is assembling all the relevant facts upon which a judgment can be made. Certain shipper interests, or exporting interests, have asked the department to assist them in assembling the facts which are pertinent to the case they wish to present. They have asked the department to procure for them some facts about the structure of the shipping companies themselves, to enable them to complete the preparation of their case.
The whole basis of the argument of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), if a basis is discoverable, is the reported’ profits of one company. I do not want to say a word in defence of what may finally be shown to be unjustifiable profits. But the profits of this company are not made in Australia alone. They are not made out of the Australian trade alone. There are some aspects of the company’s operations which not only occur outside Australia, but also are completely outside the control of this Government. They may be a result of the policies of other governments. A great company may be permitted to accumulate its profits, and avoid disbursing them to its shareholders, without attracting punitive taxes, for policy reasons considered to be good by another government. That is, in fact, the policy which has .been permitted since the war by the Socialist Government and the non-Socialist Government of the United Kingdom. The policy of permitting a company to accumulate shareholders’ funds ,and not subjecting the accumulated funds to punitive rates of taxation obviously has .some relation to the cost of replacing ships in the light of the inflation of - world costs that has occurred in the post-war years. That aspect of the matter is completely beyond the control of this Government, and, indeed, of this Parliament. But that, of itself, is not, I assure honorable ‘members, one .of the great components of .the costs represented in shipping freights which justify increases or decreases of freights.
Let me refer the House to some of the elements which the Department of Commerce and Agriculture .on previous occasions has identified, subdivided and reduced to percentages, and .has used to argue, with success, a case against freight increases proposed by the shipping companies. They are stevedoring charges here and overseas; port charges here and overseas; the costs of fuel, stores and providoring, crews’ wages; the costs of repairs, docking and surveys, canal dues and certain other charges. .None of those elements, which represent 83 per cent, of present freight charges, is controllable by this Parliament. Many of them are completely beyond the control of the shipping companies concerned. In a ‘list of items regarded, ‘after an examination made some .years ago, as representing 17 pei* -cent, of freight -rates, there .were bunched together insurance, -which is uncontrollable by the shipping companies, nml (depreciation, .which I admit -.can be varied according to accountancy practice and policy. Depreciation was the only item in the list -over which the chipping companies had -any control.
The policy which this ‘Government will adopt iB a policy of .’analysing .stevedoring -charges at both ‘ends, ‘canal .dues, port charges, the cost of fuel, crews’ wages and the cost of providoring, repairs :and surveys. If it ‘is shown that there has not been a measurable increase of the costs -of -those items, the Government -will, certainly take the strongest ‘stand .-against the proposed ‘increase. But if it can be shown that the-costs of those items, -which aa-e beyond the .control of the shipping companies, have ^increased, will it btclaimed, that the companies axe not entitled to .-any adjustment of freights/ That illustrates the approach of the Government to the matter.
In the statement of the matter Suk,.mitted for discussion, the honorable member for Ballarat protests against the Government’s failure to take the appropriate action to resist the proposed freight in creases, -which will -affect Australian primary producei-3 adversely. If a log of claims For increased wages were lodged, how would the honorable member likeit if, at the instance of representative? of the employer interests, a matter o’< urgency were proposed in the Parliamen,protesting that the Government had ii<>ta’ken appropriate action to -resist the claims ? If that were done, no one in the Parliament would be more outraged thaihe. That course is analogous with tin course upon which he has embarked to day. So I -can ‘So no more than say, a> I said -here a couple of weeks ago. that the Government regards ‘the suggested increase of freights as .-of the highest importance. It is already engaged, through its -officers in obtaining a most ‘comprehensive -assembly of -the relevant facts. T ^emphasize the word “ f acts -and I -emphasize also the word “ relevant “. Those facts, to the extent to Which they -are .sought, will be made available to the exporting interests of -this country, which have already -approached the department for assistance in presenting 1the’ir ease. I have no doubt -that, in clue’ course, it will -eventuate that tb» Government -will -act, as it -did in ‘1953, as something <of an honest broker in (hi matter, -not seeking to -deny justice to whichever -side -justice should ‘be given., and -certainly ‘not embarking upon a policy -of suggesting to the ‘world that any overseas company which happens to have a .’great capital had (better keep clear of Australia, ‘because an Australia there is no Judgment ion justice, but only judgment on Bullions. If that -were ever to he the case, Australia would have very poor prospects of (retaining -the services of the (great .shipping, .transport and ;other institutions upon which -we depend substantially -for the carrying on of our
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture(Mr. McEwen) has saidone thing that isperfectly true. He has said that he cansay no more than he said a few weeksago. He has certainly said nomore. But it would not matter if he had said any more, because he has donenothing since then. That is the reason why this matter has been brought before the House. Because of the urgencyof the matter,we discussed itrecently, whencertain action, not talk, wassuggested. We have heard from the Minister fromtime to time protests against theproposed increases. The Ministerhas gone on record as protesting against the arbitrary decisions of the overseas shipping combines to increase freights. It isthe arbitrary character of the decisions which makes them so intolerable. ‘There was no hearing of the case beforehand. “The decision was announced.
What took place when the stevedoring industry charge was reduced just before March, 1954? The interstate shipping companies reduced interstate freights, but theoverseas shippingcombines snapped their fingers at the Government. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and, I think, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, said that overseas shipping rates shouldbe reduced, nothing was done. I take the Minister up on the analogy he has drawn, which I think is a fair one. He asked what we would say if a log of claims for increased wages were presented and the Parliamentwere asked to intervene to stopthe increases. I think that is a fair analogy. The reason I say it is a fair analogy is that it would be a one-sided arbitrary attempt to alter the wage conditions where circumstancesprovide for atribunal todecide what the just wage should be. What tribunal is there to decide the just freightas between Australia and overseas on goods carried by overseas shippers,particularly the overseas shipping combine? There is none
– That is not true.
– Did theMinister not believe in it?
Mr.McEwen. - I knew how muchthe Commonwealth shipping line added to freights.
-If the Commonwealth shipping lineaddedto freights in the sense that it was not run economically, thatwould tend to make freights higher. Itis perfectly true that the Minister and the Australian Country party strongly advocated the retentionof the Commonwealth shippingline. Ifhe has changed his views on that matter, we would like to know his reason for doing so.
I merely wish to sum up the position. The reduction of the stevedoring industry charge should have been used, as the interstate shipping companies used it, for the benefitofthe freightposition. That isnot all. TheGovernment takes the same position on this matter as it takes with many other matters, and does nothing.The great Basten report on the stevedoring industry has not been implemented.Itis perfectly true that the Minister for Labour andNational Service (Mr. Holt), introduced legislation providing for an inquiry into the waterfront, andweknow that the most important matter was the profits made by the shipping companies, including the profits made by the overseas shipping combine out of their stevedoring operations.We on this side had that matter added to the legislation, with the consent of the Minister, and,of course, it was approved by the Parliament. This inquiry is going on and on, hut the committee has not reached the matter of stevedoring profits because it is too close to the shipping profits.
The Minister must know that this huge distribution of bonusshares constitutes a means of giving the accumulated profits to shareholders; but when they become shares in the hands of members of the com pany, they must gradually be regarded as being true sales, and there will not I* a payment on these accumulated bonus shares. The accumulated profits will take another form, but they are profits nonetheless. I come to the Minister’s point again and I quite admit that it is of no use to say what the freights should be. What does he say? He claims that this amendment of the law in respect of the Australian Industries Preservation Act in 1.930 meets the position, but I say, with respect, that it does nothing of the kind, ff there is an agreement between the shippers and the shipowners to ship exclusively on their vessels in return for regular sailings, that, in itself, is not to be deemed an agreement. A combination is punishable. It does not say that that is the method of fixing the just freights.
Therefore, I repeat my suggestions to the Government. I think the Government should arm itself with the power to assess and determine what the just freight is; it should set up a tribunal to assess what the just freight is, bearing in mind all the matters mentioned by the Minister. It should look at all the facts, just as a price-fixing tribunal would do in regard to internal matters or the Arbitration Court would do in the matters mentioned by the Minister. The rate should not be fixed arbitrarily. Take that power, and it is not arbitrary for the Parliament to fix the rate on the facts before it. What is the answer? That was the just decision.
– How would the Leader of the Opposition enforce that?
– Quite simply, because these shipowners become subject to our jurisdiction as their ships come and go. That was decided in the early days of customs legislation - the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company v. Kingston. Overseas trade is a matter within our constitutional power, and freights can be fixed under those conditions with one limitation. Overseas shipowners can say that they are not going to trade with Australia. That is theoretically possible, but it is unlikely, because their trade with
Australia is their main source of profit. We must have the first weapon, as a law, and be able to establish the machinery whereby we can get out of the arguments that eternally arise with this overseas shipping combine when they trade to Australia.
I believe that the Minister is right in claiming that there should be justice, but it is not justice for the shipping companies to say to the Australian people, the producers, the importers, or the purchasers who have to pay, “ We finally and irrevocably determine that this is the rate, and we will not listen to your representations “. Let us publish it. Even if there is difficulty over any particular enforcement, it will have great weight, and that should be done. I again suggest to the Government that that should be done, and simultaneously the Government should equip the Commonwealth line of steamers so as to enable the ships to carry our exports overseas and bring our requirements back to Australia.
Those are the remedies. All this talk about a committee will not do any good. The Parliament and the Government must be armed with authority to deal with these people. The history of the shipping combine shows that exploitation is their rule in relation to Australia. They are not interested in the development of this country. They are interested in Australia only as a source of profit. They have exploited the people of Australia in all these cases. That is admitted. Those profits are not conclusive evidence, but they are pretty strong evidence that these profits are derived, to a large extent, from Australia. It is of no use for the Minister to state, as he has stated in this debate, “ I can say no more than I said three weeks ago “. He did say more; he spoke for fifteen minutes. But be has not done anything in the meantime, and the primary producers, whom the Australian Country party is supposed to represent, the importers, and the ordinary people who buy the goods, want action. I have suggested the form of action - the amendment of the law to set up a tribunal to determine a fair and just freight. At the same time the Commonwealth shipping line should be better equipped to carry on trade.
I notice in the press that Mr. Harold Cox, who seems to know all the Cabinet secrets, has written that the Government is now bargaining secretly with the shipowners to sell the Commonwealth shipping line. That has taken place since the last debate on thi3 matter. Whether or not the story is true, it seems as if there is some substantial basis for it. We should retain the Commonwealth shipping line because we want it to compete with other shipping lines. The Minister, in reference to the assessment of a just freight, claims that justice must be given to the people of Australia. Let us establish a judicial tribunal, with an Arbitration Court judge or some one experienced in this matter to preside, because if the workers of Australia have to accept decisions of an arbitration court, so should the overseas shipping combine.
– It is not easy to fathom how this subject has been submitted to the House for consideration again on this occasion. It would almost appear that the gentlemen who sit in the corner have run out of material to present to the House, or are marking time while they gather their forces again to re-assert themselves on other matters to which they speak with rather more authority than they do on this subject.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member ‘ for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) because I thought that there might have been some developments since we last discussed it a few weeks ago. I also listened carefully to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to see whether he had anything fresh to contribute to the discussion which had been held here so recently. The position has not been, advanced one word by them since we discussed this matter a couple of weeks ago. The first point, I repeat, is that the Government has not welcomed this notification of increases in freight rates. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and I, and other spokesmen from the Government, made it evident that we viewed with very groat concern a decision which would make our trading position overseas just that much more difficult. On the last occasion on which this matter was discussed, my colleague the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) indicated the efforts that the Government was making, through the instrumentality created for the purpose of negotiation on these matters, to ensure that a reasonable rate was struck. 1 have no wish to hold any brief for the overseas shipping companies, which are well able to speak and act for themselves; but it is desirable that we maintain a sense of proportion in these matters. If the trade with Australia is so highly profitable as honorable members opposite seem to believe, I am surprised that the cargo ships of many other countries do not come here to get a share of that traffic. I recall that when we operated the Commonwealthowned shipping line, its operating costs were such as to make it necessary to keep freights at a level even higher than the charges which the overseas shipping companies found it necessary to make, in order that the earnings of the Commonwealthowned line might break even with its expenses. As a consequence, the government of the day decided not to continue to conduct a shipping service on such an expensive basis.
The overseas shipping companies, apparently, are making handsome profits. We certainly hoped that we in Australia might be spared increased freight charges, which the overall profits of the overseas shipping companies appear to make unnecessary. However, we should be in a very much better position to argue about the matter if our record in our own local shipping were better. Although freight charges on cargoes from overseas have increased considerably, freight rates on cargoes transported around the Australian coast have risen very much more steeply. It is all very well for the Loader of the Opposition to speak vehemently about the matter in this House at this time and to tell us what we, as a Government, should be able to do. The right honor.able gentleman, when he was a Minister in a Labour Government, demonstrated himself to be singularly incapable of doing what he now suggests should be done, even though at that time freight rates were increasing very much more rapidly that they have increased in the last few years. 1 shall give the House some figures to illustrate- the increase of freight rates that occurred in the- decade from 1939 to 1949’. The Government parties were- in office for less than two years of that period, from. 1939 until 1941, when almost no upward movement in freight charges occurred. However, in the remaining eight years of the decade, when Labour had the responsibility of government, freight rates increased with a rapidity that is unprecedented in Australia. I could cite to the House a great mass of figures and could give many examples if time permitted, but I shall not weary honorable members by doing so. I shall merely mention the fact that the freight on cargo carried between Sydney and Melbourne increased from 20s. a ton in 1939 to 82s. a ton in June, 1949, during a period in which Labour governed for eight years, and before this Government was returned to office. If the right honorable gentleman can now give us all the answers and tell us how, within the constitutional limitations of the Australian Government, we can force the overseas shipping companies to abide by freight rates fixed below a specified maximum, why is it that, when Labour was in government, he permitted charges for the transport of goods round the Australian coast, which at least come more directly within the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth, to increase by 300 per cent?
– That increase was permitted at a. time when wages were frozen.
– Yes. At that time prices were, fixed, and the wages of the workers, who had to bear the burden of the increased freight rates, were frozen. This right honorable gentleman, who now tells us how easy it is to limit freight charges, was singularly incapable of doing anything of the sort when Labour was in office.
Although, in some respects; we cannot control the- operations of powerful overseas shipping companies, and although, up to the present time, we have shown ourselves to be: incapable of competing with shipping concerns on a basis that would force freight rates down notably, in other directions we can play a useful part. We are told that 55 per cent, of the freight charges imposed upon people who ship their goods around the Aus* tralian coast and overseas represents the stevedoring- cost, in other words, the charge levied by the waterfront employers for stevedoring services. For years- 1 have waited in vain to hear one helpful word from honorable members opposite in support of the Australian Government’s efforts to improve the position on the Australian waterfront. But, so far from helping a government that is trying to do something useful and to achieve that objective, honorable members opposite resist every move that this Government makes in that direction.
– The Minister always attacks the workers.
– No. More than once, in public places, I have stated that, properly led and with proper equipment, the Australian, working man can more than hold his own with the best workers anywhere in the world. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) considers that, on the Australian waterfront, we are getting the level of. efficiency and the working effort that other workers regard as reasonable, he is very much out of step with the trade union movement generally. I. remind him that recently the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions found it necessary to rebuke the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, first, for failing to fill the port quotas as it had undertaken to do; and. secondly, for indulging in capricious and arbitrary delaying, disputes that, could have been settled more satisfactorily by the normal processes of arbitration.
That is one illustration of the failure of honorable members opposite to help the Government in its efforts. We have also the revelation made the other day by Mr. Justice Foster about the seamen. I suggest that, in this instance, not only are the members of the union culpable, but certainly the shipping, companies have shown themselves to be weak-kneed in their handling of the- matter. We have learned, from Mr. Justice Foster that shipping costs around tha Australian coast have been increased because, apparently, the. shipping- companies are paying for 28hours of work a week at the rate for a working week of 64 hours. By helping to solve these problems, and in other ways, a constructive Opposition could assist the Government to get the job done, but, instead, honorable members opposite frustrate the Government’s efforts at every turn.
I have already pointed out in this House that the committee of inquiry appointed by this Government to inquire into the stevedoring industry has been empowered to investigate freight charges and the profits of the shipping companies. It is not true to state that nothing is being done to inquire into the profits of the companies. From the moment at which the committee began its task, officers have been engaged on an investigation of freight charges, and a firm of accountants has been authorized to investigate the accounts of the companies concerned.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
;- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by SirEric Harrison) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I move-
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. E. S. Olsen, J. P. Harvey, and C. Faragher, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 17th day of May, 1955, and that the names ofthe divisions suggested in the report and indicated on the maps referredto therein, be adopted.
The report of the commissioners has already been laid on the table of the House. Honorable members will notice that paragraph 6 of the report reads as follows : -
A number of objections and suggestions, particularly in relation to the proposed Divisions of Bowman, Capricornia, Dawson, Fisher, Kennedy, McPherson, Maranoa,Moreton, Oxley, Petrie and Wide Bay were received within theperiod prescribed by law. The whole of the objections and suggestions were given full and careful consideration and consequent thereupon your Commissioners decided to make certain modifications in the originally proposed boundaries of the proposed Divisions of Capricornia, Dawson, Fisher, Kennedy, Lilley, McPherson, Moreton, Oxley, Petrie. Ryan and Wide Bay.
I do not think it necessary for me to say anything more on this motion.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. V. F. Turner, H. J. Martin and
Gr. W. Vincent, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 3rd day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Grayndler “ be substituted for ! Cook “, the name “ Hughes “ be substituted for “ Werriwa “ and. the name “ Werriwa “ be substituted for “Hughes”.
With regard to the proposed interchange of the names of “ Werriwa “ and “ Hughes “ it will be found that the new electorates constitute, in each case, about half of the old electorate of Werriwa. For various reasons, it was thought desirable that the names should be interchanged when related to the actual names that have been set down by the Commissioners themselves.
– Is there any provision for the name “ Chifley “?
– Not that I remember, in the new ones. The commissioners, in their report, stated as follows : -
A number of objections and several suggestions in relation to the proposed distribution were received within the period prescribed by law. £ach objection and every suggestion was given full and careful consideration, and consequent thereupon, your Commissioners have made certain alterations from their published proposals, involving a change in the proposed boundaries between the Divisions of Watson and West Sydney, Darling and Riverina, Riverina and Calare, Calare and Macquarie and Newcastle and Shortland, respectively.
Debate (on motion by Mr. WARD’ adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. fi. C. Nance, F. W. Arter, and V. Cahill, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 11th day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred therein, be adopted, except that the name of “ La Trobe “ be substituted for “ Bruce “ and the name “ Bruce “ bc substituted for “La Trobe”.
The commissioners, in paragraph 5 of their report, which was presented to the Parliament, stated as follows: -
A number of objections and suggestions, particularly in relation to the proposed Divisions of Bendigo, Corio, Deakin, Isaacs, McMillan, Scullin, Wills, and Yarra were received within the period prescribed by law.
The whole of the objections and suggestions were given full and careful consideration and consequent thereupon your Commissioners decided to make no alteration to the originally proposed boundaries.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of South Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs F. B. Phillips, H. L. Fisk, and A. W. Bowden, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 11th day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, bc adopted.
The commissioners, in paragraph .10 of their report, drew attention to the objections that were raised, and their answers to the objections. As those objections and answers cover about a page and a half of the report, I do not propose to read them. They are available to all honorable members, as the report has been presented to the Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
– by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs .T. M. W. Anderson, W. V. Fyfe, and C. G. Friend, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in the report laid before the House of Representatives on the 3rd day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted.
The commissioners stated, in paragraph » of their report, as follows: -
One objection was received to the redistribution proposals and this has been given very careful consideration. The grounds of objection arc that the redistribution does not reflect the different political views throughout the State; proper regard has not been given to population trends; inequities exist in the variations of enrolment between metropolitan and country divisions, and that the boundaries of Stirling, Forrest and Canning Iia ve not been fixed with proper regard to physical features and community of interest.
They then gave the reasons why, after having given full consideration to the objections that were raised, they thought that no amendment should be made.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Johnson) adjourned.
REDISTRIBUTION of TASMANIAN Divisions.
Mr. KENT HUGHES (ChisholmMinister for the Interior and Minister for Works) [4.5.1. . - by leave - I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Tasmania into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. E. W. Dwyer, F. Miles and E. O. Botten, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 3rd day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Braddon “ be substituted for “ Darwin “.
The commissioners, in paragraph 6 of the report, stated -
No objection or suggestion in relation to the proposed divisions was received within the period prescribed by law.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 1 - General Business - being proceeded with forthwith.
Newspaper Article - Report oy Committee.
Debate resumed from the 26th May (vide page 1117), on motion by Mr. Keon -
That the committee’s request be acceded to.
– This proposal is intended to include in the reference subsequent issues of the same newspaper in relation to which the original reference to the Committee of Privileges was adopted by the House. As already indicated, the Opposition does not oppose the reference, but the report of the committee, which, I take it, deals only with this matter, does not indicate yet whether the question of the committee’s jurisdiction has been considered or whether, in effect, there has been any breach of the privileges of the House. I understand from the assent signified by the chairman of the committee that that matter of breach of privilege has not yet been determined, and that it will take its place as an important part of the committee’s deliberations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 20- (1.) Subject to this Act, a person convicted by a court-martial after the commencement of this Act may, with the leave of the Tribunal, appeal to the Tribunal against his conviction.
Senate’s Amendment No:1. - Leave out subclause (2.), and insert the following subclause: - (2.). A person is not entitled to apply for leave to appeal to the Tribunal against a conviction, other than a conviction involving sentence of death -
Clause 30 -
Subject toPart V, the determination by the Tribunal of an appeal, or of any other matter which under this Act, the Tribunal has power to determine, is final and conclusive.
Senate’s A mendment No. 2. - Leave out “ Subject toPart V.,”.
Senate’s Amendment No. 3. - Leave out “ is final and conclusive insert “ is not subject to review under naval law military law or air force law “.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The: Senate’s amendment No. 1 is of a drafting character only.. The purpose of aub-clause (2.) of clause 20 is to require the person convicted by court-martial, except in the case of a conviction involving sentence of death, to lodge in the first instance a petition praying that the conviction be quashed. The petition must be lodged within the prescribed period. Subclause (2.) has been re-drafted so as to make it clear that this time limitation applies also where the petition is lodged under the special provisions of sub-clause (2) of clause 21. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 21 makes special provision for cases where the conviction by court-martial took place outside Australia, and enables the convicted person to lodge his petition and application for leave to appeal at one and the same time.
With respect to the Senate’s amendments Nos. 2 and 3 to clause 30, it was intended simply to ensure By this clause that the determination of the tribunal should be the final step in the military disciplinary system. As the clause stands, the reference to the determination of the tribunal being “ final and conclusive “ might possibly be understood as having a more far-reaching effect, and it might be suggested that the appearance is given of conferring judicial power on the tribunal. As I stated in my second-reading speech,, the tribunal will not be a count exercising the judicial power of the Commonwealth, but will form a part of. the same disciplinary system as courtsmartial
The Senate’s amendment No. 3 proposes the deletion of the words “ is final and conclusive”, and the insertion of the words “ is not subject to review under naval law, military law or air force law “. With this change, the word’s “ Subject to Part V.” which appear at the beginning of clause 30, become unnecessary, and therefore the Senate’s amendment No. 2 proposes that they be left out.
The amendments carry into effect the real intention of the clause, and at the same time avoid possible constitutional difficulty..
– I wish to make some comment on the Senate’s amendment No. 3. When the bill left this chamber, the rulings were made what was called. “ final and. conclusive “, which, it might have been thought, was intended to prevent the courts from intervening where there was some breach of natural justice, and where they might, under the Commonwealth judicial power, quash the orders by way of court-martial. The amendment’ preserves the jurisdiction of the court, which would probably have to be preserved anyway, and says that this is the last way that it can be reviewed under the naval law, the military law, or the airforce law, which this legislation undoubtedly improves for the benefit of the members of those services. This is a definite improvement. There is only one thing that I want to suggest to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). In relation to times for appeal and so forth, there are certain limitations on the right of appeal - which is correct; - yet there is power to extend the time. I suggest to the Minister that it is very important for the members of the various services to know precisely what their rights are. During the war period, we had to establish legal services bureaux, so that the members of the forces could be informed of their rights in respect of military service. But this, continuing jurisdiction, is- a very important thing. I ask the Minister to consider a suitable, means by which servicemen, who are charged, or may be charged, with any of these offences-, can give in clear terms - not the technical terms of the act: - a con,ception of what their rights are. This is important both from the point of view of the better government of the services, and the better administration of justice within the services under the act. In other words, let the law be’ known more generally, wherever the occasion arises. [ think it may be done simply by suggestions made by the Department of Defence. In all other ways, the Opposition completely supports the amendments.
– I can find no references in the measure to the prescribed period. Will the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) inform me whether or not. it will be set down by regulation?
– Tes, it will be prescribed by regulation.
– I feel that I should, say at this stage- that the prescribed period should be a very liberal one, because I have in mind certain occasions during the war when soldiers were returning home and orders were issued to the effect that some hundreds of courts-martial had to be completed before the sailing of a ship, and those courts-martial were held in great haste. Possibly there was good reason for them to be so held. I understand the difficulties in war-time. However, I know of at least one case in which there was a complete miscarriage of justice because various witnesses could not. be found in the brief time allowed before the court-martial went into action. The men concerned suffered very severely, as- did their families’ at. home, which was most regrettable indeed. I therefore think that ample time, should be allowed. I remember that one of the soldiers to whom. I referred wrote- to me in. this strain -
You remember me. You. remember- the circumstances. I asked for you to give evidence at the court-martial, but they, could, not. find you.
That was so. That soldier was deprived of the advantage of my evidence. I wrote to the general officer commanding the division, setting out the circumstances, and. asked that the conviction be quashed. However, I then went away and I do not know whether or not the soldier gol relief. Quite possibly the soldier made inquiry for me even after he returned home to Australia.
I should like the Minister to indicate the period of time he thinks will be the prescribed’ period. In my opinion, the period should be related to the state- of hostilities at the time. Ample time should be allowed for things to settle down and for a man to consider his position and his opportunities of getting witnesses- in order to obtain, redress.
– The time will be prescribed by regulation. Under the British act, the time is 90 days.. We have not yet given careful consideration to the time that we propose to prescribe, but most probably it will be based on the time that is prescribed under the British act. I cannot give a definite commitment on this at the moment, but that if my thought on the subject. Ample time will be given for any person to lodge an application.
– Of course, the regulation will be- laid, before the Parliament and it can then be discussed. But there are occasions, such as those which have been mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), when even a period of 90 clays may be inadequate owing to the distance of the troops from a place where a tribunal can sit. I suggest that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), in recommending to the Executive Council the prescribed time, should take into consideration the necessity for a special provision.
– We will make a careful survey of the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 19th May (vide page 913), on motion by Sir Philip McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) explained in his second-reading speech, the necessity to introduce this measure was occasioned by marginal increases of the pay of members of the armed services, who thereupon could take out additional units of superannuation. The position in relation to the armed services is analogous to that in the Public Service. I understand that the members of the armed services are in complete accord with the provisions of the bill. Accordingly, the Opposition does not oppose the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1954.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bil! - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bil] reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th May (vide page 843), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not oppose this measure, but it does desire to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the debate to point out just how the Government looks after some people and neglects other people who are equally worthy of consideration. The bill proposes to make payments to the holders of certain offices which are set out in the schedule to the measure, and it dates the payments back to the 1st January, 1955. This seems to be a remarkable practice for a government to adopt, and I do not think there is any precedent for it. The Government has paid out money, without parliamentary approval, to the holders of certain offices. It is wrong merely to come to the Parliament and ask honorable members to endorse what the Executive has done, nearly six months after it has been done. In my view, that is treating the Parliament with contempt. The Parliament ought to have been consulted before any of these increases were made. We had a sitting of the Parliament in the early part of the year, when the Government could have brought down its proposal. If, in the opinion of the Parliament, the rises were justified, they could have been back-dated. But the Government, completely ignoring the Parliament, simply raises the salaries of various people, and says to us now, “ You have to endorse it, because the money has been paid. If you do not endorse what has already been done, the holders of these offices will have to pay back sums they have received “.
My other criticism is that the Government’s attitude towards the holders of high public office is quite different from its attitude towards age and invalid pensioners, war pensioners, war widows, civilian widows and mothers who need increased child endowment payments in order that they might maintain their children. To pay to men in high positions increases of a substantial nature, when they are already in receipt of big salaries, and to refuse to do anything for a great body of equally desirable citizens, equally entitled to consideration at the hands of the Government, is really adding to the sufferings of many people in the hard winter months through which they are trying to live. They are not living; they are just existing. This Government has not made back payments to any of the groups of pensioners that I have, named. It has not said, “We will give you the money from the 1st January”, and then come to the Parliament to have that action validated. If, in due course, the Government does hand out an extra halfcrown a week - because that is about as far as it will go with age and invalid pensioners - that sum will be paid from some forward date. It will not be backdated to the 1st January of this year.
Let us see who are thu gentlemen in a chronic state of impecuniosity who are receiving the benefits of these rises. The Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, who has been receiving £3,500 a year, is to receive an extra £1,000 a year. Probably if he had not been as critical of the Government as he has been, he might have received more; but auditors-general are never popular with governments, and the present Auditor-General, who refuses to sign quite a number of balance-sheets prepared by departments under the control of the Government, has been as independent an Auditor-General as we have ever had. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is to have his salary increased from £3,500 to £4,500 a year, another £1,000. I think I remember that when conciliation commissioners were appointed, members of the present Government were not too keen on the system, and I think they opposed the salaries at that time, yet the Government now proposes to give the Chief Conciliation Commissioner a rise of £1,000, which will take his salary to £3,250 a year. The conciliation commissioners who were appointed by the Chifley Government at the same salary as members of Parliament then received, £1,500 a year, and who are now receiving £1,800 a year, are to have an increase cif £950 a year, which will bring their salaries to £2.750 a year. Under the Chifley Government, members of Parliament, who have much more responsibility than conciliation commisioners, were paid £1,500 a year. They now receive £1,750 a year, plus allowances which vary from £400 to £900. So in the opinion of this Government a conciliation commissioner is more important than is a rank-and-file’ member of the Parliament. I do not think that the Government will get any rank-and-file member of the Parliament to agree with it in that conclusion. As a matter of fact, most of those conciliation commissioners failed in pre-selection ballots, and therefore failed to become members of Parliament. That is why they are now to receive £2,750 a year until they reach the age of 65 years.
– The Government in which the honorable member was a Minister appointed them.
– Of course we appointed them, and we are not too happy, about some we appointed, if that is any consolation to the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), and neither is the trade union movement. The Chairman of the Public Service Board is to be paid more than the Auditor-General. I suppose it is possible to make out a case for paying that official more than the Auditor-General; but the Chairman of the Public Service Board is, to some extent, under the direction of the Government. He is not so independent of the Government as the Auditor-General is. The excuse that previous governments have not properly recognized the position of the Auditor-General is not a valid excuse for not paying him the same salary as is to be paid to the Chairman of the Public Service Board. In another measure it is proposed to give a judge an increase of salary amounting to £3,000. I think that the Auditor-General, who occupies a semi-judicial position, in which he is as independent of the Government as is a judge, should not be paid just £4,500 in comparison with the salary of £5,500 to be paid to the Chairman of the Public Service Board. But pot only that, the Chairman of the Public Service Board is not to receive an increase of only £1,000 a year, as the Auditor-General, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the Chief Conciliation Commissioner are to receive under this legislation - :he is Ito receive an increase -of £1,500 ia year.. The .salaries of the members of the Public Service Board are to be increased from £3,250 to £4,500 a year, an increase of £1,250. How -does ‘the Government apply the yardstick^ To some it gives increases of £1,000 a year, to another it gives an increase of £950, and to others it gives increases of £1,250 and £1,500 a year. The Public Service Arbitrator, who has not been viewed favorably by the Government, I believe, because of his decisions on margins; is to receive an increase of £1,250, which will raise his salary from £3,250 to £4,500 a year. The Commissioner of Taxation is to receive an increase of £1,500 a year, and the Second Commissioner of Taxation is also to receive an increase of £1,5.00 a year. The Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. McGovern, is a very estimable gentleman. All those other permanent public servants whose offices I have mentioned - I am referring to the .occupants of offices under the Public Service Act, and .not referringto conciliation commissioners or the like now - are very estimable people who have served the Australian Government extremely well. But -why should the Commissioner of Taxation and the Second Commission of Taxation receive increases of salary of £1,500 a year ? Why should the Commissioner of Taxation -be paid the same salary as is paid to the chairman of the Public Service Board, and the Second Commissioner of Taxation be paid the same salary as is paid to the Auditor-General’? No explanation has been given as to how the Government arrived at those ‘various decisions. It looks as if it put the amounts in a hat and pulled them out one by one along with the names of the persons who were to receive them. I repeat that, whilst it may be right to pay the increases, the Opposition is not prepared to say that the amounts provided for in the bill are exactly the amounts that should have been paid. We do not know enough of just what is happening in government at the. moment to say whether this amount or that amount of increase is too much. Certainly, none of those increases is too little.
When one contrasts .the attitude of this Government -towards the occupants of high offices who have permanence and security of tenure, -and who .do not need to leave the Public .Service until they are 65 years of age, with its attitude towards all those other people, including .age and invalid pensioners, war -widows and war pensioners, recipients of child endowment, civilian widow pensioners, and the like, whom I have mentioned, the contrast is teo great to pass notice ; and the effect on the people will not, I think, be favorable as far as the Government is concerned nor will the Government’s action help ‘the morale of the people.
The Prime Minister can always make out a very good case for increases of this kind. He made out a very good case to us, from his own point of view, the other day, although it was a little superficial. There is no doubt that the recipients of the benefits given under this measure will be happy about the position, but there are quite a lot of other people outside this Parliament, who are looking for .some improvement in .their conditions, who will not be so happy about it. There are .320,000 age pensioners in this country who have nothing on which to live except their pensions. I think that the Government might very well, at the same time as it brought down this, legislation, have Drought down other legislation - call it complementary legislation if you like - to do something for people under its care who are asking for something more than they are now getting. 1 see by the newspapers that war widows are asking for a pension of £10 a week. That may seem to some people to be .a large sum to pay as a pension, but it is not large when it is contrasted with .the amounts now being handed out to a few high public officials. Whatever government may be in office, all such questions as the increases of salary provided under this measure, and increases of social services benefits, are .decided, to some extent, on what they will cost and on the extent to which the benefits will cover citizens in the community. There -are not many people to be covered by this particular measure ; .but that is no reason why there should be such marked differentiation at the present time -as is represented by the measure.
One other important point in this measure is the fact that the reclassification .of salaries is to date hack to the :23rd December, 1354. That is probably all right, but those whose positions have been reclassified are not .only to obtain *he benefit of increased salaries, but are also to obtain the benefit of the retrospectivity that is to be applied to the reclassifications. I suppose the provision in relation to superannuation is also quite all right. The public servants concerned will be able to subscribe for increased superannuation benefits as from the 19th January, 1955. The Opposition does not oppose the bill, but it thinks that the Government might also have done something for a lot of other people, in addition to giving benefits to the very estimable officers who hold the high positions mentioned in the bill.
Although I have offered some criticism of conciliation commissioners, I have offered it merely to underline the comparison between the treatment that the Government is meting out to those particular people and the disregard it has shown to the position of members of the Parliament, who are at least as competent’ as are conciliation commissioners and who will be paid very much lower sums than the conciliation commissioners will be paid, are being paid and have been paid since the 1st January, 1955.
– The provisions of this measure are what one would expect from a government of the character of the present Government. Of course, “ To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away”. Very little can be taken away from the pensioners and such people, who are not to receive any more than they are now getting. I am particularly concerned to think that the Government would rush forward, as it has done in an’ unseemly way, to make payments of increases of salary to public officials without prior reference to the Parliament. 1 spoke on this very subject in a recent debate. I am particularly concerned- that the Parliament is being disregarded on occasions, and that members of this chamber are given very little scope to apply themselves to the various matters that come before the House. I am concerned that the -executive Government is usurping the functions of the members who represent the people. This is a sledge hammer blow to democracy. It is disturbing to any one who is really concerned about the working of our parliamentary .system. I am also concerned about the increases of salary given to the various heads of departments and public servants generally. I do not wish to embark on a tirade of abuse to the effect that certain heads of departments are not entitled to substantial sums of money, because there are many fine people doing an excellent job who include heads of various departments, such as the Auditor-General, the Commissioner of Railways and others. These people are entitled to a salary appropriate to the service that they render this country, but I rise to express the strongest disapproval of the Government’s conduct in this matter. “Whether or not the salaries are adequate is beside the point. I protest most vigorously that at this late stage, after the money has been paid, the bill is brought before us. I join the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in protesting that other people in the community were not also considered when these great salary increases were made.
I wish to say something specific on a matter about which I asked a question this afternoon. I refer to the persons mentioned in the third schedule to the bill. Quite recently a gentleman, who was, no doubt, possessed of excellent character and high qualities, was appointed to the position of secretary of the Joint House Department. I do not know who made the appointment, but the world was left to find out that it had been made, for it was not reported to the Parliament. I understand that the gentleman concerned was associated with the workings of the Senate. “Why he was taken from the Senate is beyond me, for that has not been reported to us either. Whether it was desired that he should be transferred to another place was not stated, but he was appointed to a position that comes under your jurisdiction, Mr.
Speaker, and that of the President of the Senate. He was given a salary of £3,200 a year. Honorable members, who must serve a long apprenticeship in local government, hospital bodies, voluntary organizations, the trade union movement, and political organizations in order to qualify themselves for membership of this Parliament, receive £1,750 per annum. They must, in a thousand and one ways, prepare themselves for service in this Parliament, yet the secretary of the Joint House Department, for seeing to the needs of this House and ‘ of the Senate, and to the immediate surroundings of Parliament House, including the gardens and parks, is to receive £3,200 a year. The officer who was doing that work previously - apparently with some satisfaction, for no complaints had been made against him - was receiving a sum of only £80 additional to his annual salary. That gentleman must have been remarkably good to be able to carry out his duties in another place and, in addition, perform all of these services, for which he was paid only £80 extra.
Because of some extraordinary internal organization, we find that the gentleman who now has the job 13 to receive £3,200 a year. I must voice the strongest protest against the manner in which these things are done. I am not going to cavil at the qualifications or politics of this officer, or about how the appointment was made; but I protest vigorously against the payment of such a substantial sum of money for a job of this kind. I ask honorable members to think over what is involved in the duties of the secretary of the Joint House Department, and then, think of the management of a worthwhile hotel in a reasonably sized town. There, one must look after the front of the house, the back of the house, and must try to win trade and influence people to patronize the hotel. One must do all these things, but the breweries would not think of putting a man in, on a salary of £3,200, to do a job of that kind. It is altogether preposterous that a man in that position should receive a sum of money so greatly in excess of what is received by honorable members of this chamber. It is quite out of proportion to the amount that should be paid to a clerk to look after the particular work. I have watched this department. I have seen some one else come along and receive the money to take to the bank. There is a manager and an assistant manager of the bar and the refreshment-rooms. All of this calls out to high heaven for a review. I mention it this afternoon because it indicates the inherent weakness of the bill that is before us.
.- I join my colleagues in protesting against what, obviously, is class legislation. I would like the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or some one else to explain why these particular people - against whom I have nothing individually - have been sorted out for special treatment. It is not so long ago since the Prime Minister was making statements approving the pegging of workers’ wages. He thought it was a good idea, and argued that it would arrest inflation in this country. This proposal seems to be rather a change of form on the part of the Prime Minister who, whilst speaking of the necessity to peg workers’ wages, the real producers of wealth in this country, approves of substantial increases to high-ranking public servants. He now brings down proposals that, so far as I know, have not been submitted to any form of arbitration, giving substantial increases to people who are already receiving big salaries. The increases range from £950 a year to £1,500 a year. It might not have been so bad if the Prime Minister had been prepared to say, “ All other salaries and incomes over which the Government can exercise some control will also be substantially or proportionately increased “.
The Prime Minister has said nothing about those who are in receipt of social services payments. Their need is more desperate than any one else’s in this country. Every time that the question has been raised the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has assured us that it will come up for consideration at the proper time. According to the Minister, “ the proper time “ for the pensioner is when the budget is being considered; but the proper time for these favoured individuals is now. Honorable members will recall that on previous occasions when minute increases have been made in social service payments, the Government has told us that they could not be made retrospective; that such payments could only be operative from the time when the Royal assent to the legislation wa3 given. That is another reason why I regard this as class legislation.
Other honorable members have referred to the fact that the Government did not have prior consultation with the Parliament on this matter. I consider that the Clerk of the House, Mr. Green, adopted the correct attitude. Recognizing the authority of Parliament, he refused to accept an increase of salary until the Parliament had approved it. That was the proper attitude to adopt. What right has this Government to anticipate the approval of the Parliament? It also shows that these decisions are made at an executive level and are not submitted for discussion even within the Government parties. This is making a farce of parliamentary government. The decisions have been made and the increases have, in some cases, already been paid. The Government, even if it has a majority, has no right to ignore the function of Parliament and anticipate the approval of this House in such matters. That is exactly what the Government has done. I should like to hear what the Prime Minister has to say in reply to the point raised by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and what you, Mr. Speaker, have to say as well.
It is all very well to tell us that a new position has been created. I understand it is classified as secretary of the Joint House Department. The position of secretary of the Joint House Department previously was regarded as a somewhat minor position. The officer who acted as the secretary of the department performed the duties associated with the office in addition to his normal work, and was compensated for the extra work by the payment of a small allowance. But suddenly we find that a separate and new office has been created, and that tin remuneration of the occupant is to be £3,200 a year. Nobody has told us what duties in addition to those that were performed by the officer who received an annual allowance of £80 are performed by the officer who now gets that substantial salary. Nobody has told us what are the functions of the secretary of the Joint House Department.
I want to refer again to the substantial salary increases, and to the fact that they have been made retrospective to the beginning of the year. What justification was there for making them retrospective to the beginning of the year? When workers’ wages are being adjusted, it is only very rarely that increases are made retrospective, and they are never made retrospective to the degree provided for in this legislation. Whenever we ask the Prime Minister about the pegging of workers’ wages, he says that that is a matter for the Commonwealth Arbitra- ; tion Court, and that it has nothing whatever to do with this Parliament. But the Prime Minister knows full well that the government of the day can influence the attitude of the court to the pegging of wages. Action has already been taken by a number of trade unions to have th*1 quarterly cost-of-living adjustments restored to their awards, but when wc ask the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) about the attitude that the Government proposes to adopt to those applications, they say that they are prepared to leave the matter to the court and that the Government will not intervene in any way. To be consistent, why do not they say that, in their opinion, the pegging of wages should be discontinued for the workers in the same way as, apparently, it has been discontinued for the higher ranks of the Public Service ?
I have always been of the opinion that, to make wage-pegging an effective instrument in arresting inflation, prices and profits also must be pegged. That is the only way in which we can achieve any stability in the economic structure of the nation. If the Prime Minister intend? to indicate by this gesture that wagepegging is to be abandoned and that the workers, who have been suffering from wage injustice, are now to be treated fairly, I consider he should go further and announce immediately what the Government proposes to do about increasing Commonwealth social services payments. I suggest also that he announce whether ihe Government intends to make retrospective to the commencement of the year any increase of social services payments of which the Parliament finally approves, and that the Government proposes to indicate to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that, in its opinion, wage-pegging ought to end. To be consistent, that is what the Government should do. I should be very pleased to hear from the Prime Minister, or from some other Minister, what attitude the Government intends to adopt to the suggestions which I and some of my colleagues have made.
– in reply - On an occasion like this, it is not uncommon to witness some crocodile tears. We have just witnessed some from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He has now discovered that it is a very terrible thing to increase salaries, and make the increases retrospective. I do not remember him taking that objection when parliamentary salaries were raised retrospectively two or three years ago. Therefore, we can forget about that issue. But, apart from that, the discussion, if I may say so, has revealed great confusion of thought and considerable misunderstanding of what has happened.
The bill doe3 not deal with the ways and moans of appointing some parliamentary officer. It deals with two groups of people. One of them is a very large group, consisting of many thousands of people in the Public Service. In respect of those many thousands of people, the bill validates what was done by the Public Service Board at the beginning of the year. It validates certain reclassifications and payments, for a very good reason. If the changes had not been made at the time they were made, honorable members opposite would have stormed this House, on behalf of thousands of public servants, demanding to know why it was that those public servants were being left out of the adjustments made in many industries after the judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the metal trades margins, case. I wish that honorable members would understand that the decision in the metal trades case was given in December, 1954, and that it produced at once in the Fourth Division of the Public Service, which contains many people whose work corresponds to the work of the tradesmen dealt with bv the court, an immediate necessity to make adjustments of wages in order to give effect to the judgment of the court. We should have been open to very proper attack if we had not made those adjustments, and if we had said to all those thousands of people, “You will get nothing out of us unless you conduct a long battle for it “. The result was that adjustments were made.
At the same time, the salaries of the officers of the higher divisions of the Public Service came under review. Their case was before the Public Service Arbitrator. It was indicated, very sensibly,, that an earlier conclusion might b* reached if the Public Service Board made an offer, or made a series of reclassifications and adjustments which would give effect to what the board believed to be the principles of the court’s decision, lt was pointed out that that would not prejudice the position of the Public Service organizations, which could still go on to say that the increases were not enough. They have gone on, and they have said that the increases are not enough. Thai is a matter which is now before the Public Service Arbitrator and, in a certain contingency, may come before the Common wealth Arbitration Court itself.
The board made these changes between the 23rd December, 1954, and the 20tb January, 1955. There was an enormous amount of work to be done, as honorable members realize, in making adjustments in a highly classified structure such as the Public Service of the Commonwealth of Australia. The board said, “ So that nobody will feel that he has to wait ‘ for, it may be, six months to get an adjustment of his pay, or for effect to be given to his new classification, we will pay on this footing. If the Public Service Arbitrator or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court awards more, that is a matter which the Government will have to deal with when it arises “.
The. first thing’ the bill does is to validate payments made’ to many thousands of public servants, for1 whose position’ I should’ have1 expected1 the Opposition to show some- consideration. What i he- Government!, did”, through the Public Service Board, or what the Public Service Board did, was to endeavour to give effect to a decision of the court which was at that very moment being, applied i.o hundreds of thousands of unionists all over Australia-. I am bound to say that it is a novel idea to me that, trade unionists who belong, to the Public Service associations should be given inferior treatment, in relation either to quantity ->r time. H I were a member of the Opposition, I should be a little reluctant to vote against that provision of the legislation. If the members of the Opposition do vote against it. they will have a long Mild bitter accounting wi’th the public -servants, whose cases many of them have frequently put to this House. Now my friend the Deputy Leader’ of the- Opposition appears- to be- under’ the impression that the statutory officers- referred to’ in> the first schedule are already being paid, at these increased rates, and that. this, merely validates the existing paymentsthat are being made. I want him to understand, that that is not so. He. was good enough to refer to the position of the, Auditor-General, a man whom I know and whom I admire. The AuditorGeneral has always insisted,, with complete punctilio, that only the Parliament can alter his- salary. He has insisted, very properly, on that: On one occasion T. remember a few years ago, there was a relatively trivial cost-of-living adjustment that we thought could, be made administratively.. He said. “ No, not even that. The. Parliament must. fix my salary “. He: is the: first officer referred to in this schedule. He is still being, paid his. oldalary; he will not-be paid his new salaryexcept under a law passed! by this Parliament. I want: that to be made abundantly clear
The payments that are being’ made now are” being made in respect’ of those other groups1, the great mass of- civil servants, and’ are not being made in respect of the special office-holders who are- referred to in the first schedule. But when the bill” goes’ through; they will receive their payments1. I imagine- that Honorable members would think it a little odd if’ their increases were not dated back to the same time as the increases for the generalbody of the Civil Service:
– Are they to be?
– Of course) they are-! The whole point I am making is that theyare not being paid yet. There has been no anticipation in the case of these special) office-holders or of the judiciary.. Let me make it clear- that there has been no anticipation of any decision, which would be made bv this Parliament.
– ls the right honorable gentleman referring- to prospective rises* for members of Parliament?
– There is. a precedent,. I assure the honorable member, for making even those payments retrospective, although I am not very familiar with that, as yet.
That, in reality, is all that needs to> be said about that matter, except this: Honorable members have spoken about the very large, increases made to senior civil servants.. I quite agree, they are large.increases, but I hope that honorable! members- will always realize- that this isa world; - Australia as well as elsewhere- - in which very high rewards are being paid to people for. responsible administrative and executive work. I have, in my own time, seen- too many eminent civil servants attracted to private industry with salaries two or three times as great as the Government could pay them, with the result that: they were- lost to us.. I earnestly advise honorable members opposite to: remember that fact. I” ami sorry I am so unpleasant to- listen, to,, but- I have: a very bad cold..
I urge honorable members to remember that whatever government is in office^ whatever views we might hold, the civil’ servants- of Australia will continueto be- a very large1 and important body. Their functions’ may differ, their functions may rise or fall’ according to- the policies of governments;, but we know perfectly well, that a- great deal of the honest,, a>ble;. administration that this, country looks to must come from- those; who reach* positions’ of responsibility inrthe. civil service. Therefore, I am not here to advocate that we continue to pay them at a lower level than people of their talents can command without difficulty in many other occupations in Australia. If we are going to have top-notch men, then it is common sense we ought to pay them top-notch salaries. I am making every allowance for their security of tenure. I understand that they have security of tenure, but I want to say - and I can say this as a result of a great deal of ministerial experience - that this country is tremendously fortunate in the quality of the men who occupy these positions in the civil service, and. quite frankly, I want to keep them. We do not get very far by saying, “ Well, somebody’s salary has been raised by £1,500, somebody else’s salary has been raised by £1,000”. Dear me,I have had experience of men who have felt such a sense of vocation in their tasks in the civil service that they have refused, to my knowledge, increases of far more than £1,500 to take some post outside. I admire men of that kind, and I want to keep them.
That is all that needs to be said about this matter. The bill deals with two subjects, and, on each of those two subjects, I find it impossible to believe that, on proper reflection, anybody in the House will think proper to vote against the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I am not referring to anything that happened in the House, but I should like to place on record that the Opposition has never had any objection to the granting of marginal increases. Our criticism of the Government was that it acted a little too late, and that not enough was then granted to the rank and file, although something has been done in respect of the occupants of the highest posts. The tribute of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the holders of these officesis just, and we do not disagree with a word he said. They are very good men, and they serve the country very well. Many of them could obtain greater salaries outside than they are earning in side the Public Service. However, it is not everybody who wants to leave a public service post. There is a sense of mission which keeps a number of these officers at their posts, and they have security of tenure of which the Prime Minister has spoken when the bill was in the House.
I should just like to know whether the contents of the first schedule were determined by the Prime Minister’s “ first eleven “ or his “ second eleven “. Could it have been true that the Ministers who are handling the departments mentioned in the first schedule are all members of the “ first eleven “ and, therefore, they obtained the £1,500 and £1,000 increase!) for those for whom they have some ministerial responsibility, whereas the people on the outside received lower sums? I do not know; that is just my suspicious mind operating; I could be entirely wrong.
We intend to support the bill. We have never intended to oppose it. We do not want to oppose it, but we do make a plea to the Prime Minister, now that marginal increases for public servants are to be altered, and now that certain highranking public servants are to get salaries paid to them from a date anterior to the passage of this legislation, that the Government hold a special Cabinet meeting to-night, and do something for age and invalid pensioners.
.- I should like to refer to some of the principles that are involved in this measure. The salary increases have been prompted by the action of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in increasing the margins of metal trades workers to two and a half times the former level. My quarrel with the Public Service Board and, incidentally, with the Government, which I think has encouraged the board, is that public servants who might have fought their claims have been offered by the board increases that will give them margins less than two and a half times their former margins. The increases offered by the board represent about £3,000,000 a year less than is represented by an increase of margins to two and a half times their former level.
The rank and file of the Public Service should receive, in the proper time, as much justice as is being given to the higher officers of the service.
The retrospectivity to be applied to salary increases from time to time comes before the Parliament for consideration. If the rich are to receive the benefit of retrospectivity, the poor also should receive it.If judges and other high public officers are to receive retrospectivity, it should be offered all round. Workers who are not already in receipt of margins will receive no benefit from the margins increases. They are the very people who should be looked after. The Government has power, by regulations under the Public Service Act, to give to such officers increases proportionate to those that are being given to others, and it is wrong for the Government to peg the incomes of those people. They should receive consideration, and I hope that they will get it.
I support the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in a plea for consideration for pensioners. I hope that their claims will be considered soon and that they will receive the benefit of retrospectivity. I do not oppose the bill, because I realize that many public servants will receive a measure of justice from it. I believe that such justice should be extended to many more public servants than will be the case under this measure.
Bill agreed to. .
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the18th May (vide page 847), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That thebill be now read a second time.
.- In speaking to a previous measure I criticized the extraordinary action of the Government in selecting privileged people in the community for the receipt of substantially increased salaries without mak ing any reference to others in thecom- munity who are much more in need of assistance. That criticism can also be levelled at this bill. I was rather interested in some of the remarks that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made when speaking on the second reading of this bill which proposes to increase the salary of the Chief Judge of the High Court of Australia by £3,000, raising his salary from £5,000 to £8,000. It is proposed that other High Court judge shall receive an increase of £2.000, bringing their salaries to £6,500. Under the measure, the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will have his salary increased by £2,000, bringing it to £6,500. Other judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will have their salaries increased by £1,500, bringingthem to £5,500. The salary of the judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory is to be increased by £1,250, bringing it to £4,750. I know that the gentlemen who preside over these courts occupy high and important positions in the land. As I have said on other occasions, they should be properly remunerated for their services. But it is necessary to have regard to the relationship of their salaries to the income of other members of the community and the general attitude of the Government towards other people.
The Government claims to represent all sections of the community including the workers, and undoubtedly it must have obtained a measure of support from the workers or it would not be in office. Consequently, it is outrageous that the Government should select people for salary increases who, whatever may be the justice of their claims in other respects, could in no way be regarded as so urgently in need as are other sections of the community for whom the Government has done nothing whatsoever. The Prime Minister said that he considered that the judges’ salaries had been “ absurdly low “ for too long. I should like to know in what way the Prime Minister would use his mastery of the English language in order to describe the paltry payments to age and invalid pensioners and those in receipt of other social service payments if he considers that the judges’ salaries have been “ absurdly low “.. It is time that the Government did a little more than talk about consideration for other sections of the community. When, on a previous occasion, I mentioned by interjection that the “proposed increase in salary for the Chief Judge of the Hig!i Court of Australia would be £60 a week, the Prime Minister referred to that amount, by interjection, as a “minor increase “. Yet that amount, which the Prime Minister has described as a “ minor increase “ is much more than .a member of this Parliament receives as his full salary. This increase is also considerably greater than the full amount of salary received by many other sections of the community.
The Prime Minister -said that the salaries of judges of the courts were in no way related to the basic wage. I do not consider that there should be any difference between the Government’s approach to the salary of a judge and the court’s approach to the salary of a worker. If, as the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have stated, workers’, wages should be determined on the basis of the amount that industry can afford to pay, should not the salary of everybody else be determined on the same basis? It is the production of workers in industry that makes the payment of all salaries, from that of the ‘judges downwards, possible. If judges tell workers who apply to them for an adjustment of their salaries that those salaries must be determined on the basis of the amount that industry can pay, I cannot understand why the -salaries of judges should not be examined on *a similar basis. It is not a valid reply to this proposition for the Prime Minister to say that the basic wage is not a matter which this Parliament can consider. However,, he cannot use the same argument in regard to social service payments. Therefore, as I said in ‘a previous discussion on this subject, it amazes me that the Government can always find an excuse for doing nothing to help the unfortunate recipients of social service payments, but never experiences any difficulty in assisting those who are “more fortunately placed in the community.
The Government never fails to give favorable -consideration to a person who happens to :be the head of a Commonwealth department or a Commonwealth judge. It is able to make the increased salaries retrospective although it has claimed to be unable to take similar action for pensioners. The increases that the Government gives to those unfortunate people when it does give increases, are measured, not in pounds, but in fractions of a pound. The last increase was one-eighth of a pound, yet, when the Opposition asked that that increase be made retrospective to the beginning of the financial year - the 1st July - it was told that the increased payments would commence only from the first payment made after the legislation had received Royal assent. .So there is every justification for the Opposition’s charge that the Government is practising class discrimination.
– Does the honorable member intend to vote against the bill ?
– I had better answer the question of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) soon because he will not be here much longer. It is very pertinent to this discussion to examine the attitude of judges when they have disagreed with the extent of increases that have been proposed in their salaries. If workers protest against a judgment of the court the Government says that the workers will not accept the referee’s decision. It is rather interesting to recall that when an adjustment was made of the salaries of members of the judiciary in Victoria a little time ago, the judges wrote to Mr. Cain, the Premier of Victoria, in a letter dated the 23rd November, 1954, and recorded a strong protest against the inadequacy of their salary increases. In the letter they said that the Victorian Government’s proposals had been adopted in complete disregard of the facts, and despite the dwindling value of the currency. The judges were correct in their latter statement ‘-because the value of the currency has been rapidly dwindling since the present Government took office. But if -an. organization of workers were to protest against a decision of the referee who, in ‘this case, happened to be the Victorian
Government,, it would be said that they were applying pressure on. the Govern-ment and that they were- not, entitled to <lo that. But apparently,, by the Government’s reasoning, those who are more fortunately placed in the. community are permitted to apply pressure. I anticipate that, if the Prime Minister replies to what I have said, he will say that the honorable member for East Sydney has indulged in his usual practice of criticizing the judges.
– Hear, hear!
– The Prime Minister-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman will please refer to the Prime Minister as the right honorable the Prime Minister.
– Very well. He is not. often right, but I suppose I must refer to him as such.
– I am right occasionally.
– The right honorable the I? rime Minister, on a previous occasion, reflected on a member of the judiciary, and I want to remind him of that before he has the opportunity of starting to criticize what I have had to say. He might recall that, when the Australian Labour party was in office, it formed, a Women’s Employment Board, and appointed Judge Foster to the chairmanship of that board. I happened to be the Minister for Labour when that body was established, and when Judge Foster was appointed to act as chairman of it. Let me point this out: Whatever the opinion of the Government might be at this moment, at that time it did not like Judge Foster. Judge Foster was regarded as being too radical in his outlook, and he made a few statements of which the Government disapproved-
– The Government did not disapprove of them.
– Of which the then Opposition disapproved. This is what the present- Prime Minister said on that occasion -
The chairman of the Board is1 Judge Foster of the. County Court, of Victoria.
The then, member for- Melbourne Ports, M.r.; Holloway, by interjection, said -
And a good man; too:
This, was* the Prime Minister’s retort -
X believe that, he will do’ his best’ to be im policial..
In my opinion, that was a greater reflect tion upon the impartiality of a judge than any statement that I have ever made. I am not selecting the judges for criticism individually; I. am dealing with them in respect to .the position that they occupy,, and in relation to the special consideration that’ they are getting from this Government.
What does the Government propose to> do? Question after question has been raised in this House by members of the Opposition, urging- the Government to do something in relation to- social service payments.. Is there a. member of the Parliament, including those honorable members who1 sit on the Government benches, who will deny that the pensioners are in a desperate position? Accordingto the Government, they can wait until the next budget session, but we are not even told what will happen to them when the next budget is introduced ! I venture the opinion that, if the Government proposes, to do anything at all for them, they will probably receive an increase of only a few shillings, and that the payments will not be made retrospective. Surely it cannot be argued that there is not distinct discrimination by this Government in its treatment of the- ordinary citizen, the worker in industry, and the person who is- now retired from industry - the age pensioner - and of those persons who occupy these very high and privileged positions. I. have no doubt that the right honorable the Prime Minister is looking forward with longing eyes to finishing his. time, after he retires from the position that he at present occupies, in a comfortable position, probably on the bench of the High Court of Australia. Doubtless,, on this occasion, he is- looking a little ahead in relation to the. salaries that will operate in respect of that position.. The Prime Minister may do his grinning in the House, but he was not doing much grinning in Victoria recently. He soon got. out of it.
– He made a very hurried entry into- Victoria, and’ he made a very hurried exit: As- a: matter of fact, I venture the opinion that the Prime Minister will not be making very many more public appearances in that State. Any appearances he makes will be where there are carefully selected gatherings, but, in relation to the ordinary citizen who wants to know something about the Government’s policy in regard to social services payments, I should imagine that the Prime Minister-
– Order ! The honorable member will please refer to the Prime Minister as the right honorable the Prime Minister.
– Do not stop the honorable member, Mr. Speaker. He is in wonderful form.
– If I say “ right “ about six times, that might keep me going for the next quarter of an hour. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that the right honorable the Prime Minister is seriously avoiding any direct reply to these particular matters to which the people want an answer. Surely, if the Prime Minister, without consulting the Parliament - and he did not consult it - can make public statements announcing certain salary increases, which he did in relation to the higher members of the Public Service and the judiciary-
– Order ! The honorable member will please refer to the Prime Minister as the right honorable the Prime Minister.
– The right honorable the Prime Minister, without consulting the Parliament, made an announcement about the substantial increases that these people would get. That being so, surely it is not asking too much of the Prime Minister to let the poor old pioneers of this country, who made it what it is, know what the Government is going to do about social services payments. I know that the right honorable the Prime Minister declared, when replying to an interjector at one of his public meetings during his recent hurried visit to Victoria, who asked what he proposed to do for the pensioners, that if he lived long enough he would be on the pension himself. But what the right honorable the Prime Minister did not tell the Victorian audience was that, when he retires from the Parliament - and I hope his retirement will not be delayed very long - he will not retire on a pension of £3 10s. a week, but on a pension of approximately £2,000 a year.
– Neither will the honorable member retire on a pension of £3 10s. a week. Let the honorable member tell them what he will retire on.
– That is the position, so that the right honorable the Prime Minister was trying to mislead the Victorian people when he spoke about retiring on the pension and when making out that he was a comparatively poor member of the community or, as he described himself a simple Presbyterian.
– And not so simple.
– Who could imagine the right honorable gentleman being described as such?
– The right honorable gentleman described himself in that way.
– Of course he did, but that was only because of the election campaign.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is getting very wide of the subject of judges’ salaries.
– The honorable member will have Santamaria in it next.
– As a matter of fact, I have said all I want to say about this particular matter. I have entered my protest about the class legislation of this Government. I again urge the Prime Minister to make some early announcement about the Government’s intention in relation to the adjustment of social services payments, which are very inadequate. If you say that the judge?’ salaries were absurdlylow, I want to hear your description of the present social services payments.
– Order ! The honorable member will please address the Chair.
– I thought I was addressing it, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member was addressing the right honorable the Prime Minister as “ you “.
– If you cannot hear me, Mr. Speaker, I shall raise my voice.
– No, I can hear the honorable member all right.
– I conclude now by appealing to the Prime Minister, this simple Presbyterian, to make some pronouncement, in his Christian generosity, about what the Government proposes to do for the people whom I regard as the most deserving section of the community - those retired pioneers who have built up this country, and who have made cbe right honorable gentleman’s position and his pension possible.
.- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has wandered very far from the purpose of this bill. I think most honorable members will agree that the honorable member, who has just resumed his seat, usually shows himself at his very worst whenever the subject of the judges arises ; but I must say. without wishing to be unduly unkind to the honorable gentleman, that, of all people in this chamber, he has more for which to be thankful to the judiciary than any of the remainder of us.
– Hear, hear!
– So it is most mysterious why, whenever judges’ salaries are discussed, we can depend upon the honorable member for East Sydney for a fiery rodomontade against what should he a part of the highest institution of this nation. Most of the remarks of the honorable member were about an entirely false analogy between the part played by the judges in the community and the contribution made throughout their fairly long and, in many cases no doubt, meritorious lives by people who are now in receipt of the various grades of pension. T am sure there is not a single member of this House who, if he is honest, will be taken in by cheap observations of that kind, and I very much hope that. none of the people outside who may be listening to this broadcast will fall for loose and superficial talk of this sort. How can there possibly be any comparison between the relative work that has been performed in the economic or social function by people who now can be described as being in the pension group, and what the judges of the Supreme Court and the Arbitration Court have done, and are now doing for Australia?
– Is the honorable member serious?
– I am perfectly serious. It is an argument of the most meretricious and cheapest sort to try to put retired people in the pension groups on the same plane as the judges. Of course, there is not a person in this country who would give such a loose argument more than a moment’s consideration.
– My friend, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who is so fond of interjecting in any debate, asks “Why?”. Let me remind him - because he ought to know these things - that in this country, a federation, the importance of the High Court surely cannot be overestimated. The justices of the High Court, as the honorable member knows only too well, are in the last resort arbiters of the Constitution. They constitute the highest court of appeal in this land. If this country is to develop in the way that all of us, irrespective of our political views, hope that it will develop, and if it is to expand rapidly in the coming few years, the part played by the learned justices of the High Court will be even more distinguished than the part they have played in the 50 years of the existence of that tribunal. It follows - and I hope it will follow, also, to the honorable member for Hindmarsh - that only men of the finest calibre and of the acutest acumen are suitable for appointment to such a distinguished body.
It is quite useful in discussing these matters, especially as the honorable member for East Sydney has made the debate so controversial, to take a look at what various other countries of the world are doing, and what they think on such a question. Let us take a glance, for example, at the way that the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and of our sister dominion of Canada evalue their judiciary. In the United Kingdom, the supreme law officer who, I suppose, would be the Lord Chancellor, enjoys a salary - I have taken out the 1954 figures - of £12,000 a year.
– He is also a member of the Cabinet.
– .The Leader of the Opposition interjects ‘that the Lord ‘Chancellor of England is also a member of the Cabinet. If the right honorable gentleman wishes me to dissect the Lord Chancellor’s salary, I shall do so. The Lord Chancellor receives £12,000 a year as a member of the Cabinet, and £8,000 a year in his capacity as a judge. The nine Lords of Appeal -in Ordinary .receive - these figures are all in sterling - £9,000 each, which, in Australian currency, is equivalent to approximately £11,250 a year, compared with the £6,500 that we propose to give by this legislation to the justices of the High Court of Australia. Coming now:to the next tribunal in Great Britain, we find that in the Court of Appeal, the President - the Master of the Rolls - receives £9,000 sterling, and the Lords Justices £10,000 a year each. The justices of the Courts of Chancery receive £8,000 a year, while the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen’s Bench Division receives £10,000 sterling a year; all the other justices .receive £8,0.00 sterling ia year.
– -‘Our salaries are not as good as theirs.
– That is so. Finally, the justices in the Probate, Divorce, and Admiralty jurisdiction receive £8,000 sterling a year. As .the Prime .Minister (Mr. Menzies) ‘has -just interjected, the salaries ‘that -we pay to our judiciary are certainly not so good “as those paid to the judiciary of the ‘United Kingdom. ‘They are small compared to what ;is paid to their fellow ‘justices am ‘England.
In case -some ‘honorable members may ‘ think that the United Kingdom is just an isolated example, -let us turn to the United ‘States of America. There, the Chief Justice ‘of the Supreme Court receives 25,500 dollars a year, while the associate judges receive an annual salary of .25,000 dollars a year, which, at the current rate of exchange is approximately £11,000 - again, as the House will see, a figure very .greatly in excess of the £6,500 :a year that we are -off erin s to the .distinguished justices of the High Court -of Australia by this bill.
My last example by way -of comparison is our sister dominion of Canada. There, the Chief Justice of the Supreme -Court receives - almost similarly with the United States - a salary of 25,0.00 dollars .a year, while the eight puisne judges ‘receive salaries .of .20,000 Canadian .dollars a year <each. So the conclusion of this matter is that, although, under this bill, the justices of the High ‘Court of Australia will receive quite considerable increases in their .emoluments, compared with their brethren in :-the United States, the United Kingdom ‘and Canada, they will still be very grossly underpaid. 1 would think that it would ‘be fairly safe reasoning to ‘say that if the aggregate of people of Great Britain, the United States of America and Canada feel that their judges perform that amount of social .service - that grand economic and constitutional function in the community - entitling them to receive those emoluments, the very least we can do is to offer our justices the amounts set -out in this measure.
In conclusion, let me remind honorable members that a judge, whether a judge of a court of appeal or a superior jurisdic tion, is an individual in any community who is subject to many disadvantages. He suffers from a degree of remoteness from his fellows “which- the great majority of other people are not subjected to. He is, inevitably, the victim of a restriction of -interests. ‘His ‘circumstances force him to dissociate himself from many of hi’ previous ‘activities. So- and I say thi most ‘seriously to ‘honorable members - if we ‘are really trying to preserve, let alone elevate, the standards of the judiciary, we “will simply have to countenance legislation such -as this. We shall have to accustom our minds to giving our justices emoluments far in excess df what the previous generation thought fit,, otherwise we shall not -get men of sufficient ability and high calibre to occupy what, by common consent, should he the highest positions in the community.
Mr. W. M. BOURKE (Fawkner) r.8.29]; - This is an important bill, .because it gives the .House .an opportunity .to say -a word in1 defence .of those mud.maligned people in the community - the judges. It is rather a : disgrace that it should be necessary to say a word in respect :of these eminent gentlemen, who play such a definite part in preserving our democratic institutions. 1 am wondering whether I heard aright during this debate when I thought that an honorable member - I think it was the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) - referred to the judges as political stooges. The remark sounded so unbelievable that perhaps I did not hear aright.
– They are all political appointees.
– When we get down to fundamentals on this matter and consider some of the things which distinguish our democratic way of life and institutions from those of a dictatorship, whether it be a dictatorship of the right or of ‘the left, “we find that they are not confined to the fact that there are parliamentary institutions under our democratic form of government .and no parliamentary institutions under the dictatorships. We enjoy many things that are denied to those who live under a dictatorship. We have the right to choose the way in which we are going to live. We have liberty, freedom, and individual rights, which under the dictatorships do not exist. We have a free press, which is one of the essentials for the continuation of democratic institutions. Dictatorships have a press which .is just the mouthpiece of the .government. In addition to the freedom of the individual, a free press, and so <on, one of the features -that, distingush our democratic form of government from that which exists .under a dictatorship, whether it be Peron’s dictatorship in the Argentine, or the sort of dictatorships established by Hitler and Stalin, is that we have a judiciary which is independent and not subservient .to the Government, which does not carry out the will of the Government but protects the rights and liberties of the individual. I submit that in a democratic body, .such as a parliament, one of the most important things we can 3o is to preserve and guard jealously the rights and privileges, if we might call them .such, -of the members of mir judiciary.
It is not without .significance, I think, that when we glance at our Constitution we find that the judges of the High Court, those members of the judiciary in the federal sphere, do not derive their places in our democratic way of life from an act of this Parliament. The Constitution establishes the federal judiciary and gives the judges their rights. The fathers of our Constitution, in their wisdom, saw the imperative necessity to have, in addition to a legislature and an executive, an independent judiciary which would preserve the rights of the individual and of the people. It is significant, and I think it is worth directing the attention of the House to the fact that the Constitution refers in Chapter I. to the Parliament, in Chapter II. to the executive government, and in Chapter III. to the judiciary. Chapter III. of the Constitution reads in part -
Ihe judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Supreme Court, to be called the High Court of Australia, and in such other federal courts as the Parliament creates, and in such other courts as it invests with federal jurisdiction.
Then the Constitution defines the mode of appointment, tenure and remuneration of the judges of the High Court, and the other federal judges, including those of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. These matters are contained in the Constitution, the basic document of our way of life in this country.
– What is the remuneration i
– Foreseeing flupossibility that irresponsible people would come into this Parliament, and perhaps the possibility that there would bedemagogues ;here who would be prepared ito -strike ,at one <of the essential .bulwark* of our democratic way of life hy .attacking the judges, the fathers -of the Constitution provided for -the .remuneration of the judges, and not merely for their appointment ,and tenure of .office, such tenure being for life. Before making some ‘direct reference to what I must describe as the .scurrilous .and dangerous attacks which are being made upon the judiciary - dangerous because they .undermine one of the very pillars ‘of our democratic institutions - I think it is worth while to look hack on the history of the development of our judicial institutions and to see what a great, essential, and vital part the judiciary has played in building up the way of life Which we cherish amc! for which we a.rp prepared to right in order to maintain it for the sake of ourselves and our children. In the early days, when the form of government here was in the nature of a military autocracy, when the people were mainly convicts or freed convicts, the common law of England became the basis of our legal institutions.
– Order! There is too much loud conversation in the House.
– I rise to order. As a private member of the Parliament, I object strongly to the fact that when I am listening to an interesting dissertation I should bo disturbed by the grunting of a former justice of the High Court.
– The honorable gentleman never objects to what happens on the other side.
– I raise the matter seriously. It is disgusting.
– I have already called honorable gentlemen to order.
– I was referring to the fact that in the early days of Australia, when our institutions were in a dreadfully undeveloped state, we adopted the common law of England, and among the traditions of the common law which were incorporated in our legal system is this great and vital principle of the independence of the judiciary. Associated with these traditions dating back over the centuries were the names of very distinguished members of the judiciary who fought and established the rights of the individual. Those great principles were incorporated in our legal systems. As our community developed in the last century, we adopted a number of legal principles, in addition to those which were brought from the British legal system, in order to deal with our own individual conditions. It is rather interesting to recall that on such matters as land settlement, mining, liens on wool and crops, we were pioneers and developed a form of legislation to meet those peculiar conditions, which had no precedent in other parts of the world. The position is similar with respect to the secret ballot in elections, the Torrens system of registration of land titles, our industrial legislation, shops and factories acts, and so on. At the time of federation we had been building up an interesting legal system. Then we adopted a federal system of government, under which we had our Federal and State parliaments, with a division of responsibility between them, and the functions of the judiciary, important functions in the way of life of our people, became immensely more important, because the judiciary had the onerous and heavy responsibility of deciding whether Commonwealth laws and certain State laws were legal and fell within established constitutional heads. The courts therefore filled a most essential role. In carrying out those functions, which were of great significance because of the federal nature of our Constitution, I think every fair-minded and responsible person must admit - and I would like the honorable members who have been interjecting to refer this matter to their consciences - that the judges of our courts displayed great ability. They carried out their functions with great independence and great integrity. The only occasions when any real criticism could have been levelled against judges in this community occurred in the very early days, when we were living in a primitive state and had not built up any legal traditions. At that time this was largely a convict settlement and some of the judges did things that rightly incurred public criticism. In those days men of real standing in the profession were not prepared to take on the job. But that was a long while ago, and those conditions do not prevail to-day. I believe that since those very early days our courts generally, and particularly our superior courts, have gained the confidence and respect of the people, and that in almost every respect our judges have been men of the highest character and calibre. I recall that, in Victoria, we had a learned Chief Justice Mr. Justice Higinbotham, a statue to whose memory stands near the public offices in Spring-street, Melbourne. That statue was erected by the people of Victoria in recognition of the very fine public services rendered by a very great judge to the people of that State.
– It was erected by the Mackinnon family.
– That is so. We have not much history behind us in this country, and have not built up traditions for ourselves to any very great degree; but when we look back on our limited history, we find that among the names of the really great men in our past are those of a considerable number of justices of the High Court, men who, because of their learning, impartiality and independence, and because they carried out their high judicial functions fearlessly and effectively, have won a place for themselves in our history. We read such names as those of the members of the original High Court Bench - Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. Justice O’Connor. We have also the name of Mr. Justice Higgins, whose original and enterprising work in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has won for him a place in Australian history. I can recall, in my own time, Sir Frank Gavan Duffy on the High Court Bench. He .was a fine lawyer and a fine gentleman. I can also recall Sir Isaac Isaacs, a very eminent statesman and lawyer who rose to the highest position in this country when he was appointed to be His Majesty’s representative in Australia, the Governor-General. Ee was appointed to that distinguished and eminent position from the High Court Bench, and it was a position that he filled with great dignity. Then we have Sir John Latham, another very distinguished gentleman, who last occupied the position of Chief Justice of Australia. We have also the present occupant of that office, Sir Owen Dixon, who has been worthily described as one of the greatest jurists in the world to-day.
I believe that it is imperative that we should continue to attract to the highest judicial posts in this country outstanding men of the calibre of those whom I have mentioned, who will continue to do their, job fearlessly and impartially, men who will be prepared to stand up to governments, if necessary, and be prepared to carry out their functions, to administer the law fearlessly, and to protect the rights of the individual in this country. It is essential that we have the very best type of men occupying our judicial posts. Because I believe that, and because I believe that every responsible member of the community should also believe it if he is prepared to be honest and will not descend to tricks of demagoguery such as the honorable member for East Sydney descended to when he was comparing the amount paid to recipients of social service benefits with amounts paid under legislation to increase the salaries of judges, and calling it class legislation. The only comment I have to make on that is that the honorable member for East Sydney has by no means a monopoly of regard for the welfare of the people who draw social services benefits. I should like to ask the honorable member whether he thinks his salary, which I understand he draws regularly each month as a member of this Parliament, should be the same as the amount paid to age pensioners. He may be prepared to answer that question. Or does the honorable member for East Sydney consider that he is entitled to draw a salary that is greater than the amount of pension that is paid to pensioners? If that is so, how can he legitimately and justly object to the members of the High Court Bench, and members of other judicial bodies, receiving salaries that are commensurate with the great responsibilities that are inherent in the jobs that they have to carry out on behalf of the people of this country ?
– The honorable member reckoned that the justices of the High Court were “ fellow travellers “ because of their finding in relation to the Government’s anti-Communist legislation.
– In answer to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), I remind the House that when the Chifley Government’s banking legislation was declared by the High Court to be invalid, people like the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for East Sydney bitterly attacked the High Court justices. They said that the justices were being political, that they were doing something political, that they were not carrying out their judicial functions with integrity and independence, but were doing something to spite a Labour government. I noticed, however, that when a. bill, to; dissolve the Communist, party as. a political organization, was also declared by tha High Court to be invalid, no such cries- arose from those, honorable gentlemen..
– But they came from you.
– That is completely untrue. Those two instances were brought to my mind by the interjections of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and they illustrate, most forcefully. that the High Court has carried out its task with great distinction, real fearlessness and impartiality. The justices of theHigh Court are not concerned with the political complexion of a government. If legislation is,, in their opinion, invalid, they declare it to be so. The fact that the justices of the High Court upset the Chifley Government’s banking legislation, and the Menzies Government’s legislation to dissolve the Communist party, providestwo good examples of the fact that they do, in the proper manner, the job that they are appointed to do. It is, I think, alarming that honorable members should criticize the justices of the High Court in the irresponsible way that we have heard them criticized. It is interesting that those criticisms come from only a small section of the party led by the right honorable Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for East Sydney continually attacks; the judiciary. “Well, that is one of his stocks-in-trade, and perhaps we- do not expect better from him. But there is- one man in this chamber from whom we- expect better, and from whom we would not expect such irresponsible and untrue attacks. I refer to the honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who is a barrister of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, who practises in that court, and who has strong family ties in the legal world. He is a man who, one would expect, would offer a vigorous defence against any unwarranted and unjustified attacks on the judiciary. I was astonished when I read a. press report some months- ago which stated that, at a meeting of the Institute of Public Affairs in- Canberra, the honorable member for Werriwa, who, I repeat, is a barrister of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, made an attack upon tha judiciary. Hie attacked- the High Court justices in the; manner that istypical of a demagogue. It was. the1 sort of thing that we would expect to hear om the Yarra bank, or1 in the Sydney Domain-, but. certainly it was not. the language we would expect from a responsible member of this Parliament. I quote from a report of the honorable member’s speech which appeared in. the SydneyMorning Herald of the 1st February, 1955;, which states that the honorable member for Werriwa - claimed the High Court had1 shown itself not always above political considerations.
That is a s completely untrue and unwarranted statement. He then went ob to make a personal attack on- some of thejustices of the High Court. He attacked them personally,, and I shall not repeat what he said’ about these gentlemen, because I should not like to give further publicity to his remarks. They were disgraceful remarks’, which were completely untrue. Then he said, according to the report -
A Government proposing radical legislation does not study the1 Federal Constitutionso closely as it studies the constitution of the High Court, which might declare the legislation invalid.
Another completely untrue statement ! That statement of the- honorable member for’ Werriwa was not correct, and he knows it was not correct. I hope that he was misreported, and that the statements quoted really do not represent his remarks, because a man in his position should know better than to> make such statements, and I am sure that he does know better. There are two members of the party sitting behind the right honorable gentleman whom I have mentioned - the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Werriwa, and in addition, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who enters the list by interjection - who show a contemptuous attitude towar’ds this nation’s judges. It is’ an attitude which could well be fatal to the continuance of our democratic institutions, because if we attack the judges and undermine the confidence of the people in the judiciary, then we are undermining the confidence of the people in one of the essential bastions of our democracy. That could well be one of the first steps towards; the overthrow of our democratic institutions and the establishment of dictatorship in this country. That being so, it is even more surprising to find that the right honorable gentleman who leads theOpposition, who himself occupies the unique- position in this country of having been a member of out highest judicial tribunal, the High Court, and of having come from that position into this- Parliament as a member - despite that background, and despite the fact that if there is any man in this community who should respect the importance of the position of the judiciary, it is he - has been indulging in this dangerous practice of attacking members of the judiciary. I must say that I was shocked and horrified recently to read a report - I put it as I know the facts - in the Sydney press that the Leader1 of the Opposition, during the course of the Petrov royal commission, communicated with the Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr. Sheehan, and put a proposition to him, asking him if ho would have questions asked in the New South Wales Parliament. They were to be “ Dorothy Dix “ questions- about the three judges who were sitting on the Petrov royal, commission so that then he, the Attorney-General of New South “ Wales, could come in and attack them as a further step towards undermining the confidence of the people in one of the highest institutions in out democratic community.
– You are so desperate you will say anything.
– This- is a very serious’ matter. I am raising1 it deliberately in this1 chamber because if any man should know better that man is the Leader of the Opposition. As1 I understand the position, the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales-, Mr. Sheehan, is a man with some sense of responsibility. He refused to join in this plot or conspiracy which the honorable gentleman had put up to him and have these questions asked in. the State house. He was not going to use his- position to attack- men of undoubted integrity, ability and impartiality, one of whom Mr. Justice Owen, had been appointed by his own- Government. He was a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and his services had been made available to the Petrov royal commission by the State- Labour Government of New South Wales.. Another judge was Mr. Justice Ligertwood, to- whose impartial administration of the law and adherence to his oath of office the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) owes the fact that he is still in this House. The Attorney-General of New South Wales would not be a party to this- dangerous procedure which had been put up to him by the Leader of the Opposition.
– You. are in a very desperate position, aren’t. you? You will say anything.
– I do not know who: is in a desperate position. This afternoon, when the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) moved certain motions to approve new electoral boundaries recommended by the electoral commissioners in the various States, it was interpreted in various quarters, rightly or wrongly, as the prelude to an early election - perhaps this year - for this House. I noticed that there were not too many smiles of appreciation or bright looks- among members of the Opposition.
– There were, not too many in. your quarter.
– If there is to be an election–
– A very false slanderer you are !
– Order ! The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) will please cease interjecting.
– I am glad that the honorable gentleman is in his place in this House.
– Why do you make the slanders?
– Order ! The right honorable member1 for Barton, will cease3 interjecting.
– It is significant that when the public first learned of the disgraceful proposition that had been pat up to- the Attorney-General of New South Wales by the- Leader of the Opposition, the former, upon being approached by the newspapers and asked for his comments on the episode, said that he was not prepared to make a public comment on it. He did not deny that the right honorable gentleman had made the approach to him, because, I take it, he is a truthful and honest man. He said, “I am not prepared to make a public comment on it at this stage, but I am prepared to appear before any Australian Labour party inquiry that might investigate the matter and give the true story there “. It is a well-known fact that the stooges of the Leader of the Opposition who are preparing to overthrow the properly elected executive of the New South Wales Labour party-
– Order ! The honorable member is getting right outside the scope of the bill.
– Those people will be called upon to defend themselves. [ understand that they are not saying anything about this matter, but that at a certain stage they will be prepared to do something about it. I invite the right honorable gentleman now, in this chamber, to tell the people of the Australia the truth about this matter. Did he make that disgraceful proposition to the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, and is that typical of the approach which he, is an ex-member of the High Court, adopts towards the judiciary in this country? I might say, before the right honorable gentleman makes his -comment on it, that I heard him, with my own ears, attack the three judges .of the Petrov royal commission. I heard him in caucus deliver a most bitter and most disgraceful personal attack on each of those three judges, going through them name by name and saying things about them that were completely untrue.
– You told the press, too ! You told that story to the press.
– I believe that this is an important debate because it indicates the irresponsible and dangerous attitude that is being adopted by some members of the Opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition himself, of undermining the confidence of the people in our judiciary. We must have an independent and impartial judiciary if democracy is to continue in this country. I am very pleased to be able to support this bill because I think that it carries out part of the obligation laid upon this Parliament by the Constitution to see that the judges should have not merely tenure for life but adequate remuneration so that they will not be subject to any form of influence, persuasian or suggestion, and will be able to stand up and be independent of governments or any one else in carrying out their vital functions on behalf of the people of this country.
.- The House has heard three honorable members address themselves to this bill. First, there was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is always exclusive, if I may use that term. He was followed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), who is a lawyer. What that gentleman had to say was most convincing, I am sure, so far as every honorable member of this House was concerned. The honorable member for Angas was followed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) who also is a lawyer. He, too, was most convincing, so it is with some diffidence that I, as an ordinary layman, address myself to the bill. What I have to say is not very palatable to -me. Nor do I imagine that it will be very palatable to honorable members generally. However, certain aspects of this bill ought to be discussed. I have undergone the sufferings of the damned in trying to decide whether to remain silent or say what is in my heart and mind. Within the last fortnight we have heard two notable speeches. One was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the other by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). Both were in conflict. One, in my opinion, was a contradiction of the other. I refer, of course, to the speech of the Prime Minister in introducing this bill, and another bill of the same kind, and to the speech of the Treasurer to the federal council of the Australian Country party, when he uttered grave warnings about the economic consequences of rising costs and falling prices in the export industries. The other industries, of course, are not material so far as our national income is concerned. In view of those two speeches from those two eminent men, is it any wonder that ordinary people like myself are caught between Scylla and Charybdis, although I must confess- that the analogy is not particularly apt, since neither of the right honorable gentlemen can be described as a monster? One of the right honorable gentlemen was saying that we had nothing to fear from substantial increases in costs generally, and the other was saying that we had cause to fear rising costs. In my humble opinion, if the Prime Minister is right when he says that we have nothing to fear from this bill and from other bills of the same kind, then, quite obviously, to. that degree the Treasurer must be wrong. It is to that aspect that [ want to direct the attention of the House for a few minutes.
I interpreted the speech of the Prime Minister in moving the second reading of the bill as a sort of recitative, to use a musical term. I felt that there would be lyrics and melodies to follow the recitative. I felt also, with very great respect, that if the recitative were out of harmony, quite obviously the lyrics and the melodies affecting lesser people would also be out of harmony. I believe that to be true. lt has been constantly in my mind ever since, and I still believe it to be true. Prudence dictates that I should restrain my criticism - or my observations, if you prefer that term, Mr. Speaker - for a less exalted occasion, perhaps for a less important bill. But reason demands that 1 should say here and now, at this critical period in our economic history, what 1 think about all bills of this description.
We have adequate machinery to increase costs and wages. That will be conceded by every honorable member in the House. I use the words “ costs and wages “ to cover payments for services of every possible description. There are other words iri common usage, but “ costs and wages “ are adequate for me. In theory, precisely the same machinery ought to be adequate to reduce costs and wages, whenever it is necessary in the interests of the nation, and the interests of the people of the nation, that costs and wages should be reduced. But this alternative machinery is nover used except as a last resort, until we have been driven to it by some force of desperation and until all other shabby tricks and subterfuges have been exhausted. I refer to the depreciation of our currency. We allow costs to increase and increase and to multiply and multiply until inevitably we have to face up to. the shame of depreciating our currency, or of resorting to discrimination among taxpayers. We have to resort to confiscation in respect of some of our taxation measures. Then, and perhaps worst of all, we have to introduce punitive taxation. If men and women devote their energies to earning incomes in excess of those required to meet their immediate physical needs, they can be punished for earning incomes above a certain figure.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman should come to the subject of salaries.
– With great respect, I am trying to show that if our costs move up - and this measure must have some effect on our cost structure - and if the national income falls, we shall be in very serious difficulties. It is the manifest duty of every honorable member of this House to take that into cognizance when reaching a decision on this bill. All these features to which I refer - and this bill is a part of them - stem from the fact that a great many of our people have boon brought up in the tradition that man’s chief end is to get the maximum number of pounds a week, a month or a year, and damn the economic consequences. It does, not matter what happens, it does not matter who has to pay, and it does not matter where the money comes from. If we are in any difficulty, we will manufacture ways and means to meet the circumstances. All that I am saying - with very great respect - applies to judges and judged alike.
Quite obviously, if it takes £20 a week to keep body and. soul together in one country and £2 to keep body and soul together in another country, the wages levels in both countries are precisely the same. It may be that the higher” cost country, the £20 a week country, takes some sort of spurious credit for a high cost structure, but the fact remains that the wages levels are precisely the same.
I want to give the House an accurate deduction of the consequences of this bill, lt is easy to understand that in the country in -which it costs £20 a week to get the basic necessities : 01 life and in the country in which it costs £2 a week, the wages levels are the same. That is elementary. But what is much more difficult to understand is the .effect of rises and falls in the -cost structures of both countries. If there is a rise of 50 per cent, in the cost of -living in both countries, wages rates would have to move up £10 ‘a week in one ‘country and £1 a week -in the other -country to maintain parity. That is comparatively simple when national income is rising, but it is entirely different when national income and price levels are falling. If the fall is 50 per cent, in both countries and the wages rates remain the same, it is the monetary equivalent ;of a 5:0 per cent, increase of the wages rates in both countries, or of increases of £10 a week and El .a week respectively. It is then that we have to reverse the machinery, a step which is always resisted, or resort to the tricks and .subterfuges -that I have mentioned.
That is what happened - and I have a very grim knowledge .of it - in T930. It happened to the whole world. It will happen again in countries where stern measures are not taken to prevent such calamities from occurring. This is not a stern measure to prevent it. On ‘fee contrary, it is a measure that must inevitably accelerate ‘the ‘coming of a very dangerous situation. I want to make a very important quotation from a very important book. It is a thrice remarka’b’le quotation, and it reads as follows : -
The United States of .America are now enjoying a .period of unprecedented prosperity and from an examination of ite causes one is led to the belief that this -condition ‘must continue for a least the next few years. While certain minor ‘booms ore .undoubtedly taking place (such as, for ‘instance, the present high level of la:nd values in Florida and one _or two other districts),, the industrial prosperity of America is undoubtedly based on a solid foundation. That this period of national wellbeing ‘is ‘not of a temporary character is shown by ‘ the steady increase in Savings Banks deposits. During the last seven years the amount of these deposits has risen at the steady rate of J00,000,000 dollars a year to the present large total of 1 :400?O00.’00O dollars.
I ides],re to .quote one toose paragraph from this publication -
A study of the general conditions in ‘the country shows that the prosperity is -most accentuated in the manufacturing industries which have such a considerable influence on the lives of the American people. The policiesand -methods obtaining in ‘these particular industries therefore deserve the most careful investigation; in fact, their successful opera tion is without doubt responsible for the high standard of living which obtains and the considerable rate of -progress now taking place -in >every direction.
– Order! I must ask the honorable gentleman to come to the bill. He -has been speaking for twelve minutes and I “have heard practically no reference to anything remotely concerning the judiciary.
– With very great respect, sir, I am trying to demonstrate in a practical form that if .the national income continues to “fall, and if costs continue to -rise, it will not be physically or fina ncially possible ‘to put this bill in to effective ‘operation. To that end, I have read a quotation which, as I said, is remarkable for three reasons, each -of them dealing with this bill. The “first remarkable feature about this quotation is that it was written about the United States of America exactly !30 years ago to this year, and it could have ‘been written about our own country at this very moment. All those circumstances are precisely the same, yet it was written 30 years ago, less than five years before the .entire world was plunged ‘into the most bitter depths of economic crisis and human misery.
I suggest, with very great respect, .that bills of this -description were the major contributing factors at that time, and they will he the major contributing factors again if they are introduced and carried at a time when the national income of our .country is falling. There .are groans and moans .from the .honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme)., but, to my certain .knowledge, everything I produce to-day - even as he produces -nothing - is worth immeasurable less than it was -a year .ago, and much Jess than it was worth a few years ago. What applies to me applies to -everybody who has “to meet income taxation in order to pay salaries amd wages. The (honorable -member for
Petrie :says that I am speaking about primary industries. Of course, I .am! Primary industry provides 92.9 per cent, of the national income of our country, and if the primary producer is not entitled to talk ‘about the matter, then in God’s name who is ? I am sometimes in despair when I have to plough through the senseless prejudice. The cold fact remains that this bill will involve this House in substantial increases in costs, and these costs “will have to be met. If they are met effectively, they can .be met only by the primary industries, assisted by 7.2 .per cent, of our national income emanating from our secondary and tertiary industries. Those .are the cold facts of the case, and that is what I am trying to demonstrate to this House.
To increase costs and wages - any .cost, any wages, the wages of the judges or the judged .alike - when the national income is rising, is not only very desirable but very necessary, as it has always been done. Similarly, to fix costs and wages :at the increased level when the national income is static, or constant at a high level or at any level at all, is both desirable and accessary, and that too, Mr. Spea’ker, has been done for ‘a time. Some attempt has been made to peg .costs .and wages in our own country in order to stop the inflationary spiral, but as against that, I want to make an accurate deduction .of the consequences of this bill. .All that is simple to “understand, hut to peg ‘wages and costs at the increased level when national income is falling, is a form, in my humble pinion, of economic lunacy that can only serve to increase .both .costs and wages by an amount equal to the general fall in national ‘income and price levels sen er ally.
Let me make this deduction. If it takes 4,000 lb. -of raw wool at 20s. per lb. r.o pay some judge, or to pay some judges, or anyone at all, .then ‘quite obviously, if the price ‘©f -wool falls to 6s. 8d. per lb., it wall take exactly :24,000 lb. of raw wool to meet that .essential cost. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that “wool to-day is not worth 6s. 8d. per lb., and because of that, ‘we must follow the argument to its logical ‘conclusion. Suppose it takes 8,0.00 lb. of raw wool at 20s. per lb. to meet the ,cost. Then, if wool continues to fall - and it has fallen in the last few years - then there must be a .multiplication of that 8,000 lb. to 16,’00.0 lb. and up to .24,000 lb., and ultimately to 36,000 lb., until the cost cannot be met. That is the aspect that I consider to be of vital importance to this House, and to every honorable member of it.
– Did you raise their salaries when wool was £1 per lb. ?
– The right honor able gentleman has as”ked me a very pertinent question. Did “we raise their salaries when wool was 20s. per lb. 1 To my recollection, their wages have been increased at some time during the last three years, if my memory serves me aright, and twice during the last six years, if my memory serves me aright. That, of course, is subject to correction It is not my duty to increase those wages’; ?it is the duty of other people, and if the, neglect it the fault cannot lie with me.
To increase .costs and wages, any cost and any wages- perhaps apart from the wages ‘of .sin - when the national -income is falling is to multiply the entire cost structure in .a sway that must strike terror into the heart of every person who has any knowledge of the inexorable laws of economics. That is quite manifest. Thai sort of thing went on in 1930. If the fall in the national income continues, then it will ‘be practically impossible for m to meet these costs without a further depreciation in out currency. It is my duty to warn the House of that. What this bill proposes to do is to increase these salaries .at <& time when .the national in come is falling, and by so doing, we .are manoeuvring ourselves into the same position into which we manoeuvred ourselves in 1929 and the years that immediately preceded it. Everything that I have said now T ‘had the privilege, together with a great many other people, of saying to the late James ‘Scullin in t.hi3 very building in 1930. Everything I have said to-night–
– Order ! I again ask the honorable gentleman to deal with the subject -of the bill. He has been speaking for twenty minutes, and I nave not yet heard him speak for two minute? on the judges’ “salaries.
– With very great respect, Mr. Speaker, I know it is unpalatable, but I have to say it. I believe it has to be said, and no matter how difficult it may bc for me, let me assure you that I shall try my very best to say it because I believe it is necessary to say it, in the interests of our country, just as it was necessary to say it in 1930 to the late James Scullin and also in 1932 to the late Joseph A. Lyons. I remember vividly the time when exactly the same thing happened and similar bills were introduced. In vain we pointed out that wool was worth 8d. per lb., and that if the measures were to be of any value co the country it was necessary that the prices of wool and other staple products should be stabilized at remunerative levels. The Prime Minister of that time and others stated that it could not be done.
– Order! If the honorable gentleman is trying to defy me, he may as well take his seat. In twenty minutes, he has not spent two minutes on the discussion of the bill. If he will not spend the rest of his time discussing the salaries of judges, he had better sit down.
– With very great respect, Mr. Speaker, I propose to deal, not with the judiciary, but with the eCOnomic consequences of this measure.
– Order! If that is the honorable member’s decision, he had better resume his seat.
– I rise to order. I submit that any honorable member is entitled to discuss the economic consequences of legislation as an argument for or against it.
-Order! I have given my ruling.
– I shall continue, and as soon as you, Mr. Speaker, rule me out of order, I shall take my seat with pleasure.
– The trouble is that the honorable member is criticizing the Government.
-Order! the right honorable gentleman will withdraw that remark. I have not the slightest concern about whether the honorable mem ber for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) is for or against the Government.
– I withdraw the remark.
– Since the salaries of judges possibly affect the economy of of the country, let me point out that, disguise the fact how we will, Australia’s national income is falling at an alarming rate. I refer, not to overseas balances, but to the-
– Order ! Will the honorable gentleman discuss the bill, or will he not?
– I am dealing with the bill. I am dealing exclusively with its economic consequences.
-Order! If the honorable gentleman does not deal with judges’ salaries and the bill, he must resume his seat.
– With very great respect, Mr. Speaker, no matter how you harass me I refuse to deal with the judiciary.
– I am discussing the economic consequences of this measure and of similar bills.
– Order! I call the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard).
.- This measure might be termed a very neat little bill. It consists of only one sheet of paper, but it is of profound importance to the people of Australia. It is designed to increase the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia from £5,000 per annum to £8,000 per annum. The new salary will be approximately £160 a week. The bill will also increase the salaries of the other judges or the High Court from £4,500 per annum to £6,500 per annum, which will give them an income of about £130 a week. The measure is designed also to increase the salaries of other judges similarly. I suggest that, in the present circumstances, incomes of £160 and £130 a week are out of all proportion to the incomes on which this Government forces pensioners to live.
– Let the honorable member get on with the debate.
– The honorable member has mumbled some mumbo-jumbo, apparently because my remarks are unpalatable to him. He is like the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), who wishes the judges of this country to enjoy a sacred preserve free from all criticism. The day when even the judiciary is preserved from free and fair criticism in the Parliament will be a sorry day for Australia. The honorable member for Fawkner has cast aspersions upon those who criticize this bill, because it at present lacks proportion if the salaries to be paid to those who will benefit from it are compared with the incomes of war widows, invalid and age pensioners and other people who depend on social services benefits, and with child endowment. The honorable member appears to be pandering to the judiciary. It is strange that members of the legal profession sometimes take that attitude. I do not know why they adopt it.
Mr. Mullens interjecting,
– I do not know what the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) is mumbling about. He may have a mumble after I have finished.
Judges receive substantial emoluments apart from their salaries. All their travelling expenses are paid and they enjoy all the necessary amenities. They are provided with staffs. I understand that each has the services of a tipstaff. I suppose that the term “ tipstaff “ has been handed down from the past. I do not know exactly what the function of such a gentleman is. In addition, judges receive substantial clerical assistance, any other assistance that they require. They are appointed for life - who would not like to be appointed to a position for life - and they retire on substantial pensions. I have no quarrel with those circumstances, and I consider that they should receive substantial and adequate salaries. However, I have a great quarrel with a government that introduces this measure, not only to provide these handsome increases of salary but also to make the increases retrospective to the 1st January, 1955, thereby giving judges six months’ retrospective nay. I am sure that members of the judiciary are not down to their last shilling. One cannot blame them for accepting the increased salaries. Under the existing system, almost from the time we enter school, it is drilled into our minds that the higher the income we can earn and the more money we can accumulate the more distinguished we shall become and the better citizens we shall be considered. That is an unfortunate state of affairs, and I do not blame judges for it. It is a feature of the economic system that the greater the power one can wield over the people and the greater the income one can earn, the more distinguished one appears in the eyes of the community. I recognize that judges are distinguished in their own right by virtue of their citizenship, their learning, knowledge of the law and their capacity to understand and study legal problems and people. They are chosen by the Australian and the State governments, for the States also are concerned, to administer the laws of this country fairly and impartially.
It is striking that judicial salaries should be increased so substantially at a time when age and invalid pensioners receive pensions that are the equivalent of only about 26 per cent, of the basic wage. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, and it indicates that the Government observes a totally unjustifiable class distinction. I have always considered that men who hold highly skilled positions should receive good salaries and adequate remuneration, but I have never been unconscious of the fact that the essentia] needs of men and women are limited and that once their incomes become more than adequate they invest the excess and extract still greater incomes from the community generally.
– Like the right honorable member for Barton.
– There was “never an occasion when I stooped as low as the level of the honorable member for Fawkner and I shall leave the honorable member for Gellibrand to be dealt with by the electors who will show their contempt for him. I believe in the payment of adequate salaries. I have said that I join issue with the contention of the honorable member for Fawkner that the judiciary should be a sacred preserve. When the criticism which the honorable member for. Ea wkner, made of the1 honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward.) and the: Leader of the Opposition-. (Dr. Evatt)*,. ia< boiled, down and stripped of humbug;- it will be! seen, to relate to’ nothing, more1 than> the soundness! of the judgment that some of these people, have: given. This, is’ not the first time: that thejudiciary has been criticized. Every onehas heard’ of “bloody Judge- Jeffreys”,, and. I. presume that. long, before this Parliament came into existence some1body in the- United Kingdom, the. homeof democracy,, exercised the- right: to :ip.ply that- appellation te him… Perhaps it is well that: that: name: was applied to him, because it probably resulted in his successors being less bloody than the infamous’ judge: himself .
The- Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) lias always been very sensitive to criticism of the judiciary. Before Christmas, a statement was made by the Prime Minister in this Parliament regarding certain! judges who had been appointed to a: commission established to deal with a: recent problem in this country. The Prime Minister, in defending the appointment of those judges-, said that he had appointed what he called’ a “ balanced commission What did he- mean by a “balanced commission”? Did he not consciously imply that it was necessary to pick from, the judiciary judges who would have certain outlooks? Had he not sought judges who had supported a particular political party prior to their appointment to the judiciary? Did he not indicate that he wanted judges- of a particular creed or faith?’ If not, what did he mean by the statement, “ balanced commission”? When I asked the Prime Minister- that question by way of interjection, he did not reply.
Let us ‘ go a little further back into history in order to- examine, the tender feelings, of the Prime Minister towards the. judiciary; and disclose his overwhelming bias: in connexion with this subject. I was a member of the, Victorian Parliament in 1932, during the: depression years, when a decision was made to reduce the- wages? and salaries of. public servants in Victoria by 22£. per cent. When the Government introduced- the relevant measure it, was discovered that the. judiciary had been included’ in its provisions’. The present PrimeMinister, who- was: then a member of. tha Victorian Parliament; objected, as he- can, moat eloquently, and said- that the inclusion, of the judiciary in- the proposals, then* before the. Parliament might affect the impartiality of the judiciary. In effect, the Prime- Minister said1 that his opinion of the judiciary was so- low that: he believed that, if the judiciary suffered a 22£ per cent, reduction in salary, if might tend to pollute1 the fountain of justice. In reply,. I asked’ the Prime- Minister how he- considered that a wage reduction would affect the poor devil who was throwing earth- out of a 6-ft. drain. I asked if the reductions would not tend to reduce the rate at which he threw shovelfuls of earth up onto the bank. So much for- the impartial feelings of the Prime Minister towards the judiciary.
I agree with the Prime Minister on the importance of the judiciary, but it is essential that, from time to time, without hope or fear of f avour, the members of this Parliament should express their opinions on. these matters, whether those opinions reflect on the members of the judiciary or not. The. members of the judiciary are exceedingly human and if ever the day dawns-, which, apparently the honorable member for Fawkner would like to see dawn, when these men are freed from criticism, it will be a bad day for this country. From time to time; some members of the judiciary may have erred. Such an occasion, was that, on which two judges of the High Court of Australia continued to hear- a case which related to the banking legislation, notwithstanding the fact that it had been pointed out by counsel that they had interests1 in some of the private banking institutions of this country. I suppose that the Prime Minister and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) will’ object to- that statement. If the time comes when such statements cannot be made, it will be a sorry d’ay far this country:.
Mr. W. M. Bourke interjecting.
– The honorable member for Fawkner will be peddling; his home> secrets, next.
– I did not .think that the honorable member for Fawkner would stoop so low as to peddle statements that he ‘heard in caucus and remain a member of it. Why did he not get out?
– The honorable member for Lalor has not denied my statements.
– The construction that the honorable .member for Fawkner placed on the statements that he .repeated was untrue. The Chief -Justice of Victoria is a .man whom I respect. .He is a good lawyer and a former member of the Liberal party, .and I suppose that he has bis unconscious prejudices. Recently, he considered that the increase that the Victorian Government proposed to% make in his salary was inadequate. Everybody has the right to kick a bit about their pay, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps you have done that, although I do not think that you are a hungry man. However, the Chief J.udge of Victoria used the people’s court in order to make a public statement concerning his economic position as compared with that of other people in the community. As the judiciary is superior to the Parliament in some respects, he may have a legal right to do that. He may nave been feeling the pinch, as the war widows and other pensioners are feeling it. But it is regrettable that the honorable member for Fawkner should be so tender in his /regard for the judiciary that he has contended that it should not be criticized.
– Is that fair ?
– Of course it is.
– Order ! The honorable member for Fawkner has spoken in this debate.
– On one historic occasion a member of Parliament had :i brother who was a .member of the judiciary of Victoria, and the member said in no uncertain manner that the judiciary should suffer the same salary reductions as anybody else. I “have no objection to people in every walk of life receiving adequate remuneration, but I do not think that the members of the judiciary are very badly off. I suppose that they have to live in expensive homes. ‘They are isolated from the people and suffer ‘a lot of dia.abilities, but ‘they need ‘not take the job if they -do not want it. I understand that there is great rivalry in the legal profession for appointment to the judiciary. In view of the -attitude of the honorable member for Fawkner, I -should not be ‘surprised if he was a candidate for judicial honours. He might hope to end up in that position some day, but bloody Judge Jeffreys would not be in it with him. I hope the Parliament is impressed by the fact that a large section of our community including, perhaps, for all I know, the mothers or fathers of members of the judiciary,, is in a dire plight because of its meagre income. If, simultaneously with t’he increasing’ of the judges’ salaries, some relief had been given to those persons, the position would not be so bad. I hope that if, or -when, adequate relief is given, it will -be made retrospective to the 1st January, 1955, and that this Governmen’t will extend to the people generally that degree of impartiality that it says it expects from the judiciary. 1 leave the matter at that.
Mr. DRUMMOND (New England) [9.41 - We have just listened to ‘ two speeches dealing, more or .less incidentally, with the subject before the House. Let me :say ;at the , outset that I think it is a matter of very profound regret that, when a measure is brought down for the purpose of ‘sl realistic adjustment of the salaries of some of the highest people in the .land, honorable members should seize upon the opportunity to introduce all kinds of -extraneous .subjects into the debate. I refer to two speeches in particular that have been .made to-night, one -by the .honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and the other by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton). I do :not intend for one moment to suggest that, in the ‘normal course of events, there i3 any common ground in the thinking of the .honorable member for East Sydney and that of the honorable member for Riverina ; but what I do intend to suggest, in company with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), is that there has been a complete failure to consider the philosophical approach to the subject before the House.
Upon what logical basis has the thinking of the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member foi Riverina been conceived? The honorable member for East Sydney seized upon thu opportunity to make the House a forum for the purpose of dragging in a discussion about the amounts that should be paid to age pensioners. I claim to have even more sympathy with the age pensioners than have honorable members opposite who, before the Government assumed office, refused to increase the pensions of those persons, whom they describe as being unfortunate. The honorable member for Riverina has used the bill as a basis for an attack” upon the whole financial and economic policy of the Government. If the honorable member had made his speech when the budget papers or other financial measures were before the House, I should have found myself in agreement with much of what he said; but to take this measure, which ought to commend itself to every reasonable person in the community, and to use it as something upon which to base an attack upon the financial and economic system is, in my opinion, quite beside the point. As Opposition members know, it is not pleasant at any time for an honorable member to find himself in profound disagreement with another honorable member who sits on the same side of the House; but on this occasion I feel that, as a member of the Australian Country party, I should express a contrary opinion. I know perfectly well that the prosperity of the primary industries forms the financial basis of this country. Nobody knows that better than I do. To take this measure, which I assume will require no more than £30,000 per annum of a national income that runs into approximately £4,000,000,000, and to make it the basis of an attack upon our financial system, is to display a lack of perspective. Such an attack might well have been kept for another occasion.
What is the real basis upon which this measure should be considered? I suggest that our thinking should be based upon the whole subject of the relationship of each person in the community to the others. If we were to accept the old theory that all men are born with equal ability, which is an obvious absurdity, and that therefore they are entitled to equal remuneration - a position that has not been achieved at any stage of the world’s history - I could understand the honorable gentleman rising and saying that this money should not be paid for the purpose of increasing the remuneration of the judges. Is that the philosophical basis of the thinking of honorable members opposite? One would think, after listening to the arguments of the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Lalor, that thai was the basis of their thinking, and that everybody should be on equal terms and should get the same amount of money. Obviously, then, those honorable gentlemen should be paying back into some fund the money that they are receiving in excess of that amount to which their achievements in this House entitle them. I have heard no suggestion to that effect. Honorable members opposite do not accept the implications of their own arguments. Surely they should have the intellectual honesty and fairness to say that, if a measure is introduced which recognizes outstanding ability, outstanding responsibility and outstanding integrity, the persons in question should be paid according to their responsibility, and the ability, intelligence and training that they bring to the service of the country.
I entirely agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) and other honorable members who say that the right approach to a subject of this kind is a consideration of the importance of the position in question, and the quality of the service that is rendered. Adopting that approach, the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), and other honorable members, have shown that, when compared with other people of equal ability, in this country and in other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the judges of the High Court of Australia are underpaid. The most gracious and reasonable thing for honorable members to have done would have been to accept the bill as a normal and reasonable measure. By adopting that attitude, they would have shown that they really respected the judiciary.
We have listened to the diatribe of the honorable member for Lalor, who has gone out of his way to do a little more to throw doubt upon the fairness of the judiciary. The honorable member referred in bitter terms to the judgment in the Banking case, but he did not refer, as the honorable member for Fawkner had pointed out, to what he might think to be the outstanding fairness of the judges in their judgment on the antiCommunist legislation introduced by this Government. Surely we can maintain some sense of proportion in these things. If honorable members, in these discussions, take the basis of the lowest common denominator they will find, if they have their way, that this country will reach the lowest common denominator.
It has been well said that the policy of socialism running into communism is not to level up, but to level down, and the policy that we on this side of the House believe in is that there should be at all times a levelling up, a recognition of outstanding ability and the responsibilities that it carries, without which neither this country nor any other country can prosper. We do not believe in having outstanding people as dictators, but we do believe in giving recognition to ability and talent which will enable the people who possess those qualities, fairly and honorably discharging their obligations, to help lift the community, and guide it and strengthen it. Without a recognition of those qualities, neither this country nor any other country can do other than wander in the mist and shadows and that kind of semi-world in which any parliament of nit-wits can put back the clock of civilization.
I do not intend, nor did I intend, to speak at any great length on this measure, on which so much has already been said, but I want to say this: The honorable member for Riverina has raised a very important question, quite rightly, in relation to certain trends in the possible income of this country. Nobody can make a prediction with certainty about that subject. For one thing, Australia is an amazing country. It has shown by its remarkable powers of recuperation how it can confound its critics. I want to say, in the light of my experience of administration through a most critical period of the economic life of Australia, and more particularly, of New South Wales, that one lesson that I learnt, and shall never forget, was that when the economic blizzard struck that State, there were a great many persons, and groups of persons, who were suffering from social injustices. There were many sections of the community, both important and relatively unimportant - because all persons are important in the community- who were in a position of disadvantage compared with others. One case that come* to my mind was that of the University of Sydney, which had been starved of funds for years. Yet it, like many other sections of the community which were far less important from the point of view of responsibility to the community, suffered the effect of the impact of the 22-£ per cent, salary and endowment cut.
I am perfectly certain that if ever a set of circumstances like that has to be faced again, there is only one principle that should be applied. This was very amply illustrated by one of the greatest industrial leaders the world has ever known, but of whom relatively few people have heard. I refer to Ernest Abbey who pioneered a magnificent experiment in social service in Germany which enabled it to withstand the impact of World War I. That principle was that if a cut has to be imposed, it must apply with equal intensity to all sections of the community. If we have a measure of justice on the highest possible level and encounter some of the unpleasant consequences of a recession, the application of that principle would have such an effect, and would not give rise to a justifiable sense of grievance and injustice.
Therefore, I find myself entirely in accord with this measure because I believe it is something that has been too long delayed in the interests of this country, where the whole level of remuneration has altered the respective values to the disadvantage of the judiciary. I am in accord with it, also, because I believe that whatever may be the trend of our finances, they can never be too poor to enable the remuneration of the judges to bear a proper relation to that of the rest of. the community, haying regard to their responsibilities, to maintain the constitutional and social fabric. And I am in favour of it because it appeals to me in the nature of the fitness of things. I believe that this country cannot afford to take a narrow, poor audi miserable view of this measure.
The honorable member for Riverina referred to the statement of the Prime Minister that this country could stand the increased expenditure. Of course it can ! He referred then to the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that Australia would have to reduce its costs and increase its production. That was a perfectly normal statement for a Treasurer to make; I would not expect the Treasurer, in the circumstances, to make any other statement. In this country to-day there are shortages - although not excessive - of labour, material, and practically everything that we need to send us forward at the speed at which we would like to progress.. That is not the fault of the Government; it is one of the prices that we pay for the speed at which we are trying to develop, and the speed with which we are attempting to increase our population by immigration. We have over-full employment. It would be a poor Treasurer who did not tell the country that unless production were speeded up to overcome the shortages and strengthen our internal fabric by keeping prices within a reasonable: compass, wemight expect serious repercussions.
Personally, I look more to the danger of an increase of cost from that cause than from a drop of income. Both are things’ that must be watched. In any case, the Treasurer’s business is to be a bit on the pessimistic side; because every Minister wants him to put money into something or other. In Cabinet relations with the Treasurer, it is well known that Ministers put forward pleas on behalf of private members for more money for various items Therefore, the Treasurer cannot be too exuberant in his statements about the finances of the country. I consider that the Prime Minister introducedthis bill with dignity; reserve, and with a knowledge of essential informa tion. I have much pleasure in supporting the measure.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), stated when introducing this bill that he felt that, the Chief Justice of Australia had been paid too small a salary for too long a time, and that even an increase of £3,000 on the £5,000-a-year remuneration he was receiving was not too much. The bill contains a list of other increases for judges and. puisne judges of the High Court and. for other judge of federal courts. It may be said of course that judges are entitled to increased salaries because of the increased cost of living, but I think that the Prime Minister protested too much when he said that the Chief Justice of the High Court was entitled to an increase of more than £3,000 a year. If there is to be social justice for the justices of the High Court and other federal judges, there should be social justice for age and invalid pensioners, war widows and pensioners, civilian pensioners, and mothers of dependent children whose child- endowment has not been raised since 1949.
Judges are. not required under the Constitution, or by any act of this Parliament, to retire at 72 years of age. They can stay on the Bench for life. The Prime Minister is in the habit of saying that the Constitution appoints justices of. the High. Court for life. The Constitution does nothing of thesort. Section 72 reads -
The Justices of the High Court and of the other Courts created by the Parliament: -
Shall Be appointed by the Governor General in Council: (ii). Shall not be removed except by the Governor-General in Council, on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session, praying for such removal on the ground ofproved misbehaviouror incapacity :
) Shall receive such remuneration as the Parliament may. fix: but the remuneration shall notbediminshed during their continuance in office.
The question of life tenure was determined by the High Court itself in respect ofappointmentsmade by the Bruce-Page Government to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a fixed term of years. The High Court held by five votes totwo tha* trie judges were appointed’ for. life’ in all federal jurisdictions: That judgmentwas given by the Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, Mr,. Justice Barton, Mr. Justice Isaacs-, Mr:. Justice Powers^, and. Mr. Justice Bich.
– McBRIDE - They confirmed the- constitutional provision. “What is the honorable member talking about?
– If the: Minister will, not be so rude but will let me. conclude, I. shall answer him.. Mr. Justice Higgins and Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy dissented, [t was a majority judgment. That was an interpretation of the Constitution by the judges: I am glad that the- Prime Minister- is coming into the chamber. He has always- held that the High Court justices- are appointed! for life. They handed down this judgment in the case- The Waterside Workers; Federation of- Australia-, v.. Alexander. The PrimeMinister, will remember that, that case was decided- in respect of a lesser federal court. Only at referendum, can alter- the decision, oi: a subsequent judgment in which the justices of the High Court say that. the. Constitution does not mean what the justices of 1918 said- it meant.. Of course,, from, time to1 time- judges change their views, and the opinion of the court on one day is not necessarily the opinion of the court, in later days: I make the point only to show that the High- Court justicesare appointed for life,, according io their own dictum, and. they have- nothing, to worry about in respect of their old age. The Chifley Government not only increased their pensions but also made provision for pensions for their wives should they become widows. That was something which we felt the justices, wanted, and for some- time they seemed, to be. grateful..
I quote the Constitution, because the High Court of Australia is not like a court under State- jurisdiction^ which, generally determines1- matters of- law. Under the Constitution^ the High Court’ is1 a super legislature; which’ interprets what the- Parliament does, and’ to that extent members of the High Court Bench must have their- views, and’ they probably have their prejudices. It is no use our saying that they do- not have their, feelings or that they are all impartial. Im America the: position, is* faced1 more realistically than- in- this, country.. The Supreme Court: Bench- interprets the. American’ constitution and its- judges: are appointed by the President of. the day, according.’ to their known philosophical outlooks, from: either liberals or conservatives. Everybody recognizes that a judge is- appointed because he has liberal views’ or because- he has! conservative views. In Australia, we pretend to ourselves that judges- never vary im their political views, and that they alL hold the same detached: high view on every matter, which cornea before them.
Ever since* we have had responsible government, Australian governments have appointed eminent lawyers to our- benches. There- has’ never been an anti-Labour government in the Federal or State sphere which has appointed, to any judicial pom . tion a. Labour barrister- or- a1, lawyer with known Labour opinions. Labour governments have appointed Labour men and have then been accused of packing- the bench. We have also appointed antiLabour men-, or. men without any party political views-, at all. It was a com.mon practice- for many years with antiLabour governments in the States, if a vacancy occurred for a. Chief Justice, to> appoint their Attorney-General to that position. The Attorney-General of the Bruce-Page Government, Mr. Latham:, was appointed, to the High Court Bench after the retirement” of Sir Frank. Gavan Duffy.. He afterwards became Sir John Latham, and he. was- Chief Justice of Aus tralia for many years. I do not quarrel with his appointment, but if seems- a little illogical that, supporters of a government which never appoints Labour men. to the bench, should complain when: Labour men criticize its appointments..
We have reason to- criticize some of the justices- who have been appointed to the bench.. In this Parliament I have, uttered some very stringent criticisms of some of the. people who have sat. on the’ High Court Bench. Being an’ iconoclast, I do not: fall down in idolatry before any member- of the High Court: Bench. I know that two members of the bench; Sir Hayden Starke and Sir George Rich, waited till the Labour Governmentwent out’ of office; before they retired’ fromthe High Court Bench in their dotage,. in order to allow an anti-Labour government to make appointments of its choice to fill the vacancies. Do not ask us, therefore, on the Labour side, to have a very great respect for the impartiality of judges. Judges, by their birth, by their training, and by their education, are all predisposed to maintain the existing order. They have no very great regard for Labour men and Labour ideology. T think that if we were a little more honest, and appointed judges because they said they would or would not give a more liberal interpretation of the Constitution than other people, there would be more respect for the judiciary.
I am not speaking disrespectfully of them now. I am just pointing out to honorable members, who are under the fond illusion that once a man goes onto the Bench he divests himself of all his prejudices, all his favouritisms, all his likes and dislikes, that that is not the truth. The judges still go to the Melbourne Club and the Union Club, and are more or less affected by the atmosphere of those tory institutions.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) spoke about Mr. Justice Higinbotham. He was a great judge, but he was too great a judge for the tories of the day. It was the Honorable Donald Mackinnon who erected a monument to his memory in Melbourne, and the Honorable Donald Mackinnon is the father of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon). Mr. Justice Higinbotham, when Chief Justice of Victoria, sent a donation of £100 to the striking waterside workers and seamen of the day, and he promised a donation of £10 a week while the strike lasted. That is why we have an oil painting of him in the Trades Hall in Melbourne. He was a judge. We have never since had a Chief Justice anywhere else in Australia who did anything like that, and the tories of the day would not even appoint him LieutenantGovernor of the State or give him a knighthood. A knighthood is another attraction for people who climb on to the Bench. I notice that in recent time? the Prime Minister, if I may say so with respect, is knighting almost every new appointee.
– I have the honorable gentleman in mind.
– I can assure the Prime Minister that I shall never be an applicant for a knighthood or anything of the sort. I want no honour, title, style, or degree, which is not within the power of the Australian people to confer on me. Those words are spoken by a real Australian nationalist. That goes, too, for Privy Councillorships, even though the prospect of such an appointment might seem to be receding at the moment.
– The honorable gentleman will come back.
– I am sure of that. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) spoke about prices falling.
– And he was out of order in doing so.
– He was only partly out of order. The Constitution provides that the remuneration of a judge, once fixed by the Parliament, shall not be diminished while he holds office, so that if the basic wage falls, his salary is not affected, nor is it affected if the price of wool falls. If we got back to a price of 13d. per lb. for wool, which was the price at which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) sold the whole of our wool to Great Britain during the early days of World War I., and which we thought waa a very good deal-
– It was 4d. per lb. above the prevailing market price.
– Yes. We thought it was a very good price, though later we had it raised. However, over recent sales the average price was 73d. per lb., and last year it was 83d. As I say, should the price of wool fall and the basic wage come down, Public Service salaries and lots of other payments would probably fall also, but the payment of £8,000 a year to the Chief Justice, and the salaries of the other judges which are contemplated in this bill, would remain as they were. I do not know that too many people would be inclined to accept that situation.
The honorable member for Riverina tried to make out a case, which was supported, in part at least, by the honorable member for New’ England (Mr. Drummond), to the effect that we ought not to consider questions about judges apart altogether from the economic position. I do not know that that would work out, but whilst not opposing these increases, I think that the Prime Minister has been too generous to the Chief Justice of Australia, for whom I have respect and a high regard. I think, too, that the other increases which it is proposed to grant should not be granted, at least until other sections of the community, very good people all, and very deserving too, also have received thejustice to which they are entitled from the funds at the disposal of the Government. It is all very well to give increases to judges and people in high positions, but it must not be forgotten that there are many other good Australians who are entitled to something as well. The pensioners, for example, have received nothing from this Government. If and when they do get something, I suggest that the Government will not date it from the 1st January, 1955.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) summed up this debate when he said that judges should be properly paid. That is fundamental. Unless judges are properly paid, we are not likely to be able to get the best quality on the Bench. Men are not going to give up legal practices, from which they are earning great sums, in order to take positions on the judiciary for emoluments which are comparatively small, particularly in these days of high living costs. Having said that judges should be properly paid, one would have thought that the honorable member for East Sydney would have sat down. Unfortunately, he embarked on a tirade with regard to pensioners. He did not tell the House, or the country, that when he was a Minister of the Crown in 1949, which was a year of rapidly rising prices, the Government of which he was a member refused to give the pensioners an increase of pension. The honorable member did not then speak about Christian generosity or helping the retired pioneer, phrases that he adopted to-night. He conveniently forgot about those considerations at that time. One might have expected him, if he was so enthusiastic about the plight of pen sioners, to have resigned from a government that failed, in a year of steeply rising prices, to give increased pensions, to pensioners. Did he resign from the government? Of course he did not. He waited until the people, including the pensioners, got rid of him and the government of which he was a member. What followed that event? The present Government, for the next four years, granted record increases of pensions. That, too, was a matter which the honorable member for East Sydney forgot to mention. His tirade was quite beside the point and was made with the object of drawing a red herring across the trail.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) stated to-night that fair criticism of judges was permitted. He then went on to say that scathing criticism of judges also was permitted. Undoubtedly, scathing criticism of judges is not permissible. Whilst it is true that fair criticism of judges is permissible, the essence of such criticism is in the word “ fair “. We are dealing to-night with a bill which relates to the salaries of Commonwealth judges. A great many generalities have been spoken by way of criticism of judges, but at no stage of the debate has any concrete criticism been made against our Commonwealth judges, the reason being that the conduct of those learned gentlemen cannot be genuinely attacked or criticized. Many words have been uttered to-night, but there has been nothing behind them. They have been grains of chaff, rather than grains of wheat. Why should the House have to stand this sort of talk? Why should we have to put up with it, when even the honorable member for East Sydney is of the opinion that the judges should be properly paid? Presumably, that is also the view of the Australian Labour party. Is it right that base remarks, made by way of innuendo, should be used in this House about judges, against whom nothing derogatory can, in fact, be said at all?’
The honorable member for East Sydney rightly said that, in considering the salaries that should be paid to judges, regard should also be had to the emoluments of other members of the community. The proper way in which to assess the salaries of judges is to have regard to the incomes that are earned by ‘barristers. A leading barrister to-day makes far more money than the salaries which it is proposed to pay to judges under this bill. If we want the services of the leading men - and we do want them, because it is only through their knowledge, integrity and character that they become leading barristers - we must be prepared to pay salaries which are, in some degree, adequate, even though it may mean, as it generally does, that they will have to make a sacrifice to accept appointments to the Bench. The salaries which are contemplated in this bill will still mean that leading barristers who accept judicial offices will have to make sacrifices to ‘do so. In those circumstances, it cannot be said that any of the remarks that have been made against the salaries proposed by the bill are correct. This measure should have been passed very much earlier in the evening, and without the kind of debate which we have heard here to-night.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
The following answers to questions were irwin tad: -
Ministers and senior departmental officers who a.r.e their advisers, but, as the honorable member well knows, there is nothing new in this. Indeed, ministerial responsibilities cannot be carried out without a considerable measure of direct negotiation with other governments. I do not propose, unless otherwise directed by this House, to make available the detailed information requested by the honorable member. He may be assured, however, that whatever expense has .been incurred in ministerial visits overseas, .it has not been exorbitant or wrongly incurred when one considers the ultimate .benefit to Australia.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
In view of the importance of steel in relation to defence production and the adverse effect of steel imports as regards Australia’s trade balance, canhe give the House any information as to the extent of the new ore supplies in South Australia?
The South Australian Mines Department has advised that it is drilling a number of surface iron ore occurrences immediately to the north of the leases of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Iron Knob. The work is not yet sufficiently advanced to indicate the extent of the ore in this area. It would of course take a period of several years to develop any new deposits which were found.
In view of the importance of crawler tractors for developmental and defence purposes, and of the need for conserving our dollar resources, can he state when it is expected that the manufacture of these tractors in Australia will be commenced?
House adjourned at 10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550531_reps_21_hor6/>.