22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and road prayers.
– I have to inform the House that the Honorable E. C. Tabone, Minister for Emigration and Minister for Labour and Social Welfare in the Government of Malta, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honorable members, I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honorable MEMBERS - Hear, hear!
Mr. T abort e thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether, in view of the very many important events that have taken place in world affairs since the Minister made his last statement on international affairs, he will arrange to make a fresh statement to the House so that it can be debated at an early date.
– I shall certainly consider doing that, and I shall discuss with the Prime Minister the availability of time for a debate on the subject.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. With a member of another place, I have made representations to the Minister for Repatriation for extensions to the repatriation hospital at Hobart to provide sufficient accommodation for the treatment of ex-servicemen who cannot now be treated at the hospital, and for the treatment of war widows as well, Tasmania being the only State in which war widows are not at present treated in repatriation hospitals. I have been assured that an urgent submission to the Treasury for the inclusion of these extensions in the first part of the major repatriation works programme will be made by the Minister for Repatriation. Can the Treasurer assure me that this submission will receive sympathetic consideration ?
– I can assure the honorable member that, as is the case with all submissions made to the Treasury, due consideration will be given, having regard to the general economic position, and also to the sympathetic consideration that this Government always gives to ex-service men and women.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster.General a question supplementary to one that I asked him recently about the “ cut costs “ programme being introduced in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Is he aware that the New South Wales branch of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union has found it necessary to introduce a union rule for the imposition of a fine of £10 on members for not claiming full payment for overtime worked, because some postmasters and officers in charge of branches have told men not to claim full payment, and some probationary officers have been told that insistence on full overtime payment might jeopardize their prospects of permanent appointment or, in other cases, promotion? Will the Minister make full inquiries to ascertain whether any intimidatory practices are operating in his department to prevent officers from receiving their just rights, and to ensure that culprits discovered be properly dealt with?
– Naturally I am not aware of the union practice to which the honorable member referred at the commencement of his question. He stated, I think, that some practice had been adopted within the union whereby members were penalized. That is not a matter that comes within the scope of the Postal Department. If the union decides to apply such practices, that is its own prerogative. The honorable gentleman then made reference to an alleged practice of intimidation by some officers of workmen in the Postal Department. I shall have that aspect of his question inquired into, but I assure him, from my general knowledge of the position, that such practices are certainly not tolerated, and if there should be any evidence of their existence I shall take appropriate action.
– I ask the Minister for Health : What progress is being made with the production of Salk vaccine and with tests of its safety? Has any date been fixed for its distribution? Is it necessary to accumulate large stocks before commencing inoculations?
– I am glad to be able to tell the honorable gentleman that progress in the manufacture of the vaccine has been very satisfactory and that a large quantity has now been made and is in storage at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories awaiting the completion of the full safety tests. As far as the date of commencement of inoculations is concerned, I should like to make it clear that, so far, the Commonwealth has made no announcement of any fixed date. I have read some preliminary announcements made by other authorities about the date on which campaigns may start, but it should be understood that those are not the result of Commonwealth decisions. The fact is that no vaccine will be liberated from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories until all the safety tests have been completed. Those tests are now going on and are being duplicated by the Fairfield hospital. With regard to the honorable gentleman’s other question about adequate stocks, we believe that it is necessary to have about two months’ stocks of vaccine before we start the mass inoculations, and when we are ready to start we shall have on hand stocks of that order. I hope to be able to announce later the precise date on which all preparations will be completed and the vaccine will he ready to be issued for mass inoculations.
– Will the Minister for Immigration investigate the state of camp hygiene at immigrant hostels, overcrowded conditions, bad quality of meals, a uri the fear by immigrants of victimization if they make complaints, with par ticular reference to those immigrants who have been about twelve months in the Brooklyn hostel? In order that these appalling circumstances can be remedied, will the Minister assure me of an early investigation of the matter?
– As I in timated in reply to a question yesterday covering the same subjectmatter, I have had no complaints myself of the kind suggested by the honorable gentleman. If he has any specific instance in which complaints have been directed to any aspect of hostel life I should be glad if he will bring it to my notice. I have said in this place more than once that hostel life can never be equivalent to life in one’s own home. But the hostels have provided a most useful transition stage for many thousands nf immigrants who otherwise would not have been able to come to this country and take advantage of the opportunities by which most of them -have been able to profit. Generally speaking, I believe that the hostels are well conducted and of good standard. The hostels’ management and administration are only too willing, at any time, to look at any instance which may be brought to their notice and which may appear to call for improvement. I repeat that, so far, in recent months no such complaint has come directly to me.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any further information to give on the subject of the appointment of Sir William Mel-ell as a member of the Malayan Constitutional Commission ? What are the terms of reference of the Malayan Constitutional Commission?
– I do not think that any further information is available on this subject, but the general information is that Sir William McKell has been nominated by the Australian Government to be the individual from Australia to serve on the Malayan Constitutional Commission. Great Britain is providing the chairman and also a member of the commission, and Canada, Australia, India and Pakistan have been asked to provide members. From Australia, as I learned from the Chief Minister of Malaya only quite lately, they would like very much to have an individual who has particular knowledge and experience of the working of a federal system. Sir William McKell, of course, has had rather unique experience, both in a State and in his very high office in the Commonwealth, as well as being a lawyer of distinction. There will be individuals on the commission who are constitutional lawyers in high degree, maybe to an extent to which Sir William McKell would not claim. But Sir William McKell, in addition to being a lawyer of distinction, has had rich experience of the day to day and year to year working of a modern federal system at close quarters over a period of years. As to the terms of reference of the Malayan Constitutional Commission, I have them available. They are a little lengthy and I would ask for the leave of the House to have them incorporated in Mansard, for T do not wish to weary the House by reading them.
– No leave.
– I think that they are of interest, particularly as a very distinguished Australian is to serve in this very prominent capacity on this important commission.
– Will, the Treasurer, when bringing down the next budget, give consideration to classifying as “ commercial for sales tax purposes motor cars purchased by such bodies as the Australian Red Cross Society, nursing associations, home aids societies and religious organizations such as the Brown Sisters?
– The question raised by the honorable member concerns a matter of policy to be considered in due course.
– Is the Minister for Immigration satisfied that the visit of the trade union delegation from Communist China and Soviet Russia is not inimical to Australian security? If the visit constitutes a risk, is the issue of passports justified ?
– There is, of course, no iron curtain around Australia in relation to tourists or other visitors, except in cases where compelling reasons of security would warrant the exclusion of persons who wished to visit this country. In borderline cases it is the practice of my department to consult relevant authorities such as the Department of External Affairs, the security service and any other department which might be involved. In certain cases the question comes to Cabinet for consideration. That was done in this particular case. The visits in question have no official basis insofar as this Government is concerned. They have resulted from invitations extended by unions which have previously sent visitors to the countries concerned. After examining all the circumstances, we decided to issue vises for a limited period of approximately one month for. I think in each delegation, three unionists accompanied by one interpreter. As the honorable gentleman will have noticed, the people of Great Britain have in quite recent times been able to digest without apparent discomfort an official visit by three very senior members of the Soviet Government, and I am quite certain that the democracy of Australia will be able to digest without any great discomfort an unofficial visit by half a dozen trade unionists from Communist countries. After all, it is not only a matter of the visitors teaching us something about the way of life in their country. We will be able to give them a practical demonstration of the way in which we live in this very free country.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether an investigation is being carried out by the officers of his department, or, to his knowledge, by the officers of any other department, into the granting of pensions at the age of 70 without the application of a means test. If such an investigation is being carried out, will the full report upon it be available to members of this Parliament?
– I have no knowledge of any specific investigation into the matter raised by the honorable member for Scullin. I think that the House should know that general investigations of the kind are constantly being made by the Minister for Social Services and the- department and that the results are almost invariably expressed in legislative form by the present Government.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he has any information to give the House on the reported high degree of tension existing between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute, and the possibility that that tension could result in open conflict between India and Pakistan.
– I have seen reports in at least one Australian organ of information. These reports are not very new. When I was in South and South-East Asia a relatively short time ago I heard of them and took the opportunity to discuss them in the highest quarters in Pakistan. I can say that I would believe it to be completely impossible in any circumstances for tension between India and Pakistan to develop to the extent where there might be open friction and hostilities. I would believe that in no responsible quarter, in either of -these countries, that I have tapped - and I have discussed this matter with a number of people - is it really envisaged that there could be active warfare between the two countries. I would believe that it is nothing less than internationally mischievous for stories of this nature to be put about. In using the word “mischievous “ in this context I am not by any means referring to the honorable gentleman who has asked the question, nor to the Australian newspapers -which published the report. I believe that it would be quite inconceivable that such active strife between these two countries should come about.
– By way of preface to a question that I direct to the Minister for Labour and National Service I remind the Minister that in January of this year a conciliation commissioner awarded an increase of 9d. an hour to casual tally clerks. The shipowners sought leave to appeal against that’ award, and on the 20th February a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration granted the leave sought. As yet, however, the court has not set down a date for the hearing, of the appeal. In view of the delay that hasoccurred since the handing, down of the award in January, and the fact that tally clerks are now threatening to ceasework because of the tardiness of the court, in concluding this matter or even in. fixing a date for the hearing of the appeal, will the Minister now say what action he intends to take, or can take, to have the matter hurried up?
– I shall see whether I can ascertain what the intention of the judge in this particular matter is, and convey that information to the honorable gentleman.
– My question to the Minister for Health is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Wimmera. Can the Minister inform the House whether there is any justification for a statement made recently by the Minister of Health in Queensland, that Salk anti-poliomyelitis vaccine will shortly be available in that State? Has the Commonwealth approved a definitedate on and after which the vaccine will be available for use in the States, or was the statement made by the Queensland Minister of Health intended to produce an. electoral benefit for the present Queensland Government in the forthcoming State general election? Does the Queensland Government accept responsibility for the preparation of the vaccine, or is that completely an activity of the Commonwealth in the interests of the health of the Australian people ?
– The facts are that the Commonwealth is the only authority responsible for the preparation and the making available of the Salk vaccine, and that the Government has not yet announced any date on which the vaccine will be available. Preparations are going forward quite satisfactorily, and when the vaccine is being produced in quantities sufficient to provide the States with adequate supplies to enable them to commence their inoculation campaigns - which depends on the completion of all the safety tests of the vaccine now going on - an announcement will be made as to the date on which the vaccine will be available to the States. The particular dates thereafter on which each of the
States commences its own. inoculation campaign is a matter that lies within the discretion of the individual States ; but no State, of course, can announce a date for the commencement of its campaign until the Commonwealth has made supplies of the vaccine available to it.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether it is correct that the failure of the Australian Government to appoint an Australian Minister to Ireland is due to th& Government’s unwillingness to confer on the appointee the title of “ ambassador “ ? Is not Ireland within its rights in asking for the title of “ ambassador “ to be conferred on an Australian representative to that country? Is it not also true that, in terms of international usage, the Australian Government’s attitude on this matter is quite wrong, and amounts to discourtesy? Is it correct that other countries, such as Canada, have complied with the wishes of Ireland in this matter? Can the Minister indicate whether it is the intention of this Government to comply with the wishes of Ireland in the matter?
– I am afraid that 1 failed to catch every word of what the honorable gentleman said, but I think I understood the import of his questions. This is a very long and a rather old story. It would take longer to tell the story than I expect Mr. Deputy Speaker would allow. As I understood, the honorable gentleman said, or implied, that Australia had objected to the use of the title “ ambassador “ in its diplomatic relationships with Dublin. That is not the fact at all. This business has quite a long history. As I have said, it would take too long to inform the House about it adequately at this stage. However, I can assure the honorable gentleman that the title “ ambassador “ is not the matter at issue.
– I refer to a question that I addressed recently to the Minister for Labour and National .Service concerning a conference between representatives of the miners’ federation and the colliery proprietors, which the Minister was to attend. Has that conference been held. If so, was the matter of the reopening of the Bellbird colliery discussed? Has he any progress t.o report regarding the re-opening of that mine?
– The conference which I intimated would be held was held in Sydney on Thursday. The Minister for National Development and 1 were present, representing the Government. There were also in attendance representatives- of the Joint Coal Board, the colliery proprietors and the miners’ federation. The conference was not called specifically for the purpose of discussing the Bellbird issue. Rather, it was concerned with the general situation of the coal industry, particularly in New South Wales. I feel that a most useful exchange of views occurred. Arising out of that exchange of views, a decision was taken to appoint a working committee which would be able to get to work quite quickly on- the immediate problems of the industry,, on much the same lines as did the re-employment committee which. was set up some time ago. As ihe honorable member knows, that committee has functioned very satisfactorily. In the course of the discussions, I pointed out that the only employment problem of any magnitude existing in the coal industry in New South Wales at that time was a direct consequence of the Bellbird dispute. Having regard to the number of men displaced from Bellbird who had secured employment elsewhere, it was apparent that if a satisfactory settlement of the Bellbird dispute could be arrived at, almost all of the former employees of the mine could be readily re-employed. The representatives of the miners’ federation intimated that they would look at that matter quite realistically, with a willingness to find a reasonable solution. I gathered’ that the employers approached the matter in the same spirit.. If those were genuine expressions of opinion, it should not be long before that dispute is satisfactorily resolved.
– By a strange coincidence, I want to ask a question similar to that asked by the honorable member for Robertson. He has poached on my preserve. Bellbird is not in his electorate;
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must ask his question.
– We can regard that as a preface to the question. Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that there is grave discontent on the coal-fields of New South Wales due to the fact that Mr. Justice Gallagher has issued an award which gives the right to work a second shift at Elrington colliery? The second shift caused grave discontent when I was a coal-miner. We struck for fifteen months to secure the abolition of the second shift, but now Mr. Justice Gallagher has re-instituted it. We do not want to resurrect the circumstances that led to a grave fight which lasted for fifteen months, but, as employees in other mines are going on strike because of the effect of this award, I ask the Minister whether it is possible for the award to be suspended or for negotiations to be entered into with Mr. Justice Gallagher. I know that Mr. Justice Gallagher was appointed by a Labour government, but the only time-
– Order ! The honorable member is giving a lot of information. Will he ask his question?
– Order !
Opposition members interjecting ,
-Order! Honorable members will remain quiet, and the honorable member for Hunter will ask his question.
– The only occasions on which coal-miners have consented to work the second shift have been in relation to developmental work.
– Will the honorable member now ask his question?
– Now it is proposed to extract pillars on the second shift at the Elrington colliery. I ask, therefore, whether sympathetic consideration will be given to those persons who endanger their lives in the extraction of pillars on the second shift.
– As the honorable member pointed out in putting his question, Mr. Justice Gallagher was appointed to his responsible position by a former Labour government, and he has enjoyed the confidence of this Government and the Labour Government of JJ ew South Wales. He constitutes the Coal Industry Tribunal, which is appointed jointly by the Australian Government and the Labour Government of New South Wales. I believe that it is fair to say that he has enjoyed the confidence, not only of governments, but also of all sections of the coal industry. He is a man of great experience and knowledge of the industry. I do not profess to be competent to discuss the award that he has made, but my understanding of it is that it gives a very limited right to work a second shift in this particular colliery, and then only in portion of it. I may be mistaken about the facts, but that is my understanding of the award. I am quite certain that Mr. Justice Gallagher is very well aware of the long history of controversy on this matter, and I cannot imagine that he would have made an award in the terms indicated by the honorable gentleman without being fully aware of the implications of his decision and without having convinced himself of the necessity for such an order to be made. I put it quite directly to the honorable member, whose interest in this industry throughout his long representation in the Parliament is well recognized, that, if there is to be any security and any continuing prospect of prosperity and regular employment ip this industry, the miners’ federation must put its old prejudices behind it and look realistically and sensibly at the problems associated with individual mines as they arise. I feel that such a spirit was more evident at the conference that was held in Sydney last Thursday than it had ever been before. I regarded that as being a healthy sign, and I hope that all concerned will face up to this issue in a sensible and co-operative way and not involve members of the miners’ federation in another futile, stupid and wasteful stoppage.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. It relates to a matter which was the subject of a question of mine in this House some time ago, and which was recently raised on two occasions by the Leader of the Opposition, lt refers to a promise made by the Prime Minister in, I think, more than one policy speech, that an all-party constitutional committee would be appointed. Can the right honorable gentleman give the House any assurance that that committee will be appointed before the House rises at the end of this sessional period?
– Yes, I can give the honorable member that assurance.
– I ask the Prime Minister for another assurance. Will he assure the House that he will lay on the table, at some time during this sessional period, the papers concerning the double dissolution of the Parliament in 1951?
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise able to say whether proper customs facilities can be provided in Canberra, so that residents of the Australian Capital Territory may not be required to clear through the Customs Department in Sydney dutiable parcels consigned to them from overseas?
– I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member that the matter to which he refers has already been attended to. It has been under consideration for some time, and, as from yesterday, the 1st May, in association with the Postmaster-General, I have established in Canberra a new facility for dealing with mail matter which may contain dutiable goods addressed to residents of the Australian Capital Territory. Under the former procedure, all mail matter addressed to residents of the Territory, which needed attention from the point of view of the assessment of duty, had to be dealt with at the parcels post office in Sydney, with the result that there was inevitable delay and inconvenience to residents of the Australian Capital Territory. I hope that the new facility will prove useful, especially to the growing business community in Can1 berra, because it will enable imported goods to be dealt with directly in Canberra, without being delayed at all in Sydney.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House whether this Government has made available, in conjunction with the Queensland Government, a sum of money for the alleviation of the distress and loss that occurred because of the recent cyclones in north Queensland? If such a sum has been made available, can the right honorable gentleman tell the House the amount of it? Has the Treasurer considered my request that special consideration should be given to losses suffered by ex-servicemen settlers in the Abergowrie area?
– Answering the latter part of the question first, I repeat what I said previously in reply to a question asked by the honorable member, that the matter of compensation for losses suffered because of cyclones, floods or other acts of God is entirely the responsibility of the State Government concerned. Any representations made by a State Government to this Government on a £l-for-£l basis have received due consideration.
– It is a national problem.
– It is a national problem, but the States have certain sovereign rights and responsibilities, and it is nearly time that the honoable member knew it. With regard te the other part of the question, I do not know exactly what amount has been granted for the purposes indicated by the honorable member, but I do know that information was awaited as to an assessment of the loss and the extent to which the Queensland Government would contribute towards it, so that due consideration could be given to making a grant on a £l-for-£l basis. I will obtain the information that is sought and let the honorable member know, but any delay in connexion with the matter is entirely the responsibility of the sovereign State of Queensland.
– Can the Minister for Externa] Affairs say whether it is a fact that volunteers are required from the Australian Army or the reserve to go to Palestine with the United Nations truce supervision forces? To whom do people apply for these positions, and can the Minister give details of the length of service, pay and any other qualifications necessary?
– It is true that one of the several results of the visit to the Middle East of Mr. Dag Hammarskjoeld, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has been the proposal for the creation of about twenty additional posts to the United Nations Observer Corps on the borders of Israel and the surrounding Arab states. It is also true that Australia has been asked to provide four or five such officers. Three or four other countries have also been asked the same thing. The information that has been given to us is that officers should be of about the rank of major. Speaking from memory, I believe the term of service will be until at least 31st October of this year. The remuneration is not in my mind, although we have it on paper. Officers, ‘I understand, should not necessarily be members of the regular armed forces, but can be retired officers who could be re-engaged for the period of this new engagement. I understand that they need not necessarily be officers of the Arm j, but can be from any of the three fighting services. I may say that this is only in its international aspect, an affair concerning myself and the Department of External Affairs. It is really a matter for my friend and colleague, the Minister for Defence, and I think from him to the Minister for the Army. I have already had a very large number of applications, which, of course, I have passed straight on to the Minister for Defence, but I take this opportunity to say that it is no use addressing applications for these posts to me; they should be addressed to the proper quarter, which is the Minister for Defence ot the Minister for the Army.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether graziers have the right to withhold from sale wool produced on their properties if they consider the price offered to be unsatisfactory. If so, does the Minister agree that shearers and all other workers are justified in refusing to sell their labour-power if they are dissatisfied with the rate of pay or price offered, or if they regard the conditions of employment as unsatisfactory?
– 1 think the honorable member has hardly presented a parallel in what he has put forward. As I understand the position, the distinction that applies between the grazier in his situation of being the holder of a commodity which he can elect to sell or not to sell as he chooses and the members of the union in the case in question, is that the members of the union were parties to arbitration proceedings under which presumably the parties were, by implication at least, willing to accept the independent decision given on the issues that they had willingly submitted for adjudication. However, as has been previously pointed out by me from this place, the aspect of the current dispute to which the most pointed criticism could be directed is the fact that the union principally concerned had employed tactics of incitement and intimidation which deprived or at least sought to dissuade the individual shearer from exercising his own free choice. My understanding of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of shearers would gladly work at the rates prescribed by the arbitration tribunal if the union of which they are members would only give them a clearance to go ahead and accept the rates that the tribunal has prescribed.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. MoMahon) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to establish a Fisheries Development Trust Account, and for purposes connected therewith.
Question put -
That the resolution be adopted.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speakeb - Mr. C. F. Aderm ann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 1st May (vide page 1620).
Clauses1and2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
.- The committee will see that the clause states - “ fish “ includes whales, turtles, dugong, crustacea and oysters and other shellfish;
My comment at this stage is that it is regrettable that the Government has seen fit to include whales in the definition of “ fish “. I understand that the intention of the department, or of whoever is responsible, is probably to simplify the measure and its administration. However, this definition is regrettable,because it might cause some people to think that, since a whale is defined as a fish in an act of the Parliament, it is accepted that it is a fish. I take it that most honorable members know it is a mammal. I see no reason why definitions in acts of the Parliament should tend, perhaps, to mislead people about the particular form of life to which a creature belongs. Dugongs also are defined as fish. Here, I confess my ignorance. I am not quite sure whether a dugong is a mammal.
– It is a mammal.
– I thank the honorable member for elucidating the matter and removing my ignorance. In my case we have a member of the Parliament who did not know whether a dugong was a mammal or a fish. That very simple illustration shows how misleading this particular act could become.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! Private conversations must now cease. There is altogether too much noise and I cannot hear the speaker.
– Do not look at me. I am not whispering.
– Order ! The honorable member will obey the. Chair.
– I regret, in those circumstances, that this form of life, whales, dugongs, and so on, should, no doubt for the purposes of simplification of administration, be classified as fish. It is entirely misleading, quite wrong, and a regrettable practice. At a later’ stage the Minister may be able to produce some old act to show that at some stage or other of my parliamentary career
I have been guilty of some similar mistake or omission, but that would not make this procedure correct. The act provides that a dugong shall come under the heading of “ fish “. I understand now that a dugong is a mammal. Why it should be classified as a fish, I do not know. Surely, the bill should be so drafted as to make it. quite clear that the act applies to mammals, and that mammals include turtles, dugongs, and whales. I do not think that any act of Parliament should, include particular forms of life in a rather doubtful classification. I think that this is a very relevant criticism and I do not make it in a carping manner. It is a great mistake to adopt this course. This is not a matter of politics, and it is feasible that previous governments may have been guilty of similar mistakes.
– The honorable gentleman might benefit from a course in zoology.
– That would perhaps be very useful to the honorable member. He would understand from what particular species he came; in fact, we all would understand. There arn other features of this clause which are of very great importance now. Clause 3 includes a reference to the fisheries development trust account. At this stage, I take the opportunity to re-emphasize that the Opposition has no objection to the establishment of such a trust account, but it does object to a very valuable asset of the people being sold and the net returns from the sale being put into this account. If the Government believes that further funds are necessary for the development of the fishing industry, those funds should come from Consolidated Revenue or from some other source. That is almost the sole reason why we are opposing this measure. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) last night, during the second-reading debate on this measure, went to great pains to prove that after all the loss to the community would not be as great as the £200,000 annual profit of the Australian Whaling Commission, which the Government is relinquishing. He said that the loss would be nothing like that amount, because the company taking over the undertaking, on the assumption that it continued to make an annual profit of £200,000, would, in contradistinction to the Government, pay income tax. My rough and ready calculation indicates that the income tax, company tax, and other taxes payable by a company on an income of £200,000 would possibly be in the vicinity of £60,000.
– No. The personal income tax of each shareholder has to be included.
– I understand that the company taking over the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission will be subject to company tax. If T am wrong in that belief, I should like to be put right.
– That is right.
– In addition, the shareholders will probably be subject to some taxation of personal income after they receive their dividends. The effect of all this is that the total tax levied on a private company’s annual profit of £200,000 would not exceed about £60,000. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) shakes his head. He has, perhaps, a better knowledge of the taxation of big companies than I have. Rut even conceding a point to him, and even admitting that the company and its shareholders would pay £100,000 in taxes, the Commonwealth would be £100,000 in credit by retaining the station.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. Order ! The honorable member is getting wide of Clause 3.
– I thought you might say that, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but this is the clause that refers to the establishment of the fisheries development trust account, and as the Government is establishing the trust account from the proceeds of the sale of a government asset, I thought that perhaps it might be wise to make at least a passing reference to the taxation aspect of the transaction.
– Order ! The honorable member will note that Clause 4 deals with the establishment of the trust account.
– I will have another go when Clause 4 is under consideration. I thank you very much. That is all I have to say in regard to that feature of the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Fisheries Development Trust Account).
– I think that this is the only stage in the consideration of this bill where I can make certain remarks which I wish to make.
– Why does the honorable member wish to stonewall his own bill?
– I want something, and when I want something I go for it, regardless of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– The honorable member will not get it.
– What does the honorable gentleman bet me?
– The honorable member for Moore should go for the raw prawn.
– No. I leave that to the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin). I believe that he is an expert on prawns. I understand he knows something about cooked prawns. When I spoke to the bill yesterday I mentioned the absence of one very important provision, namely the establishment of an authority of some kind to implement the intentions of the bill. I consider that something in the nature of a statutory body should be appointed. 1 quite concede that at the present stage this proposal is still so much in its infancy that the actual method of operation cannot as yet be clearly delineated. I am very happy to note that a foundation of this excellent scheme has been laid, but I believe that it is necessary to appoint a statutory body to administer the proposal contained in the bill. I do not desire the appointment of another whaling commission, but I should like some authority other than a mere departmental head to whom one could make representations for assistance to a particular branch of the fishing industry. I desire something more than that. An advisory body may be appointed, but I should prefer an authority with a little more power. I can only suggest a statutory body with power to take specific action along certain lines up to a specified limit. Beyond that the matter would be one for an approach to the
Minister with necessary recommendations, the Minister then at his discretion endorsing the recommendations and making funds available. I should like an assurance from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) that he will put this on his plate or on the plate of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who has been handling this bill. I should think the matter would be the responsibility of the Minister for Primary Industry and I should like an assurance from him now that he will put my suggestion on his plate, have a look at it, and see that something is done to make this bill workable.
– I cannot give the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) an assurance that something will be done to establish a statutory commission or statutory corporation.
– Why not ?
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) should wait until he hears the answer. If he has wanted to make a speech, he has had ample opportunity to. make it. The administration of this bill will be within the jurisdiction of the Department of Primary Industry. The Fisheries Division of the Department of Primary Industry is supervised by a Director of Fisheries who we think is one of the foremost authorities on fisheries problems in the Commonwealth. It has been agreed by the Government, insofar as advice to the Minister is concerned, that a small committee of the Cabinet will be formed in order to channel information to him and in order to make recommendations, should that be thought necessary. Nonetheless, the honorable member’s great knowledge of these problems is known and I am sure that the department will give the most careful consideration to his suggestions.
I do not think that this would be the appropriate time at which to introduce an amendment ; but I do assure the honorable member that the whole question will be examined. When individual proposals are put up, they will be judged on their merits and should a statutory commission or a statutory authority of some kind be needed, it will be introduced.
.- The purpose of clause 4 of this bill is to set up a fisheries development trust account, and I want to congratulate the Government for making this provision because it is a most progressive and constructive step. This Fisheries Development Trust Account will provide for a number of things, but the main idea is to develop the industry of fishing and to use the funds for the publication of scientific reports and other information. I hope that some of this money will be used to encourage what is known as fish-farming, or, as it was called in an article which was written by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) when he returned from Bombay, “rural pisciculture “. There is nothing new in fishfarming which, after all, has been known for 2;000 years. The Chinese are past masters in the art and have been practising it for at least 2,0Q0 years. In Europe, it has been practised for many centuries. Before the last war, Poland got about 50 per cent, of the fish eaten by its people from rural fish-farming. It has extended considerably recently, particularly in the United States of America and Canada. When the Minister for External Affairs .returned from Bombay he wrote in the article to which I have referred -
It is not far from the .truth to say that .Australia is one of the few countries of the world in which fish farming is not yet carried on, at least to some extent.
He finished by saying -
One .means that ‘we adopted in Bengal to popularize fish .farming was to introduce it into the schools - to provide schools with a stocked fish-dam and to teach the children how to manure it and to farm “it. The Ash culture habits spread rapidly from the schools to the homes, with ever-widening results. After all, if fish farming can be successfully carried out amongst the illiterate peasants of Bengal, may we not expect that the idea may be developed proportionately .more rapidly and successfully in Australia?
Unfortunately, so far, I do not think that sufficient work has been done in Australia on rural fish farming. A certain -amount ‘of work has been done in Victoria by A. D. Butcher and G. T. Thompson, who have produced an excellent booklet. I hope that the Commonwealth will consider the advisability of making that booklet availa”ble to many primary producers and other people who would, be in a position to use it. In this country, we spend annually £5,500,000 on imported fish, and surely we should do something to develop our own fish resources. We have enormous areas of water. The Hume weir, for example, contains a greater volume of water than Sydney Harbour. It is intended to increase the capacity of that weir to 2,500,000 acre feet. The Eildon Weir in Victoria, the Burrinjuck Dam in New South Wales, and many other weirs could be fully stocked with fish. Lake George is not very far from here; and it is interesting to remember that Lake George, many years ago, was full of Murray cod. I believe that this came about because a person stocked a dam nearby which overflowed and carried the fish into Lake George. They multiplied to such an extent that at one stage a tremendous quantity of fish from Lake George was marketed in Sydney and it was considered that a steam trawler should be put on the lake in order ;to catch its ‘fish. Unfortunately, the lake dried up. A few years ago, it re-filled, and looks like being full for a considerable time.
There is a case for encouraging the States to establish hatcheries which would produce the type of fry that ‘is needed to stock up these large dams and to stock the rivers. The fry could be made available also to people who might wish to purchase them for the purpose of stocking fish farms. There has been a tremendous development of fish farms recently because of the discovery that the manuring of fish farms led to such a terrific increase in the size of the fish. The manuring of fish farms has the same effect as the manuring of pastures. Without the manuring of dams, trout may grow to three or four pounds weight in the natural state, but with manuring, they have been known to grow to eight or ten pounds weight. Recently, a dam was emptied three years after it had been stocked with trout, and some of the fish had grown to the size of 8 lb. in three years. Surely, when a system such as this fish farming has been shown to be so good, it is time that the Government assisted the States to increase the popularity of the practice. In some cases, I believe that dams have produced half a ton of fish annually per acre, and there have even been records of 2 tons of fish per acre having been obtained from a dam annually. That is something we cannot afford to ignore. I hope ,that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) -will do his utmost to help the States by assisting them in con.Lemon with hatcheries.
We have to get types of fish that are suitable, and then go ahead and produce an enormous number of fry and make them available to people. We have two ideal types of Australian fish. One is the callop, yellow belly, or golden perch as it is known in different places. It is an extremely good fish and one which multiplies rapidly in size, gaining a weight of 15 lb. within a remarkably short period. It is, without doubt, the best fish anywhere in Australia for use in this region or anywhere from here westward in New South Wales, and in Victoria and South Australia. In addition, of course, we have a magnificent fish in the Murray cod. It is nothing for the Murray cod to grow up to 100 lb. and individual cases have been reported of cod being caught far in excess of that weight. Anything that can be done to assist the States to develop their hatcheries will aid primary production in Australia enormously. The State of New South Wales has done something in this line. I saw a small drum in which a few fish had been placed, and I understand that they were being taken to Adaminaby for breeding purposes. Here we have a fund which has as its object the increasing of fish production in Australia and one “of the best ways in which . we can do that is to say to the States, “ How can we help you increase the output of your hatcheries?” In addition. I think that we should say, “ We will be prepared to help you in any way, by sending out pamphlets or anything of that nature which will encourage people on the land to go in more for this type of fish farming”. I hope that the Minister will take this into consideration.
.- I do not disagree with the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn). Tha development of fisheries in our inland waters with a view to the greater supply of the excellent fish which are to be found there is a very desirable objective, but I would issue a warning. As the Government has the numbers, one can assume that the trust account will be established. I sincerely hope that it will not be used to expand the fisheries section of the department, or encourage it to take over the function of fisheries development in the respective States. In every State fisheries departments are already in existence. Many are 100 years old. So far as I know them, they are excellently staffed but always short of money. They have at their disposal a vast fund of knowledge of indigenous and imported fish. They are the instrumentalities that should do the actual work.
I see no objection to this Government making available from the trust account to the respective States money to assist them to attain objectives of the kind advocated by the honorable member for Farrer. After all, this Government is continually harping on the need for economy, and the evil of having too many bureaucrats. It alleges that if Labour were in office here it would encourage centralization and the concentration of all administrative activity in this capital city of Canberra. On the contrary, our desire has always been to see power decentralized from Canberra to provinces, States or whatever they ma.y be called, just as the State governments delegate their powers to cities and municipalities - sometimes extending and sometimes contracting them. Under that system there would be no danger of centralizing administration and tins, after all, is what people object to most strongly. The Minister should keep a very strict guard against any tendency towards the duplication of work done by the States. That applies to fisheries development both on the mainland and within the 3-mile limit. 1 should not like to see any intrusion by the Commonwealth into the field in which the States operate. Money could be made available from the fund to help the States and, in particular, to extend research work and disseminate the information gleaned by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
.- The debate lias revealed quite clearly that the criticism levelled at this bill by the Opposition in the early stages is shared by some supporters of the Government. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) have indicated that the wisdom of establishing a fisheries development trust account, such as is provided for in clause 4 of the bill, must lie tested by asking whether it will be put to adequate use for the purposes set out. One knows very well that a trust account is very often nothing more than a receptacle in which to hide funds for a particular time or a particular purpose - sometimes to create a surplus for more general use in connexion with the economic policy of the Government. Honorable members want to know whether the trust fund will be used adequately for the development of the fishing industry. The doubt was, I think, raised in the minds of Opposition members partly because of the manner in which the proposal was put forward. It has been associated with the sale of the assets of Hie whaling commission. It was apparent on the 16th February, and again on the 22nd February, when this matter was first raised, that the Government was somewhat uncomfortable, to say the least, in relation to the sale of the assets of the whaling commission. It nevertheless proceeded with that intention in a manner that I am sure will be examined later by ti is committee. It is quite possible that this bill has been presented because the Government wishes to hide, as much as it can, the circumstances under which it has decided to sell the assets of the whaling commission. Here the Government is saying, “We are using the proceeds of this sale to assist the fishing industry”. In this way the Government seeks to justify something which, upon the grounds that it has previously chosen to put forward, is in no way justified. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has given us information, more substantial than we have received hitherto, about the way in which this fund might be used. He said that the application of the fund would be in the hands of his department, and he referred especially to the Director of Fisheries. It would appear that a good deal of the work involved in giving effect to the bill might be carried out in that department but, as has already been pointed out, the Government has not a very good record in this matter. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) last night showed us the poor record of this Government in relation to tuna fisheries, and the delay, because of inadequate funds, in the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The honorable member for Moore and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) pointed out how backward the fisheries of Australia have become. The States fisheries departments and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization no doubt possess the resources needed to give effect to the bill, but the Government has given ns no indication that it has taken any action to explore this field. Presumably the bill has been introduced without the benefit of a prior investigation, in association with the State departments or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, of the way in which it might be made to ; work. This reveals a considerable inadequacy in the presentation of the measure and must, to some extent, justify the view taken by the Opposition that it has been submitted now mainly to cover up the way in which the whaling commission’s assets have been sold. Had the Government told the House that it had been in. touch with the State fisheries authorities and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and had, as a’ remit, discovered ways and means by which this money could ‘ be devoted to particular purposes, it would have been a very different matter. Presumably none of those steps has so far been taken, and I think that these arp the defects which the Government should endeavour to remedy as soon as possible.
It is not the intention of the Opposition to oppose, in principle, the provision of assistance in the conduct of research in this field. It has been the purpose of the Opposition, throughout the debate on this measure, to ensure that what is done shall be done properly.
– I should like to assure the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) that the problems of fish-farming- are known to my department, and will be among the problems that will be investigated by thu department’s officials and, if necessary, by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I also assure him that the problem of the distribution of literature is covered in clause 6 of the . bill, and that that distribution will be one of the functions of the new division.
I should also like to assure the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who has taken a very great interest in the past in the problem of our fisheries, and knows a considerable amount about it, to judge from a reading of the old records, that clause 6 places certain restrictions on the activities of the Commonwealth under this measure. In the first place, it is not intended that the Commonwealth should in any way infringe on the powers of the various State governments and their departments of fisheries. “What is intended in this measure is that the activities of the State authorities shall be supplemented. The honorable member for Lalor will see, set out in clause 6, the purposes for which the trust fund account may be used. Subparagraph (a) of paragraph (1.) of that clause provides that one of the purposes for which moneys standing to the credit of the account may be applied is -
The initiation or continuation of research or investigation in connexion with, or for the promotion of, the fishing industry.
I assure the honorable member that there are certain limitations on the powers of the Commonwealth in this respect, and that they are covered by clause 6. I also assure him that it is not intended in any way to interfere with the powers of the State departments of fisheries, but merely to supplement their activities.
– I do not wish to take much time on the bill, but I wish to point out that I do not think that the Minister was in the House when the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr.
Whitlam) dealt last night with the question of research in relation to fishing beyond the territorial waters of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Werriwa dealt with the history of that matter so far as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is concerned. I should like the Minister to examine the statements made by the honorable member for Werriwa, because they seem to show that, for five years at least, the project of getting a suitable vessel, which is absolutely essential, and which the Chifley Government had decided on, in principle, has been postponed. Nothing has been done about it, and it is a really sorry and disgraceful thing that so important a sphere of research as that pertaining to the development of fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits should be neglected. Each year, in the report presented to us, there has been an excuse - and a very lame one - that the necessary money has never been provided. The principle of obtaining the money for fisheries research and development from the proceeds of the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s enterprise which, as the Minister knows, we attacked even more directly and strongly, seems to me to be an extraordinary principle. We favour the encouragement of research and development as such. I should like the Minister to obtain the information necessary to enable him to inform the Parliament, at a suitable time, why the project approved by the Chifley Government for the provision of the necessary vessel has been shelved, on one pretext or another, for nearly six years. Of course, it may not be possible for the Minister to obtain and provide us with that information while this debate is still in progress. The decision to obtain a vessel was taken by the Chifley Government, in which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, within whose ambit of responsibility fell matters affecting fisheries. The Treasury approved the project when Mr. Chifley was Treasurer, and plans for the provision of the vessel had been, at any rate, adumbrated and commenced when the Chifley Government left office, it being obviously essential for the conduct of the necessary research that there should be a suitable research vessel properly equipped. Nothing has been done about that matter, however, in the six years since the Government took office.
Who is responsible for this neglect?. Is it the Commonwealth .Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or is it the administration of the department that deals directly with fisheries? The statement made by the honorable member for Werriwa last, night provided one of the most remarkable examples of postponement, red-tape and vacillation that lias ever come to my notice. We should know the explanation for this neglect. It reminds, me of the Dickens story about the Circumlocution Office. Nothing is done, and the reason for the inactivity which is given each year is merely copied from the report of the previous year. Who is responsible for this position? I do not necessarily blame any of the Ministers of the Crown for it because, in the delegation of powers to officials, it is often not possible for a responsible Minister to ensure that everything that should be done is done. It may not be the responsible Minister who is at fault in this case, but there ought to be some investigation made to discover who has been negligent in connexion with such an important matter as this, and the guilty party or parties should have to explain their conduct. I am directing my remarks to the Minister for Primary Industry because I take it that, in conformity with the present demarcation of functions in the Government, he would be the responsible Ministor. I could elaborate on the matter, but I do not wish to repeat in committee what my colleague the honorable member for Werriwa said last night on the subject. What has happened seems to show an almost studied neglect in the. development of vital research work in connexion with Australian fisheries beyond territorial waters. If there is an explanation for this neglect we. should have it, and if it is shown that the inactivity in this matter is the result of neglect, something ought to be done about it. It was only to emphasize that important point that I rose to speak.
– I do not want to be provocative in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), but I have had referred to me the problems oi the necessity for the provision of a fisheries research vessel. The right honorable gentleman would understand that, in the first place. I did not think it appropriate that I should take any action in that regard until, first, the Fisheries Division was vested within the jurisdiction of my department, and, secondly, until this bill became law. Nonetheless, the department is aware of the problem, and I am certain that it will, within a very short time, submit a paper to me in connexion with the purchase or construction of such a vessel. I am not sure whether the actual responsibility lies with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or the Fisheries Division, but I can assure the right honorable gentleman that the matter will receive my very prompt attention, and that whatever action has to be taken will be taken by me and my department.
.- 1 was pleased to hear the Minister say that it is not the intention of the Government, under this measure, to interfere with the States, but to supplement their activities in respect of fisheries. The Minister read sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (1.) of clause 6 which reads - the initiation or continuation of research or investigation in connexion with, or for the promotion of, the fishing industry;
He said that that was the main objective of the bill. Last night, when I was speaking on this subject, I mentioned that I considered that the principle contained in the bill could be made to apply to fisheries other than sea fisheries. An honorable member said that, under the Constitution, the bill must have application only to sea fisheries. In reply to that interjection I.’ said that it would be possible for the Commonwealth, operating through the States, to assist in the development of our inland fishing waters, such as the Murray River, where professional fishermen are engaged in an industry which supplies the Melbourne market with large numbers of Murray cod. That type of fish comes chiefly from the Murray River, although it comes from other places also. _ The development of those fishing grounds would be beneficial for Australia. I pointed out last night that there is a great danger of a river like the Murray having its fish stocks depleted so seriously as to make the fishing industry unprofitable for professional fishermen, who at present rely on it for their livelihood. I wish the Minister to tell me whether I am correct in saying that it would be possible, oven if not probable, under this bill, for the Government to develop such fishing grounds, if it so desired, in co-operation with the States - and that is the important point - and so assist in fostering the fishing industry in the Murray River and other inland rivers, and also in inland lakes and places other than the sea. Before the Minister replies, I want to make it clear that I have said “ through the States”. T think that is the vital point. It is probable that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth could not assist directly in places such as those I have suggested, but if it were to act through the States, I do not think there is anything in the Constitution - there is certainly nothing in the bill - that would prevent it from taking the course that 1 have advocated.
– It will bo looked at.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Moneys to be paid into the account).
is of particular importance-. It is the part of the bill to which the Opposition takes particular exception. In suitable parliamentary or draftsman’s language, it provides for all the proceeds of th<: sale of the Australian “Whaling Commission’s station at Carnarvon, Western Australia, to be paid into the Fisheries Development Trust Account. At this stage I need not elaborate our objections to that sub-clause. More will be said about that matter when we come to consider the bill that will enable the Government to sell the Carnarvon whaling station.
But I think something might be said about sub-clause (2.), the purpose of which is to provide other sources from which money may flow to the Fisheries Development Trust Account. In paragraph (a), it is stated that there shall be paid into the account moneys appropriated by law for the purposes of the account. That highlights the fact that this Government, if it had any sense, would not sell the whaling station. If it, kept the station, it would be able to pay into the trust account annually a profit of £200,000, as well as other moneys that might need to be appropriated for the purposes of the account.
Paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2.) states that there shall be paid into the account moneys paid to the Commonwealth for the purposes of the account. That is a very sensible provision. Paragraph (c) states that there shall be paid into the account moneys received by the Commonwealth from the disposal, by sale or otherwise, of land, goods, or other property acquired or produced, or for work paid for, out of moneys standing to the credit of the account. That is understandable.
Then we come to a really astonishing provision. It would appear that this Government, which professes to be so much opposed to socialism, is going to do a little bit of socialization in relation to investment. Paragraph (d), which also deals with the moneys that shall be paid into the account, reads as follows : -
Moneys received by the Commonwealth in repayment of, or as interest on, loans made out of moneys standing to the credit of the Account or as dividends on shares purchased out of moneys standing to the credit of the Account.
One could understand it if the Government were to invest money from this trust account in government bonds or government stocks. But it appears that the Government is giving itself the necessary power to indulge in the speculative work of purchasing shares and, if it is lucky, becoming the recipient of dividends. That is an extraordinary provision. It is quite clear that any money from the account which the Government invests in that way will be invested in private undertakings. In many cases, they will be shaky undertakings of doubtful financial stability. That is obvious, because if they were not of a shaky or doubtful character the people concerned in them would be able to go to their banking friends and raise the money that they required through the instrumentalities of which honorable members opposite are so fond. Paragraph (d) of sub-clause (2.) indicates that in many cases money from this trust account will be invested in shaky fishing industry propositions. It may be that occasionally those shows will go “ bung “. In that event, the Government would be possessed of shares on which it would not get a dividend. That would be a pretty shaky sort of investment.
The whole thing is ironic. Last night, we saw the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) shed crocodile tears as he expressed his resentment of the Labour party’s opposition to this bill. He said that, by opposing it, we were doing something that would injure the poor, unfortunate people who braved the terrors of the sea. Let us see who they are. If you travel round the 12,000-mile coastline of Australia, Mr. Temporary Chairman, you will find that the men who endure the hardships and perils of the sea are men who go out in little boats, propelled by a couple of oars or a small engine. They take all the risks in the world. They take risks equivalent to the risks of war. But I make bold to say that not one of them will get two “ bob “ out of this Fisheries Development Trust Account. Not one of them will be materially assisted by it. I make bold to prophesy that-
– The honorable member does not know.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) will be reminded of this matter at a later stage when some of his friends in Queensland who own small motor boats, worth, perhaps, £1,000, or very small trawlers, go to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) and shed tears on his doorstep, asking for a loan of £1,000 to enable them to improve their fishing equipment. I make bold to prophesy that they will not get a razoo.
When this measure has been passed, what will happen will be that a substantial number of companies will be formed which require boats valued at anything from £100,000 to £250,000. The people who own these companies will go along to the Minister. Perhaps some of them will be introduced by the honorable member for Wide Bay. He will say to tin.’ Minister, “ These people are reputable citizens. They have £100,000 in cash, which they are prepared to risk in h fishing enterprise. They want another £150,000. I think that, in the interests of the fishing industry, they should get it. With assistance from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, they will be able to do research work. They are prepared to risk their £100,000. Can you put in the other £150,000 ? “ I bet £1 to ls. that they will get their £150,000. As security, the Government will take some shares in their enterprise, on which it might or might not get a dividend.
That is the reason why provision is made in this clause for the payment into the account of dividends on shares. I suggest that in many cases of that kind the Government will make a loss. But, while the Government is incurring losses by investing in such enterprises, the fellow with a small boat propelled by a couple of oars or a small engine will not get a bean. If he goes to the Minister, he will be asked, “ What have you got? “ He will say, “ I have a motor boat with a 10 horse-power engine, and I have some fishing tackle. I want a new engine “. He will be told what so many other people who have applied for government assistance have been told, even by the War Service Homes Division, in many cases. He will be told, “ This is an unsound financial proposition “.
In the case of a big show, however, the position will be different. As an illustration of that, I invite honorable members to remember the story of the sale of the whaling station at Carnarvon. This Government will “ shell “ out to the big shows. That station is to be sold for £8S0,000. There is to be a cash down payment of £350,000, and payment of the balance is to be spread over three years. The purchaser will pay £120,000 in each of the next two years from profits that will amount to about £200,000 a year. There will be a final of payment of £290,000 in the third year. All the security that the Government will have will be some shares, or the station itself, which, during occupancy by the buyer company, may deteriorate very seriously. The price of whale oil may drop to almost nothing. In that event, all the Government will end up with will be a few documents. It will have “ done its dough “ and the station will be gone.
That is what will happen in some, not all, cases. Some enterprises will b« brilliantly successful. But if a. project is soundly based, should not the people concerned get their finance from the hanks? Should not they go to the Commonwealth Bank, which understands banking, and say, “We propose to build or buy a boat which will cost £10,000. We want to use it to go fishing in the bight for sharks “. Is it not the responsibility of the Government to say, “ The Commonwealth Bank of Australia makes overdrafts available to soundly based enterprises. If they are soundly based, they will get the money; but if they are not soundly based, they will not get the money “. If a risk is involved, there is no reason in the world why the Government, after considering the bank’s report, should not say that it would guarantee the bank against any loss that might be incurred. I am not casting any personal reflection on officials, but, if this measure is passed, the department concerned will bc confronted by a proposition-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– L am amazed at the ignorance of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) of the Australian fishing industry. I can quite understand why he talks continually about the whaling industry in Western Australia. But we have already given him the credit for having established the whaling station at Carnarvon. We have pointed out that, having fulfilled its national purpose, it is being sold, and that the moneys so obtained will bp invested in other fishing activities that will bring added wealth to this country.
The honorable member has referred to fishing along the coast of the electorate of Wide Bay, which I represent. Wide Bay is a very wide bay, and. its shores form the whole coastline of the electorate of Wide Bay. The Queensland Government, has been endeavouring to develop the fishing industry in the estuaries and along the coast in that area, but it has not helped in any way to develop the ocean fishing industry. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), when introducing this measure, stated that it was the intention of this Government to develop the ocean fisheries, where tremendous marine wealth abounds. We must give credit to the Government for endeavouring to do something new - something that is different from what the State governments are doing around the Australian coast. Does the honorable member for Lalor know of any Labour government that has assisted the fishing industry to the same degree as this Government proposes to assist it? This Government is endeavouring to develop new phases of the industry for the production of new wealth, which will be of great advantage in the future. The enterprises that will be established will not be shaky, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Lalor. Their financial position will be investigated, and they will be given a good chance of making a success of their activities.
– They will be enterprises to which no bank will advance money, but which the honorable member will ask the Government to assist.
– I point out to the honorable member for Lalor, who seems to know very little about the fishing industry in Queensland, that splendid fishing grounds have been developed along the coast and in the rivers of that State. On the coast in the electorate of Wide Bay stand two of Queensland’s largest fishing depots. The depot at Maryborough is the largest, and the depot at Tin Can Bay is the third largest in the .State. As I explained at the second-reading stage, within the last year we have discovered in the ocean some of Australia’s greatest potential fishing grounds. With adequate assistance, fishing on those grounds could be developed and could be of great value to Australia. A potential export industry worth £1,000,000 annually would be worthwhile to Australia, and would be worthy of the Government’s attention.
The Government is approaching this matter in a manner that should bring to it a lot of credit instead of the criticism that is being levelled against it by the Australian Labour party. The Labour party seems to be bereft of ideas for the development of new industries in Australia. Almost all Australian industries, including the fishing industry, have been developed by private enterprise, by men whom the Labour party seems to despise.
– Order ! The honorable member is making a second-reading speech. He should confine himself to the clause now before the committee.
– I understand that the clause deals with these matters, upon which almost the whole bill is founded. It is only right that, as has been provided in this clause, financial assistance in the form of loans should be given to people who are prepared to develop a new industry. After all, such assistance is given to other primary industries. Why should it not also be given to the fishing industry? There is no reason why it should not be given. To give such assistance is quite legitimate. I know of no ocean fishing enterprises that are looking for charity; rather are they looking for assistance in the form of loans such as those that have been made available to other primary industries - loans that they will have a reasonable chance of repaying to the Government.
I commend the Government for introducing this bill, and particularly the clause that is now under discussion. The assistance for which provision is made will afford much relief to those persons who .are trying to develop new phases of the fishing industry along the Australian coastline. I support the bill to the hilt.
.Allegations of ignorance and of people being bereft of ideas are not argument. When my time expired a little earlier, I was about to inform the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) and, in particular, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) that, if they were not very careful, there would develop within the department something in the nature of a banking inquisition, and that it would be necessary for the Minister to have about him a number of officials who were competent to analyse people’s financial position and to advance or refuse to advance loans to them accordingly. The honorable member for Wide Bay has stated that he is in favour of loans, and that loans are granted to other primary producers. Such loans have been advanced, but at low rates of interest fixed by the Australian Labour party.
– The Labour party even sold wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel.
– That does not constitute argument either. Not long ago the honorable member for Wide Bay endorsed the proposal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to increase interest rates. If he asserts that the fishing industry is a primary industry, let me remind him that low rates of interest will not apply to money borrowed by fishermen from the banking institutions. Although it is true that loans are made available to primary producers in New South Wales and many other States, they are made available through the banking institutions. If the Government is not very careful in the administration of this development trust account, the Minister will find it necessary to surround himself with people who are in the nature of a banking staff and who can thoroughly analyse people’s financial position and ascertain whether loans are justified. The whole burden of my earlier criticism of this measure concerned the people to whom the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) referred last night. He spoke of the small, individual fishermen, who go out and risk the hazards of the sea. They will get nothing from this bill. When, on behalf of those individual fishermen, brave men who do a great service to the people of this country, the honorable member approaches the Minister in six months’ time and asks for a few pounds for them, he will not get it. The money will go to the people who invest money in the larger fishing vessels, and who never leave their suburban homes in the cities adjacent to the fishing grounds. I shall make no further remarks on that aspect, beyond suggesting that financial assistance of this kind should be given through some banking institution, and that it should not be given at the whim of a particular
Minister from some particular fund. If the Government wants to risk its money in an industry, that money should he provided through an authority that is competent to judge the soundness of the industry concerned. Various State governments have, in the past, adopted the practice of providing money for purposes such as this through their various departments, and experience has shown that such schemes have nearly always ended disastrously. I could give many illustrations of that fact.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Application of the Account;.
.- Clause 6 states the purposes for which the money may be .applied. Sub-clause (1.) (a) provides that it may be applied for the initiation or continuation of research or investigation in connexion with, or for the promotion of, the fishing industry. We know that the appropriation measures that are dealt with in this chamber each year provide for certain sums of money to be made available to the Department of Primary Industry for investigation of the ^fishing industry, or for extension work. Provision of funds is also made to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for this purpose. However, it appears that the Government now wishes to provide the money from the sale of this splendid public asset. Sub-clause (1.) (b) provides that money in the account may be applied to financial assistance, by way of loan or provision of share capital, or otherwise, to persons engaged, or proposing to become engaged, in the fishing industry. It appears that those who will be responsible for the administration of the development account will have the responsibility of deciding whether they will invest in shares in. some concern which, from outward inspection, appears quite sound and genuine. That concern may issue a certain number of shares on its own account, and then ask the Government to purchase a number of shares.
– Is the honorable member opposing that provision?
– I am pointing out to the Minister the implications of these provisions, and I am indicating that the fisheries section of the department that he administers will have the responsibility of determining the soundness or otherwise of such propositions. Sub-clause (l.)(c) provides that moneys in the account may be applied for the establishment or development of the fishing industry in a particular place or for a particular purpose. I agree with that provision. Sub-clause (l.)(d) allows the money to be applied for the training of persons in connexion with the fishing industry. That is a very good proposal, too, but let me point out to the Minister that the most successful scheme of training in the whaling industry during recent years involved the training of the staff that is now employed at Carnarvon, and this Government now proposes to dispose of the industry in which that staff is engaged. In the initial stages of operation of that whaling station, we brought out about 50 Norwegians. Most of them finished their contract and returned to Norway. However, among those men were some expertgunners. Two of them are still employed at Carnarvon, and their contract will shortly expire. Two others are employed at private whaling stations. There is at Carnarvon to-day, as a direct result of governmental activities, a very competent staff which this Government proposes to throw, as it were, on to the scrap heap, when it sells the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission to a private firm. 1 know that certain assurances have been given that the people who purchase the Carnarvon station will take over the existing staff, but who wants to transfer from a very desirable set of employers, who provide good conditions, to another set of employers who may or may not provide good conditions? However, the Opposition does not object to the Government’s policy of training people for these industries.
Further paragraphs of sub-clause (1.) refer to extension work. That kind of work is very desirable. In the past the money required for it tas been included in departmental estimates, and that could be done in the future. Now it appears that the Government will provide a lot of money, not only from the sale of the whaling station but also from Consolidated Revenue. The money that has been provided in the past will continue to be provided, but from a different source, and the net result will not be very different, except that the Australian Whaling Com- mission’s assets will have been sold.
I refer again to sub-clause (1.)(b), which covers the granting of financial assistance by way of loan or provision of share capital. If the Minister is not careful he will find that the Department; of Primary Industry will develop into a pawn-broking establishment, and his staff will be engaged in determining the relative merits of numerous claims. That, work is usually done by a bank, whether a State bank or the Commonwealth Bank, and that practice should be adhered to. If the Government wants to be more generous than the banks, it can make grants to the industry.
The Opposition is critical of all these matters to which I have referred, although, like the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand), we do not disagree with the general purposes of the measure. What we disagree with is the proposal to sell an asset of the people in order to provide money for activities which, in the past, have been financed from other sources. In the past, the money required for these purposes has been included in departmental estimates, and has been provided from Consolidated Revenue by the appropriation measures that are dealt with in this chamber each year. That practice should be adhered to.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Mr.McMahon. - I ask for leave to move the third reading of the bill forthwith.
– Is leave granted?
Mr.Pollard. - No.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 19th April (vide page 1490), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. POLLARD (Lalor) [4.42J.- This is a bill for an act to repeal the Whaling Industry Act 1949-1952 and for purposes connected therewith. It is a measure that should have preceded the one that the House has just agreed to. The fact that it comes after that measure only highlights the attempt of the Government to dampen down the iniquity of its proposal to sell a very important; government instrumentality. It is perfectly obvious that if there were nothing in the ordinary course of events that the Government wished to keep from public attention, the measure now before the House would have come first. Then it would have been perfectly obvious that the Labour party would have supported with enthusiasm the establishment of a fisheries development trust fund. That i* perfectly obvious, because the Opposition would have been confronted with a fait accompli. The Government would have had authority to sell the whaling station. A pledge, already given to the people who have to all intents and purposes bought it, would have been thereby practically legalized, but the idea was to throw out the bait for consumption by the public that here is a magnificent gesture by the Commonwealth Government in establishing a gigantic development trust account to help the fishermen, particularly the little fishermen who go out and brave the terrors of the seas. But that was not the procedure.
The Fishing Industry Bill was introduced first and was followed by this measure which takes from the Australian Whaling Commission its authority to control, as far as the sale is concerned, the commission’s assets at Carnarvon and at other places. I emphasize that its assets include the three very valuable chasers that are used to bring the whales from territorial waters to the whaling station. Much has been said about the history of whaling in Australia, but this measure is of such importance, and it is such a bad move on the part of the Government to dispose of these assets, that I think some historical background should be given to this House. After World War II., it was brought to the notice of the Government of the day, particularly by enthusiasts in Tasmania where whaling was probably established first in Australia, that considerable whaling wealth was obtainable in the waters adjacent to Australia and in the Antarctic. The interests concerned emphasized that Norwegian, British and South African whalers were operating in the Antarctic, and that the Japanese were likely to operate there in the near future. Vast wealth was being taken from the Antarctic waters, and it was suggested that it was about time the Australian people woke up and participated in the harvesting of that wealth. Consequently, the Australian Government of the day appointed a sub-committee of the Cabinet and an inter-departmental committee of highly skilled men, including scientists and officers of the Treasury and of the then Department of Commerce and Agriculture, to investigate and report to the Cabinet sub-committee. The report of the inter-departmental committee disclosed that vast wealth was undoubtedly to be won.
It was thought, initially, that it might be possible, and even desirable, for the Australian Government to invest in a capital ship which could go to the Antarctic and win the wealth that was obtainable there from whaling. But, at that time, the war had not long ended, and there arose the question whether it would be possible to obtain a capital ship at a reasonable cost. Inquiries were made, and it was found that a suitable capital vessel would have cost approximately £6,000,000 at that time. That amount was considered an excessive price for the type of vessel required, in the light of expected future developments in shipping values when war losses had been made good.
– Yes, a mother ship to which the whales would be brought by chasers, and which could remain in the whaling area for the whole season. The next best thing was to ascertain whether if would be possible and feasible for the Australian Government itself to establish a shore station to win some of the wealth obtainable from whaling operations in seas adjacent to Australia’s territorial waters, and, in particular, to catch humpback whales, which were reported to be available in very great numbers indeed, lt is known that humpback whales travel up the east and west coasts of Australia in large numbers every season and are available for the taking.
At that time, no one in Australia had any particular practical or other knowledge of whaling. The last shore station had been conducted by the Norwegians at Point Cloates about twenty years before. That station was then in a state of disorder. Machinery, equipment, buildings and facilities were in a sorry condition. The sub-committee reported to the Cabinet that it was not practicable, at least for a government, to rehabilitate that station in such a manner as would make it a sound working proposition. At about that time, quite a number of people had applied to the Australian Government for the allocation of licences to engage in whaling off the Australian coast. Factors that became apparent as a result of those inquiries partly actuated the Government itself when it decided to go into the industry direct. It was found that many of the applicants for Commonwealth licences to take whales off the Australian coast were men of straw who hoped, first, to obtain licences, and, subsequently, on the strength of their holding licences to engage in whaling, from which unlicensed persons were excluded, to float companies and to undertake whaling ventures. It was found, on investigation, that very few, if any of them, had practical knowledge of whaling.
After a good deal of consideration, it was decided that the Australian Government should enter the industry direct. The government of the day had then to decide how best to do this. First, it sought the services of a man who had had experience in shore-based and Antarctic whaling operations. After inquiries had been made in London by the Australian High Commissioner of the day, we obtained the services of Captain Melsom who made certain very excellent recommendations to the Government. Some were not accepted, with ample justification, as was afterwards proved. Many of Captain Melsom’s recommendations were desirable, and, accordingly, they were accepted. It was decided to establish the government whaling station at Carnarvon, in Western Australia, and to appoint a commission to manage it and to conduct all the operations essential toa whaling enterprise. It then became necessary to select a man of suitable drive and capacity to act as chairman of the commission. Mr. Bowes, who is still chairman, was chosen for the task. A representative of the Treasury was appointed to the commission to keep an eye on financial matters, and a representative also of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture was appointed. From the inception of the commission, as long as I was associated with it, Mr. Bowes, Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Stevenson did a first-class job, and gave wholeheartedly of their best. This is bestillustrated by the fact that, in 1951, the first year in which whaling operations were conducted for a full season, COO” whales were taken. In every season since, except for one, in which, I think, only 500 whales were taken, 600 whales have been caught. In five years of operation, profits totalling ‘ £1,000,000, or somewhat more, have been made for the people of Australia.
But something more has been achieved also. The experience we have obtained, the knowledge we have gleaned from the Norwegians who were brought from Norway to help conduct the whaling operations, the techniques that we have learned, the practical experience of the members of the commission and of their executive staff, and the experience of the good team of workers that was marshalled to operate the station, have made available in Australia a large number of trained men who are capable of successfully engaging in whaling operations. Very great knowledge and experience were gained also in the installation of the plant at Carnarvon. Although dollars were scarce at the time, the Chifley Government, on the recommendation of its advisers, set aside sufficient dollars for the import from America of plant of a type that had never been used in Australia before and, in fact, was, at the time, in use in very few other countries. As a result, the extraction of oil at Carnarvon is to-day higher than the rate in Norway or in any other country one may care to mention. This standard of efficiency applies also to all other aspects of the station’s operations. It is the best and the most efficient in the world. As a consequence, it pays the people of Australia substantial dividends, and it has become a model for all who desire to establish themselves in the whaling industry in Australia and, for that matter, in other parts of the world. Visitors to the station are numerous, especially people who desire to invest in the whaling industry. They go to Carnarvon to observe and to learn, and they do not depart disappointed.
The net result is that, already, at Moreton Bay, in Queensland, a private enterprise whaling station is showing substantial profits. The Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, which established a whaling station at Point Cloates almost simultaneously with the establishment of the government station at Carnarvon, has learned a very great deal indeed from the government establishment. The irony of it is that the present Government should now play so false to its undertakings to the Australian people as to dispose of the great public asset which has done such good work. One might compare this action, in fact, with that of a State government in disposing of some very good educational institution after it had shown the way. Probably the greatest tribute to the station’s success lies in the fact that other persons have copied it and learned from it, and finally, in some cases, have cast most envious eyes upon it. Knowing the political philosophy of the Government over a number of years, these persons have been niggling at the Government, white-anting it, getting at its weaker supporters, both in the Ministry and in the ranks, pointing out that the Government is opposed to socialism and asking what part this whaling station should play in the activities of a Liberal government. Eventually, the Government is succumbing to their blandishments and handing over the finest whaling station in the world in the very prime of its life for what might be called a mess of pottage - £350,000 deposit on an asset that is returning £200,000 annually without fail. That is not the worst aspect of the matter. For each of the next two years £120,000 is to he paid, and £290,000 in the third and final year.
– The honorable member’s Labour colleagues offered only £620,000.
– lt is quite true, as my friend from Western Australia says, that my Labour colleagues in the Western Australian Government offered only £620,000, but my honorable friend does not realize that the figure at which the Government is selling this great station to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited does not take into consideration the right to use territorial waters controlled by the State Government and the right to use the land which is leased to the Commonwealth. The freehold of the property is vested in the people of Western Australia, and that is of very considerable value. Has the honorable gentleman considered that? Has he considered that the Western Australian Government feels so annoyed at the sell-out of the people’s assets that those who buy the station may find themselves in a very uncertain position in regard to the licence that is attachable to this project in the event of the return of a Labour government to this Parliament. I issue that warning. We might not have any hesitation in dealing very arbitrarily with a transaction which we consider is of the most phony character. Earlier in my speech I stated that a very great value attaches to the licence itself, and in the early days of inquiries into this project persons were hawking the licence. That was the basis on which they offered inducements to the public to invest capital in their project. Does the honorable gentleman discount that ? Does he desire another reason why the Western Australian Government did not offer more than £620,000? The Western Australian people are becoming very annoyed at the failure of this Government to ensure that effective assistance is rendered to their rapidly developing State. I do not blame the State Government, but the honorable gentleman might, in his speech on the subject, discuss some of the phony aspects of this transaction.
On the 16th February, I asked ‘a question relating to this matter. I asked whether the Government intended to sell the project and whether tenders were to be called. I did not receive any direct answer. I received an evasive, resentful, and non-committal reply from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). The assumption to be justly drawn was that things were not fair and square and in the light of day as they would be with a transaction that was open and honest. Subsequently my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), asked a supplementary question, and again there wa> evasion. This questioning continued from time to time until it was elicited that this very valuable project had not been thrown onto the open market for tender. After all, the people’s assets belong to all the people, and whatever governments may have done in the past or may do in the future, whether or not honorable members who laugh cite precedents, to ensure that matters are clean, clear and above board, tenders should always, where practicable, be called for the right to purchase. Nobody will deny the practicability of calling for tenders in this instance. If the Government was not conscious of its vulnerability to criticism in relation to tenders, what was the reason for the evasiveness of the Minister for Trade? Why did he show resentment that it had come to the light of day that the Government was negotiating the sale? Why did he say that I was being fed with information from some official source? Should not the information that this instrumentality was for sale have been freely available? Why should it be hidden? Even to-day the Opposition and the Parliament do not know the terms of the contract. The correct course is to introduce in the Parliament a bill authorizing the sale of a government instrumentality, disclosing in the schedule the specific terms on which it is to be sold. What is the position to-day? I have here in my possession the terms proposed by the then Department of Commerce and Agriculture - -1 suppose by the Fisheries Division. Irrespective of who drafted them, no doubt the terms were approved by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), Did I obtain this information as a result of its direct presentation to the Parliament by the Minister, or did I have to obtain it by some subterfuge? T have it and I shall quote from it. The draft contains the terms and conditions under which it is proposed that this station shall be disposed of to the Nor’
West Whaling Company Limited. What are these terms and conditions? They are outrageous. Why were they not available to the House for public criticism? Why did I have to obtain them, by some stroke of luck?
– How did the honorable gentleman obtain them?
– I shall tell theMinister, and I do not think he will ever accuse me of dishonesty. They did not come from any governmental source. Never since I relinquished control of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture have I embarrassed any officer by seeking inside information, nor have I done so in this case. The terms and conditions under which this station is to be sold came into my hands certainly not from a departmental source, but probably from a disappointed purchaser. He can obtain them, but a member of the Parliament cannot have available for criticism here the underhand conditions which have been circulated to a few prospective purchasers. Does that not savour of sharp practices? Whatever justification may be advanced by the Government for its policy of selling the people’s property, there can be no justification whatever for an underhand sale which does not give openly to every citizen the right to submit a tender, if he has the necessary money. I even go so far as to say that in certain circumstances it is not necessarily desirable that the highest tender be accepted, but at least everybody should know all about the terms and conditions. Otherwise it is crook and phony and there is something to hide. I am not saying that the Minister for Primary Industry knows all about it; I think that, he knows very little about it. By way of apology, I say that I believe that his colleague, the Minister for Trade, and the head of the Department of Trade, are so busy worrying about external trade and our adverse balance of payments that they just do not know what is going on behind the scenes. When the Minister for Trade suggested that I was being fed with information from some official source - a nice accusation! - he went on to say, “ Of course, I do not mind “. He said, “ I have no objection “. Was not that a direct invitation to those who had envious eyes on this station to come to his department in order to be fed with information in the same manner as it has been inferred that I could have been fed with information? Would not one favoured buyer be likely to get information which had not been given to another buyer?
Later, in reply to a question that was asked in this Parliament by a member of the Opposition, the Minister said that those who were interested were being supplied with all relevant information.
– That was true.
– Fancy ! The Minister says that that was true. By whom were these people supplied with the information? What was the nature of the information laid down for departmental officers to supply? What precautions were taken to ensure that the information supplied to prospective buyers, A, B, C, D, E and F, was, in all cases, exactly the same? What precautions were taken that, inadvertently, no officer let slip some information that might be of greater advantage to one prospective buyer than another? We do not know. The giving of information was not confined to interviews with the Minister or his deputy. It was left to departmental officers. They are excellent people whose bona fides and honesty are beyond dispute, but one can quite understand the possibility of some inadvertent reply being given to a question which would place one prospective purchaser in a more advantageous position than another.
– The honorable member is building up a bogy.
– That does not answer my suggestion. What was to prevent the Minister for Primary Industry or the Minister for Trade from issuing a general statement to these people, giving all the relevant information in detail to each prospective purchaser? In fact, the department was so neglectful in regard to this matter that it did not even inform one particular prospective purchaser who was already in the whaling game that the whaling station was for sale. The whole thing is phony. At a later stage, the Australian Labour party will take action to test the opinion of Parliament on whether the whole ques tion of the disposal of this great asset of the people should be investigated, first of all, by the Public Accounts Committee. lt is a suitable field for investigation.
Suppose I were a returned soldier, as I am, and suppose I had adequate financial backing to enable me to purchase this whaling station; suppose, also, that I had all the technical ability and all .the intelligence necessary, and the capital backing to embark on the enterprise of whaling in Australia. Is itsuggested by the Minister for Primary Industry or his mentor, or superior, the Minister for Trade, that the department completed its duty when it furnished every person already in the whaling industry with the information that the station was for sale? Had not I the right, as a returned soldier, a taxpayer and one possessed of the necessary intelligence, engineering qualifications and ambition, to be able to tender for this great and profitable instrumentality? No! This privilege was preserved, whether intentionally or unintentionally, for a select number of people. Honorable members may suggest that this sale is phony. They may draw their own inferences. I have my own ideas.
Who became the successful tenderer, the proposed purchaser ? It was the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, which was said to he most advantageously placed. How does the department know that that company is more advantageously placed to conduct the whaling industry in Western Australia than I am, who pay my taxes? These people might be the best to run the industry. The department communicated with them, and with other people in the industry, to tell them all about it, but did not communicate with me. The department did not communicate even with the honorable member for Forrest, who, by interjection, signifies that he disagrees with me. I understand that the honorable member is a director of some very successful enterprises in the Commonwealth. Who knows but that he, a gallant airman, might wish to invest, with adequate financial backing, in the Carnarvon whaling station ? He has been deprived of the opportunity to do so, because information about the sale was confined to a few people.
From time to time, we hear of the Government’s great belief in competition. Yet what did it do? It sold the whaling station to people who are already in the game, who already have a licence and who, under the terms of the agreement, will be able to keep the licence that they have and take over the Government’s licence and, consequently, have a quota of 1,000 whales a year. The maximum quota that the Government will make available for any other station is for 500 or 600 whales. That is a nice state of affairs I
Where does the Australian Country party stand in this matter ? If the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) were a primary producer living in Western Australia, I would expect him to be very wrathful about this matter. I would expect him to be running to the branches of the Australian Country party in Western Australia pointing out what the future held for their members in respect of the supply of concentrates. Is it realized in Western. Australia that last year the Carnarvon whaling station produced no less than 7,981 tons of whale solubles, which are highly concentrated, high protein content, stock feed? This is a valuable and scarce product. A portion of that 7,981 tons was whale meal which is used by the banana-growers and other primary producers. The balance is utilized as stock feed and has a very high protein content. It is about 82 per cent, protein, whereas linseed meal is about 35 per cent., and bran and pollard are between 9 per cent, and 11 per cent. That will give honorable members an idea of what a very valuable concentrate this is. A very large proportion of that 7,981 tons of high protein stock feed was produced by the Carnarvon whaling station. Government supporters’ may ask, “What of it ? “ It is of paramount importance. The whole of that important product was sold in Western Australia.
– It was not.
– If the honorable gentleman will read the last report of the Australian Whaling Commission he will see that my statement is correct. If the honorable member wants to quibble, how much of last year’s production would he suggest was exported? Not any of it! The whole of the production of approximately 8,000 tons was sold on the local market. Honorable members opposite may ask, “What of that?” The feed was used for the benefit of the poultry industry. Again they may ask, “ What of that ? “ It looks all right on the face of it. Honorable members may say,. “ The company will produce it “.
– Of course it willi
– In his innocence, the honorable member says that the company will produce it. What he will not tell the farmers of Western Australia is that the company, when it gets its greedy hands on the station, will make its own price. Profit will be paramount and the price in Western Australia for concentrates will be that set by the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, after consultation with all the other stations in Australia. If the overseas market happens to be more profitable concentrates will be exported and the poultry farmers and banana growers of Western Australia will have to go without.
– The commission charges fi a protein unit.
– Whatever the commission charges, the new controllers of the enterprise will charge more, perhaps 30s.
– If that is so how did the Government make such great profits?
– The honorable member has asked a very pertinent question. The great profits have been made from the sale of whale oil. The yield has been between 48 and 52 barrels per whale, an all-time record. The previous best wa3 42 barrels per whale. Despite this the chairman, his fellow commissioners, and the 120 workers, including the champion gunners and every one else who has put his heart and soul into this industry, working for the people of Australia and giving a most illuminating example of successful application during the lastseven years, will be thrown away like a bundle of dirty rags, and left to the mercy of another employer. Never once have they faltered in their task, yet this Government proposes to cast them aside.
– They have been guaranteed employment.
– What is a guarantee of employment worth? The new boss has only to say to employee A, “ I do not like the colour of your hair “, “ Your finger nails are too dirty “ or, “ You are a grumpy sort of individual “ and he will lose his job. There is no power by which a government can force a firm to keep on an employee if it does not wish to do so. Even if there were, it would not be exercised by this Government, whose philosophy embraces the right to hire and fire. If, finally, this evil proposal is put into effect, I appeal to the Government to remember those who are on wages and salaries, and who have shown great loyalty in directing the activities of the commission. They should be given one or two months’ pay, or substantial leave, in appreciation of their services. That would be no more than decent.
In view of what I have said the Government should think further before proceeding with this proposal. I am not suggesting that there is corruption anywhere, but rather that there has been serious mismanagement, and misjudgment in public policy.. This successful public instrumentality is to become the plum of a favoured few, who were so lucky as to receive information regarding it. Why should not a returned soldier, or a gallant airman, such as the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), have been able to buy the enterprise if he had sufficient capital. Why were not all prospective buyers advised through the press that the enterprise was up for sale ? Why has it been necessary for those interested to mak« special trips to Canberra in order to find out what it is all about, and why have their movements been secret? According to the Western Australian press, the seven directors of one company left for Canberra on seven different days. There is surely something phony about that sort of thing. When other instrumentalities have been sold, the relevant bill has contained a schedule setting out the exact terms and conditions of sale. The Minister, who is a man of great principle, smiles, but he will agree with what I have said. Such information as I received about the way in which the undertaking was to be sold came to me unintentionally in the first instance, and by agreement in the second instance. Apparently the successful company is to be given the right to take a further 500 whales. It already has the right to take 500 through its station at Point Cloates. Further, the company is assured that no more licences for the taking of whales on the Western Australian coast will be issued to other persons during the 1956, 1957 and 1958 seasons. In fact, the company is being given a monopoly along that coast.
– That is merely protecting the industry.
– Government supporters, who are willing to protect the industry, are not so willing to protect their fellow citizens, who had a right to be informed of this very profitable transaction. Government supporters know that they must apologize for the surrender of £200,000 in Commonwealth revenue each year, for the dumping of 120 men in the lap of a new employer, and for the hazards associated with selling this enterprise on terms. In a period of years the company may collapse and be unable to pay. I know that it is a very efficient firm, but anything may happen. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) suggests that no more licences are to be granted for 1956, 1957 and 1958 so that the whales may . be protected. Never mind about protecting the ‘fish; why was not Parliament told of this? Did the Government wish to hide the fact that it was giving this protection to the company? Oan the honorable member assure us that the maternal instincts of the whales will not be so strong that in the next season or two they will come back from the south with many more calves than they have had in previous years? It may become desirable for the Government to issue additional licences, but it will be tied lock, stock and barrel to this company. When licences were issued to the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company Proprietary Limited it was not assured that no more licences would be issued. It went into the industry and risked its capital. It did not have the benefit of buying on terms from the Government. It risked the issuing of licences to other stations.
In all the circumstances we have before us a most bungled, incompetently handled transaction. If the Government had been frank in the first instance and. advised the public than any one could tender for the purchase of the assets, and if the whole story of the contractual obligations between the Government and the purchasing company were set out in a schedule to the bill, the transaction might have appeared fair and above board. The worst feature has been the evasion of the Minister for Trade when asked about these things, back in .February, by myself, the Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for Swan. In the circumstances the Government should stay its hand, and approach the matter afresh. This Parliament, above all, should be informed frankly of what has gone on behind closed doors. I am quite sure that at a later stage, if members of the ministerial parties do not indicate their dissent in relation to this matter, there will come from my side of the House some suggestions on bow to deal with this problem.
.- lt would have been amazing, indeed, if we had not been treated in the course of this debate, to a great deal of socialist nonsense about the people’s assets. We have just heard from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) the usual totalitarian threat that if this measure is passed, and if the Labour party ever succeeds in gaining power in this Parliament, a Labour government will do its best to nullify the sale of this whaling enterprise - in other words, to socialize the industry, confiscate the assets of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, and penalize it for entering into a normal business transaction. We ought to straighten out our thinking on this matter. If the Government has any obligation to engage in the business of whaling it has equally an obligation to engage in the grocery business, the baking business or the milk business, or any other kind of business. The approach of the Opposition to this matter seems to suggest that that is the view of honorable members opposite. 1 know that the Minister himself has suggested that great credit belongs to the Labour Government that established the Australian Whaling Commission ; but members of the Labour party claim a great deal of credit under “false pretences because, as the honorable member for Lalor, who was
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government at the time, and was administratively responsible for the whaling industry, will recall, when it was proposed to establish the commission the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited was already endeavouring to obtain a whaling licence.
– We gave it a licence.
– Yes, but let me remind the honorable member of the circumstances surrounding the granting of that licence. For two years, the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited had been endeavouring to obtain a licence and on every hand, from the then Minister right through his department, the company met obstruction. It was only as a result of the strenuous representations of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), to whom I give credit for not being as socialistically minded as some of his colleagues, that the Minister at last relented and granted the company a licence. In the course of his speech, the honorable member for Lalor made all sorts of vague insinuations that something improper and underhand was going on. I should like him to examine hi? record in the department to see whether, when the socialist government was in office, he did not deliberately obstruct the issue of a licence to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, a private company, in order to enable that government to say that the commission it was establishing was pioneering the industry.
– I shall tell the honorable member all about it if he likes.
– If the honorable member will examine the record he will find, I think, that I have spoken the truth, and that the issue of a licence to the company was held up so that the government’s commission could claim to be a pioneer in the field of whaling. Now that whaling has been established successfully, the Government has decided that it is not a function of governments to operate this sort of business. That decision was arrived at as long ago as 1952. It is all very well for the honorable member for Lalor to suggest that the Government’s intention to dispose of the whaling enterprise was kept secret. I ask him, and other honorable members, to whom would it be logical to sell a business of the magnitude and importance of this business? Not to any Tom, Dick or Harry that came along! Not necessarily to anybody who happened to be able to find the necessary capital. Surely it would be logical to sell it to some interest that had a fund of knowledge and experience in the industry, and which could offer some concrete evidence that it could carry the industry on as successfully as it had hitherto been carried on.
Approaches were therefore made to people who had some claim to those qualifications. Several proposals have been considered by the Government since.’ 1952, and recently more attractive propositions were submitted. When the decision was finally made to bring the matter to finality, eight offers for the purchase of the enterprise were received, and the closing date for tenders was set at, the end of February. The Labour Government in Western Australia then embarked on a very peculiar course of conduct, lt made a great song and dance about not having had any information about, the Government’s intention to sell, although the information was readily available in the records left to it by the previous government, had it cared to refer to them. At the request of the Western Australian Government the dosing date for tenders was extended to enable that Government to consider its position.
It is an interesting fact that the Western Australian Government’s offer was the second lowest of the offers received. When it was announced that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited was the successful tenderer, the Labour Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Hawke, made a strange comment. He said ho wondered whether the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited’s offer had been made after the Western Australian Government’s offer had been made. He implied, in fact, that this Government had deliberately embarked on a course of conduct designed to deny the Western Australian Government a true opportunity to buy the whaling enterprise, although he well knew that the period for the lodging of tenders had been extended for fifteen days for the sole purpose of enabling him to make an offer on behalf of his Government. So,the comment made by the Labour Premier of Western Australia was not only a rather surly comment, but was also a deliberate attempt to impute to this Government improper conduct, an imputation which he well knew to be false.
Its falsity is also exposed by the fact that six of the seven other tenders were substantially higher than the tender submitted by the Western Australian Government, so it is most unlikely that the Australian Government could have been in collusion with the company. In fact, it was commonly stated, and Mr. Hawke himself had hinted on more than one occasion, that he knew that an offer of more than £800,000 had been made. Yet, in spite of that knowledge, his Government submitted a tender for only £620,000. If that is the case, it discloses an even more interesting state of aif airs. It discloses that the Western Australian Government never had the slightest intention of making a genuine attempt to buy the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets. All it did, in effect, was to employ tactics designed to influence the voters in the Western Australian State general election which was then pending.
In the light of the overall position, if Mr. Hawke’s offer was intended to be a fair one, it deprives of force the arguments of the Opposition about the price that is to be paid for the undertaking. The whaling enterprise is being sold for £8S0,000, which is a fair compromise between the valuation of £954,000, made by the ‘Commonwealth’s own valuer, and the valuation made by a private valuer nominated by the Government, whose figure was only £763,000. So we find that, after all this song and dance about the value of the people’s assets, Mr. Hawke’s idea of the value of the undertaking was only £620,000. That brings to my mind a comment made by one newspaper, which was “ What does that particular Labour Government want - the people’s assets at basement bargain prices ? “
– Are they not the same people ?
– No, that is quite wrong. Mr. Hawke was trying to deprive the people of the rest of Australia of an asset for the sole benefit of the people of Western Australia. That is quite a different proposition, as the honorable member will surely realize. I am glad that the honorable member has raised thai point, because the truth of the matter is that an attempt has been made to obscure the issue under a thick socialist fog. This identification of you, me and everybody else as the wealthy owners of something is absolute nonsense. If we really own something, we oan exercise active ownership. We can sell the thing or we can run it, more or less as we want to do. If a shareholder in a company does not like the directors of the company or the way they are running it, he can sell his shares. It is quite fantastic to suggest that we, as a people, by being forced to take part in a business, whether we like it or not, have had a privilege conferred on us.
It is not right to suggest that governmentowned enterprises are democratically controlled. The truth of the matter is that they are not. Governments are elected for a wide variety of reasons. If you do not like the way in which the Government is running the Postal Department or a shipping line, you can approach the Minister in charge and say, *’ T do not like the way you are dealing with my part of this asset but you do not get any consolation from that, because you are told that you own the thing, whether you like it or not. If any one with any pretensions to liberal ideas is compelled to own something, whether ho likes it or not, it is hardly an asset to him. It can become a very burdensome liability. The plain truth is that any business or asset is valuable for two reasons. First, it is valuable, from the point of view of the community, by reason of the productive contribution in goods or services that it makes to the community; and, .secondly, it is valuable, from the point of view of its owner, by reason of the return to the owner from the rendering of services or the productive effort. The two things are distinctly related.
With regard to productive effort, let us have a look at the records of the Nor West Whaling Company Limited and the Australian Whaling Commission. From the point of view of capital invested, from the point of view of profits, and from every other point of view, we find that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited has made a positive contribution to the community. It is functioning at least as successfully - some people would say more successfully - than the- Australian Whaling Commission. In general, that applies to any government-controlled business and any privately controlled business. The citizen, as such, by being labelled as the owner of a business, does not gain any advantage from the productive effort of that business, whether it be a whaling business or anything else. We do not ger, a free ride from Trans-Australia Airlines. We pay the same fare as we do to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Our bank, the Commonwealth “Rank, does not give us free £5 notes - at any rate, not good ones. We do not. pay a lower rate of interest on our overdrafts with the Commonwealth Trading Bank, although, if we believe honorable members opposite, we are part-owners of that bank.
The Postal Department has for long been held up as the model of a socialist enterprise. There is a very good reason for that. It has no competitors in the field of private enterprise. If there were competitors, it is not too remote a possibility that they could run the whole show in such a way as to give a better service to the public.
Let us turn to the profits earned by a business, As I said earlier, profits are definitely related to the service given to the public by a business enterprise. There has been a lot of very loose and sloppy thinking on the matter of profits by honorable members opposite. They say that the Australian Whaling Commission has made substantial profits, and they glory on that. Yet, a day or two ago, they were complaining about the profits of a private business - General MotorsHolden’s Limited. The socialist conception of the function of a business seems to be very peculiar in this regard. Socialists cannot reconcile their ideas about profits. They say, first, that any concern that makes large profits is exploiting the public. Let us have a look at that one. We have, side by side, the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited and the Australian Whaling Commission. Both are earning substantial profits. Because of that, we have not heard one word of criticism by honorable members opposite about the profits earned by the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, but other companies, including General MotorsHolden’s Limited, have come in for a substantial amount of criticism for exploiting the public.
I suggest that there is quite an interesting point to be made here. If it is justifiable for the Government whaling enterprise to make handsome profits - we have seen that honorable members opposite take some pride in that - it is equally justifiable for a private company to make similarly handsome profits. But if it is wrong to make profits, why should a government enterprise exploit the same people whom a private concern would exploit? It is no excuse to say that the profits made by the government enterprise are converted for the benefit of the community. The people who are being exploited are the individuals who are dealing with the enterprise. If we say that the profits are being converted for the benefit of the community, we are simply arguing that the whole community should be made accomplices in the crime of exploitation.
It has been pointed out that the Australian Whaling Commission serves the primary producers of this country. So will the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. The primary producers will benefit from the by-products of its whaling business. Surely it is desirable that this business should be carried on as efficiently as possible. If private enterprise can carry on the business efficiently, it is entitled to do so. It is not a function of the Government to operate such a business. That is the real basis of th A difference between a socialist and a liberal oatlook on these things. We believe that an asset is only valuable because it can produce something. We believe also that it can produce that something better if it is controlled by men who freely and willingly use their own judgment, whether they be shareholders or directors. Compulsory ownership of an asset, with no choice but to submit to the tyranny of bureaucratic experts, leads only to the so-called asset becoming a burdensome liability.
The honorable member for Lalor has directed attention to the fact that some arrangement has been made with the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited in regard to the licence. “ He mentioned that subject among a lot of suggestions that something improper had been done. Any reasonable man will take the view that a company which is paying out a substantial bum of money - £880,000 is a substantial sum of money - will require some protection in regard to its asset. This Government has complete control of the number of whales that can be killed on the Western Australian coast. The only protection that the Government can give is a guarantee that this company will not be unfairly treated. If the Government wanted to issue licences to other companies, that could be done only by reducing the quota of whales allotted to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. What the company has purchased, in fact, is the right to take and kill each year 500 whales, or whatever other number is regarded as reasonable having regard to the paramount necessity to preserve whales along the Western Australian coast. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that it would require some assurance in regard to the number of whales allotted to it.
The honorable member for Lalor has suggested that no guarantees were given to the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company Proprietary Limited. He will recall that that company had a tremendous battle to obtain a quota of whales, because the original quota of 1.200 whales for Western Australia was split up between the Australian Whaling Commission and the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. It was only with the utmost reluctance that the Labour Government of which he was a member, and later this Government, granted a licence vo the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company Proprietary Limited. I venture to suggest that, if a government whaling organization is in operation, there is a greater reluctance to admit a new organization to the industry by issuing an additional licence. The quota of the Cheynes Beach company, which is the third organization operating in Western Australia, has been built up very slowly over the years to 120 whales. 1 have made inquiries from the responsible Minister, and I have ascertained that that company has received an assurance that, if it is found necessary to reduce the quota of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited following its purchase of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets, its own quota will not necessarily be reduced. It has also received an assurance that, if it is thought desirable to increase the overall quota of whales for Western Australia, its quota will be increased pro rata.
Having regard to the number of whales which expert authorities regard as being a safe quota each year for Western Australia, the objections of the honorable member for Lalor to the arrangements that have been made in this connexion are rather laughable. He knows that the organizations that have operated off the coast of Western Anstralia have kept within the limit of 1,200 whales a year, with a variation of perhaps 50 either way. Does he seriously imagine thatany other organization would be eager to enter the whaling business with a small quota of approximately 50 whales? He knows quite well that it could not possibly operate economically on that basis. Let me remind him that, in order to protect the industry, the quota for each of the major companies has been reduced over the last twelve months or two years from 600 to 500 whales. The possibility of a substantial increase of those quotas to beyond 600 whales in the near future is very remote.
– Does the honorable member think that the price is correct?
– I was just about to mention that matter.
– Is he willing to agree to an investigation of it by a committee?
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has suggested that on the sale of Commonwealth property, there should be some guarantee of just terms. It is interesting to note that, on this occasion, the Government has accepted the highest tender. The honorable member for Lalor has somewhat different ideas from those of the Government. He has suggested that one would not necessarily sell to the highest bidder but to the bidder with the best qualifications to carry on the undertaking successfully. On that basis, he cannot possibly have any objection to the acquisition of this station by the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. In relation to just terms, we have the valuation that the Labour Government of Western Australia has placed on this particular asset. As I have already stated, the tender that it submitted was the second lowest of the eight tenders received, and was approximately £260,000 lower than that submitted by the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. Apart from the fact that the sincerity of the Western Australian Government in regard to this matter is in some doubt, surely the tender that it has submitted is a complete answer to the objections that have been raised by honorable members opposite.
In the general approach to this proposition, honorable members opposite have advanced no justification for the retention of this undertaking by the Government other than some woolly socialist idea that it is something that the people own. I suggest that the people of Australia should be warned that the Australian Labour party still believes that private business undertakings should become the property of the public through government ownership. That seems to be the logical conclusion to be drawn from Labour’s approach to this subject. It would be very dangerous for any persons who believe in the value of private enterprise or the private ownership of any property to accept the arguments submitted by the Opposition.
I compliment the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) for having introduced this bill. For some years, it has been my view that this Government should not retain such a hazardous and risky enterprise. Though we give credit to the Labour party for having, according to its own claim, pioneered the industry in Western Australia there is some doubt about that claim. I sincerely hope that members of the public are aware of the dangers that are inherent in the outlook of the Labour party in relation to this matter. [Quorum formed.]
Mr. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) [5.63J. - The Opposition opposes this measure because it feels that it involves a number of important principles in relation to which the Government so far has not furnished an answer. I think it ought to be made clear from the start that what is involved is not merely the disposal of certain Commonwealth assets at Carnarvon controlled by the Australian “Whaling Commission, but that attached to those assets is a public franchise in the form of a licence to take 500 whales a year from the seas in that region. In other words, attached to the assets is something which by its very nature is a monopoly. The Government has not indicated any definite principles that have been followed in arriving at the valuation of £380,000. There are political questions involved. There is the matter of the disposal of those assets, including the right to take 500 whales from thesea every year. There are several complicated legal problems involved, about which the Government has given us no information whatever. I suggest that the Government is making this change ostensibly because it does not believe in something that it vaguely calls socialist enterprise, despite the fact that certain public property of a particular kind is involved. If. on the other hand, the members of the Government are adopting the role of apostles of private enterprise in disposing of these assets. I suggest that there are recognized tests that should have been applied in order to determine a reasonable value for the undertaking.
We have been given an overall figure of £.880,000, and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) made great play on what he called the low offer of the Government of Western Australia. 1 suggest that what should concern the members of this Parliament, as the trustees of public property, is not how low certain estimates were, but what is in fact a. reasonable price for the Government to ask for these assets, treating them as a going concern, and realizing that they include a franchise to farm 500 whales a year.
We should look at the problem realistically. What we are doing is selling this enterprise to a private concern known as the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. In order to see the picture clearly, we should consider the financial history of this company, and its financial position at the present time. In the Melbourne Stock Exchange Record of the 29th March, 1956, the 10s. shares of the Noi-‘ West Whaling Company Limited were quoted at a selling price of 24s. 6d. to yield 8.16 per cent. In the month that has intervened since the publication of the Stock Exchange Record the shares of that company have increased in price from 24s. 6d. to 27s. Apparently, the people who are interested in speculation upon the stock market are of the opinion that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited will, as a result of the deal being made by this Government, be a better commercial enterprise. That point should be appreciated to begin with.
The second point that should be con sidered - and here I am applying what might be called the private enterprise method of approach - is that if any one of us, as an individual in the community, wished to buy into the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, which at the moment is paying dividends of 20 per cent., he would not buy in at 10s. a share, but at a price that would give a yield of 8.16 per cent. The figures that I shall give to the House after the adjournment will indicate that this Government is offering the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited the right to take over this going concern at a figure that will yield it 20 per cent. In other words-, there is a difference between the yield that could be expected by any outside person wishing to buy into the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, and what can be expected by that company when it obtains this public asset at the price that this Government is prepared to accept. I shall develop that, argument later.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I suggested earlier that what was involved here was not merely a collection of assets, a certain physical situation with a present book value of £809,000, but the fact that attached to those assets is a licence, a kind of monopoly, originally vested in the Government. What, in fact, is being done is to transfer the whaling franchise to one concern, the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. I indicated earlier that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited has a paid-up capital of £270,000 and for the past four or five years it has been paying dividends at the rate of 20 per cent., or an aggregate amount of £54,000 a year. The shares of the company are 10s. shares, and at the 29th March last they were quoted on the Melbourne stock exchange at 24s. 6d. each, which gave at that stage what investors call, a yield of 8.16 per cent. Since this transaction has been negotiated, apparently in anticipation that it will be a better deal for the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited in the future, the shares have risen until at the moment they are quoted on the Melbourne stock exchange at 26s. 6d. and sometimes at 27s.
I suggest that since this Government is taking a doctrinaire stand on what it calls socialization, honorable members on this side of the House are entitled to ask what kind of standards ought to be applied in assessing the value of this undertaking. I want to take the financial position of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited as at the middle of 1955 - the last figures that are available. At that date the balance-sheet showed that the company had assets totalling £671,565. They comprised floating assets that are listed as stock £30,563, debtors £1,2S5, and cash and bonds £291,509, a total of £323,357. The fixed assets comprise plant and machinery £200,339, crafts and vehicles £122,872, buildings £23,883 and furniture and fittings £1,114, a total of £34S,208. The total assets are £671,565.
What is taking place here is that the cash and bonds that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited holds, totalling roughly £300,000, are to be applied apparently as the down payment on the government undertaking, of which the total price is £880,000. I point out to the House, firstly, that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, as a result of a down payment of £300,000, is to have the full use of public assets valued conserva tively at £880,000. At that stage it does not own those assets. It has an equity only of approximately one-third of the total value. Apparently in the name of something that is called private enterprise, to enable this transaction to take place the Government will receive 5£ percent, on the approximate £600,000 outstanding, but by the use of those £600,000 of assets in combination with the other £300,000, or in round figures £900,000, the company will get a substantial return before taxation.
I, for one, use the basis of profits before taxation has been deducted. In my opinion, a company has no more right to talk about its income after taxation than has any individual in the community. A certain income is earned and if it is over a stated level the Government is entitled to levy taxes upon it. It is conservatively estimated that this company will derive £200,000 in profits, in round figures, before taxation, on an initial investment of £300,000 plus a mortgage, if I might put it that way, to the Government at the rate of 5J per cent.
I ask the House in all seriousness what kind of social philosophy is it that says that it is wrong for this enterprise to be vested in the public but that it is right to give it to a private company that cannot possibly pay for it as a going concern but which is being accommodated by a deal of this kind? There are plenty of cases in existence on well-established principles to determine what the value of a transaction like this would be if the reverse were taking place, that is if the Government, let us say, was taking over the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited rather than, as here, a handback of public enterprise into private hands. There are plenty of established precedents so far as the reverse is concerned. My colleague the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) aptly pointed out here last night that, if assets belonging to a private individual are being compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth, he has the right under the Constitution to what is called just compensation. The Constitution is apparently silent on a transaction of this kind, but because there is silence there should be at least an indication by the Government of the principles involved in arriving at the selling price.
The suggestion has been made that there were two kinds of valuation. I submit that the Government ought to have indicated the basis on which the valuation had been arrived at because, to use the words of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), there were considerable variations in two of the valuations. One gentleman placed the value of the assets at £760,000 ; another placed it at £954,000. The Minister said that when the matter was looked at, it was found that the real argument was about something called company taxation. He is strangely silent as to what kind of company taxation was involved and on what anticipated profit it was estimated. What is happening here is that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, in its existing entity, will be able to continue, as before, to pay this 20 per cent, dividend to its existing shareholders without calling upon the resources of this concern at all, but as an aggregate it will receive an additional £200,000 per anum, approximately. I use the round figure of £200,000 because I think it will be conceded that it is reasonable in the circumstances.
Last year, on a catch of 600 whales, the profit was £225,000. This year the quota is to be reduced, but I have it on reasonably good authority that for the year ending the 30th June, 1956, the profit on a. catch of 500 whales can be computed to be of the order of £200,000.
Assuming that it is £200,000 a year, let us consider now the question of company taxation. At the new rates of company taxation, the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited will pay an additional £SO,000 of taxation, on that £200,000. This will leave to the company a clear £120,000 a year which it will have acquired for a down payment of £300,000 and a mortgage for the remainder of the purchase price at 5£ per cent. I submit that that is what this transaction comes to when it is analysed. The Nor’ Westcompany is not increasing its capital at this stage, so far as I can make out. It is not making a fresh issue of capital. It is making the £300,000 down payment out of the assets it has already accumu lated. On its existing undertaking, it will still be able to pay the £54,000 of dividends each year. I think its profits last year were approximately £120,000, and, after paying taxation and dividends, it was still able to put a considerable amount into reserve. Assuming that it pays no additional dividend, the immediate shareholders will be no worse off, and the company will receive money that formerly went into the Commonwealth Exchequer. Of the profits of £200,000 a year, £80,000 will certainly go to the Commonwealth in taxation, but the other £120,000 will become the. property of the Nor’ West company, which, apparently, in each of the first two years, is to pay back £120,000 of the capital sum remaining.
I ask the House in all seriousness: What kind of business arrangement is this? Can it be conceived as anything other than the giving of favouritism of a rather doubtful kind to a very fortunate group of people in the community’ by giving them, in effect, the right to earn an additional £120,000 a year, and saying to them, “ We are prepared to take that back, at the end of the year, as the instalment you owe us “ ?
– Is there no risk involved ?
– I did not interrupt the honorable member when he spoke, and I ask him to allow me to develop my argument, which it is rather difficult to advance in a heated atmosphere. After two years, the fixed assets position of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited will be £540,000 better in consequence. It will have transformed its own accumulated £300,000 into the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. The surplus profits will have been used to pay off part of the remaining debt. Apparently, the company hopes to pay back the other £360.000 or so that will remain outstanding after two or three years. I suggest that, by that time, it will probably be able to go on the market and float additional shares for that amount. What will really happen will be that a capital appreciation of no mean order will go entirely to the existing shareholders of the Nor’ West company. If the Government is prepared to allow that sort of thing to happen in the disposal of public assets, it should at least be honest about it.
It is easy enough for the honorable member for Forrest, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) to say there was no one else in the field offering to buy the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. Technically, if a sound commercial price, payable on reasonable terms - Government supporters say that is the test - had been asked, there would have been no one at all in the field. The Government is giving a particular company an opportunity because it happened to make the highest offer, but it was not necessarily obliged to accept any offer if ‘the quotes were inadequate. I mentioned earlier that a person, not at present a shareholder of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, who wants to buy into that company, must pay 24’s. for a 10s. share. The Government, in effect, is selling the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission to the company at the equivalent of par.
– Does the honorable member quarrel with the official valuations ?
– 1 quarrel with the basis of valuation. It is not easy to determine what a reasonable basis ought to be in circumstances such as this. There is, at least, some doubt about it, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Nor’ West company has received a bargain. In this sense, the bargain means the expropriation of public property into the hands of a select private group.
– Was the bid made by the Western Australian Government honest?
– I emphasize the point I made at first : The Government, in this instance, is disposing not only of physical assets but also of public property - the government-controlled right to. take 500 whales, which was given to the Australian Government for the benefit of the Australian people under an international agreement. If that right were sold to the Western Australian Government, at least the public side of the disposition, namely, the franchise, would go into another set of public hands, not into private hands.
– Of what value would that be?
– I ask the Minister, in all seriousness, and the House, to consider the figure of £809,000 cited by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) as the written-down value of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission in its last balance-sheet. Even that figure is open to some doubt at the moment. It is doubtful whether those assets could be provided in similar condition for £809,000 to-day. However, assuming that that is the correct figure, do Government supporters seriously suggest that the value of the right to farm 500 whales, which is public property, and which, on present figures, gives a gross return of £600,000 and a clear net profit of £200,000, is only £81,000 ? To my mind, it is not so much the assets that are important. The franchise is the important thing. I emphasize the word “ franchise “ because I do not think there is any getting away from the fact that it is public property. What is important is the exercise of that franchise in conjunction with the physical assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. Let us assume that, after allowing for taxation, the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited will receive £120,000 clear from the exercise of that franchise in conjunction with those assets. That is a return of 12 per cent, or 15 per cent. What would Government supporters, as apostles of private enterprise, pay for a concern that would return them a certain £120,000 clear after the payment of taxation? I suggest that they would pay far more than £880,000. As I said earlier, this is not a matter about which one can be dogmatic. Certain precedents are established for evaluing concerns in respect of which no share price is quoted on the stock exchange. No share price is quoted in respect of the Australian Whaling Commission, because no shares are in existence, the public as a whole being the shareholders. This learned author, Mr. Sidey, who, I understand, is recognized in this country as an authority on the valuation of shares which are not subject to market quotation, says that the three principal factors influencing the valuation of shares, or the determination of the price of a concern, are -
It seems to me that the Government has given no indication whatever of the principles it had in mind when disposing of this concern, other than, apparently, a very anxious intention to get rid of it at any price and in any circumstance. [ suggest that this matter is so important that before these assets vest in the new concern - it will be quite a long time before it can be said to own them as, to begin with, it is acquiring only a onethird equity in them - some clearer facts should be placed before this side of the House in regard to the manner in which the selling price was arrived at. We do not query the figures contained in the last balance sheet, at least so far as they are a historical record of the writtendown value of certain property acquired many years ago.
Mr.Joske. - Would the honorable gentleman have complained if the Western Australian Government’s offer had been accepted?
– I should have been extremely surprised if the Government had accepted that offer, but to my mind that is not the question at all. I do not think it is a question of whether the Government accepts one figure as against another. The moral, political, and economic obligation of the Government is to satisfy the people of Australia that the price and terms finally agreed upon pass the test of commercial standing applied by Government supporters.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr.Pollard) put -
That the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputyspeaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann. )
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- This question which most honorable members thought had been resolved with the defeat of the proposed amendment to the Address-in-Reply has now come before this House again. This measure concerns not only the whaling station at Babbage Island, but, more deeply, it concerns the fundamental purposes of government The people of this country, not the Parliament, decided quite clearly in 1949, and on later occasions, that they believed that the fundamental purpose of government should be to encourage industry in this country and that the Government should not set itself up as a competitor to industry. That is a question that the people resolved before this debate commenced. It is an amazing fact that so many members from the eastern States who, on 364 days of the year never think of the western State, now have their attention focussed on one small part of the west, and that some of the statements that they have made are far removed from the truth.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that the Government’s original intention in the establishment of this whaling station was to assist in the development of the north-west of Western Australia. Whatever may . have been achieved by the Australian Whaling Commission at Babbage Island, it has not done a thing to further the development of the district in which the Babbage Island station was constructed. During the whole period of the operations of the commission, the yearly population of the area has not increased by more than one or two people. The benefit to the district has been nil and the real objective in the establishment of the whaling station has been achieved in the fact that it has been proved that whaling can be carried on with some success off the coast of Western Australia.
But it should be borne in mind that the Australian Whaling Commission was not the first in this field. The company that has received so much criticism from the Opposition during this debate, the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, was founded and brought to a successful stage in its career by a type of men with an increased number of whom this country would be better off. The honorable member for Lalor called them men of straw. I remind him that when a certain British general was declared to be mad, a sovereign said, “ If he is mad, I wish that, he would bite some of my other generals “. If the men behind the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited are men of straw, it is a pity that we have not a far greater number of them in Australia. I invite honorable members to look at their achievements and compa.re it with the achievement of the Australian Whaling Commission which had the unlimited resource of the Government behind it.
The men who founded the’ Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited had had little experience in whaling at the time that the company started its operations. The principals of the firm had been engaged in shipwright engineering and they took over an old station that had been abandoned by the Norwegians, I think in the 1920’s, after an unsuccessful attempt to start a whaling industry. Starting from a long way behind, in a short space of time they have built up a business that is a credit to them and a credit to the initiative of the Australian people. They have displayed a spirit that the Government should encourage, not compete with, because the duty of governments should be to act as the guardian of trade, commerce and industry and not to act as a competitor.
– That is one point of view.
– It is a point of view that is held at present by the majority of the people of this country.
Statements have been made to-day by members of the Opposition that made me regret that they have not been broadcast throughout Australia. It was pointed out that if a private industry took over the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission it would have the right to hire and fire. That is a right that should be held very dearly by the Australian people. Just as the people of this country have the right to hire and fire the members of this House, so that principle should operate throughout every industry in Australia. Only in that way do we get efficiency. Private enterprise has a record of far better treatment of its employees than some other undertakings that have been sponsored by governments.
I return to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. This company started off with a quota of some 600 whales a year, using a plant that was not to be compared with the one that had been financed by the unlimited resources of the Government. The company was heavily mortgaged at first and I think that when it was formed into a public company it had about 1,000 shareholders.
It has been said that the sale of the government industry was not sufficiently publicized. It was stated in the debate on the proposed amendment to the Address-in-Reply that theWestern Australian Government knew nothing about it. At that stage of the proceedings in this House, the objective of the Opposition was to bring the Western Australian Government into the market as a successful tenderer for the industry. It is strange that during the State election campaign in Western Australia the official newspaper of the Australian Labour party, which has just been started over there, in its special north-west edition, contained a statement that the honorable member for Gascoygne in the Western Australian Parliament had been elected three years previously because the people did not agree with the Federal Government’s idea of selling the whaling station. That statement indicated that the Australian Labour party was fully aware, three years ago, of what was taking place. Yet, in this House, it has been stated that nothing was known of the Government’s intention. It is a fact that the Labour party knew, everybody in Western Australia knew, and every one in Australia should have known of the Government’s intention. The Cheynes Beach Whaling Company Limited, which some honorable members have said did not have an opportunity to purchase the enterprise, know very well that it was up for sale, but I believe that that company was not in a position to tender for it.
We heard a long outburst about tm price at which the station would be sold. [ believe that the value of any commodity is determined by the demand for it. For the purchase of this station, eight applications were received, the’ prices varying from £519,000 to about £850,000. In addition, three separate valuations were made and each of them approximated that figure. I think that that, in itself, is sufficient indication that the price obtained by the Government was a fair and just one. It is quite easy to make statements based on vast sums of money in an attempt to bamboozle the public, but, in his calculations, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) did not make any allowance for the annual interest that must be paid by the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, as the successful tenderer. The payment of that interest will reduce the figure that was quoted by the honorable member by £30,000.
Now, Western Australia is still smarting from the effects of the oil boom, of which honorable members are all aware. When the oil company concerned found, at its first attempt, a supply of oil that could possibly prove of commercial value, many thousands of people in Western
Australia had their fingers burnt in the resultant boom. They were not the big businessmen of whom we hear so much from the Opposition. Many of them were ordinary working men who invested a few shillings in the hope of a quick return for their money. The way in which the Government handled the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission provided a safeguard against some smart operator offering shares on the market and catching, once again, not those who were established, but the ordinary little people who had very little money to waste on investment in shares of a doubtful character.
This is the whole position. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports quoted from some authority three rules concerning the value of shares. I think thar his aim was to establish the value of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. I think that a fourth rule should have been added to the three rules that he quoted, and I think that this fourth rule would have been added by the authority whom the honorable member quoted if he had realized that what he had said would be applied to shares in a whaling company. The fourth should have referred to “ The possible continuance of that business in its present state “. We must remember that whaling is really a gamble. I have mentioned previously that in South America whales migrated up the coast regularly, but suddenly disappeared. Who can say that this will not happen off the coast of Western Australia? Private industry is prepared to take that risk in order to develop its asset. Many arguments now put forward are the reverse of those that were offered previously. Honorable members have heard a long discussion on the high protein by-products of the whale. My figures may be a little inaccurate but they reveal that whale meal is landed at Fremantle at about £57 a ton, whereas meat meal is about £30 a ton. If the supply of meat meal, which has much the same nutritive value as whale meal, increases, obviously the demand for whale meal will decrease. That introduce? another element of risk into the industry.
If honorable members have studied the history of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited they will recall that at first
Fairmile vessels, for use as whale chasers, were purchased. Experts said that they were unsuitable but were proved wrong. In operation, the Fairmiles were highly successful but unfortunately in the first year one was wrecked on the dangerous reef-studded north-west coast. This is a further indication of the risks involved in the industry. The Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited proved that little capital, combined with a high degree of efficiency, can give a return equal to that derived from large capital investment and ordinary efficiency. The capital outlay of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited was about half that of the Australian Whaling Commission, but after three or- four years, with similar quotas, both companies were earning a similar profit- about £200,000. However, that figure depends less on the quota of whales than on the international price of whale oil. Australia produced only 4 per cent, of the world’s whale oil requirements and obviously the countries that produce the remainder have a great deal to say about the international price. The Government established a model whaling station, as it had set out to do. A. tribute was duc to the people concerned, and the Minister paid that tribute in las second-reading speech. However, now is the time to allow private enterprise to develop the industry further.
This debate has been closely tied up with that on the Fishing Industry Bill, which proposes to set up a trust fund for the benefit of the industry. I believe that the majority of Western Australians are either totally disinterested in the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s asset, or are in agreement with what this Government has done. Western Australians generally will be glad to know that the Commonwealth will soon have available funds and plans for the development of the fishing industry off their coast, for of all the States Western Australia most needs this development. Even though Western Australia supplies about 60 per cent, of the crayfish tails sent to America from this country, the crayfish boats at Geraldton operate from a tiny jetty which is so inadequate that if one boat is tied up the others have to keep away. This product alone brings 1,500,000 valuable dollars to this country each year. There, surely, is an avenue for assistance of the kind contemplated under the Fishing Industry Bill.
I should like to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for inaugurating, when Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Fisheries Newsletter. That publication is now carried on under the administration of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon). The March issue contains a reference to the tuna catches made by the Japanese in the Indian Ocean. At present Australia is importing 50 per cent, of its fish requirements. If we could develop the tuna industry off the coast of Western Australia we could not only reduce our imports but also increase our exports. The Fisheries Newsletter contains the f following report : -
Japanese tuna long-line fishermen arc getting catches of 12-14 yellowfin per 100 hooks in the western Indian Ocean. This is a much higher catch rate than they get on any other grounds (says U.S. Fishery Products Report).
The 750-ton Seiju Maru returned to Shimizu (Japan) with a full load of 425 tons of tuna after an 80-day trip that extended across the Indian Ocean to the vicinity of the African coast. The average day’s catch was 12 tons of yellowfin. It was expected that the proceeds of the voyage would amount to £40,000 and that crew members would each receive about £122.
We should not have to undergo the long drag from Japan to the Indian Ocean, but we would need to remember that Australian fishermen, with their higher wages and standard of living, could not be induced to undertake a 30-day voyage for monetary rewards that would be acceptable to Japanese. However, the fish are there to be caught and the development of our fishing industries generally is closely linked with the question of immigration. In the main, our coastal fisheries are operated by new Australians or persons of southern European descent. They are willing to work long hours for a reward that would not perhaps be attractive to Australian nations. Therefore, only good can arise from the sale to private enterprise of the Government’s whaling asset. We should be the watchdogs of the public purse, and encourage industries rather than compete against them.
The honorable member for Lalor mentioned that certain tricks were available by which a spoke could be thrown in this Government’s wheel. He mentioned in particular the leasing of the land on which the whaling station stands. Whatever honorable members might think, the people of Western Australia would be quite vocal and demonstrative if they felt that their Government would, by refusing to lease the small area of land necessary, be. so parsimonious as to prevent the transaction from taking place. Honorable members should not forget that the character of the Western Australian people is slightly different from that of the people in the heavily industrialized areas of eastern Australia. Western Australians have a much better philosophy of life, and a broader outlook towards people who are prepared to do something about developing the vast unused areas of Australia. Enterprise, initiative and courage are needed in Western Australia more than they are needed now in some of the other States, where development is at a more advanced stage. I think it would be interesting to see the reaction of the people of Western Australia to any implied threat by the members of the Opposition in this House in relation to this transaction.
– The honorable member told us earlier that they were disinterested about it in Western Australia.
– Yes, that is true. I did. They are disinterested in the sale of the venture of the whaling commission contrary to what the honorable member and his colleagues on the Opposition side believe. But the moment that honorable members opposite, if elected to office as a government, start to pull on some of their tricks, they will find that the interest of the people of Western Australia in this matter will grow apace, and that it will be an interest that will react badly against some members of them.
I notice that a phophesy was made that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited would, or could, in all probability become insolvent in twelve months. Whom do honorable members opposite expect to believe that a company such as the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited would become insolvent in twelve months, when a mere study of the history of its operations will convince them that it will probably get a far greater return out of the purchase that it has made than was ever derived from that undertaking before.
I wish to make only one more comment before I conclude. It has been mentioned that the station was built mainly with war disposals materials. That is quite true. Some of the disposals materials came from the former power alcohol plant that was constructed in the south-west of Western Australia, at a cost, I think, of £1,500,000 of public money, and from which not one gallon of power alcohol was ever taken. E realize that it might be argued that, having wasted £1,500,000 in that direction, we should try to get it back in another direction. Western Australians are aware of this fact. I suppose if the war had lasted longer than it did we might have got a gallon or so of petrol out of that plant, but my point is that it is foolish to compare the operations of one company with those of another. In any case, we must realize that because the whaling station was built from disposals materials mainly derived from that power plant we got a valuable asset which was built largely of materials from an undertaking that was no longer used.
I shall conclude in the same strain as that in which I started, with the hope that it will be borne in mind that the Opposition’s attack does not centre on the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s enterprise - because, after all, the Government made its intentions quite clear in that regard long ago. It revolves around the purpose of government, and we should be quite certain in our own minds that we know the real purpose of government, and have the courage to carry out that purpose.
.- That is what we are here for - to carry out the purpose of the Labour party, which is to tight tooth and nail the outrageous acts of the Government in this sale. As we have listened to speaker after speaker on the opposite side of the House the differences that lie between the supporters of the Government and the members of the Labour party have become ever clearer to all of us. But there is at least one member on the Government side who is consistent. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) opposed the establishment of the Australian “Whaling Commission by the Chifley Government in i949.
– And I shall carry on along the same path to-night.
– Since then he has apparently converted the rest of his colleagues, because the then Opposition in 1949 was practically unanimously in support of it. In fact, one of the most redoubtable among them, the honorable member for Barker, who is our Speaker, and who is at the moment absent from the proceedings, said -
Like other honorable members I compliment the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on bringing it down.
What- remarkable change occurred in those six years, which has produced a situation where, we are given to understand, the whole well-being of the nation hangs on the sale of this whaling enterprise?
Before I continue I should like to answer some, of the comments made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). He said that the role of government was to be the watchdog of industry. That is pretty clear. That is what we have always thought we were here for. But the role of government is also surely to be the watchdog keeping guard on the human being against the predatory and soulless interests of industry. He also said that the sale of this undertaking would be to the advantage of Australia, because it would lead to increased development of the whaling industry. But there is a quota which, applies in the whaling industry. A limited number of whales may be caught. Therefore, there is no chance of extending the whaling industry unless as a result of the more efficient use of its products and the use of better machinery and methods of management. Over the last six years the Australian Whaling Commission, a public enterprise, has shown the private interests just how this can be done. The honorable member also told us that it was not the role of the Government to enter into competition, with private enterprise - but for weeks he and his colleagues have been telling us of the advantages to Australia of competi tion. According to them it is the very thing that moulds the national character and builds the nation. But the Government is now busy reducing the field of competition on the western coast of Western Australia. It will be found, after this transaction has been completed, that there will be two whaling companies on the western coast of Western Australia - one that farms .1,000 whales a year and one other competitor which is allowed to farm, I think, 120 whales a year. Those are the kinds of things that honorable members opposite have been saying. They have taken up a considerable, amount of time in indulging in illogical arguments. Their remarks have also been tinged with regret and astonishment that we on the other side are opposing this transaction. It apparently surprises them that the great Australian Labour party should do so. So I shall detail the Labour party’s objections to this deal.
First, we object to the use of the people’s money on. the establishment of an industry merely in order to pave the way for private companies, which are to come in and exploit a field opened up by the expenditure of national capital. Secondly, we object to the way in which this transaction has come about. The Government told us about it only with extreme reluctance. It was only when he was driven into a corner that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), the most outspoken antisocialist in this chamber, gave most reluctantly some information to the House in regard to this- matter. Thirdly, we object to the doctrinaire approach by the Government to this, matter, which is implicit in this sale, and which carries a potential threat to other public enterprises like Trans- Australia Airlines. Fourthly, we object to the price that is being received for the whaling station, because we do not believe that it is a fair proposition except for the buyer. Fifthly, we object to the fact that the 1,000-odd shareholders in the company will take over the assets of the commission with all their advantages, from the present shareholders, the people of Australia.
– Why does not the honorable member say straight out he objects to private enterprise?
– We do not object to. private enterprise, but we object tothe expenditure of public moneys merelyfor the purpose of facilitating theexploita tion by private enterprise of the national resources.
Let me deal with those objections, one by one. We object to the use of the people’s money to pave the way for private enterprise to exploit thisnational asset. Here we have the whole assets of the nation being used to establish a whaling commission, not just to catch whales, but, as it has turned out, only for the purpose of setting up a signpost for private people who have money to put into such an enterprise, so that they can make further profit. We, 9,000,000 of us, are the slaves. We are the people, but the exploitation of the national resources in whaling is to be reserved for somebody else. It is a classic example of capitalism in operation. Indeed, it is a remarkable example of it. Public opinion on this matter has been so well and clearly expressed that there is no doubt that instead of the people of Australia being disinterested in the transaction they are very interested in it. We find, when we get the opportunity to talk to them, as I have been doing on street corners in my electorate, that they are not disinterested - they are dismayed. They are asking us, “ When can we get rid of the Govern ment “. It will probably take them a couple of years to get rid of the Govern ment, but get rid of it they will.
Our second objection is to the way in which this transaction was brought about. In the first few nights after I enteredthis Parliament as a newcomer I saw members of the Opposition, particularly thehonorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), drag from the Minister for Trade a reluctant admission that this deal was to take place. When he was pushed into a corner, he became a most aggressive protagonist of the sale of public assets. He said, “That has been our policy for years “. But there was no mention of this sale in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
That is not the way in which to treat the members of this Parliament. That is not the way to treat the people whom we represent. The Minister said that the right people were informed that this whaling station was for sale, but apparently the right people do not sit here in this sovereign Parliament. I object very strongly to the fact that we were not informed previously. When the members of the Labour party tell the people outside the Parliament about the way in which their representatives are treated here and about the cavalier attitude that is adopted to their representations, the people object most forthrightly. Surely if the Government had decided to sell this station, the first people to be told should have been the members of this Parliament. That is one of the first principles of democracy. This Parliament is the watchdog for the people, but the members can only perform that duty if they have the necessary information. In the weeks since this Parliament first sat, I have gone home at week-ends and only then have I learned, from the press, the things that the Government was going to do. The Government expects us to be rubber stamps. There are about 70 rubber stamps on the other side of the House. The people over there all toe the party line. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is interjecting, toes the party line, too. We listen to the members of the Australian Country party with a great deal of interest, but we find that, although they are lions in debate, they are lambs in division.
We object to 1,000 lucky shareholders taking over this asset, while the rest of us have to take tickets in certain consultations if we want to hope to win a prize. If you happen to be a shareholder in the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, or perhaps one of the lucky people who have a major interest in a shipping line, this Government will see that you are fixed up. They will also give you a television licence if you happen to have a couple of million pounds behind you. But the other 9,000,000 of us are ignored. That is not the way to treat us. The Government has picked out 1,000 lucky people and is handing over to them practical control, according to a previous speaker, of 4 per cent. of the world’s supply of whale oil. I object to 1,000 fortunate people being chosen from the rest of us for this preferential treatment.
I do not mind being the part-owner of, or a shareholder in - whatever the technical term may be - the Australian Whaling Commission, the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Railways or Trans-Australia Airlines. I shall do all that I can to ensure that we retain our interest in those things, and I have some forthright colleagues to help me. It is only by retaining our interest that we can retain our control.
We object to the price at which this business is to be sold. How would honorable members opposite set about disposing of a business of their own? I suggest that the first thing to do won 1,1 be to set a certain value on it. They would calculate the value of the fixed assets and assess the annual return. They would consider the desirability of the site and the value of any special privileges attaching to the business. That would be done irrespective of whether the business was a delicatessen, a bakery, a hotel or a television station, the subject of one of those elusive and valuable television licences.
What are the fixed assets of this whaling enterprise? One valuer - our valuer, the people’s valuer - has said they are worth at least £950,000. The Australian Whaling Commission itself has valued them at something like £S08,000. A very independent valuer put the value at about £750,000. We are selling the concern for £SS0,000. As a matter of simple arithmetic, let us say that the assets are worth £S00,000. That is the first figure that we should take as the basis for the sale. Then we should consider the annual return. If we wanted to buy a simple grocery shop on a street corner in a good position, we should have to pay for the goodwill a sum equivalent to eighteen months’ profit. The annual profit of this enterprise is £200,000. For eighteen months, it won Id be £300,000. That puts the price well over £1,000,000.
Then we come to the site, which is very desirable. Whales cannot be caught everywhere. There are none in the Murray River, for instance, or in the area represented by the honorable member for Mallee. There are none in the
Yarra. We have got rid of all the whales and prawns from the Yarra. The site of this station is a very desirable one. I think we can estimate its value at anything up to £500,000. So we can say that, at a conservative estimate, this station is worth perhaps £1,500,000 as a going concern. After all, a taxi plate ‘in Melbourne is worth £1,000 or £1,200. That is the value of the plate only. It does not include the value of a taxi-cab, the price of which has been forced up by the recent increase of sales tax. On any reasonable basis, this concern is worth £1,500,000. The profit is a little over £200,000 a year, so if it were bought for £1,500,000 the investment would return a dividend of 14 per cent, or 15 per cent. That should be regarded as fairly satisfactory, even by honorable members opposite.
Let us suppose that shares were issued. Government members have pointed out v. hat would happen if we let the share sharks loose in this venture, but it is one of the principles of private enterprise, in praises of which they are so vocal, that those people should be allowed to operate. If 2,000,000 shares were issued at £1 each, the dividend would still be about 10 per cent, per annum. But. what are we doing? We are selling this concern for £880,000. That is not a bad figure from the point of view of the purchaser. The deposit is to be £350,000. That has been arranged only four or five weeks after the Prime Minister told us that the destruction of this country is being brought about by people who buy things on hire purchase. But these people are the lucky players. These 1,000 ticket holders are more fortunate than the other 9,000,000 of us. They ha.vo got to pay only 5£ per cent, interest on the balance. If a man bought a. house recently, he would have to pay a great, deal more than that, but these people are a privileged class. They are showing enterprise. They are getting hold of our assets at their price, on very good terms for them. In the first year they are to pay another £120,000 or about £100,000 less than the profit they will make from the concern in that year. That is not bad for them. In the second year, they will pay another £120,000 - again about £100,000 less than the profit for that year.
– What about taxes?
– The Government will abolish them and put higher taxes on our cigarettes, tobacco and petrol. In the third year, £290,000 will be paid. We were told in the debate on that smokescreen called the Fishing Industry something or other bill that the Government requires this money to develop the fishing industry, but we are giving away assets worth, at a conservative estimate, £1,000,000 for what amounts to only £130,000 in cash more than we should have got if we had kept them. No matter what methods or arithmetic we use, no matter what sophistry we use, no matter what technical jargon from the share market we employ, the fact remains that the total net return to the Government on this transaction will be about £130,000, over what it would have received in three years’ profit if we retained the station. These people will get the station for a deposit of £350,000. They will earn almost that sum in profits on the first year’s operations. Out. of profits, they will be able to pay the rest of the money, and at the end of the period they will have assets worth £1,000,000. This sale is indefensible, even as a business proposition. Honorable members opposite believe in the principles of private enterprise. All that we ask is that, as trustees of the assets of the people, the members of the Government should adopt in relation to the sale of public assets the same principles as they would adopt in relation to the sale of their own assets. This is not a sound proposition, from whatever point of view it is regarded, and there is no way in which the Government can dodge its responsibility for it. We shall ensure that the people of Australia will not forget what has happened. The whole transaction is fraught with danger. The Government is getting rid of the people’s assets. While it is getting rid of one undertaking, why does it not get rid of the lot? What is wrong with selling Trans-Australia Airlines ?
– That will be the next one.
– As the honorable member for Batman has stated, that will be the next. Why should those other undertakings be protected? They are being protected because they are nearer than are the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, which are 2,000 miles from the great centres of population and most of the people who own it do not know a great deal about them. Supporters of the Government have never told them about the undertaking, and Opposition members have not the resources to do so. Every day in every capital city public enterprise in the form of Trans-Australia Airlines is showing the people that it can do a better job than can private enterprise. That is especially true of undertakings established by Labour men who followed Labour traditions and knew what they wanted. Within a few years of the establishment of those undertakings we have seen the monuments of private enterprise crying for mercy. If the present Government had not been returned to office certain private enterprises would have been bankrupt financially, just as the Government is bankrupt politically.
– What about the millions of pounds lost on other undertakings ?
– The Government is afraid to touch Trans-Australia Airlines. When such questions are posed, the Minister for Trade leaps to his feet and says, “ Because that is our policy “. The right honorable gentleman knows that the disposal of such undertakings as Trans-Australia Airlines would sound the death-knell of the Government parties. Even though I like them personally, if honorable members opposite were to tell the people of the advantages of public enterprise, they would not remain in office very long.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the concluding paragraphs on the first page of the roneoed copy of the sixth annual report of the Australian Whaling Commission. The fact that the report is roneoed shows that not very much money has been expended in publicity. The paragraphs to which I have referred are as follows : -
Prior to the Commission’sStationgoing intoproductionthehighestyieldofoilper humpback whale from operations in Australia was 42 barrels.
The introduction of Kvaerner Digesters and modern type Centrifuges Super Decanters and Nozzlejectors–
It does not sound too bad, does it - into the Commission’s processing plant ha« resulted in yearly yields of from 4.S to 52 barrels per whale.
This lead has been followed by other companies who have installed similar or equivalent types of equipment with the result that Australian production figures generally n«w exceed those obtained in other parts of thu world.
I could easily use my time by reading, for the benefit or the personal profit of supporters of the Government, the rest of the report, but I shall not do so. The establishment of this station is a classical example of what the Labour party, or the socialist party if honorable members prefer that word, has done to provide for private industry not only an incentive, but also a model that has been followed during its six years of existence. It is one example of the various ways in which public enterprise has outstripped private enterprise and has shown it how to do the job. I object to honorable members opposite leaping to their feet and talking about the Australian way of life. They know nothing about it. In particular, the statutory corporation was an Australian invention. Although the history of the statutory corporation is a little vague, it is generally conceded that it was an Australian invention or development. This is pointed out in the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Aluminium Commission which quotes the establishment of the State Savings Bank of Victoria in 1SS1 as its example. .Such organizations arc examples of the contribution of the Australian Labour party to the Australian way of life. Our contribution has been creative and constructive, while that of honorable members opposite has been destructive. If the Government had its way, it would hand over our assets, our resources, and eventually the control of our welfare to irresponsible private enterprise. Responsibility for dealing with such matters can lie only with the elected Parliament, but the Parliament is being ignored by the Government, not only in relation to the handing over of our assets, but also in the cavalier manner in which the Minister for Trade has treated it. I object to that attitude, and I and my colleagues will ensure over the next three years that more than 2,000,000 other Australians object to it also.
.- I rise to support this measure for reasons similar to those for which I opposed the original legislation in 1949. I am glad that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has reminded me of that fact. When the original legislation was introduced, 1 described the establishment of this whaling station as being a further venture by the socialists without giving private enterprise a chance. I was described by the present member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, as being one of the reactionaries - in fact, the reactionary - of the Parliament. I am glad to be here now to see this Government, at long last, getting rid of the undertaking.
The statement by the honorable member for Lalor this afternoon that the rehabilitation of the Point Cloates plant was impracticable is a further indication of the fact that it was the intention of the Australian Labour party, in 1949, and still is, if given the chance, to prevent private enterprise from having an opportunity to engage in the whaling industry. The Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited has proved most conclusively during the period that the Australian Whaling Commission has been in operation that, not only has it been able to rehabilitate the Point, Cloates project, but also that it has been able to build up a most successful business in competition with the Common wealth’s undertaking. Those honorable members who have taken any interest in this venture will recall that the first Fairmile vessel owned by the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited ran on the rocks, as mentioned by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). I had the very great pleasure of persuading the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to allow the company to us.: one of the chasers belonging to the Australian Whaling Commission so that it could get into operation quickly.
I hope that I do not do an injustice to the honorable member for Wills, but 1 think he said that this Government had deliberately kept the sale of the whaling station secret. That statement is further evidence of the division in Labour’s ranks, not only in the Parliament, but abo from one end of Australia to the other. The new Labour paper that is published in Western Australia - I forget the name of it - has clearly stated, with bold headlines, that three years ago Mr. Norton, the member for the State electorate of Gascoyne, in which Carnarvon is situated, won his seat because of the objection of the people in that area to the sale by the Commonwealth of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. Yet the honorable member for Wills stands up in this chamber to-night and says, with all the sang froid in the world, that this sale has been kept secret. Honorable members of the Opposition know as well as any one else in Australia that when the Government went to the people in 1949 it told them quite plainly that its intention was to desocialize industry in this country. Then, in 1952, in a public statement, the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) offered the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission for sale to any one who was interested. The undertaking was offered even to the then Western Australian Government, but it was not interested. As was pointed out during the debate on the Addressin.Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, when this matter was brought up by moans of an amendment, the present. Premier of Western Australia, knew of this offer by the Australian Government to the Western Australian Government. If he did not know, he is not n. fit and capable person to be the Premier of a State, because he must have had access to the Government’s records and its files. The matter of the sale of this undertaking was used merely for purposes of political propaganda on the eve of the recent election in Western Australia.
The figures that have been given this evening by speakers on the Opposition side are a further evidence of the division in the Labour party. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) gave quite a treatise on finance and he concluded by saying that the Nor’
West Whaling Company Limited, after paying taxation and other charges, would make a profit of £120,000 a year. I think I am correct in saying that when the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) was speaking he mentioned the matter of interest, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports nodded his head in assent. However, the honorable member for Wills quite recently told us that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited would make at least £200,000 profit in a year.
– Gross profit.
– Honorable members on the other side of the House should get together on these matters if they wish to contribute anything worth while to our debates. But perhaps they are in a similar position to some of their colleagues in Sydney at this very moment. At least they have not made any concerted attack on the Government’s proposals. They have merely given a clear demonstration that they are members of a definite socialist party, a party which is socialist through thick and thin, and proposes to be so in the years to come. The honorable gentleman who took the opportunity of leading the debate for the Opposition used some very strong language in this Parliament. He spoke about phony deals, and he used other adjectives that I shall not endeavour to recall. One thing he said was that this Government had, over the years, been white-anted, and that it had cracked up under pressure and had agreed to sell this venture. If there is one gentleman In this Parliament who knows that statement to be false, it is the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who made the statement to-day.
– It is the truth.
– If there is one honorable member who should know that that statement is false, it is the honorable member for Lalor, who made it. He was the gentleman who introduced the original legislation in 1949, and he knows full well that it has been the intention of this Government, ever since it whs first elected, to dispose of the enterprise of the Australian Whaling Commission. The honorable member went further and said that we had been false to the people of Australia. I throw that statement back in bis teeth. because the people of Australia have known, ever since this Government has been in office, that it has been its desire to dispose of this whaling undertaking. The honorable member for Lalor went further. He issued a threat to the Nor’ “West Whaling Company Limited, to the effect that when a Labour government was returned to power it would ensure that it regained control of this venture.
– An empty threat!
– It may not be as empty a threat as my colleague suggests. It is a great pity that the proceedings of this House were not being broadcast at the time when the honorable member for Lalor made that statement, so that it could have been heard by the people of Australia, because this is the second occasion on which the honorable member has made statements of that kind. In Ballarat in 1948, when he was a Minister in the Chifley Government, he told the people that he had a plan to go on and on with the policy of socialization. I remind the people and the members of this Parliament that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, made a similar threat not so many moons ago, at the time when this Government disposed of its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. He said in this House that if the Labour party is ever returned to power it will ensure that it regains a controlling interest in the shareholding of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I strongly urge the people of Australia to remember these things clearly and vividly, because it is the determined intention of the party that sits opposite in this chamber to carry out those threats if ever the opportunity presents itself. It is not so empty a threat as my colleague might think it to be. The Australian people sometimes make slight mistakes and vote for candidates who espouse the political philosophy that is urged by honorable members on the other side of the House, particularly if they are not reminded on the eve of the election that those candidates belong to the old socialist party dressed up in some other clothing.
– Evidently the honorable member disagrees with his colleague.
– I much prefer to disagree with my colleague than to agree with the honorable member for Yarra, because if ever I have seen a socialist in this Parliament it is that honorable gentleman. In the short period that he has been in this House he has shown himself to be the number one socialist in the Parliament, and I hope that I shall never be destined to agree with him. Had the Government, in 1949, taken the opportunity, as was quite clearly available to it, to assist the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited in the rehabilitation of Point Cloates, it would have done far more for the fishing industry than has been done for it by the Australian Whaling Commission. The £1,000,000 or so that the Government spent in establishing the Australian Whaling Commission could have been used to much better effect in the investigation and improvement of the fishing industry of this country. It is a grand thing for the Australian people that at long last this Government has seen fit to dispose of this whaling venture, and to use the proceeds of the sale for the betterment of the fishing industry.
I hope that this Government, before the sale is concluded, will ensure that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited is adequately protected. The very day after the Minister for Trade released the information that this whaling venture was to be sold to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, the Premier of Western Australia, in an article published in a very prominent position in a Western Australian newpaper, said that it was all right for the Commonwealth to sell its interest in the whaling industry, but, he added, “Do not forget that the land belongs to the State of Western Australia “.
– Blackmail !
– As my colleague, the honorable member for Wide Bay, says, that is blackmail, and the honorable members who sit on the front bench on the opposite side of the House, in reply to that interjection, say “ Hear, hear ! “ I hope that this Government will do everything that it can to protect the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited in the purchase of this venture. If the Premier of Western Australia proposes to take action along the lines indicated by my colleague, the honorable member for Perth, then this Government should do everything possible to prevent his doing so.
– What can it do?
– We shall see what it can do. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asks what the Government can do, but I have not heard him say that it cannot assist in protecting the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. I submit that it is the bounden duty of this Government, before it concludes this deal with the company, to ensure that that company cannot be victimized by the Labour Government of Western Australia because of the fact that Babbage Island belongs to the State of Western Australia.
Another thing I want to mention is the question of the berthing of these whale chasers at Palm Beach, in my electorate. These vessels, when they return to Careening “Bay at Cockburn Sound after each season have been berthed at Palm Beach naval jetty for their overhaul and maintenance. Palm Beach is a seaside resort and one of the most popular watering places in the metropolitan area of Perth and Fremantle. These whale chasers have been an eyesore when berthed at the naval jetty at Palm Beach, The Australian Whaling Commission all along the line has said that it is not possible to use another jetty at Woodman’s Point, claiming that any vessel that is moored or berthed there must be continuously under steam so that it can be quickly moved because of changes in the weather. That has been the reason ever since this commission has been in operation that has been given by the authorities for the berthing of these vessels for such a long period at the Palm Beach jetty. They upset the views of people there. So annoyed have the people become that the local authority has repeatedly, through me, made protests to the Minister in an endeavour to have these ships moved from that spot. I will be quite frank that at one time the Australian Whaling Commission thought that only one individual v:« raising this objection. Thn.1 may have been correct for a short period hut not for the whole period.
This year the Navy has seen fit to ask the Australian Whaling Commission to put those whale chasers into Woodman’s Point to have them overhauled and the necessary maintenance carried out. ) claim that if it is good enough to put them in there for one year, then they could go there every year for maintenance. Now that this sale has taken place, I trust that some arrangement will be made so that these chasers will not be moored at Palm Beach, as they have been in the past.
Finally, I want to say this with respect to the sale of this venture. A rumour has been current in Perth over the last few weeks that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited proposes to sell its whale meal to America. I claim that that is a deliberate falsehood which is being pushed around by interests opposed to the sale of this venture. I say that quite deliberately in this House. That falsehood is being pushed around so that poultry farmers and people who have used the whale meal will become somewhat alarmed.
– So they should bt; alarmed !
– I am glad that the. honorable member for Lalor interjected, because he took me to task to-day about the report that whale meal was being sold in Western Australia.
– I said Australia and Western Australia.
– The honorable member said Western Australia, within the State. I will not argue the point. In fact, the honorable member for Lalor is quite correct, because the report does contain that statement. What does the honorable member really mean, Western Australia or Australia?
– The honorable member for Canning can have it both ways if he likes.
– The honorable member for Lalor is trying to have a couple of shillings each way, because the report does say that whale meal. is sold within the State. That is true, because all the meal is sold to one firm in the State. That firm handles the whole of that whale meal, but repeatedly some of it has been sent to the eastern States.
Poultry-farmers in Western Australia have been short of supplies; otherwise they would not have to import quantities as they do.
This Government, in respect of the export of any of this whale meal from Australia, has the trump card. The Government of Western Australia can control the export to other States if it so desires, but this Government has the responsibility of controlling the export from Australia. I say to the Government now quite plainly and clearly that if the Minister wants to remove this fear that has been engendered in the minds of the poultry-farmers by interested parties within the State of Western Australia, he can do so when replying to this debate or during the committee stage by an announcement to the effect that the interests of the poultry-farmers in Western Australia will be watched in respect of whale meal.
– The honorable member should be consistent. It will have to be sold on the American market because higher prices are paid there than here.
– I am glad of that interjection and I hope that the honorable member will keep that in mind regarding wheat and wool. Will we .sell all the wheat outside Australia?
– I am only pointing out the position.
– That is all right for the honorable member. He wants everything to fit his book. I say the Government can do a service to the poultry- farmers in Western Australia by clearing up this insidious propaganda that is being circulated. I know where it is coming from.
– From the Labour party.
– It is coming from an interested party to try to stir up strife and create fear in the minds of the poultry-farmers. I ask the Minister, before this debate is concluded, to have their interests watched, and see that whale meal will not be exported to America to the detriment of the poultry- farmers in Western Australia. I support this bill 100 per cent, because I am sticking to my guns as I did in 1949. The sooner the deal is completed, the better for the country.
.- I rise to oppose this bill. In doing so, I regret that the constant interruptions in the speech by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) seem to have achieved their purpose, because it is extremely difficult to discover what the speech was about. The main point seems to be that the intention of the Government to sell the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission was well known, and to support this, the suggestion is made, for the second time in this debate, that a Labour newspaper in Western Australia published a statement that the intention of the Government to sell the. whaling station had influenced an election result. Of course, the Western Australian Labour paper probably said that. It could also say that there are strong suspicions that the Government intends to sell the vessels of the Commonwealth shipping line, or that the Government intends to sell the assets of TransAustralia Airlines. But would that mean that fair notice had been given to other buyers if, in a week’s time, the Government brought to this House a proposal, which it had not taken the trouble to explain to the House for the sale of Trans-Australia Airlines to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited? That is analogous with what has taken place in this case.
Let me see what the evidence supports. It is not the habit of the honorable member for Canning to refer to evidence in his speeches, but T want to refer to the evidence, and he can check it for himself. When this Parliament first assembled for this session, there were whispers in the corridors and elsewhere that the Government proposed to sell the whaling station, that the Government proposed to sell it to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. Before very long, there were whispers that the price was not going to be more than £800,000. In this case there was not only inadequate notice of the Government’s intention to sell, but there was inadequate notice of its intention to sell to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, and that seems to have been its intention all the time. In order to further this matter a little, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), on the 16th February last, at the first available opportunity, asked the Minister for Trade whether he intended to sell the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. The honorable member for Lalor said -
My question is us follows: - Is the Government negotiating to sell this splendid, profitable people’s asset?
It was a simple, straightforward question. Let me turn to the answer given by the Minister for Trade and see whether he made a clear statement of the Government’s intention. He said -
I have been administratively responsible for the Australian Whaling Commission’s activities and I think that my colleague, the Ministor for Primary Industry, agrees that I may be more in possession of the facts than he is.
That is what he said to begin with. He continued - lt is true that the commission has been -conducted very successfully. I think that there is widespread acknowledgment of the fact that the conduct of the commission’s activities, its techniques, its lay-outs, and its general practices have not only been good in themselves but have been regarded as quite valuable examples to other whaling industries in Australia and have inspired, to some extent, their establishment and design and lay-out. To that extent, the Australian Whaling Commission’s activities have served the purposes which the Government believes arc desirable and useful.
Nothing was said about selling these assets. The Hansard report continues -
– We want to know if the Government intends to sell it.
– Order! The position is that the Minister ie entirely entitled to decide what answer he will give.
If that is not a case of avoiding answering, I do not know what is. Because that was clearly the position, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), a little later the same day, asked precisely the same question again. The sort of answer he received may be gauged from this long preamble by the Minister for Trade -
Speaking with the authority of the Government, as long as several years ago, I stated publicly that the functions for which we “believed the Australian Whaling Commission could be justified had been fulfilled–
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Yarra entitled to read from the Hansard report of this debate ?
– It was not this debate.
– It is the answer to a question asked nearly three months ago.
– No. Is the honorable member for Yarra entitled to read this Hansard report?
– Order! I rule that the honorable member for Yarra is in order.
– The Minister for Trade said the Government believed that the functions of the Australian Whaling Commission had been fulfilled. I suppose it follows from that statement that the Government intended to sell the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, but that intention was not declared. Nothing clear was said about it. On the second occasion, on the 16th February, the Minister for Trade avoided answering the question that, had been asked. Had he wished to do so, he could quite easily have said, “ We intend to sell the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, and we shall call for tenders for their purchase “. But nothing like that was said. This was the second time in one day that the Minister clearly and obviously avoided making a direct answer on this matter. So, on the 16th February, we were left by the Minister for Trade with the proposition that perhaps the Australian Whaling Commission had outlived its usefulness; but he made no definite statement about selling it in February or March, 1956. On the Minister’s own admission, this had been the position since 1952, but nothing clear and definite had been said which would mean that a sale would take place in 1956. On the 22nd February, when the Opposition endeavoured to force the Government’s hand and to compel it to state its intentions, the motion “ That the question be now put” was moved three times within half an hour in an attempt by the Government to stifle further discussion of the subject. Is that the attitude of a government that intends to state clearly what it proposes to do? On the 28th February, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), the Minister for Trade, in the course of another long preamble, stated that the Australian Whaling Commission’s station had been established as a demonstration unit, that its purpose had been served, that it would be in accordance with socialist doctrine to retain it, and that the Government opposed socialist doctrine. He went on to say merely -
That explains why the Government is now, and for some time past has been, willing to sell the whaling station.
The whole point at issue was whether the Government intended, within the next week or two, to sell the assets of the commission to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, but the Minister said not a word to indicate whether the Government so intended. In this answer, which was in reality no answer at all, he said that the matters he had ]:. entioned explained why the Government was taking the action it proposed, and he added that it had notified the operators in the industry and others as well. What others were notified, and in what manner were they notified? On the 29th March, a group of Melbourne businessmen endeavoured to ascertain whether there was anything in the rumours and suspicions they had heard voiced. Not being inveterate readers of Hansard - the only place, I should imagine, in which this could have been discovered in any detail - they wrote a letter to the Department of Trade in an endeavour to ascertain the position. The reply stated -
In reply to your letter of 20th March, you are advised that, as long ago as November, 1052, the Government announced in the newspapers that it was willing to consider firm offers for the purchase of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. -
Presumably, the present position has existed since November, 1952. If that is so, why did the Government not answer the questions asked by the Opposition, to which I have just referred ? If it had announced its intentions in November, 1952, why was it not willing to state them in this House on the 15th, the 16th and the 29th February? On the 29th February, the Leader of the Opposition again took action because the Opposition had not succeeded in obtaining any definite information. He asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) a question about the Western Australian Government in relation to this matter. The Treasurer chose to give no informa tion in reply. He merely stated that the question should have been directed to the Minister for Trade. Later on the same day, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) raised a point of order in an attempt to prevent the Leader of the Opposition from directing the same question to the Minister for Trade. Is this the attitude of a government which is ready to give full and adequate information in a matter such as this? The Minister for Trade, in answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s question, said -
We had proposed to consider whatever offers came forward up to the end of February.
For the first time, we began to obtain definite information, after we had made six attempts to get it, owing to the vague and indefinite position. The Minister for Trade said also -
I have suggested to the Prime Minister that it would be a fair thing to extend to theWestern Australian Government an opportunity to make an offer up to the loth March . . .
Is this the attitude of a government whoseactions in a matter such as this have been open and above-board? I suggest that the Government’s intentions had literally to bc forced out of it. Tho Minister for Trade himself, on the 29th February, referring to the efforts that the Leader of the Opposition had been forced to make in an endeavour to get this information, said - . . the Leader of the Opposition (Di Evatt) lias been badgering me . . .
Of course the Leader of the Opposition had been badgering him. The Opposition had to badger the Government for nearly three weeks in order to get this information: so it is true that the Minister for Trade had been badgered. What was the alternative to this badgering? But the alternative for the Opposition was to give up its responsibilities in safeguarding the public assets of the Austraiian people. The alternative open to the Government in- this matter was not to continue in this fashion but to make, in this Parliament, a clear statement that it intended to sell the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, and to advertise in the press and elsewhere, properly calling tenders for the purchase of those assets. But, on the 29tb February, the Government stated that offers would be received up to the end of February.
It was not, and never had been, the Government’s wish to make its intentions clear, as I think I have demonstrated. What were its intentions? I suggested at the outset that it intended to sell the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited as quietly as possible. This is further evidenced by a particular transaction to which I shall refer. A representative of the West Australian Whaling Company visited Canberra on the 13th March, 1956, and I understand that he was introduced to the private secretary to the Minister for Trade by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). This company made two alternative offers. The first was an offer to buy a 49 per cent, interest in the Carnarvon whaling station for £400,000 in cash, a considerably greater amount of cash than will b> obtained from the transaction upon which the Government has embarked, and to leave a 51 per cent, interest in the station with the Commonwealth. It made an alternative offer of £S50,000, which, so far as I can make out, was a cash offer. Otherwise, it offered £100,000 deposit, and more, if necessary, with ten annual payments of £100,000, making the total payment £1,100,000, of which £227,826 represented interest.
– That is no different from the proposal accepted by the Government.
– That is a. very significant point. I am very pleased at that interjection. This may very well be the link between the present price and the sale. It would have given a net return of £872,174, a little less than £8,000 less than the offer from the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited which was accepted. Despite the fact, that all this time the offer which the company was supposed to have made was said to be no more than £800,000. within a few days an offer of £880,000 was made, a little more than £8,000 above the largest offer by an alternative buyer. Does this not suggest that there was a possible conveyance of information about the other offer during those few days? Is this not a matter to justify investigation and inquiry?
– The honorable member has no proof of that. He has no knowledge of it.
– We have no knowledge of anything that has happened in relation to this matter.
– The honorable member is making false statements.
– Order! There are too many interjections.
– The honorable member is making false statements.
– Order! The Minister, too, must cease interjecting.
– The West Australian Whaling Company was given no information, and no correspondence was received by it until after the 15th March, and it was not until five days after the 15th March that a copy of the conditions of sale was sent to the company.
– Was there any technical knowledge in this company?
– It is useless to ask, by interjection, what was the technical knowledge of this company. The question is whether the Government had this information and, if so, how did it influence the Government’s decision? The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) should know something about this matter, and he should take the opportunity to explain it to the House. I hope that he does so, now that it has been brought out.
– It has not been brought out. It has been falsely alleged.
– The Minister may answer it if he can. It appears that the representative of this company informed the Government that the residents of Carnarvon had signed a petition against the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. Despite all this, the directors of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited were invited to Canberra and the transaction was completed. The bill that is introduced to the House is a single-page measure which contains hardly any material. We have been given no information about the agreement with the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, as the House was given information about the sale of the assets of the
Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. This is the situation, and I suggest that the House must be seriously disturbed about it and must consider that some kind of inquiry and investigation is necessary to discover the facts. Therefore, on behalf of the Opposition, I take this opportunity to move -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “this House declines to give ;i second reading to the bill until such time as the Joint Committee on Public Accounts has inquired into and reported to Parliament on all aspects of the proposed sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited “.
I move that amendment because I &uggest that the facts of this matter show that the Government has had to be badgered - to use the Minister’s word- to get any information at all about what it proposed to do. Secondly, it was badgered information, printed in the pages of Hansard and in very limited places elsewhere, that possible purchasers had rely upon. A substantial group of Melbourne businessmen, as soon as the information had been obtained by them, entered the field, prepared to make a substantial offer for the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, but they were not able to do so because the Government had chosen, on the 29th February when it made this statement, to close the receipt of offers for the station. Other intending buyers were given little information and little assistance, but the shareholders of the Nor’ West, Whaling Company Limited, from the very beginning, have been the favoured few, 1,000 lucky people who are getting an asset worth at least, on a conservative estimate, from £1,200,000 to £1,500,000, for a mere £880,000. This method of doing business has resulted in the sale of a substantial asset belonging to the people of Australia for a greatly undervalued figure. I suggest therefore that the House must give full consideration to this amendment, for an inquiry and investigation into this matter are most necessary.
– Is the motion seconded?
– Yes. I formally second the motion and reserve my right to speak on it till a later stage.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), in his speech in the absence of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), has made statements which I think impugn the honour of the honorable member for Perth, and! 1 want to take the earliest possible opportunity to point out that those statementswere made without any proof whatsoever in just a speculative way.
– If the honorable member for Perth has been misrepresented, he has the right to rise in his place.
.- I rise to oppose the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. (‘aims). I desire to make quite clear that I support the motion.
– The honorable member has to support the motion.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) may have to do certain things, but we on this side, members of the parties that comprise the Government, have the courage of our convictions. It appears from the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra that after the Public Accounts Committee has gone into the matter and found that the transaction is satisfactory, the Australian Labour party will not mind the station being sold. That is evidently the meaning of the amendment. One of the strange features about this debate is that all of the opposition so far has emanated from honorable members opposite who come from Victoria. Government supporters who come from Western Australia have spoken in support of this measure. The whaling station at Carnarvon is in the electorate of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), who is a member of the Australian Labour party. He should at least have been given the honour of being one of the first speakers on the Labour side, if he really supports the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). Neither the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), nor the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), has yet spoken. Nobody will accuse the honorable member for Lalor of not knowing his “ ekker “ on socialism, and it is strange that all the Opposition speakers who have followed him happened to be men who believe that everything that we have in this country should be socialized, whether it be whales, pigeons, or frogs. It is all the same to them. The believe that these things should belong to the people, or to the Government. I feel a little sorry for the outlook of honorable members who represent the Australian Labour party. On the last four occasions that the people of Australia have been asked to vote for a government they have placed this Government in power. On all four occasions the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has told the people in his policy speech that he will not bother with State trading. That is pretty clear.
The statements that have been made by the honorable member for Lalor, the honorable member for Yarra and other honorable gentlemen to the effect that the people had not been told about the sale of this enterprise is so much hooey. The people have been told of the Government’s intentions on each of the last four occasions on which the Government appealed to the people prior to a general election. Furthermore, the matter has been given such prominence in Australia that no fewer than eight companies have made offers for the purchase of this station. It is most remarkable that eight offers should have been made for a large enterprise such as this. The fact that those offers have been received proves that the Government has very widely publicized its intention to sell this industry.
The honorable member for Lalor questioned the propriety of selling this station, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) claimed that it had been sold in an underhand manner. In reply to those honorable gentlemen, one might repeat what the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has told us to the effect that proper values were taken out for this enterprise which showed, in its last balance-sheet, physical assets worth £809,000. An outside valuer valued the enterprise at £763,000. The Government valuer estimated the value to be £954,000 and government values are known to be always high. Nevertheless, the Government was able to sell the enterprise for £8S0,000, which was £260,000 more than the Western Australian Government was prepared to give. The offer that was made by the Western Australian Government was the second lowest of the offers that were made. Those offers ranged from £519,000 to £880,000.
The argument of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports falls to the ground completely because the Government has taken all reasonable opportunities of ensuring that it got full value for the enterprise. Who is there to doubt that, in view of the profits that have been made from time to time by the station, the amount of £880,000 is not a fair and reasonable price ? There is no one to say that it is not fair and reasonable. After all, the true value of a proposition is its market value. There can be no gainsaying that the Government has taken every step to see that the full market price was secured for the Carnarvon whaling station, which was built for the purpose of proving that shore-based whaling stations could be successful.
Up to the time at which this station was constructed, the whaling industry had been carried in big ships. The Government was able to show that by means of a shore-based station it could set up an industry that would provide work for people. The effect of this legislation will not be to abolish the whaling station. The same number of whales, 500 a year, will be processed at the station in the years to come as has been processed in the past. The private company which has purchased the station will be able to process the same number of whales as was processed by the Australian Whaling Commission. It will employ the same number of men that is now employed in the work. It will bring into this country the same amount of wealth in the form of oil and processed goods or by-products that is brought in at present.
There is a whaling station in Queensland at Moreton Island, near Brisbane. It has an annual quota of 600 whales. It is privately operated. Just as in Western Australia the State Government is not anxious to take over enterpriser, even a whaling station, so’ in Queensland the Labour Government will not take over Tangalooma whaling station but encourages private enterprise to carry on the undertaking. The Queensland Labour Government has done more to establish State enterprises than any other Labour government in Australia. In 1914 when a Labour government first came to power in Queensland it set out to socialize everything on which it could lay hands. It bought businesses such as cattle stations, sugar mills, butchers’ shops, hotels, saw-mills, and brickworks for the purpose of carrying on State enterprises. Then, after it had started these enterprises, it prepared a book entitled Socialism at Work, in which it laid out the whole of those enterprises as a pretty picture on paper. But it was not long before all those enterprises made losses of over £4,000,000. That £4,000,000 had to be paid by the people of Queensland by way of increased taxation because at that time taxation was levied by the States and not through the uniform taxation system. The people of Queensland know, just as the Labour party of Queensland knows, that State enterprise cannot be a success in a country in which the people believe in their individual freedom to trade. If there is any country in the world in which individual enterprise is sought it is in this free country of Australia and the Labour party in Queensland cannot be dragged into a State enterprise of any description.
As a matter of fact, the Opposition, as far as it has gone, has indicated that people from Victoria, like honorable members from Victoria, are the only ones in the Labour party who desire to maintain a State enterprise which the Western Australian people evidently do not want in Western Australia. Why did the Labour party not advocate State enterprise in Victoria when the Cain Labour Government was in power? At that time it was not popular to do so. Even to-day, in the Victorian Parliament, Labour members, though in opposition, do not advocate State enterprise. It can only bc advocated at a time such as this when Labour members from Victoria want to sound a little socialistic.
– The honorable member ought to be in Wirth’s circus.
– The honorable member . for Lalor came out of Wirth’s Circus. I can understand why he is unhappy at the trend that the debate’ is taking. Private enterprise has been a great successin the whaling industry in Queensland. The by-products of that industry areavailable to the people of Queensland and of Australia, just as are those from Western Australia. Whaling is a seasonal1 occupation, and by no means permanent. Indeed, it offers limited opportunities. The honorable member for Yarra said! that each of the Australian whaling stations could process only a certain number of whales each year. In Queensland the number is 600; and at Carnarvon it is 500. Though the whaling industry offers limited opportunities, the fishingindustry generally offers unlimited scope. That is why this Government is endeavouring to develop it. We hope that its produce will find a market both in this country and overseas, thus bringing to Australia a dollar income that will be of great assistance to us. I can understand why Labour supporters, who are socialistic in outlook, should be depressed that this station is being sold, but, the people look to us to quit the trading field, knowing that otherwise they may some day have to meet the losses on another government undertaking.
In this country Labour is divided on the question of State enterprises. New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania have Labour governments, but in none of these States is government enterprise being developed. Why then should this Government, which is not socialistic in outlook, continue to encourage state ownership? Surely we must do what is best for this country, and thus make it stronger and wealthier. * Quorum formed.]* I can understand why Labour supporters like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has just returned to the House after a long absence, should have little inclination to prolong this debate. This afternoon the honorable member for Lalor apologized to his colleagues. He said that if this bill had been placed first on the business paper he would have supported the Fishing Industry Bill. I can imagine the grilling that he must have received at the hands of his party colleague for placing them in the invidious position of having to vote against such a bill. This bill will be one of the best that this Parliament has passed, and the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Yarra is quite unacceptable to honorable members who, like the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), believe that State enterprise is one of the worst possible things for this country.
.- Earlier the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) spoke of the “ ignorance “ of members of the Australian Labour party. He now accuses the Cain Government of Victoria of not proceeding with State enterprises. I would remind him that one of the biggest enterprises
– I rise to order. 1 suggest that the honorable member should restrict his remarks to the amendment.
– I uphold the point of order.
– There are very sound reasons why the Government should agree to the amendment, which asks that this matter be referred to the Public Accounts Committee. I advanced those reasons earlier in this debate. They were reinforced substantially and effectively by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and emphasized in detail by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). One of the outstanding reasons is the evasion practised by this Government, and its unwillingness to seek the best tender available. It did not give the fullest publicity to this matter and there is every reason why an impartial authority such as the Public Accounts Committee should investigate every aspect of the proposed sale to Nor’ “West Whaling Company Limited. After all, this asset is, on the Government’s own admission, worth substantially more than 1,000,000, yet not one advertisement has appeared in the daily or evening press of the last twelve months intimating that this great people’s asset is to be sold and tenders invited for its purchase.
– Does the honorable member suggest that any one in the whaling industry did not know that the commission’s asset was for sale?
– Is there any reason why the right to purchase should have been the prerogative of some one already in the whaling industry? The Moore family, before entering the whaling industry in 1943-44, knew nothing of whaling stations or the catching of whales. One must acknowledge the great capacity of that family. What did they know?
Mr. Failes interjecting,
– Never mind about you ! You have been absent from the chamber all the evening during this debate, but now you come in and want to make a damned nuisance of yourself.
– Tut, tut!
– That is a fact. That is what he has done. The Moore family, in other words the centre of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, knew nothing about operating or establishing whaling stations, or catching whales. I have paid tributes to that family. They were a family, I understand, that operated a foundry. They had a knowledge of the engineering industry and, as most engineers usually are, they were versatile people. “By virtue of that fact they were in the position to put into practice the rehabilitation of a defunct whaling station. They were able to accumulate information from other sources, I do not know what sources, and they decided to attempt, and actually performed, the remarkable feat of restoring that defunct whaling station to useful life. In doing so they probably did something that nobody else could have done.
My reply to the Minister , for Customs and Excise, when he asks whether I think that nobody in the whaling game knew about this proposed sale, is what about people in this day and generation situated as the Moore brothers were before they entered the whaling industry? The Moore brothers had not previously been in the whaling game, but, because of their engineering capacity and their natural abilities, of which the Minister for Customs and Excise apparently knows nothing, they were able to make a go of it. Were such people outside the whaling industry, who might be interested in entering the industry from scratch, as the Moore brothers did, supposed to pay much attention to some obscure statement that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture as the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) then was, made in 1952 to the effect that the station was to be sold ? Pour years ago ! Let me contrast the action of the Government in this case with its actions in regard to its disposal of some of the less valuable assets belonging to the people. Every Saturday issue of the Melbourne Argus and the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial contains advertisements, sometimes covering half a column, sometimes covering a full column, relating to disposals sales - the sale of old junk.
Mr.Failes. - I rise to order. I fail to see that advertisements for disposals sales have anything to do with the amendment which proposes that this transaction be referred for investigation to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
– They have everything to do with it.
– Order ! 1 should like the honorable member for Lalor tolink his remarks up with the proposed amendment. Obviously he is trying to make out a case for the reference of this matter to the Public Accounts Committee, and he should come to the point.
– I suggest that I am right on the point. I am pointing out that one of the reasons that makes this thing a questionable transaction is that no adequate advertisements regarding this proposed sale were inserted in the daily press of Australia.
Mr. Harold Molt interjecting,
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has been absent from the chamber all evening. He could well have been present to hear the Government of which he is a member indicted in respect of this transaction. I am giving an illustration of the procedure adopted by the Government in the disposal of less valuable assets, in comparison with the procedure it has adopted in this case.
– The honorable member is right off the track.
– The Minister has not been on the track, and it will not be long before he will be properly off it. In respect of the disposal of less valuable assets, including junk vehicles discarded by the Department of the Army and other government departments, the Government has periodically inserted long advertisements in newspapers.
Mr. Failes interjecting,
– You are hardly intelligible since you have been to the party.
Mr.Failes. - Mr. Deputy Speaker,I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– Well, it is correct.
– Order! I did not hear the remark.
– As I understood the remark, the honorable member for Lalor said that I was hardly intelligible since I had been to the bar.
– No, I did not say that. I never said that.
– Then tell Mr. Deputy Speaker what you did say.
– I did not say what the honorable member for Lawson says he understood me to say. I said that he was hardly intelligible since he had been to the party. He has been mumbling, and I could not make out what he was saying.
– I still ask for a withdrawal of the remark.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor must withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it. I would not say a thing like that to the honorable member for Lawson of all people.
– There was an objection to a previous remark which I did not catch. If the honorable member will address the Chair I shall be able to hear clearly what he says.
– Probably, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the problem that has arisen between me and the honorable member for Lawson would not have arisen if you had kept Government supporters in order.
-Order! That is a reflection on the Chair.
– Well, I willingly withdraw that, too
– The honorable member will no1” keep to the point under discussion.
– I nave only been stating the facts. I hope that I shall not be deprived of the opportunity to point out that on every Friday, and probably every Saturday, every daily journal in Australia carries advertisements, on which the Government spends thousands of pounds, announcing sales to be held at various centres in the respective States to dispose of old Army junk and other more valuable products. Those are extensive, and expensive, advertisements. Every item that is for sale is publicized in detail. Yet, in regard to an asset which is valued at more than £1,000,000. but which in actual fact, in terms of replacement value, has a value probably nearer to £4,000,000, not one solitary advertisement has been inserted by the Government in any morning or evening newspaper anywhere in Australia. Let that sink well in !
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order 1 Honorable members will cease interjecting.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Let that strange fact sink well into the minds of the Government. Why, on the one hand, in reference to the sale of relatively paltry articles belonging to the Government, and therefore to the public, does the Government spend thousands of pounds in advertisements in the daily press all over the Commonwealth, whilst, in regard to the disposal of an asset valued at more than £1,000,000, and with a true value of probably £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, not one single solitary line appears in any daily newspaper announcing the sale- not a solitary penny is spent by the Government on any newspaper advertisement to acquaint the citizens of Australia with the fact that this enterprise is available for purchase? And the Minister for Customs and Excise asks whether 1 am suggesting that the people; interested in whaling did not know about the proposed sale! There are other people besidesthose engaged in whaling who might, be interested in it, and surely they have a right to know of the availability for sale of the enterprise, and be given an opportunity to tender for it. It might as well be suggested seriously that if the procedure the Government has adopted in this instance is correct, when the saleof some old junk at Tottenham or Bandiana or Brisbane is proposed, the Government ought to circularize, by private circular only, marine and junk dealers, and thus save thousands of pounds that would otherwise be spent on advertisements. But what the Government does is to publish the terms of sale of such junk all over the Commonwealth, itemizing every detail, because it knowsthat, as sure as- the sun rises and sets, people like constituents of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who are mainly farmers, and other people in the community, are interested in all sorts of things that are sold at junk sales. I used the Moore brothers as an illustration of my point, and I think they provide a splendid illustration. There are probably many other citizens, people like the Moore brothers were before they engaged in the whaling industry, who know nothing about whaling but, given the opportunity to engage in the industry, could make a success of their venture, as the Moore brothers did. The Moores themselves have been conducting their operations with greater efficiency than some of the old Norwegian- stations conduct theirs. I have paid tribute in this chamber to their particular ability, which they used to rehabilitate a defunct establishment. Just as they came out of the blue, knowing nothing about the whaling industry, and made a success of their venture, other people might similarly come out of the blue and make a success of it. But no opportunity was given to any Australian taxpayer, other than the people already in the whaling industry, to know all about the proposed sale of this very valuable asset. In those circumstances, in view of the proven and undeniable facts of the case’ - that the advertising mediums of the press were not used, that the tender system was not utilized - I say that we, as an Opposition, are justified in describing the whole show as a phoney show.
I do not say that the Minister knows it is a phony deal, but from an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee there might flow information that would throw fresh light on this transaction.
Before I sit down, let me say one more thing with all the emphasis of which I am capable. On an occasion when very notable legislation was passed by this Parliament some time ago, the Leader of the Australian Country party, which was then in opposition, said, “ We shall oppose this legislation by every means at our disposal - economic, political and, if need be, physical “. What I am going to say to the House now the Government, if it likes, can convey to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited or to any other company concerned. On the occasion to which I have referred, the Leader of the Australian Country party, referring to one aspect of that legislation, threatened to do certain things that I would not be prepared to threaten to do in relation to this legislation. But I do say that the Labour party, believing this to be an outrageous transaction, will, when given an opportunity - you can bet your lives on this - explore the situation to see by what manner of means the people can have restored to them the rights that are now being taken from them.
The Western Australian Government has been criticized. That Government can speak for itself. It has sovereign rights in relation to the land on which this station stands. That is a feature of the matter that the Public Accounts Committee no doubt would investigate, because the Western Australian Government’s tender has been mentioned. The Western Australian Government is well able to look after its own interests. I emphasize that it owns the land on which the station stands. It co-operated in this matter with a government of which I was a member. It controls the waters through which whales are conveyed to the whaling station. The station stands where it does only by virtue of the efforts of . .a Commonwealth government with the co-operation of the Western Australian Government. What the Western Australian Government will do or will not do is its own business, not my business. That is something that the future will reveal. I leave it at that.
I appeal to the Minister. I do not believe for a moment that he wants to be a party to something which, in its worst aspect, is a suspect transaction, and, in its other aspects, is at least a most careless, haphazard and phony transaction by the Government of this country.
– It seems to me that the House has arrived at an extraordinary situation, when we look back on the debate that has been taking place for some hours past. We were debating the motion for the second reading of the Whaling Industry Act Repeal Bill, which contains provisions to repeal the Whaling Industry Act and to vest control of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets in the Commonwealth. It was explained at the outset of the debate that the purpose of the proposal was to put the Government in a position where it would be able to sell the commission’s assets to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. The debate proceeded and many interesting points were made. There were differences of view in various parts of the House, as might have been expected. Honorable members opposite put forward, along traditional lines, their arguments that these were the people’s assets, that the people’s assets should be preserved, that in general it was quite right and proper for the Government to engage in whaling operations long past the stage of demonstration, and that whaling was a legitimate business for a government to undertake. Prom the Government side of the House, arguments were produced resisting the criticisms of the Opposition, pointing to flaws in the statements made about the people’s assets and justifying the action which the Government proposed to take.
That debate proceeded, if I may venture to say so, along lines to which this House is accustomed, with the cutandthrust of debate and the interplay of varying opinions. We were discussing the merits of the bill in the customary way on the motion for the second reading. Then, at a comparatively late stage of the debate, the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Cairns) injected a completely new element into it. Prior to moving the amendment which is now before the
House, he made, by adjective and innuendo - certainly not by means of statements that would stand examination - veiled suggestions that there was something wrong, that there was something amounting almost to malpractice, if not actually to malpractice, in the way in which the whole of this deal had been conducted.
Then he threw into the House this amendment, which suggests that, before the bill is further considered, the whole matter should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee. That is unusual. When an unusual course of that kind is taken, I submit that it is necessary for the member and the party that takes that unusual course to support their action in a convincing way. But those members who were present when the honorable member for Yarra made his speech and those members who were present when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made his speech in support of the amendment must be amazed at the hardihood of the Opposition in coming forward, without a tittle of proof, with out a tittle of evidence, without a single shred of fact, and trying to interrupt the procedures of the House in this unusual manner. They have nothing whatsoever 10 support the unusual course which they propose the House should take.
It is quite open to the honorable member for Yarra to move and the honorable member for Lalor to second an amendment of this kind, but surely, when they interrupt the customary procedures of the House in this manner, they owe it to the House to produce some convincing proof that there is something to investigate. Go back to the speech made by the honorable member for Yarra. There was not a very full attendance in the House at that time. Being a member of the Opposition, he had the privilege of not being subjected to a call for a quorum. If he had been subjected to a call for a quorum, his speech would certainly have been interrupted while a larger number of members assembled. Those few of us who had the pain of listening to him recall quite clearly that what he did in his speech was to follow a technique with which we are familiar in other circles outside the Parliament, but with which, happily, we are not so familiar in i he Parliament. It is this: You start off with a rumour and you turn that rumour into a suspicion. Having done that, you have reached the point where you say, “ This is what may have happened “. Then, having reached that point, yo.u say, “That is the fact on which I build my case.” The honorable member for Yarra followed that well-known technique. He suggested that some one had introduced somebody to somebody else, or that it was said that somebody had done that.
– Is it denied?
-It is denied, lt was denied flatly by interjection at the time he made the statement.
– Is the Minister denying it?
– 1 arn denying it, yes. Having made those vague statements, having made the suggestion that there was something wrong, he turned his own suggestion, his own doubt, his own rumour, into the fact on which he based his ease. That is not good enough for a parliamentary procedure. If a member wishes the Parliament to take action of the kind proposed in this amendment, surely he must support his case with something more than turning a rumour into a fact, something more than parading a number of adjectives or trotting out a great deal of innuendo.
The poverty of the speech of the honorable member for Yarra was exposed in an even more emphatic manner by the speech just made by the honorable member for Lalor. In part, the. speech just made by the honorable member for Lalor was identical with the speech’ that he made in the second-reading debate some hours earlier. He twisted it, if I may say so without disrespect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in order to give it an application that would make it conform to the Standing Orders and apply to the amendment. But it was, in all material respects, the speech that he had made in the secondreading debate earlier. The only difference was that he threw in a few more adjectives. Those of us who have learned to admire the facility of the honorable member for Lalor for enlivening the proceedings of the House always appreciate his adjectives. We do not give his adjectives a great deal of value, but we always appreciate their colour and liveliness. On this occasion, he added to his secondreadwig speech a number of adjectives and a number of phrases, but he did not add one tittle of proof. That is the stage we have reached now. A legitimate procedure, but an unusual one, has been followed by the Opposition. The honorable member for Yarra, who initiated the procedure, and the honorable member for Lalor, who supported it, have not made a single statement that would entitle the House to give credence to the suggestion that the transaction should be investigated. I need not reiterate the statements that have been made so often by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who introduced the bill, and supporters of the Government to the effect that the intention of the Government to sell the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission has been clearly stated on many occasions since 1952 and has been well known in all quarters throughout the Commonwealth. Nor need I repeat the clear statements that ample opportunity and every reasonable facility were afforded to all those persons or organizations who might be interested in submitting tenders for the purchase of the commission’s property. Proof of the fact that the Government has given interested organizations every opportunity to tender is found in the fact that eight offers were received. As is customary - and I speak on this point with assurance and confidence - the contents of those offers were not known nor where they examined until all the tenders had been received.
– The Government called for tenders. What is the Minister talking about?
– He knows nothing about it
– The honorable member for Lalor may use any word he likes, but the offers that were made by those eight persons or organizations were in the form of tenders. They were offers to purchase the assets for certain amounts on certain conditions. I speak positively when I say again that those offers were not known o_* discussed until he whole series of offers had been received. A closing date was fixed, and that date, as ha been stated during the debate, was extended for another fortnight in order to let the Government of Western Australia to submit an offer.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor has spoken twice during this debate. He must remain quiet.
– I would like a third opportunity, too.
– The procedures wen followed in a manner that I think has been one of probity, to which we have been accustomed in the dealings of governments within Australia. Nothing whatever has been brought forward to throw substantial doubt on that fact. We must have something more than just this slur, this suggestion, or this rumour, that has been brought forward by the Opposition in order to throw doubt on what has happened.
Following an examination of the various offers, the Government accepted the offer that not only was the highest, but which also was made by persons who were experienced in this field of activity and who had some capacity for making good use of the commission’s station. It was an offer which, however, fulfilled other conditions that were necessary for the proper continuance of the whaling activities. It was the best offer and was superior, in the financial sense, to the average of the valuations that were received by the Government and to the valuation shown in the commission’s books. In conclusion, I say that members of the Opposition must produce something better than they have produced so far if they are to expect the House to look with any care at the amendment that they have submitted.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) stated, in the concluding part of his speech, “ The honorable member for Leichhardt does not believe in government enterprise “. I definitely believe in government enterprise. I believed in the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which had had a wonderful record; I believed in the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, whichhas been emasculated by this Government; and I believed in the establishment of the State butcher shops in Queensland, which eventually saved the people of that State several millions of pounds.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Honorable members from other States may interject, but they were paying much more for meat than were the people in Queensland. Those butcher shops would still have been in operation but for the fact that a great number of the persons who were employed did not do their job. The fact that the shops were closed does not prove that that State enterprise was not successful I believe that it would be better for all the people of Australia if industries like the one we are discussing were socialized and if the money received from their operations were paid to the people instead of being given to private companies. I definitely resent any statement that I do not support government enterprise. Not only do I support government enterprise, but let me say without any equivocation that I am a definite believer in socialism. J. should prefer to be associated with a socialist enterprise that failed than with a government that gave the people’s money to private enterprise. I believed in the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines. The Government has had to come to light with £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 to help Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, a private enterprise the shares of which are held by various shipping companies. That company was in the red, and this Government had to come to its assistance.
– Order ! The honorable member has been in the House long enough to know that he cannot now discuss private enterpriseand get away with it. He must deal with the bill.
– I was replying to a statement made by the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– I do not mind the honorable member stating his attitude, but he must get back to the bill.
– The Australian Labour party has proved conclusively that hundreds of thousands of pounds of government money have been handed over to private enterprise.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- 1 wish to raise the matter of an application by Aerial Agriculture Proprietary Limited, of Bankstown, New South Wales, for permission to import from Italy a multi-engined SIAI Marchetti SM95 aircraft to cost approximately £20,000. It is intended that the aircraft shall be used for the purpose of aerial agriculture, that is, for spreading superphosphate and seed for pasture improvement. Two applications have been rejected but athird application has been lodged, and it is my hope that, by putting the facts before the House and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne), more careful consideration will begiven to the application than has been the case in the past. The company has pioneered the use of aircraft for agricultural purpose in Australia, and it is, I believe, the largest operator in this field and has been operating for the longest period. It has had considerable experience. The general manager, Mr. Watson, made investigations in New Zealand and in the United States of America, in 1954 and 1955, to determine whether this is the best means of carrying out the work. As a result of the company’s experience ever since the war, and as a result of these investigations, the company is of the opinion that a large four-engined slow aircraft of the type proposed is best suited for adapting to the purpose that the company has in mind. The company claims that very important economies can be achieved by the use of this aircraft. For example, the superphosphate will hot have to be bagged; it can be transported in bulk. There will be no need for surface transport from railway stations to depots. There will not be a need for a large number of landing strips, as is the case at present with small planes. There will also be less labour required for loading and other duties.
T do not wish to go into the technicalities of this matter. The company is convinced that it can more cheaply carry out. this work by means of this kind of aircraft. If this licence is not granted, the company’s fleet of small aircraft will ha ve to be replaced very shortly, because the machines are wearing out, and the cost of their replacement will be just as great as is the cost of the aircraft that the company wishes to import, and which it believes will be more suited to its purpose. So far as dollars and overseas exchange are concerned, it is quite obvious that if these people are enabled to carry on their work, it will be possible to increase production, and so earn the hard currency that we so badly need. Indeed, I would suggest that if the production of wool were increased by 300 bales enough money would be earned to pay for this aircraft.
I do not want to give close attention to technicalities in regard to this matter. If the departmental officers are of the opinion that this type of aircraft is not satisfactory, all I can say is. that the company that is making the application lias had considerable experience, that investigations have been carried out by it and it is prepared to back this venture with its own money. I do not know what the theoretical views of departmental officers may be, but when a relatively small amount of money is involved, when the people concerned are prepared to back their opinion with their own money and their own long experience, then it is not for departmental officers to purport to know better than the people who carry on the business.
I also submit very strongly the fact that the aeroplane that the company wishes to import is an old type of passenger aeroplane, which is too slow for passenger purposes and is now available on the market at a very cheap price. It is no longer useful for the purpose for which it was originally designed. It is of no use to say, “ The financial position at present is difficult. ‘ We cannot afford such things at this time,, but in twelve months, or two years, if the application is renewed it may be granted “, because within a relatively short time these aeroplanes, of which there are very few, will have been sold to other people, particularly people in the United States of America who have discovered that they are useful for this purpose. This is an opportunity that can be seized now but cannot be seized to-morrow.
There is no need for me to emphasize the importance of the work that this company carries out, or the fact that it is very effectively done -by aerial means. I urge the Minister concerned to reconsider the matter, and in particular to bear in mind its urgency. I remind him that this purchase cannot be made in the future. If the opportunity is not availed of now it will not present itself in the future. I impress upon the Minister again that this company has had long experience, and it is prepared to back its judgment with its own money.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to the trafficking that is going on in import licenses, particularly in regard to B category quotas. When the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) was in charge of the quotas he gave a very reasonable reply, as regards administration, to one of my questions. But this is not a question of administration, it is a matter of very obvious racketeering within the framework of the regulations set up to deal with the licensing of imports. That is where the trouble has occurred, and I suggest that the Government must step in. An immediate inquiry is necessary to ascertain what has happened in regard to B class quotas. The simple story is that our balance of payments position is deteriorating to the amount of between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 a month, and at the same time it is obvious to any one who is interested in the matter, or who has studied it for any length of time, that something has gone wrong with the quota system. In its original form that system may have been effective, but latterly interested people have been able to get around its provision’s, while preserving a semblance of legality so far as the licences are concerned.
The ordinary taxpayer has been told recently that everything must be cut back, that he must tighten his belt and prepare for difficulties ahead, and that one of our greatest difficulties is that we are buying more than we can pay for. He finds that in order to overcome those difficulties this Government, and the government that was previously in office, have adopted the practice of controlling imports by a system of licensing. He naturally concludes that that is a useful step and one that must be taken, and it comes as rather a shock to him to see advertisements in the newspapers such as the following one which appeared in the Sydney Sun of the 1st May, 1956: -
Importer with “ B “ quota wanted. We guarantee to double your income if you can make £22,000 per year available to a well established leading organization with N.S.W. rights. Correct procedure followed. All inquiries treated with strictest confidence.
Then follows a telephone number, and the words “ ring after 6 p.m. “, and the whole appears in a display advertisement. The whole suggestion is furtive. The implication is, “If you want to make £22,000 send us your quota licences that you are not using “. That brings up another point: Who would have a quota that he is not using? There appears to be substantial evidence in New South Wales that many people who are in possession of licences have retired from business, and are living very nicely, thank you, on the proceeds of the sale of their licences to other indentors or importers. That aspect has been mentioned in the press, particularly in the financial pages of the dailies.
While I am dealing with the question of imports, there is another serious matter that I ask the Minister to consider. If there is racketeering with import licences that have fallen into disuse because the person holding the licence is now out of business, and if such charges can be substantiated, then it means that undeserving people have been lucky enough to obtain import permits at the expense of certain young ex-servicemen. The quotas were fixed having regard to a base year, 1950-51 being chosen as that base year. There are many ex-servicemen, and other young Australians, and, indeed, other businessmen, in business in a small way, but the man who had established quotas in the base year gained an almost everlasting grip on import licences. Such people have made so much money that they are now out of business, and are marketing, or blackmarketing their licences, to the detriment of the whole system. There is something grievously wrong.
I thank the Minister for the clear explanation he gave of the responsibilities of his department then in regard to quotas. This is not a hostile attack on the Government. It is a question whether we can, between us, find some way of curing what is obviously a leak, a break in control and something that is to the detriment of Australian business, Australian finance and the balance of payments overseas. I think the time has come for an inquiry. There should be an investigation into whether there is trafficking and those people who aver or assert that there is should be invited to report these cases. There appears to be plenty of evidence. There should also be a general examination of the quotas that were fixed in 1951-52 to see whether to-day they are realistic, whether they do provide for the goods coming into this country and exclude any chance of . these people having larger quotas than are required, and selling them. There is another case in the same paper. There is a display advertisement on another page saying -
Indentor with “ B “ quota is sought by long established wholesale distributor client who desires to indent goods under “ B “ quota classification. It is consistent with our client’s code of ethics that the correct .procedure as laid down by the Department of Customs and excise should be adopted in this respect.
I ask the Minister why there is a reiteration that the correct procedure will be adopted, that all ethical standards will be observed. Of course, it is to suggest to the man who will sell them a B quota that they can get around the regulations! Although they may be within the letter of the regulations, so far as the spirit is concerned they are doing harm to this country. The whole question of control was to be entirely different.
I shall summarize the two points that I make again, for the information of the Minister. I make the allegation that there is extensive- trafficking in B class licences in New South Wales of my own knowledge, and that the quota system today is out of date and unrealistic. The Minister should investigate the question of how many people are living on our misery, living on the proceeds of quotas they obtained in the good years and are now in retirement getting a fat living out of a national problem, which is our overseas balance of payments. That certainly must be looked at. The second point I suggest to the Minister is that the 1951-52 base years are now out of date and should be related to turnover and the question of basic sales volume. Let me remind the Minister that, in regard to quotas, it is the little man who suffers in all cases. He can neither get bis quota extended if there is a cut back nor in the good times has he enough money to make extensive purchases of quotas. If he is to remain in business, he has to go into the black market for some of his quota, which is split into divisions and, as I say, sold on the black. Those two points are most important. I should like the Minister, since the matter does not now come within his portfolio, to refer it to the Minister for Trade, having in mind that there is something definitely rotten in this set-up and that it is the worst possible way to catch up the £30,000,000, the amount by which our balance of trade is going back every month.
– With the approval of the Minister for Trade (Mr.. McEwen), who was not able to be present during the discussion of the matters raised by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and as onewho had the responsibility for a short, time of dealing with import licensing, I rise to answer the two honorable members who have spoken on this subject tonight.
The honorable member for Bradfield raised the matter of the refusal up to the present of an application by a company engaged in aerial agriculture for a licence to import a second-hand Marchetti aircraft. I have some personal knowledge of that matter, because I was responsible for one of the three refusals to which he refers. In the first place, I agree with the general views of the honorable member about the need for aircraft for agricultural work. There is no dispute at all about the value of aircraft for these purposes or the great services they can perform. I felt considerable regret at being obliged to refuse for the time being an application to any company that can make effective use of an aircraft for agricultural purposes. But it is necessary to recall the facts. First of all, there is the need for import licensing in Australia to-day and thereis an imperative need to bring our import and export budgets into balance. As the House will remember very well, our balance of payments was declining at the rate of £200,000,000 a year last October. Imports cannot be cut down by granting further licences. We are still in a period when drastic curtailment of imports isnecessary.
The second point is that the application, of import licensing must be carried out consistently and fairly. It is not always the applicant who presses his claim most strongly or most publicly who is necessarily the most deserving. There are a large number of applications before the
Department of Trade at the present time, as I well remember, for licences to import aircraft for agricultural purposes. Two licences for the import of helicopters - ‘ one for agricultural purposes and one for associated purposes - were granted not very long ago. Without attempting to commit my colleague, the Minister for Trade, I think it is reasonable to hope that a process which has begun is not likely to stop, but I could not assure the honorable member for Bradfield that the application of which he speaks is at the top of the list or likely to receive immediate favorable consideration.
There is one thing that I recall about this application. Although, as he says, only £20,000 is involved, and that is only the price of some 300 bales of wool, it is a second-hand aircraft and if it were imported would be the only one of its make in Australia. Experience has shown that the cost price of an aircraft is only the beginning; there are matters of spares and maintenance and things of that sort, and they are likely to prove particularly heavy with a second-hand aircraft.
The honorable member also referred to the fact that this opportunity must be taken now, or it will be lost; but I seem to recall that it is a revival of an application that was made a year or two years ago. Perhaps the honorable member might hope, as I do, that the opportunity will recur at a time when it can be granted. I urge him to remember that the present degree of restriction of import licences should not be regarded by anybody as permanent, or even likely to last for very long. We pass through periods, as we ought to know in this House, of recurrent crises with our balance of payments. Experience has also shown - I am sure that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will agree with me - that in a country whose need for imports is constant and pressing, so long as we continue to develop at the present rate, so long as we take immigrants at the rate at which we are taking them now, so long as we are building for the future, the pressure on our funds to import consumer and capital goods into Australia will continue. It will be con stant at the highest level that the country can afford. On the other hand, we depend in the main for the money to pay for our imports, the prices of which will fluctuate greatly from time to time, on a group of commodities, such as wool, wheat; meat, butter and metals. There could hardly be a more fluctuating group of commodities.
– And sugar.
– And sugar, but sugar, perhaps, is more constant. The prices of our primary products must fall sometimes as they did in the year before last, and last year. We must expect recurring periods in which there will be difficulties with our balance of payments. I ask the honorable member for Bradfield not to fall into the attitude of mind of assuming that this must continue for very long, and I hope that he will encourage the applicant for this aircraft to hope that he may get a suitable one before long.
I turn now to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes, who was kind enough- to say that I had done my best to explain lucidly the import licensing system and the difficulties that arise in it. Unfortunately, it does not appear that what I said about B category licences, and about this supposed trafficking in them, has been retained in his mind. So, perhaps, I should go over it again. But before I do so, I think I must take him up on two things that he said this evening. I think he referred to people “living on our misery”. It does not strike me that the average Australian is having his misery traded on at the moment. The statistics of employment, the general level of prosperity, and the prospects of a relatively stable future hardly encourage any ono to talk about our people living in misery. The other matter on which I take up the honorable member for Parkes is his reference to our external balances. I think the expression he used was that they were going down the drain at the rate of £20,000,000 a month.
– What is the rate?
– It was less than that in October of last year when the Govern- ment imposed a more strict degree of import licensing.
– What is the rate now?
– The most recent figures released of the excess of the value of imports over the value of exports for the month of March was something under £3,000,000. Admittedly, it is unwise to draw long-range conclusions from the figures for March, because they were affected by the industrial trouble on the waterfront. . But the amount I have mentioned hardly substantiates a suggestion that our external balances are still going down the drain at the rate of £20,000,000 a month, or that they ever were. It is plainly not so. However, the figures for April will soon be available, and I hope they will be more reassuring to the honorable member for Parkes than he apparently believes they will be.
– And to the Government.
– We shall soon know what they are. After all, to-day is only the 2nd of May. Before very long, the Department of Customs and Excise should be able to produce the statistics showing the value of imports and the value of exports for the month of April, and these things will be revealed.
– Order 1 The Minister’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation relating to a statement made in the House this evening by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Since a Hansard report is not yet available, I cannot check the statement, but I think it is substantially correct to say that it was to the effect that, on or about the 13th March last, I had introduced to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), or to his secretary, a representative of the West Australian Whaling Company. I want to state that there is absolutely no truth in that remark.
.- As the honorable member for Perth (Mr.
Chaney) has stated, in a personal explanation, that he did not introduce to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), or to his secretary, a representative of the West Australian Whaling Company, I should like to Say that the information was conveyed to me-
– Order I The personal explanation is not open to debate.
– In that case, I shall not deal with it. Even at this late hour of the day, I wish to bring before the House a matter of great urgency. It is the need for increased age and invalid pensions. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is in the House, because the matter concerns his administration. At the present time, nearly 480,000 people - during the life of this Parliament, the number will be at least 500,000 - are being forced to live on totally inadequate pensions. This is a disgrace to a country that is said to be prosperous. The purchasing power of age and invalid pensions has declined by approximately 15s. a week since 1949. That decline represents one-sixth, or 16 2/3 per cent, of the standard that age and invalid pensioners were expected to live on in 1949 before the main force of inflation hit the Australian economy. In 1949, that standard was only a standard of bare necessity. Age and invalid pensioners are now subject to new circumstances that are forcing them down to the poverty level. One of the new circumstances that I wish to mention particularly is the removal of controls on rents and the consequent evictions of tenants in a number of States. At Richmond, in the Yarra electorate, 70 evictions took place last week. In spite of everything we could do to obtain alternative accommodation for the people evicted, several of them had to spend two or three nights immediately following their eviction trying to sleep on the front verandahs of the houses from which they had been evicted - verandahs which were only 3 feet in width.
Another important factor is the difficulty of obtaining money’ for welfare purposes. In a number of suburbs, especially in the industrial areas, pensioners were being provided with community centres and clubs of one kind or another. But, as money for such purposes has become so expensive and so difficult to obtain, partly as a result of this Government’s policy, those facilities are no longer being provided. In my electorate, efforts have been made, over two or three years, to provide these facilities, but there is not sufficient money. This is coupled with the fact that changes in the landlord and tenant acts of some States have caused many age and invalid pensioners to be evicted, in some instances from condemned houses in shocking condition, which, nevertheless, provided them with shelter for from 12s. 6d. to 25s. a week. Those people who have been evicted are now forced to pay, for other accommodation, rents ranging from 30s. to £2 10s. n week. Last week, I inquired about sixteen different advertisements for houses to let in my electorate. It turned out that not all were houses. Some were only single rooms. Not one was available for less than £3 10s. a week. How can an age or an invalid pension pay a rent in excess of £3 10s. a week? Many of these pensioners have not been able to afford new clothing for three or four years. They have sufficient money only for the bare necessities of food. Many of those who are unable to walk cannot travel, because they can afford nothing for fares. They have to remain in their homes, and must rely on neighbours for the purchase of their requirements. Very often, they have no one on whom they can depend. Between 480,000 and 500,000 people are in this position. They represent nearly 12 per cent, of the total adult population. Yet they have between them no more than 3 per cent, of the national income!
I know that the Minister for Social Services frequently takes the view, when these matters are raised, that benefits for one section of the community can be increased only if it can be done without improperly depriving other sections of the community of their due. No section of the community is nearly so badly off as age and invalid pensioners are when these things are taken into account. The Minister’s stock answer will not do in this instance. The matter has become of prime urgency. It is urgently necessary that the Parliament should improve the position of age and invalid pensioners by adequately increasing pensions without delay.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I understand that earlier this evening, when I was absent from the House, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns’) made certain statements which would appear to impugn my administration. The allegation, as I understand it to have been made, is that in connexion with the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission station at Carnarvon, subsequent to the introduction by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) of a representative of one of the tenderers for the station, to a secretary of mine, the present successful tenderer had an opportunity to increase its previous tender. As a result, it became the highest tender, and therefore the successful one. There is no vestige of truth whatever in the allegation, and the honorable member for Perth has said that he never introduced any representative of the company concerned to my staff.
– That is so. but the honorable member for Perth queried the date.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Perth will have something further to say on that point by way of personal explanation. However, I advise the honorable member to keep out of this discussion because he is involved deeply enough already. I have never met, personally, any representative of any one of the companies concerned in the sale of the whaling station. Five or six years ago, I met one of the men associated with the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited in connexion with quotes, but never, since that time have I met any representative of any of the tenderers for the whaling station, and my staff advise me that they have no knowledge of any representative of this company to which the honorable member for Yarra refers - the West Australian Whaling Company - coming to my office.
– Did the Minister speak to him on the telephone?
– No, I have never spoken to any representative of any interested party either in person or on the telephone. This is a serious matter, and I will state the facts. An allegation by an honorable member of this house impugning proper administration warrants a reply.
– Give us the proper facts.
– The honorable member for Yarra asks for the proper facts. He is a bit late in asking for them. He should have obtained them before he set out to make unfounded allegations. The relevant facts are that in 1952, on behalf of the Government, I stated that it was willing, in appropriate circumstances, to sell the Australian Whaling Commission’s station at Carnarvon. Interest in this matter fluctuated over the years, but the records show that in September or October of last year the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited intimated that it would be prepared to offer £800,000 for the Australian Whaling Commission’s station, but that as it had never inspected the station nor had access to the records, its offer was subject to inspection, scrutiny and variation. In February of this year the Department advised, in writing, those parties which had displayed an interest in buying the whaling station, of its willingness to accept formal, firm offers to buy, and intimated that there would be a closing date for the receipt of such offers, which would be the 29th February.
– On a point of order. The Minister rose to make a personal explanation regarding a statement made by the honorable member for Yarra that the Minister had interviewed one of the parties interested in this transaction. The Minister is now proceeding to debate matters beyond the scope of a personal explanation, and I consider that he should not be allowed to do so.
– Order ! The Minister is in order. The statement of the honorable member for Yarra referred not only to an interview given to a representative of a particular firm, but also to the alleged revision of a tender.
-. - The honorable member for East Sydney is now seeking to interfere with my reply to a statement by the honorable member for Yarra, which, if it were not made under the protection of parliamentary privilege, would be open to action for slander. The obstruction of the honorable member for East Sydney surprises none of us.
– I will make the statement outside Parliament, if the Minister wishes.
Government Supporters. - Do that!
– Order ! Honorable members must be quiet so that the Chair can decide this matter. Any honorable member has the right to clarify any statement which he claims has misrepresented him.
– The facts are that in February this year Department of Trade officials wrote to all the parties which had displayed an interest in buying the station, and intimated that the Government was willing to accept firm offers and that the closing date would be the 29th February. The Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited then made its first and its only firm and binding offer of £80,000. That is the present successful tenderer, and that’ was its first and its only offer. At about that, time the Western Australian Government intimated that it would be interested in making an offer, but that it did not have time to do so by the 29th February. Consequently, standing here in the Parliament, I offered to extend the time for the receipt of offers until the 15th March, for the single purpose of allowing the Western Australian Government to make an offer. I offered it the facilities of records, officers and everything else. The West Australian Whaling Company, to which the honorable member for Yarra referred, took advantage of that extended period, and on the 12th March made its only offer in two alternative forms. The offers were quite un- acceptable to the Government, and were substantially lower in money value than that of the successful tender. I have l.o comment to offer on that. The critical dates are when the .Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited made its only firm offer on the 2Sth February, and the 12th March, when the West Australian Whaling Company made its only offer. Any suggestion that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited was given an opportunity to submit a revised tender is utterly untrue.
.- E support the comments of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) concerning import licensing and the administration of the Government’s policy. The honorable member for Parkes referred to some unsavoury features of what are known as B category licences, and the Minister for Customs (Mr. Osborne) attempted to defend the Government in a situation in which it is vulnerable. There can be no doubt that rackets are proceeding in respect to the trafficking in these licences. Had I been aware that the honorable member for Parkes would raise this matter this evening I would have brought him some correspondence which I have had with the Minister and his department concerning the administration of this aspect of import licensing, and it would have taken some explaining by the Minister.
I discussed with the department, through the Minister, the question of flooding Australia with cheaply produced, inferior quality Japanese toys, although essential imports required by Australian industries were being prevented from entering this country under the licensing system. The Minister informed me, in correspondence, that these B category licences were interchangeable. That means that an importer does not necessarily have to import the type of goods upon which his application for a licence was based. If he applied for a B category import licence to bring in Japanese toys, and wanted to import other commodities in the B class category, he could do so without further reference to the department. When I raised the matter of the Government’s policy of permitting the continued importation of this type of goods, the Minister informed me in later correspondence that a maximum figure had been fixed in respect of the importation of this type of Japanese goods. If these B class licences are interchangeable without any further reference to the department, how can it possibly limit the importation of cheaply produced Japanese toys? Important and essential Australian industries are being denied their requirements of imports, while the Government permits racketeers in the community to obtain these licences when they have no intention of using them. They then peddle them round the city and make anything up to 20 per cent, of the value of the goods covered by the licence without having contributed one iota of effort towards the importation of goods. [Quorum formed’]. I was saying that these racketeers are able to gather in 20 per cent, commission, as ‘many do, without striking a blow towards the importation of goods, merely because they’ have been favoured by the issuing of B class licences. That 20 per cent., which is added to the cost of the goods imported into this country, increases their cost on the Australian market and adds to the inflationary situation which exists, and the Government is doing nothing about it.
Another matter to which I wish to refer briefly is the discourteous attitude of at least two Ministers of the Government. I particularly select two, because they arc the ones with whom I have had thegreatest difficulty. I refer to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). I am continually sending them urgent wires’ in an effort to secure information which’ 1 desire. This is the Government which i is always talking about economy. Here-, on my file is the eighth urgent telegram’ which I have had to send to the Prime,’ Minister or the Minister for the Interior in an endeavour to get information regarding the cost of the lavish office accommodation provided for the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) in the Commonwealth Parliament offices in Sydney, and also in regard to the refurnishing of office accommodation, on the same lavish scale, for a member of the previous Govern-‘ ment, the right honorable member for
Cowper (Sir Earle Page), a member of the Australian Country party. All of these wires have been couched in most courteous terms, and I assure the Minister for the Interior that if he thinks this is putting me to any expense in respect of my stamp allowance, which is already inadequate, he is mistaken because it is not costing me anything at all, because I dictate these telegrams over the telephone in the Commonwealth Parliament offices in Sydney. It may he argued by Government supporters - I agree to an extent - that this is merely a book entry as between one government department and another, but the time of Postal Department officials is taken up and telegraph facilities are used.
Why can I not obtain this information ? Why can the Ministers at least not tell me whether they intend to supply the information? What is wrong with giving it? As a matter of fact, I think it is a real experience to see the lavish accommodation of the Minister for the Army in the Commonwealth Parliament offices in Sydney. He has nil sorts of colours around the walls. It is evidently a newform of camouflage; at least, that is what it appears to me to be. I understand that the colour scheme in one of the rooms incorporates the colours of his old regiment in the Volunteer Defence Corps during the war. Why can we not have this information? I shall not weary the House by reading all the telegrams, but the “ last one is rather interesting. It reads -
When may I expect courtesy reply my urgent telegrams 8th, 16th, 18th and 23rd instant seeking information regarding cost providing office accommodation Commonwealth Bank building, Sydney, for Minister for Army and cost refurnishing office same building for Sir Earle Page. This urgent telegram is eighth despatched endeavour secure this information. Three Minister Interior who eventually advised matter one for your attention. Would you say whether or not you intend supply desired information and thus avoid further unnecessary expense additional telegrams for which you are entirely responsible.
That telegram was sent on the 30th April and I am still awaiting a reply from the Prime Minister. It took three urgent telegrams to the Minister for the Interior before I could even get him to advise me that this was a matter for the Prime Minister’s Department. I shall excuse the Minister for the Interior, because probably he would not know and it took a good deal of time for him to find out.
Why did this matter arise? The Minister for the Interior is in charge of the Commonwealth Parliamentary offices in Sydney, and every member of the Parliament, no matter to what party he belongs, is entitled to have facilities to carry out in a proper and efficient manner work in respect of his electorate and the people he represents. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) has been endeavouring for some time to have his name put on the door of his room, and honorable members know how long he has been a member of the Parliament. The department says that no funds are available for the purpose of putting the name on the door. This is the Government which talks about running the country efficiently. Let us examine the matter of the provision of a secretarytypist for each member. If the secretary typist goes on three weeks’ annual leave, the Minister refuses to provide :i replacement. If she is away sick and furnishes a medical certificate, a replacement can be obtained after two weeks. When I contacted the Minister, I told him that there were members of the Parliament who had received replacements for secretary-typists who were on holidays. He sent a telegram to me, asking me to supply the information, and all that this dumb Minister has to do is to ring up his department in Sydney and ask the responsible officer who gave me the information.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to deal at any great length with the subject-matter put before the House by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) because I desire to say a few words for the benefit of his colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). In regard to the cost of telegrams, the honorable gentleman seems to burn up r,he trunk Hue facilities at a great rate, completely oblivious to the cost to the Commonwealth of telegrams, when he might quite easily use the telephone and we might have a pleasant tete-a-tete on the subject. However, I do not propose to discuss the cost of refurnishing the offices, which as the honorable member well knows is a matter for the Prime Minister’s Department. He seems to have a peculiar idea that because a different coloured paint is used the result is lavish furnishing. I remind him that no more is charged for paints of different colours. In regard to the provision of alternative secretary-typists, the honorable gentleman has been through this matter with my predecessor in office, and he knows very well that the recommendations and reports accepted by the Government and confirmed by my predecessor were to the effect that when a member of the secretarial staff -took holidays it was to be arranged at a time suitable to the honorable member. I point out that there is some discretion left under this provision. It is a discretion exercised by the Minister in special cases, and I do not mind assuring the honorable gentleman that I shall use that discretion constructively in special cases; but his is not a special case. He is a member of a party which has quite a number of members with head-quarters in the Commonwealth Parliament offices in Sydney, and if he has run himself out of friends in his own party, that is not a matter for which he should blame the Minister for the Interior. I am rather disappointed that on this particular occasion he has not seen fit to put up the annual notice on his door ascribing the closure of his office to me, because I would have been glad to autograph that particular piece of documentation. When the honorable gentleman does put up a worthwhile case for special consideration, I assure him that it will have special consideration.
I want to say a few words to the honorable member for Melbourne, and I am sorry that my time has been cut rather short. On the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 18th April, the honorable gentleman rose and raised, to use his own words -
The manner in which leases are arranged in Canberra and the manner in which the lessees exploit persons who rent or sub-lease their properties.
The honorable gentleman then went on to deal with the lease of a building area held by Chic Salon Properties Limited, of which a certain Mr. L. 0. Bailey is the managing director. I am sorry the honorable gentleman did not give this matter the adequate and careful consideration which usually characterizes his utterances in this House. The facts are that a lease of a building area was offered at public auction on the 21st March, 1953. There was only one bidder at the auction. That was Mr. L. O. Bailey, who secured the lease, on behalf of the company of which he was managing director - Chic Salon Properties Limited. The rental, pending reappraisement, was £430 a year and there was a covenant that a twostory building had to be provided. There was some limitation as to how the space was to be used, but there was no limitation at all so far as sub-letting was concerned. The lessee merely exercised his perfect right in private enterprise to take a business risk, and he put on the site a building which far exceeded the requirements of his covenant and which, in fact, has made a very great contribution to the commercial facilities available in the Capital City.
The honorable member for Melbourne expressed some concern on the question of rents, but, apparently, he did not take much care to check his facts. He suggested the building contained 7,000-odd square feet and that the area had been divided into at least 23 ground floor shops. In fact, of course, the 7,000-odd square feet was the space offered to the” one prospective client who referred the matter to the honorable member for Melbourne.
– I did not say that.
– I am quoting from the Hansard report of the honorable gentleman’s speech!
– The Minister is misquoting me.
– Then I suggest that the honorable gentleman have a look at “ the Hansard report. The honorable member then proceeded to make some deductions from supposition and, again quoting his own words, he said -
If this company is getting the lease for £430 a year and itlets the building subsequently to 23firms or companies it is doing pretty well if it gets £77 a week rent from those 23 firms.
The honorable gentleman must think it Christmas all the time in private enterprise; but I remind him that it is a profitandloss economy. In this case, the honorable gentleman has indulged in a bit of over-simplification which always characterizes cases in which an ardent socialist finds himself on the scent of a little so-called capitalist exploitation. Far from getting £77 a week rent for each of the 23 shops, the rentals, in fact, range down to £2 15s. a week. In this case, on that 7,000-odd square feet of space for the rental of £77 a week, the lessee was providing special structural alterations to give adequate space for restaurant purposes. Furthermore, for modern premises in a good location,11s. a square foot per annum is not an excessive rental to provide for depreciation, amortization on building costs, insurance, interest, land rates, rates, electricity, fuel, caretaking management and so on. The honorable member then went on to talk about the exploitation involved in the conditions submitted to proposed sub-lessees under which they were invited t6 subscribe capital for the construction of the building by way of debenture.
First of all, I find that no promoter shares in this company have been issued, or offered, for other than their full face value. The employees of associated companies were admitted to participation at face value, and the cost of the building, including constructional costs plus architects’; fees, land rents, rates, interest and so , on, amounted to something like £250,000, of which the debenture holders were invited tocontribute only £100,000. As the debenture holders will receive 5 per cent. interest on their money and will be repaid in full, and as they are adequately protected and will derive the benefit of occupancy of a new and suitable building, I should like to know where exploitation is involved in this transaction. Furthermore, since nobody obliges them to go into this sort of proposition, which is a perfectly normal business undertaking, the honorable gentleman’s accusations of exploitation simply fall to the ground. There is no reason why the fact that this land is held under lease from the Commonwealth should really interest this Parliament beyond the payment of the rental fixed, or offered at auction. To put this matter at rest, I must conclude that the company obtained its lease in competition, that it has carried out its building covenant, that the terms of the lease have been strictly complied with and, therefore, the public interest has been completely preserved. Beyond that, the department, the Government or this Parliament should not concern itself with the matter other than to be appreciative of the fact that private enterprise has gone to considerable lengths at vary great cost, and has taken considerable risk in the promotion of a business venture which has added materially to the commercial facilities available in this Capital City.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I did not say that 7,200 square feet was offered to this particular company. I said that was the total amount of accommodation that would be available in the completed building and that portion of it was offered to a company in Melbourne. I did not say that £77 per week would have to be paid by each” of the tenants of the building. The Minister is entirely wrong on those two matters, and, as to the rest of his statement, I let it go.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:-
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Commonwealth Bank has advised me as follows in regard to questions 1 to 6: -
The farmer’s plan is still available from the Industrial Finance Department of the bank in respect of hirings covering agricultural tractors, agricultural machinery, trucks, utilities, &c. It is not now available in respect of passenger cars.
Yes. This is the Farmers’ plan.
Private finance companies do write this type of business including hirings in respect of passenger cars but, as a rule, prefer contracts on the basis of monthly instalments. Their luring charge is higher than that of the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank.
If the Industrial Finance Department were tore-commence the provision of hirepurchase finance formotor cars, the department’s funds position would force it to restrict the amount of finance it now provides for agricultural tractors, implements, machinery, trucks, utilities, &c.
In view of the Commonwealth Bank’s advice, the answer to question 7 is “ No “.
ser asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Is the Australian Army adopting the practice of the army of the United States of America in classifying its generals us one star, two star or three-star generals? If this is so in what category is the present Chief of the General Staff placed ? Why is it considered necessary to have a, special plate consisting of three golden stars on a red background placed over the registered number plate of a Commonwealth vehicle used to transport the Chief of the General Staff when onbusiness in Canberra? Does this special insignia bear a. striking resemblance to the shoulder pa.patcheworn by third-class privates in the Japanese Army? Will the Minister say whosebright idea it was to adopt this special insignia and will he say whether the general concerned really requires to have this distinctive number plate?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
There has been no change, nor is one contemplated, in the titles of and badges of rank worn by senior officers of the Australian Army. Star plates on service passenger vehicles in the Australian Military Forces were introduced by the Military Board in October, 1955, with the concurrence of the then Minister for the Army, and also the Minister for Defence. The other two services adopted these plates at the same time. The metal stars are chromiumplated, one star indicating that a brigadier is occupying the vehicle, two stars a majorgeneral, and three stars a lieutenant-general. A general would be indicated by four stars and a field-marshal by five stars. The Chief of the General Staff, who holds the rank of lieutenant-general, therefore has a. three-star plate on his vehicle when he is in it. The adoption of star plates is to provide a suitable means of indicating the rank of a senior officer ocupying a service vehicle, a practice which has been adoptedby both the British and the United States services as well as other Nato and Seato countries.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560502_reps_22_hor10/>.