22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the right honorable the Treasurer whether, in view of the sharp increase in public school fees, and the worthwhile contribution that these schools make towards lessening the cost of State education, he will give consideration to increasing the taxation allowance for this purpose so as to bring it more into conformity with present charges and conditions.
– The question involves a matter of policy, and will be considered in conjunction with the next budget.
– Some little time ago I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service a question regarding the forthcoming legislation to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In particular, I asked whether, as seemed natural and proper, the judges of the Arbitration Court had, on account of their lengthy experience, been consulted. The Minister said that, not having done so himself, he would make inquiries about the matter. Is it a fact that some weeks ago the judges of the court were asked for their opinions by the Attorney-General, and that they have now made suggestions and recommendations to the Government in writing? If the answer is in the affirmative, could these recommendations, subject to proper safeguards, be made available to honorable members ?
– After the honorable gentleman asked his question earlier this week I took the matter up with the Attorney-General to see to what extent discussions had taken place between him and the judges. He said that he had had a talk with them in which he had outlined the Government’s proposals. Subsequently he had received some comments from the judges, not necessarily covering all these proposals, but on certain aspects of the matter. Whether that communication was of such a character, or in such a form, as to make it possible to display it publicly I cannot say offhand. I will raise that matter also with the Attorney-General.
– It might be very helpful to the House.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to the fact that the poultry farming industry faces serious problems in maintaining production and egg quality and that breeders believe that it would be advantageous to be able to import fresh stock from overseas. Quarantine regulation.* prevent this, but methods have been suggested by which the importation of either eggs or stock could take place. It is contended that this would not involve disease “hazards. Will the Minister confer with departmental officers and, if necessary, with breeders in the industry, to see whether imports of stock may be permitted?
– I am very indebted for the contribution to my knowledge of the poultry industry made by the honorable member far Mitchell and also by my colleague the honorable member for Robertson. I had not previously heard of this problem of the importation of either stock or eggs; but I think that it would he a problem that would come more within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Health, who controls such matters a? imports of stock. I had not heard of the restriction of imports of eggs, but it is a very important problem. The Government has a poultry industry plan under consideration in an attempt both to expand production of eggs in this country and also to increase exports. We have also the great goal of increasing efficiency and thereby reducing prices to the consumer. All these things are well known to the honorable member for Mitchell. I will accept his recommendation and discuss the matter with the Minister for Health, and then see if the departmental officials can take it up in order to bring the matter to a speedy conclusion.
– I direct to the Minister for Health a question that follows representations previously made by me in regard to the free provision of cortisone, in reply to which the Minister stated -
The question of extending the list of diseases for which cortisone may be prescribed lias recently been considered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, but a filial decision on this matter has not yet been reached.
Can the Minister now say whether a decision on that matter has been reached, and whether he is now in a position to add to the free list cortisone for the treatment of pernicious .anaemia - and other associated diseases?
– Further consideration of the question of the availability of cortisone as a pharmaceutical benefit for the treatment of pernicious anaemia has been given by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which has decided that pernicious anaemia is not a disease for which cortisone should be made available as a pharmaceutical benefit.
– Has the Minister foi- the Interior any information that he can make available concerning the progross of the preparations for civil defence in the event of an atomic attar!: on this country?
– I am pleased to be able to tell the honorable gentleman that one of the major steps in civil defence is the commencement of the civil defence school. As the honorable gentleman will recall, property was acquired at Macedon, in Victoria, for the establishment of a civil defence school, and a commandant and staff were appointed. Those gentlemen have been abroad for their own basic training and instruction, and at the present time are finishing the preparation of training manuals and so on. The actual physical work on the school is due to be completed in midTune, and I hope to have the school opened on the 2nd July. I hope to have something further to say on (he subject generally at an early date.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Has the Department of Health in Canberra made any survey of the incidence, or prevalence, of hydatids in the grazing areas surrounding the city? As this disease, I understand, is one to which children are particularly susceptible, will the Minister consider initiating here a programme for eradication of the disease, similar to that being adopted in adjoining shire areas in New South Wales?
– I am not aware of any recent survey of the incidence of hydatids in the Australian Capital Territory, but I should imagine that it is not a high incidence. However, I arn quite willing to have the matter examined further and let the honorable gentleman have any information that exists on the subject.
– Would it be possible, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to have the lift on the House of Representatives’ side of this building fixed up so that we may attend divisions or, alternatively, to have the division bells rung for longer than the present two minutes, in order to enable various members of the Parliament to reach the chamber in time without having to hurry so rauch that they run the risk of falling down on the stairs with heart disease?
– I shall consult the engineer’ as to the reason for the delay, and try to have the matter remedied.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that the sickness benefit is paid to the incapacitated person retrospectively, provided that a claim is lodged within thirteen weeks after the date of incapacitation? If so, does the Minister realize that this short period of time that is allowed sometimes imposes hardships and inconvenience on the incapacitated persons and their dependants? Will the Minister give consideration to extending to 26 weeks the period for the lodging of the retrospective claim for the benefit?
– I am aware of the circumstances governing applications for sickness and unemployment benefits. Quoting from memory, I think the act provides that if an application is made for the sickness benefit within thirteen weeks of incapacity, then the benefit, assuming that eligibility has been established, begins on and includes the seventh day of incapacity. The act also provides that if the application is not made within thirteen weeks of incapacitation, the Director-General of Social Services may use certain discretionary powers. Eligibility having been established, it is competent for the Director-General to decide when the benefit shall begin. Knowing the Director-General of Social Services us I do, and knowing my predecessors in. the office of Minister for Social Services, I think that the position is entirely satisfactory to the people concerned and that no useful purpose can be served by extending the period for applications.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and. National Service whether he lias any knowledge of the trouble that has occurred in the ballot for the election of officers in the Miscellaneous Workers Union, Queensland branch. I ask the Minister whether this trouble has been referred to his department or whether lie has any knowledge of its being referred to the Commonwealth Court of Concilialion and Arbitration. I further ask whether any representations have been limit; by that union to have a secret ballot conducted under court control, in order to lake advantage of the Commonwealth secret ballot legislation.
– A rather involved position has developed in the branch of the union in question, apparently arising out of one of those disagreements on political and other grounds which have intruded into the industrial movement in recent months. It appears that a: returning officer was appointed to conduct a ballot in that branch of the union. Being aware of some disputation going on in the ranks of the union, the officer applied to the Deputy Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in Brisbane for an order restraining both the State and Federal executives of the union from interfering in the conduct of the ballot. About the same time, the federal executive applied to the Deputy Registrar of the court in New South Wales for an order restraining the returning officer from conducting the ballot. I. gather that the Deputy Registrar in New South Wales has set that matter down for hearing before a judge of the court on the 14th May. At the same time, the Deputy Registrar in Brisbane has contacted the Principal Registrar in Melbourne, asking for information as to the rules of the union and the rights of the returning officer under those rules, and also for some advice as to the action to be taken, depending upon the outcome of the hearing before the judge. It seems, therefore, that we shall not obtain much clarification of the position until the judge has dealt with the matter on the 14th May.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will reconsider the granting of additional zone allowances for taxation purposes in order to re-establish the principle that was followed when such allowances were first introduced, namely, to give some benefits to persons resident in distant areas and to try to encourage decentralization.
– This matter, which has been under consideration for some time, will be further considered in conjunction with the preparation of the next budget.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Services, is supplementary to the question that was asked yesterday by the honorable member for Scullin, iti reply to which the Minister stated that investigations were constantly being made into the cost of further relaxing the means test. Is the Minister in a position to say, first, what would be the cost if the means test on age pensions were totally abolished, and, secondly, what would be the cost if it were abolished in relation to pensioners reaching the age of 70 years ?
– I am indebted to the honorable member for Henty for giving me an opportunity to say, in further reply to the question asked by the sonorous and honorable member for Scullin, that investigations have been made from time to time into the cost of further relaxing the means test with respect to both income and property. On the basis of the present figures relating to rates of pension and the number of qualified pensioners, the total abolition of the means test would involve the taxpayers of Australia in an additional annual burden of £114,000,000. On the same basis, the abolition of the means test in relation to pensioners above the age of 70 years would cost the taxpayers an additional sum of approximately £42,000,000 annually. I was particularly pleased to hear the honorable member for Henty use the words “ further relaxing “. He apparently knows - and the honorable member for Yarra in his ignorance does not know - that the means test has been relaxed year by. year and budget by budget by the present Government, and it is hoped that the process will continue.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that reports have been issued by various organizations suggesting that the Government contemplates a review of its present immigration policy? Will he state whether there is any “ substance in those reports and whether he is prepared to make a full statement to the Parliament so that an opportunity may be afforded to honorable members to discuss the future of Australia’s immigration programme?
– The question of immigration is one of lively interestto many people and organizations in this country. It is a major national programme, and I am happy to say that it is one which so far has enjoyed the substantial support of all sections of the Parliament. It i3 not surprising that differing views should be held by various people about the level of immigration that it is desirable to maintain at any particular time, I have seen reports which suggest that some organizations favour a larger intake than we are main taining at the present time; that some advocate a continuance of the programme at approximately the present level, and that others advocate a reduction on the ground that it causes pressure on the economy at various points. The Government takes into account the views that are put to it, as well as those of such responsible advisory bodies as it has itself constituted, in order that it shall obtain the soundest advice obtainable in relation to the programme.
– Even the economists are divided.
– As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition points out, the economists do not necessarily see eye to eye on this matter. Of course, there is nothing abnormal in that; they are human beings, like the rest of us, I gather.
– Inhuman !
– The honorable gentleman asked whether an opportunity will be provided for debate. I remind him that during the recent quite lengthy debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech a number of members availed themselves of the opportunity to speak on immigration matters and the immigration programme generally. The Government will be examining the programme, in conjunction with other major aspects of national expenditure, when it comes to its consideration of the budget proposals, and I suggest to the honorable gentleman that on that occasion there will be ample opportunity, should he desire it, to express any views that he may hold as to the size and content of the immigration programme.
– I rise to order! In case I happen to be invisible to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or in case you should think that I am sitting in the Speaker’s gallery, may I direct your attention to the fact that I am a member of this House, and that I have been trying for three days to catch your eye.
– I shall keep the honorable member’s remarks in mind. The honorable member may peruse my Hat and see whether I have been unfair in giving any member preference when that member has previously asked a question during the week.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Trade. My attention has been directed to the need of the poultry farmers of Western Australia for some protection in regard to the supply of animal protein. It would appear that the poultry industry supplements its quota of this material from Perth supplies by direct purchases from the whaling companies. Can the Minister ad vise whether steps have been taken, or may be taken, to restrict the export of animal protein so that adequate supplies may be assured to the poultry farmers?
– The practice of this Government, ever since it has been in office, and, I think, of the previous Government, has been to maintain an export control on certain materials that are used in the poultry industry, including mill offal, bran and pollard and animal protein. The practice is to disallow the export from the country of any of those three items of the diet of laying hens when they are in short supply in Australia. The industry’s representatives are always consulted on the matter, and the State governments, through the State departments of agriculture, are consulted. The honorable member can be assured that the export of animal protein from this country will not be allowed if such export would leave the poultry industry short of these materials.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, is supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. It relates to the matter of the discussion between the judges and the Attorney-General, or officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, of features of the proposed legislation to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I ask the Minister, first, whether the discussions covered the whole field of conciliation and arbitration, or whether they were concentrated on the penal provisions of the act. If the Minister cannot give the House the views of the judges as to the legality of those penal provisions, can he at least tell us the views of the judges regarding the role of conciliation in Australia’s arbitration system ? Does he think that the conciliation commissioners, who have handled disputes at the conciliation level since 1947, also should be called upon to give their views about what might best be done in future legislation to promote good employer-employee relations in Australia?
– I should find it quite impracticable to answer offhand a. detailed question of such significance as that asked by the honorable gentleman. I shall examine the text of his question and bring it to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral. I have not the knowledge of the talks that took place that is possessed by my colleague.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. It relates to the use of aircraft for the purposes of pasture improvement. Is it a fact that within the last year or two officers of the former Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Department of Civil Aviation carried out investigations in New Zealand in regard to the use of aircraft for the purposes of pasture improvement? If that is so, will he lay on the table or otherwise communicate to members interested the relevant veports of those officers?
– As this matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Department of Primary Industry, it seems appropriate that I should answer the question. It is true that a comprehensive survey of aerial spraying for primary industry purposes is now being carried out by the Division of Agricultural Economics. A little over a year ago, an officer of the division visited New Zealand - which country, I might state, is probably the home of experiments in aerial spraying. I think he has already issued a report on the subject. More detailed and comprehensive investigations are now being made at the request of the Standing Committee on
Agriculture of the Australian Agricultural Council, but, as yet, the report has not been completed. It covers such technical matters as spraying for pasture improvement, pest control and hormone spraying for cutting out scrub, particularly in the brigalow country. I am afraid T cannot make the report available to the honorable gentleman, as it has been requested by the Agricultural Council, but I shall see that when the report has been submitted to the Agricultural Council, steps are taken .to make it public.
– In view of the impending talks in the United Kingdom with regard to trade matters, and especially with regard to our balance of payments, will the Minister for Trade take this House into his confidence and make a. statement with respect to this Government’s attitude to the Ottawa Trade Agreement? Does the Minister intend, when he is in the United Kingdom, to press for a revision of that agreement? If so, will he give honorable members an opportunity to discuss this important matter before he goes overseas? Is it true that he intends to give greater trading opportunities to those countries with which this nation has a favorable trade balance?
– I think there is practically nothing to bc said on the subject which has not been said already by me, both in this House and outside. However, to make sure that the honorable member is fully aware of the factors which are regarded as relevant by me and by the Government, I shall be glad to arrange for him to be supplied with copies of the various statements that have been made. If there should be any new development in this situation, I shall take his’ request into account.
.- I move -
That this House resolves that, as past recurring substantial expenditures of all governmental authorities in Australia incurred in flood relief, including £-for-£ payments to the States, use of Service personnel, equipment and heavy machinery in flood crises, and repair of great losses caused by damage to communications, especially telephones, roads, bridges, power lines, railways, &c., have not brought any improvement in methods of preventing flood disasters, the question of future Commonwealth action and financial assistance in regard both to immediate flood relief and future flood prevention and/or mitigation should be examined immediately by an expert commission appointed to determine, inter alia, the best methods of implementing and financing flood prevention in those rivers where complete prevention is possible, and flood mitigation where it is not, and of keeping river channels clear to enable flood waters to escape us quickly as possible; and to devise a permanent system of organization of the use of all official and Service personnel and equipment, both in saving lives, stock and property in the floods themselves, and in assisting to restore normal production most quickly.
I submit this motion for a number of reasons, but especially to try to ensure, that we shall obtain the expert investigation that I mentioned in the latter part of the motion, in order to enable us to determine the best methods of implementing and financing flood prevention works on those rivers where complete prevention is possible, and flood mitigation measures where complete prevention is not possible. After a study of what is happening in almost every country in the world, I have come to the conclusion that flood prevention works can be made one of the most reproductive kinds of public works in Australia. In addition, T believe these works are absolutely indispensable, because Australia is the driest continent in the world. Therefore, it is essential that we should not allow our flood waters to escape. We should impound them and make certain that thuy are fully used and not lost.
Having studied this subject, I believe that the solution will be found, to a very great degree, in providing means to enable local councils and river valley authorities to undertake these works, backed by funds guaranteed by the Commonwealth and the State Governments, and if possible, to undertake them, not, as at the present time, with funds raised by public loans, but by means of charters or franchises under which private capital will be made available. This is a practice that has been almost universally adopted in such great countries as the United States of America and Canada, and in other countries also. I think we could find the means to undertake flood prevention and mitigation works in this way.
If we could do so, and if we could bring additional capital into Australia for the purpose, not only should we conserve our water supplies, but also we might take a very substantial step towards adjusting our external balance of payments. “What has been done in certain States makes me feel very strongly that works designed to prevent floods, or even to limit flood heights, would be reproductive. For instance, we may consider the Somerset Dam on the Stanley River, a main branch of the Brisbane River in Queensland. From the figures supplied to me by the late .Sir John Kemp, and by Mr. Nimmo, the very capable engineer who constructed the dam, it is evident that this dam, which holds back the waters that run off only one part of the Brisbane River catchment area, kept the height of the floods in 1950 and 1955 some eight or tcn feet below the height the waters would otherwise have attained, and thereby prevented an estimated £5,000,000 of damage. Yet the total cost of the dam was less than £4,000,000! In only one flood, the dam saved its cost. Similar savings could have been made by the prevention or limitation of other floods. I recall an enormous flood that occurred in the Brisbane River when I was a boy. It washed up a warship in the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane. While the city fathers were debating how they would get it off, a second flood came and shifted it back into the river. Of course, we cannot expect good luck like that on every occasion, and it is better not to have any floods at all. In America, a scheme was undertaken i,n 1916 on the Miami branch of the Ohio River to try to protect the various towns in the locality, Dayton being the principal one, and the surrounding country. The people in the district financed the scheme by means of issuing bonds, and by 1950 they had paid off the whole of the bonds, and at present i the only charge they have to meet represents about li per cent, of the total cost involved, for the purpose of keeping the scheme in order. They have restricted the height of floods by about 25 per cent, and saved ten times the cost of the dam in flood losses. In Australia we have advanced propositions in relation to th». Clarence River, which since January last has suffered four major floods. To-day, 50 feet of water is around my own house on the upper river. The committee that was appointed first by Mr. Chifley and the various State Premiers, and subsequently carried on by the New South Wales Government, has indicated that it can build a dam which will prevent flooding on the Clarence. The dam would hold the waters of four floods and £2,000,000, or 10 per cent, of the actual cost, could be earned from selling current generated by the associated hydro-electric plant, which shows how reproductive the scheme would be. This matter should be considered, because I am satisfied from my intimate knowledge of what is being done and what has been done by State investigators, pur own aviators, and Commonwealth engineers, that an immense amount of extraordinarily valuable data needs to be collected for the purpose of dealing with this problem, and I am sure that these persons will be able to devise plans which are well within the scope of the people to put into full operation and will quickly show a very definite reproductive return.
I have had this matter on my mind all my life, because when I was a boy between 18S7 and 1S93 there were twenty floods on the Clarence and six times during that period the flood was actually in the main street of my own town. As I went to school in the ocean boat, which was the only way of travelling at that time, on almost every trip 40 or 50 farmers would be leaving the district dead broke, yet. this is one of the most fertile river basin.-, in the world. My colleague, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) can bear out that the same thing has happened on the Hunter River almost over since white men came to this country. So we must realize the enormous value which would accrue not merely to the country’s finances but to the saving of life by meeting this problem. Careers have been blocked and destroyed and assets completely wiped out as a result of failure to do anything in regard to this matter. Attempts have been made to secure co-operation on the problem. The Bruce-Page Government established a Development and Migration Commission that was able to secure the co-operation of Britain, which found one half of the interest, the Commonwealth Government one third, and the States one sixth, on the capital sum involved in the building of the Wyangala Dam, which has substantially relieved the position on the Lachlan River. Other works were also undertaken, but unfortunately that organization was allowed to go down the drain and no longer have we the means of securing co-operation. All that we have done is to continue with the system of alleviation when the damage is done. We give £1 for £1 with the States. It is a miserable pittance and is applied in an extraordinarily parsimonious manner. A man with a few “ bob “ cannot possibly obtain any assistance; he has to be down and out before he is helped. If he were assisted at an earlier stage he would be able to re-establish himself. I say therefore that we must do something better.
After the 1950 floods the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) put a proposition to the New South Wales Government. He said first, that he would make £1 for £1 available, as the Chifley Government had done. Further, he would mobilize and make available Commonwealth equipment, personnel, services and departments to the fullest extent. He appointed a subcommittee of Cabinet to meet the New South Wales Cabinet and deal with the immediate post-flood position. He also appointed a committee of the Federal Cabinet to consider steps to be taken to insure against loss by flooding by the construction of dams and otherwise. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who was at that time in charge of national development, called a meeting of six or seven federal Ministers and the New South Wales Cabinet. We discussed the whole matter and said that we were prepared to participate to the full in flood prevention action on the north coast. The New South Wales Government said that it had not prepared plans, and up to the present it has not produced such plans.
The point is that something must be done. This is a very, very urgent matter. These floods apparently come in cycles, and we are in the midst of a cycle at the present time. The damage that is being done is almost incalculable in terms of money, but is completely incalculable in terms of human loss - the loss of lives and the damage to careers. Therefore, we must wipe out these losses.
What are the losses? Lives are lost, and the future of a lot of boys and girls, and men and women, is affected. Livestock is lost in thousands. Property is lost. Houses are swept down the rivers, and clothing and furniture are destroyed. Production declines for many many months in the Clarence and Hunter districts. When I was in an aircraft the other day I saw great patches of bare country in the west that are absolutely devoid of grass simply because they have been so long under water. There is damage to communications and it is almost impossible for the shire authorities to replace them. Bridges are down. A few inches of rain makes some of the poor, miserable things impassable. Railway lines are washed away, telephone and power lines are torn down.
Top soil is swept away. The rich alluvial soil of our rivers that has taken a million years to develop is down in the sea. When one flies over the affected areas, there can be seen ten or twelve miles out to sea a huge deposit of invaluable soil that has been washed away because we have not been able to handle the flood problem in a national way. Despite the fact that the Commonwealth assists the States on a £l-for-£l basis, and in other ways, nearly all the losses are liquidated out of local resources. The unfortunate people who have been ruined have to make everything up in the finish, despite diminished productive capacity which sometimes lasts for months and months. The rivers are silting up from Cairns right down to the south here, with the result that the channels have nothing like their former capacity to hold the flood waters as they come down, and a much smaller volume of water creates a bigger flood. In the Clarence district, thousands and thousands of acres of country were flooded for many months, though the river was four feet lower than it was in previous floodings.
– Why did not governments of which the right honorable gentleman was a member do something about it?
– We did. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had been listening, he would have heard me mention our offer to the New South Wales Government. What did the
Labour government do? It wiped out the Migration and Development Commission of the Bruce-Page Government, which had a co-ordination policy. But I shall not be betrayed into the position of making this a party matter for the sake of a man who is trying to mess up the whole of Australia by his party wrangling at the present time. I am dealing with this matter on the highest plane. He can protest as loudly as he likes; the public of Australia has placed him in his right position.
Every flood at the present time makes further floods more likely. Therefore, it is time that we pooled our resources of knowledge, money, initiative and experience in this matter. I am sure that stored water always ultimately pays for itself. I believe that an acre foot of stored water at a strategic point is worth more than an acre of land anywhere else in Australia. Where there is an acre of land submerged, there are 200 acre feet of water on the top, if the dam is 200 feet high. I am satisfied as well that, given a proper impetus at the beginning, this programme will be ultimately selfsupporting. It is indispensable to progress because we are short of water in Australia. In America, eight, nine or ten times as much water runs down the Mississippi, Columbia and other rivers than runs down the whole of the rivers in Australia. Yet. the Americans are already finding difficulties in industry because of the shortage of water. It is absolutely imperative that we should do something to capture the flood-waters that come down our rivers in an enormous volume. More water comes down the Hunter and Clarence rivers in flood time in two days than comes down during the rest of the year. It all goes out to sea, but if it were harnessed it would be available when needed and great loss would be prevented. Thus, we should have a double return upon our investment. Australia is the driest continent in the world, and we must do something about it. Unfortunately, Australia has been greatly handicapped by “its Constitution. We are very much worse off in that regard than is America. The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the American
Government’s power in respect of navigation enables it to control the waters of even the smallest creek. The wide power conferred upon the Commonwealth in respect of trade and commerce and navigation by sections 51 (i) and 98 of the Australian Constitution are abridged by section 100, which provides that the Commonwealth may not deny a State or its residents reasonable use of waters of rivers. I attempted to do something about this matter when I first came into this Parliament. I asked for a constitutional convention and managed to persuade about 50 members of Parliament to agree that it should be held. Unfortunately Mr. Hughes, who was then Prime Minister, after agreeing to bring down a bill to provide for such a convention, ensured the defeat of the measure by providing for members of the convention to be chosen by a delegate from each federal electorate. He pointed out to members of the Parliament how foolish they would be if they allowed a rival to come into their electorates. In the end I found that I had not 50 but six supporters. The Labour members were the worst of all. When the vote on the convention was taken they all deserted me.
Later, we tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Labour party to agree to an all-party committee on this aspect of the Constitution. Subsequently, we appointed a royal commission, which included three Labour members, and it brought down certain recommendations. Unfortunately, those recommendations were made just after the Bruce-Page Government went out of office, and the succeeding Labour Government did not deal with the matter. If the recommendations had been adopted the Commonwealth would have had mors power in the matter. “I do not believe that there is now time to obtain the necessary alteration of the Constitution. We must get busy and co-operate with the States on the problem straight away. ‘We have been able to co-operate in regard to the Australian Agricultural Council, which I brought into being in the ‘thirties, the Australian Advisory Transport Council and so on. There has been no constitutional authority for these bodies, but. they have been successful. We must all co-operate and help to find the money necessary. I urge strongly the appointment of a special commission to examine the data that is available, because I feel certain that the States have already made a valuable contribution in this regard. In Australia is a growing water sense and we must do something to give effect to it.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), when Governor of Bengal, brought a consultant from the Tennessee Valley Authority to look at the Damodar project, which has now been accorded the highest priority by Mr. Nehru. It may be very well worth while doing something similar here. Among the reasons given by Mr. Nehru for according the Damodar multi-purpose dam the highest priority in India’s public works, are the following : -
It prevents periodicfloods which have been exceptionally severeand is therefore justified as a flood insurance scheme for a comparatively low premium. lt enables all round the year use of the fertile Damodar Valley, as abundant water is available when the monsoon season is over.
The creation of these dams has increased the possibilities for fish cultivation to such an extent as to appreciably add to the food resources of India as a whole.
The combined hydro-electric and thermal power amounts to 400,000 kilowats at a lower rate than thermal power alone could supply.
Itsaves a tremendous amount of carriage of coal and facilitates electrification of the railway system, thus enormously increasing its capacity and lessening its running cost.
Although the water position in India, a country of approximately 1,250,000 square, miles, is bad, it is not, generally speaking, as bad as the position here.
India has been able to undertake that project by creating a commission, of the kind I am suggesting, for Australia, which is completely independent of the Govern ment. It has the power to borrow, to make arrangements with outside contractors and tq give franchises over a . number of years so that the work may be done, without increasing the public debt. The Commonwealth and State government;! could not only back such an organization but make available to it all the basic data that has been acquired over the years. They’ could also contribute heavy equipment, much of which is lying idle in government stores for months every year. The commission would need (shebest engineering advice available in the world. Our water supply is limited and we cannot afford to do a second-rate job. A topographical map of all the eastern areas is needed. Fortunately the Royal Australian Air Force has in the last eight or nine years been undertaking thiswork, but a much closer . and more detailed map is needed. “We must makethe best use of the surveyors available tous. We must encourage local government co-operation from the beginning. Interest may have to be paid by the Federal and State governments on the money borrowed while the works are proceeding, but later these projects will pay for themselves and provide the indispensable basis for absorbing immigrants and promoting the primary and secondary industrial development that this country must have. I have returned from my visit to the East certainthat in the next 40 years we must either absorb another 30,000,000 people or lose this country.
– I second the motion that has been so ably moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and reserve further comment until the matter next comes before the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leavebe given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1945-1955.
Debate resumed from the 2nd May (vide page 1693), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Cairns had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof : - “ this House declines to give a second reading to the bill until such time aa 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 “.
.- The question before us concerns the future of the whaling industry in this country, and I regret that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is not in the House at the moment, because he was the last speaker on this matter last night, and I should like to have dealt with some of his rather acid observations in connexion with the amendment as well as the Opposition’s whole approach to the bill, while the honorable gentleman was actually present in the chamber. We have been waiting - and I am sure that this will please the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) who is now at the table - for the big whale to come into this fight. Surely, the senior Minister on the western side should have come into the debate much earlier, but he has been blowing out at sea, until he was brought to the surface by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). In the rather acrid debate which he launched on the amendment he seemed to be once again at sea, and very angry for being at sea. He charged what appears to rae to be a completely valid amendment with constituting new procedure in this House. He talked as if some sort of snide trick had been worked under the guise of using the Standing Orders, all of which is completely ridiculous. I had hoped therefore to be able to reply to him personally to-day, but as he is not in the chamber I shall have to content myself with putting my views on the record, perhaps for his future study, instead of putting them direct to him.
The subject of whaling is a fascinating one and the speeches made on this side of the House, and some of the speeches made on the other side of the House, were full of general interest on the position of whaling in Australia. But I feel that there has crept into the debate a sort of sectionalized interest. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) - and the unfortunate combination of whales and canning, of course, made his speech rather a potted contribution - talked of the -mechanics of the matter. He said a thing which appears to me to be extremely significant. Beating his breast he said, “ I am going to stand where I stood years ago. I am going to support the Government in this matter.” Is it perhaps that he has been around his electorate - I know that he is a most assiduous worker-
Mr. Hamilton interjecting,
– I am sure that the honorable member will pause when he knows that I am going to pay him a rare compliment, and he has actual corroboration of his own statement that a seat was won on the question whether the Government should control whaling or whether that industry should be in the hands of the entrepreneur and private enterprise. Perhaps that was the reason that he said rather valiantly that he would stand where he stood, but he would prefer to change his feet if he could so do. I think that applies to so many honorable members from Western Australia in connexion with this matter, because, whichever way we look at this whaling situation, I remind the House that there are many thousands of Australian taxpayers along the crowded eastern seaboard who contributed, through the medium of taxes, £1,300,000 that was used to establish the Australian Whaling Commission, and they want to know what is happening in this deal. So far, nobody has been able or prepared to state a case until the honorable member for Yarra came along and put a proposal which, in its simplest form, will give us an .investigation into the whole matter. The former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), has told us the whole story of the development of whaling. He puts us back into the perspective of the years when whaling was a sort of pirates’ lair in the Indian Ocean, when there was no control. Before the establishment of the International Whaling Convention anything went, and there were poaching and breaches of the fundamental laws of the fishermen. A great international whaling convention was established with member nations drawn from among the countries interested in the taking of whales from the sea, and as a matter of development in those years of progress under the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments the Minister of the day assumed, in my view correctly, that this was essentially the type of project in which the nation itself should have the responsibility, that the nation should take care of this industry and even be prepared to lose money on it - which it did not, as events showed. The fact that the whaling industry proved to be a highly successful venture redounds to the credit of the then Minister who had the courage to launch the enterprise, because, as we see it now when it is up for sale to the highest bidder on terms which I will discuss later, because they look rather odd and unbusinesslike and subject, I would say, to investigation, it is obviously a highly successful venture. The Minister was prepared to take this disorganized industry and do something about rehabilitating it.
The whole of the taxpayers of Australia are involved in the proposed sale of this whaling venture, and I can think of no better way of clearing the whole matter up than that of referring it to the highly competent Public Accounts Committee, which is presided over by a Liberal party member of this House and has a majority of Government members on it, in order that the committee might investigate the financial facts of the matter of the disposal of the whaling assets of the Commonwealth. Before t continue on that line, however, I think, sir, that there are some general observations about the whaling station of which we must not lose sight.” There are some industries which call for control, even under a conservative or a tory government, by the National Parliament in order to ensure that there shall be no exploitation of the people’s resources, and in some instances, because of the development of the country it is necessary, be cause there is nothing in an industry for the commercial man, for the Government to do the job. In the first instance, it became obvious that the development, of whaling was the type of thing that could and should be carried out by the Govern ment, and, indeed, that was done magnificently, with great profit. From theother side of the House has come the gibe that we are talking socialism. From where else would honorable member? opposite expect to hear socialism talked other than from a Labour socialist party ‘< Any gibe of that kind is but a pointed sword which pierces not our hearts; it: pierces the heart of the Government because, in order to remain in office as longas it has done, the Government has had’ to use the socialist formula in no fewer than 27 different cases. I decided one night to study the record and find how often the Government has been parading: in this House dressed in the clothes of the Labour movement in order to survive in office.
In respect of these important national matters we should think as -a nation. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the former Minister for Health in this Government, who resumed his seat only a few minutes ago after speaking on another matter, keynoted something - very serious in the life of this community. He spoke of the wastage of assets. They may be assets from the sea, or valuable top soil washed away on the rich north coast of New South Wales. In his advocacy of the Nymboida flood prevention and water retention scheme, the whole story is to be seen. In the conservation of assets, whether the assets be whales or water, the Labour party has a triumphant story in comparison with the out-of-date, out-moded approach of the capitalists on the other side of the House. We know what the answer of the general public would be if the nub of this matter were put to them in the form of a simple question in a referendum. The question could be as simple as this: “Do you, as taxpayers, think it is a fair thing - SO per cent, of you having your wages subedited ai the source before you leave your place of employment on pay-day - that you should contribute £1,300,000 to the establishment of an industry only in order to prove that the industry can be profitable, and in order to allow private enterprise to come in and reap the benefit of the preparatory work that your taxes have paid for ? “
Can the Government and the senior Minister answer this proposition? ls the Minister satisfied that the answer given to a question expressed in those simple terms would be “ Yes “ ? Does the Government believe that the answer of the general public to such a question would be, “ We believe that the heavy, and often punitive, taxation that we pay should be applied to laying open the way for the businessman and the capitalist to come in after the hard work has been done, and reap the profits “ ? The businessman, the capitalist, takes no risk. The worker who pays his taxes takes the risk, then big business comes in and skims off the cream.
The Government’s approach to this whole matter could not be sustained for a moment if the whole thing were put to the people in the simple and direct way that I have suggested. Beating his breast and pontificating, the Minister stood before us last night and, like Michael with the flaming sword, tried to defend this indefensible action of the Government. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) in an analysis of costs, simply and understandably put the position completely- in its right aspect. I have no desire to paint the lily or gild the fine gold by repeating his damning analysis of the figures, which was simple enough, but there are certain things showing out like lighthouses in this debate. When, in 1950, the basic wage was £7 a week, as against £12 to-day, the cost of this enterprise, capital and otherwise, was £1,300,000. Yet, to-day, when one cannot get building materials or set-up or machinery, except at inflated prices, it is to be sold, after making a remarkable profit of £200,000 a year, for a breakdown price of £8S0,000. On the very face of it, this is a subject for inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee.
As I said before, even a novice such as myself on finance whom figures of in ore than six digits dismay, can see the implications of this case which has been put so lucidly by honorable members ‘on this side of the House. The overall expenditure incurred by the taxpayer, to whom I refer with some feeling and some sense of responsibility, amounts to £1,300,000, yet the assets acquired with that money have been disposed of for a return of £S80,000. Four other members have described the easy payment system and low rate of interest that will apply to the transaction, and I need not repeat their remarks. However, imponderables have been introduced into this situation, and the Government has brushed them aside as if they were of . no consequence. There is a great question mark over the value of this station. How much does one pay for a monopoly? How much does one pay .for the right to exclude his competitors if he has not already a licence?
– Mr. McColl might give you that information.
– I would not say thai that was a whale of an interjection. How much does one pay for these things that. I have mentioned? The Government might have to sing small on this subject, eventually. If, as has been stated by the honorable member for Lalor, only 1,000 whales can be taken from the Indian Ocean each year under the’ convention, and there are some other smaller whaling stations, the Nor West Whaling Company Limited, in effect, has been given a monopoly for the taking of whales. It was because of the foresight of the then Minister in building the station at Babbage Island, that provision was made for the taking of 1,000 whales. Look at the concentration of effort and the dissipation of overhead expenses that will take place! The Point Cloates station will be closed, and the whole operation will be centralized at Babbage Island. Who can assess how much saving, under proper business management, can be made in those circumstances? Who can assess the X value of the licence and who can assess the X value of the goodwill? Were these things taken into consideration? Are they not normally taken into consideration in regard to such a matter? I am sure that they are.
So when the honorable member for Yarra moved the amendment that is now before the chamber, I think that he was perfectly in order. He moved -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof- : - “ this House declines to give a Second Beading to the bill until such time as the Joint Committee on Public Account!: 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 “.
I want to know why the Government immediately became activated when the amendment was moved. The VicePresident of the Executive Council became supersensitive when the amendment was moved and, later, he brought the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) himself to the table. It indicates that there is a whale in the bay and it belongs neither to the Government nor to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. The Government has sold a great public asset at a discount, thereby robbing the taxpayer of his fair value, in a scheme which we detest. The very essence of our policy is the retention of successful State-controlled enterprises.
The sorry record of the Government might be described as “ one-by-one “. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is known, so far as the dissipation of public assets is concerned, as Mr. One-by-One. He has cut down the powers of the Commonwealth Bank. He will sell the Commonwealth ships if he can. He has sold the whaling station. He has sold Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. His is a horrible story of handing over organizations that have been built up to prosperity by public money and then justifying himself at an election by saying, “ It is the policy of the Liberal party and its cohorts “ - I almost said its paramour - “ if returned at the election, to dispose of government enterprises and restore the processes of private enterprise “. In restoring the processes of private enterprise and, in this case, giving to big business what it never had, the Government is destroying national assets and something approaching a racket in government monopolies is being perpertrated
The amendment before the chamber is in the quietest and most modest terms, consonant with the importance of the subject-matter. Yet the Government is extremely disturbed and was particularly disturbed last night. I know that after my speech the Lord High Executioner will gag this debate and there will be no possible chance of a real, down-to-earth discussion of the amendment, for the moving of which I .congratulate the honorable member for Yarra. The debate on the amendment is as important as the secondreading speech on this bill. I have insight into the tactics of the Vice-President of the Executive Council because I have sat opposite him at the table and have seen what he has done when the opposition has become too hot. Now that the Opposition has made a case, it is time for the axe, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council will certainly exercise his prerogative in a little time.
This matter has been debated on two levels. It has been debated, brilliantly in my view, by the Opposition. I say that with sincerity. It has been debated with great weakness by speakers on behalf of the Government. Western Australian supporters of the Government have not spoken on the proposed amendment. I know that one Western Australian member on the Government side of the House is anxious to speak, and I do not know whether he will be permitted to speak. I refer to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) and I pay him a tribute when I say that he will be silenced by his own deputy leader. He who lives in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, will not be allowed to speak because of the axe.
– The honorable member cannot read.
– We want the honorable member for Perth to speak. If we succeed in having him speak, we will have caught the greatest, wiliest and most subtle whale since the days of Moby Dick.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. O. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Cairns’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
Th at the message be taken into consideration, in committee of the whole House, forthwith.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. E. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to repeal the Whaling Industry Act 1949-1952, and for purposes connected therewith.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the resolution be reported.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed..
.- It is now fairly obvious that we have reached a stage at which, so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission will be sold. But there is always the reservation that the measure has yet to run the gauntlet of the Senate. I hope, and it is possible, of course, that some honorable senators from the Government ranks may see fit to oppose this obnoxious bill. I remind honorable members that the sale of the assets of the commission is subject to the “Western Australian Government consenting to thi: transfer of the lease of the land on which the Carnarvon whaling station is situated. That land is held by the “Western Australian Government in its sovereign right. What it will do is no business of mine. The sale is subject, also, to the Western Australian Government consenting to whales being conveyed through Western Australian territorial waters.
– Surely the honorable member would not try to influence the Western Australian Government in any way.
– I should not try to influence the sovereign State of Western Australia, but I express the very keen hope that the Western Australian Government, in its wisdom, will refuse to agree to the transfer to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited of the lease of the land on which the Carnarvon station stands. I take this opportunity to express again the hope, which I voiced yesterday, that, in due course, there will arise circumstances that will enable the present Opposition-
– If the honorable member is not careful, he will put 150 men out of work.
– Order! There is far too much noise in the chamber. The honorable member who has received the call from the Chair is entitled to be heard without interruption.
– I hope that, before very long, there will arise circumstances that will give the present Opposition the opportunity to exercise constitutional rights in order to restore to the Australian people the public assets that are being disposed of. In addition, I wish to point out that, notwithstanding the parade pf virtue by Government supporters, who claim that they believe in competition, the sale of this instrumentality means that, for the first time in the history of the rejuvenation of whaling in Australia, one company will hold a licence to take at least 1,000 whales annually. Normally, it has been the practice to restrict one’ undertaking, private or government, to a quota of 500 whales. In future, one company will process at one factory, which has the necessary capacity, 1,000 whales annually, and the element of competition will be removed. Of course, that is in line with the policy of the Government parties. They support in every way all those private enterprises and instrumentalities in the community which tend to close all avenues for an individual to become the proprietor of a small business. That is their policy. They prate about their great belief in competition, but ever and anon they are assisting, and working politically and administratively, for the development of further monopolies in this country. This is a case in point. One might ask why I say that this action will lead to the processing of 1,000 whales by one station. The apparently successful purchaser of the Carnarvon station is a. company which at the moment is operating the Point Cloates station. The fact that that station ever operated is a tribute to the engineering ingenuity of the persons concerned. I have always appreciated that fact and I recognized it when the licence was issued. They rejuvenated a worn-out, decrepit, broken-down outfit, and it is well known that that station, after having operated for five or six years, has now reached the stage where most of its plant, machinery, and equipment is on its last legs, and they have been waiting like vultures for this instrumentality to fall into their hands in order to avoid the cost of restoring their outmoded and outworn plant and to walk into the Carnarvon station, which is in first-class order and condition, and is the most thoroughly equipped and efficient plant in the world.
– Much renewal of plan:, is needed.
– I know that I am hurting the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) on a sore point. Everybody knows that the Government station has been kept right up to date. Maintenance work has been very well and efficiently done. That is not only my statement but a provable fact. Within recent years entirely new plant has been installed. Much of the plant at the Point Cloates station, the property of the
Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, including old boilers and other equipment, was lying idle for over twenty years. Is such a plant to be compared in efficiency with plant purchased new in 1945 and maintained in first-class condition ever since? It is quite obvious that the Point Cloates station has lost its useful life, and that it will be closed. One thousand whales per annum will be processed at the Government station at Carnarvon by the company which apparently will be the purchaser. Very obviously, the old station will close and from the two separate gangs of men now employed somebody will be for slaughter in his employment. I would not say that there are not some good qualities in private enterprise sometimes. The honorable I member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) may laugh contemptuously when I say that, but everybody knows that some splendid employers are engaged in private enterprise. I hope, that, when the Point Cloates station closes and some of the company’s men have to go, the company will treat them handsomely for their past loyalty. I ask at this stage that the Government show some appreciation of the marvellous effort and loyalty of the men engaged at the government station, some of whom will have to go, during the conduct of that enterprise over the last five or six years.
– Will the company be able to absorb all the employees?
– I do not think for a moment that it will. Further, some men will not desire to accept employment with the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. With the finalization of this transaction, into the possession of a company now owning an outmoded concern at Point Cloates will pass equipment and plant, and rights in. the form of licences, which should return to that company not less than 20 per cent, per annum, not on the capital of £350,000 which it is outlaying in the initial stages, but on the government valuer’s estimate of approximately £1,000,000.
– The honorable member seems to overlook certain risks associated with the project.
– Let me tell the honorable member for Forrest the factors which counterbalance the risks. If the company were paying £1,000,000 at once for all of the assets, which it is not, it would receive a return of 20 per cent, per annum on its investment, but instead it will receive a return of £200,000 per annum on its immediate investment of £350,000. Further, it will receive an additional quota of 500 whales. Instead of two stations operating, only one will operate, overhead costs will be reduced, and processing will be more efficient because of the higher quality of the government station. It is clear that the company’s return on its initial investment of £350,000 will be substantially more than 20 per cent.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) may rest assured, I think, that the men employed at the Australian Whaling Commission’s establishment at Babbage Island, Carnarvon, will be quite well protected in employment, because the manager of the Nor’ We3t Whaling Company Limited, as soon as the Premier of Western Australia raised the bogy of unemployment amongst these men, said quite unequivocally that these men need have no fears of unemployment if the company were the successful tenderer. In fact, he said that the employment position might improve and more men might be employed. That is quite within the bounds of possibility, because the company has stated that it will develop by-products with which the Australian Whaling Commission so far has not concerned itself. Whether or not that is possible, I will not be so dogmatic as to say; nevertheless, the indications are there.
I do not desire to delay the committee very long in its consideration of this matter, but because of some remarks just made by the honorable member for Lalor, I am forced to say something. In his opening remarks he expressed the wish, as I took it, that the Western Australian Government would place all the obstacle” possible in the way of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited, because that Government is at the moment the owner, of the land. Here again we have a demonstration of Labour’s true position. Its one objective all along the line is to cause misery and chaos, and we have seen this repeatedly demonstrated.
– Ha, ha, ha!
– I recall very clearly, as you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, would, too, one night a few years ago in this chamber when somebody cited a figure of 40,000 unemployed, and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) immediately rose and said that the figure was 100,000. However, Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 am getting away from the point, as 1 see the Clerk is advising you. What I want to say is that if this wish of the honorable member for Lalor comes true, and the Western Australian Government places an obstacle in the way of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited using Babbage Island, then the company will have no alternative but to close down. The honorable member has said that Point Cloates is absolutely useless, that . it is worn out. The Labour party wants to see the Babbage Island station closed down and the few employees thrown out of work, so that there will be chaos and misery amongst them - anything that is horrible and vicious so long as Opposition members can gain their point. I hope very sincerely, as I said in the previous debates on this matter, that this Government will use every endeavour to ensure that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited will be protected in the purchase of the rights mentioned in clause 5.
– I direct attention to the disgraceful state of the committee. [Quorum formed.]
– When the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) brought in a few more of his colleagues to hear me telling them exactly what is in their minds in respect of employment, I was saying that I hope that this Government will use every means in its power to see that the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited is protected in respect of the ownership of the land upon which these buildings are erected. If, as the honorable member for Lalor hopes, the Western Australian Government interferes to prevent the functioning of this station and consequently brings about unemployment, it will be the duty of this Government to do everything it possibly can to protect those people.
I rose mainly to discuss the matter of whale meal. As I said last night, there is a rumour current in Western Australia which has been deliberately put out by the opponents of the sale of this station to cause concern to poultryfarmers and others. This rumour is to the effect that the whole output of whale meal will be exported to America. Tn reply to a question by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) this morning, the Minister for Trade stated quite clearly that the Commonwealth Government has power over exports from this country. However. I should like the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) under whose department this whaling station will now come, to state that this legislation means the sale of this station, but at the same time that the Government will see to it that the men engaged in the poultry industry, particularly in Western Australia, will not suffer as a result of this sale and that action will be taken if the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited endeavours to export the whole of its output of whale meal overseas. That is all I wanted to say. I was forced to say the other few words because of the horrible insinuations of the honorable member for Lalor and his colleagues who supported him with their “Hear, hears ! “ They want to see this station closed down, and the men engaged in whaling at Carnarvon thrown out of employment. A most disgraceful situation !
– I rise only to give the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) the assurance that he has asked for - or a qualified assurance in any event - regarding the export of whale meal and/or concentrates. As the honorable member knows, the Commonwealth Government has complete power to control the export of the products of this country; and in deciding whether there should he any restrictions or controls, it takes into consideration all the facts presented to it, such as the balance of payments problem, and more importantly, perhaps, the problems of the Australian primary industries and the need in particular cases for industries, particularly the poultry industry, to get concentrates of the kind produced by the whaling commission. In the past, whenever it has been thought necessary to impose controls or restrictions, they have been imposed, and, though I have not checked these facts yet, I think I can say that last year no exports of concentrates for poultry feed were permitted. It is intended to permit some exports this year because it is thought that the production of concentrates is sufficiently high to permit a small export to be made.
– I do not believe it.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has had plenty of time and has been given every liberty to speak on this bill. I want to give an assurance to the honorable member for Canning. If the matter has become political, he may be able to correct the misstatements that have been made in the west. But I give him the assurance that the problem is looked at each year, and it is watched very carefully’ to see that the interests of the Australian poultry industry are not adversely affected. He can rest assured that the same policy that has been adopted in the past will be continued in the future.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has certainly been persistent throughout the debate on this bill, and has indulged in constant repetition. If one voice should have been stilled prior to this, surely it is that of the honorable member for Lalor.
– It will never be stilled.
– I suppose that that applies, too. Earlier to-day there seems to have been some confusion in the mind of the honorable member for Lalor regarding myself. I am sure that he thought that I had the privilege of being the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), hut I happen to be the honorable member for Swan. I feel that there are still some points which are not necessarily repetitions that can be made in answer to some of the repetitions of the honorable member for Lalor.
I want to deal briefly with the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited satisfying the requirements of the Government as the highest bidder for the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission at Carnarvon. The requirements were satisfied, firstly, because of the technical efficiency that this company displays. In my earlier speech some two months ago, I naturally advocated the sale of those assets, because such advocacy is positively in line with the policy of the Government. Because of some anticipation on the part of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), that this company would be the highest bidder and would be the successful purchaser, I drew attention then to the accomplishments in a relatively short period of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. , Its technical efficiency cannot be denied. As a private enterprise with limited assets and with nowhere near the capital backing of the whaling commission, because the Government has been behind it, this company has revealed a high standard of technical efficiency. It has also been administratively sound. It was my privilege and pleasure to point out that although its capital assets were only £150,000 approximately, for the last four years it has paid a dividend to its sharebolders of no less than 20 per cent. There is no criticism of the administration of the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. Then, of course, its offer was the highest offer that the Government received for the whaling station.
This morning we have been reminded by one of my colleagues that the interests of Western Australia have been fully orotected. The necessary requirements before any offer could be accepted have been carefully observed and considered, and the Government has made a comnletely sound decision to sell to the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. I like to- have accuracy when figures are quoted, and I draw attention, as I have on another occasion, to the erroneous. claim of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) who, speaking a few days ago, said that this station was being sold for less than the profits made in five years.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour this day.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill which I have pleasure in introducing covers two matters relating to retirement benefits payable to members of the Permanent Defence Forces. As honorable members are aware, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act provides for a contributory scheme whereby pensions or, alternatively, benefits by way of a lump sum become payable to members on completion of service in the Permanent Forces. The scheme is analogous to that provided for public servants under the Superannuation Act.
The first matter covered by this bill has application to existing contributors under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1955 and will increase the unit entitlement and basis of contributions payable by certain officer ranks whose rates of pay were recently increased. Consequent upon this entitlement to contribute at a higher rate, pensions payable to these officers on retirement will be increased by a proportion which is commensurate with the increased unit entitlement. As an example of the increased unit and pension entitlement I would cite the case of a commander, lieutenantcolonel or wing commander contributing for 24 units prior to the pay increases. They will now contribute for 25 units and the existing pension of £760 per annum will be increased by one twentyfourth to £792 per annum. [Quorum
The bill provides that the increased unit and pension entitlement will haveeffect from the 22nd February, 1956, the date upon which approval was given tothe increased rates of pay. This principle is in conformity with that applicable to Commonwealth public servants whose increased unit entitlement under the Superannuation Act became effective from the date on which judgment was delivered by the full Arbitration Court,, the 16th December, 1955.
The second matter covered by this bill provides that in the case of a naval ratingwho had previously elected not to contribute under the act, he shall have n further right of election to become a. contributor in the event of his beingappointed to commissioned rank after the 10th December, 1954, and prior to the date upon which this legislation becomes effective. Ratings appointed in future to commissioned rank will be required to become contributors from the date of such, commissioning.
The purpose of this particular amendment is to permit or require naval ratings to become entitled to pension or benefit on retirement following attainment of officer status and the improved career prospects in the service which such promotion gives them. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation, of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Aid Eoads Act 1954-1955.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden aid SirEric Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to. carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [2.24]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the present Commonwealth aid roads legislation, which was introduced in 1954, an amount of 7d. a gallon is allocated for roads purposes from the proceeds of customs and excise duties on petrol. The purpose of the present bill is to increase those allocations to 8d a gallon. This increase, will operate as from the 1st April, 1956. At the current rate of petrol consumption, the increase will add approximately £1,000,000 to the Commonwealth aid roads grants in the remainder of the current year and about £4,000,000 in a full year. These additional grants will be paid to the States on the same conditions as the payments already being made under the existing legislation.
As honorable members are aware, the Government introduced recently measures to increase taxation on certain commodities on which there has been a particularly high rate of expenditure and which involve a large amount of imports. Petrol was one of those commodities, the rate of customs and excise duties on petrol being increased by 3d. a gallon. At the same time, the Government felt that the roads problem deserved special consideration and that some portion of the additional tax on petrol should be used for roads purposes. In effect, therefore, this bill provides that of the recent incraese of 3d. a gallon in the petrol tax, 1d. a gallon should be set aside for roads.
It has been contended in some quarters that the Government should make available to the States, for roads purposes, the full amount of this increase of 3d. a gallon in the petrol tax - or, indeed, that the whole of the petrol tax proceeds should be set aside for roads. I do not think any one can fairly say that this Government has not given full recognition to the importance of the roads problem in Australia, or that it has not been liberal in the provision of finance for roads. By a series of legislative measures - of which this is the third since it took office - it has made progressively more generous the basis on which grants are available for roads purposes. This year the Commonwealth aid roads payments will be £27,500,000. Next year, the payments will be more like £32,000,000. If these figures are compared with what was done previously - with the grants being made, for example, in the year before we took office, which amounted to no more than £7,700,000, how we have substantiated our interest in the basic developmental problem which roads represent will be seen. Indeed, the annual provision which we are now making for roads is three or four times as great as the amount being provided when we first took office. However, the roads problem which, incidentally, is primarily a State responsibility, is but one of the many important developmental problems which face us to-day. If every branch of activity were to receive all the finance it claims to require, we would have a total works- programme in Australia nearer £1,000,000,000 a year than the £400,000,000 a year now provided.
The difficulties being encountered in financing the States’ works programmes at their present level are well known. Indeed, the additional taxation imposed recently - including the additional tax on petrol - was required primarily to enable us to assist the States’ works and housing programmes without calling on treasurybill finance. If, therefore, we were to adopt the suggestion that the whole of the proceeds of the increase of 3d. in the petrol tax be devoted to roads, we should have to raise this money from some other source. In other words, we should have to impose some further taxation either on incomes or on commodities other than petrol. I feel sure that any such move would find little support. There is, of course, the alternative that the commitments for which we have been seeking additional finance should be reduced - in other words, that we should reduce correspondingly the assistance that we are giving the States in other directions. Such an alternative does not merit serious consideration. In passing, however, I might mention that, as most of the States rely to some extent on their general revenues and on loan moneys to finance road expenditures, their ability to do so is assisted by Commonwealth general revenue grants, and by the special loan assistance which the Commonwealth has made available in recent years. This fact is ignored completely by those who imagine that the only portion of the petrol tax proceeds which goes to assist roads is the portion which is set aside specifically for grants under the Commonwealth aid roads scheme.
Even if the matter were to be considered solely in terms of the proportion of the petrol tax set aside specifically for roads, the present Government has an impressive record. In 1938-39, the Commonwealth aid roads grants represented only 43 per cent, of the petrol tax collections. By 1949 - the last year of office of the Chifley Labour Government - the percentage had risen to only 47. In the current financial year, no less than 73 per cent, of the total customs and excise duties on petrol is being set aside specifically for roads.
It is sometimes argued that the petrol tax was introduced for roads purposes and that, as it is ostensibly a tax on motorists, it is only right and proper that it should be used specifically for roads. Such an argument completely ignores the facts. Petrol tax was first imposed in 1902. It was not until 1923 that the first roads grants were made to the States, and not until 1926 that roads grants were first associated with petrol tax collections. In every year since 1902, at least some portion of the petrol tax has been used for general revenue purposes. In 1940, for example, the rate of petrol tax was increased by 3d. a gallon, and in 1946 the tax was reduced by1d. a gallon - in each case without any change being made in the proportion of the tax set aside for roads purposes. Finally, it is a fallacy to say that anything like the whole amount of the petrol tax is paid by motorists. Only a week or two ago, the president of the Long Distance Road Transport Association of Australia declared that “whatever tax is paid by the commercial carrier, it must be passed on to the public in the cost of goods and services “. The fact is that between 65 and 70 per cent, of the total petrol consumption is used in commercial vehicles, and so the cost is passed on to the com munity at large. It is, therefore,, only fair that some part of the tax should go to Consolidated Revenue and be used for the general services and obligations of the community.
Under the Constitution, responsibility for roads rests entirely with the States. We regard it as proper, therefore, that the States should be free to decide the particular . roads on which the Commonwealth aid roads moneys should be expended. We have, however, laid down one major condition, which was introduced by our predecessors in office, namely that part of the total grant must be expended on rural roads other than main roads. We have progressively increased this provision for rural roads, and the 1954 legislation provides that at least 40 per cent, of the Commonwealth aid roads moneys must be spent on such roads. As a result, the proportion of the total grant which must be spent on rural roads in the current financial year will amount to about £11,000,000, and this amount, with the increased petrol tax allocation proposed in the bill, will increase to nearly £13,000,000 next year. In the financial year before we took office - 1948-49 - the amount set aside for such roads was only £2,000,000. This provision is, of course, designed to promote development in rural areas, and is of particular benefit to primary producers and to the local authorities who are largely responsible for roads in these areas. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Sir Eric Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Abthub Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to re-enact the provisions of the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954 for a further three years. That act provided for the payment of subsidy on the production of gold in Australia and the Territories of Papua and New Guinea during each of the two financial years 1954-55 and 1955-56. The effect of the bill is to extend the operation of the subsidy scheme to cover gold produced in the years 1956-57, 1957-58 and 1958-59.
Perhaps I might remind the House of rhe main provisions of the subsidy scheme. E’or subsidy purposes, gold producers ure divided into two categories - small producers and large producers. A small producer - defined as one whose output is not more than 500 oz. of fine gold in a subsidy year - is eligible for subsidy at a flat rate of £1 10s. per oz. A large producer’s eligibility to subsidy is determined according to a formula. His eligibility, for each ounce of gold produced in a subsidy year, is an amount equal to three-quarters of the excess of h is average cost of production over £13 10s. per oz., subject to a maximum subsidy of £2 per oz. His profits after subsidy may not exceed 10 per cent, of the capital used by him in the production and sale of gold.
In the case of both large and small producers, eligibility for subsidy is dependent on gold production representing more than 50 per cent, of the value of the producer’s total mining output, and subsidy is . reduced to the extent, if any, that the producer receives more than £15 12s. 6d. per oz. from the sale of his gold, this price being the Commonwealth Bank’s official buying price. The subsidy scheme has proved of considerable benefit to the gold-mining industry, which is an important contributor to the balance of payments and upon which large areas, particularly in Western Australia, are almost entirely dependent.
The industry’s financial position has not altered materially since the subsidy scheme was introduced in 1954. Despite Australia’s support in international discussions of moves for an increase in the world price of gold, no such increase has eventuated, and there has been little change since 1949 in the price received by the Australian producer. Accordingly, the Government believes that the need for the subsidy scheme still obtains, and a three-year extension of the operation of the scheme is proposed.
The bill now before the House does not change the provisions of the subsidy scheme in any significant respect. The opportunity is being taken, however, to repeal the provision which enabled the Treasurer to substitute a producer’s accounting year for an ordinary financial year if he thought this necessary to facilitate administration of the scheme. The use of this provision has been found to be unnecessary. A minor amendment is also being made to the provisions of the 10 per cent, profit limitation test, the effect of the amendment being to liberalize the Treasurer’s discretionary power to modify the operation of the test in a particular subsidy year in special circumstances. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. H. V. Johnson) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 1728).
.- Before the sitting of the committee was suspended for lunch, I was at the stage of drawing attention to the misleading claim of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). I refer to his speech as recorded at page 1609 of Hansard of the 1st May, when he stated that the whaling station at Carnarvon was being sold for less than the profit that was made in the five-year period, and for less than the money expended in building up the assets of the Australian Whaling Com.mission. Because I believe in accuracy in the quotation of figures, particularly in this chamber, I challenge the statement of the honorable member for Werriwa. Let me prove how misleading his figures were.
Dealing, first of all, with the profits of the Australian Whaling Commission, we find that the gross profit was £974,000, in round figures. But we must take into account the developmental expenses and depreciation for the first few years when there was no effective production. That figure is £305,400. In addition, interest of £147,000 has been paid by the Australian Whaling Commission, and the total of those two figures is £452,400, which brings to our consideration a net profit of only £522,200. The sale price, as we all know, is £SS0,000, and the statement of the honorable member for Werriwa is quite erroneous. If we look at the assets of the commission as at the 31st March, 1956, and deduct the approved amount of depreciation which is shown in the accounts of the commission, the resultant figure is £743,000, representing the written-down value of the assets of the commission. That figure is substantially below the sale price of £880,000. Again, I prove that the honorable member for Werriwa, as he has done on other occasions when quoting figures, has presented a very erroneous statement. We must be consistent when we use accountancy terms and my figures are presented, as the general public will appreciate, in line with normal accounting practice.
It is significant that in this debate on the disposal of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, the Western Australian Labour members of this House have refrained from opposition to this measure. Why have they been reticent? Is it because they know that the Western Australian public is satisfied that the sale is justified?
– They are not even in the chamber.
– That is true. I want to examine, for a moment or two, the attitude of the Government with respect to what we can call, accurately, public utilities. First of all, what do I mean by public utilities? I mean railways, tramways, water supplies and elec tricity and power undertakings. It is a fortunate government indeed that operates this type of utility at a profit. That is the reason why private enterprise which, unlike government undertakings, cannot face up to and get away with recurring deficits, is not interested in utilities of this kind. Sound government, I suggest, demonstrates a pioneering spirit. It is a government responsibility to stimulate development, and it is for that reason that we have a Department of National Development. Sound leadership results in new industries, the entry into untouched fields of operations, and the extension of industries for which private enterprise capital is simply not available. It is apparent that between the recognized public utility and private enterprise there is a field which permits of temporary activity by a government for reasons of development and expansion. This station has been in that, category for a number of years, but now, because of its development and because private enterprise is fitted to take it over, it can adequately and soundly be replaced by the fisheries development project.
In conclusion, I say that the Opposition has tried in a futile way to present a case against the disposal of the commission’s assets. That case is based on inaccurate figures. Because we do not stand for the socialization of industry in any respect, we submit with complete sincerity that the Government’s action in selling this station for £880,000 cannot be questioned.
Mr. WARD (East Sydney) [2.46 j.During this debate, the Government has advanced a new argument against State enterprise. For some time, it had stated that governments could not efficiently run business undertakings and that by attempting to do so they were throwing public money down. the drain. On this occasion, however, honorable members opposite have had to change their argument. As I shall show in a moment, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) has completely distorted the figures relating to the profit-earning capacity of this undertaking. In the past, the Government has spoken about inefficiency, but it cannot claim that this station has been run inefficiently. I should like those Government supporters who still wish to participate in this debate to show in what way they are serving community interest by destroying an efficient government enterprise, because this station has been an efficient enterprise. Let us examine the figures that were advanced by the honorable member for Swan in relation to its profits. In his secondreading speech on the Fishing Industry Bill, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) - and I prefer to accept the Minister’s word rather than the illinformed conclusions of the honorable member for Swan - stated that the profits earned by the whaling station at Carnarvon for five years of its operations totalled approximately £1,000,000. That figure does not include the profits that are disclosed in the report of the commission for last year’s operations, which has noi yet been presented to the Parliament. That report will disclose a further profit of £200,000, making the total £1,200,000.
The Minister for Trade, when making a personal explanation in the House, declared that nothing underhand had been done in relation to this deal, but that everything had been done in the open. According to the Minister, all the interested people had been informed about what the Government intended to do. I propose to quote a letter which was published in the West Australian of the 19th April under the heading “ Minister’s Remark Corrected “. The letter was written by Mr. S. M. Reilly, chairman of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company Limited, which is one of the three organizations that have been actively engaged in catching whales in Western Australian waters. The letter reads as follows : -
The statement by thu Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that a Mr. Hunt was a director of this company and would convey information to us of the proposed sale of Babbage Island is incorrect. We had no official advice of the sale and in fairness to Mr. D. S. Hunt (proprietor of Hunts Canning Company Limited) it should be known that he was not a director of Cheynes Beach Whaling Company Limited, and any inquiries he may have made would be personal, anr! unknown to lis.
The Cheynes Beach Whaling Company Limited had no knowledge whatever of the Government’s proposal. Indeed, this Parliament and the people of Australia would have known nothing about the deal until it was completed had it not been brought to light by my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who almost had to drag from the Minister a statement of what the Government proposed to do.
Let us see how supporters of the Government dodge the issues involved. The honorable member for Perth (Mr.’ Chaney) made a personal explanationin which he attempted, as he believed, to correct a statement that had been made by my colleague, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). I listened very carefully to the explanation. The honorable member said that he had not taken anybody to the Minister and that he had not brought, any interested people to Canberra. I ask the honorable member for Perth now whether it is not a. fact that he brought interested persons to Canberra and made an appointment for those persons with a Mr. Phillips, an official of the Department of Trade, who was handling these negotiations. Let him make a personal explanation about the truth or otherwise of that statement.
– What is wrong with that?
– The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) asks, “What is wrong with that?” It is wrong in the sense that the honorable member for Perth was attempting to debunk what my colleague, the honorable member for Yarra, had said. The honorable member for Yarra was wrong only in a detail. Now let us have a look at the persons whom the honorable member for Perth brought here. If he thinks that people have a reasonable request to make, I have no objection to his taking them to either the Minister or some responsible official in the department. Let us now see whether the West Australian Whaling Company, which was formed to make a bid to obtain the government whaling station at Carnarvon, knew all the facts. When representatives of that organization approached Mr. Phillips, they could hardly get from him sufficient information to enable them to make a reasonable approach to the proposition or to submit a reasonable offer.. I am led to understand that, in addition to offering £800,000 for the station, one of the undertakings given by this new company was that, out of the profits earned, it would engage in fisheries research on the Western Australian coast. That fact has never been mentioned by the Minister. The favoured company, the Nor’ West Whaling Company limited, which knew all about what the Government intended to do, which had worn-out equipment in its own whaling establishment, and which knew that it would be involved in considerable capital outlay in replacing it, knew long ago that there was no need for it to plan ahead for its existing station because it would eventually be able to take the government station. I suggest that there ought to be a complete investigation of the transaction.
Honorable members opposite have stated without any justification that the public of Western Australia are completely satisfied with what the Government is doing.” What reason have they to say that? Indeed, on the last occasion on which the people of Western Australia had an opportunity to declare by vote whether they stood with the Australian Labour party or the anti-Labour parties, they decided overwhelmingly in favour of the Labour party. The Opposition would be much more justified in declaring that the great bulk of the people of Western Australia disapproved of this transaction and had actually declared for socialism, as represented by the Labour party, than were Government supporters in making their statements. If honorable members opposite want to test public feeling on the matter, why do they not do what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) suggested a few years ago when he was worried about the socialization policy of the Labour party? The right honorable gentleman stated that the Government proposed to amend the Constitution to make it impossible for any succeeding government to invest public moneys in any undertaking whatever unless the prior approval of the public had been obtained by referendum. The Prime Minister did not proceed with that proposal, because, after he had given it more thought, he realized that, if it were decided to amend the
Constitution to provide for the holding of a referendum before public moneys could be so invested, the logical conelusion would be that a government could not destroy an existing government undertaking without holding a referendum.
– That has nothing to do with the matter.
– If the Government wants to test the feeling of the people on this matter, why does the Minister not suggest that it should hold a referendum ? The whaling station at Carnarvon was established in 1949. With the exception of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), Government supporters did not oppose the proposal. They were, according to the opinions that they expressed in this chamber, enthusiastically in favour of the proposition. One would naturally have assumed that, if the establishment of the whaling station was part of the socialization policy of the Labour government of that day, the Prime Minister, in his policy speech in 1949, would have announced the intention of his party to desocialize that industry. T have a copy of the Prime Minister’s policy speech of 1949, and in the section that deals with desocialization there is not one word about the whaling station. He spoke about what his party would do in regard to the Commonwealth Bank, Trans-Australia Airlines and other government undertakings, but he said not one word about the whaling station. It is completely ridiculous to suggest that the Australian public would approve of the principle that public moneys should be used-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I did not think that within a few short months of my entering this House I would join such distinguished company as the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in being assailed by the honorable .member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I thank the honorable member most sincerely, since this debate is being broadcast, for the service that he has done me by attempting, in some ulterior fashion, to besmirch me this afternoon.
I cannot think of a greater tribute that could be paid to any one in this chamber than for the honorable member for East Sydney to attempt to degrade him in the eyes of the people of Australia.
Let us come to the facts of this matter. 1 said last night in this chamber, when L rose to make a personal explanation, that since I was unable to study the Hansard report of the debate, I could not vouch for the exact words of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). However, I have since been able to do so. The honorable member for Yarra said that he. had heard or believed, as, obviously, the honorable member for East Sydney has heard or believed, that I introduced a representative of the West Australian whaling company to the Minister and his secretary.
– I did not say that.
– Until I read that in Hansard, I did not know that such a company existed. I suggest that if honorable members opposite wish to ask for an investigation, they should find out whether any representative of any company saw the Minister or his private secretary, because I think that he stipulated, among other things, in connexion with this sale, that he would not interview any one, but that the resources of the Department of Trade were to be placed at the disposal of any tenderer for this undertaking. I believe that it was quite right and proper for him to make that stipulation. My only association with this matter came about after questions had been asked by Opposition members and the Minister for Trade had offered to extend for a fortnight the closing date for applications, in order to
I allow the Western Australian Govern- ment to tender for this whaling enterprise, which, I believe, it did not wish to possess. When the Minister granted that fortnight’s extension of time, a man rang me in Perth, in my own constituency, as he was fully entitled to do, and asked me whether the time could be extended for other tenderers. I asked the Minister whether the time would be extended, and he said that it would, and that the officers of his department would be placed at the disposal of any further tenderers, as had been the case with the people who had tendered earlier.
What amazes me about this matter is that information that is not available to other honorable members, and is not available to tenderers, is available to the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Yarra. That is a most disquieting feature of the matter, and it would be interesting to find out where those honorable members obtained their information. I know that this debate is being broadcast, but quite obviously a report of yesterday’s proceedings has already appeared in the press in Western Australia, because, «just before I entered this chamber, I received a telegram from a man named McDonald in Perth, which reads as follows: -
Resent inferences and political use my visit’ Canberra. Perfectly satisfied with reception and respect umpires decision regards. McDonald.
Quite obviously this man has read this morning’s newspapers, in which I suppose there was a report of what was said here last night, and evidently he feels that he is in some way implicated because of the matters that were used, unjustly and wrongly, by the honorable member for Yarra.
– Who is McDonald 1
– He is the man who telephoned me, and whom I told would be allowed to see the officers of the Department of Trade. I say to all honorable members in this chamber that there is nothing wrong in what I did, because the facilities made available to that man were available to any one in Australia who wanted to submit a tender for the whaling enterprise, including the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for. East Sydney, had they so desired.
I shall conclude by referring to a remark made by the honorable member for East Sydney. Mention has been made of the reaction of the people of Western Australia to the sale of this whaling enterprise, and the honorable member tried to make some capital, in this regard, out of the result of the State election in Western Australia. I say to this Parliament that one of the factors that helped the Labour party to win the election in that State was that members of the
Labour Opposition in this Parliament did not go to Western Australia to assist in the campaign.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That’ the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. g. j. Bowden. )
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. g. j.bowden.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be reported without amendment.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. g. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I move the following amendment-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question benow put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr.C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 17th April (vide page 1366), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That thebill be now read a second, time.
.- The Opposition supports this measure, which follows a principle that was first applied by the Labour Government. The main provisions of the bill will extend the period of the 20 per cent, depreciation allowance on capital expenditure foi primary production. For this reason, the Opposition offers no objection to the measure. It agrees also with the minor provisions.
.- This bill will do two things: In the first place, it will extend the period during which the special exemption from tax of income derived from uranium mining shall operate. In the second place, it will extend the period during which the depreciation allowances to primary producers shall operate. Both these proposals are worthy of support. May I just make the point that the exemption of income derived from uranium mining should be supported because its purpose is, very largely, to give effect to pledges mid undertakings given to the industry. However, I think the House should realize that the real urgency in relation to uranium has now passed. It may be that for a year or two all stocks will be needed, but the long-term developments which will give added production in some years are no longer a matter of major urgency. I can remember remarking in this House some years ago that uranium was likely to be of great but only shortterm value, and I think that that is now demonstrably true. Not only are the stocks becoming very great, but there is also the long-term threat of the replacement of the fission reaction by fusion, that is, the replacement of uranium by hydrogen, and there is the much shorter term possibly of its replacement by thorium, at least to a large extent. I think it will be a good thing if the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) gives to the House some facts on the present world market for uranium, with particular reference to what has been happening in Canada and the way in which, the Canadian production is being absorbed or slowed down.
Although I support the present bill, I must add that I am disappointed with it. The Government has once more, I believe, missed an opportunity to make necessary constructive changes in the basis of our income tax law. The present financial policy appears to consist of a number of short-term expedients, designed to patch up cracks in our national economy. As such, those expedients may be both urgent and necessary, but they are not enough. It is time that we set about relieving some of the strains and stresses which are the fundamental causes of these cracks. Some of these problems - not all of them, of course - can be resolved by making structural changes in our income tax law, that is, by further amending the act which is under consideration by this House at present. I suggest three changes : first, that we should incorporate a national savings plan in our income tax law; secondly, that we should widen the whole concept of taxation relief to those who have family responsibilities; and, thirdly, that we should make those taxation changes which facilitate the abolition of the means test upon age pensioners. We need a savings scheme, a family budget, and a retiring plan.
Let me speak first in regard to the savings scheme. It is possible, of course, to impose a surtax, the proceeds from which could be applied to the purchase of bonds repayable at some future date, or on the taxpayer attaining a specified age. Suggestions have been made to the effect that this could be applied especially to unmarried taxpayers, with special repayment benefits upon marriage, but I consider that this kind of compulsory scheme is by no means the best. In place of a compulsory scheme, I suggest a voluntary scheme under which taxpayers would be entitled, if they so desired, to deposit money with the Treasury and to withdraw their deposits, with the proviso that such amounts would be deductions for income tax purposes in the year of deposit and accretions to taxable income in the year of withdrawal. Subject to special arrangements to reduce bookkeeping and other costs, interest could be paid on the taxpayers’ balances with the Treasury, so that they would become a convenient form of investment supplementing the normal bonds. An important feature of the proposal I make would be that in his or her year of marriage the taxpayer would he entitled to withdraw from his or her balance at credit with the Treasury a sum of, say, £1,500 without its being an accretion to taxable income for that year, or any year. If a scheme like this were adopted, it would enable all taxpayers to average their incomes for taxation purposes, and it would thus extend to them the special benefits which are at present available to some primary producers. Businessmen, whose incomes may fluctuate very considerably from .year to year, would be freed from paying unfair taxes upon windfall profits.
The scheme would enable young men and women to save for marriage free of tax, and it would give to all taxpayers freedom from taxation on the income which they put aside for their retirement. This would be of particular interest to taxpayers in the last few years of their active business life, when their incomes are high in comparison with the superannuation benefits which they can expect, immediately after their retirement. If these advantages to the taxpayer - and they are very considerable advantages - induced any great number to participate in the scheme, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) would have substantial balances available which would relieve the present savings shortage. From the national point of view, the important feature would be the relieving of present taxation inequities and the encouragement of thrift, thus reducing the economic pressures which are consequent upon chronic under-saving Of recent days, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer has rightly pointed to this as one of the chief underlying factors of present financial difficulties, and what is true in Great Britain is even truer in Australia. I believe that whether in this or some other form - because I do not wish to be dogmatic as to detail-:- -we should be incorporating in our Income Tax Act a national savings scheme.
The second point I put forward could be summarized under the heading of a family budget. Our present wage and salary structure has very little differentiation for seniority, and effective margins of all kinds are generally low in comparison with the base rate. Award wages are family wages, generally on the basis of a man, wife, and two children, and they are paid, as we know, to single nien who have no family responsibilities. Et seems to me to be quite impracticable to pay different wages to different men for the same job, so some form of taxation relief is the natural instrument to use to restore the balance. Indeed, this principle has long been established by allowing what the act calls concessional deductions for family responsibilities. The only trouble is that those deduction.have been, and still are, miserably inadequate. It is, I think, a standing reproach to this Government, and to preceding governments, that this fundamental problem has been consistently evaded. Under present conditions, when a couple marry, their standard of living drops like a stone, unless the wife keeps working, and except in the case of childless marriages a wife cannot keep working for’ long. The implications of this present situation are undesirable in every social sense. I believe that concessional deductions without restrictions should be allowed for wives and children and should be at least £150 for the wife and £100 for each child, with additional allowances when the wife has a dependent child or when the taxpayer is a widow. More generous allowances should be made for maintained relatives, but in this case it would be not unreasonable to aggregate their incomes, for taxation purposes, with the income of the claimant.
I feel that a special deduction of £150 or thereabouts should be made in the year of marriage and in the succeeding years, and also in the year in which a husband or a wife dies. A child orphan should certainly be allowed a deduction in respect of his own educational expenses, and I think a special deduction in addition, and better concessions should he made for the- invalidity of all taxpayers and their families. These and similar concessions that I am referring to are not intended to alter the total yield of tax, but rather to alter the incidence of tax so that it would involve an increase of the tax rate upon the income of those who do not obtain the new concessions. This should, 1 think, be specifically directed to reduce the inflationary effect of spending by taxpayers without family responsibilities. Such taxpayers, of course, are entitled to relief if they are saving for marriage, but in such cases they would be entitled to the special savings deduction that ‘ I mentioned earlier. I feel, also, that they should be entitled to special deductions for the maintenance of invalid parents or other relatives, but that, I think, is covered in the kind of concessional deductions that I have outlined.
It may, even on top of this, be desirable to make some further concession in respect of age. I admit that this is a more controversial point. The other points seem to me to he almost beyond controversy when they are considered, but this is controversial. I think, however, that it might be desirable to make 11. special deduction in respect of age, so that proper seniority in the community can have some recognition. If so, something like a deduction of £100 available at the age of 21 years or previous marriage, increasing, shall I say, at the rate of £5 for every completed year of life after 21, would be not unreasonable. The important thing is that there should be a proper recognition of the principle of the family budget so that those with the responsibilities in the community should not be at a perpetual disadvantage in comparison with those who have no such responsibilities and so that the economy can be relieved of the tremendous inflationary pressures resulting from what can be called “ teen-age spending “.
Quite apart from the economic aspects. I think there are compelling social and moral reasons for amending the present position. It is not a good thing psychologically that for the average man or woman the living standard should be highest near the start of life and should drop drastically when family responsibilities are undertaken. That is unhelpful, and it is not a good thing that people should have only a little improvement to look forward to as they get older and assume a more senior place in the community. We have to address ourselves to the fundamental problems of finding some way of curing these tendencies which are inherent in our present economic structure.
There is a third point that, I want to make. I have spoken of the savings scheme and of the family budget. I now want to say something about a retirement plan. I can only touch on tin’s in passing because the whole question of pensions lies rather outside the field of income tax and I can only refer incidentally to those aspects that come into the income tax field. It is’ surely clear that the present means test upon age pensions is an extravagance which the country can no longer afford. Because of it, savings habits have been destroyed, moneys are not available for necessary national development and the deficiency has to be made good by taxation and inflation. If we could restore reasonable savings habits, we could charge capital works to loans rather than to revenue and cut income tax by £100,000,000 a year. The existence of the means test in its present form is one of the main deterrents .to saving. When a man who is thrifty is no better off - and indeed in some cases is rather worse off - than the man who has saved nothing for his old age and is able to draw the full Dension, is it reasonable to expect people to continue to save?
Every honorable member here will know of people who deliberately dissipated their savings so that they would be eligible for the pension. Although that is, in its way, noteworthy and symptomatic, I do not believe qualitatively it is nearly so important as the aborted savings that never occur because people do not want to save lest by so doing they be debarred from the pension. The country simply cannot afford a continuance of this state of affairs. If the means test for age pensions were removed and if the taxation deduction of £100 on attaining the age of 21 years and £5 for each extra year of age were allowed, I feel there is no reason why the remaining age pensions, which would be paid free of the means test, should not be considered as taxable income. A taxpayer, say, aged 65 would then have a basic deduction of £320, and one who had only the pension or a little more than the pension would, of course, pay no tax at all. I feel that to introduce some scheme like this would remove the inequities of the means test, would encourage saving and at the same time would not be quite as costly to the Treasury as some other suggested schemes havebeen.
There are several other aspects to which I can refer only in passing. In view of the lengthened expectation of life, I think we should reconsider the whole question of the qualifying age for pensioners. There is a great deal to be said for a system of pensions graduated according- to age or increased by the postponement of tho initial drawing, as is at present done in Great Britain and, I think, New Zealand. I feel that these cognate questions must be considered in conjunction with the income tax. aspects, but I also believe that the time for consideration of this whole question is long overdue. 1 know that the House will understand that I can only touch on these aspects because I have to keep within the ambit of the bill.
The issues I have raised are not simple ones. It will be seen that the various aspects of income tax reform which I have suggested are closely interlocked and, furthermore, that they require consideration of other questions which lie outside the income tax field. It may well be that the whole proposal, whether these be the correct details or some other details be correct, should not be introduced at the one time. In these matters,- violent change is to be avoided and perhaps we should proceed by stages, always provided that we do not make this the excuse to do nothing and always provided that we have a long-term, plan towards which we oan work. Indeed, insofar as our taxation policy must be directed towards changing savings habits, it can only he effective over a long term, since these habits will not be changed overnight. At the present moment we are experiencing forces flint have taken 30 years to generate - perhaps more than 30 years. Such habits will not be quickly changed.
I have, of course, put into draft form the amendments to the act necessary to give effect to the proposal? that I have made., but I do not propose to introduce them to the House on this occasion. 1 should like to have the benefit of informal discussion and consideration so that any defects in these ideas could be made j apparent, and any blemishes on matters of detail removed. I have put forward what is, I believe, a practical scheme. Ti; may be that a better scheme will be evolved in some other quarter, but I feel that it must deal with the kind of problem that I have been discussing this afternoon. I do not feel that action can bs postponed indefinitely, and I hope that by the time the next budget is brought down the Government will be in a position to put forward some income tax proposals which will go beyond mere expediency and will be directed to curing some of the fundamental instabilities in our national economy.
There are two main inflationary forces in this community. First, there is the falling off in thrift which has largely resulted from the operation of the means test on age pensions. This is a massive movement that has been generated over 30 years and is not susceptible of overnight reversal, but if unchecked it will become even more damaging than it is to-day. Honorable members know that we are witnessing a process which is by no means yet complete. The second thing with which we must deal is the surplus spending power in the hands of those who have no family responsibilities. This not only adds to demand but, understandably, generates a malaise of morale throughout the whole community. I be!lieve that a financial policy has a very slim chance of long-term success unless it can combat these two fundamental inflationary forces.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has made a very thoughtful contribution to the discussion on this bill, which the Opposition regards as complementary to the proposed legislation authorizing the increase in the rate of company taxation. The bill before us gives effect to the very small benefits being handed out in the little horror budget. The honorable member has, as it were, offered a plan for a new taxation deal. It contemplates some fundamental alterations of the present system, and I do not doubt that the right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will pay scant regard to it. Indeed, the honorable member for Mackellar would be an optimist if he thought that his new deal in taxation would bc given effect, to in under ten or twenty years. There is merit in a good deal of what he said, but the Opposition could not give its approval to all of it because it believes that income taxation is the fairest means of taxation, always provided that the incidence weighs heavily on those who are receiving the highest incomes, and lightly on those with smaller incomes. We are in favour of the graduated scale, lt was a Labour government which during “World “War II. pushed the rates of income tax up to 18s. 66d. in the £1 on taxable incomes of £5,000 a year and more. That was done in order that the wealthy of this community might make some small contribution to the winning of the war which was, in fact, achieved by the prowess and physical sacrifices of the young men and women who wore the uniforms of one of the three services, lt was not too much to ask, and it is to the credit of those who had to pay it that they did so willingly enough, but in the sort of society that we have to-day, that kind of tax is not imposed on big incomes. The honorable member says that this scheme would save £100,000,000 in taxation annually. I regard that as the nigger in the woodpile. The Labour party does not believe that indirect taxation should be imposed in preference to income taxation.
– I was suggesting that additional money should be derived not from indirect taxation but through savings.
– That is so, but the honorable member wanted in some way or other to skim off the excess spending power which is enjoyed by the single person compared with the person with family responsibilities. We look askance at any proposal to cut down income tax on big incomes. At the same time, we think, as did the Chifley Government, that the man on the basic wage with a wife and two children to support should not have to pay income tax.
– I agree.
– I am glad that we are in agreement on that point. We have apparently been at cross-purposes. A man on the basic wage to-day who has a wife and two children pays about £12 a year in taxation, notwithstanding the reductions in recent times since the horror budget, but that means he is still paying £12 too much. I agree with the honorable member that a single man and woman should not have to sacrifice their living standards because they marry, but to-day that is so and the more children they have, the further they are compelled to lower the living standards of the family.
That is, of course, an argument for increased child endowment, but that subject cannot be dealt with in this debate. Insofar as the honorable member wishes to help the family man he is to be commended, and I hope that the Government will take notice of his views. It would be difficult for honorable members, without having the opportunity of studying his proposals in detail, to express an informed opinion upon the plans for a national savings scheme, a family budget and a retirement plan.
We are as one on his suggestion that the means test should be abolished in respect of all pensions, but we believe that that should be done in stages. Recently I made some inquiries and found that if the means test were abolished in respect of persons over 70 years of age, it would cost this country £40,000,000 a year. The Treasurer of the day would say, “ Where is that money to come from unless I increase taxation generally?” The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said the other night in Sydney that he believed in taxing beer because if he did not do so he would have to increase income tax. I would rather see him increase income tax than try to earn more by way of excise or sales tax.
– In other words, the honorable member would prefer increased income tax to a tax on beer?
– Yes. Certain companies are making fabulous profits, so apparently some people are receiving big incomes. It would do no harm to increase company taxation, and income taxation on the recipients of high company dividends rather than to increase taxes on beer, cigarettes and the like. It is true, although Government supporters will dispute’ the claim, that taxpayers generally are worse off to-day than they have ever been since 1945. As a result of this Government’s legislation the burden of financing federal government is being shifted gradually from those in receipt of big incomes to those in receipt of small incomes. As a believer in democratic socialism I think that it is a right canon of taxation that the burden of maintaining the society out of which some people do very well financially-, should be borne by those very people who ure fortunate in being able to make the big profits and receive the big incomes that many people in this country are receiving to-day. I take the opportunity to say that if the Government wants to increase exports it should increase incentives given to people to produce for export. For my part I would grant increased tax deductions to persons engaged in production of secondary goods for the export trade, in respect of their incomes derived from that trade. That would at least reduce the cost of production to the manufacturers, the difference being met. in effect, from taxes paid by the rest of the people, and would enable our products to compete on a more equitable basis with the products of other countries on the markets of the world. The increased sales overseas as a result of this method of keeping down the cost of production of our export goods would earn more money for us, and enable us to build up our London funds, and our overseas balances generally, in order to finance the imports that are so essential to a growing country like Australia. Whether the value of allowable imports is to be fixed at £650,000,000 a year or less, I do not know, but I say that it is a bad thing if we have to have a fixed figure for imports and then hope that everything in the community will proceed satisfactorily and happily. I think the Government might well, between now and the presentation of the budget, consider my suggestion for the granting of special taxation allowances in respect of persona engaged in the export trade. We ave profiling, in this bill, for special depreciation allowances to be enjoyed by primary producers. That is a good thing. But it was a bad thing when the averaging system as applied to primary producers’ incomes was abolished in respect of all primary producers in receipt of more than £4,000 a year. It was a bad thing when this Government abolished, n year before the provision was due to expire, the 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance which the Chifley Government introduced in the year it went out of office.
We have argued that, if we are to help our manufacturers and our leaders i” industry to modernize their plants and increase efficiency, we ought to grant them depreciation allowances so that it would be possible for the goods they produce to compete successfully, not only in the markets of the world, but also in our own markets, against the increase in competition we are meeting locally from overseas goods in spite of our tariff walls, and in spite of subsidies and all the other deterrents that at present obtain.
I want to suggest also to the Government that the Treasurer should increase the amount of the allowable deduction in respect of educational expenses incurred by people who send their children to private schools. It is very hard in these days of increased salaries and increased cost of living for many of these institutions to carry on. I think that the feeling of the Australian people, is that such institutions should not be closed because the fees that they must charge may prevent many parents from sending their children to them, but that they should be helped to maintain the same standard of service as they have given in the past. I believe it would be a good thing if, in some way or other, the benefit of such allowable deductions could be extended to parents who send their children to day schools, both primary and secondary. The Treasurer may give some attention to that suggestion.
I think, in view of the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Mackellar, the Government might consider the appointment of a special parliamentary committee on taxation, on which both sides of the Parliament could be represented. Such a committee could sit for six months, or twelve months if necessary, and report on the worth of the proposals made by the honorable member for Mackellar or by any other member of the Parliament, or by any section of the community, lt ought to have power to send for persons and papers, and to take evidence. I believe such a committee would make a well-reasoned and informative report to the Parliament. I suppose nobody likes to pay taxes. Taxation, as one cynic said, is always confiscatory. I suppose that is true enough, but we have all to pay to maintain the society in which we live. People have different, and differing, views on how the burden should be borne, and a committee of this
House, or this Parliament, would be just as well qualified to give opinions on the matter as are the ad hoc committees of experts appointed from time to time, whether the experts be accountants, or accountants and businessmen, or a combination of all these. The economists are having a lot to say at this time. Some of them are saying too much, and too bluntly, and are presuming to direct governments as to how they should behave in regard to our fiscal laws. One professor, Trevor Swan, suggests that we should tax spendings and not earnings. That is not an original idea, but whatever merit there is in it ought to be investigated I think that most people, because of a natural conservatism, shy clear of too violent changes in our taxation laws, and I should not be surprised if many people did not feel that this professor, and other professors, were more or less experimenting on us, and that we shall not benefit from such experiments. I believe it would be a good idea to allow those professors to state their views before the suggested standing committee on taxation. We should then be able to assess the real worth of their suggestions. As a matter of fact, it might be a good idea to invite three or four of them to give evidence more or less simultaneously, so that we could get them to contrast their views, because we might benefit from the resultant conflict.
The honorable member for Mackellar will not mind me saying that as I listened to him I thought he was elaborating somewhat on the loan scheme put forward by the present Treasurer in the 1943 general election campaign. Under that scheme we were to tax ourselves to produce more revenue than we needed for war purposes and then, when the war was over, we could give ourselves a refund. That was a scheme which did not appeal to the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and, as a result of the disagreement between him and the present Treasurer on the point, there was born the famous phrase “another stab in the back”. I shall not repeat any more of the statement the Treasurer then made. I am glad to note that the honorable member for Mackellar is not putting forward that scheme of deferred payment, which was popular enough in England at the time, and which, as I have said, the present Treasurer, then leading the Opposition, advanced in 1943, but which he never mentioned afterwards.
I know that there is an evil in teenage spending and that quite a lot of young people are getting a lot of money to-day. That is all part of the depression story. Children were not being born in large numbers during the depression years and so the birth-rate fell very heavily in that era. As a matter of fact, I doubt whether the number of children in Australia between the ages of 15 and 19 years is very much greater to-day than the number in the same age group in 1937, even though we have had a great increase in population since then as a result of immigration and a higher post-war birth rate. Until the children born in the post-war years come of age and are available on the labour market for employment we shall have these very large salaries and wages paid to teen-agers who have no real sense of responsibility. One has only to look at the newspaper advertisements to see what inducements are held out to young clerks of eighteen or nineteen years of age, and even seventeen years of age. Many such young employees earn almost, as much as the fathers of the families of which they are part. I remember that I started work at £5 a month. I was paid £2 in the middle of the month and £3 at the end of the month, and I was comparatively well treated in those days. If young people without any educational qualifications can secure employment at salaries or wages of £14 or £15 a week on more or less routine work, I agree that something is happening which is not advantageous to our community. I hope that some plan will be devised by which, if these wages continue to be. paid, the young people will pay more in taxation than they pay now, so that their parents who have made sacrifices for them and who have other children to support will be relieved of a good deal of the burden which they now have to carry.
The honorable gentleman made no reference to marriage loans and it would not be appropriate to make such a reference now. But the marriage loan idea has as much merit as his proposal for a family budget. Under his scheme a married couple would receive back £1,500 in the first year of their marriage without that amount being taxable. We are in the lottery age in Australia. Extraordinary prizes are being paid to the winners of consultations, prizes that nobody would have thought possible a few years ago. Those lottery prizes are regarded as capital accretions and they are not subject to tax. I think that the Treasurer might very well have a look at the idea of taxing a prize of £5,000 to a reasonable extent, rather than let the person who is fortunate to draw £5,000 pay that amount into his bank without paying a penny in taxation to the community.
-Winnings over a certain amount could be heavily taxed.
– I agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) that the Treasurer could tax lottery winnings over a certain sum very heavily. The community should get some benefit from such a tax. The Government has to provide, in the main, the social services of the nation, and, because of old people living longer, more children being born, and increased hospital needs, the Government has to provide much more money now than it did when its social services schemes came into operation and, no matter how. much money it manages to collect, it still has not enough. I support the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and commend the bill to the House. I should not have spoken at all but for the fact that the honorable member for Mackellar put forward his proposal and I thought that the Opposition should express its views as far as it could at this stage on the proposal and offer other suggestions to the Government for the budget of the financial year 1956-57.
.- I rise with enthusiasm to support this bill and, particularly, to support the very thoughtful contribution of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It is an accepted practice of public finance in Australia that the taxation powers of the Commonwealth should be used for the advancement of desirable objectives. During the term of this Government, these powers have been extensively used for the purpose of encouraging production, particularly primary production. Liberal taxation allowances have been made for the clearing of land, storage of water, eradication of vermin, mechanization of farms, and erection of houses for farm employees. These taxation allowances have given additional incentives to primary producers to increase production and the result has been most encouraging.
The figures over the last few years show a very substantial increase, year by year, in the volume of primary, production. It is the volume of production that has to be taken into consideration because we have little or no control over prices. The bill before the House will give additional encouragement to production and to exports by means of the special depreciation allowances in the case of plant, machinery, and equipment that are used wholly and exclusively for the purpose of agricultural or pastoral pursuits; also in the case of the erection of homes for farm employees and in relation to uranium mining.
The honorable member for Mackellar. I believe, has got down to the basis of the main problem in Australia - the problem of lack of savings and lack of capital. If we can criticize the honorable member for Mackellar, it is only because his thinking is usually about two years in advance of public thinking and, at times, it is in advance of government thinking. I think it is just about time that we started to lead the world in public thought and ceased to follow it. We have to our credit remarkable reforms in new thought. One has only to instance adult suffrage, the Torrens system, the secret ballot, voting for women and arbitration. In all these matters Australia has virtually led the world. I think it is « great pity and almost a tragedy that in this rapidly developing country, apparently it is not realized that our fundamental problem is the problem of increasing the savings of the community and increasing capital so as to enable us to carry on with vast development. What a tragedy it is, in a country as short of labour as this one, to hear people talking of restricting immigration because we have not the capital to provide immigrants with homes and other necessities. If this was a poor, povertystricken country, one could imagine arguments of that order being accepted. But, in a country such as Australia, where the people spent £250,000,000 last year on beer, wine and spirits and £600,000,000 on motor cars, motor car parts and accessories, it is absolute nonsense to say that we cannot increase our savings and reduce our consumption by a like amount. Such a statement is wide of the realities of the time.
All of us will have seen the speech of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was made in London - in an old country - in a country which, compared with Australian standards, is fully developed, although, of course, it isnot, in fact, fully developed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing his budget, said that the budget could be summed up in the words “savings, savings, savings “. If that is true of England - and I believe it is - how much truer is it of Australia, a young country needing miles of roads, waterworks, bridges, railways, the standardization of railway gauges, hospitals, schools, and the thousands of other things that are necessary for a country that is devploping and growing fast? I believe that the great problem that Australia must face is the problem to which the British Chancellor of the Exchequer referred when he emphasized the need to save. In other words, we must ask and direct the people to consume less and to save more so that we can carry out our development at a faster rate.
I understand that last year all the governments of Australia, including Liberal and Labour governments, acting as the Australian Loan Council, were unable to raise from the people £100,000,000 for public works, schools, hospitals and electricity undertakings, at a time when those same people were spending £250,000,000 a year on beer and £600,000,000 on motor vehicles. To suggest that the money is not available is to deny the facts. I believe, as I have already stated, that we must encourage the people to save more and to spend less. To use a common term, we must “ sell “ our development plans and make the people realize that we have a pride in
Australia and in its development, and tell them that if they are prepared to save for development we are willing to give them prizes and not penalize them as we do under existing legislation.I wish to deal briefly with the problem of investment in public loans. I welcome the change that has been effected by the Treasury in relation to the loan that has been floated this week by making the term much shorter.
– What has this to do with income tax?
– I think that it bears a very direct relation to income tax, because it is to taxation that we are turning to make up the deficiency in loan fund raisings. New loans should be made attractive to the people. To do that, I believe that we must assure them that, if force of circumstances compels them to sell, they will not lose capital. I wholeheartedly support the suggestion of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that, in relation to future loans, the bondholder should have the option to convert into any subsequent loan that is issued at a. higher rate of interest. That, in effect, would assure the bondholder for all time that he would not lose his capital or any portion of it. I believe also that the Commonwealth must display its faith and confidence in the capital value of its own bonds by providing, in relation to future loans, that the bonds may be used for the payment of federal estate duty. The Commonwealth should study the mind of the person who wishes to invest his money in bonds rather than the minds of Treasury officials who sit at Canberra. What does the ordinary person think about when he is investing his money in bonds? He thinks that he will, not need his money and would like to invest it for ten or fifteen years. Then suddenly he says to himself, “ If I die, my widow or the executor of my estate will need it for the payment of duty “. It is essential that the mind of that person be set at rest, and one of the ways to do that is to provide that the bonds can be used for the payment of federal estate duty. Then, as the States use the loan moneys, I think they should be asked to agree to the use df bonds for the payment of State succession duty. To do that also would increase the confidence of the public in government bonds.
We must go out with a direct commission to encourage saving. We must say to the people, “ It is a virtue to save. We will give you prizes for saving “. The prizes that are being offered under the English system have been described as a lottery, but there are many other forms of- prizes that could be awarded. If we were to say, “ We propose to float a special development loan and we will allow every one who invests £100 in that loan to deduct that sum from his assessable income this year for income tax purposes “, we would give the people an added incentive to save. We would be saying, in other words, “We want you to help to develop this country. If you are prepared to help us by reducing your consumption and lending £100 to the country, we will reward you by allowing you to regard it as a deduction from your assessable income”. We must also encourage private companies to save, and not continue to discourage them. At the present time, we say to a private company, in effect, “ If you do not distribute a substantial part of your income, we will tax you at the rate of 10s. in the £1 “. In other words, we are virtually preventing private companies from saving more than a. special small amount. I realize that all income cannot be exempted from taxation, but I ask the Government to examine the problem of savings generally, and in particular the savings of private companies, to ascertain whether it would not be in the interests of the country as a whole and of the loan market to encourage those companies to save as much as they can and not to penalize them for doing so.
My speech would not be complete without referring again to a problem with which I have dealt so often in the House. While we penalize thrift by applying the means test, we will never encourage saving, and without encouraging saving we can never achieve true development in this country. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), in answer to a question, stated to-day that the cost of abolishing the means test at 70 years of age would be £42,000,000. The statement was made in a manner that seemed to indicate that such a cost would frighten every one away from such a proposal - The cost, in other words, would be approximately 3d. in the £1 of everybody’s income. Is anybody prepared to say that he would not be willing to pay that much to be guaranteed a retiring allowance of £4 a week from the age of 70 years to death? Good heavens, the recent additional tax of 2d. on a glass of beer is returning an income of £29,000,000 a year, yet it is suggested that we are afraid to abolish the means test at 70 years of age because it would cost £44,000,000 a year !
The means test is destroying the incentive to save. The Government has claimed that, it is difficult to induce people to invest in Commonwealth loans, and the question is asked, “Why are the people not saving?” Those of use who are in touch with the older people in the community know very well that when people approach retiring age they dispose of” their savings, and in the process they sell the Commonwealth bonds that they holdThat is the only way in which they can get the benefit of the social services that are available. When our legislation virtually tells the people not to save, and to dispose of their savings, is it any wonder that the Government finds it difficult to raise loan money? We must reverse our whole outlook on this matter. We should make it, clear that, we are prepared to carry on the development in which we have been engaged, and of which we are so justly proud. We should tell the people that they should be prepared to make sacrifices for that purpose, and to restrict consumption slightly in order to save a little more. But if the people are asked to do that, they are certainly entitled to request that the Government should remove the present penalties on thrift.
The honorable member for Mackellar dealt with the subject of our family life, which, I believe, has made Australia great. It is my opinion that family life is more highly developed in Australia than in any other country. I believe that, it is because of our sound family life that we have one of the highest living standards in the world. However, as the honorable member for Mackellar pointed out, the family man at present is at a decided financial disadvantage compared with younger people who are not married, and the honorable member has asked that that injustice be removed. He did not ask, as was suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), that income tax be increased, but he asked that our income tax policy be reviewed, in order to give certain concessions to the family man, and to allow certain deductions from his assessable income because of his family responsibilities. He suggested that the revenue that is lost in that direction should be made up by imposing higher taxes upon those who have not that family responsibility. I believe that there is a great deal to be said for that argument. I am in a position to give a considered opinion on thi? matter, because I have in the past carried heavy family responsibilities. I have been subject to great expense in the education of my children. Now, however, T would not benefit in any way if the suggestions of the honorable member for Mackellar were adopted, but I feel strongly about this matter, and I would be quite prepared to pay additional taxes in order to grant higher concessions to the man who is keeping a wife and children, and who is subject to great expense for the education and clothing of his family. It is inequitable that the one bread-winner in a family of four, five or more persons, should be subject to such heavy expense. He is at a decided .disadvantage as compared with young men or girls in their early twenties who have no family responsibility and are receiving the same wage as the family man.
There is one other matter than I would ask the Government to consider. I believe that it arises as the result of an omission from our income tax legislation. I am proud that this Government has taken action to provide that an aged person whose income does not exceed the amount of the pension, plus the permissible additional income, is entirely free from income tax. I think that a similar provision should be made in the case of invalid pensioners. The invalid pensioner has no more ability to pay tax than the age pensioner. In fact, the invalid pensioner, being unable to supplement his income in any way, is in an even worse position than the age pensioner. I see no insuperable administrative difficulties in providing the same1 concession for both classes of pensioners. A person who claimed that special concession could simply appear before a tribunal appointed by the Department of Social Services, which tribunal could certify that, subject to the requirements of the means test provisions, he would beentitled to an invalid pension, and on production of that certificate to the Commissioner of Taxation such a person could beexempted from payment of income tax. I ask the Minister at the table, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), to refer thismatter to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and to ask that right honorable gentleman to consider amending our income tax legislation so that this concession may be granted. Very little additional cost would be involved, and a great hardship would be removed from invalid pensioners, who feel that it is unjust that they are required to pay tax that is not paid by those who receive the age pension.
In conclusion, I wish to say that T appreciated the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). His speech followed that of the honorable member for Mackellar, and he dealt with the problem in a constructive way. The matter of community saving is bound up with the problem of national development, which is not a party question at all. It is a matter that affects the life of every citizen of this country. At heart, I think, we all believe in national development. We all want to see our country go from strength to strength, and we must solve the problem of provision of capital to enable our country to progress in the future as it has in the past. That capital must come from savings. We all must face the problem of how to increase savings, and that, of course, means that we all must be prepared to reduce our present consumption. I commend the bill to the House.
. -I had no intention, originally, of contributing to the debate on this very minor amendment of the income tax legislation, but as rather fundamental matters have been raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), it seems to me that several points should be made. First, I think it is true that there are many matters involved in our taxation policy that are of great importance to the development of Australia. There is a great deal in common between the attitude of the Opposition and that revealed in the speeches made by the two honorable members opposite, and I feel sure that if, at some time in the future, a joint committee as suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is appointed, considerable improvement can be effected in our tax policy and procedure. I think that the present taxing system has grown up, if I may use that term, without a plan of any kind. It has resulted mainly from the need to introduce revenue-raising measures. From time to time money has been required, and I think that governments have been more interested in that fact than in the way in which the money may be raised, or in the effect upon the social and economic life of the community of the various ways of raising money. A good deal of common ground can he developed in this field, but it is necessary to stress one or two things from the viewpoint, of the Opposition. First, it seems to me that the main tax-raising measures must he always taxes of a direct sort. 1 think that the argument that indirect taxes can be used to restrict luxury consumption is an argument of very doubtful validity. It seems to me that a much better method of restricting luxury consumption is a tax imposed in accordance with ability to pay. On that ground, we should be able to justify adequately a good deal that requires justification in a tax measure. Of course, a tax imposed in accordance with ability to -pay has an effect upon incentive. That raises another matter, to which I hope to refer in a moment.
I -find myself in complete agreement with the honorable member for Mackellar that a reduction of taxation upon people with family responsibilities is certainly long overdue. That must be associated with an increase of taxation upon others. Some of that increase must certainly be applied to some of the lower income earners. The reference to teenage large income earners was a justifiable reference. J think that the situation there is certainly not desirable. But, when that has been said, it still remains true that the increased revenue that is required must come substantially from people with incomes in excess of £1,250 a year, or perhaps £1,500 a year. It must come mainly from direct taxes, such as the company tax, as well as the other direct taxes which have been seriously neglected by this Parliament in recent years. I refer to the land tax, estate duty and gift duty. The honorable member for Mackellar pointed out that perhaps £100,000,000 could be raised by accepting some of his suggestions. A considerable part of that £100,000,000 could come from the forms of taxation that I have just mentioned.
The third point that I want to make in relation to the submissions of the honorable member for Mackellar is that it is not only a change in the incidence of taxation that is necessary. If the things are to be done that he and the honorable member for Sturt want to be done, such as the abolition of the means test, we shall need more tax revenue - not just a change in the incidence of taxation. If those things are to be done - and they should be done - taxation proceeds will have to become a still larger proportion of the total national income. That raises the question of their effect upon incentive. Certainly they have an effect upon incentive, but I think it necessary to remind the House at this point that the kind of income structure that exists in a society is a product of tradition. The kind of incomes that people demand for the performance of certain services are incomes which have a relativity to other incomes. That relativity goes through a process of change as time passes.
– Does the honorable member regard a contribution to a superannuation scheme as a tax?
– Yes. I think that, in substance, it does amount to a tax. I should like to see that incorporated in the whole structure. I cannot develop this point at great length in this debate, but I recommend to honorable members a book that has been published recently.
It is 27ie Social Foundations of Wage Policy, by Barbara Wootten. That book brings out very clearly the influence of tradition and the social structure of the past upon the kind of income that a man demands for performing a certain service. He wants the traditional income, which goes through a process of change as time goes on. To talk, as some economists do, of a certain proportion of the national income being the maximum proportion that can be raised by taxation is to pay no regard to the significant changes that are taking place before our eyes.
I do not think that the means test can be abolished until greater tax proceeds are available. Any proposal to abolish the means test at once or gradually involves other matters, such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Sturt. If the means test is to be eased or abolished, increased tax proceeds must become avail:i bie. There is no short-cut to the abolition of the means test.
– The honorable member would agree, would he not, that it could be done by contribution?
– Yes, I would. When this problem is being considered,’ allowance must be made for benefits of different kinds which would be acquired by the people who became entitled to receive the age pension. Incidentally, I think that we ought to devise a much better term than that. The New Zealand term, the retiring allowance, is far superior. The additional people who would become entitled to receive the pension if the means test were lifted are the people whose position we should review. It would be unfair to refuse to increase the existing pension and, at the same time, lift the means test and so bring within the scope of the pensions scheme people who already had some income of importance. I refer to those with income from assurance policies which have matured, from superannuation schemes - perhaps those are the most important people in this connexion - and from property.
Having regard to the position of age and invalid pensioners at the present time, m very strong case would have to be made out for easing the means test to any considerable degree before we helped those people. I did my best last night, in the limited time at my disposal, to stress the importance of the need to pay attention to the requirements of people on the existing pension. It is useless to talk about their neglect of their responsibilities and so on. Those people - there are about 480,000 of them - made great contributions to the development of this country in the past. During their working lives, they paid taxes at the same rate as everybody else.
I agree with a good deal of what has been said by the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Sturt, but I think they have laid boo much stress on the means test as a cause of the decline in thrift. There are certain other very significant causes of the decline in thrift, which have not been mentioned in this debate. Inflation has had a severe effect on thrift. What is the good of saving if prices increase by 10 per cent., 12 per cent, or even 25 per cent, a year, as they have done during some years while this Government has been in office? Unless inflation is properly controlled, it will tend, more than any other factor, to force people away from thrift. Therefore, I think it is misleading to lay too much stress on the means test as a deterrent to thrift. In addition to inflation, there is another factor in this matter which is of broad social significance. I refer to the genera] uncertainty of life in the nuclear age. We have been told of the great dangers that we should face in any future- war. That, undoubtedly, must have a big influence on the attitude of people towards thrift.
I think it was the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who mentioned a so-called new idea put forward by Professor Swan of the Australian National University - the idea that spending should be taxed, instead of earnings. That is a very ancient idea, but now it has been brought out again, done up in all the trappings of a new economic theory. That tax was the old idea associated with the limited franchise in the days when no representatives of the working class were in Parliament. Those were the days when spending was taxed and earnings were not taxed. But. with the entry into Parliament of representatives of the working class, the emphasis in taxation has been taken away from spending and placed on earnings, which are taxed in proportion to ability to pay. It seems to me that the Opposition is committed to oppose this modern version of an old theory which was advanced by Professor Swan, and which, I feel sure, has had a big influence on the Government’s recent policy of increasing indirect taxation as it has done.
Savings are anti-inflationary, but individual savings are not a great source of funds for capital investment. In modern countries, the greater part of capital investment comes from the accumulated earnings of business companies and corporations. I should imagine that the current increase of the price of steel is more a result of efforts by the company concerned to obtain funds for capital expenditure than it is a matter of passing on increased costs. In recent times, nor, only government instrumentalities, such as the railways, have raised charges in order to obtain funds for investment. This kind of activity has been widespread, and the funds for capital investment have come increasingly from the earnings of business companies and corporations. The reports of the Temporary National Economic Committee of the United States Congress, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, provide all the evidence of this that any one could want.
With the Keynesian revolution in economic thinking, a great deal too much emphasis was placed upon the argument that, if a given level of investment could be achieved, the level of saving to match it would automatically be achieved. I do not think that necessarily follows in a full-employment inflationary economy. It is quite clear that saving must be made more attractive to people. But, in an economy in which inflation is the rule, as it has been in the Australian economy for perhaps seven or eight years, it is extremely difficult to make saving attractive. All sorts of measures have been taken during the last few years in an attempt to make saving attractive, but success has not so far been achieved. It is rather pointless to talk about ways and means of making government loans more attractive, because it is almost exclusively the effects of inflation that make them unattractive. If we wish to make them more attractive, we must first try to alleviate inflation. I think an analysis of the causes of inflation will show that the Government’s policy has not been very closely related to those causes.
I assure the honorable member for Sturt that Opposition members take as much pride in Australia’s development as any one else does. But I suggest that the Government’s way is not the only way of developing Australia. The problems of development are very complex, and they require a great deal of thought. I commend the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne that it might be necessary to appoint some kind of committee to examine taxation and social services contributions, which are very important factors, and their effects upon development. As the honorable mem’ber for Mackellar pointed out, these two factors, in themselves, involve very important ways of dealing with inflation. I think it has been rightly emphasized that it is not a simple matter to control inflation, although the Prime Minister’s attitude to the problem implied that it was simple and could be dealt with by controlling total expenditure. The general control of inflation fundamentally involves the distribution of income, and not merely the level of total income. Inflation cannot be controlled, with justice to all sections of the community, or with a proper regard for the allocation of resources, unless the problem of the distribution of income is dealt with. The remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar, in general, pointed to a way in which the problems of income distribution can be tackled. I do not agree with every detail of the honorable member’s speech, and I do not think he implied that every detail of it should be accepted, but I do think that the approach suggested by him offers a way of coming to grips with the problem which has not been clearly revealed in recent weeks..
.- I wholeheartedly support the bill, because it extends by three years, from the 1st July next, the special depreciation allowance which is available to primary producers. This allowance would have ceased to operate at the end of June next had the
Government not decided to extend the period. On many occasions, I have advocated in this House the continuation of the incentive provided by this legislation, which has proved so practical and so beneficial in the past, in promoting increased production. It is always said that the depreciation allowance is a special taxation concession made to primary producers. That is correct, so far as it goes, but the primary producers are not the only ones that benefit from it. The special allowance permits a primary producer to deduct from his taxable income in each year 20 per cent, of the cost of equipment purchased. It must be remembered that this special allowance, which makes it possible for the primary producer to buy the machinery, spreads the benefit over a tremendously wide field, because it enables the manufacturers of machinery to sell their machines.
It seems to be the order of the day to regard the depreciation allowance as a benefit only to primary producers, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is , possible that, in certain circumstances, it would be much more beneficial to the city machinery manufacturer than to the primary producer. If a primary producer bought a harvester, and experienced severe droughts in the next three years, during which the depreciation allowance would be available to him, his income would be so low that he would not receive any benefit from the allowance. But the manufacturer from whom he purchased the machine would benefit from its sale. I should like honorable members to realize that the special depreciation allowance does not benefit primary producers only. I should like Opposition members, particularly, to realize that wage-earners in the cities benefit greatly from it. I know many primary producers who could not buy machinery and who could not provide accommodation for share farmers and others assisting them in producing their income from primary production unless they were able to claim the special depreciation allowance. Therefore, the employees of primary producers benefit from this allowance. It is highly beneficial and, as the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) stated at the outset of his remarks, it should be supported with enthusiasm.
A man who goes, for example, to Heywood or some other place in the western district of Victoria, buys a heavily timbered property, clears it and prepares it for the planting of seed, for pasture, or for agricultural pursuits generally, may claim the expenditure so made as a taxation deduction in the year in which the expenditure is made. That is of great benefit, but some anomalies occur. One anomaly is that a city man, the owner of a store receiving a high income, can pay much more money for land in country districts than a man who has saved only a small amount of money, perhaps just enough to buy a property and to put it in working order. The latter buys the property and puts the rest of his money into machinery. Every £1 that he spends on clearing land, preparing a seed bed,, o.r providing pasture costs him £1, whereas the big merchant who buys a country property can probably write off 50 per cent, or more of these costs by reducing his taxable income, which is in a very high range. I should like this Government, and future governments, to try to envisage a plan whereby not only the man with a high income is benefited because he can go to a sale and, quite economically, pay more money for land than can the man we call a battler, who has a few pounds and desires to get on to the land, who we believe should be on the land and who becomes a resident owner, unlike the city merchant who leaves for the city after buying country land. A situation like that, cannot, I know, be overcome by the Taxation Branch. Such anomalies, which arise from: legislation, probably cannot all be overcome. I point them out because I believe it is necessary that the people should know of them.
Listening to various speakers, I wondered why Labour always skids over the subject of what we really need in this country. It has been said that taxation should be higher on incomes over a certain level. The higher the taxation, the more beneficial is this legislation to the man with a high income who wishes to enter primary production. That is howit works out. The honorable member for Sturt said that he rose with great enthusiasm to support the bill. That is what we need in Australia - more enthusiasm. We have heard the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. ‘Cairns) convey all sorts of ideas on complex methods of achieving greater production, and it is very hard to work them out. All that k needed in this country is a little more work and a little more public spirit. There is no harm in my telling honorable members a tale which has been often told about a certain old gentleman on the outskirts of London two years after the war, who had a most prolific crop of potatoes on a small block of land, when other persons had not any at all. Someone asked him, “ How do you manage to have this prolific growth of potatoes on this small block, when no one else has them “ ? The old gentleman replied “ I decided to disregard the fact that the war is over, and I am still digging for victory “. The homily in that story is applicable to Australia. During the war we had people digging for victory and prepared to make sacrifices. It has been said during this debate, and on many platforms and in many parliaments, that the nations which rise highest are those which make sacrifices, and nations like the great Roman Empire and many others crashed at the very peak of their prosperity and standard of living.
Saving should not be applied only to the big things. If one’s tractor breaks down when working on a farm, the very size of the job demands immediate attention, but if cornsacks are lying rotting on thu ground many persons let them lie because they are small items, whereas if they were picked up and put on the fence, or in a barn, there would be a saving. I do not agree with the honorable member for Sturt, who said that we must have saving, saving and more saving. What would happen if everybody took to heart what he said, and decided to cut out all spending? I do not believe in excessive beer or tobacco consumption, but suppose everybody said, “ No beer, and no cigarettes “. After some years of reconstruction it might be all right, but there would be a tremendous economic upheaval in the meantime, because it is from spending that governments obtain the money to provide the social services which the honorable member was advocating. If we ever achieve the abolition of the means test for persons over 70 years of age,, which is a very worthy object, the additional amount paid will be made up by the rest of the community, and much of it will be paid from spending. As thehonorable member for Yarra has said, if higher incomes are most heavily taxed, incentive is to some extent restricted. If we take incentive from the person paying: high taxation we put him in a position where he is not prepared to produce to the maximum extent the essential goods that this country requires now and will require in the future in greater quantities.
All these matters come under the heading of taxation, which affects the feelingsof the people and -all those things which make a nation. There is no doubt that we have a great country, and I believethat the speeches that are made in’ this. House are in many ways beneficial, because surely some of them, or some parts of some of them, must point the way to greater nationhood. From the point of view of the Australian Country party, I rose really to express appreciation of the Government’s action in introducing this legislation which will continue for a further three years from the 1st July next the special deduction for primary producers, and to direct attention to the fact that primary producersare not the only ones who reap the benefit. I have pointed out that in drought years they would not enjoy any benefit at all. The benefit of the legislation extends tothe factories, the workers, and people in every walk of life in Australia.
Mr. THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [5.2 1. - :I have been rather interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), particularly in his dissertation on who is to get the benefit of this legislation. He told us that really the man who makes the machinery, who works for the machinery merchant or the manufacturer, is to have the greatest benefit.
– I did not say “ the greatest’ benefit “. I said “ some benefit “.
– He has modified his statement a little now.
– Noi I said that before.
– The position is that the measure is not introduced because of consideration for the man in secondary industry at all. Indirectly, benefit may accrue to him, but this amending bill is designed principally to assist the man on the land.
– What I say is true just the same.
– Everything the honorable member said is true, indirectly, but if the benefit were intended to accrue only to the man in secondary industry this amending bill would not be before us. I was rather amazed at the extent of comment this afternoon on social services payments, the means test, and other matters, of which there is no -mention in the bill. Social services are referred to only in the title of the bill. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in introducing the bill, explained the purpose of the measure, and he said very clearly that it is designed to help the primary producer who is building a house for an employee or share-fanner. As present, the act provides that in respect of sums up to £2,000 expended on the construction of a house for a man on a property, j.ne primaryproducer can claim 20 per cent, depreciation. The ordinary rate of depreciation applies to amounts in excess of £2,000. The bill provides for a,n increase from £2,000 to £2,750 in the amount in respect of which 20 per cent, depreciation is allowed. I should like to deal for a moment with the real benefit which is derived from this depreciation allowance. If we followed the suggestion of the honorable member for Mallee, we would get this result: A farmer who bought a harvester, on which he would be allowed 20 per cent, depreciation, and who during the next three years earned very little income, would find that the allowance would not be worth much to him. Indeed, it could be worth nothing to him if he did not have a taxable income. This allowance is given on the assumption that the primary producer will have to pay some income tax, and, therefore, the allowance would relieve him of the obligation to pay a substantial amount. For the sake of argument, if his income was over £2,000, he would pay, I think, at the rate of 7s. Id. in the £1 on the next £400.
If he could claim depreciation allowance on an expensive implement like a harvester, as the honorable member for Mallee has said, he would receive some benefit. While I recognize the immediate benefits that could be gained from this high depreciation allowance, I realize also that it may not be a benefit to the farmer in the long run. If the farmer who bought a. harvester had no income tax to pay during the following three years, he would not benefit from a 20 per cent, depreciation allowance, but if in the fourth and fifth years only he had a large income, he would take advantage of the depreciation allowance for those two years.
– The Government might extend it.
– The honorable member says the Government might extend it! He has also said that it will run out in three years’ time. If a farmer, instead of having a depreciation allowance of 20 per cent, for five years, could claim 10 per cent, per annum over the life of the .implement, he would have a more stable form of benefit. The leader of the Labour .party told the people at the last election that if we were returned to office, we would increase the depreciation allowance on plant. I do not quarrel with that. The effects of the allowance would have been felt quickly. At the same time, if the system extended over a number of years, the full depreciation would be allowed without the operation of this special allowance, but would have effect over a longer period. The risk that the primary producer takes is that he will not get that big allowance; the first few years may not be of much advantage to him, but ultimately he can make a claim for depreciation. If my memory serves me rightly - and I cannot be dogmatic on this - at the ordinary rate of depreciation during the first few years he would not have so much written off as he would have in later years. That applied when the depreciation allowance was first introduced during the life of the Chifley Government. It even applied to a motor car purchased for use in a business. I know that at that time, in the first year, I received quite a big depreciation allowance, hut in the next year I did not. get nearly so much as I could have claimed if the present special allowance had been in force.
– This is 20 per cent, on the capital all the time, not on a decreasing amount.
– The honorable member can take it on the capital all the time. Suppose the amount is reduced by 20 per cent, in each of the first three years, but the producer has no taxable income. The reduced amount to which the allowance will then be applicable will not be great. It all depends how depreciation is to be worked out. It is of some advantage to get an immediate benefit, particularly in connexion with industries. That depreciation allowance was given with the express idea of permitting people to put in plant and get quite a big allowance on it in thi first year, thus enabling that plant to be used for- production purposes. I have been out of the chamber on other business of the Mouse, during this debate, but while I have been listening here, I do not think that any honorable member on this side has objected to this extension.
I shall now deal with the provision relating to uranium-mining. We know that benefits were to be given, and that they were to cease somewhere about 1959 or1960. It has now been found that if plant is installed to mine uranium and there is to be some return, very little opportunity would have been allowed by 1959 or1960 for any benefit to be gained. The Treasurer tells us now that he intends to continue it until 1965 so that these people can get the benefit of that exemption and so be encouraged to buy plant with which to treat uranium, either here, or in Papua or in the other territories. They will do so with the idea of putting the business on a sound basis, and they will know that they will receive a benefit that will be worth while to them.
I arn rather surprised at the length of the debate on the general question of income tax because that subject properly comes under other legislation. I want, to say here - and I have said it before - that I feel the incidence of income tax is not equitable. I have been saying for the last quarter of a century that income tax should be a means to give people as equitable a deal as possible. The costs of government have to be met by taxation. I shall not deal here with defence, although that is involved and is a big call upon the revenue. Taxation is the only means by which the benefits of production in this country, and particularly profits, can be distributed, and income tax should be imposed upon people according to their ability to pay it. The man who is paying income tax should be able to feel that he is not being put at a disadvantage.
The incidence of income tax on the family man has been discussed. I do not want to go into that matter in detail, but I say that the family man has not been given the consideration to which he is entitled. I did not hear the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), but if he was speaking in support of tbat proposition, he has my support entirely. I feel that in our system, of imposing taxation, sufficient consideration has not been given to the needs of the family man. Another matter has come up to which the Government will be compelled to give consideration before very long. A quarter of a century ago most of the income tax collections came from the head of the family. If two families were living alongside each other, one with four children and the other with no children, benefit was given to the man with four children to help him. If two breadwinners worked in the same trade and were paid the same rate, the same amount of money went into the home. But to-day we have outgrown that system. In any street in any town where an industry is flourishing the man is bringing in income and his wife, if she has no family, or if she can leave the children, is working also. In one house the mother of four children may be obliged to remain home and look after them. The husband receives a taxation allowance of £78 for the first child and £52 for each other child, but has the added burden of maintaining those children. The woman next door may be able to go to work and, with the trend towards equal pay for the sexes, she is probably earning as much as her husband. Certainly, her husband does not receive a taxation deduction in respect of her maintenance, and she is paying a certain amount of taxation herself, but the total wages and taxation of that family reveal that it i3 very much better off than the people next door, who have four children. I believe that before many years have passed that inequality will have to be recognized. An honorable member has suggested that a different method of imposing taxation might be found, and I believe that this provides an opportunity of that kind.
I do not wish to speak at length, on this bill, though I realize that its title gives orie the opportunity to do so. I am very pleased that the depreciation allowance provisions are to be continued and in some respects liberalized. A primary producer who wishes to build a home for an employee, or for a sharefarmer, may now claim a depreciation allowance in respect of an expenditure of not £2,000 but £2,750. I have no objection to the bill. I trust that it will enable producers to provide more homes on the land, and give an incentive to- firms interested in uranium mining and treatment to obtain suitable plant, for the ultimate benefit of this country.
Mr. LAWRENCE (Wimmera) [5.18”. - I rise very briefly to support this bill. Honorable members seem to have travelled all around the world in discussing this measure, and I am glad that my friend the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) brought the discussion back onto the right track. While I was the Acting Deputy Speaker earlier to-day, it seemed to me that many honorable members were getting fairly wide of the mark, but as they were tying up their remarks with the title of the bill, I felt that I should not restrict them. However, I take it that the substance of the bill is to be found in the opening remarks of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Eadden) in his second-reading speech. He said -
The principal purpose of the bill now before the House is to extend for a period of three _years the 20 per cent, special depreciation allowances to primary producers.
This allowance has been of tremendous value to primary producers, and I know that it will continue to be. It has reduced their tax commitments and enabled them to increase their assets. They have been able to improve their properties, increase amenities and make life on the land more pleasant. Under such circumstances they can encourage their children to remain on the farms and not drift to the cities. Already labour has been encouraged to go on the land and the result can only be greater production which is, I believe, the solution of our inflation problem. When inflation is stopped, as it must be, we shall be able to overcome this temporary marking time and continue the march of prosperity, of which this Government is justly proud.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) [5.20J. - I rise to speak in somewhat the same strain as did the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence), but I should like to look at the principle underlying the bill. As has been said, the main purpose of the bill is to extend the operation of the depreciation allowance granted to primary producers. That raises the question why this is necessary. Obviously, if taxation remissions will increase primary production, they will, in turn, help our trade balance. No one will deny that the primary producer should have every possible facility fo1” gaining taxation concessions. The responsibility has been on the nation to give the primary producer added incentive to provide his workers with better habitation than they have had hitherto. If the depreciation allowance has had that effect - and I believe that it has - it will do much to prevent the drift to the city. It will be a major step in improving living conditions in country districts, which is of major importance if we are to sustain our exports at a satisfactory level. No one will deny that, so far, primary production has played a magnificent part, but when we look at this bill and read that one-fifth of the cost of the improvements, or new plant, may be deducted from taxable income each year, we are prompted to ask how much further the principle could be carried. Secondary industry, also, will have to accept a share of the burden of maintaining Australia’s balance of payments. That brings to mind the important problem of dovetailing primary production and secondary industry so that secondary industry will have the capacity to provide saleable items at a price that will enable us to compete on world markets. An analysis of the principle contained in this bill raises, in my mind anyway, and, I think, in the mind of anybody who really thinks in terms of a bright future for our secondary industries and a solution of our balance of payments difficulties, the fact that the concessions granted under the measure to primary producers in respect of the provision of housing for employees could well be extended to cover similar provision of houses by employers in secondary industries, whose employees play no unimportant part in producing goods that will enable us to increase our export earnings and help to solve our balance of payments problem. If the reason for the increase of the amount of these allowable deductions in respect of houses provided for employees in primary industries is to help to keep down the cost of production of the primary products on which we rely for so much of our overseas income, then in my view the time has arrived when the government of this nation, whatever be its political colour, should apply a similar principle to secondary industries capable of producing commodities that can earn us money overseas.
The bill proposes that the maximum amount on which 20 per cent, depreciation is allowable on houses for rural tenant-farmers or share-farmers is to be increased from £2,000 to £2,750. Is there not an obvious consequential step that comes to mind? If we are to have big secondary industries in Australia apart from those now existing in our main, centres of population, an extension of this same principle to cover selected secondary industries would be of great benefit to us. The Government could select the industries to which the principle would apply, and it would naturally select those industries that it wants to see developed in Australia to produce goods for export. I am satisfied that, if the same kind of depreciation allowance in respect of homes provided for [ employees as is contained in this measure in respect of rural employees were extended to cover secondary industries.
I by the end of ten years or so a great many of our national problems would have vanished.
This is a very good measure, so far as it goes. But I think that, in this National Parliament, we have to think on a national level if we are to survive as a nation. A measure of this kind emphasizes the desirability of providing incentives to manufacturers who produce goods for export, so as to enable them to offer their goods for sale on overseas markets at competitive prices. Why should not the same concessions as are extended under this measure to primary producers be extended to the captains of industry, to whom we look for a considerable part of the increase that we hope for in our overseas earnings? It does not matter whether the industries selected are located in Orange, New South Wales, or in Western Australia.
Representatives of the electrical trades who met in Canberra recently said that they would do everything in their power to assist the Government, by encouraging the production of electrical goods that could earn us additional income overseas. In other words, they are ready to do everything in their power to foster the production of secondary goods at prices that would enable them to compete on overseas markets. There is no gainsaying the fact that the application to secondary industries of the principle in the bill would increase the power of those industries to compete in overseas markets. To me that is important. If the captains of of the electrical equipment industry, the steel industry at Port Kembla or Wollongong, or of any other important industry, provide their employees with homes, they are doing something positive to keep those employees, and therefore something positive to increase, or at least maintain, our production. They deserve all the help the Government can give them, including the extension to them of the special depreciation allowance given to primary producers under this measure. Why should they not receive the same assistance as primary producers are to receive when they are providing exactly the same service to the nation - assisting our economy by the production of goods for sale at home and abroad ?
We have here an opportunity .to do something in this National Parliament that might well provide the answer, in the long run, to the problems that face us m connexion with our secondary industries and our balance of payments. Let us also consider the position of the workers in industry. I have in mind the workers in the transport industry, who run trams and ferry boats to take other workers to their places of employment. They do not enjoy any such benefit as is provided under this measure to primary producers. In addition, people who use their own vehicles to take them to and from work are not allowed any special reduction for depreciation of those vehicles. I ask for some consideration to be extended to those sections of the community who carry the burden of maintaining transport services. But that is a 3inall issue in comparison with the principle we are discussing.
I repeat that I believe that this is the kind of measure that calls for deep thought on the part of all of us who w ant to see Australia nourish as a nation. Incentives must be given to all our industries in order to enable them to produce goods for export at competitive prices. Honorable members who have listened to me on past occasions will appreciate that I have become tremendously interested in -the provision of incentives in industry, both to the captains of industry and to the factory workers. I believe that if we get a common line of thought on this matter both the employers and employees could be encouraged to do something worthwhile for the nation as a whole in the way of increased production at competitive prices. If we can achieve that end, we shall be playing well our part in the government of this country.
It is not sufficient to say that what was good enough in .1955 is good enough in 1956, and that because a certain benefit has hitherto been enjoyed only by primary producers it should not be extended to secondary industries. There is not an honorable member who will not agree that in this year the Government is subjecting the nation to import restrictions that are weakening the economic structure of the nation, because of our failure to extend this principle to secondary industry and so help’ us to increase our overseas earnings. I believe that the aptitude and the ability of the
Government are reflected, by the attitude it adopts to such matters, which are so important to the future development of the nation. The incentive provided in this bill is merely a drop in the ocean, but it provides us with a great opportunity. It brings to us a realization that the time has arrived for this nation’s secondary industries to be dovetailed with its primary industries so that together they can help us to survive and to develop as a nation. Those of us who are intent on improving the prospects of Australia agree that this is a good measure. We adopt the principle. We applaud the Government for extending it. But we say, “Let this be only the commencement of the implementation of a great principle for the building of the great Australian nation “.
.- I was most interested in what the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said about obtaining an extension of this principle. I should be inclined to agree with him if his submissions had been in accordance with the facts. Let us look at the facts, particularly in regard to housing. This bill will extend to a primary producer the privilege or concession of having a special initial depreciation allowance of 20 per cent, deducted from taxable income in respect of a house costing up to £2,750 which the producer builds for a worker on his farm. I leave aside, for the moment, the normal situation that exists on many farms, and that is that the worker on the farm is far better housed than the farmer himself. Out of the generosity of my heart, I invite Opposition members, who protest against that statement, to visit farms in my electorate and I will prove to their satisfaction that that condition does exist.
However, I want to deal with the subject of extending the principle of initial depreciation allowances to secondary industries which house their own workers, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Blaxland. Let me point out to the honorable member that, in this case, the worker himself lives in the home that has been built by the farmer. But a set of circumstances has been provided by the Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement whereby workers are provided with homes adjacent to their place of employment and are enabled, eventually, to own those homes. That is a far better proposition than that which has been submitted by the honorable member for Blaxland. That policy has been strongly encouraged by the Government, and millions of pounds have been used for a purpose which is far more beneficial to the workers than enabling the captains of industry, socalled, to build houses for them as has been proposed by the honorable member. Under his proposal the employer would have to get the rent from the worker. The Government would say to. the employer, “ You own the house and we will allow you a depreciation allowance “. Such generosity to the worker, compared with the generosity provided by this Government ! It is rather regrettable that the worker has been given such an example by the honorable member.
The honorable gentleman submitted, again, that that would be one way in which some concession might be given to secondary industries in order to stimulate them to play their part in producing exports. I agree with the honorable member on this point. But secondary industries in this country already have so many concessions and so much protection that I believe it is necessary to examine, not proposals such as this, but other ways to enable them to play their part in earning overseas credits for this country. There are two facts which I just cannot measure up together. In one instance, secondary industry in this country enjoys the concession of absolute protection because it cannot compete in the home market with goods from overseas. Yet these same industries say, “ “We wish to export our goods overseas and offer them on a competitive price basis “. The two things are incongruous. There is something wrong with secondary industries if that is the sort of argument that they advance. On the one hand they say, “We have to be protected in the home market against the foreign article “. On the other hand they say, “We want protection so that we can compete in overseas markets “. A complete reexamination of secondary industries is needed. Some revolutionary change has to take place somewhere if this country is to receive benefits from its secondary industries to a substantial extent in our export trade.
I want to deal with one or two points that were made by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). In the course of his remarks, an impression may have been gained that the concession contained in the legislation before the House was designed for the benefit of the primary producer. It is true that, in his second reading speech, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that the bill before this House would extend for a period of three years the 20 per cent, special depreciation allowance for primary producers. But that does not mean that the bill will give a special concession for the benefit of primary producers. The principle that is observed in this bill was not originally adopted in this House for the purpose of giving a benefit to primary producers. It would be a glorious day on which the primary producers could acknowledge the fact that this Parliament had considered, their interests as individuals. The fact is that the gain to the primary producer is only incidental to the purpose for which this legislation was introduced. That purpose was to stimulate the development of the country by stimulating activity in our primary industry. The objective was to induce primary producers to extend their operations and increase _ their production quickly, not for their personal gain, but for the purpose of obtaining additional finance from our exports. That was the fundamental factor. Possibly, the primary producer benefited. But I question the extent of the benefit.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide himself pointed out that it could well be that a primary producer would receive no benefit whatsoever from this so-called special concession. He had only to experience adverse seasons for the first three or four years and the concession would mean nothing to him. In the ultimate, the primary producer gets no benefit whatsoever for this reason. Whilst, during the first or second year, according to bis seasonal circumstances, he might be saved from paying a certain amount of tax on account of the 20 per cent. initial depreciation allowance, the value of Ms asset would he written down progressively so the amount of depreciation deduction that he could claim on his income tax . return would reduce so much more quickly and, ultimately, he would have to pay. Consequently, he gains nothing.
It is only a temporary gain which he has been given in order to induce him to put more of his money back into his property, or to extend the area of his property, or to induce people to go on to the land at this particular time - a time of the nation’s need. It was a case of inducing the primary producer to sink his hard-earned money back into his farm, improving it immediately instead of buying some home comforts and enjoying some of the amenities that are available to people in other industries. It was suggested to him that he should put bis money back into his property, in certain cases, only for the purpose of increasing his production. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has suggested that the special depreciation allowance should be applied to the tram driver or train driver who has to use his private vehicle to take him to work at some unearthly hour in the morning or to come home late at night.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Wills says, “Hear, hear”, but the farmer does not receive that allowance for his motor car. The special depreciation allowance applies to plant, machinery and equipment other than passenger motor vehicles. I mention that fact merely to point out once again that much of the legislation that is introduced in this place, particularly if it deals with primary industries, is not understood by members of the Australian Labour party. If they were to examine the conditions under which primary producers work, and the concessions that they obtain, their attitude towards giving encouragement to primary industries would be vastly different. My only regret in relation to this legislation is that-
– It is that it does not go far enough.
– I agree with the honorable member ; it does not go far enough. Because of the vastness of the areas that are still in need of development, provision for the depreciation allowance should be made a permanent feature of the act and should not be limited to a fiveyearperiod. I should like to see it made permanent, not because it gives a concession to the individual farmer, but because of the dire necessity to develop this country as quickly as possible and to give some little encouragement to those- persons who contribute so much towards the national economy and who, by comparison, receive so little in return.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and’ read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to promote Australian export trade. Under the bill an export payments insurance corporation will be established which will enable exporters to insure against certain risks in export trading which are not normally insured with commercial insurers. Experience has shown that the risk of non-payment in export transactions deters exporters from increasing their trade, particularly in markets with which they have not previously done business. Again, some exporters, because of the payment risks involved and because of difficulties of financing sales on credit terms, have not been able to meet their competitors’ terms of sale in certain markets. To meet these and other difficulties impeding trade the Government has decided to provide export payments insurance facilities. The provisions of this bill should be considered against the background of our pressing balance of payments problem and the urgent need to stimulate exports, and as a part of the
Government’s positive attack on the problems of increasing export. It is proposed to provide insurance broadly against the risk of non-payment whether arising from causes such as insolvency of the overseas buyer or his failure to pay within a certain period, or from actions of overseas governments such as blockage of foreign exchange or the sudden imposition of new import controls in markets abroad.
In arriving at its decision bo establish an export payments insurance arrangement, the Government has been influenced by the undoubted advantages such an arrangement will give to export. It has also been impressed by the case for such an arrangement that has been, placed before it by a wide spread of commercial and industry interests. Many countries abroad operate arrangements of this kind. The United Kingdom has a longestablished export credits guarantee department, responsible to the president of the Board of Trade. Canada has an export credit insurance corporation operating, under the Minister for Trade and Commerce. France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and other countries have similar organizations. The facilities afforded to exporters from those countries improve their competitive position in the world’s markets, and the establishment of a suitable organization in Australia will enable Australian exporters to compete in overseas markets on equal terms with their competitors exporting from other countries.
Under this proposal, the Australian exporter will be able to obtain insurance cover against a large part of the risk involved in selling to new customers overseas, or in breaking into the market in countries where he has not previously sold. The insurance policies the exporter takes out will be guaranteed in the last resort, by the Commonwealth Government. The endorsement by the Government of these policies will greatly add to their attractiveness as security in the eyes of the trading banks. Thus, these policies or contracts of insurance should help the exporter in financing his export operations where sales on credit terms are necessary.
For some time past the Government has received representations from Australian exporters and manufacturers who have claimed that export payments insurance would greatly help them in building up export trade. They have emphasized that with competition in world markets becoming more and more exacting, facilities of this kind have become essential to enable them to compete in many lines of trade and in many markets. Having closely studied the views of traders and having carefully examined the advantages and disadvantages of different types of arrangements, the Government decided in January last on the broad features of its proposals. Before these proposals were finally adopted, however, all important points were discussed with representatives of exporters, manufacturers, primary producers, commodity marketing boards, and commercial, banking and insurance interests.
In these consultations the need for export payments insurance was fully endorsed, and I am able to assure the House that the bill contains nothing that is in conflict with the views expressed in the course of these discussions. From what I have said, it will be clear that representatives of the commercial community have supported the proposals, and that the interests of insurance companies dealing with fire, accident, or marine risks are unimpaired. I may also add that, on the basis of the expressed views of bankers, the Government looks confidently for the co-operation of the banking system in the day-to-day operations of the proposed corporation. Here, I should acknowledge with appreciation the co-operation of the United Kingdom authorities, who made available for consultations in Australia, in December last, a senior executive of the United Kingdom export credit guarantee department.
I have explained the ways in which these proposals have been formulated. 1 turn now to the substance of tho proposals themselves. I wish to make it clear that there is absolutely no question of compelling exporters to insure their transactions. Any exporter is completely free to avail himself of the facilities offered, or not to do so, as he sees fit. It must be noted, however, that an exporter insuring with the corporation must, to conform with insurance principles, offer a fair spread of risk. That is, he cannot select only his worst risks for insurance.
The function of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation established under this bill is to offer insurance against certain risks in export trade, in return for payment of a premium by the exporter. The corporation will not be empowered, nor will it have the funds, itself to extend credit to exporters, although, as I have explained, the insurance cover issued to the exporter by the corporation will provide added security for him in the problem of financing his export turnover. It is necessary to emphasize that the corporation is not being set up to enter the general field of insurance. It will insure only certain kinds of risks, as provided under the bill. It will insure against insolvency of the overseas buyer, for example, or against the overseas buyer’s inability to obtain foreign exchange to remit payments owed to an Australian exporter. But it will not insure against fire or pilferage or damage to goods, or against marine or other risks that are normally insured with commercial insurance houses. The bill quite explicitly limits the activities of the corporation in this way. Moreover, it is not intended to offer insurance against variations in the exchange rate for which application can be made to the Commonwealth Bank or to any trading bank.
A primary aim, in framing the bill, was to provide maximum autonomy for the insurance authority, consistent with the necessary measure of Government control over broad policy. It is therefore proposed that there should be a statutory corporation, independent of existing government departments, under the control of a single commissioner. The corporation will be responsible to the Parliament through the Minister.
The views of exporters, manufacturers, and the commercial community generally, and of the trading banks, on the operations of the corporation will be conveyed to the commissioner through a consultative council to be established under the bill. Members of the council, who will be ten in number, will have a continuing opportunity, not to manage or to become involved in the management of the corporation, but to see that the commissioner is made fully aware of their particular points of view, and to bring their varied experience to bear upon the principles followed by the corporation.
An important feature of the proposals is that the Minister is removed from matters of day-to-day administration of the corporation. The relationship between the Minister and the corporation is clearly defined in clause 11 of the bill. There it is provided that the corporation shall keep the Minister informed of its decisions in matters of policy relating to the conduct of its business. The approval of the Minister is required only in connexion with policy matters under three heads, namely: -
The classes of insurance contracts that may be entered into ;
The nature of the risks that may be covered; and
The undertaking of liabilities in relation to trade with particular countries.
So far as policy matters under these three heads are concerned, it is for the corporation to put its proposed policies to the Minister and obtain his approval. In the event of a difference of view, the corporation shall endeavour to reach agreement with the Minister. If agreement is not reached within a reasonable time, the Minister may determine the policy to be followed. I also invite the attention of honorable members to the express provision in clause 11 (4.) of the bill, that .the approval of the Minister is not required in relation to any particular insurance contract, nor is he empowered to determine that the corporation shall or shall not enter into any particular insurance contract. From all this it will be clear that the corporation will have maximum freedom in its conduct of daytoday affairs, but that the Parliament will retain an appropriate measure of control through the responsible Minister.
The bill is so framed as to provide payments insurance on a really comprehensive basis, within the general objective of covering payment risks in export trade. It is intended that cover should be provided initially against risks of loss due to insolvency of the oversea buyer; the failure of the oversea buyer to pay within twelve months of the due date; failure of the oversea buyer to obtain foreign exchange or of the oversea bank to transfer funds to the Australian exporter; war, rebellion, hostilities, revolution, or other disturbances in the oversea country ; and any other cause outside the control of the exporter and arising outside Australia. It is considered that cover against these risks meets the legitimate needs of exporters at this stage. Should it become apparent in the course of experience that there is a genuine need to add to the kinds of risks insured, the position will be further considered. The insurance cover provided against these risks will be effective in most cases from the date of shipment of the goods. In some cases however, particularly the construction of machinery or other goods to special order, the coveT may run from the date of the order.
To meet rapidly changing circumstances it is essential that the corporation he able to adjust its policies rapidly. Flexibility in this respect is essential, in order that from time to time new legitimate risks may be added, either in the kinds of risks that may be covered or in the countries against which cover may be offered. Perhaps more importantly, flexibility is also essential so that risks which have become bad may be excluded; otherwise the scales of premiums might be subject to excessive burdens. The bill provides this necessary flexibility in the provisions relating to the policies to be followed by the corporation.
With regard to the rates of premium to be charged in any particular transaction, I point out that this will be entirely a matter for the corporation. In general, premium rates will need to be low enough not to put such a load on exporters as to make them uncompetitive in their over sea markets, but will have to be sufficient to cover outgoings on a reasonable volume of business, and adjusted to varying degrees of risk.
The general concept of the operations of the corporation is that in the long term it should make neither a profit nor loss. The aim is that over a period of years it should be financially selfsupporting. On the one hand, the’ corporation must, in the terms of the bill, endeavour to encourage trade with oversea countries by developing and expanding its business. This it can achieve only if its premiums are low enough to.be bearable to exporters; and if its policies are attractive enough to produce a position where many of its clients are “good risks “. The corporation must also pursue a policy directed towards securing revenue sufficient to cover its payments. This will not be possible unless due prudence is exercised with regard to the risks that are covered, and unless premium rates are struck at a balanced level. The overall aim, however, is that premium income should cover net payments against claims, as well as administration costs.
I have already pointed out that there will be no obligation whatever upon exporters to do business with the corporation. An exporter who does insure with the corporation will not be required to insure all his export transactions, but will be expected to offer an acceptable spread of risk. Since the corporation is to operate on insurance principles, it will not be possible for an individual exporter to insure only those risks which he regards as bad. An exporter will not be expected to offer to insure where cash is received before shipment or in respect of sales against irrevocable letters of credit.
The bill provides that the maximum per centage of loss that may be covered in any contract of insurance will be 85 per cent. This provision ensures that the exporter, who thereby carries not less than 15 per cent, of the possible loss, and in some cases will carry more, will exercise normal commercial prudence in the transactions for which he seeks insurance cover with the corporation. He will also retain direct interest in recovery action in the event of a loss being sustained.
Subject to that and the other requirements I have indicated, the positive and significant advantages of payments insurance will be available to all Australian exporters. Exporters who, because of the risk of non-payment, or because of difficulties in financing credit sales, have not been able to match the normal terms of sale in a particular market, be it 30 days or 60 days or other terms, will be significantly helped by this new facility. Exporters who cannot afford to have’ sizeable funds owing to them from countries with which they have not traditionally traded, or about whose foreign exchange position they may have doubts, will be given real assistance in being able to insure against non-payment.
In business of this sort, proper secrecy of information is essential, and the bill contains provisions to ensure due secrecy in respect of information supplied to the corporation.
There are two principal financial undertakings by the Commonwealth Government in establishing the corporation. First, it becomes responsible for all moneys due by the corporation.. That is, in the last resort, the corporation’s insurance contracts are guaranteed by the Government. Here it may be noted that, at any one time, the total liability for outstanding insurance contracts is not to exceed £25,000,000. Secondly, the Commonwealth Government provides the corporation with its capital. The initial capital provided for in the bill is £500,000. Further funds may be provided at future times by way of advance out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this bill.
I have explained that, in coming to its decision to provide for export payments insurance, the Government was influenced by the strong advocacy of many commercial and trading interests. In framing its proposals, the Government has taken into particular account the experience of other countries, notably the United Kingdom and Canada. It has had the benefit of advice from manufacturers, primary producer organizations, exporters and bankers, and the proposals now before the House command the support of those who are directly concerned.
This meaure is a concrete step by the Government to assist Australian exporters whether of primary or secondary goods, to add to Australia’s earnings abroad and to contribute to a solution of our balance of payments problem. The Government has not lightly decided to interest itself in a new field of Government activity. It has done so at the request of the commercial community and in the knowledge that, for this type of risk, and for this magnitude of risk, the special form of insurance contemplated is not normally obtained from commercial insurers, lt has taken pains to ensure that this new corporation will not live under the day to day domination of a department or of a Minister, but that it will be free to develop its business vigorously and on progressive and reasonably independent lines.
The provision of this type of protection against export trading risks is of obvious value to the trader engaged in a multitude of different and disconnected export transactions and to the manufacturer seeking to expand his export market. But it also provides all the opportunity for comprehensive encouragement to export all of the great primary products.
Marketing boards which export as owners of the product, and all those merchants or organizations which export wool, wool tops, grains and the whole range of primary products will be able to insure with the corporation against the risks I have mentioned, including the risk that the oversea buyer will not be- able to transfer his payments to Australia. This will enable them to extend their existing markets and explore new outlets.
The Government has every confidence that these proposals will afford tangible help to those exporting a wide range of goods to a variety of markets, and that the corporation will, in due course, receive wide support from manufacturers and exporters. The greater the range and volume of business undertaken by the corporation, the better will be the terms it can offer its clients.
These proposals make clear to Australian industry and exporters, first, that the Government is keenly conscious of the problems of increased export and, secondly, that it is prepared to take firm, positive action to assist them in overcoming those problems. As I have said earlier, the provisions of this bill must be looked at against the background of our acute balance of payments position and the pressing importance of fostering and expanding export. The bill is one instalment of the Government’s export drive.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th April (vide page 1542), on motion by Mr. Davidson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I do not suppose that a bill of more importance to the life of the community than this measure has ever been introduced into this Parliament, if one excludes matters connected with defence. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who introduced the bill. Lias summarized the substance of the proposals, and the interests of Australia would best be served by this House if it examined the proposals in a non-party way. After all, television, which involves a tremendous development in the communication of information to the people, is a matter that will affect the li fe of Australia and Australians for generations to come. [ believe that the most satisfactory way to approach the problem from the point of view of the parliamentary Labour party would be for me to state almost immediately our main criticisms of the bill. I shall sum up the criticisms, and they will cover much ground. Honorable members may disagree with some of them, but they should regard them, not merely as fair criticism, but as goads towards proper action.
I wish to refer at the outset to a proposal that the Opposition will make for the re-establishment of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting and Television. Honorable members might bc acquainted with the proceedings of the Gibson committee on which my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) served, and of which, he later became chairman. Nobody who knew the work of that committee could fail to see how able and positive were its suggestions on broadcasting and the subsequent development of mass communication. There is a. law on the statute-book which states that such a comtee should function, but the Government since it was elected to office in 1949, has treated that law as though it were non-existent. Such a committee is essential if television and its administration is to be put beyond the bounds of a mere partisan project. The committee was u joint committee, and rendered valuable service.
Further, the Opposition wishes to ensure that some of the matters to which the Postmaster-General referred, such as the provision of facilities for televising or broadcasting such features like religious services or statements on religious subjects, shall be embodied in the statute itself. They should not depend in any way upon ministerial discretion.
Similar considerations apply to a matter which, from the point of view of this debate, is more important, because I think everybody will agree with the provisions so far as religious services areconcerned. A matter on which there should be some debate is the approach that should be made by the Parliament to the question of broadcasts, not on the political issues raised in a general election - that matter is covered fairly well by the present practice -of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial radio stations - but on controversial matters of public concern. “We believe that broadcasts on such matters should be made, not only at election times, but also at the. times when they are of most importance and interest to the public.
In that respect, there is a great contrast between the position in this country and that in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, there is an arrangement by which varying points of view on great controversial political issues are put before listeners and viewers from time to time by the broadcasting and television services. If there is an industrial controversy, naturally there are two points of view, as there are in the case of political controversies and questions of national policy. At election times, the arrangements made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission are reasonably satisfactory, although they are not actually embodied in a statute. But, in my opinion, it is very important that broadcasts on controversial matters should be made at other times, irrespective of whether the matters are politically important then. I have in mind, for instance, the forthcoming amendments of our industrial arbitration machinery and the problems of international affairs. The international scene changes rapidly. In the last six months, it has changed entirely in many respects, but all that the public of Australia hear from the Australian Broadcasting Commission about it are the commentaries on the news. I must say that, although some of the commentators are persons with established positions in the community, not one of them ever puts forward a view which is really critical of the Government of this country. The result is that we have one voice saying that the Government is right, and, by implication, that the Labour party is wrong.
I do not want to labour this point now. I suggest that we adopt the principle upon which the broadcasting and televising of political matters is conducted in Great Britain. That principle is that there should be no bar to the discussion of public questions merely because there is a difference of opinion about them. “We should not subscribe to the view that because an issue is political, it should not be discussed over the air or on television. Bather, we should take the view tha- it should be discussed in a public forum where representatives of the two sides oau express their views. That method is as old as democracy ; but, for some reason, the Government proposes to take a step backwards.
There is one matter of supreme practical importance in connexion with tele.vision - that is, the need, especially in the initial stages, for absolute safeguards against the flooding of television programmes with low-grade overseas syndicated productions which would lead almost inevitably to the exclusion of Australian productions. There should be an absolute guarantee against that. Instead of the general expression of opinion by the Minister that such a safeguard is desirable, the statute should contain a definite statement of the policy which must be followed.
I agree with the Minister’s reference to Australian productions. Australian writers, artists and actors take their place amongst the foremost writers, artists and actors of the world. But very often, in order to gain recognition, they have to seek employment overseas.
We find that many of those who have sought employment overseas are in the front rank of the talented artists who give their services to our more fortunate kinsmen in Great Britain and elsewhere. We do not want to run the risk of losing such people in future. The proposals of the Labour party in this connexion have been received with approval by many organizations in this country. If there is to be a commercial television service and a national television service in Australia, let the productions be predominantly Australian. [ think we have lost ground in that respect. The Australian Broadcasting Commission lost ground for us. I know that this is a matter which is regarded as a joke or as something of no importance by some people, but I believe that, the action of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in changing the song that preceded its news broadcasts was antiAustralian. That should never have been done. All through the crisis of the last war, news broadcasts from Australia to Australian troops and other troops in the Pacific area and elsewhere were preceded by the song Advance Australia. Fair. That has gone now. That, of itself, is not tremendously important, but it is a warning that there are forces in the broadcasting and television world which do not care very much about the development of Australian productions. So much can be done in this field, and so many persons can do it. I believe that all the commercial broadcasting stations here agree that there are no better radio actors and script writers than Australians. So let us make the encouragement of Australian productions a. basic law of television in this country.
Similar considerations apply to music I pay the Minister the compliment of saying that he is doing something positive to encourage the broadcasting of works by Australian composers. We think that the percentage fi-Bd for Australian compositions is too low. From the figures which the Minister save in his speech, it is clear that there is scope for an increase.
It is proposed that the representatives of the Treasury and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department shall be excluded from the Australian Broadcasting Commission in future. No reason has been given for that proposal. At present, those representatives are public servants - watchdogs of the public interest. They are to be put off and other persons are to be put on. We say that they should be retained on the commission. We say also that the commission should include a resident of each State of Australia, which is not the case at present.
We feel that, in the initial stages, television licences should be granted for a period of three years. The interests which have been granted television licences knew, when they applied for them, that the law provided that licences should be granted for three years. This bill proposes that the period shall be extended to five years. This is a very important matter, because one of the grave dangers of the television plan which the Parliament has been asked to approve is that there will be an increasing trend towards monopolization of the means of mass communication to the people through the press, radio and television. Therefore, it is most important that we should watch each stage of the development of television. That, of course, raises a bigger question than the period for which the licences should be granted initially.
There is another matter. I do not want to refer to it in detail now, because it will no doubt, be dealt with by other speakers later. I refer to the televising or broadcasting of great sporting events. Our view is quite clear, and I understand that it corresponds with the views of some honorable members opposite. We believe that sporting bodies which provide entertainment and depend for their finances upon the fees paid by members of the public at the gate, should be protected against the possibility of an arbitrary decision by any authority to televise or broadcast events which they have organized. It is quite clear that, if an event is broadcast or televised, adequate remuneration should be paid to the promoter. I think it is correct to say that when important baseball matches are televised in the United States of America, the promoters receive more from the television company than from takings at the gate. I shall not deal with that matter any further now, but I suggest that it be carefully considered. There will be outstanding events in various sports which should be televised. Special arrangements are made for that in England. Broadly speaking, the principle there is that those who provide the entertainment are entitled to a share of the profit which a broadcasting or television station makes from using the entertainment in its programme.
I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “owing to the fact that all existing television licences in two States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting in effect combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests which already monopolize to a large extent mass communication of information to the people of Australia, and owing to the danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression being caused by newspaper concerns further extending their control over mass communication including radio broadcasting and’ television, the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to include -
specific safeguards against detri mental monopoly practices by guaranteeing to the general public and to religious, educational, cultural, political and social organizations opportunities for a fair and just share of ownership or control of broadcasting and television licences and a fair and just use of the facilities of such services; and
In bringing together in the one amendment those provisions which are all of importance but affect the matter in varying ways, I repeat that my colleagues will deal with these various aspects. For instance, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who has been so closely associated with the writers of this country, will deal with the subject of the quota system. I am sure that honorable members will agree that the case that will be made on that aspect will be very effective.
The great point that is emphasized in the amendment which represents the Labour party’s point of view, is not appreciated by the Government because the Postmaster-General did not refer to it in any way in his second-reading speech. We have mass communication through the Australian press. I suppose that to-day the Australian press has a greater mass circulation relative to the press of other countries. It has been increasing over many years and, to-day, the aggregate figures are enormous. The organizations which own the newspapers are, as newspapers are, expanding their fields. One of the leading newspapers of Australia - I mention it simply by way of example - is the Melbourne Herald. It has a monopoly in connexion with news in the afternoon field, and also, merely incidental to its other activities, it publishes a large and successful morning newspaper. Starting as a Melbourne concern it is becoming almost Australiawide in its operations. Without going through the ownership of the shares, in effect, the same organization has taken over control of the two newspapers in Brisbane, namely the morning newspaper, the Courier-Mail and the afternoon newspaper the Telegraph. That has been a gradual process, but that is only a portion of the story. In Adelaide this organization has secured control to a substantial extent of the business of the Adelaide Advertiser. This illustrates how capital aggregation leads to expansion. In ordinary circumstances there may be a good case for such expansion. However, monopoly, combine and expansion of power in that way is always dangerous to the public for it tends to prevent competition, as has been the case in Brisbane, where, to-day, there is no competition between the afternoon and the morning newspaper.
In the field of mass dissemination of ideas where opinion is so important, and where the facts on which the opinion is to be based must be stated truly and fairly, this type of industrial or commercial expansion is full of danger. That fact has been recognized to some extent, not in respect of the law dealing with newspapers but, oddly and correctly enough, in the field of commercial broadeasting. A section of the Broadcasting Act, which is being retained, provides that-
A person shall not own, or be in a position to exercise control, either directly or indirectly, of, more than -
one metropolitan commercial broadcasting station in any State;
four metropolitan commercial broadcasting stations in Australia;
four commercial broadcasting stations in any one State; or
eight commercial broadcasting stations in Australia.
Of course, the intent was clear enough. It was thought that there would be no success gained by any enterprise in trying to control more than eight commercial broadcasting stations in Australia. But. I commend to honorable members the statementson this matter contained in the seventh annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I shall just mention one or two illustrations from that report to indicate what has been taking place. The fact is that of 106 commercial stations in Australia, 31 were operated, by persons in a position to control only one station. Then, in the broader category, twelve persons or organizations were in a position to control, or were substantially interested, in two stations. That leaves 63 stations, and of those the report says -
The remaining stations,63 in number, are controlled by persons or organizations which are in a position to control, directly or indirectly, or have substantial interest in, three or more stations.
The board explained that it can do nothing about the matter because it does not amount to a technical breach of the section T. have read. It dealt then with the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. I have already referred to the growth of this organization from a business point of view. It is very impressive, almost miraculous; and no doubt the organization has been run most efficiently. From the viewpoint of the people, who get their facts from the newspapers, the limitation of competition in the ways that, I have mentioned is, at all times, a threat to complete freedom of expression. The. forming of opinion depends upon a knowledge of the facts, which must be stated impartially. The report sets out the broadcasting activities of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. It states that this company holds the licences for stations 3DB, Melbourne, and 3LK, Lubeck, and has a controlling interest in a company which holds the licences for stations 4BK, Brisbane, and 4AK, Oakey. It points out, also, that the Herald and Weekly Times Limited is also the principal shareholder in Advertiser Newspapers Limited, which controls stations 5AD, Adelaide, 5MU, Murray Bridge, 5PI, Crystal Brook, and 5 SE, Mount Gambier. That is the first illustration I wish to mention.
The report then deals with M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited, the share capital of which is held equally by, or on behalf of, two public companies registered and carrying on business in England, namely, The Daily Mirror Newspapers Limited and Sunday Pictorial Newspapers (1920) Limited. M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited owns all the shares in Broadcasting Associates Proprietary Limited, which controls or owns six broadcasting stations in New South Wales, including 2GB, Sydney, 2LF, Young, and 2LT, Lithgow. One of the stations which it controls itself has large shareholdings in six other stations in New South Wales, Melbourne and Adelaide. These stations are listed in the report. In addition, the English companies which control M.P.A. Productions Proprietary Limited is able, through its interest in Argus and Australasian Limited, to control stations at Shepparton, Warragul and Warrnambool. That is the second group. Then there is Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, in which the people of Australia formerly owned a half interest. That company is now purely a private concern. Its licences are listed at page 9. It is interested in, or controls, ten or more commercial broadcasting licences. The ownership of many other stations is mentioned. Finally, at page 10, special reference is made to newspaper companies. The report states -
Newspaper companies, or persons substantially interested in newspapers, owned fourteen of the 106 stations in operation on 30th June, 1955, and held shares in 29 other stations.
They have substantial interests in 43 stations, which are set’ out, including station 2GB, Sydney, in which a very large interest is held by John Fairfax and
Sons Proprietary Limited, which controls the Sydney Morning Herald. The Broadcasting Control Board’s report then lists instances of newspaper control of radio stations at Armidale, Lithgow, Young and Lismore in New South Wales, and at Ballarat and Geelong in Victoria. One finds this characteristic of ownership: Newspapers in cities and country towns have interests, often amounting to something approaching ownership, in local radio stations. Lastly, the report, refers to what are called the networks. There are two great networks in Australia. One is the Macquarie Broadcasting Network, and the stations in that network are listed. Those are not stations owned and controlled .by one interest, but stations that co-operate in certain programmes to provide a hook-up extending throughout the greater part of Australia.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with the thing itself, but, if the honorable member would only listen for a moment with an open, as distinct from a vacant, mind, he would see that a danger to the public arises. I have sufficiently stated the facts upon which the argument is based. The newspaper is of tremendous import to the reader in recounting events occurring in Australia and overseas. It lays the basis for the formation of the reader’s opinion, and, ultimately, public opinion. If it states its view, it makes its comment, and, as we know, the reports often do not fully or correctly state the facts. That is obvious. The one corrective is, and ordinarily would be, a broadcasting station covering the same area. But, if the broadcasting station is substantially controlled by the newspaper, any opinion expressed by it tends to become merely a reflection of the opinions of the newspaper. The danger lies in the tendency towards monopoly and the concentration of opinion. There, will now be a similar danger in relation to the commercial television licences granted by the Government. Without going into all the details of the shareholdings, what does one find? One finds that four corporations in Sydney and Melbourne have a monopoly of the commercial licences that have been granted.
– The right honorable gentleman does not like monopolies.
– I do not like private monopoly when it is exercised for profitmaking purposes. Monopoly is detrimental to the public. It, tends to become pernicious when it is a monopoly, such as I have described, in the communication of facts to the people. That is so elementary that it is generally recognized. It is recognized, to a large degree, in the United States of America, where special monopolies legislation has been enacted. But a monopoly in the publication of news and commentaries, upon which public opinion is formed, is far worse than many other forms of monopoly. When the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) interrupted me, I was pointing out that, four corporations have a monopoly of commercial television licences. Two of these companies are Melbourne concerns. In one, the Melbourne Herald interests aru predominant. I think that an interest in that company is held also by one of the English newspapers, the Daily Mirror. The actual shareholding is mentioned in the report. The other Melbourne newspapers, the Argus and the Ayn, ari, shareholders in another of the four corporations. There is also an overseas interest. It is apparent that the newspapers, in addition to their vast radio broadcasting interests, have what I think can fairly be called a monopoly of the new field of commercial television in Melbourne. Exactly the same position exists in Sydney, where the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun organization is associated with electronic interests, and the like, in very large shareholdings in one of the television corporations. Similarly, the Daily Telegraph is associated with radio, film and electronic interests - indeed, the very interests that one expects to be concerned in a purely commercial venture. My view is that it is completely wrong to look at the matter from a purely commercial viewpoint. If that viewpoint is adopted, one departs completely from the principles upon which the public service of television broadcasting should be conducted.
I do not think there is any other country in which-, to such a great degree, newspaper companies with large radio interests have been allowed to become the sole pioneers in the field of commercial television. This situation tends to destroy competition in these fields of activity. It is essential that this measure be amended in order to control monopolies and to ensure that interests other than the newspapers are not only permitted but also encouraged to enter the television field in order to prevent the restriction of competition. That brings me - because it is related to the same point - to the effect of that in actual operation. Commercial television in this country is not to be run on the same principle as it is in England, although there is provision there for commercial programmes. There is a special authority in control of commercial television in England, and certain rules are laid down. T should like to read from section 3 of the Television Act 1954 in connexion with British commercial television. It provides that it shall be the duty of the authority to satisfy itself that, so far as possible, the programmes comply with certain requirements. One is -
That proper proportions of the recorded and other matter included in the programmes are of British origin and performance.
They did not mind putting into their statute - not merely saying in a pious way in Parliament - what has to be done.
– The regulation actually specifies the proportion.
– As I am reminded by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the proportion is specified, and it is, of course, a greater proportion than we are asking for. These matters bring me to the most important point in the remarks I wish to make to the House - that paragraphs (f) and (g) of subsection (1.) of section 3 of the British act read -
Notwithstanding that prohibition, what is permitted in connexion with commercial television in England is this -
The inclusion in the programmes of relays of the whole of a scries of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s party political broadcasts;
These broadcasts, as I said earlier, cover not merely those made at election time, but during the whole period of the year. If any important matter arises on which the Government wishes to make a statement, that is permitted, but the Opposition is given an opportunity of replying. Therefore, on controversial matters, the public receives the opinions of both sides. The British system is not to say, “ we will not allow political matter “, but “ we will encourage the discussion of political or controversial matters, such as industrial matters which give rise to very acute controversies relating to current policy “. That is the British system, and it is the system which we will endeavour, in committee, to get included in this legislation. The television commercials in England - the commercial programmes - must not publish matter designed to serve only the interests of any political party, but they can take the whole of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s broadcasts during the year. Something of that kind should be provided in the legislation we are about to consider. Then, also, there should be included in the programmes properly balanced discussions or debates in which the persons taking part express opinions and put forward arguments of a political character. That is the charter, so to speak, in the British legislation, and that is the way in which the system is operating.
As the Minister said in his secondreading speech - read it if you will - the matter is dealt with in the report of the Royal Commission on Television. I think it should be read and studied. From page 86 onwards, there are enumeratedcertain principles which are fundamental. In paragraph 434, on page86, this appears-
In Canada, the statement of policy issued by the Board ofGovernors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on political and controversial broadcasting on 27th May, 1953 said that ite policy was based on the following principles: -
1 ) The air belongs to the people, who are entitled to hear the principal points of view on all questions of importance.
The air must not fall under the control of any individuals or groups influential by reason of their wealth or special position.
That, of course, carries an implied warning of the danger of combines of press and radio plus television interests -
The Gibson committee of this Parliament said very much the same thing in 1942. It did not recommend the restriction of political broadcasting - although, of course, it can be overdone from the point of view of public interest. There can bc too much of a good thing. But the public are very interested in some of the great topical questions, and there should be a proper approach to this matter, not only by commercial television licensees, but also by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The practice in Australia is very different from that in Great Britain, where the British Broadcasting Commission is in control. The other day, the Chancellor of the Exchequer broadcast some aspects of the budget, and a representative of the Labour Opposition replied to him in a British Broadcasting Corporation’s broadcast. That should be not discouraged, but encouraged. The Gibson committee said that the broadcasting of political talks was a matter of vital concern to the community. I repeat, thatI am not referring to broadcasting at election time. In Great Britain, statutory provision is made for political broadcasts, and some sort of a standard practice has been evolved. T refer to the routine duty performed by television authorities and broadcasting authorities in Great Britain so that the public will have a chance of hearing both sides of important questions, and will not be misled by newspapers which might express an entirely partisan point of view.
What are the facts? The situation in this country is almost unique among British-speaking countries. In England, the Labour movement has a daily newspaper with a national circulation; here, there is none. The Opposition in this country suffers from the absence of a national newspaper. That does not mean that every newspaper expresses views that are invariably against Labour, but they wre against Labour for 90 per cent, of the time. That is the actual position; I am not over-stating it. That is the situation which honorable members would be advised, I think, to look at very carefully. In the long run, if we fail to provide the opportunities and facilities which I have described we shall not make the fullest, use of these facilities.
The rest of the discussion in the report of the Royal Commission on Television is most interesting, giving illustrations as it does of the position in various countries of the world. It quotes from the Beveridge report, and it also deals with a very important matter which I should like the Minister to explain at a later stage. It is this : The present law - the law enforced at this moment - provides that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board shall -
Enure that facilities are provided on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political andcon troversial matter.
That is to say, its duty is clear - not its right. I amquite sure that these facilities are provided by commercial stations on an equitable basis. But the clear intention of that provision, in my view, is that arrangements should be made with the commercial stations, such as are made by the British Broadcasting Corporation in England, so that political and controversial broadcasts will be arranged by the commercial stations. It is not a question of fee. There is no mention of fee, but the implication is that there would be no charge. If there is to be a debate by industrial leaders, there should be no question of fee if both sides are heard. It must, be said that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has explained that it has never regarded the clause I have quoted as the operative clause. My opinion, after studying the act, has been confirmed by those of my colleagues who also have looked at it very closely. The
Minister omitted that assurance and guarantee in connexion with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In fact, no such provision will be contained in the legislation if it is adopted in its present form. The insurance or guarantee in that form disappears. The board’s view is explained at page 92. It suggested that the Parliament should enact the provision as it thought appropriate. Instead of carrying out its obligation to the Parliament and the people the board has said to the Parliament, “ You had better consider it “. Wc shall ask, in the committee stage, that the Parliament retain that clause and make provision to ensure that it is not a dead letter. It has been a dead letter virtually over the last five or six years. [Extension of time granted.’)
The position which I have been trying lo develop is that there is in the present statute an assurance in relation to commercial broadcasting that both sides of controversies shall be put forward by stations in a fair manner. I maintain that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has not carried out its duty to make good that assurance, but it has referred the matter back to the Parliament. We cannot simply say that we will wash our hands of it. How can all these things be made effective? That brings me to a point which I think is most crucial, that is, the necessity for the re-establishment of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, which can assist by watching developments and making reports to the Parliament on any matters which in the public interest need attention. That was done under the regime of Mr. Gibson, and I think that there is no other way in which effective results can be obtained from this legislation. We have the Australian Broadcasting Commission in its little bureaucratic area. I note clauses in this measure designed to protect it further. The salaries to be paid are not even stated. The Minister has stated them but the legislation itself should do so. There is no reason why they should not be stated in the legislation. The commission’s powers are always being enlarged. I have already referred to some of its broadcasts, including the regular Sunday broadcasts on interna tional affairs. It does not provide an impartial service, and I challenge any honorable member to look at the scripts during the last three to six months to ascertain whether both sides are put. They are not put, and if any one states a view on international affairs which is hostile to the commission’s views, he does not last very long on the station. Of course, he is never put off for that reason, but he gradually disappears from view.
I am not criticizing the commercial stations as such. Indeed, in some respects, ‘the commercial broadcasting stations of this country have set an example to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in election broadcasts. I have paid that tribute before, and I pay it again. I am not speaking of any particular station, but from the point of view of the present Opposition that position has been evident quite a few times. I am speaking not necessarily of all the commercial stations, but of the majority of them. They have been most helpful in connexion with certain arrangements about election broadcasts, in the sense that they have been completely fair and impartial. We want something better than that. Honorable members are quite entitled to laugh at the way in which I put that statement. I mean that being fair in a particular case is not sufficient. In these matters we must have a statement in our substantive and basic law of what is to be done, so that there cannot be an argument such as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board advances when one complains to it that he is not getting the facilities the provision of which the board should be ensuring. One should not have occasion to mention generosity. Broadcasting stations should be just in accordance with the law, and nobody wants them to be generous. That is what the Opposition wants, not only in its own interests but in those of all parties, because governments change and laws change, or may change, in accordance with their composition. I return to the amendment and submit I have proved that- . . all existing television” licences in two States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting in effect combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests which already monopolize- to a large extent mass communication of information to the people of Australia, and owing to the danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression being caused by newspaper concerns further extending their control over mass communications including radio broadcasting and television.
The bill should be withdrawn and safeguards, which ave obviously necessary, should be inserted in it. This is essentially a measure for committee discussion. Its provisions should be worked out thoroughly by honorable members so thi we shall have a satisfactory statute What is making the Government hurry the legislation through is its desire to have the measure passed before the 1st July and get it on the statute-book at all costs because, in terms of an expression used in the United States of America, the Senate, in such conditions where new members come in and others go out, is “ a lame duck “. An election having been held, the Senate as it is now constituted, should not participate in the making of this legislation. The measure should really be deferred. There is, of course, the question of speed. On behalf of the Opposition I am entitled to demand that a fair analysis of the details of these matters be given in committee and that consideration should not be rushed by the application of the gag. That is broadly our point of view. Other honorable members on this side who are intensely interested in this as a matter of public interest will put their views on many other aspects.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak on it at a later stage.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is very fond of playing the role of a defender of freedom. He plays the role with no great measure of accomplishment, because the simple truth is that by conviction and ambition he is not suited to play it. The right honorable member’s inveighing this evening against monopoly will deceive no one. He expressed concern - I presume that the concern is his own and that of his party - on the question of the allocation of television licences, and he used the phrase - I believe this is it - “ the monopo lization of mass communication “. lt i.= an interesting position for the right, honorable member for Barton to stand in this Parliament and criticize monopoly, because in the final analysis he is the leader of the party that is pledged to attain its ambition of establishing one monopoly throughout the length and breadth of this country.
– A national monopoly.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, interjects “ a national monopoly “, but is there any distinct difference? I turn to a statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th November, 1952, when he said -
The Labour party made television a government monopoly and will keep it that way.
The following day the Leader of the Opposition, as reported in the same newspaper, declared -
Australia will probably rely on a dual system, in which the Australian people will own a service, and the commercial stations will also do so.
There is the conflict - it appears to be an eternal debate - between the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne. The honorable member for Melbourne has referred to constitutional difficulties - and I recognize the nature of those - but so does the Leader of the Opposition recognize the nature of the constitutional difficulties, and he is bound to a policy to try to remove them. Once again the Opposition, according to the noise that is coming from it, is signifying its approval of my contentions in this matter.
The most noticeable feature of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition was that he did not make one single reference to his party’s stand - or rather to that of the various fragments of his party - on the control of television. I believe that this Parliament and the people of this country are entitled to know exactly where the Leader of the Opposition stands in the matter of the control of television. Does he stand for a .national monopoly, or does he stand for a dual system of monopoly? The
Leader of the Opposition completely failed to answer that question.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is again interjecting. I can think of no term of reproach that could not happily be applied to the honorable gentleman. If he wants to engage himself profitably for a few moments, I suggest that he read through scene 2 of act II. of King Lear. If he should do that, he might find r.here a fairly accurate description of himself. I now come to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition when he was criticizing what he described as the mass control of the means of communication. During his secondreading speech, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) said -
The government considers that the ownershin of commercial television stations should be much more severely restricted, and accordingly it has proposed in clause 40 of the bill that a new section (53a) should be inserted in the net. the purpose of which will be to limit the ownership or control by any person of television stations to one such station in any capital city and two such stations in the Commonwealth.” The Government is firmly of the opinion that the ownership of commercial television stations should be in as many hands as practicable and that it should not be possible for any one organization to obtain control of any substantial number of stations.
– Did King Lear say that?
– I suggest that if the honorable member for East Sydney were to go for a long walk on a short pier, there would be three cheers throughout the length and breadth of this country. I believe that what I have read from the Postmaster-General’s second-reading speech is the answer to the concern expressed by the Leader of the Opposition about the control of television in this country. The Postmaster-General quite plainly said that there will not be a monopoly of television in Australia.
I now turn to another matter. There is some considerable concern throughout the country, and I believe on both sides of this House, as to whether or not the present is an opportune time to establish television in this country. I appreciate the arguments that have been advanced on that point although I do not agree with them. I desire to mention some of the countries that have established television within their borders, because I believe that in order to see this problem in its wider perspective, one must look to what has been done in other countries throughout the world. More than 50 countries and states have television systems in operation. They are Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Columbia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, France started in 1949, East Germany, West Germany, the United Kingdom started in 1936, Guatemala, Hungary, India planned for next year, Iraq due early this year, Italy started in 1948, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco.
– The honorable member would do well in Monaco.
– Also Morocco, The Netherlands, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Roumania, the Saar, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand. Tunisia, Uruguay, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics started in 1946, Venezuela, the Azores, Bermuda, Eritrea, Libya, Greenland, Iceland, Okinawa and Saudi Arabia. To the honorable member who interjected when I was reading that list of places, I say that I would rather be a success in Monaco than a failure everywhere.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for KingsfordSmith is completely out of order because he is out of his proper place. He must resume his correct seat.
– The progress of television in some countries has been truly remarkable. For example, I turn to Canada, where the first television station was introduced in 1952. In just over three years, Canada has established 32 television stations and there are more than 2,000,000 receivers in the country. Honorable members should remember that that has happened in a country with a population of approximately 15,000,000 peop’e. Then there is Italy. Before the end of 1957 Italy will be served by no less than 84 television transmitters. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - the spiritual home of the honorable member for East Sydney - with its egalitarian, so-called, abd its so-called ..utilitarian society, now has nineteen television stations in operation and seventeen more are planned. The stations in the Soviet Union are not in the large cities, as is illustrated by the following facts. Consider Omsk, for example, and I suppose the honorable member for KingsfordSmith has been to Omsk. The population of that city is 200,000 people, but it has television. Tomsk has a population of 141,000, Sumy a population of 63,000, Vinnitza a population of 92,000 andTallin a population of 145,000; and all those places have television services.
– Why does not the honorable member wipe that smudge off his face?
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will get a smudge on his face if he does not cease his constant interjections.
– I understand your viewpoint, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the honorable member for East Sydney persists in behaving like a vaudeville clown I do not suppose that he can complain if he is treated like one. In West Germany there are 34 television stations, including a highly successful micro-wave relay system. The point I desire to make concerning the establishment of television in all those countries is that if we investigate many of them we find that their economies were largely destroyed during World War II. Many of their great cities were destroyed and the populations of those cities almost decimated. Countries such as West Germany had to recover from the effects of terrific bombardments which destroyed their basic heavy industries. Therefore, I believe that behind all this activity there is a compelling reason why those nations have established television services. The reason, as I see it, is that television has been introduced into them, in spite of notable difficulties, in order that an electronics industry could be established. Television, radarguided missile controls, radar navigation and automatons are all adaptations of the thermionic valve in one way or another. The chief value that I see in the establishment of television in this country is its defence value, and I should hope that there would not be too many members if any, in the House who would quibble about the establishment of an industry that will contribute to this country’s security and to its welfare.
– Now, finish on that note.
– It would be a bright note. .1 have yet to hear a sound one come from the honorable member for East Sydney. If we turn to the British experiment in television, we find that television was operating as far back as 1936. About four years ago there came to this country a man who was regarded as the father of modern electronics. I refer to Professor Sir Edward Appleton. In opening a conference in Sydney of the Institution of Radio Engineers, he declared -
Now it would be improper for me to comment on the lively problem of T.V. in Australia, but I should mention one aspect nf our British experience, and that was that Britain’s progressive move in the development of Cathode Ray Television on ultra short waves before the war was an important factor in conditioning our radio industry for the vital task of manufacturing entirely new radar equipment before and during the war.
In other words, Professor Sir Edward Appleton recognized the part that television played in seeing that a radar system was established in the United Kingdom at the outbreak of war. Most of the engineers who operated radar in the early days in the United Kingdom were ex-television engineers. For example, one turns again to a work by John Herrington, part of the official war history, in Air War Against Germany and Italy 19S9-.IS. He refers to what he describes as the “ incalculable advantage of an efficient radar reporting and controlled interception scheme”. They are the views of two people on the value to the United Kingdom of the establishment of television in the early days prior to the war. Television provided for a ba.«ic electronic industry, however diminutive it may have been. Above all, it provided for trained engineers and for technical experts. We have had expressions of concern in this House and outside it at the comparative absence of trained engineers, technicians and other personnel in this country and throughout the world. By establishing television in this country
Australia will ensure that a reserve of technicians and trained personnel Ls established and built up.
This country cannot afford to be without television. No country in the world has a greater dependency upon electronic devices for its security, and the paradox and the tragedy is that no country has resources at the moment that are so much in inverse ratio to requirements as are ours. We have dithered and dawdled in the establishment of television in this country and I am pleased to see that we propose to throw overboard our dithering and dawdling ways and got on with the job.
There are many facets of this bill that could engage one’s interest and attention, but the next major facet that I want to refer to is this: The Minister in his second-reading speech said, “ It is basic to our thinking in this field that television services should develop gradually “. As a consequence, the Minister went on to explain that that was the basis upon which it was decided to establish television stations in Sydney and Melbourne and to defer action on the establishment of other stations until the experience of those two cities had been secured. I say to the Minister and to the House that I regret very much that television is not to be established throughout Australia. I appreciate the point of view that the Government wants to see the experience of Sydney and Melbourne, but I put these points of view to the Minister and to the House. Commercial television depends in large measure - indeed in total measure - upon advertising for finance. The larger the viewing audience, the cheaper become the production costs of television programmes. Then we have the question of television sets. If television sets are to be confined to Sydney and Melbourne, of course there is a lesser demand for them. I believe that the production costs of television sets would be reduced if the television industry could be assured of a wider market.
Then there is the point to which I have already referred, the matter of trained technicians. In the other States of Australia there are technicians, some of whom, to my knowledge, have been trained in television and electronic devices in the United Kingdom. It is a great temptation to these men to leave those States and move to the capital cities in which television has been established. The establishment of television on a wider basis would correct those anomalies. Admittedly, in the seventh annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board mention is made that a frequency assignment plan had been established. Paragraph 139 of the report reads as follows : -
The provisional plan in Appendix C makes provision for the allocation of VHF channels for stations which would provide -
four services in each capital city ; and
two services in every town with a population in excess of 5,000.
The frequency assignment plan is set om in the Appendix. That is admirable, but, does it go far enough? Would it not be a step in the right direction if that plan were pursued to the extent that applications for licences in the other capital cities were called for at this stage? To call for them even at this stage would mean, in the case of Brisbane, and possibly Adelaide, eighteen months’ delay before television could be introduced. I believe that the Minister and the Government would be doing the right thing by television, by the electronics industry and ultimately by the country by establishing television on as broad a basis as possible.
The third major point that I Avant to refer to is this : I would be concerned to see that commercial television should be controlled by the resources of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If it is to work on the basis that commercial television will only expand at a pace equal to that of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, then I believe that an error of judgment is being made. Contained in this bill are adequate safeguards concerning the quality and standards of commercial television and the concern expressed by the Leader of the Opposition is a concern held by most members in this House. We do not want to see in this country the creation of a social problem by the establishment of television. We do not want to see flooding into this country television programmes which are un-Australian and not. in keeping with our ideas and ideals. I believe that this bill is a step in the right direction. Television will present problems for this country. Tt will present social and cultural problems and other problems that will be completely new and novel to all of us; but I believe that if our approach is to be characterized by timidity and reluctance to face the problems that television will present, there will be little health in us and we shall be lacking in verve and substance. I support the bill. I hope that I will have an opportunity during the committee stage to refer to some of the means of control vis-a-vis the commercial stations and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
Mr. HAYLEN (Parkes) [9.4 !”.The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) specifically asked honorable members on this side of the House to say where they stood in relation to the nationalization, or otherwise, of television. Let me tell him on my own behalf - and I am sure also on behalf of those who are associated with me - that were it not for section 92 of the Constitution, which at present gives no authority, we should be inclined - and it is a part of the policy of the Australian Labour party - to agree to the nationalization of television.
– That is why we are where we are now.
– The honorable member says that that is why we are where we are now. Let me say that, in the long run, the Government will agree with the Tory Government of England that it cannot let the entrepreneur get away with it. In the United Kingdom Government’s now television scheme, which is television that enable* commercial television to operate, there is an independent television authority. No licences are issued, but they ask that the television be contracted to the authority. If it is good enough for the United Kingdom Government to do that, it ought to be good enough for the Menzies Government. I merely say that, in relation to television, the real danger is from the commercial businessman who wants to make a pot of money out of television, and who does not care how he makes it. That is the real danger, as has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
One of the amendments with which we are dealing concerns a matter in which I am vitally interested. I refer to sub-paragraph 4’. of paragraph b of the amendment, which seeks to provide for adequate safeguards against the flooding of Australian television with low-grade, syndicated overseas productions, to the practical exclusion of productions by Australians. For this purpose, the projected amendment provides that 55 per cent, of the programmes should be Australian. We are asking the Government supporters to support this amendment or to stand up and be counted as associates of cheap and shoddy overseas material which has already made a profit, which is already in a back log, and which, in the formative days of television, if the Government does not assist us in the passing of this amendment, will kill Australian televison :is an Australian medium of mass communication, and as a medium for the dissemination of culture and for telling to the whole of the Australian viewers the story of Australia itself. [ believe this* to be easily the most important part of television. I consider it to be the most important part of a most important bill, and I am sure that the Government, on second thoughts, will reconsider this matter. I have no doubt that many old arguments and outofdate ideas about it will be raised, that it will be said that quotas are no good, and that as art is international, therefore you must let everybody come in to the exclusion of your own artists. Does the Government propose, by implication, to adopt an inferiority complex and say that our own Australian is no good, and that he is not the equal of the world’s best, when the whole of the history of the last ten years indicates the contrary? The Government is putting a proposition concerning the balance of artist and artist against the pressure of monopoly which, of course, exists in cartels and groups in respect of newspapers and radio and which will now come into television. The Australia,i may be squeezed out unless the Government does something about it.
This request from the Opposition is not one of sentiment. We do not ask honorable members opposite to support this amendment just because this is to be an Australian television service and because an Australian ought to be able to get a job with his own television service. We ask the Government to match the merit of the Australian screen writer, the Australian actor and the Australian technician with that of those who come in as part of. a monopoly in television and got jobs ahead of Australians. We ask the Government to do that because this is a. problem, which has agitated not only the American side of television, but also the British side.
Before I pass on to discuss the manner in which the British have dealt with this matter, I want to read to the House some of the remarks of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) in regard to this question of quotas. In the course of his second-reading speech, he said -
This mutter has received very careful and sympathetic consideration by the Government. I wish to say, quite emphatically, that the Government expects stations to afford the maximum practicable amount of employment for Australians in the production and presentation of programmes, as, indeed, licensees have already undertaken to do.
Now, the Minister must know that a pious aspiration like that is not worth the typing, nor worth duplicating for honorable members to read. If you have no conception of the overall dangerinvolved, all the goodwill in the world will not stop big business from getting an advantage from television. I shall illustrate that matter in a moment. What does the Minister mean by “ maximum “, and what is meant by “practicable”? It cannot be left on that basis. What is definitely needed is a percentage, and the suggestion that it be 55 per cent, carries the support of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the actors’ and announcers’ equity, and all the other writing and screen writing organizations within the Commonwealth of Australia.
Later in his second-reading speech, the Minister said -
We do not. however, accept the principle of laying down quotas generally, which is an unsatisfactory and even dangerous procedure. [ hotly contest that statement. A member of the Australian Country party will I put a bounty on an axe, but not on an actor; he will put a bounty on a plough, but not on a pole. Everything that is in this country has had to be subsidized. The whole of our secondary industry carries weights and levers to keep out, the preponderance of overseas stuff. Yet, when we want the Government to allow artists to give us the history of our own land and to entertain us, the Government says, “ Art is international “. That is not true in this respect. Art may be international, but the subterfuges that the entrepreneur uses mean that the Australian will be forced to the wall. On the question of quotas, to say in a pious sort of way that we cannot allot quotas because to do so might be dangerous, is entirely wrong.
I will admit that there is one danger in relation to quotas. That is the danger which may arise from Australians who want to make a “ quickie “ film or a “ quickie “ television show, but I suggest that they would go off the air very quickly because their standard would not be good. Surely, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and public opinion would say that we are fighting in this case to establish Australian television. When the fight is over, we do not want American television entirely, nor do we want British television. We want to be able to point proudly to our television station and say, “ This is an Australian television programme”. We have a limited time in which to do this, because, in their wisdom, those who have set up the television mechanism have said that the programmes necessarily will be short and the stations few in number. This is a grand opportunity to give the Australian, for the first time in his own country, an opportunity to show what he can do in the way of theatre, in the way of plays, and in the way of entertainment generally, instead of having this horrible back log of material from overseas.
Before I get on to the question of material to which I object - and not all of it is bad - indeed, some of it is splendid - let me say that it is not a question of whether the material is good or bad, but a question of the survival of the Australian in television. If it is narrowminded for a small country to work for full employment for its own people, let me remind honorable members opposite that the same point of view was expressed by the British actors, screen writers and mechanics who were concerned with television. They were so alarmed because of the fact that television had existed for so long in the United States of America, and because they had been warned that 100,000,000 dollars worth of back log programmes were ready to flood British television, that they went to the House of Commons. The actors’ unions, including screen writers, and actors of repute - men who had been knighted for their services to the theatre - all joined in this lobbying of the House of Commons, and they pressed the Government to amend the independent television authority legislation so as to give the English actors- a quota of SO per cent. L beg honorable members to listen to my remarks on this matter. In a country where the theatre is superlative, with a background extending from Shakespeare to the present time, where the acting is superlative, and where the written word has been one of the magic things of the British Commonwealth of Nations, they saw that the commercial aspect had to he dealt with. They organized themselves and successfully pleaded to members on both sides of the British Parliament for the heavy quota of 80 per cent, in favour of the British television artist, so that he might survive. Labour, which has always stood for the development of the Australian artist, is asking for little enough in seeking a 55 per cent, quota here. That is a very reasonable figure.
Then we come to the question of our future. We in this Parliament, as Australians, ought to consider what we lack because of our own neglect. Let us concede, in the broadest sense, that we have very many fine books. But literature is an individual effort in this country, and there is not the grand sweep of Australian literature that we might expect because it was strangled at birth by an influx of overseas books. The same commercial torrent which swept over Britain fell upon our infant literature and smothered it. Though we have individual writers of brilliance, we have not an Australian literature to provide a broad sweep of information for present Australians or future generations to feed on. We lost that battle; we may win it in another form. After many years pf settlement in this country we cannot point proudly to an established literature because we had a colonial mind and were led by the nose.
What of Australian drama? Why are there not in this country dramatists who are as good as our actors? This is another instance of the commercial squeeze. If we go through the shelves of the National Library we shall see that examples of the written drama, or the drama in script so that it may be performed, are very few and far between. Despite our many fine poets and writers we have no Australiandrama, not because we have been unable to write it, but because of the commercial squeeze and the absence of theatres in which to perform our plays. Is the government of the day to commit the same egregious error for the third and final time by permitting Australian television to be a polyglot of American and British commercial productions? One need not be a nationalist or a supernationalist to see my point of view. One needs only a reasonable amount of affection for one’s own country, and a little common sense. I have consistently related this appeal, not to sentiment but to common sense and the maintenance of full employment. To-day we are struggling, by way of public subscription, to establish a chair of Australian literature. Chairs of English literature and German and Japanese studies are subsidized by the universities and are established; hut we must go around cap in hand asking the public to subscribe towards a chair of Australian literature. Is television to be the orphan of the storm, and to meet the fate that befell literature and drama in this country? That will happen unless the Government is prepared to accept this most important amendment.
I come now to television programmes. This matter is closely related to the problem of who should control television. Whether one likes the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programmes or not they are a good measuring stick in assessing what television may provide. At least the commission has a standard, but who can say that commercial broadcasting has a standard? It has very high points and it has all-time lows. Honorable members may rest assured that the recent feverish outlaying of dollars by those who have gained television licences here has resulted in the buying of everything and anything in the way of overseas programmes. If some of these “ bodgie “ programmes are as bad as is reported in the press they may even wreck public desire for television in this country. The extraordinary names of some of these programmes I shall mention later. On the other hand, the Australian artist and scriptwriter will realize that it is better for us to build up our television slowly, with a national slant, and will know that good work must be the order of the day if there is to be survival for him and his family or, for that matter, for the Australian spirit in our programmes. My support in this matter comes from various sources. 1 plead the cause with great pleasure because television is one of the most important means of mass communication.
Having iii mind what television has done in other countries, let us consider what it can do here. Honorable members who have recently been overseas know the power of television. It is almost a truism to say that it will have a tremendous impact on family life in Australia. It will revolutionize our way of life and influence our education. Because of its power to bend thought, it is a mass communication medium of great danger and potentiality. Other people, who have not been associated with journalists and writers, as I have been, plead the same cause with as much force. At page 156 of the report of the Royal Commission on Television, Mr. Charles Moses of the Australian Broadcasting Commission had certain things to say. Mr. Moses was associated with broadcasting in its earliest days, and has remained with the Australian Broadcasting Commission as, I think, general manager, for more than twenty years. Therefore, he should certainly know what is doing in this new field of television. He said, in his sworn evidence -
The only appropriate means of guarding against an excessive use of imported material is to stipulate that there shall be a minimum percentage of Australian material in all programmes (national and commercial) in much the same way as the Broadcasting Act provides that at least 2 per cent, of music broadcast by ‘all radio stations shall be Australian.
That is also the subject of an amendment designed to widen the quota. Mr. Moses continued -
Apart from the obvious need to prevent the flooding of Australian television programmes with cheap overseas films of poor quality, it is desirable, both in the interests of our artists and writers to encourage the development of Australian drama, that all television programmes should include an appropriate minimum percentage of Australian material, whether “ live “ or on film . . .
There is a warning by one of the servants of the Government who is a leader of broadcasting in this country and who will be closely associated with the development of television. The Government should be able to see the importance of what he says and to take heed of his warning. He refers to the cheap and nasty products that will come to the country from overseas. That brings me to ii consideration of the kind of thing thai we will have on commercial television unless Australians are given a. chance to write, and use, better material. There is, of course, the slight degree of censorship which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board exercises. A recent survey of the Californian coast of America, where there are many television channels, especially in Los Angeles and Hollywood, revealed that 10 per cent, of the programmes were definitely unsuited or dangerous to children, 10 per cent, were poor, 70 per cent, were just runofthemill gangster, or boy-meets-girl rubbish, and 10 per cent, were good. All those television programmes have already made a profit and are in tins waiting to come to this country, if they are not already here. I understand from some sources that at least £20,000,000 worth of films and programmes are on the way, and that the total flood will amount to £100,000,000 worth. One might ask the Government, which is in such perplexity over the dollar position, how this television flood from overseas is being financed. Is it being done through some jiggery-pokery with Great Britain and charged against the sterling bloc? There are opportunities for doing this through other agencies and disguising the fact that there is » dollar drain.
– Under the “ umbrella “ act.
– That is so. How much has been allocated by the Government for the purchase of these overseas programmes, when first-class programmes could be made available here ? In asking for a quota of 55 per cent., which excludes news and sporting sessions, we are asking for nothing more than a fair thing for the Australian artists. The request is supported by 10,000 signatures, which include those of leaders in all departments of entertainment - theatre artists, musical comedy, producers, directors, announcers, sport commentators, play writers, script writers, and so on. They merely say, in their statement, that they want a chance to take their share on television and make it something truly Australian.
My final point is that I am confident that on the Government benches there are ardent supporters of a substantial quota. They may not agree with me as to the actual figure, but I should like to quote a statement made by the right honorable member for Wentworth (Sir Eric Harrison),- the leader of this House, who has 5,000 members of the theatrical profession living in the Kings Cross area of his electorate. On the 2nd December, 1955, he made an unequivocal statement, which is reported in the Eastern Suburbs Advertiser, that he supported the quota for Australian artists right up to the hilt, and that when he was returned to Parliament, and became, as he hoped, a senior Minister, he would give it his maximum support. I am reading the report, of an interview with Sir Eric Harrison, the leader of the House. This paper refers to him as “ Sir Eric “, and I suppose I am entitled to do so also. The representative of the paper asked him what were his views on television, and would he protect the full employment rights and the future of the Australian actor. He said, in reply - and honorable members can well imagine him saying it -
T fully appreciate the importance of this question to those directly concerned and am in complete sympathy with the views expressed . . . that a proper quota of employment for local artists be established when television actually comes into being.
Later, in a long statement he said -
I state without hesitation that when I am a member of the new Cabinet-
This was Nostradamus in the flesh - as I confidently expect to be-
And so he is now -
I will devote my entire energies in leaving nostone unturned-
That is a coined phrase - to protect the interests of Australian artisteand musicians to the fullest extent.
I now call upon the right honorable member for Wentworth, as leader of- theHouse, to honour that promise by supporting the foreshadowed amendment for a 55 per cent, quota of Australian artists in television.
I leave the position there, and sum up by saying that I have kept my speech of half an hour or thereabouts to one important problem, that of quotas. I make my appeal on the basis of Australianism, and not of sentiment. I ask that our own people - our own companions in daily life - be given a chance to prove what they can do - and what a triumph wes hall achieve in the end, if we can show - as we have done individually - thai Australians, collectively, can turn on a television programme second to none in the world.
Having done that, what will have been achieved? We shall have conserved our dollars, we shall have kept out of Australian programmes international rubbish and poppycock, which is so destructive to the child mind, we shall have lifted the standard, because we can insist upon a proper standard among our own people, and we shall have produced a show in this country which has been entirely home-built in Australia. British, American, and the superlative European artists will all be welcome on our television programmes, but we, as an opposition, are asking that Australians shall share with them. We ask also, as Australians, that in the formative, developmental years of television, our own artists may be given a preference of 5 per cent. Preferences are given in other fields; you can get 25 per cent, on a plough and other implements for farmers, and all sorts of discounts are allowed ii> this country, but, when it comes to the development of the Australian’s employment and his artistic future, Government supporters say that that is an international matter, and that quotas can be dangerous.
The bill contains no provision that quotas shall be eliminated or that no quotas shall be fixed, and at the committee stage I shall press again, to the limit of my capacity, for an Australian quota of 55 per cent, so that the Chifley Government ideal of full employment may be realized - something which is now threatened because of the short-sighted policy of the framers of this television measure.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has made a very spirited and inspiring plea in protection of the interests of Australian writers, artists and musicians, and it will strike a chord of sympathy in the heart of every honorable member. We all desire to assist our own people first to the greatest extent possible, but the question is how far that extent goes. The honorable member for Parkes has foreshadowed an amendment to provide for a 55 per cent, quota, but when he moves it at the committee stage he will need to put forward definite arguments to justify its establishment. Lt will be futile for him to complain about the squeezing out of the works of Australian writers, artists and musicians from the home market by commercial interests. Commerce exists to meet the public demand, and I should like the honorable member to produce some tangible evidence of this alleged squeezing out. The only criterion by which the success of Australian writers, artists and musicians can be judged is the demand for their works as against that for the works of outsiders. Australian literature is popular, and some Australian books are best-sellers, just as are some of those written by overseas authors. The question is whether the Australian public will ask for an Australian book merely because it is Australian, rather than for an English book, and whether the Australian production will have a stronger appeal to the Australian taste.
I agree that in every field of culture and art Australian artists are outstanding. Possibly some of them require no more than the opportunity of reaching the public. That opportunity now exists, but how has it been availed of and what success have Australian works achieved as compared with those of other countries ? In its initial stages, television will be something of an experiment, and it will be necessary to know how it appeals to the Australian public before a quota or percentage of performances is laid down as a means of affording protection to Australian artists.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that this is a committee bill. The right honorable member spent ten minutes in discussing matters more appropriate for the committee stage, but in his entire speech he offered no substantial criticism of the measure. He has picked out certain features of it which are not satisfactory to him. I tell the Postmaster-General now that he will inevitably find a wide conflict of views expressed on a bill as big as this bill is, and with the ramifications that it has, not only in this chamber, but also in another place. But it must please the Postmaster-General to discover, now that the big guns of the Opposition have fired their shots in this debate, that there is no real substance in the objections voiced by the Opposition to the bill. Honorable members opposite evidently accept it, subject to the need for a few minor amendments to it. That is a gratifying feature. I suppose that attitude on the part of the Opposition arises from the fact that the bill seeks to amend the original Australian Broadcasting Act of 1942, in respect of certain features of radio broadcasting and the inclusion of provisions to cover the new medium of television. The Australian Broadcasting Act was passed in 1942 and was amended in 1948, in both of which years the Labour Government was in office. So I say to members of the Opposition that really all that this bill intends to do is straighten out some of the tangles which time and our experience have disclosed in the legislation that they put through the Parliament when they were in office. It will remove some of the anomalies of that legislation, and simplify procedure in regard to broadcasting.
There is one fundamental weakness of the bill which perpetuates a mistake that was made when the original bill was introduced in 1942, in that it includes in one bill provisions to deal with the functions of two corporate bodies. I suggest that the correct thing to do at this stage, as a result of our years of experience, is to bring down legislation, in one bill, to govern the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is a corporate body, and is to continue to be a corporate body under this measure, and a second bill- to govern the functions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, another corporate body. There is confusion in the minds of the people of Australia with regard to the individual spheres of responsibilities of those two separate corporate bodies. There is obviously confusion on that matter in even the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, who is an eminent legal gentleman, a man whom one could presume would completely understand the intentions of legal provisions. In his speech to-night he made a number of appeals in which he asked for particular things to be done; and he related his remarks to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. As I shall show, he aimed them in the wrong direction. One instance was his reference to what he considered the board should do in connexion with the broadcasting of political talks over the national stations. He wants the news, political talks and so forth to include both political points of view. I shall give my views on that matter later in my speech. The point that I want to make now is that he addressed his remarks to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which has not one skerriek of control over the Australian Broadcasting Commission, except on the technical side, in reference to such matters as the allocation of frequencies. So far as the programme operations of the commissioin are concerned the board is powerless. That anomaly is perpetuated in this bill. Some of the later clauses in the bill refer to the functions of the board while interspersed with them are clauses referring to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This is a perpetuation of a very grave anomaly and I believe that it is wrong in principle to include in one bill provisions concerning the functions of two corporate bodies.
– It is like everything else the Government does.
– My friend said that it is like everything else, the Government does, but I want to remind the honorable member, who was not here when I opened my remarks, that the original legislation was brought down in 1942 under the Curtin Labour Government and amended in 1948, under its successor, the Chifley Labour Government, and that it was in those days that the tragedy had its genesis.
The Postmaster-General, in his secondreading speech said -
The 1942act has since been amended on several occasions, the most important amendment being that passed in 1948 for the purpose of establishing the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which in March, 1949, assumed responsibilities for the general administration and control of the broadcasting services. . . . “Which is wrong! In no place in the principal act as amended, and, I regret to say, in no place in this bill, is the Australian Broadcasting Control Board given the authority to assume, in the Minister’s words, “ responsibilities for the general administration of broadcasting services “. The board controls the commercial broadcasting stations and in this bill, throughout which the commercial broadcasting stations are referred to as the “ licensees “, those licensees are constantly told in what respects they will be under the control of the board, what it may tell them to do, and what it may tell them not to do. But in no case has the board control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s activities. I do not know where the commission’s responsibility to the Minister lies, but the fact is that the national stations controlled by the commission could put on the most damnable programmes and the board has not the power to express to the commission an opinion on whether the programmes are good, bad or indifferent.
– What is wrong with the proposed reconstituted Joint Committee on Broadcasting?
– I am dealing with the bill now before the House, which is perpetuating a principle that is vitally wrong - that is, the bringing of two separate corporate bodies under one legislative enactment. The two bodies, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, have separate and distinct functions. The activities of one of those corporate bodies, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, should be subject to the control of the other body, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as the commercial broadcasting stations are. So I am not very happy about the bill; but I am quite certain that, with the introduction of television, the misunderstandings and problems that have arisen in the past as a result of dealing with those two corporate bodies under the one measure, will be considerably intensified. In fact, I forecast that it will not be very long before the Government or, more properly, this Parliament, will find it necessary to divide the legislation into two separate parts, one to govern the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and the other to govern the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has the job of carrying out work similar to that done by the commercial broadcasting stations, and which will be under the control, as it should be in many respects, of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
One of the essential features of this bill is that it is designed primarily to provide for the establishment of television services. Whilst unused to be being parochial in my representation in this House, on this occasion I am obliged to be parochial and point out that, so far as Western Australia is concerned, the provision of television services seems to be so far off in the dim and distant future that it is hardly a matter of vital interest to Western Australians at the moment, except in one respect. The bill provides for a stated licence-fee to be paid in respect, of television viewing machines. The Postmaster-General, in his speech, ?aid -
Ideally, the financial system should, as the royal commission pointed out, bc designed so that those who receive the benefits of the service should pay for it, but it is obvious, as the commission also pointed out, that this cannot he achieved immediately. The matter will be kept under review.
It 13 obvious, therefore, that the Government anticipates several years of considerable loss on television broadcasting. The taxpayer in Western Australia is to be called upon to contribute substantially towards making good that loss, for the benefit of those who are able to receive television programmes in the east of Australia. I am not gravely concerned with that aspect except that it does perpetuate an injustice. Broadcasting; - and television comes under this heading - i3 mainly of benefit to the people in the outback, remote from the centres of news and the easily reached places of entertainment. It is to these people that broadcasting is of the greatest, value. But theregrettable feature is this : Ordinary broadcast programmes are not yet being received in vast areas of Western Australia because of the inadequacy of the transmitting or relaying stations;. The trouble is that either the transmitters are too weak or the number of relay stations is insufficient.
– Where is thenumber of stations insufficient?
– I can tell the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) quite a lot-
– Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh must not interject, and I ask the honorable member for Moore to address his remarks to the Chair.
– You, sir, come from one of the minor States, as I do, and yon have far more sympathy for this case than members from Melbourne and Sydney who, unfortunately, predominate in this House. Whilst we in Western Australia are lacking even in radio broadcasting facilities, the modern entertainment of television is to be provided for other parts of the Commonwealth. We have to foot the bill, not only for radio broadcasting, but also for television. I suggest that a zoning arrangement could well be adopted for the fixing of licencefees. A listener in an area where reception is inadequate, where reception is bad, or where reception is possible for only a few hours in the day, or a few days in the year because of climatic conditions, or various technical considerations, should pay a lower fee than a listener who has a choice of stations for many hours every day. Broadcasting and television services should be paid for by those who receive them. A system of licence-fees on a graduated scale could apply to television as well as to broadcasting, but I am more concerned at the moment’ to see it applied to broadcasting.
Another matter that 1 must raise in this debate is parliamentary broadcasting. I shall not refer at length to the fact that Western Australia, because of the time factor, cannot receive the full broadcast of parliamentary proceedings, as received by the eastern States. I do not know how that difficulty can be overcome, but I suggest that if the broadcast of the proceedings is to be adequately received in Western Australia, the State must have another station which can be received in all parts of the State where reception is possible. I can say, from the reaction that I have had from the people, it would be far better for the Parliament itself if the broadcasting of its proceedings were terminated. I make that statement in all sincerity. The comparatively few people in Western Australia who are able to receive the broadcasts, and the many people in the eastern States who receive the broadcasts are, generally speaking, of the opinion that broadcasting is bringing the Parliament into very bad odour, and is bringing to it more discredit than credit. Some of the people know that a considerable part of the parliamentary proceedings is a stage-managed affair for the benefit of the nation.
Honorable Members - Oh !
– Who will deny it? 1 suggest that it would be beneficial to the Parliament if the broadcasts were cut out, and in their stead, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has mentioned, some fair and impartial report of the proceedings of Parliament should be given. One suggestion is that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should apply itself to the problem. Honorable members cannot deny my statement that it is a stage-managed affair. The prima donna hour is 8 o’clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when our proceedings are broadcast. There is no dearth of speakers on those days. But on Wednesdays, when the proceedings of the House are not broadcast, we get through a phenomenal amount of important business far exceeding that with which it deals on Tuesdays and Thursdays when it is on the air. Anybody who analyses the proceedings of this Parliament will find that what I say is not a hollow statement, but is backed by the happenings.
In the past, I have protested in this place against programmes broadcast in Western Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In making such protests, I have found myself up against a brick wall. Naturally i assumed that my protests should be directed to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but that organization told me that the matter was one for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. When I went to the commission, I was told that it was a matter for the advisory committee. I note that the bill now before the House provides for the setting up of advisory committees, but that they are to be set up by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It is indeed peculiar that the Australian Broadcast - ing Control Board, which has no control whatever over the programmes that are broadcast by the Australian Broadcast - ing Commission, is to be responsible for setting up the advisory committees that will advise the commission.
I have referred on other occasions to the discontinuance of the Western Australian children’s session at night. It seems that the policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is that the people shall be given what it thinks they should have. The commercial stations, on the other hand, because they are not in receipt of revenue that is raised compulsorily, are obliged to give the people what they want. They must study and take notice of the listeners’ reaction to their programmes. If a programme is unsatisfactory and is not popular it must be abandoned. It does not matter a twopenny cuss to the Australian Broadcasting Commission what programmes are broadcast. It simply says, “ You will have this programme and nothing else, because Ave think it is good for you “. I do not know whether the children’s session was discontinued for economic reasons, but it recognized local conditions and created in the minds of the children an interest in civic, State and national affairs. That the children should be denied this pleasure is a shocking thing. What has been the result? .1 assure the Australian Broadcasting Commission that the children who were formerly listeners to, or participants in, that programme have tuned to the programmes of the commercial broadcasting stations and are listening to radio plays with such titles as “ Speedway Jack “. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, as a government instrumentality, lives on the money that people are compelled to pay, and it should be responsible for its programmes to either the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or to this Parliament so that, the people who furnish the funds may have some right to call the tune. 1 refer again also to a kindergarten session that was conducted in the mornings in Western Australia. That was a live show in which children participated, and in which very many children were interested because they heard the voices of other children in . the studio. That programme has been replaced, on certain days of the week, by a recorded session. Sometimes recorded children’s voices are broadcast, but the conductor of the session is alone in the studio talking to an unseen audience and asking children questions without children being present. The wishes and needs of the children are not being met because of some idea in the minds of members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that they will give the people what they think they should have rather than what the people themselves want.
I predict that the bill will have a very mixed reception in this House. It is pleasing to note that, on the whole, the Australian Labour party is not opposed to it although, at the committee stage, it will query a number of provisions. I have no doubt that, at that stage, a considerable amount of comment will be offered by members on this side of the House too, and I hope to have an opportunity then to address myself to some of the clauses.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Biro) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without, amendment -
Salaries Adjustment Bill 1956.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1956.
Statistics (Arrangements with States) Bill 1956.
Superannuation Bill 1956.
Transferred Officers’ Allowances Bill 1956.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill 1956.
Excise Tariff Bill 1956.
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1956.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560503_reps_22_hor10/>.